§ 3.6 p.m.
§ Read a third time.
§ Clause 1 [The Teacher Training Agency]:
Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 8, leave out ("Teacher Training Agency") and insert ("Agency for the Promotion and Accreditation of Teacher Education and Training").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 1, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 3, 22, 23 and 24 which are also in my name. Amendment No. 1 seeks to change the name of the agency proposed by the Bill from the Teacher Training Agency to the Agency for the Promotion and Accreditation of Teacher Education and Training.
§ I hope that your Lordships will not feel that it is too late in the day to attempt such a change, especially as there appear to be very good reasons for doing so and for accepting the rest of the amendments in this group. The main reason for accepting this group of amendments is that the Bill as it stands is unclear as to the powers which the agency will enjoy in perhaps the most vital area of its intended activity towards higher education on the one hand and school-based teacher training courses on the other. That vital area is accreditation.
§ At the moment it is not clear—despite, or perhaps because of, some of the amendments accepted in Committee—whether the power to accredit school-based teacher training courses (which, as I understand it, normally resides with the Secretary of State) has been passed via the new agency to institutions of higher education, whether it is to be shared by the institutions of higher education with the new agency or whether the 1389 Secretary of State still retains his power which, as the Bill now stands, could be shared with the agency and with the institutions of higher education as he sees fit.
§ I am not a lawyer. However, I was sufficiently worried as to exactly what the Bill said when it left Committee and Report proceedings that I took independent legal advice. That confirmed my impression that the Bill is in a muddle. Indeed, it would seem that the mover of the two amendments which were accepted at Committee stage and which caused some of the confusion to which I refer—or at least left the Bill less clear than it was before—may agree with me. I say that because new paragraph (a) of Amendment No. 4 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, who successfully moved Amendments Nos. 62 and 68A during Committee proceedings, seeks to clarify the very point that I am making.
§ We shall be debating Amendment No. 4 later. It is sufficient to point out for the purposes of this group of amendments that Amendment No. 4 intends to put a duty on the new agency to ensure that all courses of initial teacher training provided by schools are accredited by institutions of higher education. I believe that that is what Amendment No. 4 seeks to achieve, though I am not sure that it does so as I shall mention when we come to debate it. Be that as it may, I have to put it to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that he would not have tabled paragraph (a) of his Amendment No. 4 if he were entirely confident that all courses of initial teacher training were already to be accredited by institutions of higher education, and by no one else, under the Bill as it stands. Indeed, I believe he would be right not to entertain that confidence.
§ It came as something of a shock to me to realise—and I confess that I did not do so until I saw Amendments Nos. 62 and 68A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, tabled during our Committee proceedings—that the Bill as originally drafted did not make it clear that the new agency would indeed be vested with the Secretary of State's present power of accreditation in the same way as the Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education now is vested with that power. I fear I was guilty of oversight, as perhaps were other noble Lords, because I understood from all the descriptive material circulated by the Department for Education that the new agency was to replace the Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education—or CATE as she is known—and also the Teaching as a Career Unit, or TASC. I therefore assumed that the agency was to possess CATE's powers of accreditation.
§ This impression was formed by what was clearly in retrospect too casual a reading of the Bill, and particularly of Clause 13. Indeed, I have to suggest that Clause 13, even as it now stands, amended by Amendment No. 68A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, at our Committee proceedings, is not entirely clear in the area to which my amendments seek to bring clarity. I say that because, as your Lordships will be aware, Clause 13 deals with the qualification of teachers. As I understand it, it sets out the guidelines under which the Secretary of State may make regulations to confer the power to accredit courses on 1390 the new agency and perhaps others. It seems beyond doubt that those who successfully complete an accredited course achieve QTS—qualified teacher status —and we should remember that those who achieve QTS at our school-based courses will already hold a degree. But it is not clear from Clause 13 as it now stands whether the new agency may by itself grant QTS to a school-based course, perhaps with the Secretary of State's blessing, or whether it can only do so if the course is accredited by an institution of higher education.
On page 7, line 31 of the Bill—that is to say, the fourth line of Clause 13—we see that regulations "may" make certain provisions. I am advised that the word "may" is important and may have the effect of diminishing the strength of Amendment No. 68A in our Committee proceedings which seems to seek to ensure that all school-based courses have to be accredited by an appropriate institution of higher education. Be that as it may, the confusion appears to grow when we come to subsection (2) of Clause 13, which defines those people who may qualify for QTS. At the top of page 8 of the Bill as it now stands we see that this extends to those who have,
successfully completed a course of initial training for teachers in schools at an accredited institution in England or Wales".
Clause 13 (2) goes on to define what it means by an accredited institution. In paragraph (c) it says:
an 'accredited institution' means an institution accredited by the Teacher Training Agency or, in Wales, by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales as a provider of courses satisfying such criteria as may from time to time be specified by the Secretary of State".
Clause 13 (2) concludes by declaring:
The above amendment shall not be taken as prejudicing the power"—
by that I assume the Bill means the power of the Secretary of State—
to make further regulations revoking or amending the provision inserted
§ That seems to me and those who advise me to cause further lack of clarity.
§ Perhaps I may pause there, with that part of the Bill in front of us, to explain my Amendment No. 24. This would extend the caveat which I have just quoted to both Clause 13 (2) and, very importantly, to Clause 13 (1). Following on from that—I apologise if I am taking my amendments in reverse order but since the confusion seems to intensify towards the end of Clause 13 as presently drafted it may be a logical way to do it—I come to my Amendments Nos. 23 and 22. These are intended to remove the duty which Amendment No. 68A may—I emphasise the word "may"—put on the new agency to ensure that all school-based courses would be accredited by an appropriate institution of higher education. That brings me to the heart of this group of amendments. It seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and those who have supported his amendments wish to perpetuate the virtual monopoly which higher education enjoys in training and educating teachers. I use the word "virtual" because I am not entirely sure whether the licensed and articled teacher schemes require the approval of higher education apart from the fact that potential teachers under these schemes do, I believe, have to have a degree.1391
§ The stranglehold of higher education on the training of our teachers is also not entirely complete, I am glad to say, when one considers the private sector. I am aware, for instance, that Eton wisely eschews anyone with a Bachelor of Education degree and has found that some of its best teachers are former businessmen with a reasonable degree but without what I regard as the negative experience of having had to undergo one of the postgraduate certificate of education courses offered by higher education.
§ Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 would leave school-based courses free to be accredited by an institution of higher education but do not attempt to compel them to do so. Likewise, Amendment No. 13 would clearly bestow on the new agency the function of accreditation of eligible institutions. That is not to say that Amendment No. 3 would give a monopoly either, or anything approaching it, to the new agency. In practice, of course, the vast majority of school-based courses might well choose to go on working with, and even being accredited by, institutions of higher education. But the amendments would at least allow such courses not to be accredited by what I regard as the malign monopoly or quasi-monopoly of higher education. Also, the malignant nature of higher education teacher education departments would surely start to become more healthy, less biased, more genuinely academic and therefore more helpful to aspiring teachers than is at present the case if the institutions to which they are attached knew that the agency was in the background with the power to support school-based and other courses which wished to avoid higher education.
§ As I said, this really seems to me to be the heart of the matter. Do those who supported Amendment No. 68A and indeed Amendment No. 62 at our Committee stage really wish to see school-based teacher training remain as much as possible with higher education, or are they prepared to see at least some reduction of higher education's present quasi-monopoly? I would be most interested to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and other noble Lords who speak in the House for higher education in this regard, if they care to contribute to the debate on these amendments, as to exactly where they stand on what seems to me such a vital matter.
§ That brings me finally to Amendment No. 1 and my proposal that the name of the new agency should not be the Teacher Training Agency but should instead be the Agency for the Promotion and Accreditation of Teacher Education and Training. I apologise again for introducing such a novel concept so late in the day but it seems to me that the name of the agency as proposed by the Bill became inappropriate during our proceedings at Report stage. As a result of that debate my noble friend the Minister has tabled Amendment No. 27 today which brings the expression "teacher education" in line with the expression "teacher training", as currently used in the Bill. I imagine that the amendment will find favour on all sides of your Lordships' House, especially as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has been one of the strongest advocates in our debates so far of the use of the expression "teacher education" as opposed to "teacher training". I trust that he will be supporting Amendment 1392 No. 27 when the time comes. By the same token I dare to hope that the noble Lord and others who support the use of the expression "teacher education" will agree that it should appear in the name of the new agency.
§ Certainly, the expression "teacher training" is not much in current use among the institutions and departments which purport to teach our potential teachers how to teach. The normal expression is "teacher education", often shortened simply to "education", which can be very confusing for the uninitiated. Indeed, even I, no friend, it will have been gathered, of our system of teacher training, believe that we should use the expression "teacher education" at least on a par with the expression "teacher training". However, my reasons for supporting its use may be somewhat different from those which have inspired the noble Lord, Lord Judd.
§ I support the use of the expression "teacher education" precisely because, alas, so many people who now enter—particularly our Bachelor of Education courses—do so with such poor qualifications at A-level that one has to suggest that they have not really completed any sort of adequate education which might equip them to be teachers. So I do not believe that it would do any harm to emphasise that there are aspiring teachers who still need to be educated rather than simply trained how to teach.
§ So that is the reasoning which got me as far as wanting to change the name of the proposed agency to the Agency for the Education and Training of Teachers. Then I thought that if we are changing It we might as well go the whole hog and make clear in its name what it is that—
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
My Lords, I apologise to my noble and learned friend. I say the "whole way" or "all the way". The name should say what we want this agency to do, hence the name I suggest in Amendment No. 1. We want this agency to promote teacher education and training. Some of us—I trust most of us —also want us to be able to accredit courses leading to qualified teacher status. Taken together with the other amendments in this group to which I have now spoken, I believe that my suggested change of name would make the position very much clearer than it is at the moment in the Bill. I trust that other noble Lords may feel able to support it. I beg to move.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me. We are at Third Reading and he will only have one opportunity to speak from the Dispatch Box. I am minded to ask one or two questions which he might be minded to reply to later. Therefore, would he be willing to wait for those questions or should I give way during my speech to allow him to answer them?
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, I am always extremely grateful to the noble Lord for his guidance on these procedural points. I want to intervene at this moment if that is acceptable. There are two points as regards the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, on which I would like to dwell for a moment or two. First, he will not be surprised when I say that I believe that there is a lot of merit in half of what he says about the title of the agency. I wish that he had given the House an opportunity to approach this in a slightly different way so that we could have taken seriously the point about "education" in the title. I commend him on having made that point because it is a good one.
Secondly, I want to make it quite clear, so that there is no misunderstanding, that as far as I and my noble friends are concerned, we see it as appropriate for the accreditation to remain with institutions of higher education. The noble Lord has obviously given this matter a great deal of thought. I would like him to consider for a moment some of the phraseology which he used in putting his case forward. He talked about the monopoly of higher education. That is a very misleading concept because within higher education there is a great variety of centres of higher education. I believe there will be very little difference between the two Front Benches as regards the importance of having that variety.
Therefore, where the preparation of teachers is being undertaken there will be a number of different institutions of higher education related to those centres which will be undertaking the accredited task. Therefore, there is not the monopoly in the sense in which the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, may have suggested that there might be. However, we feel that because of the importance of the professional status of teachers; and because of the very point which he made about the importance of education not only in subject matter, but in the process of preparing to be a teacher; and because of the need to have a demonstrable independence of ministerial diktat under a government of any persuasion, there is a great deal to be said for putting the accreditation clearly in the hands of the institutions of higher education. That is how we see it and how we interpret the amendments which have been put forward and approved by the House.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I find it very difficult to follow what my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch is getting at. He is apparently concerned and worried—I suppose that if he is worried I should be too—but I do not understand what his worry is as regards the devolution of power of accreditation by the Secretary of State.
I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but I understand that that may be done by regulation and not primary legislation. There is no provision proposed for primary legislation to do this. If that is right then the Secretary of State retains total responsibility and is answerable in Parliament for what he has done under the regulation. For the life of me I cannot understand—no doubt somebody will explain—why a change of name from the TTA to an,Agency for the Promotion and Accreditation of Teacher Education and Training",1394 could be conceivably relevant to resolving this problem of devolution and the effect that it will have.
I was totally unable to understand—again, as all your Lordships know, I do not know much about teacher training—what the monopoly of higher education was or is or whether it exists. I was gratified when the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said that he did not understand it either. He did not use those terms, but of course he is far more diplomatic than I. He speaks from the Front Bench when I speak from the Back Benches and with a little more licence, perhaps. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, gives my noble friend half marks or half merit on the title. That was generous because in the circumstances it is not understood how there can be any merit in a proposition which could not produce any explicable result. As I cannot find any result perhaps somebody will explain what it is all about. For the life of me, I could not support any of these amendments.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I at least am grateful to my noble friend for this opportunity for clarification which is one of the functions of Third Reading. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for what he said, as far as he went. While I am still a little confused about what my noble friend proposes, I am a good deal more in the dark than I would wish to be about what will be the result, and what the Opposition intend to be the result of their amendments to the Bill at the previous stage. One can get a grasp of the general intention from what the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has just said; namely, that there should be some form of diversity.
I seek to find out the extent to which the Secretary of State will be bound and the extent to which he will be free in this matter as regards the new amendment. I also seek to find out what balance the members of the Opposition think it is proper to hold between the training and education of teachers by higher education institutions and by other institutions such as schools and groups of schools which I believe are well qualified to carry them out. Yesterday I was at a conference of 100 teachers in a partnership of 11 primary schools. I was very much taken by their grasp of the issues about the proper management of schools and their fitness for bringing up others in their tradition, which is not the tradition which is so often attributed to teachers as a result of the activities of their collective leaders in negotiations and arguments with central government.
I hope to use this opportunity also to reassure your Lordships that the state of the profession as a whole is a good deal better than the state in which the profession is represented as being by the media as a result of the shrill and sometimes discourteous interventions of its leaders. But that is besides this point. What I was hoping to elicit from the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and now, I presume, from the noble Baroness, Lady David, is further clarification of exactly what in their eyes we are sending to the other place.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
My Lords, this has turned into a rather complicated Bill. Some of us are not entirely clear exactly who is accrediting what as the Bill now stands. However, I do not feel that it becomes any 1395 clearer by changing the title of the agency in question. In fact, one of the few points of which we can grasp hold at present is that the agency in question is called the Teacher Training Agency, or TTA for short. It is not an agency for the promotion of Christian knowledge, or whatever, but it is suggested that it be called the Agency for the Promotion and Accreditation of Teacher Education and Training. However is one going to refer to such a body? If one uses an acronym, one gets APPETITE—APATET—or something of that kind, which makes me feel distinctly anorexic. It seems an absurd proposal. Whatever the agency's limitations as the Bill has been amended and whatever our doubts about its role, at least we can call it the TTA. If we were to amend the Bill as proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, what on earth would we call the agency for short?
Although I fully understand that the noble Lord's intentions are for the best and that, with his other amendments, he is trying to clarify the role of the agency—I am sure that he is leading us in the right direction there—I cannot feel that the proposed amendment to the agency's title does anything but increase the obfuscation which surrounds the difficult issue of accreditation.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, perhaps I may deal with some of the questions that are buzzing around the Chamber at the moment. First, my noble friend Lord Pearson referred to higher education's monopoly of teacher training. That is absolutely true. Indeed, it is even more true under the Bill as now amended because higher education has full control over all courses through its accreditation rights. It has further control through compulsory participation in all courses. The amendment to the Bill now denies an opportunity to a consortia of schools which may wish to provide school-centred teacher training in their own right. My noble friend is absolutely right on that point.
My noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway was concerned about accreditation powers and whether they are enshrined in primary legislation. He is absolutely right: they are not. It is right that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will have powers under the regulations. The powers for those regulations are provided in Clause 13. Those regulations would be used to confer accreditation powers upon the agency.
I concur with many of the positive remarks that were made by my noble friend Lord Elton about teachers and the teaching profession.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, says that accreditation is to remain with higher education institutions. However, accreditation cannot remain a function of higher education, as the noble Lord suggests, because higher education institutions have no such function at present. They were given such a function for the first time under an amendment to Clause 13, but that function is not defined. In fact, the function of the higher education institutions is merely added to a defined function of accreditation which the Bill already gives to the agency. It really does not make sense.
My noble friend Lord Pearson referred to accreditation and powers of approval. Currently, no one 1396 has the power of accreditation. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has the power of course approval which he exercises on the advice of the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. As I have just advised my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway, Clause 13 first allows the Secretary of State to confer the power of accreditation upon the agency through regulation and then goes on to confer it on the agency. Under Clause 13, the agency has a clear power of accreditation, although amendments have muddled the picture by giving a parallel power to higher education. I am referring to the amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Judd, had passed in this place. The whole thing is in a dreadful muddle.
However, I am grateful to my noble friend for the opportunity to set on record yet again, at this final stage, the wide and important role of the Teacher Training Agency. I fully understand the spirit in which these amendments were moved and I hope that my noble friend will in due course equally understand the reasons why I cannot support their inclusion in the Bill.
If agencies, like Bills, had a long title as well as a short one, I could see the case for a formulation like that in Amendment No. 1—although not perhaps in exactly the same terms. We certainly want the agency to have a promotional role in the widest possible sense, ensuring that teacher training (including teacher education) grows and develops to meet the demands and needs of the nation for a thriving, well-trained teaching force. This goes wider than but encompasses the work of the Teaching as a Career Unit, to the work of which I have paid tribute in earlier debates. The unit has the current responsibility for promoting teaching as a potential career for those leaving school and university. That is important work. While there is no current problem over teacher supply, we are not complacent, and we need mechanisms in place to make sure that the supply of well qualified applicants to teacher training courses continues at the necessary level.
Promotion of teacher training in its wider sense—although I am not sure that this is immediately clear from the amendment—also involves ensuring that the best courses of training flourish and are adequately resourced for their vital role. It involves working to establish and preserve a network of high quality training institutions able to meet current needs and respond to future demands.
Most of that role is currently embedded within the wider responsibilities of the Higher Education Funding Council, but it is not something which it has been possible or appropriate for the council to pursue with great vigour. Promoting one aspect of higher education would not be consistent with the wider role of the funding council across all of higher education.
It is also because of the funding council's distinct remit that there is currently no single body required to look across the piece and apply on a consistent basis the same funding and quality judgments to schools and to higher education providing training. Schools must currently be funded separately by the Secretary of State himself.
Promoting both the demand for and supply of high quality training is therefore a key part of the agency's 1397 role. So also is accreditation. Clause 13 of the Bill gives the agency an accrediting power which will in due course replace the Secretary of State's current power to approve individual courses of teacher training.
There has been some confusion over current and intended powers and duties in this area, and I should like to take this opportunity to set the record straight. Currently, qualified teacher status—widely known as QTS—comes from completing a course approved for the purpose by my right honourable friend. The power of course approval is conferred by the teachers regulations, currently made under Section 218 of the Education Reform Act. It is exercised by the Secretary of State on advice from the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education and Ofsted.
Clause 13 adds a new power for the agency to accredit institutions in its own right, and provides that all courses of teacher training at an accredited institution shall lead to QTS. In due course, once all institutions have been accredited, we shall no longer need the Secretary of State's course approval powers and shall be able to repeal that part of the current regulations.
The power of accreditation will be the agency's own, not exercised on behalf of my right honourable friend. The agency will have to use as a basis for accreditation the criteria published by the Secretary of State for this purpose, and will look at inspection evidence from Ofsted, but the decision as to whether to grant accreditation is the agency's alone. This all holds good whether or not there is any other body carrying out a parallel but undefined process of accreditation under the Bill as now amended, which, as I have said, makes a nonsense of the Bill as it now stands.
It is therefore clear, as I noted, that the long title proposed for the agency by my noble friend can be said to cover its most important functions and the way in which it draws together a group of linked activities now carried out by a range of separate bodies. It also reflects the fact that teacher training includes education. However, as noble Lords know, I shall be moving an amendment later to secure that all references to teacher training throughout the Bill include teacher education to put that beyond doubt.
So I welcome the spirit of Amendment No. 1 but feel that I must oppose its substance because, as my noble friend Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn said, it would saddle the new body with a pretty unwieldy and possibly misleading mouthful of a name. As I have noted, it leaves "funding" embedded in the general descriptor of "promotion". If we are to go into this amount of detail, it would be odd not to see funding given its separate mention. And then what about research—the subject of later amendments? We do not want to devalue any part of the agency's role by singling out particular aspects for its title.
Difficulties over how fine to draw the detail on the face of a Bill are common in legislation and we have met them in many of our earlier debates. I believe that in this case the title we have given the agency covers all that is needed without fear of confusion and without seeming to prejudge the relative importance of any aspect.
1398 I must also oppose Amendment No. 3 for a rather different reason. It is certainly not necessary to give the agency the function of accreditation in Clause 1; it is given the power by virtue of Clause 13. Accreditation is therefore one of the functions referred to in Clause 1 as being conferred on the agency "by or under this part" of the Bill. That is beyond doubt.
The idea of promoting the reference to accreditation into Clause 1 certainly has a good deal to commend it. It will, as we have noted, be a major factor in the agency's work. But I am afraid that a free-standing reference to the function in Clause 1 such as Amendment No. 3 offers us would not work. We should need to do some more serious reshaping of the Bill so that the function of accreditation conferred in Clause 1 was defined in more detail in a later clause—in effect, disentangling Clause 13 which now both confers and defines the function. That would follow the model of the agency's functions as a funding body, which are conferred in Clause 1 but defined in detail in Clauses 6 to 10.
There would clearly not be time for us to make the necessary internal readjustments at this stage of the Bill's passage through your Lordships' House. Since the amendment is not necessary and would, for the reasons I have given, leave us with a defective piece of legislation, I hope that my noble friend will be content to withdraw it and leave further reflection on this point for those in another place.
