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The noble Lord said: My Lords, this evening I want to get some kind of an interim progress report on how the Government's performance-related pay scheme for teachers is progressing. Before I progress, I must declare what I hope will be a pecuniary interest in that my wife is a teacher and at this moment she is filling in an application to cross the threshold. I must make it absolutely clear that she bears no responsibility whatever for anything that I am about to say and I hope that it will not count against her.
As the Minister knows from previous encounters on this matter, Liberal Democrats have grave reservations about the Government's plans, reservations shared widely among the teaching profession. However, while we should not have followed the Government's route, in the spirit of constructive opposition, we should like to try to avoid unnecessary potholes and to steer the Government away from cliff edges along the route that they have chosen.
Therefore, I start by suggesting that there is an absurd timetable for the implementation of the scheme with insufficient time properly to train head teachers and to allow them to carry out assessments in the way required by September this year. We welcome the reduction of the number of criteria from 16 to eight but, perversely, that seems to have resulted in a new deluge of guidance notes for head teachers.
We accept that the training of head teachers, such as it is, is well under way. However, applications from teachers who want to cross the threshold and have access to performance related pay have apparently to be in by 5th June. The head teachers have to send in judgments by the end of July. A head teacher in a secondary school may well have 25 or 30 such applications to process. Head teachers have other things to do during the summer term. Specifically, I remind the Government that since they came to office, the DfEE has set 4,585 separate targets--I repeat, 4,585 separate targets.
Another of our specific anxieties relates to the quality of training for head teachers. Our information from one of the professional organisations is that that training began only on 27th March and that the
We are told--and I ask the Minister to confirm these figures if he can--that 2,230 external assessors have been appointed. That is a veritable army, which underlines the size of the task that the Government have set themselves. There are 30 full-time regional trouble-shooters, 200 full-time assessors and 2,000 part-timers. Will the Minister confirm that they have received just three days' training?
Perhaps the Minister will clear up another matter. There appears still to be a mythology among teachers that if they cross the threshold to gain performance-related pay awards, they will thereby give up their present conditions of service, including the 1,265 hours of directed time. It is believed that the head teacher can then direct them to be available to undertake breakfast clubs or after-school activities with pupils.
That misunderstanding may have arisen because of a confusion in some people's minds about the change in terms and conditions which apply quite reasonably to teachers joining leadership teams. However, will the Minister take the opportunity this evening to reassure teachers that simply crossing the threshold does not involve a change in terms and conditions, as it appears to some to do?
Another useful reassurance would be that the new difference in status among teachers--those who have crossed the threshold and those who have not--will not be made public property. Will the Minister assure teachers that statistics about the proportions of sheep and goats in any particular school will not be required to appear in governors' annual reports to parents or in Ofsted reports; and that such considerations will not be used to judge whether a school is "failing"? We do not want to see league tables dealing with which schools have the highest proportion of teachers who have crossed the threshold.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, was kind enough to copy to me a letter she wrote to the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, after a debate about teachers a little while ago. She wrote it because, as she said, she wanted to remove misunderstandings such as the notion,
A similar study on a performance-related pay scheme operated by the Inland Revenue compared judgments by personnel in 1991 and 1996. In 1991 only 28 per cent believed that performance-related pay made staff less willing to help colleagues with work difficulties. Five years later, 63 per cent found that that was so. In 1996 no less than 67 per cent--two-thirds--believed that the scheme "discouraged teamworking". Similar findings are available in surveys on local government, the Post Office, the Employment Service and the water industry.
Just as Liberal Democrats have been keen to avoid setting school against school in our education policy, we are keen to avoid setting teacher against teacher. The Secretary of State claims, in what seems to be an attack on the response from the NAS/UWT, that
What do we say about teachers whose pupils do well because other teachers have laid down excellent foundations; or whose personal encouragement enables pupils to do well in the classrooms of other teachers? The Minister has said, entirely fairly, that the Government's scheme is not crude payment by results. We accept that. But will he accept that it is impossible to credit accurately the responsibility for pupil progress because the work of the whole teaching team impacts in unpredictable and subtle ways on each individual pupil? The prodigious amounts of time and energy that will this summer go into pinpointing that will-o'-the-wisp must, despite everyone's best efforts, be inaccurate and unfair and will be a recipe for division and backbiting in the staff-room. With good leadership, collegiality should lead to the operation of the highest common factor. That should be the aim of the department.
