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Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that informative Answer. Even in the circumstances she has just described, is she aware that the role of the teacher, while of great importance, is one aspect only of a child's learning process? Other aspects of that process are outside the control of the education system--for example, home circumstances and other aspects. Is she further aware that the teaching profession is largely opposed to what is being proposed and that to proceed with such an important matter without its full co-operation would be very unwise?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I agree fully with my noble friend that all kinds of factors affect the performance of children in schools, including their home circumstances. In the second part of his
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, how many assessors will be needed to assess the teachers and headteachers who will go over the threshold? What will that cost and what will be the cost of the supporting bureaucracy? Would it not be better to put faith in professional headteachers and governors of schools to determine the performance of their staff?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the Government do put faith in headteachers and governors. Headteachers will play the crucial primary role in assessing which teachers should go over the threshold and earn considerably more. Headteachers will also be responsible--as they are now--for looking at the performance of those who have gone over the threshold. The Government think it right--and the teaching profession welcomes this--that some external assessors should be appointed to ensure comparability of standards between schools in what will be very substantial pay increases for those teachers who are successful.
Lord Quirk: My Lords, I take the points wisely made by the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, but is it not the case that something has to be done in order to make the teaching profession more attractive to potential recruits of an enterprising disposition? Such people may be reluctant to step on a treadmill where the norms are seniority and "Buggins' turn".
I ask the House to note that for 50 years merit and distinction awards have been made in medicine to very good effect, not least in enabling medical schools to attract and retain the best of clinical teachers through handsome enlargements of salary.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Quirk. He is right to remind us that merit awards and various types of performance pay have been available in medicine and in a number of other professions. It is vital that we encourage the very best graduates from our universities and colleges to enter teaching. In order to do that, we have to make it absolutely clear that we will reward success; that those able graduates who enter the profession and do well
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, in addition to the advanced skilled teachers I mentioned, there will be opportunities for the best classroom teachers to earn more than £35,000 a year. That is a very big increase. There will be no quota on threshold successes; funding will be available for every teacher who meets national threshold standards.
Earl Russell: My Lords, as a teacher--even if only in a university--I should declare an indirect interest in the Question. Is the Minister aware that many teachers believe that their duties are to their pupils as whole people, including their capacity for intellectual growth at later stages? Does the Minister agree that teachers may believe this duty conflicts with that of securing short-term exam results, and that payment by results, whether crude or sophisticated, risks being seen as contrary to their duty as they conceive it?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I really must knock on the head the myth that we are introducing payment by performance through crude examination results. Nothing could be further from the truth. I can assure the noble Earl that teachers will be assessed across a broad range of skills and that the progress of their pupils will be one of many elements that will be examined when assessing whether teachers deserve the very substantial increases that are on offer.
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: My Lords, in thanking the noble Baroness for her reply, I should declare an interest in that I have lived in the New Forest all my life. Is the noble Baroness aware that the public reaction to the proposed national park status for the New Forest varies from apprehension to downright hostility? Is she further aware that public concerns turn mainly on the future status and funding of the Verderers Court and of commoning, which are two historic pillars of New Forest life? Can the Government give an undertaking that they will exercise as much flexibility as they can in their negotiations with local authorities and other organisations in order to provide the best possible protection for this unique part of England?
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, all Members of your Lordships' House are aware that very strong views are held both in favour of new national park status and against it. National park designation requires that due regard must be given to both environmental heritage and cultural heritage. Within that context, the role, nature and function of the verderers is obviously of crucial importance in the case of the New Forest. I can certainly assure the noble Lord that the Countryside Agency will consult fully all those with concerns before making a recommendation on the order to the Secretary of State.
Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the New Forest is a very important and sensitive area and that over the years the Forestry Commission has managed the area and protected all the various interests, while providing controlled public access? Bearing that in mind, can the Minister tell us what advantages will arise from designating the forest as a national park?
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the role of the Forestry Commission and its excellent track record over many years in sensitive management of the New Forest groundlands are recognised by all. We
The Earl of Carnarvon: My Lords, I declare an interest as a former verderer of the New Forest. Is the Minister aware that Section 33 of the 1877 Act set up the Court of Swainmote? That is the equivalent of a court of petty sessions. Will this important court be able to continue?
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I am aware that the noble Earl, Lord Carnarvon, has mentioned an extremely important aspect of the continuation of the role of the verderers in New Forest life. I feel confident in assuring him that it is part of the recognition of the role of cultural heritage in the area that those matters will be brought to the fore in any discussions and protected as a part of our cultural heritage.
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