With Amendments Nos. 22, 23 and 24 we turn to another aspect of the accreditation issue, namely, the degree to which higher education institutions should be involved in accreditation. I am grateful to my noble friend for his concern to clarify this important subject. Indeed I believe, as I shall seek to explain, that his amendments throw helpful new light on—although they do not resolve —tensions which stem from some amendments accepted by the House at an earlier stage in the passage of the Bill.
Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 would have the effect within Clause 13 of providing that courses of initial training for schoolteachers may rather than must be accredited by an appropriate institution of higher education. If we replace "accredited" by "validated" (a point on which I shall have more to say later) that would be a fair reflection of our intended policy. We have always said during the debates on this Bill that there will be a continuing involvement of higher education institutions in initial teacher training, and indeed they will remain the monopoly providers of undergraduate training courses. But we have also argued that nothing should undermine the initiatives already under way, in which schools are able to form partnerships with one another to provide postgraduate courses, which are often but not always validated by higher education institutions.
We want schools to have the right to decide whether to work in partnership with, or have their courses receive a seal of approval from, a higher education institution. We look forward to a steady increase in school-centred training. Numbers will certainly grow beyond the current pioneers, in secondary schools in particular, though neither the Government nor the 1399 agency will be forcing schools to take on extra duties. The schools will have to meet the Secretary of State's criteria, meet Ofsted's inspection standards and meet the accreditation standard of the Teacher Training Agency.
Given all that, there is simply no need in the approach we have advocated for schools to pass a mandatory further test of approval by higher education.
My noble friend's Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 are therefore in tune with our own thinking. But in tabling them he has highlighted what more would need to be done to ensure that schools have the rights I have described. To see this we need to look again at Clause 11(1) as amended in Committee.
Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 would create the possibility that, as now, there can in future be school-centred courses that do not need to be accredited by a higher education institution. But, given Clause 11(1) as it stands, these amendments would not help. School-centred courses would still face the barrier of compulsory partnership with, and "accreditation" by, a higher education institution, albeit that that is superfluous to what is already in place. These amendments would add to, rather than overcome, a tension within the Bill.
As I mentioned, there is a further difficulty in that these amendments as drafted leave intact the notion which we currently find in both Clause 11 and 13 that higher education institutions can in principle accredit initial teacher training. As the Bill stands, both the Teacher Training Agency and higher education institutions have an "accrediting" role—the latter not defined in the Bill. That could be confusing. I believe it arises from the use in Clauses 11 and 13 as amended of the term "accredited" in respect of higher education, when a more appropriate term would have been "validation".
Validation and accreditation are distinct processes. Validation is an internal process within higher education, involving peer review of courses. It is the process of recognising a higher education course or programme as acceptable for the purposes of making an academic award. It is concerned with academic content and level and not with professional or practical skills. We should clearly welcome validation within higher education institutions for academic courses offered at degree level, but schools will be training students who have already graduated from courses validated by higher education.
It is as well to remember that there will be that important safeguard. Quite apart from anything else, it means that students will themselves be well placed to judge whether a course run by schools without higher education validation is the right course for them; and the way is clear for schools which wish to seek higher education validation. As I have said, however, we want them to have the choice.
So what is accreditation, which is what we intend the Teacher Training Agency to do? Accreditation is the official approval of a qualification as an acceptable preparation for entering a profession. It is therefore about vocational rather than academic matters, although the required standards for achieving the qualification, and therefore entry to a profession, may include 1400 academic skills and qualification. Indeed, the Secretary of State's criteria for initial teacher training stress the importance of subject competence, and we have now said in terms in this Bill that all successful trainees must be graduates by the time they enter the teaching profession. Those rules must be met if an institution is to be accredited and its successful students awarded qualified teacher status.
Accreditation in that sense must cover all providers of initial teacher training. We have proposed, on the advice of the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, that accreditation in future should be of whole institutions, not individual courses. That view is widely shared and has been welcomed within higher education.
It is vital that institutional accreditation, as we have proposed, is performed by a body that is external to the institution offering teacher training. Unlike validation, it is not appropriate for there to be self-accreditation by the course providers, whether they be in higher education or in schools; and that is what the amendment would achieve. That would not give the necessary assurances about quality; and that is why we need a Teacher Training Agency to take the decisions, and not merely advise, on both accreditation and funding.
The amendments have helped to highlight the need to sort out a tension within the Bill as it now stands. We need to be clear that accreditation as we have defined it in the Bill is done solely by the Teacher Training Agency and that validation is the preserve of higher education institutions.
Unfortunately, the amendments do not themselves sort out that tension. In a sense they perpetuate it by leaving intact the reference to higher education institutions as accrediting bodies. There has not been time, since I saw these amendments last night, for me to consider some appropriate alternative government amendments. I believe that the tensions which remain in the Bill will have to be resolved in the other place, although this House will of course consider later this summer the results of that resolution.
As Amendments Nos. 22 and 23—while helpfully intended—would further confuse what I believe to be an already muddled picture, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw them.
Finally, turning to Amendment No. 24, I can assure my noble friend that I am advised that it is unnecessary and indeed would have an untoward effect on the Bill. This is because there is only one amendment set out in Clause 13(2), and the words which my noble friend seeks to amend refer only to what is in that subsection. On that basis, I hope that he will again feel able to withdraw his amendment.
I hope that my noble friend is satisfied with this response and will not therefore seek to press these amendments. I have certainly welcomed the opportunity to have a constructive debate on these issues to put on record what I believe to be the present state of the Bill, and to thank my noble friend in particular for allowing me to rehearse again for the benefit of the House the important roles to be played by the new agency.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this brief debate. I am particularly grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and I have found at least one issue on which we can agree. It is the importance of using the expression "teacher education". When the noble Lord, Lord Judd, goes on to confirm that he wishes as much of school-based teacher education as possible to be entrusted to higher education, he and I part company. He refers to the variety which exists in many centres of excellence in higher education. My experience of that area is that there is not nearly as much variety as one would like to see. Indeed, my experience on the Council for National Academic Awards led me to believe that there is not nearly enough variety in that area and that too many of these courses are too similar. It is largely for that reason that I strongly support school-based teacher training courses being able to be independent of higher education.
My noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway opined that the Secretary of State retains full powers by regulation. He wondered what monopoly I was talking about—
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, that was a mistake. If I said that, I did not mean to do so. I said that the Secretary of State was retaining powers but was devolving them by regulation. In fact, he would retain responsibility although someone else would exercise the powers.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I am sorry if I misunderstood him. The problem is that at the moment the Bill is in a bit of a muddle in this area and my noble friend the Minister confirmed that.
My noble friend Lord Renfrew said that he was not clear what benefit there could be in changing the name. He asked what is in a name. I felt that at least by changing the name to what is suggested in Amendment No. 1, we would make clear to the world at large that this agency was to promote the education and training of teachers and also that it would have the power of accreditation.
My noble friend Lord Renfrew, who I am sorry to see is not in the Chamber, suggested that we might run into difficulties with the acronym that could come about. He suggested that the body might be called APETITE. I am afraid that I have thought of an acronym which might at first sight seem a little worse. If one were to include both the As in the middle of the suggested title and leave out the word "training" at the end, one might have APAATED, which might come near to sounding like "apartheid". However, I have to say to noble Lords that if the proposed agency acquired that name it might not be such a bad thing. I regard the situation in higher education towards teacher training as not being dissimilar to apartheid. There is something of a colour bar between the rest of higher education and teacher training. I think that the amendments that I proposed would do much to remove that.
Finally, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for agreeing with me that the Bill is in a muddle at this stage and at least welcoming the spirit of the 1402 amendments which I put down. I apologise for speaking at such length and for introducing such novel concepts, especially on Third Reading. I know that that is unusual in your Lordships' House but it is also unusual for a Bill which contains such a lack of clarity about one of its essential features to reach Third Reading in this House.
Despite what my noble friend the Minister said, it still is not clear to me at any rate who has what power to accredit school-based courses of teacher education and/or training. It actually is not clear to me any more what powers the Secretary of State has in regard to accreditation generally. I am fairly sure that he has the power to accredit courses of teacher education or training and that at the moment he allows CATE to exercise those on his behalf. But after what the Minister said, I am not as sure as I thought I was because I understand that the moment CATE accredits entire institutions or departments. Following the Minister's remarks, I am not sure whether this is a practice which has grown up for convenience or whether it is well-founded in law.
Be all that as it may, and although I accept that much of what I said may have seemed fairly obtuse, I hope that the debate will contribute to further consideration of the Bill in another place. In that spirit, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 9, after ("exercise") insert (", in consultation with the Higher Education Funding Council for England,").
The noble Lord said
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 7 and 36. Perhaps at the outset I might be forgiven for saying that if in the process of our deliberations some small inconsistencies and confusions have arisen, I am certain that the combined efforts and expertise of the Department for Education and the draftsmen will be able to sort them out so as to ensure that in the other place there will be a possibility of giving effect to what is clearly the wish of this House on certain matters.
As regards Amendment No. 2, the Minister has recognised the important relationship between teacher education and training and higher education, not least with her acceptance that school-centred courses are postgraduate courses with the protection of the graduate status of teachers.
In Committee the Minister opposed the establishment of a sub-committee of the Higher Education Funding Council for England to provide teacher training. She argued that the teacher training agency would be a rationalisation of existing powers and responsibilities of the various educational quangos and the Secretary of State. In looking at Hansard, I am reminded that in Committee she said:The agency is also seen by some as an attack on higher education. Higher education is not in any way threatened by these proposals. It has a changing role, in partnership with schools. But it is not under threat".—[Official Report, 10/3/94; col. 1580.]Furthermore, I see that on Report, in response to an amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford, the Minister argued that Clause 9, as drafted, was: 1403designed to allow the range of funding bodies covering schools, and further and higher education in England and Wales, to work together where that would be more efficient or effective".— [Official Report, 28/3/94; col. 931.]The teacher training agency takes over part of the funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England. But as is acknowledged by the Minister, a special relationship between the two bodies will remain. Surely that relationship should be recognised on the face of the Bill, with consultation between the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the teacher training agency clearly required.
I hope that the Minister will feel able to accept Amendment No. 2. If she does not, whatever her intentions, there will he an anxiety that assurances that she has given during deliberations on the rest of the Bill are questionable because of a failure to make this an underlying priority spelt out in the early stages.
I turn to Amendment No. 7. Responding to an amendment tabled by me in Committee, the Minister said:Amendment No. 8 … seeks consultation on appointments with the Higher Education Funding Council for England … That would he very cumbersome. This is a relatively small body and it would have to be done every time the agency had an ad hoc vacancy. The funding council is in any case a body which itself is appointed by the Secretary of State. There is no logic in the amendment. It also overlooks that we have already, in Clause 2(2) (a), included a reference to experience in the provision of higher education as something to which the Secretary of State must have regard".—[Official Report, 10/3/94; col. 1624.]With the greatest possible respect, I suggest that the Minister's argument has no logic.
There is no reason why consultation with the Higher Education Funding Council for England should be "very cumbersome". The members of the Higher Education Funding Council for England need to discuss higher education issues on a regular basis. The Higher Education Funding Council could meet to discuss the important matter of the recommended appointments to the new Teacher Training Agency that it wishes to make to the Secretary of State. Moreover, there is no problem about the Secretary of State using the Higher Education Funding Council in an advisory capacity to guide him in making his ad hoc appointments.
The very fact that members of the Higher Education Funding Council are appointed by the Secretary of State surely means that he judges that they have a particular knowledge and have shown a capacity in matters relating to higher education. Therefore, it is entirely logical that the Higher Education Funding Council should be consulted arid should advise the Secretary of State on the appointment of members to the Teacher Training Agency.
Clause 2(2)(a) includes specific reference to members of the new Teacher Training Agency having experience of the provision of higher education. But that does not cover the point about consultation with the Higher Education Funding Council. Consultation does not mean Higher Education Funding Council representation; nor does it mean that the Secretary of State has to accept Higher Education Funding Council nominees. However, it would place on the face of the Bill the important link between higher education and its institutions with the Teacher Training Agency and its responsibilities for funding and providing for teacher 1404 training courses. The Higher Education Funding Council will have a valuable role to play in discussing and advising the Secretary of State on the appointment of members to the Teacher Training Agency.
Before I conclude my remarks on this amendment, it is perhaps appropriate to draw the attention of the House to the fact that that role was recognised by the Minister on Report when she said:In appointing members to this body"—in other words the TTA—I imagine that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education will consider carefully the case for overlapping membership of the two bodies we have discussed. We expect them to work closely together and joint membership would be one way of securing that".—[Official Report, 28/3/94; col. 865.]It is surely in the spirit of that response that the Secretary of State should consult with the HEFC on appointments to the Teacher Training Agency.
It is relevant in that context to note one other point. At col. 882 of Hansard on the same day the Minister said:I should like publicly to reassure and place on record our intention to consult the Churches both about initial appointments and any future appointments in which the Churches might be thought to have a legitimate interest".It is difficult to understand why the Minister was unable to give a similar reassurance with regard to the: HEFCE, especially when in the same debate she emphasised strongly its special relationship with the Teacher Training Agency. She said at col. 867:It is important not just that the members of each organisation should come together formally but that the two bodies should work together for the benefit of promoting good teacher training".Formal consultation by the Secretary of State with the HEFCE on appointments to the Teacher Training Agency would be a recognition of the overarching higher educational responsibilities of the HEFCE and the importance of a good working relationship with the Teacher Training Agency.
I turn briefly to Amendment No. 36. Representation by the HEFCE would help to ensure the retention of the vital link between higher education and initial teacher education. In response to an amendment tabled in Committee, the Minister moved an amendment on Report to provide representation for Ofsted at TTA meetings. She said at col. 884:The two bodies have complementary roles to play in ensuring that standards in initial teacher training are maintained and improved. Because of the closeness of that relationship, I believe it right that this should be written on the face of the Bill to ensure the free flow of information between the two bodies".But those words of the Minister could be used equally well to describe the complementary roles and the importance of the free flow of information between the Teacher Training Agency and the HEFCE. They reflect the comments by the Minister about the special relationship between the two organisations, comments to which I have referred.
I know that in arguing against the formal overlap of the HEFCE members on the Teacher Training Agency the Minister said at col. 867:We are talking about busy people and if they were not prepared to take membership of the two national bodies under their belts, there would be vacancies on the agency and that would he unthinkable".—[Official Report, 28/3/94; col. 867.]But surely that problem would be overcome if the HEFCE were entitled to send representatives to attend 1405 and take part in any deliberations (but not decisions) at TTA meetings and if the TTA were to provide the HEFCE with copies of any documents distributed to members of the agency on the same basis as Ofsted. I beg to move.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, it is a long time since I read my Sherlock Holmes but I seem to remember a story of an athlete, supposedly dead, whom Holmes discovered to have possessed one dumbbell. He called on Watson to imagine the type of figure that would develop doing the exercises only with the one dumbbell. Watson, of course, was quite unable to see the significance of that information, but ultimately that led to the discovery of the previous prime suspect dead in the moat.
The amendment is calling for the second dumbbell. Whatever way this works out, there will inevitably be a border area between the work of the Higher Education Funding Council and the Teacher Training Agency. I hope that it will not be a border like the Great Wall of China. I should much prefer it to be a border like the Welsh Marches, where influence spreads across on both sides—a constant meeting of people and a constant exchange of ideas and, indeed, perhaps a bilingual area along the border. In that way sometimes very amicable relations can be produced.
If we are to have that Welsh Marches border relationship, we shall need constant consultation. The three amendments which we are discussing produce that. They are intended as a serious contribution towards making the Bill work. I cannot see how it can possibly work unless there is such regular consultation. If it is going to happen in any event, I do not see why the noble Baroness should object to having it written on to the face of the Bill. I hope that she will see her way to accept the amendments.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I remember our discussions at the last stage of the Bill as to whether there should be a member of the HEFCE by statutory right as a member also of this body. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, in their disappointment at not achieving that have fallen back on the position of having an observer and giving the observer the right to have all the papers that the sponsor body should require. That is the effect of Amendment No. 36. However, the group goes much wider than that and in a sense I am rather surprised to find all three together. Indeed, I wondered whether there would be a third dumbbell, but I cannot quite follow the noble Earl's analogy in that regard.
The first amendment amends Clause 1 and requires all the functions of the Teacher Training Agency to be carried out in consultation with HEFCE—if it is correct to call it H-E-F-C-E. I suppose that my noble friend, who is our expert on acronyms, will correct me if I am wrong. However, HEFCE is to be a partner almost in all the functions set out, and they are all the functions of the agency in Clause 1.
Then we find the second amendment, Amendment No. 7, striking at Clause 2, with a second duty to consult 1406 about one of the functions. It seems to me that Amendment No. 7 must be superfluous if Amendment No. 2 is accepted. However, I notice that there is a difference in the drafting which may be significant. I say that because Amendment No. 2 talks about "in consultation with" and Amendment No. 7 talks about consultation taking place,before making any appointments under subsection (1)".In other words, a deed is carried out after consultation.
The latter leads me to reflect, again, on Amendment No. 2 and to wonder what the effects of it would be with regard to the different functions to which it would apply. All the TTA's functions as a funding agency under this part of the Bill would be carried out in consultation with HEFCE. Therefore, presumably, all the working out, the inquiries, the calculations, the divisions and the distribution, would be carried out in consultation with HEFCE and subject to frequent correspondence and joint meetings.
However, what about the function under Clause 1(1) (b); namely, to provide,information and advice on teaching as a career"?Should that not be as in the second amendment and carried out after consultation? If every function of that body is to be carried out in consultation with another body, it seems to me that they might as well be in one building and become one body. It is possible that that is what the noble Lord and his coadjutors would wish to happen. If so, I should like to know because it seems to me that that is not the intention of the Bill and that it should not be brought about by covert means. Paragraph (c) covers all,other functions as may be conferred on them by or under this Part".Therefore, as I said, there would be no move, however small or insignificant, that the TTA could carry out without consultation with the Higher Education Funding Council.
The proposal presupposes a most cumbrous and elaborate form of bureaucracy. I should have thought that it would be a great mistake to incorporate it into the Bill with such consequences. If the amendments were to be separated, I suppose that there would be some consolation in the fact that they would not then be tautological because, as I said, Amendment No. 7 is otiose if Amendment No. 2 is passed. In view of the consequences as regards Amendment No. 2, I hope that noble Lords will reject both amendments.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords, on Second Reading I asked my noble friend the Minister whether the Government would consider making the agency a sub-committee of the Higher Education Funding Council. That was an idea put forward by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and, to my mind, my noble friend gave a very satisfactory answer. I came to the conclusion that the purpose of the Bill was a good one.
It seems to me that the amendments attempt to put the agency back into a position very similar to that of a sub-committee. However, the Bill's purpose has been largely accepted by this place with a few exceptions 1407 which, as my noble friend said, need to be smoothed out in another place, and the House has accepted that it should be an independent agency. Quite apart from that, I should have thought—and the noble Lord may like to elaborate on the point—that such an amendment moved on Third Reading should be fairly precise. Presumably, it is not a probing amendment at this stage. To say that every function should be exercised in consultation with the HEFCE is a very vague statement as it clearly would not be possible for the bodies to consult one another about everything. What does the noble Lord mean by "consultation"? "Before making any appointments" the agency would have to consult the funding council. Would that apply to every appointment right down the scale? It seems to me that that is what the noble Lord is seeking to achieve.
There is another area where consultation has to happen all the time as regards all three amendments; namely, in the entitlement to attend as regards cross-representation. All those requirements would be enormously clumsy. The noble Lord needs to be much more precise in his definitions when making such amendments—that may be possible, unless he is simply making a general point—if he wishes to get back to the agency being a sub-committee, which was a question raised on Second Reading and in Committee. I do not believe that the amendments will do as they stand.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
My Lords, it will not come as a surprise to your Lordships that I should also like to speak against Amendments 2, 7 and 36. To me, the worst appears to be Amendment No. 2. So far as I can see, it would come right at the start of Clause 1 and would require the new agency, whatever it is to be called, to exercise all its functions and then carry out all its objectives in consultation with the Higher Education Funding Council which, as other noble Lords have mentioned, is called HEFCE. If we are in the business of criticising acronyms, I must say that I am not sure that HEFCE is much better than apartheid or, indeed, appetite; but, still, there we go. I should have thought that that was not only undesirable, for all the points that I made in moving Amendment No. 1, and in speaking to the other amendments in the first group, but also because it would be so cumbersome as to be completely unworkable. I believe that one would need another agency, no doubt with another acronym, to handle the paperwork of the consultation process going backwards and forwards between the proposed agency and the Higher Education Funding Council.
I turn now to Amendment No.7. I suppose that I have less difficulty with it, provided that the consultation required was no more than that specified in the amendment. Indeed, I should have thought that it was probable that such consultation would, in any case, take place. As to the idea that the amendments follow on from—namely, that there should be joint membership of the HEFCE and the proposed agency—the only thing that I would venture to say is that I should have thought that someone who has time for all of that and to be a significant teacher in his own right (or in any of the other classes that are required) would not be all that 1408 valuable a member. However, that is, perhaps, my own feeling which comes from my experience on the Council for National Academic Awards.
Amendment No. 36, I should have thought, likewise is fairly superfluous, although I do not suppose that would much mind if a member of the HEFCE were to attend meetings of the new agency. However, in the second part of the amendment we are again in great administrative difficulties in distributing copies of documents between the two bodies.
I have one final point to make about the three amendments. They seem to me to put the new agency back into the maw of higher education more than would be healthy for the functions of the new agency, especially when one has regard to the new wording in Clause 2(2) of the Bill concerning those whom the Secretary of State must consider when appointing people to the new agency. In that subsection, we already have mention of people who "have experience of" and,have shown capacity in the provision of higher education other than the training of teachers",and who have shown,capacity in any position carrying responsibility for such matters",many of which are connected with higher education.