Somewhere at the heart of Government--it may well be in the Cabinet Office--there is a belief that voters will not accept enhanced pay for teachers unless the Government can demonstrate in the Sun or the Daily Mail that teachers are working harder. Liberal Democrats believe that that view is utterly mistaken and that it patronises parents, grandparents and people in local communities who know only too well how hard and how effectively the vast majority of our teachers work. Will the vast majority receive performance-related pay?
If the Government want to run a crusade in the press to trumpet to the world how hard teachers are working and how well they are doing, they do not have to look far for evidence. I quote again the School Teachers Review Body:
All that achievement is on the back of an extremely heavy workload in a job that entails a high expenditure of nervous energy. However, it is not enough to have carried out all that hard, effective work. Ministers now expect teachers to devote additional time and energy to gathering together evidence to prove what wonderful work they do. I quote again the Minister's letter to the noble Baroness, Lady Perry:
I have sought to say that from what Liberal Democrats have seen so far of the implementation of performance-related pay for teachers, the process can be described only as a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It will add to teacher stress at a time when, according to an ICM poll in February this year, more than one-third of teachers over 35 years of age said that they wanted to leave teaching within 10 years. In only 9 per cent of cases was pay the prime reason. It is abundantly clear that an additional £2,000 a year--welcome though it is--gained with great difficulty through the most tortuous and time-wasting of processes, will not solve the teacher recruitment problem. That problem will be solved chiefly through reducing stress, by removing bureaucratic burdens and by ceasing to expect teachers to act as social workers.
A great step forward could be taken if the Government were to grant statutory access to non-contact time for preparation and marking. That is vitally necessary and long overdue in primary schools. Perhaps the biggest culture change of all would be signalled by the Government at last paying teachers the compliment of treating them like an independent and expert profession which, through its new General Teaching Council, can be trusted to take charge of the educational agenda. Liberal Democrats championed the General Teaching Council during the passage through this House of the Teaching and Higher
Enabling less experienced teachers to work towards those competencies and more experienced teachers to update their skills, the GTC should oversee a high quality programme of continuing professional development. I remind the Minister that in the Warwick University survey of teachers carried out for the NUT, nearly four out of five teachers strongly agreed that there should be a right to high quality professional development. With regard to pay enhancement, our key proposal is that there should be a "college of teachers" under the auspices of the GTC, which would offer a number of grades of membership to teachers, such as associate member, graduate and fellow. Gaining those grades would be the passport to higher pay grades.
The college would award those grades after assessment of both theoretical and practical classroom skills, in much the same way as surgeons qualify for different grades of membership of the Royal College of Surgeons. Fellows of the college would be expected to maintain their award by being reassessed every five years. All schools would have allocated to them a certain proportion of fellowship grade points which would attract considerable extra salary, for which only fellows of the college could apply. Schools identified as having difficulties could have extra fellowship posts granted to them on a temporary basis in order to attract highly skilled teachers.
I have raised a number of questions with the Minister about the Government's own scheme, which we find deeply flawed, but which naturally we are anxious to see work as well as can be managed. We look forward to his answers, as I said earlier, in a spirit of constructive opposition.
Baroness Brigstocke : My Lords, I have one point to make on the Government's plans to implement performance-related pay for teachers in schools. First, I shall declare an interest. For 25 years I was a school principal. Since 1993 I have been chairman of governors of Landau Forte College in Derby, a city technology college with over 1,000 students aged 11 to 18 with a fully comprehensive intake. Last month, Landau Forte ranked sixth in a league table of 321 government specialist schools.
