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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the regulations before the House today have been amended since the initial draft. Therefore, consultation on the amended regulations is denied to those teachers and others who have concerns about the detail. That is why I am using this opportunity to invite the Minister to explain the changes and to respond to some of those concerns.
One of the changes would allow a person without a formal teaching qualificationthat is, an instructor, an overseas trained teacher, who may or may not be familiar with the British school system, a teacher trainee who has yet to pass the skills test, or a trainee or graduate on a registered teacher programmeto be responsible for the direction and supervision of assistant teachers in our schools. If I am correct in my understanding that an unqualified person working as
Under Regulation 6, an unqualified person is able to undertake the planning and preparation of lessons and courses for pupils, the delivery of lessons to pupils, and the assessment of and reporting on the development, progress and attainment of pupils. Such an unqualified person may carry out any or all of these functions for two years or even longer if the Secretary of State agrees. Would the Minister say what, over and above that list of professional activities, would differentiate the job description of a qualified teacher from an assistant teacher described in these regulations? Would the Minister also confirm that an unqualified person could be assigned teaching duties, as set out in Regulation 6, to support the work of a nominated person, referred to in paragraph (10) of Schedule 2, who may also be unqualified? If a person is deemed by a head teacher to have the skills, expertise and experience to plan, to prepare and deliver lessons, and to assess and report on the development, progress and attainment of pupilswhich, frankly, is about the same job description as that of a fully qualified teacherhow will they be paid? Who will validate their qualifications?
Teaching assistants have played, and continue to play, a vital role in our schools. We have also had unqualified teachers employed in our schools for many years. However, at present, such teachers who are detailed in Sections 4 to 9 of Schedule 2instructors, overseas, graduate or registered teachersare strictly controlled by regulation, which is very different from the open-ended use by head teachers to employ anyone without explicitly defined limits.
Parents and teachers are concerned. That concern needs to be taken seriously. They want assurances that such peopleunqualifiedwill not be used as a cheap substitute for a qualified teacher. It is clear that the supervisory teacher, who may be qualified or even unqualified, need not be physically present in the classroom or even in the school. There is nothing in these regulations which covers that. There are no minimum staffing levels for qualified teachers in a school. Unless I am mistaken, one qualified teacher could cover the teaching duties of more than one class with unqualified teachers. There is no limit on how many assistants teaching whole classes could be deployed at any one time.
I have heard that in Rochdale a conference took place recently where there was publicity boasting that schools could employ four cover assistants for the price of one teacher. Is the Minister aware of that? If so, what is her response to such a suggestion?
Previous regulations allowed head teachers to direct unqualified staff to work in prescribed circumstances. Any use of staff outside the regulations was deemed illegal. The previous, now repealed, Education (Teacher Qualifications and Health Standards) (England) Regulations 1999, state:
Two things occur to me. First, if my reading of these regulations is correct, let us have some honesty from government. Why not admit that unqualified teachers can be assigned whole classes and all the core teaching tasks of a qualified teacher without close supervision and without any limit on the numbers of assistants used in this way? Secondly, if teaching assistants have all the skills to fulfil the teaching duties set out in Regulation 6, rather than be used as cheap labour, they should have those skills validated and converted to qualified teacher status.
Teachers and parents can be forgiven for being suspicious of government at this time. Budgets are difficult. In order to cope financially this year, many schools have shed teachers and assistant teaching staff. Many schools have incurred deficit budgets with no guarantee whatever that the deficit will be recognised in next year's settlement. Unprecedented moneys are held back by central governmentone has only to witness the massive capital and revenue spend on learning and skills councils and buildings and staff up and down the land, and even to calculate the number of additional people in education on the non-school-based teacher payroll who add little or no value to the education of our children in schools.