My overriding point is that higher education has already had a substantial bite of the cherry we are considering. Everyone who goes on to the new school-based teacher training courses will already have a degree. I believe that the slice of the cake—if I may mix metaphors—that the amendments now propose to give higher education are altogether exorbitant and unacceptable.
§ Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
My Lords, it rather appears that with this batch of amendments the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, are taking a belt and braces approach. Whereas the braces are acceptable, perhaps the belt is rather otiose. Amendment No. 36 seems to me to make perfect sense. It proposes that a representative of the Higher Education Funding Council for England shall be entitled to attend meetings of the Teacher Training Agency and that the agency should provide appropriate information to the HEFCE. In that way there is an adequate flow of information. Amendment No. 7 refers to the appointments to the Teacher Training Agency and suggests that before making those appointments the Secretary of State should consult the HEFCE. I believe all of that makes good sense and I would be happy to support those amendments.
However, as other noble Lords have already indicated, Amendment No. 2 proposes that the entire work of the Teacher Training Agency shall be undertaken in consultation with the Higher Education Funding Council for England. I believe that would create areas of confusion. For example, when we are considering the function of providing information and advice on teaching as a career, are we really considering that to be something which is central to the province of the Higher Education Funding Council? Noble Lords will remember that it was, I believe, the noble Earl, Lord Russell, himself and others on the other side of the House, and indeed myself, who said that as regards 1409 research we should be asking ourselves where responsibilities lie. We were making the point that in the field of research and in the field of education generally, not just teacher training, that is a matter that should be the province of the Higher Education Funding Council. I am happy to say that when we discuss later amendments today that will be the line which my noble friend the Minister will propose. She will propose broadly that there should be a proper division of responsibilities.
I am all in favour of a flow of information as indicated under Amendment No. 36, but Clause 1(2) states that the agency should secure that teachers are,well fitted and trained to promote the spiritual, moral, social, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils".Those matters relating to pupils are very much the province of the Teacher Training Agency. I should have thought that they are rather more remote from the concerns of the Higher Education Funding Council. Therefore, I find the belt—that is to say Amendment No. 2—to be a shade superfluous, whereas I would certainly be happy to support the two subsequent amendments as proposed by the noble Lord.
My Lords, I, too, have my doubts about these amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, will be pleased to know that I agree with him half-way—or at least I think half-way—in saying that these two organisations, the TTA and the HEFCE will have to co-operate and indeed will have to work closely together. But I do not like the way in which he has approached that matter in these amendments. First, Amendment No. 2 goes far too far. To use the same words in a domestic situation, if I were to agree to cook dinner in consultation with my wife, that would mean that if she wanted to be able to eat it, she would be exercising extremely close supervision over everything that I did. The words which the noble Lord has put down in his amendment would mean a total confusion of responsibilities. It would mean that the HEFCE was involved in every little detail of the teacher training agency's business and that to my mind would be completely unworkable and would in effect wreck the Bill.
As far as the other amendments are concerned, I do not want to see this relationship laid down in that way as a one-sided, one way relationship. To use the illustration that the noble Earl employed, I do not think that Welsh local authorities would welcome having to have on their committees an observer from their neighbouring English authorities with no provision in the other direction. I think that these relationships work best if they come about naturally through co-operation, through Government encouragement, and grow up as a means whereby both institutions can better undertake their functions. Indeed the independence of the Teacher Training Agency is a very important part of its nature because independence as we have seen with the further education funding councils brings with it vigour and enthusiasm and status. Those are qualities which I would not like to see wasted by amendments such as these.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, invited the Government to sort out the muddle in this Bill. I think it is worth putting again on the record the fact that accreditation cannot remain—as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has said it should—a function of the higher education institutions because they simply have no such function at the moment. But they were nevertheless given functions for the first time under an amendment to Clause 13. But, as I said earlier, that function is not defined. The higher education institutions' function is simply added to an already defined function of accreditation already to be given under the Bill to the Teacher Training Agency. The noble Lords opposite did not succeed in opposing the proposal to establish a Teacher Training Agency, nor did they succeed in removing the Secretary of State's powers to make regulations to confer powers to accredit in Clause 13. Therefore the confusion is their own. We have no intention of removing the Secretary of State's powers to make regulations to confer accreditation powers on the Teacher Training Agency. Nor is it the Government's job to create a definition of higher education institutions' powers to accredit. As accreditation is covered already by the agency, why should we concern ourselves with the refinement of the noble Lord's amendments? It must be for another place to consider the proliferation of accreditation, but there is too much accreditation in this Bill as it stands.
This group of amendments—Amendments Nos. 2, 7 and 36—returns to an old theme in our debates on this Bill; namely, the theme of what needs to be said in statute about the relationship of the Teacher Training Agency and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Earlier I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, criticised someone for talking about there being a monopoly of higher education. If there was not such a monopoly before, there certainly would be if the noble Lord had his way with this Bill because almost all his efforts and all his energies are absolutely geared to making sure that the schools take second place and that the agency takes second place to higher education in all matters.
The mistake common to each of these amendments is that they attempt to capture too much in statute as my noble friend Lord Lucas has just said. We are all agreed that the agency and the funding council must work together in an effective and efficient way. But it does not necessarily follow that we should legislate to force that to happen. We have already gone as far as is necessary to facilitate co-operation in Clause 9, which provides explicitly for the agency to exercise its functions jointly with the funding council where that would enable it to work more efficiently or effectively.
Amendment No. 2 would be very damaging. It would prevent the agency from pursing any of its statutory functions independently. In every single case, the agency would be duty bound to consult the funding council before taking action. I recognise that the agency would not be obliged to take the funding council's advice on every occasion. But how would the agency know, from the drafting of this amendment, what would count as adequate and sufficiently frequent consultation? And where would accountability be in this 1411 arrangement? It would be very hard to disentangle if the agency were constantly working under such a constraint, of a kind no other funding body has to work under.
Neither can I endorse Amendment No. 7. We already have on the face of the Bill, in Clause 2, numerous membership provisions. We debated those at great length and a number of improvements have been written into the Bill as a result. I hope we shall make yet further improvements later today. Clause 2 already requires the Secretary of State to take account of experience and ability in providing higher education, both in teacher training establishments and elsewhere, when he is appointing people to the agency. There is also nothing to preclude the funding council from making suggestions to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, either about the type of members he might look for or individual names.
We should be content to rest on that. The statutory approach in this kind of area inevitably raises new problems. A particular difficulty with this amendment is that it would require consultation every time there was an ad hoc vacancy on the agency's board. That would be very cumbersome, and inappropriate too, if, as may be the case, the area in which the board needs strengthening is in experience of school teaching, or denominational or special needs matters. Those points were raised by my noble friend Lord Renfrew.
It is true that in the case of the Funding Agency for Schools, the Secretary of State must consult the Churches before appointing any member. But the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford has accepted that that provision goes further than the Churches ever intended. Amendment No. 36 would give the funding council rights of access to agency documents and board and committee meetings. Despite what noble Lords have said, I do not see the case for that. The other higher and further education funding councils do not have such statutory rights in respect of each other. The higher and further education funding councils jointly fund numerous institutions. For example, the Higher Education Funding Council for England helps to support some 80 further education institutions, while the Further Education Funding Council gives funds to some 50 higher education institutions. They do so without the need for statutory access to each other's meetings and papers. Nor does the amendment before us extend that right to the Teacher Training Agency. What is the argument in favour of the funding council having such a right which does not extend also to the agency?
I fear that this is another example of noble Lords opposite wanting the agency to work under the supervision of the Higher Education Funding Council rather than alongside it as an equal partner. If it were really essential for the funding council to have this right over a fellow funding body, then it would call into doubt the adequacy of the statutory arrangements for all other similar bodies.
The reality is that the existing councils all get along well and have no need of a statutory basis for seeking advice and information from each other. Nor do I think 1412 that any council would exclude another council's chairman if there were good reason for him to be present at a meeting.
It is true that Ofsted will have the rights to attend agency meetings and to request documents which this amendment seeks for the Higher Education Funding Council for England. But Ofsted and the agency will have a particularly close working relationship to enable them to improve standards in initial teacher training. In particular, Ofsted will continue its work in assessing the quality of teacher training to inform the agency's; decisions with effect from the 1995–96 funding year. Ofsted will be looking at all courses over a four-year cycle. That will be vital to the agency in its accreditation and funding roles. The funding council will have no comparable responsibilities with such a direct impact on the work of the Teacher Training Agency.
It would certainly not be right for the Higher Education Funding Council to offer views; to the TTA on the appointment of teachers. The Higher Education Funding Council might be one body with views on higher education, but the same might he said about the other bodies with an interest in the area. I should have more sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, if he wanted the TTA to be consulted about Higher Education Funding Council appointments. That would at least suggest an equal partnership. However, his one-sided approach—or to borrow a phrase, his one dumbbell approach—shows what is the crux of the amendments. He wants the Higher Education Funding Council to have the upper hand, as he has wanted throughout the entire process of the Bill through this place. I hope that the amendment will be rejected.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, I am very grateful for the considerate reply by the Minister. I should like to deal with several points which have emerged in this exchange.
The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, referred to the possibility that what we propose is, under another guise, a sub-committee of the HEFCE. I ask her to look carefully at Amendment No. 36. It is clear from that amendment that, if somebody is entitled to attend meetings, that does not mean that they are necessarily expected to attend regularly. They will be entitled to attend; they will receive papers; when they want to attend they can attend. However, if they attend they cannot vote. In my experience of administration that is not the characteristic of a sub-committee. It is an arrangement for ensuring adequate exchange of information and adequate consultation between two bodies.
The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, raised the issue of joint membership. We do not refer to joint membership. We refer to representation of the HEFCE at meetings of the TTA. The representative might change. It is not the same as having a full member. We may not agree with it, but we accept the point made by the Minister that it was too much to ask people to undertake joint membership. I ask the noble Lord to look very carefully at what we propose.
1413 The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, were concerned about the degree of work on which there would have to be consultation. Again I come back to Amendment No. 36, which makes the matter very clear. If people receive the papers, are in the picture about what is happening and are entitled to attend meetings of the agency if they so wish, then if matters arise on which HEFCE feels it is appropriate for it to be involved there will be a means by which it can make its representations without having the responsibility for the decisions which are ultimately taken. I believe that that is sound.
That brings me to the observations made by the Minister herself. She asked how it would be known whether the consultation was adequate. I listened very carefully, and that is a fair question. Again I come back to Amendment No. 36. It would be known because the members of the Higher Education Funding Council would be receiving papers. If the council so wished it would be able to be represented at meetings. Therefore, the Higher Education Funding Council would be able to make it clear whether adequate consultation was taking place. That would avoid a situation which can so easily arise, not necessarily intentionally but inadvertently, whereby two busy organisations begin to drift apart. Then there is a colossal task in trying to bring them back together to sort out problems which can only be sorted out by the two bodies co-operating effectively.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. My intervention is for clarification, which I believe is in order at this stage of the Bill.
The noble Lord is forgetting that this is a free-standing amendment. His amendment provides that:There shall be established a body corporate to be known as the Teacher Training Agency to exercise, in consultation with the Higher Education Funding Council for England … their functions as a funding agency under this Part … the function of providing information and advice on teaching as a career,and also the function of accreditation of eligible institutions and such other functions as may be conferred on it under this part of the Bill. The amendment relates also to many other aspects. There is no choice. If those words appear on the face of the Bill that body must consult with the HEFC on every single aspect of its work. There is no qualification by which that shall be curtailed.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, I am glad that the Minister intervened on that point because it seems to me—and I hope that she will forgive me for saying so—that she is proposing a novel approach to legislation. She seems to be implying that all the provisions of a Bill have to be included in one comprehensive clause in which all the points are brought together. As she herself knows from designing her own Bills, in any Bill certain principles are set out at one stage of the Bill which are then carried forward and made possible by subsequent clauses in the Bill. That is why the amendments are grouped. The Minister shakes her head. I always enjoy the enticing way in which she shakes her head. But she knows perfectly well what I am saying. We accepted the 1414 grouping which was proposed because we accept that there is a logical relationship between these three amendments.
Therefore, I put it to her that, if she is serious—and I have never questioned the Minister's seriousness in putting points forward—about all that she said during the Committee stage and at Report stage to reassure those who had anxieties as to whether there would be vigorous and consistent consultation between the HEFCE and the TTA, it is extraordinary not to include this provision as a basic principle on which the TTA will operate. It is because we took the importance of what she herself said at earlier stages of our deliberations that we believe the amendment is crucial to underpin in practice the spirit of what she said to us when anxieties were raised.
It is for that reason that we shall pursue the matter to a Division tonight. We do not do so in any sense of hostility whatsoever. We do so because we believe that this House has a responsibility to give effect to the means by which we shall achieve the ends which she herself so powerfully spelt out.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 91; Not-Contents, 152.1416
|Division No. 1|
|Addington, L.||Hooson, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.|
|Archer of Sandwell, L.||Howell, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Howie of Troon, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Hughes, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Hunt, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Irvine of Lairg, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||Judd, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Kennet, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Kilbracken, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B|
|Callaghan of Cardiff, L.||Lockwood, B.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Carter, L.||Mallalieu, B.|
|Castle of Blackburn, B.||Mason of Barnsley, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Clinton-Davis, L.||Merlyn-Rees, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Cross, V.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|David, B.||Mulley, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.||Parry, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Peston, L.|
|Donoughue, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Plant of Highfield, L.|
|Ezra, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Falkender, B.||Redesdale, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Richard, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Ridley, V.|
|Gainsborough, E.||Robson of Kiddington, B.|
|Gallacher, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Russell, E. [Teller.]|
|Glenamara, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Grey, E.||Serota, B.|
|Halsbury, E.||Shaughnessy, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Shepherd, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Sherfield, L.|
|Haskel, L.||Simon of Glaisdale, L.|
|Healey, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Hilton of Eggardon, B. [Teller.]||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Taylor of Gryfe, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Tordoff, L.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Wallace of Coslany, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Aberdare, L.||Holderness, L.|
|Acton, L.||HolmPatrick, L.|
|Addison, V.||Hothfield, L.|
|Aldington, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Kimball, L.|
|Annaly, L.||Kinnoull, E.|
|Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L.||Knollys, V.|
|Arran, E.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Lindsay, E.|
|Astor, V.||Liverpool, E.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Long, V.|
|Birdwood, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Lucas, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Boardman, L.||Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor]|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.|
|Braine of Wheatley, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Bruntisfield, L.||Marlesford, L.|
|Bumham, L.||Marsh, L.|
|Cadman, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Caldecote, V.||Miller of Hendon, B.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Carr of Hadley, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Mountevans, L.|
|Clanwilliam, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Clark of Kempston, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Coleridge, L.||Munster, E.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Courtown, E.||Norfolk, D.|
|Cowley, E.||Norrie, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||O'Brien of Lothbury, L.|
|Cranborne, V.||Oppenheim-Barnes, B.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Oxfuird, V.|
|Dacre of Glanton, L.||Park of Monmouth, B.|
|Davidson, V.||Pearson of Rannoch, L.|
|Dean of Harptree, L.||Pender, L.|
|Denham, L.||Perry of Southwark, B.|
|Denton of Wakefield, B.||Perth, E.|
|Derwent, L.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Dixon-Smith, L.||Prentice, L.|
|Dormer, L.||Pym, L.|
|Downshire, M.||Quinton, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Eccles of Moulton, B.||Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.|
|Eden of Winton, L.||Rennell, L.|
|Elibank, L.||Renton, L.|
|Ellenborough, L||Rodger of Earlsferry, L.|
|Elles, B.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Seccombe, B.|
|Elton, L.||Sharples, B.|
|Erne, E.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Skidelsky, L.|
|Flather, B.||Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Gainford, L.||Stewartby, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Strafford, E.|
|Gisborough, L.||Strange, B.|
|Goschen, V.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Gridley, L.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Harding of Petherton, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Hayhoe, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Hemphill, L.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Henley, L.||Torrington, V.|
|Hertford, M.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Hives, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Ullswater, V. [Teller]||Westbury, L.|
|Vaux of Harrowden, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Wakeham, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]||Wise, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ [Amendment No. 3 not moved.]
Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 1, line 25, at end insert:
("( ) The agency shall, so far as relevant for the purposes of advancing teacher education and training under subsection (2) above—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Bill currently identifies the objectives of the Teacher Training Agency in Clause 1(2). But I think it is significant that it fails to spell out the responsibilities which the agency will have. Whatever our misgivings, it seems to me that for their part the Government see the Bill largely as a tidying up piece of legislation to rationalise functions and responsibilities of existing organisations. Any such intention surely requires that the new agency's responsibilities are explicitly spelt out. Indeed, on a previous amendment the Minister and others suggested that it was important to be detailed arid explicit. The amendment therefore specifies the remit of the Teacher Training Agency. It allows the agency to be properly monitored and establishes the areas of activity on which it could be expected to report in its annual report. I beg to move.
§ Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
My Lords, I fear that the noble Lord may think me rather pedantic in making specific comments on the amendment which he has moved so briefly. However, I do not think I am entirely mistaken in feeling that it was very much this amendment or something close to it which was originally set down at Report stage but was not moved. Had the amendment been moved then, it would have been possible, I believe, for us to look at the wording in a little detail and perhaps make comments. Then if the noble Lord, Lord Judd, had chosen, at that stage he could have withdrawn it and reintroduced it at this stage without the minor imperfections which the amendment seems to possess. Its larger objective seems to me to be broadly harmless, but perhaps at times otiose. But there are aspects of it that are really very peculiar. Let us look at paragraph (a):keep under review all aspects of teacher education and training to ensure courses of initial teacher training provided by schools are accredited by institutions of higher education".1417 It comes down to the issue of accreditation which continues to confuse a number of us. But then the paragraph continues: "as may be prescribed". Here a phrase drops from the sky which certainly confuses me entirely: prescribed by whom, for goodness sake? We may make the assumption that if anything is ever prescribed it is prescribed by the Secretary of State. I suspect that that may be what the noble Lord, Lord Judd, intends. But there are many in this House who are very eager indeed to insist that the Secretary of State should not be given powers to step in and prescribe this or that when he chooses to prescribe it. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Judd—perhaps when he sums up in relation to this amendment he will be good enough to say—who it is intended will make this prescription, and what entirely does it entail?
If we turn to paragraph (b), perhaps we find a clue:advise the Secretary of State and the Higher Education Funding Council on such matters concerned with the accreditation of institutions as providers of teacher education and training".What is the grammatical role of "such"? I ask that as a rhetorical question. I have the suspicion that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, intended "as may be prescribed" to be in paragraph (b); I suspect that (b) was intended to read, "such matters as the Secretary of State may prescribe". I may be wrong, but if we are talking about an amendment at Third Reading we may respectfully hope that the wording is correct. I apologise profoundly if I am implying error on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and if the error is in fact my own. But the noble Lord will have the opportunity of explaining the grammatical role of "such" in that paragraph and who is to make that prescription.
I may add that paragraph (c) appears to add very little to the powers. To be able to,publish and disseminate, and assist in the publication and dissemination",is not a power, it seems to me, which needs to be prescribed in this specific way.
Paragraph (e) refers to being, "responsible for administering funds". Surely that responsibility arises when there is a power to receive funding anyway.
Finally, there is a question in relation to paragraph (d):make arrangements with appropriate bodies for auditing the quality of assessments made in pursuance".Am I right in thinking that it is Her Majesty's Inspectorate that makes these assessments? If so, are we talking of auditing Her Majesty's Inspectorate? I should be very grateful for elucidation on that point. It seems to me that this amendment is a bit of a concatenation, and I am doubtful whether this House would be wise to approve it.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
My Lords, I should like briefly to support every word that my noble friend Lord Renfrew has just said. If I had any wish to disagree with him it would be on the ground that he was excessively kind to the wording of the amendment. In paragraph (c) the requirement is to,publish and disseminate, and assist in the publication and dissemination of, information relating to teacher education".1418 I cannot help feeling that if my noble friend were to accept the amendment it would perhaps be the death knell of the agency. It would not have a hope. I am very confident that my noble friend will reject it.
The same could be said about paragraph (d). One must be very sympathetic with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, who proposed the amendment. After all, the disease is catching, and the Government have on occasions produced the most ghastly legislative horrors. But I beg the noble Lord to be more careful in future, and perhaps to go into quarantine for a bit to make sure that he does not catch anything horrid from the modern fashion in legislation. I wonder what on earth the Teacher Training Agency would make of the instruction in paragraph (d) to,make arrangements with appropriate bodies for auditing the quality of assessments",if it were ever laid upon the agency.
While I am on my feet I should just like to say to my noble friend—and I mean this—a word of congratulation on the skill with which she has handled this Bill. If I am entitled to a view at all I would say that it has been vastly improved as a result of her handling.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, the House will forgive me if I savour the moment to have my noble friend Lord Peyton on my side. I thank him most warmly for what he just said.
When this amendment was laid at Report stage and was then not moved so early in the day, I thought (and rather hoped) that it was in order to take it away and deal with all its flaws. But we have the amendment back at Third Reading. Inexplicably it was not moved at Report. It was spoken to with such brevity today that I really do wonder whether the noble Lord has his heart in this particular amendment. And we are left bemused and puzzled. The word that my noble friend Lord Renfrew used; namely that the amendment is a "concatenation", is apt.
The noble Lord has taken a very good piece of legislation—that which establishes the remit of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority—and has sought to adjust it for the purpose of redefining the role of the Teacher Training Agency. The fit is not a good one, and the adjustments which have been made add to the confusion over what the amendment would in fact achieve.