Basically, performance-related pay is a good plan. But I am afraid that, perhaps typically, the idea has not been thought through. Too little time has been allowed for the process. That will cause problems, if not havoc. I worry about the practical arrangements for implementing the PRP plan and especially, as the noble Lord, Lord Tope, said, its short timescale. It seems that at least 250,000 schoolteachers are at the top of their current salary scale and therefore eligible to pass through the threshold to a substantially higher salary--up to £2,000 per annum--in recognition of
Two hundred and fifty thousand is an enormous number of teachers for head teachers to evaluate and assess and for the external assessors to reassess and check afterwards. It is important that the process should be carefully thought out and worked through, especially during the first year. Yet I understand that the performance management review document will not be ready until well into the next academic year.
There is newly published DfEE guidance for teachers who want to apply to pass through the threshold, but there is a deadline of 5th June, less than two months ahead. There is a 100-page guidance book for head teachers on the application process which is rather elementary in its English. Head teachers have until 31st July to hand in their judgments. But what happens if, as with Landau Forte College, a principal has 30 teachers in a school who wish to apply? I have even heard of one city technology college in which over 80 teachers want to make the PRP application.
Some training sessions have been held around the country for head teachers, but they seem to have been of poor quality. The ones held so far have lasted a whole day. I know of several head teachers who wondered what they were doing sitting listening to somebody reading from the training manual word for word. They kept thinking of important things they could be doing at school.
Who is being appointed--obviously in a great hurry--to act as trainers for the head teachers and as accredited external assessors to check the work of head teachers? Anecdotal evidence so far suggests that some former heads--teachers who may have been less than satisfactory in their roles as school heads--are now running some of the teacher training courses. As I have indicated, the courses are of rather poor quality and time consuming.
What exactly have the Cambridge Education Associates been hired to do? How is it possible for the DfEE and/or the Cambridge Education Associates to find enough external assessors of the right calibre in time to visit each individual school to verify the standard of assessment of each head teacher? This coming year--that is, this year--the 250,000 potential applicants will represent an enormous backlog. I have already said that we at Landau Forte College have 30 teachers who want to qualify.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Tope made clear that we on these Benches have great reservations about the whole concept of performance-related pay for teachers. I speak as a school governor of a local primary school in Guildford. It is not a large school and is located in one
Over the past few years there has been initiative after initiative. One can think of the literacy hour and the numeracy hour which have been introduced. On top of that, plans for an education action zone have taken up time. Problems over closures have taken up yet more time. There have been ICT initiatives and one initiative after another. If one speaks to teachers these days, they will tell you that there is an initiative overload.
On top of all those pressures, heads are being asked to consider performance-related pay. Admittedly the pressures placed upon a small school are nothing like those placed upon a city technology college, but proportionately they are not dissimilar. There is now the rush to introduce this new initiative.
Above all, the difficulty I see is the degree to which the initiative is causing dissension within the team, particularly in a small school where the nature of the team is so important. Perhaps that is the core of the reasons why we on these Benches have such great reservations about the whole initiative. Essentially a school is a collegiate body. The concept of working as a team is of a team of teachers with support staff. A successful school is one in which members of the team work in the same direction. I have been a parent governor in my time and worked closely with others. As a result, I would also argue that a successful school is one in which parents are part of that team. There is a working together on the part of parents, pupils, teachers and support staff. All the objectives work to the same end. That is part of a collegiate initiative.
As a lay person I go into schools and ask teachers, "Why are you teaching; after all, the pay is not that good?" They seldom say "The pay is the main problem". There are many other factors. There are always gripes about the relative pay. However, if one asks, "Why are you teaching", they will answer, "I am teaching because of the children". That is the key issue. In a primary school it is the joy of opening up young minds, seeing them expand and grasp knowledge, which they do readily at that stage. Often at a secondary school it is the joy of teaching a sixth-form class and taking pupils forward to explore new areas.
That team spirit may be lost. There is a great danger that once performance-related pay is introduced, one is immediately setting individual against individual. That is why we must be aware of the problems. As my noble friend Lord Tope has already said, we have a major crisis on our hands in terms of the shortage of teachers.