The pressure on heads and governors to economise on qualified teaching staff will be enormous. There is nothing in these regulations to prevent that situation. Because there is no framework for supervision of teaching assistantsit is clear that the qualified teacher may not be present necessarily when the assistant is planning, teaching, assessing, and so forththere is an issue of responsibility, which is an important legal point. The qualified professional teacher or nominated personset out in paragraph 10 of Schedule 2who is nominally responsible for one, two or even more teaching assistants, could, in law, be held responsible for poor or inadequate teaching or an incident that took place in the classroom. Will the Minister tell the House where responsibility lies? How can qualified teachers meet such responsibilities when regulations do not address the role of supervision?
At a time when more teachers than ever are being required to teach subjects for which they are not trained, it would be a tragedy for children's education if non-qualified teachers, without a subject specialism, were given whole class preparation, delivery and assessment of education responsibilities. The morale of our teachers is not high now. They want greater professional freedom and greater protection of their professional status. The way in which these regulations are written leads to great uncertainty and a suspicion
Perhaps I may finish by emphasising this point: I am not against teaching assistants. They have played an incredibly valuable role in our schools. I know that there are teaching assistants who are more than capable of taking on the role of the professional teacher. That is what we should be in business to do. Using them as teaching assistants may be an abuse of their use rather than using them for the right reasons. Nor am I against the freedom of governors and head teachers to select the appropriate staff to teach children in their schools. But loosely drafted regulations which, on the face of them, allow the appointment of anyone to take on core teaching duties, working to an unqualified teacher who is not even present in the classroom, do little to improve the confidence and morale of our professional teachers and the quality of education for our children in schools up and down the land. I beg to move.
Earl Russell: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, for tabling this Prayer and for speaking to it so thoroughly and clearly. Those things needed to be said and I hope that she may have saved me a little time.
What strikes me strongly about these regulations is that they represent a belated recognition within Whitehall that what is now becoming one of the major problems for our public services is the fact that people do not want to work in them. It is shortage which has created the need for regulations such as these. That shortage is to be found up and down the country and complaints are being made everywhere.
Two years ago, I told the House in the debate on the humble Address that we were listening to the sound of turning worms. Now we have regulations to deal with the wormcasts, and I do not think that we should be too surprised about that. In future, it should be a major object of policy to make people rather more willing to work in public service jobs than they have been hitherto. So I am sure that the Minister will be as grateful as I am that we do not have to consider the housing element of that in today's debate.
As the noble Baroness emphasised at the end of her speech, in anything that involves qualifications, some attempt must be made to strike a balance; I shall start there. When Members on these Benches express our dissatisfaction with these regulations, we have no wish to go back to the glorious days of the great demarcation disputes represented by Peter Sellers in his prime. We have no objection to the existence of assistants doing properly selected and appropriate jobs andI stress that I agree with what was said by
We do not need to insist that the normal qualifications should be the only way of showing merit. We remember, for example, the case of Professor Richard Titmuss, who was a university professor without ever having been awarded a first degree. That was perfectly proper because his merit was proved in other ways. In fact, personally I am in no position to disagree with this, having been one of the last three history professors in the country with no PhD. Perhaps I may say that one of the others was Professor Sir Keith Thomas. Anyone who becomes president of the British Academy may, I think, be assumed to have the qualifications for a professor.
It is also a matter of pride for me that at no time in my career have I ever been qualified to be one of my own pupils, as I predate A-levels. So I do not say that regular qualifications are the only method. What I am saying is that there must be some evidence of appropriate quality and some matching of the quality which is shown to what someone is allowed to do.
The noble Baroness spoke powerfully on Regulation 6 and has saved me a great deal of time. I wish to draw attention to only one other point, which is the existence of assessment. Assessment is something comparative. When crossing the Atlantic, I found that their B-plus grade is not quite the same ours. Learning about comparative assessment is something that takes a good deal of experience and it will cause overseas teachers some problems. And even within this country, most university teachers do not regard you as a safe mount on marking until you have gathered comparative experience over two or three years. But these people will be doing assessments on their own, immediately. That causes me concern.
It is more constructive to ask the noble BaronessI have given her notice of this questionwhat is there which is not covered under Regulation 6? What is it that a qualified teacher may do but which an assistant benefiting from Regulation 6 may not? In particular, are teaching assistants to be allowed to write references for people applying for jobs? That is a matter which may be of concern to some employers; it certainly would be of concern to me. So the answer to the question, "The power to do what?", seems to be, "Almost anything".
