Mr. Timms: Requiring head teachers to be qualified teachers is a logical extension of the thinking that we have explored in Committee and our commitment to raising standards in schools by ensuring that those who lead our schools have the skills and professional knowledge to do so successfully. At the moment, legislation indirectly requires head teachers to be qualified, but we want to make that more explicit.
It has been our objective for some time to make the national professional qualification for head teachers mandatory for all new head teachers, and clause 131 gives us the power to put that into effect. That will probably be widely welcomed in the Committee. We all know that the leadership, management ability and vision of the head are crucial factors in the overall effectiveness of a school. The new strengthened national professional qualification for head teachers has been widely welcomed by the profession. It has achieved a step change in recruitment. More than 10,000 people have applied since 1997, and almost 5,000 now hold the qualification. When recruiting for a head teacher, governing bodies can be assured that candidates who hold it will have had a thorough preparation for headship.
The requirement to hold the qualification will apply only to those seeking their first headship post. It will not apply to existing head teachers. I hope that I have given the hon. Gentleman some helpful, further information.
Mr. Brady: I am grateful to the Minister, and with those assurances and that further information, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments made: No. 364, in page 80, line 18, leave out
Column Number: 525No. 365, in page 80, line 20, leave out
No. 366, in page 80, line 30, leave out
(a) a school maintained by a local education authority, or
(b) a special school not so maintained.'.[Mr. Timms.]
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Why have the Government so little confidence in all the other mechanisms that they have in place? They have mechanisms to deal with failing schools, improve the quality of governing bodies and encourage training of heads and other teachers. However, they do not have the confidence in the devolved arrangements, which they introduced, to enable the people who are responsible for implementing the arrangements to take appropriate action in choosing someone admittedly as important as a head teacher.
We can always envisage circumstances in which it may be appropriate for a school to consider a candidate who is not so qualified. I can give two examples, one of which admittedly does not refer to a maintained school. In the immediate post-war years, the governing body of the school at which I was educated chose not to appoint a qualified head teacher, or indeed a qualified teacher, as headmaster because there were important requirements for reorganising the school and getting it back on to a sound economic footing. Other governing bodies in other parts of the country, even in the maintained sector, have done the same, and the name of Queenswood school in Hertfordshire rings a bell. Other maintained schools have recently chosen not to appoint qualified teachers to the position of head for excellent reasons.
I have one other point, for which I should perhaps have intervened on the Minister earlier. I think that he said the regulations will apply only to those applying for their first headship, but I suspect that he meant those applying for their first or subsequent headship. Is he saying that someone who already has a headship will not be required to gain the qualification, even when he is applying for a further headship?
Mr. Timms indicated assent.
Mr. Turner: In that case, I thank the Minister.
I revert to my main point of concern about the clause. Like some subsequent clauses, it erects too high a hurdle in the way of governors who are appointing head teachers. It unnecessarily constrains their freedom of action, and shows that the Government do not trust the people they are setting in place. The
Column Number: 526terrible thing is that however many qualifications someone may have, he or she can turn out to be absolutely useless. I will not go into my own qualifications, but one could turn out to be useless at the job for which one has qualifications. They are not a guarantee of competence, and their absence is in no way an indication of incompetence. We have many procedures in place for dealing with those who turn out to be incompetent.
Mr. Timms: We are determined to raise standards in our schools, and insisting on qualifications is part of that. One can always think of exceptions, but there is no doubt that the experience and training that will be required in order to obtain the headship qualification are valuable development processes that indicate that candidates have acquired skills and undergone training that will help to equip them for the task. Making that requirement compulsory will mean that schools will be choosing from a field of qualified rather than unqualified teachers.
I do not think that that is unreasonable. If one were appointing a commissioner of Metropolitan police, one would expect that person to have been a policeman. I do not think that is an unreasonable requirement. It may limit the field, but given the importance of the role of head teachers, and the impact it has on so many children, I think that expecting head teachers to be qualified teachers is a good step.
Mr. Willis: Is putting Mr. Birt in charge of the railways another example of that?
Mr. Timms: The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the context. We will consult on the regulations. An experienced teacher in further education may not have QTS, but may be an appropriate person to be appointed as a head teacher. Regulations will be produced, and we will consult on the matter.
I hope that members from both sides of the Committee will recognise that these are good steps to take. I would emphasis in particular the enthusiasm that I have come across for the national professional qualification for head teachers, which I think is a very big step forward.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 131, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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