Teachers work under very great stress. Every survey shows that the teaching profession is one of the most stressed at the moment and head teachers are among the most stressed of all. Many applications are made for early retirement. I am worried that the speed with which this new initiative is being brought in will increase those stress levels. In one sense it may even be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
At a time when we are desperately anxious to keep as many teachers in the profession as possible, is it really sensible to push forward with this initiative and to push it through at such a fast pace? Are we not in danger that the result of such a move will be that many more teachers will seek early retirement? There is a chance that we may push the baby out with the bathwater here. The Government need to think through this area most carefully. I join my noble friend in asking about progress and whether the Government have considered that they may yet rethink the entire process.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tope, for giving us an opportunity to debate teachers' pay policy. At this moment it is particularly opportune because there may be an 11th-hour chance to ask the Government at least to think about matters such as the timetable. Perhaps I may also say at the beginning of my remarks that I am thinking of founding a society for the promotion of the noble Lord, Lord Bach, to the position of Minister for Education, such is the number of times that he has had to deputise on this subject.
When I first read the Motion for this debate my initial reaction was to declare, "Good Question". What is the progress on plans for implementing performance-related pay for teachers? I shall be interested to hear the reply from the Minister. I have met and spoken to a number of teachers and governors who are very critical of the costly system for performance-related pay that has been put in place.
Where there is agreement in principle between these Benches and the Government is that we share the view that good teachers should be rewarded and that a responsive pay system can help in recruitment and retention. As the Minister knows, both recruitment and retention of teachers have worsened of late and are key issues that need to be addressed.
However, I must point out that the disproportionate way in which graduates who come through the Postgraduate Certificate of Education route are treated when compared with the majority of student teachers who study a Bachelor of Education course begs certain questions. The postgraduate student teachers pay no tuition fees for what is in effect a fourth year of study, whereas the Bachelor of Education students, who must study for four years, pay tuition fees for each of those four years. Furthermore, the postgraduate students are to receive not only a £6,000 hand-out during the year's course, but an additional £4,000 should they take a job at the end of it. That, together with the Scottish anomaly, which is much worse since the publication of the Cubie and Quigley reports, creates even greater anomalies for our student teachers.
As has been said, teachers are to receive a pay award of 3.3 per cent. Additionally, there is to be a threshold payment of £2,000 for most teachers, subject to a performance assessment. There will also be a separate pay spine for heads, deputy heads and other senior
Noble Lords will realise, from the plethora of pay schemes that are to be superimposed on to the basic system, that the new systems will require understanding and management at both local education authority and school level. Needless to say, the dead hand of the Department for Education and Employment is placed heavily on the how and when of implementation. Bureaucracy will inevitably increase with such a centrally controlled and complex system of pay awards.
Over recent days I have read with great care the paperwork, training schedules and supporting materials, and I can only agree with my right honourable and honourable friends in another place that the Secretary of State has produced another cumbersome and bureaucratic scheme based almost entirely on his belief that the man in Whitehall knows best. What is needed is more local flexibility and local discretion. All schools are subject to regular inspection. The way in which governors and head teachers deal with staff is addressed as a part of that process.
I was interested to see that only 37 per cent of respondents out of a record 41,000 supported the performance threshold to a higher pay award. It is a strange proposal which determines a performance threshold and pays a significant sum as a permanent addition to salary with no further related assessment. Would it not have been better to have made that considerable sum available to the schools with flexibility on the pay spine to recognise performance? There could be a significant saving on bureaucracy when one considers the army of external assessors who will perambulate around the country second-guessing every decision. That army of DfEE-controlled assessors will have to be recruited and trained. They will prove to be a costly peripatetic force, siphoning off precious resources from the classroom.
