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Lord Glenamara: I do not want to prolong the debate. I shall raise just one point. Earlier I complained that the Bill was turning the Secretary of State into a great national nanny, because he is keeping everything in his own hand. If the amendments were to be agreed to, Parliament would be doing the same thing. Surely we should trust the teachers on the GTC to work out their own procedures and the things that they want to do, and not lay everything down in the Bill. It would be a mistake to try to dot every i and cross every t about what the GTC should do. Please, do not let Parliament do what we are accusing the Secretary of State of doing.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Amendment No. 41 is included in this group. I shall put everyone's mind at rest. I have made my speech about disabled people, and I do not intend to make it again. The Minister gave a fair reply about the disabled. I hope that the extent and
Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: I believe that I shall be the one that hits the jackpot, because I do not doubt that the Government will agree to Amendment No. 40. I think they will agree because they entered power with a belief in open government. I suggested the amendment because, even if we accept that the body is advisory, it is crucial for its evolutionary development that, if the Secretary of State refuses to take its advice--I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, that it must develop its own procedures--we know why the Secretary of State has refused its advice.
If the Secretary of State decides in good time that he is not going to introduce further primary legislation, because he says that the body has proved to be inadequate, and, "I want it to remain advisory", we should all want to know why. If, for example, the body suggested something similar to what the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, put forward, and the Secretary of State said, "No", then it should be on the public record. I should be amazed, and I have been amazed many times in my life, if, with a government who professed open government, the Minister or her colleague were to refuse the amendment. I hope that I shall have achieved the record tonight and have my amendment accepted. I look forward to it.
Baroness Blackstone: The GTC will be a new professional voice for the teaching profession. It will bring together and reflect the interests of all those who have a stake in ensuring high standards in teaching. It will be a powerful new partner in our drive to raise standards. In that respect, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Glenamara for what he said about the GTC's role in developing its own procedures.
The GTC will provide advice to the Secretary of State on the matters related to teaching listed at Clause 2(2): standards of teaching; standards of conduct for teachers; the role of the teaching profession; the training, career development, and performance management of teachers; recruitment to the teaching profession; and medical fitness to teach. It may also advise on individual cases of teachers' misconduct.
From time to time, the Secretary of State may also require the council to advise him on other matters related to teaching or ask the GTC to advise other bodies which are involved in work which affects the teaching profession on the matters in Clause 2(2).
I do not think it right that the advisory role of the GTC should be expanded to cover all other aspects of education of which one might think. In the initial years at least, the advisory role of the GTC should be clearly focused on teaching. I hope those taking part in this Committee will agree with that. We need to give the GTC time to develop and establish itself before its role expands any further. This is too important a
I do not therefore see a major role for the GTC--at least at the outset--in advising on school funding, the school curriculum, syllabuses, examination and testing. There are, of course, close links between such issues and the practice of teaching. The GTC would take account of that, but there is a danger that the body would lose focus if given such a broad remit, especially when there are other bodies working in those areas.
I do not believe it would be helpful to give the GTC a role in advising on the grounds for suspending and dismissing teachers. There is already provision at Clause 2(2) for the GTC to take a role in advising on standards of conduct for teachers and the performance management of teachers. We might, for example, expect the GTC to provide advice on a professional code for teachers. Clause 2(4) also provides for the GTC to advise on cases of teacher misconduct. Beyond this, however, I do not feel that the time is ripe for the GTC to take a role in advising on the suspension or dismissal of teachers for incompetence. Our consultation exercise on the GTC--we have already had one consultation exercise--revealed very mixed views on such a role, and we have, of course, recently agreed new procedures with employers and unions. It is for line managers and employers to identify teachers who are not performing to standard, or who ought to be dismissed for other reasons. I therefore think that a role for the GTC on those issues is adequately covered in the existing clauses.
The GTC may already advise on the continuing professional development of teachers under Clause 2(2)(d), so there is no need to add a further specific item to the list in Clause 2(2). Clause 2(2)(e) also already enables the GTC to advise the Secretary of State on the promotion of the teaching profession.
The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, mentioned Wales. She may have based her amendments on looking at Clause 7 of the Bill. This allows the GTC for Wales once established to undertake the roles of promoting teacher recruitment and teachers' continuing professional development. This would enable the Welsh GTC to perform an executive role in undertaking promotional campaigns, as well as the advisory role set out in Clause 2. In England, these functions will remain with the TTA as part of its statutory responsibilities and the major remit we have set out for it. The TTA also undertakes these functions in Wales, but only at the express request of the Secretary of State for Wales rather than as a statutory duty. It performs no other functions in Wales, so the TTA unit for Wales has a very small number of staff. Clause 7 will allow the Secretary of State for Wales and the Welsh assembly to determine which body could most effectively perform these functions in Wales.
Likewise, the power to advise on recruitment at Clause 2(2)(e) is sufficiently wide to enable the GTC to advise on recruitment targets and the provision of advice on teacher demand and supply. We have recently published details of how the department's teacher supply model works as part of the process of opening up discussion in this area.
I turn to how advice is formulated, delivered and responded to. Paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 already allows the GTC to undertake conferences, lectures, publications and other similar initiatives which are calculated to facilitate the carrying out of its statutory functions, including the giving of advice. These would generally be on a relatively modest scale.