At the heart of this confusion is the question that was addressed in our first debate of just who will accredit whom. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, wants a higher education institution to accredit schools. He also wants the Teacher Training Agency to advise the Secretary of State and the Higher Education Funding Council about accreditation. But —unless I have missed something —nothing in the noble Lord's amendments changes the import of Clause 13, which also gives the accreditation function to the agency itself. So we would have the agency, the council, the Secretary of State and higher education institutions involved in accreditation in some way. There would also of course, I assume, be a continuing role for Ofsted.
I leave your Lordships to count up quite how many layers there are in this particular bureaucratic entanglement. I believe the fundamental problem is the 1419 noble Lord's confusion over accreditation and validation which I mentioned earlier. This area was the subject of much discussion at Committee stage, on Report, and earlier today. I have to say that I prefer the straightforward and clear-cut approach of our original proposals.
Turning to the amendment in more detail, under paragraph (a) the agency would have to keep all aspects of teacher education and training "under review"—a laudable aim, although a pretty daunting one for a funding and accrediting body. But it would do so "to ensure" that all courses areaccredited by institutions of higher education".Like my noble friends, I am assuming that "as may be prescribed" in paragraph (a) should in fact be at the end of (b) where it makes a bit more sense. Ensuring anything requires a good deal more than keeping it under review. This paragraph does not hang together at all.
Paragraph (b), to which I have already referred, requires advice on "such matters" concerned with accreditation to be given to the Secretary of State and the funding council—but to what purpose? If this is indeed where "as may be prescribed" is designed to fit, it is not clear which body is to do the prescribing—perhaps both?
If that is not so, then "such matters" are not defined in any way at all. So the paragraph as it stands makes no sense. As my noble friend Lord Peyton said, paragraph (c) on the publication of information adds absolutely nothing to what is already in the Bill. I repeat his question: What would the Teacher Training Agency make of it as an instruction?
The drafting of paragraph (d) is very odd indeed. It requires the agency to make arrangements for auditing the quality of assessments. In the case of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, that paragraph was specifically designed to allow for schools' assessments of pupils against national curriculum targets to be monitored so that standards could be assured.
There has been considerable debate about the number of layers of quality assessment within higher education. In this one area, where Ofsted has the lead role and visiting by independent outside observers is therefore regular and universal, it would be very odd indeed to impose yet another layer of "moderation of assessments". Can higher education institutions, which, under the Bill as it stands will have a role in every course, not be trusted? Or is the agency simply to "make arrangements" for Ofsted and other bodies to carry on doing what they are already doing?
Paragraph (e) adds nothing to the funding powers which the agency has already under Clause 4 as drafted.
But I must return to paragraph (b). The agency is to advise the Secretary of State and the funding council on accreditation. Yet under the Bill as it now stands neither body has any role in accreditation as such. The Secretary of State will set out the criteria on which accreditation is based. He will consult a range of bodies, including no doubt the agency and the funding council, before doing so. But the process of accreditation as defined under Clause 13 is a matter for the agency; and, as a result of 1420 the amendments to Clauses 11 and 13, there is also an undefined, parallel role for individual higher education institutions.
The amendment before us is designed to tinker with the functions of the agency to underpin a very different system from the clear and open one that we proposed. But it does not as drafted seem to underpin even the: system implied by the Bill as it stands. It would almost certainly increase bureaucracy. It appears to imply new and unclear roles for the Secretary of State and the: funding council. It would apparently multiply, and certainly not reduce, the number of bodies involved in accreditation.
The amendment is not a logical or sensible consequence of the amendments passed in Committee. It would compound uncertainty rather than clarify it. Its impact is at best unclear and certainly unacceptable. I hope that it will not be pressed. If it is, I must ask the House to reject it.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, I am very grateful to all those who have participated in this exchange. I should like to say to the noble Lords, Lord Renfrew, and Lord Peyton, whom I greatly respect and to whom I always listen with great attention, that in a sense I stand admonished and accept their admonishment on detail. But I ask them to consider that we on these Benches have been placed in a rather invidious position.
We are concerned about the gigantic, gaping hole in the Bill whereby the objectives are spelled out but the responsibilities are not. This House has debated at length the anxiety which exists about the developing trend towards more and more quangos in our society and the implications for the quality of our democracy. If we are to be able to monitor what those quangos are doing and judge the effectiveness with which they deliver the services that they were established to provide, it is absolutely essential that we see in the Bill the agency's responsibilities. They are conspicuously absent in the Bill as drafted.
It is for that reason that we have tried to fill the gap. We may have done so very imperfectly. Indeed our attempt may be greatly improved. But this afternoon I should be very much heartened to hear from the Minister that she takes the point about the need to be able to monitor and evaluate the work of quangos, which conduct very important tasks on behalf of society as a whole, and that when the Bill is introduced in another place she will make sure that the issue of responsibilities, as distinct from the vague "objectives" to which the Bill refers, is there for all to judge. That is the first point.
Just to underline that point, I must tell the House that, having read the first part of the Bill, I turned to Schedule 1. I thought that within the schedule we might see more detail. The schedule specifies how the Teacher Training Agency will operate, but not its responsibilities relating to its functions and objectives as set out in Clause 1. Our amendment attempts to provide that information in a way that is similar to Section 245 of the 1993 Education Act and Section 2 of the 1992 Education Act, which specify the responsibilities of the School Curriculum 1421 and Assessment Authority and Ofsted respectively. I cannot for the life of me see why, in a Bill of such significance, the good practice established in those two Bills is not followed in this Bill, if we can do so, for although we talk about it as good practice all things are relative.
I accept the criticisms made about detail and do not wish to pursue unreasonably the imperfect draft. Therefore, I seek leave of the House to withdraw the amendment. In doing so, I hope that the Government will take seriously the anxiety which exists and rectify the drafting of the Bill when it comes to be considered in another place.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Viscount St. Davids moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 2, line 1, leave out from beginning to ("exercisable") in line 2 and insert ("Except where corresponding functions in relation to Wales are conferred on another person or body, the functions of the agency are").
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is a technical amendment which clarifies the division of responsibilities for functions under Part I of the Bill in relation to Wales. The current draft recognises the divisions between the agency and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales set out under Clauses 3 to 10. But there are also functions under, for example, Clause 13, which may be carried out by either of the two funding bodies. The amendment therefore ensures that the agency has the statutory power to carry out any function in Wales, but only where that function has not already been conferred on another person or body, and only at the request of the Secretary of State. I am sure that your Lordships will recognise that this is a simple clarifying amendment which removes any misunderstanding about the extent of the power of the agency to deal with matters relating to Wales. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Membership, &c. of the agency]:
Baroness Blotch moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 2, line 6, leave out from ("of") to ("members") in line 7 and insert ("between eight and twelve").
The noble Baroness said
My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 6, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 8 and 10. They deal with further membership issues and are government amendments which have arisen from all noble Lords' concerns in previous debates. I shall take each in turn, trespassing in advance on the amendments in this group in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford (Amendment No. 11) and my noble friend Lord Pearson (Amendment No. 9). My comments on their amendments will not preclude any debate on those amendments.
The noble Baroness, Lady White, raised at Report stage a drafting point on the section to which the government Amendment No. 6 applies. I am grateful to her for that. The new formulation does not use the words "less than eight … members" to which she objected. It also removes the word "or" to which objection has also been raised on grammatical grounds by my noble friend Lord Swinfen. This is therefore a technical amendment 1422 which I hope will command general support, including support from the noble Baroness, Lady White. In the light of her concern I went back to counsel and took advice. I am assured and am prepared to put on record on the basis of counsel's advice that "between eight and twelve" does not mean "nine and eleven". It does in fact mean eight, nine, 10, 11 and 12. I am told that there is no confusion whatever in terms of what it means.
Amendments Nos. 8 and 10 tabled in my name meet a point addressed in other amendments that we discussed at the Report stage, brought forward by my noble friend Lord Pearson and by the noble Lord, Lord Judd.
Clause 2 as originally drafted required the Secretary of State to have regard to the desirability of including on the agency's board members with experience of the provision of education in schools and higher education. I made clear at the Report stage that "provision of education" in this context referred to teaching, which was the point addressed in the amendments by my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Judd. But I am pleased to put it beyond doubt by these amendments, which set out in detail what was already implicit in Clause 2.
My noble friend Lord Pearson again tabled Amendment No. 9, which removed the reference to "current experience" from the list of factors that the Secretary of State may consider when appointing members to the agency. My noble friend will know from our previous debates that I agree entirely that we should not limit consideration of the membership to only those who have current experience or responsibility. I have already placed on record my support for the part retired persons with the appropriate experience could play. But I am also concerned to ensure that the agency has the right mix of current experience. That will be vital if it is to respond constructively to the effect of our recent reforms, and be well informed on current issues.
I would therefore be reluctant to delete that reference. I should like to set on record again that this section does not require all members to have current experience and that the Secretary of State will be free to appoint retired people as well as current practitioners. He has recently done so to bodies governed by exactly the same requirement. Indeed, as I also said at an earlier stage, the greater availability of retired people for public appointments makes it most unlikely that they will be overlooked. The now conventional addition of the requirement to have regard to currency of experience has I suspect grown up to ensure that the retired do not have a monopoly of appointments. I hope that that further assurance is sufficient for my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford tabled Amendment No. 11 which raises again his concerns about consultation with the Churches over appointments to the Teacher Training Agency. I know from discussions that representatives of the right reverend Prelate had with my officials that careful thought has been given to possible ways in which to achieve the understandable aim of requiring consultation with Church bodies over certain appointments.
As I made clear at Report, we would wish to consult the Churches over appointments where they might have 1423 a direct interest. I therefore welcome the principle behind the amendment and would welcome any advice the Churches gave on specific qualities and experience appointees might possess. Such advice would be invaluable when considering initial appointments and certain ad hoc vacancies. However, I cannot accept the amendment as it stands.
There is a fundamental dilemma here which I do not think the amendment of the right reverend Prelate resolves. If the Churches were to be consulted by law about those appointments in which they had a "legitimate" interest, we should need to define those appointments by law as well. That would require us to define one or more denominational members and take us down the slippery slope of representation. There are many more interested bodies waiting in the wings for just such a move.
On the other hand, I think we are also agreed that it would not be sensible for the Secretary of State to consult the Churches on every vacancy—indeed the right reverend Prelate himself does not want that outcome.
It is not in my view possible to reflect a sensible solution to this dilemma in legislation. The current amendment seeks to resolve it by referring not to any particular appointments, but to occasions on which the Secretary of State has regard to denominational experience when making an appointment. However, under the wording of Clause 2, the Secretary of State must have regard to all the stated experience and expertise in the case of all appointments. So in fact we are back to requiring consultation on all appointments and every ad hoc vacancy.
I am happy again to make it a matter of public record that we will undertake to consult the Churches, in the way intended by this amendment, when making initial appointments and any future ones where Church input appears relevant. I would hope that the right reverend Prelate can accept this public commitment which meets the principles of his amendment without creating in statute the difficulties that I have outlined and which I believe he also wishes to avoid. I beg to move.
§ Baroness White
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for taking the trouble to ask counsel's opinion on the matter. I still believe that the grammar is incorrect. When it says "twelve", I cannot see how it can be "between" eight and twelve. However, we will not discuss it. I still think that, although counsel may make a good lawyer, his grammar is incorrect.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
My Lords, in speaking to Amendment No. 9 which is in my name perhaps I can take the opportunity of thanking my noble friend the Minister for her Amendments Nos. 8 and 10 which seem to me greatly to improve the various categories of people whom the Secretary of State may appoint to the new agency.
Turning to Amendment No. 9, I listened carefully to what my noble friend said. I believe I can take it from what she said that people who have recently retired from teaching, especially in schools, will be seriously considered for membership, or even perhaps that there will be at least one member of the agency in that 1424 category. I do not believe that there will be any difficulty in persuading people who are currently engaged in the softer subjects of providing and teaching higher education to give quite a lot of time to the agency. Many of them already have too much time on their hands. However, it may be more difficult with a good serving teacher at the school level. I am grateful for what my noble friend said and I have no intention of pressing the amendment at this stage.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Guildford
My Lords, in, speaking to Amendment No. 11 which is in my name I must apologise to the House for taking up more time on what must appear to be a small point, arid almost a point of special pleading. In my more hesitant moments I feel that I must be rather like a piece of grit in the well-fitting shoe of the Minister.
It is a small point, but it is a point of substance and I must speak to it again. I remind your Lordships that the Churches provide the higher education colleges in which over one quarter of teachers are being educated —the figure is actually 28 per cent. That is a significant stake in teacher education and it must be recognised that the Churches are in partnership with the state in the whole field of education. Looked at historically, it can reasonably be claimed that it was the Churches who pioneered the way in the whole matter of teacher education. That is a point to which the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, drew attention at an earlier stage in our discussions on the Bill.
Although our role has very properly diminished, we are nonetheless still in business and are a significant contributor to the whole educational pattern. The Government recognised that—and I am extremely grateful to them—by producing their own amendment, which is now on the face of the Bill, in relation to the desirability of having persons on the Teacher Training Agency who have experience or responsibility for institutions of a denominational character. Not only that, but at an earlier stage and again this afternoon, the Minister gave an assurance that the Churches will be consulted over appointments to the Teacher Training Agency.
As I explained earlier—I am sure that the noble Baroness will not mind my rehearsing it again though I hope not in detail—consultation with the Churches is actually on the face of the 1993 Act. But the consultation that we experienced over appointments to the Funding Agency for Schools was plainly unsatisfactory. That was recognised throughout the House and was almost conceded by the Minister herself. Therefore our embarrassment and difficulty—I must put this plainly—is that when consultation was on the face of the Act, that consultation was not satisfactory. But I 1425 am now being asked to accept assurances which are in Hansard but not on the face of the Bill. That presents me with difficulties.
Of course I accept the assurances given by the noble Baroness the Minister. But what should I do? My representatives were in touch with hers in order to try to hammer out an agreed amendment which will achieve our purposes. Today is the first I have heard that it is not satisfactory. I do not for one moment hold the Minister responsible for that. When we tried to obtain an opinion on whether the Minister would accept the amendment in principle, she was out visiting schools, teacher unions or on some other much more important business. Nonetheless, at Third Reading I am left in the position that it was not until this afternoon that I heard that the amendments were not satisfactory. That puts me in a difficulty. I have no Whips. It does not even look as though I have many votes. Even if I had scorpions I would not be able to do anything. I therefore have no option. I cannot press the matter.
I am sure that the Minister understands why I am not really satisfied. I am grateful for her assurances. However, in view of the fact that we were able to put something on the face of the 1993 Act I am astonished that we cannot find a way of putting something onto the face of this Bill. I do not think it is too late because the Bill has to go to another place. I trust that the Minister will continue to give her mind to this matter in the hope that there may be some satisfactory solution.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I wonder whether, for reassurance and also for some clarification, I may speak again. It proves a point that words in Bills that become Acts do not necessarily guard against human nature. The right reverend Prelate will know that I have conceded at least once publicly on the record and will do so again that that was a very unfortunate incident. I apologise again unreservedly for that and join my right honourable friend who did so too. That incident was unfortunate.
There was some misunderstanding about the nature of consultation and also about the point at which one consults. Once appointments are made, and some disappointments, it is very difficult to do anything other than allow that information to go out at the same time—it is quite difficult to do it otherwise. But I believe that there is scope for improving the consultation between my department and the right reverend Prelate's department. I do not think it is a matter of what is on the face of the Bill. We must see that human nature honours both the commitment in Hansard and the spirit of what I have said.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 7 not moved.]
Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 2, leave out lines 11 to 17 and insert:
("(a) to have experience of, and to have shown capacity in—
(b) to have held, and to have shown capacity in, any position carrying responsibility for—
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 9 not moved.]
Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 2, line 26, leave out ("the provision of education for") and insert ("teaching").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
The Lord Bishop of Guildford moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 2, line 31, at end insert:
("(4A) In carrying out his duty under subsection (3) (a) the Secretary of State shall consult the bodies referred to in subsection (4B) about the qualities and background which it would be desirable for persons with the experience or responsibility referred to in that subsection to possess.
(4B) The bodies referred to in subsection (4A) are such bodies as appear to the Secretary of State to be representative of the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and such other religions and religious denominations as he considers appropriate in matters relating to the provision of higher education in institutions of a denominational character.").
§ The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, I formally move the amendment if only to provoke a little further debate. I beg to move.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for providing this opportunity because I was unfortunately and unavoidably swept out of the Chamber during the debate on the group of amendments. I should like to say how strongly many of us feel the Church and the Churches to be involved both in the history and in the development of our education and how warmly we would welcome, whether in statute or by some other means, a mending of this very important fence which we cannot afford to have broken any longer. I was encouraged by my noble friend's words to believe that she believes this to be the case too. If between this place and another place it is decided that there is room for an amendment for this purpose, I hope that she will give it a fair wind. Otherwise, I hope she will do whatever is necessary to bring these two great institutions of Church and state together in one of their principal tasks.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has just said. Oral assurances are, I am sure, given in good faith, but the reality is that no successor government to the present Administration will for a moment accept that a commitment made by the noble Baroness this afternoon also commits them, whereas an amendment to the statute would in fact commit them.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
My Lords, I agree with every word that my noble friend Lord Elton has said. I hope that my noble friend will attempt to secure something when the Bill goes to another place. I felt rather sorry that the right reverend Prelate did not have available the Whips and scorpions which he thoroughly deserves to have at his command.
§ The Lord Bishop of Guildford
My Lords, I am very grateful that my Whips and scorpions are reaching further round the House than I had anticipated.
1427 I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for what she said earlier on in our discussions. I hope she will heed the words of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, because I still think that it would be a much more satisfactory and secure arrangement to have something on the face of the Bill, even though we know that that is in some measure fallible. However, I shall leave the matter at that point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, before the right reverend Prelate sits down, perhaps I may say that many of us are impressed by the lead he has given carefully in his wording to the principles which have been so important, certainly in the history of education, with regard to the co-operation between Church and state. Indeed, the lead in education given by the Church should be extended to other denominations and to other religions in our multi-faith society. We are very glad to see that lead corning from the Church and we commend the right reverend Prelate for the way he phrased his amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 4 [Qualifying activities and eligible institutions]:
§ The Deputy Speaker (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne)
My Lords, I have to call Amendment No. 13 before Amendment No. 12 because of the question of marshalling.
Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 13:
Page 3, line 8, leave out paragraph (b).
The noble Baroness said
My Lords, this group of amendments consists of Amendments Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 19 coupled with Amendment No. 12 in the name of my noble friend Lord Skidelsky. They address some very tricky issues which we have debated at length during the passage of the Bill. As I have made clear throughout these discussions, I had an open mind on the right way ahead. The amendments in the names of my noble friends Lord Skidelsky and Lady Carnegy provided the focus for these amendments. I am grateful to them and indeed to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, who is not in his place. shall take each of the government amendments, Amendments Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 19, in turn and, if I may, trespass in advance on the amendment in this group under the name of my noble friend Lord Skidelsky.
Amendment No. 13, and the consequential amendments, Amendments Nos. 14 and 15, which pick up cross-references, have the effect that the Higher Education Funding Council for England, not the Teacher Training Agency, will continue to fund courses of higher education which are not concerned with teacher training; and to provide formula funds for the generality of educational research.
I believe that these amendments meet the points raised in previous debates. So far as undergraduate and postgraduate education courses are concerned, there remains an argument in principle that it would have been constructive for one funding body to fund these, whether or not they were intended for teachers. But as we shall not be pursuing that approach, I trust that the individual higher education institutions will be vigilant in ensuring that the right cross-fertilisation takes place.
1428 The alternative to these amendments would have involved a complicated disentanglement of the contents of "Academic Subject Category 11/", some of which have nothing at all to do with education, despite the title of the category.
We have now defined the agency's funding powers in such a way that it will be able to focus tightly on its responsibility for teacher training. I should like to reassure those interested in special needs issues in particular that the powers left to the agency in the Bill cover in-service training as well as initial training—so the possibility of the agency having a role in a national system for funding certain types of in-service courses remains as open as before.
The arguments on research have always been slightly different. I gave a number of assurances as long ago as Second Reading about the continuation of current approaches to funding and quality assessment, whether the formal funding responsibility was with the funding council or the agency. Our amendments mean that the funding responsibility will remain with the council. There has, however, been a growing recognition that it is right for the agency to have its own power to commission research into areas clearly related to its other functions and objectives. As my noble friend Lord Skidelsky and other noble Lords have said in previous debates, if the agency is to fulfil its objectives of raising standards of teaching and teacher training, it must be given the means to ensure that its decisions are informed by research evidence.
Such a power was implicit but not explicit in the Bill as drafted. Amendment No. 19 establishes now on the face of the Bill the agency's power to undertake or commission research with a view to improving teacher training or the standards of teaching. That is entirely at one with the agency's other functions, and, I believe, in line with the consensus that began to emerge in the House at Report stage.
My noble friend Lord Skidelsky has tabled Amendment No. 12, which would have the effect of including in Clause 4, as a qualifying activity for agency funding, research commissioned to improve standards in teaching and teacher training.
I do not believe there is any difference at all in the aim of the amendments put forward in my name and that in the name of my noble friend. Indeed, as I have always said, I make no secret of the fact that the amendments I am putting forward have been given focus by the amendments tabled by my noble friend at earlier stages.
I fully understand his wish to see the commissioning power reflected in the activities fundable under Clause 4. But there is an important if somewhat subtle legal distinction here between the activities which can be funded by the agency—essentially the subject of grants to institutions —and the whole range of activities on which the agency can spend money.
The funding powers in Clause 4 do not limit the agency to spending money only on the purposes listed. They must be read alongside its very wide powers in Schedule 1,to … do anything which appears to them to be necessary or expedient for the purpose of or in connection with the discharge of their functions".1429 Those powers cover in particular entering into contracts for the relevant work. The same mechanism can be used to pay for research. Once we have the specific research power for the agency in our new clause, the agency will be able to use its powers under Schedule 1 to enter into contracts for commissioned research.