The most vexed issue will be the supporting costs. When asked about costs, the Government have been very evasive. When my honourable friend James Clappison in another place asked Estelle Morris about costs, she responded on behalf of the Government by saying,
We have been told that the Standards Fund Grant 35 will provide £20 million at a 60 per cent grant rate to assist with implementation. Sixty per cent of what, and who will pay the remaining 40 per cent? There is also a supplementary £20 million (at 100 per cent grant rate) to free up teachers for training. That sum would buy a great many teachers.
As a matter of interest I believe this money is to be channelled through local education authorities rather than schools. Is this correct, and, if so, how does it fit in with recent comments made by the Secretary of State, who said of the £300 million from the year 2000 budget which, as I understand it, is going direct to schools, that,
The Secretary of State has said that there will be no quota. Every teacher who qualifies will receive the threshold payment as a permanent addition to salary. Will the Minister give an assurance tonight that local education authorities or schools, or both, will receive in full the cost of salaries, including all the additional payments, in subsequent Budget settlements? If not, the only alternative for many schools will be fewer teachers in future.
Many teachers, governors and parents are aware of the confidence trick of double and treble counting of the £19 billion for education over three years and the £21 billion for health, so an assurance from the Government tonight is absolutely essential.
The information sheet on payments to heads and governors makes reference to "a cash-limited grant" to support pay progression based on performance for heads, deputies and advanced skills teachers and their assimilation into the leadership spine. Why is it cash-limited? Why is the grant not commensurate with the additional costs to those schools?
Much of the detail has yet to be published on the 2000 pay and conditions document, the application of flat-rate allowances, school achievement awards, and skills teachers and fast-track entrants. What is the timetable for the provision of that information? I share the reservations expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, about the timetable for implementation of performance-related pay. That detailed information is absolutely critical for the understanding of those who will have to administer the scheme.
I have seen some of the training schedule notes, so I am not surprised that teachers and governors are critical. One group of teachers were astounded to find that they were being lectured about standards by someone who had performed less than satisfactorily herself in the classroom. Others were aghast at the time wasted on courses that were in nature patronising and more focused on taking orders from the DfEE than on enhancing professional skills.
The draft guidelines on governors make disturbing reading. Governors are the interface between the school, professionals, parents and the wider community. The phrases used put an extremely heavy burden on governors. It is said that they must determine procedures for appraisal; and that they are responsible for securing the performance of teachers; deciding the timing of performance reviews; appointing external advisers; carrying out the performance reviews of head teachers; ensuring objectives are set and recorded by 31st December; and appointing the reviewing officers.
The chairman of the governors must provide a performance review statement; pass the training and development annex of the head's performance review statements to the person responsible for training in the school; provide a summary of the head's assessment of the performance section of the performance review statement to the chief education officer; seek advice from external assessors; meet the head teacher and adviser before doing a performance review and again at the end of the cycle, to review progress; write a performance review statement and give it to the head teacher within 10 days of the review; and provide copies of the head teacher review statement to the other governors.
Performance reviewing is a professional job, for which people train for much longer periods than the odd day provided for governors. Personnel management is not a ready skill for all governors. Professional help and advice is expensive. Who will pay? What will happen when a head takes exception to being assessed as a professional by someone with no experience?
The system for performance-related pay adopted by the Secretary of State will go the way of many proposals of the past three years. It will siphon off money, time and energy that could be better spent by schools, with greater benefit to children.
Lord Bach: My Lords, I am delighted to be answering this Question on behalf of the Government. I genuinely thank the noble Lord, Lord Tope, for raising the issue and for his constructive opposition. I am sorry that this important subject has not had the benefit of more speakers, bearing in mind how much educational experience there is in the House. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Brigstocke, as the only speaker from the Back Benches. She probably has more practical experience of teaching than any of us--perhaps with the exception of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. I wish all the best to the wife of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, in her application--just get it in by 5th June!
The answer to the noble Lord's Question is, "Very well"--but he and others expect me to say more. Pay reforms should not be seen in isolation. They are part of a much wider programme to provide teachers with better leadership, better training and better support--as well as better rewards. Better leadership includes the new national college for school leadership and the coherent framework for leadership training.
