§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Baroness Perry of Southwark
rose to call attention to the importance of teachers; and to move for Papers.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity to explore the issues surrounding teachers and the teaching profession and to pay tribute to their importance to the happiness and prosperity of our country. I look forward very much to hearing the 1596 maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans and to the many other speeches from noble Lords.
I do not intend to offer emotional tributes to our wonderful teachers, although such tributes are well deserved. The teachers to whom I speak are tired of fine words, outweighed as they feel they have been by harsh words which have damaged their professional esteem and sense of worth. What they look for now are fine deeds from the Government.
The Government have concerned themselves with issues of importance to teachers. I am quite sure that their intentions are to raise the status as well as the performance of teachers and I applaud some of the measures which have been taken. I was long an advocate of the General Teaching Council and look forward to hearing the speech of its chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, in this debate. I am sorry that the GTC has only advisory powers, as I believe it would have meant a great deal to the teaching profession to have been trusted to manage their own affairs, but a step in the right direction is better than no step at all.
I also very much applaud the teaching award scheme. Some of the achievements of teachers which are celebrated in the scheme draw the public's attention to excellence which is more widespread than the few lucky recipients who win this award would indicate.
When I say that excellence is widespread, I speak from experience as a former teacher and trainer of teachers and as a member of Her Majesty's Inspectorate for 17 years and chief inspector for the last five of those years. I know that daily in our schools teachers who love their job and enjoy the company and stimulus of their pupils help to raise the standards of achievement in ways for which the whole nation should be deeply grateful.
Let us just look at the evidence. Teachers are, by any criterion, doing a superb job. The performance of pupils—the most important criterion—has improved steadily over the past decade since the performance tables were first published. Teachers responded magnificently to a clear message from government about the desired outcomes from their work.
An analysis of inspection reports over the past 15 years in selected subjects shows that teaching standards themselves have steadily improved. Parents too are happy with teachers. In a recent poll conducted for The Times Educational Supplement by FDS International, nine out of 10 parents rated teaching standards as good, very good, fairly good, and an even higher percentage rated their own children's teachers as good and very good. In a Guardian newspaper ICM poll, teachers were rated in high esteem, ahead, I may say, of university lecturers, vicars, policemen, politicians or journalists. Any commercial enterprise would be very happy with such results, as would all its shareholders and stakeholders. So why is it that we face a teaching force approaching a crisis in morale, with severe shortages in teacher supply, difficulty in recruitment 1597 to senior posts and teachers leaving the profession in ever greater numbers each year? Between 1993 and 1998 the number of teachers leaving the profession for other employment increased by over 50 per cent, from 2,000 in 1993 to more than 3,000 in 1998.
Despite the excellent recruitment campaigns of the Teacher Training Agency and the Department for Education and Employment, school-leavers are receiving negative advice about teaching as a career, not only from their careers advisers but, much more worrying, from the teachers themselves. One school-leaver reported to researchers from Loughborough and Hertfordshire Universities:I was told by my own teachers not to waste my brain on teaching".Students in training as teachers find the same negative attitudes. More than a quarter of the students interviewed for the same research project said that teachers in the schools where they had undertaken their teaching practice during their course had been negative about their job. One teacher who recently left service in the Lambeth local authority to return to journalism sums up in a recent article the reasons why she left the profession in this way:too much regulation, too little flexibility, too much paperwork, and the frustration that no one seems to be listening to teachers any more".Everyone knows that raising standards in education rests almost entirely on the performance of teachers. The quality of education which pupils experience is dependent on how the teacher plans, organises, guides, leads and indeed inspires. In 1985 Her Majesty's Inspectorate published a booklet in its Education Observed series entitled Good Teachers. The inspectorate drew on its century-and-a-half of observations of teachers in thousands of schools and hundreds of thousands of classes to describe those characteristics which constitute the good teachers we all admire. It says:they are able to command the respect of their pupils not only by their knowledge of what they teach and their ability to make it interesting, but by the respect which they show for their pupils, their genuine interest and curiosity about what pupils say and think and the quality of their professional concern for individuals".What is described here is the creative process between teacher and pupil which lies at the heart of successful teaching. This country has long been admired for our creativity and our creative success. We have a proud record of Nobel and other international prizes, and we were until recently the world's largest producer of patented inventions. On my recent visit to the Millennium Dome, I was delighted to see a section devoted to British creativity. That display records that, despite the low output of British films, we win one-third of all film Oscars. We also produce one-third of the world's store of computer games. Britain has produced Mazda cars, I-Mac and Christian Dior. British architectural design is celebrated around the world. But the nature of our educational system and its creativity are the essential ingredients in this creative result.
1598 After many years travelling around the world looking at other educational systems, I have no hesitation in saying that the key characteristic of British education has been our highly creative classrooms. They contrast very often with the rote teaching and learning which go on in so many other countries. But to maintain this creativity, two things are necessary: first, that teachers have freedom to exercise their professional judgment in the classroom; and, secondly, that they feel they enjoy the trust and confidence of the society in which they work. My sadness today is that in both these areas the creativity of the teaching profession is being severely damaged. That, I believe, is the reason why we have a crisis in morale and so much difficulty in persuading the brightest and best of young people to become teachers.
A report by the Teachers Supply and Retention in London Project, to be published next month, found that the main reasons for those seeking new jobs and leaving the profession were "Room for Initiative" and "Scope for Creativity". They rated these well above the opportunity for improved pay or working hours.