With that assurance I hope that these amendments will have met the anxieties of the House and will have gathered as much consensus as possible to support them. I also hope that the assurance will persuade my noble friend that his amendment is not applicable here. I beg to move.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Skidelsky
My Lords, in speaking to this group of amendments, I wish to address specifically Amendment No. 12 standing in my name. I apologise to the House that the amendment, as it appears in the Marshalled List, refers to the wrong line on the wrong page. I can assure your Lordships, and particularly my noble friend Lord St. Davids, that it is not my intention to abolish the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. But it perhaps adds to the general air of incomprehension to which other noble Lords have referred during the course of this debate.
This is the third, and positively the last, appearance of this amendment to Clause 4. Connoisseurs of draftsmanship will note the improvement to the language of this amendment to its final state of perfection. Therefore, I am particularly sorry that my noble friend the Minister has been unable to accept it in the form in which it appears. Nevertheless, I am very grateful to her for all her efforts to meet the purpose of the amendment.
But I have a serious point to make. Clause 4 is the general funding clause. It lists the activities qualifying for funding at eligible institutions by the teacher training agency under this Part of the Bill—that is, from Clause 3 to Clause 10. If any research is to be funded by the agency, the power to do so should be stated here. That is what my amendment does. It replaces the proposed power to fund all educational research with a much more specific power to fund research commissioned by the agency to underpin its policy.
What we wanted to achieve could not be achieved by these means. Apparently, the activities qualifying for funding at eligible institutions cannot include commissioned research even though there would be such activity and it would certainly be funded, and it would have to take place at an eligible institution. Nevertheless, the funding cannot be given under that clause—such is the wisdom of the law, or of the lawyers advising the Department for Education.
Even though commissioned research cannot be a qualifying activity for funding under Clause 4, that will not matter, apparently. Money will be there in any case. My noble friend the Minister has already given notice of her intention to move a new Clause 11 which gives the agency the power to undertake and commission research. Where is the money for that to come from? I searched very extensively throughout the Bill to discover that, but I could not find it. But I was wrong. 1430 Noble Lords will find in Schedule 1, paragraph 1 some supplementary powers. One of them empowers the agency to enter into contracts. I bet commissioning research was not in mind when that was put in. But never mind; one can always find a power somewhere if one looks hard enough for it. The Minister has found one which apparently does the job.
That is not the way I would have done it. I would have preferred to have commissioned research listed as one of the qualifying activities and not tacked on to efficiency studies right at the end of this section and almost as an afterthought. That will seem an affront to the research community. We were trying to ensure high quality, policy-relevant research to underpin agency policy. This research function should have been upfront and proudly displayed on the agency's banner. Its funding should not have depended on a supplementary power in a schedule clearly intended for other purposes. However, I am not going to press this matter any further. The Minister has done her best to meet us and I am very grateful for that although I feel that the matter has been dealt with in the wrong way.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, in generally welcoming much about these amendments, I wish to emphasise that in our view the TTA will not only have a legitimate need, but it must have the means to commission its own research into initial teacher education. The thought of some kind of ghetto quango, uninformed by good research, is an appalling prospect. So we welcome this. These amendments provide for such research defined by the parameters of the teacher training agency's remit. Therefore they are a welcome response to the anxieties that the research which is essential to inform higher education degrees or diplomas should at the same time remain part of the integrated pattern of studies which a university might offer.
Therefore these amendments respond to the debates at Committee and Report stages and we want to commend the Minister for that. In particular, they respond to the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, in his earlier interventions. It may be that I am at fault, but I have looked at the wording of his amendment today and I am a little confused as to how it relates to what he put forward in our earlier deliberations.
At Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, spoke to an amendment to limit the teacher training agency to research commissioned by the funding agency,into the theory, practice and management of education".He said:The purpose of the amendment is to give the teacher training agency the power to fund research into initial teacher training without depriving the funding councils of their responsibility for funding all other courses in education not connected with teacher training and also for funding educational research in general". —[Official Report, 10/3/94; col. 1646.]As I have said, it may be that I am at fault, but I am confused. The noble Lord seems to have slipped from this commitment to initial teacher training. Arguably, the amendments go further than we might wish in allowing the teacher training agency to carry out as well as commission such research related to teacher training. 1431 However, we all have to be realistic about this and recognise that in practice, given its membership and structure, the TTA will commission research.
Of more concern is the widening of the definition of such research to include research to improve the training of teachers and the standards of teaching. It does not seem to us altogether to reflect what I believed then to be the careful wording of the original proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, which dealt with research into the theory, practice and management of education.
The question that we have to ask and on which it would be helpful to hear more from the Minister today —emphasise that I am speaking in the context of generally welcoming what she has put forward—is: is it intended that the Teacher Training Agency should have responsibilities for teacher training other than initial teacher training? I notice that a later government amendment defines teacher training under the terms of the Bill to be,any training or education with the object of fitting persons to be teachers"—that is, initial teacher training—"or better teachers", which I presume refers to in-service training. The government amendments reflect Clause 1(2) (a) which lists the objectives of the agency's functions, including,to contribute to raising the standards of teaching".However, as I understand it, your Lordships have understood that to refer to funding courses and research into improving initial teacher education and training. I re-emphasise the word "initial".
So far we have not had any convincing arguments for widening the remit of the new quango to cut across existing GEST funding and the in-service training responsibilities of government, LEAs, schools and the teaching profession which have been negotiated and undertaken by those bodies. Therefore, in the security of knowing that we shall certainly not oppose what the Minister has suggested—in fact, we endorse it—it would be helpful if the Minister could clarify those points.
§ Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
My Lords, although they have made important points which require to be addressed, it seems to me that both the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, have perhaps not sufficiently emphasised that the amendments that have been tabled (whether by my noble friend the Minister or the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky) very much meet the earlier objections and concerns. This is the main point. Initially, we had the vision of the Teacher Training Agency not just commissioning but funding research—perhaps even funding research courses or higher education. It was empowered under paragraph (b), which will now be deleted, in respect of,activities qualifying for funding under this Part are … the provision of higher education in".Happily, that is no longer the proposal. I believe that there is consensus and that both amendments recognise the fact that the general field of higher and research degrees is a matter for the Higher Education Funding Council. However, Amendment No. 19 as proposed (the new clause after Clause 10) provides that,A funding agency may carry out or commission such research as they consider appropriate with a view to improving … the training of teachers, or … the standard of teaching.1432 That seems reasonable. That is very much the bread and butter of the subject area of the teacher training agency.
I was a little confused by what seemed a rather arcane disputation between the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, and my noble friend the Minister as to exactly where that similar wording should be placed in the Bill. I do not claim expert knowledge of where in legal terms it should be placed, but it seems to me that in proposing that those provisions should have a clause to themselves my noble friend the Minister cannot be accused of inappropriately tucking them away.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, emphasised the matter of initial and subsequent teacher training. That point had not previously seemed to me to be of overwhelming significance. I am sure that it is the business of the Teacher Training Agency to be concerned with the quality of teacher training, and research to that specific end seems entirely appropriate. Although I do not imagine that we shall have both the Minister's amendment and that of the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, I feel that either adequately meets the case that was argued at an earlier stage when there was deep concern lest education research should somehow slip into the responsibilities of the Teacher Training Agency and away from the Higher Education Funding Council. That point has been admirably met by the amendments. I shall certainly support both, if both are moved.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, once again, at the risk of monotony, I must warmly thank the Minister for the amendment. She has accepted what was my amendment in the words in which I moved it. Had I by arty awful chance changed my mind, I would not have had the face to say so, but fortunately I have not. The amendment exactly meets the point. It will cause very great relief in the universities—not only in departments of education, but also in departments, including history. where research touches on education. It tightens and clarifies the Bill in an excellent way. I congratulate the Minister also on her judgment, on the way in which she has handled this issue since Second Reading and on the way in which she has allowed consensus in the House to evolve, to which she has now effectively given effect.
I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, for seeing the point of compromise at a time when I was still thinking only of breathing fire and slaughter. His contribution has been extremely helpful. Of course, we have no objection to the Teacher Training Agency commissioning research. It will need to do so and obviously should have the power.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, I have no views on exactly where in the Bill the clause should be placed. Since the noble Lord is an acknowledged expert on the drafting of legislation, perhaps I may suggest that the two of them present the apple to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and abide by his judgment. Wherever the clause is placed in the Bill, I am happy with it and I welcome it.
§ Baroness Perry of Southwark
My Lords, I too thank my noble friend the Minister for having so wisely judged the form of her amendments. I am particularly 1433 pleased that the funding of education as an academic discipline in its own right is not to be part of the Teacher Training Agency. I tabled an amendment on that in Committee.
However, I should like my noble friend's assurances on one point. In the debate on Report, while acknowledging the force of all the arguments for taking the funding of research out of the remit of the Teacher Training Agency, as proposed in the Bill, and putting it back with the Higher Education Funding Council, I said that, although the whole argument was finely balanced, I had some anxieties about cutting the seamless robe in such a way that initial teacher training might be left in —to take the word of the noble Lord, Lord Judd—a ghetto on its own. There is some concern, particularly among the smaller colleges which provide initial teacher training, that by having their initial teacher training facilities separated from their higher degrees in education and their research activities they will somehow find their initial teacher training downgraded.
I should like some assurance from my noble friend that when the world is divided up, as it will be, the quality of initial teacher training, its importance and its status within the field of higher education as a whole will not be diminished by the fact that the agency which funds it has no remit and no part to play in relation to higher degrees in education, which are a very important part of the further professional development of teachers —and nor will it have a part to play in the research, which is almost always undertaken by people concerned with the provision of initial teacher training.
One of the most important aspects of the training of teachers which has been pushed forward in the past 10 years is the fact that initial teacher training has been brought into the mainstream of higher education. That has given additional status and importance to the teaching profession. In their training, teachers are now the equals of those who are training as doctors, engineers, architects or in any of the other great professions. Therefore, I ask the Minister for some assurance that by removing the funding of what I might call the more straightforward higher education aspects, initial teacher training will not be seen to be downgraded but will remain an important part of the whole scene.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords, I had my name to amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Skidelsky on previous occasions. I have not on this occasion because logistics have prevented it. My noble friend the Minister said in her opening remarks on this amendment that the ability to fund the commissioning of research was founded on Schedule 1 paragraph 1(b) which relates to entering into contracts. It is slightly surprising in legislation to have to look up a schedule which is about supplementary powers. I quite see that it is a way of fitting it into the Bill, and that my noble friend has been very ingenious. Is she certain that the commissioning of research will always be a contract? Is it possible that there may be a problem if commissioning is done in any other way? I realise that in the normal way the commissioning would specify the 1434 research required and it would be costed. It would then be put out to tender. Will that always be the case, and research will not be prevented from being commissioned in any other way?
If it is difficult to answer that question now, perhaps my noble friend will look at the issue before it gets to another place to be sure that it is in order. I also wonder whether the clause should be tucked away after Clause 10. It is a strange way of drafting a Bill. It is a serious and important business. It is an important part of the agency's work. It has arrived at a rather late stage of the Bill. These are matters at which my noble friend might look so that her right honourable friend in another place can ensure that the Bill is as well drafted as possible. I greatly welcome what my noble friend has done. It is an important point. She has done very well to achieve it.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, perhaps I may take first the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and address the point of initial and in-service training. He will notice that Clause 4 relates to the provision of teacher training. The amendments do not alter the agency's ability to fund in-service training as well as teacher training. We have heard arguments at earlier stages of the Bill from the special needs groups, in particular, that there may be some cases of in-service training being funded on a national basis as they are not being catered for effectively by current devolved arrangements. There are long courses for those intending to work in special schools. We have already mentioned courses for people working with deaf children, deaf/blind children, blind children and autistic children.
We have not prejudged the answers to that issue, but the Bill as drafted, and as it will remain following the amendments, will leave open that option, and that is in no way a threat to the generality of GEST funding which was also mentioned by the noble Lord, but will also be a useful additional option.
My noble friend Lady Perry mentioned the downgrading of ITT. I take her point. As I said earlier, there are some possible dangers in dividing responsibilities, as now proposed. That probably reflects too the agonising of my noble friend Lady Perry in our previous debates as to whether those changes should be made. I believe that we can look to higher education institutions to ensure that the necessary cross-fertilisation takes place. Indeed, in my initial remarks I stressed, first, that that would be an important function for higher education; and, secondly, that the attention of the agency and indeed Ofsted would be directed to quality issues. I do not believe that we need have any fears that standards will suffer. Indeed, I hope that it will be quite the reverse.
My noble friend Lady Carnegy asked some questions about commissioning research and thought that it was strange that one would have to look to the schedule for the funding mechanism for research. First, it is important—it was a point made on all sides of the House —that whatever the funding for general research, the agency should have specific powers to commission research, and that we have secured in the new 1435 amendment. So the agency is given the function, and the mechanism for funding is in Schedule 1 paragraph 1(b) and it is contractual.
The other question that my other noble friend posed was whether that would always be the case. If we are talking about commissioning research, first, there will have to be a specification for that research; and, secondly, there will have to be someone to do the research. To that extent, it will be a contract between the agency drawing up the specification and commissioning the research from an individual or a body, following the normal methodology for doing that. The relationship between the agency and those doing research will be contractual.
§ Lord Skidelsky
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. The agency will also be able to undertake research, and that does not involve commissioning. Is that also covered?
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I was going to come to that. Research commissioned will inevitably be a form of contract between the body commissioning and whoever does it. The other kind of research which is also allowed for in the Bill, both in terms of spending and in relation to its functions, is research that the agency will be able to undertake itself. It will be limited in scope because it will not have the expertise to do basic fundamental research. It will be able to do some survey work or something that will underpin information that will be valuable to it and perhaps valuable in advising my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. It is covered that it has, first, the power to do that work; and, secondly, has the mechanism for funding it.
I am advised, in answer to my noble friend Lady Carnegy who raised the point about Schedule 1 paragraph 1, that research will always be commissioned under contract. She asked whether that power will be adequate. I am told that it is adequate. The opening lines of the paragraph are probably worth putting on record. The preamble to Schedule 1 provides:The agency may, subject to sub-paragraph (2), do anything which appears to them to he necessary or expedient for the purpose of or in connection with the discharge of their functions, including in particular, and it goes on to list some of its functions. I believe that the point is covered.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 12 not moved.]
Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 14:
Page 3, line 13, leave out ("or (b)").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 5 [Grants, loans and other payments]:
Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 15:
Page 3, line 37, leave out (", (b)").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 6 [Provisions supplementary to s.5]:
Baroness David moved Amendment No. 16:
Page 4, line 16, leave out ("the desirability of").
The noble Baroness said
My Lords, we come to Clause 6. As it reads, Clause 6 encourages the TTA to introduce school-centred courses by suggesting that 1436 there must be a balance and that to promote such courses is desirable. This amendment does not prevent school-centred courses, but does prevent a subjective and politically biased approach being foisted upon the TTA which the Minister says will be independent and with proven experience relevant to teacher training.
Existing pilot schemes for school-centred courses have revealed problems with such an approach. Local teachers have recognised the benefits in terms of the professional development of teachers involved as mentors and in terms of working in partnership with higher education. But teachers have been concerned that, first, insufficient time has been provided by initial teacher training mentors to complete the necessary preparation and evaluation of students, and also have contact time with students in schools; secondly, sufficient funding has not been made available to implement the scheme; thirdly, the observation methods being used presented serious difficulties; for example, trying to fit to Ofsted criteria; and, fourthly, reservations about the lack of theoretical grounding for students have, been reinforced by the present experience, as have concerns about pupils' entitlement to quality teaching.
Those are legitimate concerns raised by teachers in schools providing largely school-based courses, which would be exacerbated in schools providing wholly school-centred courses. In Committee and on Report we debated and argued against wholly school-centred courses. We have argued against the provisions in Clause 4(2) (b) allowing listing of any school as an eligible institution for funding by the TTA.
As amended, the Bill entitles "any school" to funding under the terms of Clause 4 for the purpose of carrying out teacher training courses and gives schools the power to provide courses of ITT under the terms of Clause 11.
Given those provisions in Clauses 4 and 11, given the objectives and functions of the TTA, given the experience of its members and given the powers of direction by the Secretary of State, it is surely wrong for us to specify on the face of the Bill that the funding agency shall positively discriminate or promote an unproven form of teacher training courses over any other course.
The Minister has argued against unnecessary words being on the face of the Bill that add nothing of value; Clause 6(2) can be classed as such an example. At the very least the Minister has to acknowledge that the choice of the word "desirability" is inappropriate to this Bill.
The Minister has repeatedly emphasised that neither the Government nor the agency will be forcing schools to take on the extra responsibilities of school-centred courses. Clause 6 does leave some cause for concern. The TTA's ability to operate financial incentives, including for capital projects, must be faced honestly and realistically, as must its potential effects.
On the one hand, the Minister makes assurances that the TTA will fund courses only on the basis of quality; and yet, on the other hand, there appears to be an implicit belief in the inherent desirability of diversity, no matter what its consequences for the credibility and 1437 quality of teachers' qualifications or for the infrastructure of the provision of educational studies in higher education.
If we eliminate the words "the desirability of", as the amendment proposes, there will, I am sure, be greater confidence in many quarters in the operation of the agency. I beg to move.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, this is a curious amendment. It does not affect the main purpose of Clause 6 in the way that the noble Baroness, Lady David, intends. I am advised that as a result of the amendment the agency may have an even firmer duty to secure a balance between school-centred and other courses.
Perhaps I may read the clause as it would stand if the amendment were agreed to.In exercising their functions in relation to the provision of financial support for qualifying activities the funding agencies shall have regard"—no longer to the desirability, but to,establishing and maintaining in relation to courses for initial training of school teachers an appropriate balance".Therefore, they will be detailed to have regard to the balance without regard to the desirability of the balance. That is rather strange. The agency may also have a duty to avoid discouraging institutions from maximising their independent sources of funding. If it were clear that the drafting were adequate to guarantee those matters, I might even have supported the amendment. However, I am advised that even that is not possible because the amendment is defective.
I have already explained in previous debates why I consider these two functions in Clause 6 to be important. I believe it bears repeating that the balance between school-centred courses and other courses will to some extent be determined by schools themselves. Schools will not be forced by the agency into entering into such schemes. The agency will, however, need to have regard to the balance between the two sectors if it is to plan effectively. I remind the House that in setting the balance, the agency will have to have regard to its statutory objectives of quality and cost-effectiveness, and will have a long time horizon. The agency will, for example, need to ensure that it funds institutions which will be able to expand provision to meet future upturns in demand for new teachers. The setting of a balance may work to the advantage of higher education in such respects. It is interesting that noble Lords opposite can only imagine threats to higher education in the notion of balance, rather than welcome an even-handed approach devoted to the best quality of teacher training.
As regards the second limb in Clause 6, in an earlier debate I gave an assurance to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford that there was no hidden attempt to pressure institutions into seeking other sources of funding. It is a protection to ensure that the agency does not automatically penalise them for any non-agency funding that they might receive. That is exactly in line with the provision which we already have 1438 in the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 in respect of the relationship of the funding council and higher education institutions.
For those reasons, I cannot support this amendment, which is in any case defective, and I hope that it will not be pressed.
As regards the issue of bias, I am advised that the Bill does not impose any requirement to promote any type of training. It is entirely neutral as to the balance that is appropriate. That there will be a balance is a fact of life; school-centred courses are here to stay. Two issues arise. First, now that we are no longer considering the desirability of obtaining the right balance, we have a firm direction that they should consider the balance. Secondly, the comments which the noble Baroness made in introducing the amendment confused not the school-centred-only courses but the courses that are run by higher education institutions with schools, where money passes from higher education institutions to schools. We have said time and time again that there certainly is scope for more money to pass from higher education institutions to schools. As regards the school-centred courses about which I am talking and the balance referred to in the Bill, the money is on all fours with that given to higher education.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. However, the Bill was not clear to the many people who asked for this amendment. The inclusion of the words "the desirability of" suggests that there is a preference and an enthusiasm to encourage school-centred courses when perhaps a school might not be ready to accept them. To a certain extent, the Minister has been reassuring.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps I may say that if schools are not prepared to accept the courses, it will not apply to undertake them. No school will undertake school-centred courses unless it, through the governing body, applies to do so.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that clarification. There was a misunderstanding, and perhaps the clause is not clear enough and is not drafted well enough. There has been a misunderstanding in a good many quarters about exactly what the intentions are. Perhaps the Minister ought to realise that and the fact that there will need to be guidance about what is intended in the clause.
Clearly, if the matter is to be followed up it will have to be followed up in another place and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 17:
Page 4, line 45, leave out subsection (5) and insert:
("( ) In exercising their functions a funding agency shall require the governing body of any institution which provides a course of initial teacher training to publish and make available to each student—
The noble Baroness said
My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for tabling the amendment that was agreed on Report. It now appears as Clause 6(5) of the Bill. However, I hope that my noble friend will not think me churlish for tabling an amendment similar to that which I spoke to on Report and in Committee.
I have done so because I have carefully read Hansard for 28th March to see what my noble friend said in cols. 920 and 921. As a result, I am also grateful for what she said on that occasion.
However, the full detail of what she said on Report is not reflected in Clause 6(5) of the Bill as now drafted. I am still unhappy to leave the detail of what is to be published by institutions running teacher education courses entirely to the decision of the new agency.
My reticence in this regard is inspired by my experience on the Council for National Academic Awards. When we were sometimes in possession of some of the information which this amendment seeks to make public, I am afraid that we judged that it should remain confidential between the institution and ourselves. That was especially true when the information reflected badly on the institution concerned.