Better training includes more flexible and rigorous initial training and a new framework for the professional development of serving teachers. Better support includes recruiting 20,000 more teaching assistants, improving teachers' working environment and giving small schools extra administrative help. All that will help to raise the status and morale of the profession, which for too long has lacked the status it deserves.
We need also better rewards to attract, motivate and retain good teachers--which is where the new pay structure comes in. Performance-related pay is an important part of the new structure but I emphasise that it is not the whole story. Every teacher will continue to benefit from the annual pay uplift. At 3.3 per cent, this year's rise is well above the rate of inflation. Teachers on the pay spine will, as now, normally get an experience point every year and there will be separate fixed-rate allowances for extra responsibilities.
The centrepiece of the new structure is a threshold and upper pay range directly related to performance. I am delighted that, at least in theory, the noble Baroness, Lady Brigstocke, feels that it is a good idea.
About 40 per cent of the profession will retire over the next 15 years, so we need a pay structure that attracts good quality replacements as well as retaining experienced teachers. That means eliminating the main weaknesses of the present structure. They are not the starting salaries--roughly speaking, they are the going rates for new graduates--but the salaries paid to more experienced teachers, which do not compare well with their contemporaries in other jobs. In the existing structure teachers can, from 1st April, earn just less than £24,000 for qualifications and experience. But, unless they take on those extra responsibilities, that is where they stop. The new structure replaces this ceiling with a threshold leading, frankly, to much higher pay.
Passing the threshold will put teachers on the first point of the new upper pay range--a £2,000 increase on top of the 3.3 per cent general uplift. Taken together, this means a 12 per cent rise for a teacher currently on point 9 of the pay spine. Joining the upper pay range gives teachers access to four more points stretching to over £30,000. So, in financial terms--and I do not think that this has been denied by any speaker tonight--this is a very good deal.
However, if the idea is to give experienced teachers a big pay rise, why link it to performance? Why look for trouble? We have, perhaps, had a little trouble here tonight. We believe that the new pay structure is a means to an end. The end, frankly, is pupils learning more effectively. To do that they need better teaching. That is what this threshold and upper pay range are really about.
We believe that this threshold will promote better teaching in at least three ways. First, the threshold standards define what an experienced teacher should be able to do. That will give teachers in the early part of their careers clear goals for developing their professional skills. Of course, the pay rise for passing the threshold will be an incentive to reach those goals.
Secondly, passing the threshold will confirm teachers' professional effectiveness. That must be good for confidence, as well as for the bank balance. But even the best teachers have something to learn. We believe that feedback from their applications will help good teachers become even better. Thirdly, the threshold process will also help experienced teachers who do not yet meet all the standards. Some may decide to defer their application to give them time to develop less strong areas, while others will benefit from constructive feedback from an unsuccessful application. In both cases, the process will help to focus development and improve performance.
But threshold assessment will happen only at a particular point in a teacher's career. Continuous improvement needs a dialogue between teachers and their team leaders that continues from year to year. That is what we believe the new performance management system will provide. It will be based on an annual cycle of planning, monitoring and review. The review stage will include an overall assessment of a
In these ways, the new pay and performance management arrangements will work together to promote better teaching. And better teaching means better education for pupils, which, of course, is what schools and teachers are for. That is the background from the Government's perspective. I shall now try to deal with a number of points that were raised during the course of tonight's debate. My time is also limited, but I shall do my best.
Criticisms were made about the speed with which this important scheme is being introduced. I shall try to meet them by reminding the House that the School Teachers' Review Body has specifically said that neither it nor consultees have argued for delaying the pay reforms. The Government want teachers to benefit as soon as possible. That leads me on to the timetable and the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, about its adjustment. We have adjusted the timetable to some extent. Large schools with more than 40 applicants have until 30th October, if necessary, instead of the 31st July deadline. All those passing thresholds will have their pay backdated to 1st September this year.