It may be that the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, has based this amendment on Clause 7(3) which specifies that the Welsh GTC can undertake such activities. The difference here is that Clause 7 refers to the promotional work which the Welsh GTC may be required to undertake. That is an executive role rather than an advisory one. In that case, we felt it should be put beyond doubt that the Welsh GTC could organise conferences and publish material as promotional activities in its own right. The provisions of the schedule allow the GTC for England and Wales, and later perhaps for England alone, to undertake all the activities listed in the amendment where this is part of the process of formulating its advice. Clause 2(5) also empowers the GTC to publish that advice. I believe that the amendment is therefore unnecessary.
The GTC's role in advising the Secretary of State will ensure that teachers have their say in how their own profession develops. It will speak with the authority of the teaching profession, and Clause 2(5) empowers the GTC to be able to publish its advice. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, that there will be clear expectation, reinforced by our continuing moves towards open government, that the Secretary of State would respond to such advice. It should, however, remain a matter for the Secretary of State to determine how and when he should do so. I do not, therefore, agree that it is necessary to include such a duty in primary legislation.
It is also proposed that the council should be free to determine which other persons or bodies it should advise on matters under Clause 2(2). Where the council wished to offer advice to a person or body, I find it difficult to conceive of a situation in which the Secretary of State would not be prepared to consider and agree to such advice being offered. Any published advice by the GTC will, of course, be available to other bodies. I therefore believe that the proposed amendment is unnecessary.
I would also certainly expect the Secretary of State to consult the council before designating a third party to whom the GTC should offer advice. I envisage that the GTC will be content to provide advice to others to ensure that teachers have their proper say with government and their partners about how their profession develops. Those bodies would similarly be free to take account of the GTC's published advice.
Paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 enables the Secretary of State to make regulations which would require the council to establish a committee for any such purposes as the regulations specify and to set out the membership and procedures of such a committee. As the document I placed in the Library indicates, we will consult on the case for requiring any statutory committees to be established. I would not like to pre-empt that consultation, but, in general, we are keen to allow the greatest flexibility to the GTC itself to determine for itself its own organisation. My noble friend Lord Glenamara indicated that that would be right.
We would want to keep any prescription to the minimum. It is possible, for example, that the Secretary of State will require the council to establish a committee to provide advice on individual cases of teacher misconduct. In general, however, it will be for the council to consider what committees it requires and the membership and procedures of such committees.
Clause 2 enables the GTC to advise the Secretary of State on matters related to teacher training. It will therefore be for the council to consider whether the best approach to fulfilling that function is to establish a committee on teacher training as proposed in the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. These are matters which the council is best placed to decide and the amendment would constrain it unnecessarily. The amendment is also unnecessary since such provisions could be made, if appropriate, through regulations were they proved to be necessary.
I do not believe the council needs the power to initiate advice on all matters related to teaching. Clause 2(2) already sets out a very broad remit, and to widen it from the outset risks the GTC losing focus, especially during the early years when it is still establishing itself. Allowing the Secretary of State to request advice on other teaching matters provides a useful flexibility if over time that remit proves overly restrictive in any respect. The council could of course suggest topics on which it would welcome a request from the Secretary of State.
I do not believe that this threatens the autonomy or independence of the GTC. I cannot envisage a circumstance when the council will not wish to advise on a matter related to teaching when required to do so by the Secretary of State. It is also worth noting that Clause 2(3) triggers Clause 2(4), which sets out the GTC's role in advising on individual cases of barring teachers on misconduct, ill-health grounds or educational grounds. The Secretary of State will need to be able to require the GTC to advise on these cases.
The GTC has a role in advising on issues of medical fitness to teach. There are, and there will remain, some medical conditions which would prevent someone from following the very demanding profession of teaching. We must take particular care in cases where teachers' medical conditions could pose a risk to their pupils or themselves. We would need to ensure that any general duty on the GTC would not inhibit its ability to give clear and impartial advice.
On a technical matter, I should also wish to consider whether Clause 2 was the right place in which to make such an amendment. The wording of this amendment would seem to extend across all the GTC's functions, and not just its advisory role.
I conclude by saying that I am supportive of the general intention behind the amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, and several other noble Lords have worked hard on the establishment of a GTC for many years. Without their very real valuable work and commitment, we might not be discussing today the establishment of just such a body, and I should like to record my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and to others.
The Bill gives the GTC a very real and significant role in advising Ministers. Its advice will carry the weight of the teaching profession and help to restore the morale of teachers. I understand the desire to push ahead quickly and give the GTC a wide and impressive remit. But for the reasons that I have outlined, I do not believe that the time is yet ripe for the sort of additional duties set out in these amendments.
The Bill gives the GTC a clear and focused role. I hope that Members of the Committee will forgive me for taking a little time to respond to this group of amendments in setting out that role. We must be wary of giving the GTC too much to do too soon. For now, we should focus on establishing the GTC and building its standing among the teaching profession and the public. Once it has established its track record, then perhaps we can start to consider how best the role might be expanded. If experience shows that we need to revisit primary legislation in order to underpin the major and wide-ranging role that we envisage for the GTC, that could be addressed in the next Parliament.
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