I accept that this may be one of the faults and temptations of self-regulation. In saying that, I make no special criticism of academe. Indeed, my experience of self-regulation in the City merely underlines my distrust of self-regulation in general. That, unfortunately was confirmed by my experience of higher education. That is why I am unhappy to leave the detail of what is to be revealed publicly—what one might call the "citizen's charter aspects" of the agency's activity—entirely to the agency.
The majority of the active members of the agency will be representatives of academe. There will be some difficulty —I think that there usually is—in getting businessmen and others, as recommended in the Bill, to be sufficiently active in the agency. I may be wrong and I hope that I shall be proved wrong. But be that as it may, I wonder if I could ask my noble friend whether she can say any more now than she said on Report as to which details of this amendment will indeed be accepted by the new agency as being for public consumption.
On Report my noble friend said that this aspect of the agency's work would be addressed in a remit letter which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State 1440 would send to the agency. Upon reflection, I have to say that I believe that all the information requested by this amendment should be made public and I wonder if my noble friend can go any further than she did on Report to give me some comfort as to how this may be achieved. I beg to move.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, I very much hope that the House will not accept this further invasion into the running of institutions.
Noble Lords may remember that the most eminent person who ever held the old office of President of the Board of Education and subsequently became an academic, as he had been before, was extremely proud of his period as a member of government. He used always to regale his visitors with reminiscences of his activities as a Minister. When they were foreign, he addressed them, in his somewhat imperfect French, with the words, "Quand j'étais dans le Cabinet", which, as noble Lords will understand, was not precisely what he had in mind.
I recount that agreeable anecdote not merely to raise our spirits after a very long period of technical debate but also to draw the obvious analogy with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. For him, his experience on the CNAA was obviously as important in his life as his experience as a Minister was in the life of Warden Fisher. Why it figures so largely and why it has obviously induced in the noble Lord a hatred of higher education is something which, if he attains the eminence of a biography, a biographer, perhaps with Freudian assistance, may be able to explain.
Over and over again, the noble Lord has interrupted our proceedings by venting his bile upon higher education and its institutions. I hope that in this case, the House will have no more of it.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
My Lords, I should like to add to the castigation offered by my noble friend Lord Beloff. I hesitate to criticise, but I feel that I must criticise the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who has tabled the same amendment in Committee, on Report and at Third Reading.
I spoke against the amendment in Committee. I well understand that that had no effect on the thinking of my noble friend Lord Pearson. I cannot say that that is a matter about which to be surprised or concerned. However, I have before me his own words on Report.
He said at col. 918:I confess that some of the detail which my amendment asks for may be a little too exact. I shall be quite happy not to see displayed the teaching workload of those teaching the course",and so on, because there was some criticism of that kind. I remind the House, as did my noble friend Lord Pearson, that in the same debate on Report, the Minister's amendment was carried with the intention of meeting at least some of those points which are now contained in Clause 6(5) of the Bill as presently drafted.
The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, went on to say in relation to paragraph (b)—and I expect that it is still paragraph (b) because it seems to be obdurately unmodified —that: 1441Although it is very important, it is perhaps inappropriate in this particular amendment".—[Official Report, 28/3/94; col. 918.]If the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, had had the courtesy to modify his amendment in the light of the debates in Committee and on Report and in the light of his own observations on the amendment, we might have had a better amendment before the House at this stage. As it is, I take exception to being obliged to speak against an amendment in Committee, on Report and at Third Reading when the noble Lord himself accepted some of its imperfections. It seems to me that he asks for everything except the maternal name of the grand-mother of the engine driver. That is excessive and I should be happier if the noble Lord would take such points a little earlier in the life history of a Bill.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
My Lords, unlike my noble friend, I was not conscious of being obliged to speak against my noble friend's amendments at earlier stages of the Bill. But I feel under some obligation to do so now.
It seems to me to be carrying eccentricity a little too far to place upon a funding agency a duty, which it may not want, to tell the governing body how to carry out its business. I am not quite sure whether it is my noble friend's intention to start a violent struggle between the two bodies, but I believe that this would be a good way in which to achieve that. I cannot really believe that that is his intention. I hope that the Minister will have no hesitation in rejecting the amendment.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, it certainly brought some life to the debate anyway, which is perhaps an improvement. I rather hesitate after three noble Lords on the Government Benches have criticised their noble friend's amendment to do so, but I certainly cannot help but do so. I think it is monstrous, as the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, said, to have the same amendment three times and against all the rules. I am surprised that the Public Bill Office accepted it.
The noble Lord himself said that perhaps it might be difficult to get governors to come in with business experience, but if the governors must have all that, and the heads and the teachers, their workload will be even worse than it is now. Therefore, I very much hope that the Minister will not waste much time in dispatching the amendment.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I suspect that the Public Bill Office accepted this amendment in the way that it accepted a number of amendments which are on the Marshalled List today which are verbatim copies of those tabled at previous stages of the Bill.
Subsection (5) requires the funding agencies to take steps to ensure that all providers of initial teacher training make available such information about their courses as the agencies think appropriate. I accept, in line with the principles of the Higher Education Charter, that institutions should provide clear and detailed information about their provision to students and to applicants. My noble friend's amendment covers only students already enrolled on courses. It is equally important for potential students to have access to full 1442 and accurate information if they are to make an informed choice between courses at different institutions. Subsection (5) is open about the recipients of the information, allowing requirements about the manner of publication and intended recipients to be determined by the agency and adjusted as necessary in the light of experience.
As I said on Report, I support the principle behind many of the detailed points covered within this amendment. However, we have deliberately not specified the precise information to be provided to various recipients because I do not think that in the narrow confines of our debates on the Bill it would be possible to arrive at exactly the right list of information. In any case, specifying a precise list in primary legislation would not give the agencies the necessary flexibility to alter the list in the light of experience or discussions with the institutions concerned and other interested bodies.
As I also said on Report, it would not surprise me if the requirements set by the agency have much in common with my noble friend's suggestions. However, I hope that my noble friend will accept that the existing subsection (5) allows the agencies to require all the information that his amendment covers to be made available, should they wish, without the unhelpful constraints of a list in primary statute.
I am sure that the agency will look back at our debates in order to understand the aims of this provision of the Bill and ensure it is applied in the way that has commanded general agreement in this House, although it was not such general agreement. But, in any event, my right honourable friend will most certainly make known to the agency his strongly-held views about the importance of good information to students undertaking teacher training. That will be reflected in his initial remit letter to the agency, which will also stress the importance of the Citizen's Charter approach and therefore of addressing the information needs of students. My officials will stand ready to discuss this, as with other aspects of the agency's remit, but it must be for the agency to determine that in its own way.
We must beware of shackling the freedom of such an independent body. I cannot say that the full list of information requirements which my noble friend favours will be set out in terms in a formal remit letter. Indeed, there are one or two aspects of the amendment about which it would be rather difficult to be very definitive. Such a letter will have a wide scope and must beware of trespassing on the agency's autonomy. We have set up an independent body and must allow it discretion to pursue its broad objectives without undue interference. But I can say that I will ensure that these debates, and the support which specific aspects of my noble friend's amendment (and the principle behind it) have received, will be drawn to the agency's attention. We shall watch very carefully how the agency chooses to follow that up and offer further guidance if there are problems.
In the light of those assurances, I hope that my noble friend, whom I thank again for raising the issue on the importance of information about courses to students, will withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lords who contributed to the debate. I certainly found it more exciting than some of our earlier deliberations this afternoon. However, I should like to tell my noble friend Lord Beloff that I believe that he makes very well for me one of the points that I often make about those engaged in higher education when he says that he regards the amendment, and the spirit which lies behind it, as an invasion into the affairs of education. My amendment does not invade anything: it merely asks for various items to be set out publicly so that students and, shall we say, the taxpayer (who very often is funding such courses) can see exactly what is going on.
I have no issue to take with my noble friend's foray into the French language, except to disagree with him and say that I certainly do not have a hatred of higher education. I must tell him that, unfortunately, my experience as a representative of commerce who actually turned up at pretty well every academic meeting that I was supposed to attend over a period of 10 years is rare. I believe chat I have an unusual insight into higher education as a result which, of course, does not accord with the views of those who work in it. I actually have an enormous respect for higher education, especially for what I call the "harder" subjects, and I should like to put that on the record. However, I have a different view of what I call the "softer" subjects in higher education, particularly the social sciences and the humanities. Now is not the time to dwell on the subject, but in view of what has been said by noble and academic Lords, I have quite a mind to bring the matter back as a subject of separate debate on a later occasion.
I turn now to the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Renfrew. It is true that in moving the amendment on the last occasion I felt that some of the detail of it was perhaps too prescriptive. However, in moving the amendment today I thought that I made it clear when I said that, upon reflection and upon receiving quite a lot of advice from people who think as I do in higher education and who know about higher education, it would be very helpful if all the proposed requirements were publicly displayed. They would not be invading anyone; they would simply be on public display.
As regards the two requirements which my noble friend picked on, I believe that the business of showing how much time will be spent in teaching students to teach children how to read and write English and by what method lies at the root of our teacher education problems. For example, if the phonic method of teaching children how to read had been more widely espoused by the teacher education establishment over the past 30 years, it would have been very much better for the standards of literacy and numeracy in our society today.
Likewise, the teaching workload of those teaching the course is something that I believe ought to be on display. Again, I have a very different view of that workload when referring to academics in teacher training—or teacher education as it is usually called —or in the social sciences and the humanities, than do noble and academic Lords who speak for higher education in this House. However, I am afraid that I am 1444 not in the least bit chastened by the broadsides that I have received. I believe that it would be helpful if we were to return to the issue on a later occasion to discuss such matters in greater detail.
Having said that, and being entirely unrepentant, I should like to thank my noble friend the Minister for her speech which came as a considerable comfort to me in the circumstances. I accept what she said about the pressures that could be put on the agency to make public the matters raised in the amendment. In that spirit, I have great pleasure in begging leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 10 [Efficiency studies]:
Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 18:
Page 6, line 6, after ("person") insert ("approved by the Audit Commission").
The noble Baroness said
My Lords, I hope that the House will forgive me for returning to the subject. However, during the Report stage the Minister and I had, one of our livelier exchanges on the matter. I believe that we rather came to cross-purposes late at night and perhaps unnecessarily misunderstood each other.
As I understand it, the Minister did not want the Audit Commission to have a monopoly in the area. For our part, on this side of the House we were concerned about the proper accountability and recognised the experience and insight already gained by the commission. We see that experience and insight as being highly relevant. After careful consideration, it still seems to us to be very clear that the public will be best reassured if there is provision that the Audit Commission should at least approve the people proposed to undertake studies designed to improve economy, efficiency and effectiveness in management.
The more that I look at the wording of Clause 10 —and I have spent some time doing so—the more concerned I am by its ambiguity. Frankly, at the very least it seems to me that it may just be a case of bad drafting. Subsection (1) reads:A funding agency may arrange for the promotion or carrying out by any person of [such] studies".However, it is far from clear who will be responsible for the appointment of the person to undertake the work. I believe that that underlines the importance of our amendment. I very much hope that the Minister will feel able to take the point and reassure us this evening. I beg to move.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
My Lords, I made one or two remarks which might have been thought to be a little harsh about an earlier amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. However, he has now given me the opportunity to balance things and to say that not only do I congratulate him on the wording of the amendment but that I do so also on its substance.
Perhaps I may take my noble friend the Minister back to some of the arguments which took place on the subject of grant-maintained schools in debate on another Bill. I then gained the very strong impression that there was a certain departmental hostility towards the Audit Commission. I believe that one of the most sensible and commendable things that the Government have done in 1445 years was to establish that commission which in many ways is far more effective than any other body I know in checking the way that public funds are spent.
I am astonished by the looseness of the wording of Clause 10. Subsection (1) says:A funding agency may arrange for the promotion or carrying out by any person",of such studies. There is no reference to qualifications or some sort of examination or external test; indeed, there is nothing. It just refers to "any person". In other words, there is no reason why I should not be asked to undertake the task, although I believe that my contribution on the subject would be absolutely useless.
I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to reassure your Lordships that there is no deep-rooted prejudice against the Audit Commission in her department. The only way that my noble friend can do so with ease is to accept the amendment. I very much hope that she will.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Lord Addington
My Lords, the noble Lord's amendment seems to be extremely reasonable and on listening to his argument my opinion of it has improved. If the noble Baroness does not think the Audit Commission is a suitable body, will she when she replies tell us exactly who would be suitable? Unless we know which body is considered suitable, surely it would seem sensible to have the Audit Commission as a bench-mark.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, again there is some confusion as regards what this whole exercise is about. We are talking about value for money studies and not about audit. Once again I am obliged to explain the Government's position on this small but potentially important area of the Teacher Training Agency's work.
Clause 10 empowers the agency to commission value-for-money studies to ensure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the management and operation of funded institutions. We remain convinced that this is best achieved by the agency being able to choose between competitive tenders. This is in line with the wider policy that open competition should be encouraged wherever possible. It is also a freedom that the Higher Education Funding Council for England enjoys and has made good use of. It is inconceivable that if the agency wants a value-for-money study to be undertaken it will give it to an unqualified body to carry out.
It is entirely right that the Audit Commission, with its expertise in this area, should be able to tender for such work. However, the noble Lord's amendment would create a monopoly and that cannot be in the interests of improving value-for-money, which is after all the aim of this work. Although the amendment refers to persons approved by the Audit Commission, a monopoly on approval is still nevertheless a monopoly. Furthermore, there is no precedent for such a restriction being placed upon other non-departmental public bodies. This is more than a matter of historical interest: the bulk of the agency's funds will go to institutions which will also be funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for 1446 England. It is entirely possible that the two bodies will wish to commission joint studies; this is the kind of co-operative working that we would wish to encourage between the two bodies. Not only does this amendment restrict the agency's choice, but it will limit its chance of working with the funding council to commission joint studies of this kind. Moreover, other bodies are not restricted in their choice of agents. They would be unlikely to agree to suffer a restriction just to allow for joint working with the agency.
The noble Lord seems to be under some confusion as to what this clause deals with. The clause empowers the agency to commission value-for-money studies across all or some of its funded institutions to improve economy, efficiency and effectiveness. It is not concerned with the auditing arrangements of all the individual institutions that it funds. These will remain unchanged. What we are dealing with here is whether we should restrict the decisions of one body—the Teacher Training Agency—in its choice of agent to carry out these studies. I do not believe that such a restriction is necessary or desirable.
The noble Lord is concerned about propriety and accountability in the way the agency's funds are used; the need for this is not in dispute. I do not understand why the noble Lord doubts that the agency can be trusted to ensure that it uses appropriate bodies to carry out this work. Ultimately, the agency's use of public funds will be audited by the National Audit Office, and the agency will of course be accountable for all its decisions to the Public Accounts Committee. I have promised this House that an annual report will be made available to Members of Parliament, as the agency is a transparent organisation. For the reasons that I have given I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.
My noble friend Lord Peyton referred to the drafting of the Bill. One clause exactly repeats the provisions of Section 83 of the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, asked who will make the appointments we are discussing. The appointments will be made by the agency using its own money or jointly by the agency and the Higher Education Funding Council. For all of those reasons—
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, I hope I can intervene. The fact that one clause of the Bill repeats the provisions of a section of the 1992 Act does not make it any more acceptable to me—very much the reverse. I believe that my noble friend is doing violence to language when she refers to the Audit Commission—set up by the Government —as having a monopoly on approval. That seems to me to be inappropriate language and reveals what I suspect is a deep-found prejudice against the Audit Commission within her department.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I must tell my noble friend that I am my own person as a Minister in this House and I believe I have proved that beyond doubt during the course of the passage of the Bill through this House. Further, I am on record as being the one person —I believe this is so—in the whole of local government who wrote to Sir John Banham to welcome his appointment to the Audit Commission. My colleagues 1447 in local government viewed the Audit Commission as a kind of policeman and did not welcome any interference by it in their affairs. However, I viewed the Audit Commission as a positive adjunct to our local government affairs. Indeed, I invited Sir John Banham, as one of his first duties, to examine what we were doing in my local authority and to give us either his blessing if he thought we were doing things properly or to instruct us, through his audit, how we could improve the way we were doing things. I have no prejudices whatsoever and if I detected a prejudice among my officials I certainly would not allow them to influence me at the Dispatch Box.
I should refer to the schizophrenia of this place. This House did not impose this kind of constraint on the Higher Education Funding Council, which is spending billions of pounds more than the agency will be spending. We have chosen not to put a constraint on that expenditure. I do not know why there is such prejudice in this House not against the Audit Commission but against the Teacher Training Agency. It would appear that noble Lords believe that the agency cannot be trusted in what is an important but in financial terms a relatively minor part of its work; namely, to appoint persons or bodies to carry out value-for-money studies. There is no prejudice on my part. I believe the arrangement in the Bill is a perfectly sensible arrangement. We must not confuse value-for-money studies with audit arrangements because there are plenty of audit arrangements in place. Indeed, the National Audit Office will be interested in the operations of the Teacher Training Agency.
§ Lord Dormand of Easington
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, I hope she will clarify the words "by competitive tender" which she used. Does that mean that the cheapest option will be adopted? One could understand it if that were the case, except that I should have thought it was highly inappropriate to choose the cheapest option with regard to the matter we are discussing. Since when has cheapest been best?
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I hope I may be allowed again to be so presumptuous as to pray in aid my record on this matter. To choose between competitive tenders does not mean that the cheapest option will necessarily be adopted. It means that the agency would prepare a specification and as long as a company could meet that specification—in other words, the standard set in the specification for the work—and could do it cost-effectively, then clearly the most cost-effective tender would be accepted. However, a tender would not necessarily be accepted simply because it was the cheapest option if it was not felt that work would be delivered to the quality set out in the specification. Therefore I repeat that competitive tender does not always necessarily mean that the cheapest option will be taken.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, I really cannot say just that I find that reply disappointing: I am disturbed by it. I refer again to what I mentioned earlier in our proceedings today. There is a growing and deep anxiety in this House at the degree to which the responsibility for public 1448 administration is moving to non-accountable bodies outside our democratic system; namely, to quangos. We are talking here about the whole sphere of operation of a quango.
The Minister tried to reassure us this evening by saying that the Government believed that the best approach to this matter was through competitive tendering. My noble friend Lord Dormand questioned what the Minister meant by competitive tendering. I hope she will forgive me if I say that we have yet another example in this ill conceived and ill prepared Bill of the Government thinking on the hoof when the Minister gave an interpretation of what she meant by competitive tendering. Clearly there has been no detailed consideration of it. Furthermore, in looking at this clause again, one finds that the wording just does not stand up. Clause 10(1) states:A funding agency may arrange for the promotion or carrying out by any person of studies designed to improve economy".However, the clause says nothing about how the person performing this function is to be appointed and what is meant by making arrangements. That could mean anything. It seems to me that there is another reason for anxiety as regards the approach of the Minister. I hope she will forgive me if I am doing her an injustice, and if I am she will no doubt tell me and I will apologise if she persuades me that I am doing her an injustice. But it seems to me that she lives in an artificial world of theory. In reality we have hard-pressed people trying to run schools. They are trying to improve the quality of education. In addition, they are being given more and more responsibility for the detailed administration, for which they may or may not be qualified. Now they are being encouraged to take on responsibility for preparing teachers as well, on top of everything else. There comes a breaking point. There are not groups of people all over the country who have all the skills which the Government expect to be deployed in the tasks which they are now putting upon the schools.
Then a problem arises. It is thought that it would be good to have a review of the situation to see how economy, efficiency and effectiveness could be improved. The Minister says that this is not a question of money and it is not an audit of finances. However, it is about money because effectiveness is concerned with ensuring that we get the best possible results for the public expenditure which goes into the operation. In the end everything relates to the public funds that are being provided. It is an artificial nonsense to pretend that it does not.
I am sorry to put it this way, but this is what will happen. Nobody doubts that there will be a genuine anxiety but there is a danger that a cosy and comfortable arrangement will be made. It will not necessarily be explicit but it will exist, and we will not be assured that the matter is being looked at as objectively and toughly as it should be.
It is not as though there were not already reason for anxiety, as I said at Report stage. There is already evidence of things going wrong in the school area. That is not because people are wicked or are crooks but because they do not have the skills, the understanding and the experience to do the job that is expected of them.
1449 It is not good enough to surrender responsibility to a quango outside the normal accountable arrangements which we have in our dispersed democracy of central democracy and local democracy and to move into this slovenly thinking about how matters should be administered. Even at this hour, and even if I inconvenience the House as we approach dinner, there is such a fundamental issue of principle involved that I must divide the House.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, again with the leave of the House, before the noble Lord sits down perhaps I may intervene. This is not a slovenly act. This is a transparent organisation which has to be publicly accountable and produce public reports which will be made available to Parliament. It will be answerable to the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee. It will be answerable to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.