The noble Lord also asked whether the information on the number of teachers having crossed the threshold would be published. There is no such requirement to publish this at school level and there are no plans to introduce one. I hope that that gives the noble Lord some comfort.
The question of workload, especially for head teachers, was rightly raised in the debate. It must be remembered that head teachers already have a legal responsibility to evaluate standards of teaching and learning in the school. We believe that we have taken steps to make the process manageable by changing from the concept of the portfolio to an application form on which teachers would summarise relevant evidence about how to meet the standards. We have in mind not a difficult application form but a fairly simple one. Heads in larger schools could delegate elements of the assessment to senior colleagues, while retaining--this is important--the decision-making role.
The noble Lord, Lord Tope, also asked directly whether the new contract above the threshold removes the limit of the 1,265 hours and changes conditions of work. I am happy to confirm that there is no change of contract on passing the threshold and that the conditions of employment remain identical.
The noble Lord also made the point that pay is not the main issue, that more non-contact time is necessary and that the new organisation, the General Teaching Council should oversee professional development
The noble Baroness, Lady Brigstocke, talked about a 100-page guidance for head teachers. I am advised that the guidance in this case amounts to nine pages, with 14 "prompts" to assist heads. However, it is possible that we are not speaking about precisely the same document.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, questioned why we should help schools in London above others. The recruitment and retention allowances are not only for London; indeed, they will give all schools flexibility to offer pay enhancements to attract and retain the staff they need.
Perhaps I may now move on to say a few words about the announcement made on 30th March regarding postgraduate trainee teachers. I can assure the House that the decision was made not because we under-value the undergraduate route to qualified teacher status. At present, our greatest priority is to attract more and higher quality students into postgraduate training. As noble Lords know, many attractive career options are open to graduates, especially with such buoyant economic and employment conditions as it is generally agreed the country is now enjoying.
It is in secondary training that recruitment difficulties have been greatest. That is where the new training salaries should have most effect. However, we are also making the training salary available to postgraduate primary trainees next year. We should like to see more applications at primary postgraduate level, especially from men.
I see that time is against me. I know that I have just a little more time at my disposal than the 15 minutes allowed for each speaker. However, I do not want to take too much advantage of the situation. Nevertheless, I ought to say something about the position of head teachers and the courses that they have taken, or are about to take.
Some criticism has been made as to the quality of those courses and it is right that I should deal with it. So far, 120 training events have been held across the country and 16,500 heads have attended. A few were dissatisfied and, because bad news is rather more fun and, perhaps, travels much faster than good news, their comments have been reported. The Government are keeping the position under review with the contractors--the Centre for British Teachers. We looked particularly hard at quality and how it was being received, bearing in mind the scale of the operation--130 facilitators a day working every day over three weeks--and the speed with which the training has been assembled.
However, we recognise that we need to do something for those who have been dissatisfied. In addition to the arrangements already in place, we shall ensure that those head teachers for whom the training has not been satisfactory can contact a telephone surgery where issues and concerns can be dealt with by experts in the new arrangements.
The performance threshold is a key aspect of the reforms designed to give a significant pay rise to teachers. We shall continue to work with heads and their representatives to ensure that the threshold is a success and that teachers receive the pay rises that they richly deserve.
There was comment about the threshold assessors. The number of applications is around 6,000. The recruitment was conducted in line with criteria set by the department. We believe that all those appointed are professionally credible individuals. They are all graduates with relevant expertise and qualifications in teaching and many are also accredited through Ofsted among other organisations. The numbers needed will depend, of course, on the number of teachers who apply for a threshold assessment. We are confident that we can meet the deployment requirements.
The Government have put much investment into these initiatives and into the teaching reform programme as a whole. It is the clearest possible evidence of our commitment to make teaching a first-class profession. We must do that because teachers are doing one of the most important jobs in the country. The country's future is quite literally in their hands. I again thank the noble Lord, Lord Tope, for raising this issue.
Lord Bach: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for mentioning that. The figure for London relates to higher costs in the capital city. However, the two recruitment and retention allowances are available for all schools. The reference to,
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