I turn to the question, "The power to be given to whom?". Here we turn to Schedule 2. I shall not deal with all the categories set out in the schedule because they are pretty numerous, and I shall not deal, for example, with what has been described as the "grandfather" provisions, covering those who have been in the profession since before any of these systems of qualification existed. I see no need to disturb that. I shall deal with two particular categories, the first of which is overseas teachers.
I would not want to go back to the standard of one British university of the 1920s, which was considering an application for a PhD from someone who said that he had taken a BA from the university at Albuquerque, New Mexico. Looking at the paper upside-down, he read on the interviewer's notes a comment that looked suspiciously like, "No degree". I would not want to do that because there is more danger of the boot being on the other foot, but I would not want to assume a priori that every country in the world, including every Pacific islet, is capable of conferring qualifications at a standard which we would normally recognise. Certainly I want at least to ask a few questions about that.
The second point is that, unlike the power for student teachers, which may be continued indefinitely if the Secretary of State wishes it, the power for overseas teachers is confined to four years. I should like to know why the distinction has been made, and why a period of four years has been chosen. Even more important, how is this to be monitored? Is there any form of register of overseas teachers which records when they began teaching and how long they have been doing so? If there is no such register, then I should like to know how this provision is to be enforced. If one considers the standard performance of the Home Office in questions of nationality, immigration and so forth, it cannot be taken for granted that that department gets it right. That is certainly the opinion of the courts, which I take extremely seriously. So I want to know how the four-year provision is to be monitored.
Since 1997 we have seen a very considerable increase in the proportion of teachers without formal qualifications. The figure for 1997 was 2,500, while the figure for January 2003 was 11,000. Ministers in the other place have already been asked this, so I think that by now the noble Baroness will have been briefed: under what headings has this increase taken place? What proportion is made up of overseas teachers? What proportion comprises student teachers? What proportion is made up of what is set out in paragraph 10 of Schedule 2,
Turning again to the question of overseas teachers, we should take note that the United States is beginning to do to us what we have been doing to South Africa. When that really gets under way, we may hear some rather different language about this subject from what we have heard hitherto. However, I shall not dwell on that now. Further, having taught in the United States, I cannot in any case dwell on it with too much force.
These people are allowed to go on after having failed their BEd or whatever it may be. Before the war, the English used to make jokes about Indian applicants who filled in their application forms saying "Failed BA etc Calcutta". As it used to give great pleasure when I was in Sri Lanka just after it had won a Test series off us for the first time, it might give great pleasure in Calcuttaand I must give it its modern spellingto be able to deal with applicants who are "Failed BEd etc London". That will not be very good for our standing in the world. A little bit of harmless pleasure at winning a test series is one thing; pleasure at falling standards in a place which used to be a Mecca for them, would be quite another.
What is more, the power to go on after failurealthough it is formally limited to two yearsmay be extended by the Secretary of State, as far as I can see, more or less for as long as he wishes. If that happens, where is the incentive to take a degree course which may be becoming extremely expensive? Would any of your Lordships who are parents advise your child to spend the money on getting what he could get without it?
Paragraph 10 of Schedule 2"Other persons who may carry out specified work"poses quite different questions. There are many provisions in it which I cannot find in any of the provisions for trainees or student teachers. For example, it states that it is necessary that,
That raises the question of the status of these assistants in employment law. Where do they stand in relation to questions of unfair dismissal? The paragraph which deals with standardsparagraph 10(4) of Schedule 2states that the head teacher may have regard to,
I view these regulations with great misgivings. The ball is in the hands of the noble Baroness. She and I have discussed the question of regulations quite often before. My views are set out in a speechwhich I have quoted so many times that people must be sick of itof 20th October 1994. In that speech I express the view that maintaining our present status is essentially a matter of compromise. I do not see much sign of compromise by the executive here.
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