With gay abandon, arms flailing all over the place, the noble Lord talks about schools being forced and imposed upon to produce these school-based teacher training courses. They are not. Can the noble Lord point to any single part of this Bill under which a school can be forced or imposed upon to produce these school-based teacher training courses? If he can I shall defer to his arguments.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, the Minister puts forward a perfectly reasonable challenge. I am saying that this clause is so badly designed that one could drive a coach and horses through it. I believe that it will give grounds in the future for endless dispute as to what was intended. Even simply on the grounds of drafting it is not good enough. However, there are much more fundamental issues at stake which the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, put even more powerfully than I can. Therefore, I have no alternative but to divide the House.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 18) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 55; Not-Contents, 108.1450
|Division No. 2|
|Acton, L.||Graham of Edmonton, L.|
|Addington, L. [Teller.]||[Teller.]|
|Airedale, L.||Grey, E.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Harris of Greenwich, L.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||Hilton of Eggardon, B.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Hollis of Heigham, B.|
|Bridges, L.||Howie of Troon, L.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Jenkins of Hillhead, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Judd, L.|
|Clinton-Davis, L.||Kennet, L.|
|Dacre of Glanton, L.||Kilbracken, L.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Lawrence, L.|
|David, B.||Lockwood, B.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Merlyn-Rees, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Mishcon, L.|
|Fitt, L.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Geraint, L.||Mulley, L.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Murray of Epping Forest, L.|
|Park of Monmouth, B.||Serota, B|
|Peyton of Yeovil, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Pitt of Hampstead, L.||Slynn of Hadley, L|
|Prys-Davies, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Quinton, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Robson of Kiddington, B.||Whaddon, L.|
|Russell, E.||White, B.|
|Sefton of Garston, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Addison, V.||Hooper, B.|
|Aldington, L.||Jeffreys, L.|
|Annaly, L.||Kenyon, L.|
|Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L.||Kimball, L.|
|Arran, E.||Lane of Horsell, L.|
|Astor, V.||Lindsay, E.|
|Beloff, L.||Long, V.|
|Belstead, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Lucas, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Boardman, L.||Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Marlesford, L.|
|Burnham, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Cadman, L.||Miller of Hendon, B.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Monson, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Carnock, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Carr of Hadley, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Munster, E.|
|Clanwilliam, E.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Clark of Kempston, L.||Norfolk, D.|
|Colwyn, L.||Norrie, L.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||Northbourne, L.|
|Courtown, E.||Orkney, E.|
|Cox, B.||Oxfuird, V.|
|Craigavon, V.||Pearson of Rannoch, L.|
|Cranborne, V.||Perry of Southwark, B.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Prentice, L.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Dean of Harptree, L.||Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.|
|Denham, L.||Renton, L.|
|Denton of Wakefield, B.||Rodger of Earlsferry, L.|
|Dixon-Smith, L.||Rodney, L.|
|Dormer, L.||Saint Albans, D.|
|Downshire, M.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Eden of Winton, L.||Seccombe, B.|
|Elibank, L.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Elles, B.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Flather, B.||Skidelsky, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.|
|Gisborough, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Stewartby, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Strange, B.|
|Greenway, L.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.|
|Hacking, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Harding of Petherton, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Harvington, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Hayhoe, L.||Ullswater, V. [Teller.]|
|Henley, L.||Vinson, L.|
|Holderness, L.||Wakeham, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]|
|HolmPatrick, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 6.53 p.m.
Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 19:
After Clause 10, insert the following new clause:
(". A funding agency may carry out or commission such research as they consider appropriate with a view to improving—
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment was spoken to with Amendment No. 13. I beg to move.1451
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 11 [Power of schools to provide courses of initial teacher training]:
Baroness David moved Amendment No. 20:
Page 6. line 42, at end insert:
("(5A) (a) In relation to the powers conferred by subsection (1) the governing body shall prepare in writing a report of the proposals to provide courses of initial teacher training and a summary of the report.
(b) The governing body shall, without delay, send the report and summary to the Teacher Training Agency and to the local education authority, the Secretary of State and, in the case of a voluntary school, the person who appoints the school's foundation governors.
(c) The governing body shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure that every parent of a registered pupil at the school receives a copy of the summary as soon as is reasonably practicable.").
The noble Baroness said
My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 20, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 21. These amendments are another attempt to make certain that all involved, in particular parents, are well informed about any proposals for school-centred courses at the school their children are attending and the likely consequences of these proposals.
At Committee stage, the Minister said:In the light of our wider reforms … I do not think that any school would embark on a school-centred scheme unless it were able to convince and in due course demonstrate to local parents that the effect was beneficial to their pupils".—[Official Report, 14/3/94; col. 36.]At Report stage, she said:[The amendments] require consultation with parents and others, and make arrangements for a ballot to be requested, before a school can provide a course. We must not get the provision of a course for teacher training out of perspective. It is an important matter. But the way in which the school is run and funded, the number and nature of pupils it will accept and the obligation on governors to offer all children access to a curriculum which meets the requirements of the law and spend their entire school budget to that effect are all completely unaffected by the running of a school-centred course.It is those matters that require consultation before schools become self-governing or change their character … But in this Bill we are talking about activities which must not detract from the school's central purpose but can and will enhance its strength". —[Official Report, 28/3/94; col. 939.]The Minister's statement was very subjective. The school's activities as listed by the Minister in the quotation I have just read will he affected by the running of a school-centred teacher training course. They cannot help being affected. The teachers will be performing a different function.
The first amendment, Amendment No. 20, ensures that such consultation takes place by, at the very least, providing those affected with information relating to the proposals so that comments can be made before final decisions are made.
The second amendment relates specifically to consultation with parents. The Minister has said that she thinks that no school. would embark on a school-centred scheme unless it were able to convince and, in due course, demonstrate to local parents that the effect would be beneficial to their pupils. So I can see no reason, in view of what she said before, why she should not accept the amendment. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, this is the first of the nanny amendments. I wonder whether the noble Baroness would explain what is meant by paragraph (5B) (a) (i) of Amendment No. 21:the parents of registered parents at the school".
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I am sorry, it must be a misprint. It should read:the parents of registered children".
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, it is too late to alter amendments at this stage and therefore the amendment is as I thought and is effective.
Schools are already now more accountable to parents for their performance due to the publication of annual reports, examination results and the regular cycle of Ofsted inspections. Parents can act on this information via their representation on the governing body which again is stronger than ever before, and through the greater exercise of parental choice.
Parents also have clearer channels of information about the school's general activities—including an opportunity to meet the governing body at least annually to discuss school affairs. Under this Government, parents have more rights and more opportunities to influence what happens in their children's school than under any other government in history.
In the light of this it is frankly inconceivable that a school could undertake a school-centred scheme without the parents knowing about it, and therefore having had an opportunity to express their views on it. I therefore do not think we need add any more statutory, bureaucratic and time-consuming layers to the process of school involvement in initial teacher training.
We must be clear that—as I said at the last stage —what is at issue here is not a change to the status or funding or admissions policy of the school. The obligation to pupils is unchanged, the basic school budget cannot be used to support the involvement in teacher training.
Like countless schools before them, which have devoted time and energy without payment to supporting student teachers, schools may want to offer their own courses out of a sense of professional commitment and because they know that such involvement can enhance the whole school, its staff and ultimately the pupils. It has always been thus. Contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Judd, thinks, this is not an imposed treasure, it is an opportunity where schools themselves believe they are suited to the purpose and pass all the rigours of accreditation.
But it is not the schools which are working without payment which are targeted by this amendment, nor is it the growing number which, as the reforms take effect, are now being given a share of higher education funding for their involvement in training. Noble Lords opposite do not want those schools to have to tell parents what is going on. These amendments would apply only to those schools which wanted to choose a school-centred option: "You can do anything you like in our schools, but if you want to do school-centred training, you must be subject to this amendment".
The narrow bias of the amendment is therefore clear. Of course, there is a real point to address about keeping 1453 parents informed about any school's involvement in teacher training. But that is another point best left to common sense rather than statute. The fact of the matter is that no school would volunteer to be involved,—and I mean "volunteer" to be involved—in a school-centred or any other scheme unless it firmly believed that it would be beneficial and could be demonstrated to be so to the parents.
The amendments are also technically deficient. I have already noted a technicality. They would impose a very odd duty without a timescale or any guidance as to what is intended. Does the "report of the proposals" to provide a course have to be prepared before or after funding has been secured? That is not made clear in the amendment. What must it contain? That is not made clear in the amendment. How long is the summary and what must it contain? That is not made clear in the amendment. When must the meeting with parents be held—before or after a decision is made? That is not made clear by the amendment. By borrowing the shape but not the detail of other provisions, noble Lords opposite have left us with a very odd set of requirements.
I believe that we should rest on the now much more firmly established arrangements for school accountability and not add another nannying requirement about one particular type of school activity. We should certainly not do so simply to pursue a vendetta against one particular type of teacher training course. For teacher training in schools with higher education, there are no information requirements whatever. School-centred teacher training schools, where the schools are in the lead, are subject to the rigours of this amendment. I hope that the amendments will not be pressed.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, could she say how the parents are going to know about what is happening—those who are not on the governing body?
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, with the leave of the House, the parents are on the governing body. The governing body must make the application, produce the plans, say how the course will be produced and be accredited as suitable to produce the course. It is the conduit for parent information, and parents will know about it. We know that most of these courses go over the full year, so the parents will know at the beginning, during or at the end of the year that teachers are being trained in the school.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I do think that it is rather extraordinary after all that the Minister has said before about how important the involvement of parents is that she dismisses these amendments so summarily. I really am surprised at that after I quoted from what she had said before on two different occasions, in Committee and on Report. I am quite prepared to admit that the amendments are defective. But that, after all, could have been corrected either by the Government themselves or in another place. I am disappointed with the reply. It remains to be seen what happens, but I have 1454 the greatest misgivings that there will be a lack of information. However, at this stage of the evening I shall not press the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 21 not moved.]
§ Clause 13 [Qualification of teachers, &c.]:
§ [Amendments Nos. 22 to 24 not moved.]
§ Clause 14 [Duty to provide information, &c.]:
§ [Amendment No. 25 not moved.]
§ Clause 17 [Interpretation]:
Baroness Blatch moved Amendments Nos. 26 and 27:
Page 9, line 34, at end insert:
(""training", in relation to teachers, shall be construed in accordance with subsection (3A) below.").
Page 10, line 17, at end insert:
("(3A) It is hereby declared that references in this Part (and elsewhere in the Education Acts) to training, in relation to teachers, include any training or education with the object of fitting persons to be teachers, or better teachers.").
The noble Baroness said
My Lords, you will know from previous debates and in response to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that my concern has been to avoid introducing the term teacher "education" which could have an untoward effect on the interpretation of previous legislation. We have certainly never had any problem with the principle that the education element is every bit as important a part of a teacher's preparation as the element of training in, for example, classroom skills. Teacher training as a term in legislation, and in the training departments and institutions that provide it, has always spanned both these elements. These amendments put beyond doubt that the term "teacher training" includes teacher education. I therefore commend them to the House. I beg to move.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, we are naturally glad that, albeit at the eleventh hour, the Government have accepted this principle about education, and we want to express our gratitude for that. I shall not go over all the arguments again. It would be quite inappropriate. In our view it is tremendously important and we are glad to see that this concession has been made.
There is just one small point on which I would appreciate the Minister's fuller observations. Amendment No. 27 properly defines teacher training as,any training or education with the object of fitting persons to be teachers, or better teachers",thereby including all teacher training and not simply initial teacher training.
However, the amendment also makes it clear that that definition applies to references in this part, and elsewhere in the education Acts, to training. By clarifying the term "teacher training" the Minister seems to have indicated the ability of the Teacher Training Agency to fund teacher training courses and research beyond simply initial teacher training. We referred to that point in our deliberations earlier this evening. It would be good to have the Minister's interpretation of this situation. Is that the Government's intention?
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I think that I have given a very full answer in regard to the teacher training which goes beyond initial teacher training and in-service training. I wonder whether I could refer the noble Lord to the answer that I gave to a previous question covering this point.
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 20 [Requirements to be observed in relation to students' unions]:
Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 28:
Page 12, line 31, after ("office") insert (", or paid elected union office,").
The noble Baroness said
My Lords, in speaking to Amendment No. 28, I also speak to Amendments Nos. 29, 30, 33, 34 and 35; and they are coupled with the amendments of my noble friend Lord Pearson, Amendments Nos. 31 and 32.
This group of amendments implements the undertakings that I gave at Report to bring forward further amendments to apply the limit for tenure of major union offices to those who are no longer students and to consider how to secure that institutions should address the principle of maintaining access to services for non-union members.
During the Committee debates, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, noted that the requirement in subsection (2) (f) which limits the tenure of sabbatical officers to two years in total was couched in terms of those who are currently students at the establishment. Consequently, graduating students elected to sabbatical office would not be subject to the tenure limit. I am grateful to the noble Lord for drawing attention to this point which Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 now address. They remove the reference to the period of study and provide a parallel definition relating to paid elected office, so that the position of people who do not need leave of absence and so cannot be described as on sabbatical is unambiguous under this provision. With these amendments the requirement for a two-year limit will apply as standard and will include those who are elected having ended their period of study. This limit has in itself been recognised as appropriate by the representative bodies.
Amendment No. 30 requires each governing body to set out and to bring to the attention of all students at least annually the arrangements made to provide access to services for students who opt out of union membership. This responds to the important question of continued access raised in a probing amendment tabled at Report stage by my noble friends Lord Pearson and Lady Cox.
As I explained in response to that amendment, we cannot compel student unions to provide services to non-members, as my noble friends then suggested, because the protection for the enjoyment of property in the European Convention on Human Rights means that student unions cannot be obliged to use any of their private resources for the benefit of non-members. There is, however, nothing to prevent the student union from providing services for non-members if it agrees to do so. We need therefore to provide every incentive for such agreements to be reached at the local level. Amendment 1456 No. 30 does that by requiring institutions to set out their arrangements for providing these services for all to see and so ensuring that such agreements are considered.
This requirement will promote a clear understanding of services which institutions make available and the basis on which they are provided. In itself, this will help students to understand the implications of opting out of membership of the union, a concern raised earlier by my noble friend Lord Renfrew. It will also clarify the position of those part-time students who may be excluded from membership of the union under current arrangements and for whom access to services may be uncertain as a consequence. The requirement is consistent with Citizen's Charter principles that users should have clear information on availability of services.
The method of notifying students should, in the Government's view, equally be a matter for local decision. Institutions' own student charters and their prospectuses will provide convenient vehicles. No doubt institutions will want to ensure that their prospectuses, in particular, include information about student union services so that prospective students are clear where they would stand. Indeed, Amendment No, 31 by my noble friend Lord Pearson would make it a requirement to include that information in prospectuses. I have some sympathy with that idea: it is just what we would expect any sensible institution to do. But I do not think that Parliament should regulate, as my noble friend's amendment would do, what information should be included in prospectuses when there is no statutory requirement that prospectuses should be published in the first place.
Amendments Nos. 33, 34 and 35 are consequential on the requirement to make information available. They add references to the new subsection in two places: to the definitions of all students in subsection (5); and the explanation of the meaning of "members" in relation to student representative councils in subsection (6).
Also in this group is Amendment No. 32, in which my noble friend Lord Pearson proposes that, where the students' union does not make its services available to non-members, the Secretary of State should have the power to reduce the funds available to the institution concerned by the equivalent amount. I shall listen carefully to what my noble friend has to say. I sympathise with his concern about access to services for all students.
But I should make it clear at this stage that I see some serious difficulties with this approach. There are three. First, it is not the Government's intention to change either the amount or methodology of institutional funding on account of these reforms. I gave that promise to my noble friend Lord Renfrew.
Secondly, it is not our wish to interfere with institutional autonomy or to create a new bureaucracy; to impose the constraints that this amendment would entail would be the thin end of a very significant wedge.
Thirdly, there is a moral duty. Governing bodies will continue to receive the taxpayers' money with which they now arrange for services to be provided to all students. They are taken on trust to do that now, and we are continuing to take them on trust to look after all their 1457 students in future without discrimination relating to individuals' choices about union membership. As we are not proposing to reduce the funding made available to institutions, the moral obligation is, I believe, all the stronger on institutions to be fair in their service provision to members and non-members alike.
I am sure that no one in this House would want to suggest that the choice not to belong to the union should have no consequences. We cannot guarantee that every student who opts out will have access to the same services as union members; that is part of the choice the student must take. But Amendment No. 30 will ensure that all students can see what services are available to them if they decide not to join the union. I look to the institutions to safeguard their access to services and to protect them from any victimisation which might arise from the exercise of that right.
This is the Third Reading of the Bill and at this stage it is not possible to change the wording of any amendment. With regard to the wording of my noble friend's amendment, where there is reference to prospectuses, perhaps it might be possible, via me to my colleagues in another place, to consider the possibility of publishing the information and making it available but leaving the methodology to the institutions. My noble friend's amendment is inappropriate, but perhaps he would agree that I should convey to another place the proposal that it might like to give consideration to the idea of publishing this information. I beg to move.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
My Lords, perhaps I may speak briefly to Amendments Nos. 31 and 32. I agree with what my noble friend said just now about my Amendment No. 31. I should have thought that a form of words along the lines of:the governing body of every establishment to which this Part applies shall publish and bring to the attention of all students, and perhaps potential students, at least once a year".Some wording of that kind might fit the bill. I feel that the amendment as it stands at the moment only brings these matters to the attention of all students. Clearly it should include potential students and others who may be interested in how these arrangements in fact are working.
With regard to Amendment No. 32, I have to accept what my noble friend said, although I personally do not have much confidence in the hope that a moral obligation will be met by a number of student unions in this country. In that regard, once again no doubt I shall find myself in a minority of one in your Lordships' House. But such is my fear. I shall join my noble friend in watching with considerable interest exactly how that moral obligation is met.
§ Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
My Lords, I should like to support these amendments and express appreciation of the way in which anxieties have been met. I fully take the point of my noble friend Lord 1458 Pearson that there is good sense behind Amendment No. 31, although the precise form of it remains to be considered.
The problem with Amendment No. 32 is that the direct intervention of the Secretary of State would set precedents which might not be welcome. I feel that it would be difficult to accept that. We take the point there. However, these are welcome amendments.
§ Lord Addington
My Lords, perhaps I may briefly thank the Minister once again for meeting the concerns in this part of the Bill of all those who have expressed an interest. I am also glad to hear the Minister's attitude toward the amendments, especially Amendment No. 32. I believe that to start taking away lumps of money would dramatically affect the amount of services that would be provided to the entire student body, under no matter what circumstances. There is a simple reason. For example, one cannot run half a gymnasium when there is a whole one already there.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, I too would like to thank the noble Baroness. She has come as near to getting this matter right as can possibly be done. It is heartbreakingly difficult to handle it in exactly the right way. It is a little as though I should announce that I had decided to opt out of the non-smoking section of your Lordships' Library. Obviously it would be unreasonable of me to go there and be a nuisance. On the other hand, I should be a little disappointed if people were not prepared to allow me to read the books which happened to be shelved there. I think that that just about makes the point. With good sense on all sides, I believe that we can handle this matter perfectly well. I thank the noble Baroness for setting us a very good example in that respect.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 29:
Page 12, line 32, leave out ("during the time he is a student").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 30:
Page 13, line 39, at end insert:
("(4A) The governing body of every establishment to which this Part applies shall bring to the attention of all students, at least once a year, details of any arrangements it has made for services which a students' union at the establishment provides for its members to be provided for students who are not members of the union.").
§ The noble Baroness said: I beg to move.
§ [Amendment No. 31, as an amendment to Amendment No. 30, not moved.]
§ On Question, Amendment No. 30 agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 32 not moved.]
Baroness Blatch moved Amendments Nos. 33 to 35:
Page 13, line 40, leave out ("and (4)") and insert (", (4) and (4A)").
Page 14, line 5, leave out from ("In") to ("the") in line 6 and insert ("this section").
Page 14, line 9, leave out from ("in") to end of line and insert ("subsection (2) (c) (ii) above").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move these amendments en bloc.
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ Schedule 1 [The Teacher Training Agency]:
§ [Amendment No. 36 not moved.]1459
§ An amendment (privilege) made.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.
At Second Reading I highlighted how much the Bill rested on fundamental principles which have inspired so many of our reforms: quality, efficiency, choice and accountability. Though the Bill contains relatively few clauses, it deals with key issues in the organisation of teacher training and in the conduct of student unions. We have debated those principles with the thoroughness and openness that the public have come to expect from this House.
Throughout our debates I have, indeed, as the noble Earl, Lord Russell, noted at the last stage, had to take the smooth with the rough. The smooth passage of Part II of the Bill, as amended, followed a stormy initial reception. The way in which, with the help of a number of my noble friends and other noble Lords, we have managed to build consensus confirms my view that on this matter there was very little dispute between the various sides of the House on the objectives of these reforms. There was, however, some disagreement—indeed, considerable disagreement—about the means to achieve them. The Government were persuaded by the arguments advanced by your Lordships. We have determined on a new mechanism to achieve our shared aims of choice, democracy and accountability in student union affairs.
Our debates from Committee stage on student unions have therefore concentrated on fine-tuning the package of reforms. We have agreed on a number of detailed requirements which together will secure fair, democratic and accountable conduct in our student unions. With your Lordships' support we have clarified the membership and franchise arrangements, provided for greater information and democratic control on affiliations and sought to ensure that the reforms are workable with minimum disruption and bureaucracy.
This approach builds on the best practices in our universities and colleges and seeks to bring all student unions up to the same high standards that students should be able to expect. At the same time it shifts the balance of responsibility for implementing the reforms to the institutions themselves where it properly belongs. The reforms will apply in further education just as much as in higher education. The noble Lord, Lord Flowers, stressed that point when moving an amendment in Committee. Perhaps I may say how very pleased I am that the importance of the further education sector is increasingly acknowledged in your Lordships' House.
The reforms will bring important new benefits to students in our further and higher education institutions. All students will for the first time be able to choose whether to belong to their student union and be associated with its political activities. They will also be assured that student unions, which after all depend largely on public money, operate democratically and are accountable.
I have to say that the reason we have continued to find the going less smooth on Part I of the Bill is that there are real philosophical differences of view on both 1460 sides of the Chamber. We believe that accountability and choice are just as important in this area of policy as in the context of student unions. We do not accept limitations on choice, or the confusion of accountability. We resist in particular any argument which rests on the preservation of the status quo for its own sake.
The Secretary of State's criteria, with which all initial teacher training must comply, set high standards. The encouragement we have given to new course models and new providers, in the shape of groups of schools, allow for choice and competition in achieving those standards in practice. And we want to see those arrangements backed by monitoring of, and public accountability for, the standards reached. That is why we need a teacher training agency, with its vital twin, functions of funding and accreditation. And that is why accreditation must be informed by continuing published evidence from HMI that the necessary standards are being achieved.
