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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness will read what I said. I said that PRP is welcome. We criticised the particular system and the bureaucratic nature of it. However, we have always said that PRP is welcome as a system of rewarding good work in classrooms.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, if the noble Baroness was so in favour of it, I wonder why she did not introduce it when she was in government. I suggest that that points to a small failure on her part and that of her party when in government.
Perhaps I may turn to some of the other questions raised. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, was critical of the training provided for head teachers in support of their work in carrying out assessments of teachers for the purpose of performance-related pay. At the May training events, 94 per cent of participants were satisfied or more than satisfied with the quality of the training they received, and an average of 91 per cent similarly were satisfied with the follow-up events. On the basis not of anecdote but of a proper sampling of the teachers concerned, that shows that they welcomed the training, were appreciative of it and considered it to be good.
The noble Baroness also asked whether the Government will appeal. As I implied in my response to the PNQ, the Government have not yet seen the written judgment and cannot make a decision until they have had the opportunity to do so.
The noble Baroness asked about the likely delay so far as concerns teachers. The Government regret the delay just as much as the noble Baroness. Until the issues raised by the court case have been resolved, it is impossible to say exactly how long the delay will be. However, I can say--and I believe that it will be reassuring to the many teachers who have applied to go over the threshold--that when decisions eventually are made about those who are successful, their pay will be backdated to 1st September.
The noble Baroness also asked whether the time spent on the applications and on their consideration by head teachers would be wasted. The Government very much hope that that will not be the case. If the threshold standards are not changed, we can proceed on the same basis. If the standards are changed, the Secretary of State will of course have to reconsider the whole position.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, mentioned the National Assembly for Wales. Perhaps I may make it clear that this is not a devolved matter. Therefore, the National Assembly for Wales does not have a remit in this particular area, although the Welsh Ministers responsible are consulted. The Government do not consider that it should be a devolved matter. They believe that the threshold standards should be the same because there is a considerable amount of movement by teachers across the border between Wales and England. It would be undesirable for that movement to be in any way constrained.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, am I right in saying that if the Secretary of State were to use the 1986 Act, this would be a matter for devolution to Wales? It is a question of whether he uses the 1986 Act or the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1991 for appraisal. If he uses the latter, I gather that it would not be a matter for devolution. However, if he used the former, I believe that it would be.
Perhaps I may return to the noble Baroness's point regarding the grounds for judicial review in March. When the NUT originally applied for judicial review, it was not in relation to the matter of threshold standards. That subject did not come into play until the last week of June. Therefore, the issue was introduced into the court case by the NUT only recently.
I believe that I have now answered the specific questions raised by both noble Baronesses. However, I make absolutely clear that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will write to head teachers this week to set out exactly what they now need to do. Clearly the date by which they must complete the assessments will be put back. We have also made it clear that we shall provide them with further information and updates on the DfEE's website.
Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, I declare an interest as the owner of a private school and, therefore, as an employer of teachers. Is it not unsatisfactory that, as was made clear by the Minister, everyone is now left in a state of limbo because no one knows what will happen next?
The Minister has said that the Secretary of State will write to head teachers this week. Does that mean that he will receive the written judgment before the end of the week? Will it be made widely available? If it is available in time for the Secretary of State to issue guidelines to the teaching profession and to head teachers, might it not have been possible to have got hold of it sooner and made it available to Parliament now?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, it is for the courts to make the written judgment available. I understand that it is likely to be available in the very near future. The Government will make a decision on whether to appeal by Thursday, which is the deadline. However, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State wishes to ensure that all head teachers receive a letter before the end of term, so it will have to go out tonight or tomorrow, which means that it will be impossible for him to give any details in that letter about his decision on an appeal. As I have said, head teachers will be updated through the department's website.
Lord Desai: My Lords, I welcome my noble friend's assurance about backdating the pay award when matters are settled. Over the weekend I met two teachers who intend to retire during the coming year. Their pension entitlement will be affected by whether they get the money. It would be helpful if it was made clear that their pensions will not be threatened.
Lord Kimball: My Lords, under what rules does the Secretary of State continue in office? Surely he has disqualified himself by all normal standards, having publicly declared the advice that he received in confidence from his civil servants.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I utterly refute that suggestion. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment has been one of the most successful holders of that office for many years. He has pushed through a remarkable range of reforms to improve standards in our schools and to ensure that lifelong learning becomes a reality. As I said earlier, he accepts full responsibility for what has happened.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, the Minister has said that the pay will be backdated to 1st September. Can she assure us that the Secretary of State has sound advice that that will be legal, whatever the outcome? Teachers would like to know.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the work is part of the responsibility of head teachers. There is no need to repay them for what that they have done, because they have accepted that appraisal is part of their job and have been doing it for some years. In no sense would it be appropriate to repay schools. Moreover, we hope that most of the work that they have done will not be affected, because we hope that the standards will be accepted. There was a great deal of consultation about them and they have largely been accepted in the teaching profession.
Baroness Blatch: I was told that I was expected to be on at 3.30 p.m. and had to wait here for a whole hour. Given that my noble friends dealing with the Bill think that they are due to be out of the Chamber for 40 minutes, I wonder whether the House agrees that it would be appropriate to adjourn for a few minutes until they arrive.
It is entirely proper that the agreement of all the authorities concerned is needed before a scheme is brought in. However, it appears that any single participating authority could unilaterally revoke it. That is rather peculiar and cannot be right. If a scheme has to be brought in by joint effort, it cannot be correct that any of the charging authorities can revoke it. I hope that the Minister will accept that there is at least a point to our amendment that he could accept. I beg to move.
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