It is important to remember that Part I of the Bill has as its main and central purpose the bringing together of all the important functions which affect the quality of teacher training and which would benefit from a concerted approach. The Bill brings together work done currently by four bodies —the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, which advises the Secretary of State on individual courses; the Teaching as a Career Unit, which promotes teaching as a career; the Department for Education, which approves all courses of teacher training; and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which funds all higher education courses.
Noble Lords will recall that an alternative to our approach, which would have been as fractured as the current arrangements, was debated in detail at the very beginning of the Committee stage. I was heartened by the scale of your Lordships' support for the creation of the Teacher Training Agency. And while I commend any attempt to increase the professionalism of teachers, I was pleased also that our very full debate on a possible model for a general teaching council ex posed very clearly that, as proposed, such a body would have served to bolster vested interests rather than enhance professionalism.
I accept that in one respect the Bill we shall be sending forward to the other place may not meet the objective of allowing schools to play a full and equal part in teacher training. We must of course let the full parliamentary process take its course, and allow the other place to consider the desirability and workability of that aspect of the current draft. We listened carefully to the anxieties raised about particular aspects of the Bill; and where they were well-founded, we acted to amend it. We have, I hope, dispelled some myths about our intentions. And we have made some constructive changes to the Bill, in both parts. I believe that we have done our job well and I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, first I must pay tribute to all those who participated in the work on the Bill; to those noble Lords in all parts of the House who have striven to contain its worst excesses and most especially to my Front Bench colleagues. But I must pay tribute also to 1461 the officials of the House and to the many people in the world of education who lent their expertise and experience. In particular, I must place on record my personal thanks to Clare Cozens, our researcher, and the team of advisers who worked tirelessly and closely with her throughout our proceedings. I also readily pay tribute to the Minister for her fortitude and industry. If those qualities had been equalled by imagination, sensitivity and vision, it would have made a powerful combination.
I must be candid. The Bill remains a wretched enterprise with which the Minister should never have allowed herself to be associated. She certainly worked overtime to build bridges with the alienated critics behind her. And in fairness it must be acknowledged that she conceded a number of important points argued from all sides of the House. But the best that can be said is that the Bill leaves your Lordships' House for the other place in a less damaging condition than when it came here. It is still the Bill that should never have been; a Bill inexcusably introduced as fodder for Conservative Party militants at their annual seaside jamboree as distinct from a Bill to enhance the quality of education, without doubt the most precious investment in our nation's future.
The Bill remains a potentially sinister piece of legislation motivated by party tactics rather than by statesmanship. Yet another non-accountable quango is to be spawned with all the scope that gives for the crude manipulation of political patronage which has become so characteristic of the Government opposite. As we saw today, the Government have even arrogantly avoided spelling out in the Bill the precise responsibilities of the Teacher Training Agency, thereby making it still less accountable as it will be virtually impossible to monitor its activities and its effectiveness.
The story of the progress of the Bill through your Lordships' House has been extraordinary. First we were all told to clear the decks to be ready for a blitzkrieg in January. But then in December came the Second Reading—a devastating occasion. There were more than 30 speeches with, at my count, barely three in full support of the Minister. The Bill then totally disappeared only at last to re-emerge in March after countless behind-the-scenes agonies and furtive consultations. A confident government, committed to providing education in the best possible way to meet the needs of all our children and our nation's future, would put a premium on constant consultation, building up a positive consensus with all those concerned—teachers, pupils, parents, governors, administrators, local authorities, industries and the professions.
What is so disastrous about the present Secretary of State is his bunker-like mentality; his failure to communicate or listen before he wildly fires his next salvo of half-baked, ill-conceived ideas causing maximum anxiety and distress and taking God knows how much time and resources to keep the ship afloat at all. When the Bill eventually re-emerged it was emasculated. Part II, dealing with student unions, had collapsed. The vitriolic prejudice of the Secretary of 1462 State had been pricked by your Lordships and shown to be the partisan populism that it was. No wonder that at the Committee stage the rejoicing was so great. However, I must confess that it was not rejoicing into which my colleagues and I could throw ourselves with any great enthusiasm, for the basic issues remain as disturbing as ever.
Why were the Government trespassing onto this territory at all? Why was the long-standing independence and trenchantly defended freedom of our higher education establishments—a precious hallmark of the quality of our democratic society —being breached, especially when the law of charity was more than adequate to meet any genuine anxieties that might exist? Once started, where would the erosion end? That remains the question that none of us can dodge. We ignore it at our peril. The danger in our national life, the sickness in our national life, is that the unthinkable increasingly takes the centre of the stage aided and abetted by our efforts to disguise it as less unacceptable than it essentially remains. We are trapped increasingly into dancing to the tune of what should never have been, and step by step our society is transformed and diminished into something more narrow, more nasty and altogether more threatening.
On Part I, despite the successful and vital amendments insisting on partnerships between schools and institutions of higher education, despite the Government's concessions on research, graduate status and, most importantly, on special needs, despite the concessions on consultation and, for example, co-operation between Ofsted and the new TTA, the fundamental question remains as so eloquently phrased by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, during our deliberations: does this Bill enhance or does it not enhance the status of the teaching profession?
Whatever the structure of our educational system, in the final analysis it is the quality of our teachers that matters most. Buildings, facilities, equipment—indeed, the curriculum and the tests—are inanimate. It is how they are used and brought to life to stimulate the young that matters most. If they are well designed, they can help. If they are badly designed, they can hinder. But it is the knowledge, the confidence, the understanding and the skills of our teachers that is the catalyst. Of course in their preparation training in technique is essential. In this respect the importance of classroom experience for student teachers cannot be over-emphasised. But to make the most of that experience, the opportunity to reflect on it, to analyse it, to learn from it, with the benefit of the resources available to higher education, is equally essential. It is not an either/or situation. Both are required.
Knowledge without technique can be intellectually musclebound or worse. It can be helpless or damaging. But technique without knowledge is like an engine without fuel. We need a graduate profession because we need to be certain of the fuel supply. Hence the importance of education as well as training for our teachers. If anything has alleviated just a little my concern, it is the belated at least partial recognition of this by the Minister today. And I thank her for that.
1463 But education as distinct from training cannot be in the subject matter alone. It must also be about the process of teaching itself. We must have teachers who understand what they are doing and its interrelationship with the whole development of the pupil as a person —not simply conveyor-belt operatives. That is why the self-perceived and externally perceived significance and status of the profession is so vital. That is why it has been so sad to witness yet again the Government rejecting the concept of a general teaching council. The positive engagement of the profession in responsibility for the provision and development of education rather than merely the application of concepts designed by others is long, long overdue if we are to do well by our children. Failure to recognise this inevitably leads to alienation, playing into the hands of manipulative extremists.
Whatever the damage limitation—it can be little else —to Part I of the Bill that we may have managed to secure, it is its entire thrust which remains so depressing. Try as the Minister may to put a brave face on it, I suspect she knows perfectly well that what she has been asked to deliver from your Lordships' House is a Bill designed to reduce the significance of higher education in the preparation of our teachers, to reduce financial demands which must be met if we are to invest effectively in the future of our children, and through them in the future of our nation; in effect, she has been asked to start a retrograde movement towards classroom instructors in place of teachers, with all the fullness that professional title should imply.
As we approach the next millennium with all the challenges it will present to the United Kingdom, we need as never before confident, well educated, inquiring, critical, resourceful young people leaving our schools; young people able to shoulder positively the huge responsibilities of citizenship in a free, democratic, excitingly multi-racial society, a society whose destiny is inextricably interwoven economically, environmentally, strategically and politically with that of the world as a whole. That will require the highest calibre of our teaching profession. There is nothing new in this Bill which begins to meet those challenges. It is, I fear, as shallow, unimaginative and ultimately dangerous as the Government who produced it. Following as it does the damaging irrelevance of last year's Education Bill, it provides still more ample evidence of the terminal political senility of the Administration opposite. It is time they went; and the sooner the better.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, in the middle of March I was approached by a postgraduate law student from the Netherlands who was working on the extent of this House's powers as a revising Chamber. I told her to come to the House for the third day of Committee on this Bill and I told her to listen with particular care to the speeches from the Government Back Benches. In all the time that I have been in the House, which is not yet that long, I cannot remember any occasion which would have been a more suitable one for her to hear with that 1464 question in mind. This is a proud day in the annals of the House because the House as a whole has made a really remarkable contribution to the improvement of the Bill.
I have paid tribute to the noble Baroness on a number of occasions already. I mean those tributes, but since the hour is late and since the noble Baroness tends to lose patience with repetition, I hope that she will take them as read if I do not go on. She had a really distinguished Bill but such successes go to the House as a whole. As the noble Lord, Lord Rippon of Hexham, has always said when talking about the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee, which is another of the heroes of this occasion, such successes are only possible when the House works on an all-party basis. The Government Back Benches, including a number of people who would, I think, prefer not to be named, so I will not do so, have contributed with great distinction to this. I am deeply grateful to them.
When that happens it is essential that those who speak from the Opposition side of the House, come a long way to meet them. The gravity of the occasion, however seriously we may take it, is nothing like the gravity of the occasion when Leo Amery called out to Arthur Greenwood, "Speak for England". But the spirit of the injunction that is needed has something in common. I have tried to hear that injunction. Whether or how far I have succeeded is for others to say.
Part II of the Bill has been improved beyond all recognition. I entirely agree with the noble Baroness that it now represents best practice in the universities. That is also the view of the leadership of the NUS. They, university staff and all parties may attempt with a really good will to implement that and to make it work. I hope it will do a great deal of good.
The concession we have had on research today is of almost equal significance. It prevents the dismemberment of research in universities. That is something of great importance for which we are truly thankful. But when we get to Part I of the Bill, this agreement does at least diminish. The key point of the debate in Committee was the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain. She drew attention to the decline in standards of literacy. We agree that that is a fact. There is no point in disputing it. It certainly concurs with my own experience. Noble Lords on the Government Benches have then gone on to assume that that is the fault of British teachers. So far as I can see, that is only an assumption. It may be in part true—none of us is without fault—but it is at least an assumption that deserves a good deal more testing than it has had so far.
I happen to think that this is a worldwide phenomenon with causes a good deal wider than any we can find in the British education system. I think in fact it is the result of the onset of television and therefore the change from a verbal to a visual culture. Twenty years ago my head of department said to me, "If you have any books to write you had better write them quickly. It is an obsolescent art form". Fortunately, so far he seems to have exaggerated, but I understand perfectly well the point that he was making. That is something too big to be blamed on British teachers.
If there is doubt whether British teachers are to blame for the decline of British literacy, there is also at least 1465 room for doubt whether Part I of the Bill will do anything to raise the standard of British teachers. I have heard what the noble Baroness said about quality, accountability and choice. What I cannot see is any way in which the teacher training agency may do anything to improve those very desirable qualities. It is simply beyond my comprehension why the Government believe that these things will be improved by this agency.
When we discussed it in Committee, I relied on the remark of the Prime Minister in his interview of 17th February in the Daily Express when he said that it was to take influence away from fashionable theory. That worried me. I listened very carefully to the noble Baroness's reply to that which I found, in a large measure, reassuring. But my difficulty is this: if that is not the agenda, what is? I understand perfectly well why the noble Baroness does not like us looking at hidden agendas; but there is nothing that tempts us more to look for a hidden agenda than the entire absence of any visible agenda. Since I cannot find a visible agenda and since the change will necessarily cause a good deal of upheaval, I cannot help wondering whether this is really a case for Burke's maxim that where it is not necessary to change it is necessary not to change.
§ The Lord Bishop of Guildford
My Lords, perhaps I may offer the briefest of words from these Benches. In the great succession of Education Bills which this House has considered over the past few years, this is the first one to have considered directly the education and significance of teachers. In many respects, I regret that we did not have a Bill on teacher education before we had some of the recent Bills which we have considered. My own conviction is that we shall not do much to improve further the quality of education until we recognise that at the end of the day we are in the hands of the teachers.
Although there are some bad teachers, just as there are bad clergymen and bad politicians, for the most part the teachers have done a creative and thorough job in circumstances where they often feel that there has been a change in the educational system every weekend. It seems to me that the merit of this Bill is that it brings together under one body all the principal responsibilities for teacher education, although I fear that in the process of trying to introduce that coherence, we may inadvertently have introduced some new fragmentation.
I should like to place on record my admiration for the way in which the noble Baroness the Minister has not only shown her mastery of the subject and of the Bill, but has matched her skill at arguing robustly with a readiness to listen carefully. Even though Homer nodded, the noble Baroness has never once been caught out. Although there was a long pause between Second Reading and Committee stage, from that stage to Third Reading we have moved very rapidly. The noble Baroness has gone out of her way to keep us informed by correspondence of the work which she has been doing between stages. All of that has been most helpful. Although I cannot say that the Bill is all that I would wish, I have no hesitation in expressing my admiration 1466 for and gratitude to the noble Baroness for the work which she has done as regards the whole Bill. I hope that she will be able to secure in the future that continuing partnership between Church and state to which allusion was made earlier in the day.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
My Lords, at an early stage I felt uncomfortable with one or two aspects of this Bill. The way in which most of those aspects—perhaps all of them—have been dealt with says a great deal to the effectiveness of your Lordships' House as a revising Chamber. That is a point already well made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. There have been two particular factors on this occasion that have made this so. The first is the care which has been taken on all sides of the House to debate the majority of the amendments thoroughly, constructively and thoughtfully. I would particularly like to commend the very warm way in which the noble Earl, Lord Russell, has responded to some of the constructive amendments set down by my noble friend Lady Blatch. It is the most effective way of proceeding to be very severe indeed when there is something to quarrel with but once the quarrel is over, then to announce the fact and express satisfaction.
When the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has been in his constructive rather than his polemical mode, matters have moved constructively. I was not expecting to say this but I have to as regards the speech which he just made. I felt that he was often less than generous. I felt that he was addressing a gallery which was not visible to me, but which was clearly very visible to him. I felt that he was saying things which he had to say in a manner which, fortunately, he did not employ throughout the debate. Of course it is the duty of the Opposition to oppose, so I would not presume to criticise. I merely observe that I felt that there were moments when the noble Lord, Lord Judd, must be a difficult man to please.
Part II of the Bill in particular has been amended to the general satisfaction, I believe, of the House. But he did not go out of his way to point out that it had been amended to the satisfaction of, as I understand it, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and of the National Union of Students, which is one of the cases where a great many people have been pleased. I have to point out that the Opposition did not table any substantive amendments to Part II of the Bill at Report stage or at Third Reading. I make no criticism there. I infer from that that they were broadly satisfied already at Report stage and at Third Reading. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, might have said so on that point. I felt that the speech which he has just made did not enhance the constructive atmosphere with which he discussed most of the Bill throughout its course. So the first factor has been the care taken on all sides.
Noble friends on this side of the House have been influential. The important amendments laid down by my noble friends Lady Perry and Lord Skidelsky along with the noble Earl, were of significance. Another factor has been the great skill, thoughtfulness and constructive approach of my noble friend the Minister. We owe a great deal to her. I made a rather severe speech at 1467 Second Reading. I was enormously heartened and a little surprised by the constructive response to the concept which has underlain her approach that a Bill can be improved at an early stage, as indeed it has been. So I believe that both sides of the House have worked together to make this a better Bill with the aid of the Minister. The fact that it is a better Bill speaks volumes to the hard work and skill with which my noble friend the Minister has approached it. We are very grateful to her.
§ Baroness Perry of Southwark
My Lords, at this late hour I would not wish to delay the House very long except to say that I believe we have every justification for celebrating for a few moments the passing of this Bill from our House. Probably there is no more important stage of any young person's life than the three or four years that they spend in higher education and the experience for the brightest and best of any generation of their undergraduate courses during which they learn about managing their own affairs and democracy. Very often their ideas and values for adult life are very much set during those years.
Therefore what we were dealing with in Part II of this Bill was no light matter. It is extremely important that we got it right and I believe that we did. I wish to add my gratitude to my noble friend the Minister for the way in which she was so determined to get that part of the Bill right, recognising its importance. We are very fortunate indeed to have had this particular Minister in this particular place and at this particular time.
On Part I, which deals with teacher training agency, I agree entirely with those noble Lords who have said that the quality of the teachers in our schools is the single most important factor determining the quality of education. It is enormously to be welcomed that we now have one body with the responsibility of promoting teaching as a career and which is able to bring to bear quality judgments and the process of accreditation of courses and institutions on to funding decisions which it makes. We can but hope that that potentially tremendously powerful agency will have a real bearing on the quality of teachers and teaching, although the timescale of such change is very long and it will possibly take a very long time for the change in the initial training of teachers to begin to bear on the quality of education in our schools.
As the noble Earl, Lord Russell, has said, the Education Bill has seen the House at its best. I have most particularly welcomed the Cross-Bench contributions as well as those from noble Lords on both sides of the House who have worked together. One of the great strengths of this House is when we do not play politics but show a genuine concern for the great issues such as education. I am glad and pleased to have taken part in these debates.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I am most grateful for all the generous comments that have been made. This debate, the last before the Bill passes to the other place, has maintained the standards of our earlier debates, both for insight and courtesy.
1468 Before we take our temporary leave of the Bill, I should like to thank my noble friends and the many noble Lords who have contributed to our debates since last December when we debated the Second Reading. More than 50 noble Lords have taken a close interest in the Bill. I cannot thank all of them in person, but I believe that the Bill has benefited from their careful and constructive scrutiny, often buttressed by many years of personal and professional experience of the matters we have been discussing.
For my own part, I have been fortunate in the sterling support I have had from my noble friend Lord St. Davids and our colleagues in the Whips' Office. They have worked tirelessly to ensure the Bill's smooth progress through this House.
I also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, who has contributed to our debates with his characteristic energy and flair. The noble Lord would riot have expected me to endorse everything that he had to say, especially the rather colourful account of the Bill that he has just given. But he must agree that there has been a measure of meeting of minds, and for that we should be grateful. I am also grateful for the constructive spirit in which the noble Lord has approached cur debates. He has been ably supported by his Front Bench colleagues, the noble Baronesses, Lady David and Lady Blackstone, and the noble Lord, Lord Peston.
I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, both for his determined probing—sometimes into the very corners of the Bill—and for his much-appreciated wit. He has also been ably assisted by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington. I continue to be embarrassed by his effusive and almost poetic flattering comments to me during the passage of the Bill. I count that as the smooth which, with some relief to me, tempered the rough which I experienced in great measure.
I am grateful to all of those who have contributed to the valuable consideration of student union reform. My noble friends Lady Young, Lord Renfrew, Lady Perry and Lord Campbell of Alloway were among those whose contributions were vital in helping to shape the reforms. I also thank those other noble Lords who raised important points in debate, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Flowers, and my noble friend Lady Carnegy, who respectively represented so ably the interests of further education colleges and the very important Open University. I thank also my noble friend Lord Beloff for his witty but down-to-earth examination of the implications of the reforms.
On the teacher training side, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, made important points about teachers being equipped to promote pupils' spiritual, moral and other development, and to prepare them for the demands of adult life. All this is properly now reflected in Clause 1.
A number of noble Lords raised important points about the composition of the new agency. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford made strong representations on behalf of denominational institutions, and we amended the Bill accordingly. The right reverend Prelate also made points about consultation with the Churches, to which we were sympathetic, 1469 provided that we could keep to a non-statutory basis for reasons that I explained. My only doubt is whether I might have done more at the Committee stage to reassure him how much we value his advice and advice from the Churches—recent experience notwithstanding.
The noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), and the noble Lord, Lord Rix, highlighted the importance of provision for people with special educational needs, as did my noble friend Lord Radnor; and we were able to reflect that, not least through the membership provisions for the agency.
My noble friends Lady Carnegy, Lord Skidelsky and Lord Beloff homed in on what should be the research powers of the agency, and we have today arrived at the resolution of that issue. I am grateful, too, to my noble friend Lady Perry for the close interest she has taken and the wealth of experience she has brought to bear on our debates. That is especially evident in her very helpful amendment, clarifying that eligibility for school-centred training courses will be limited to postgraduates. Her constructive interventions have added weight to our proceedings throughout the course of the Bill.
I thank my noble friends Lady Young, Lord Renfrew and Lord Pearson for their detailed and positive contributions on a host of subjects within the Bill. I am especially glad that we were able to meet the points of my noble friend Lord Pearson about the teaching experience of those being considered for membership of the agency, and about the need for students to receive good information about their teacher training courses. On the student union reforms, I was also grateful to my noble friends Lord Pearson and Lady Cox for focusing attention on the question of access to support services for all students, which we debated earlier today.
I thank most warmly my noble friend Lord Elton for his numerous contributions, bringing long and broad experience to bear in many of our debates. We have also managed to reflect his particular anxieties about the agency's information and advice-giving powers.
I must also thank other noble Lords who brought their wealth of experience to our discussions. My noble friend Lady Cox has given us the benefit of her practical experience of leadership in higher education as Chancellor of Bournemouth University; while the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, has reminded the House of industry's needs and priorities and of the importance of taking due account of those in our teacher training reforms. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, added to our debates with his expertise in equal opportunities issues.
I also thank Parliamentary Counsel for his incredible patience, my Private Office and my officials for all of the hard work behind the scenes which is reflected in the amended Bill which is now before the House.
As the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and my noble friend Lord Renfrew have said, the whole House has subjected the Bill to thorough scrutiny. But the main principles behind the Bill which I described at Second Reading have not changed: securing higher quality and more effective use of resources in teacher training, and more choice and democratic accountability in student unions. I am confident that these principles will be supported in the other place. I commend the Bill to the House.
§ On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.