Let us take a few examples of the attacks on teachers' professional activity of the past two-and-a-half years. My first example is performance pay. Most of us have no problem with the idea that those who are successful in their work, whether teachers, salesmen or journalists, should be able to rise up through their profession and receive greater rewards. The teaching profession itself has always recognised that there is a hierarchy of promoted posts and that those who are good at their job get promotion. They feel threatened, not by the idea of performance pay, but by what they perceive as a scheme which assesses them on limited, mechanistic factors which they feel, rightly or wrongly, have little to do with the reality of their professionalism and into which they will have limited input. At the point of qualifying as teachers, graduates must now be assessed on no fewer than 67 items of competency, none of which has anything to do with the creative process between teacher and taught. Yet it is very often through creative activities that disadvantaged and disaffected young people are encouraged to enter more formal learning and improve their performance overall.
My next example is the literacy and numeracy hours. These have been widely approved as a direct input into raising these two key skills. Many teachers have undoubtedly found it helpful to have guidelines—excellent guidelines—on how to help their pupils in these basic skills. But creative and successful teachers have already found ways to raise children's literacy and numeracy standards to a high level, and they, and the schools in which they teach, find it both inhibiting and de-professionalising to be made to follow specific guidelines. For a high achieving teacher and a high achieving school, mandatory guidelines on how to teach, by five- and 10- minute intervals, are anything but helpful. Indeed, they destroy that very creativity that is the mark of the successful classroom.
Many teachers also perceive central government's intervention in the in-service training of teachers and of heads as an attack on their professional autonomy. 1599 The decisions about when, how and in what areas further professional training is taken has for decades been a prerogative of the professional teacher in consultation with her or his colleagues. As ever more money and more activity are now diverted to specific government-inspired programmes, the freedom of teachers to follow their own professional path is becoming limited. Equally, the ability of the individual school to make its own decisions about priorities in staff development, which was one of the most exciting developments of the 1980s, has been severely eroded. It was in the course of an OECD international conference that I first heard the phrase,the school is the living cell of the body educational".I believe that to be absolutely right, and it is at the level of the individual school, through the leadership of the head and the creativity of the staff, that a revitalising of the whole body educational can best be accomplished.
In my experience as a manager of people, I learnt one lesson—the best decisions are made by the people who must implement them at the working level. The quality of decision making becomes progressively worse the further it is removed from that working level. Central government should learn to walk with a very light step over the professional creativity which is generated in teams of teachers, who feel a deep professional commitment to their school and their community of pupils.
I therefore read with sinking heart headlines like,Ministers to control elite new teachers",describing a scheme unveiled by the DfEE two weeks ago. An external contractor will select 1,000 new graduates each year, to be paid a £5,000 "golden hello". As one recruitment analyst commented,the current open system of recruitment, where applicants are free to apply to the schools of their choice, and schools are free to appoint the best applicant is now replaced by a system where the government decides, through its appointed consultants, who are the top thousand graduates each year. Schools must then bid to the DFEE for such super teachers to be appointed to their schools".No wonder the head of one large community college commented:the real concern is the feeling that the government is not recognising our professionalism: so much is now being dictated from the centre by the civil servants and special advisers".Finally, I come again to the question of fine words. Enormous publicity has been given to that tiny minority of the profession who fall below acceptable standards. Any profession, any job, any community of workers will have its below average members, and indeed its failures, who can and should be dealt with in quiet and private ways. But I have never understood how it is thought that one can make people better by telling them that they are bad. Such public criticism damages the self-esteem of the good teachers and does nothing to improve the weak. What I do understand is that when public figures speak, with all the resonance that their remarks command, they must speak about the good teachers. When they do so, they will reflect the feelings of those nine-tenths of parents who see their children's teachers as good or very good.
1600 The teaching profession represents the highly skilled and highly trained army with which we fight disadvantage and inequalities in our society. No army can go out to win unless it has the full confidence and support of the society for which it fights. My appeal to the Government today is to show in word and deed a confidence in the teaching profession. If we are to continue to enjoy the professional dedication and commitment of teachers, we must learn to respect their autonomy and to allow them the magic of creativity and, in sum, we must learn to trust our teachers. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 5.52 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans
My Lords, I count it a privilege to be able to speak in this debate because the subject is very dear to my heart. As I go around my diocese and elsewhere, I meet teachers who seem to be almost entirely exhausted. They have been drained of life and drained of energy. And why? It is because every detail of the curriculum seems to he dictated nationally and then every detail changed with bewildering rapidity. So, if you have no control over the detail and no control over the rate of change, you cease to see any value in what you are trying to do. You are transformed from being a teacher into being a technician.
The results of this major shift in the educational style of our country are beginning to show. There is no need to repeat the numbers of teachers leaving the profession; nor do I need to say anything more about the struggle to recruit suitably qualified teachers. But I think of those teachers I know who are working unbelievably long hours—weekdays and weekends—at considerable cost to their families and social lives; and ultimately at the cost to the refreshment of their own minds and souls, without which their teaching is bound to wither.
That relentless pressure, and what seems to be an obsessional desire for continuous change, simply does not take account of what teaching is like. Teaching is partly a craft; and in common with other crafts, you can get better only as you learn from your mistakes and try again. But when continuous change is neurotically driving everything, learning, and learning to improve, do not stand a chance. But it goes even deeper than that because every single pressure group in the country now seems to believe that it has the right to dictate what should be on the curriculum. The curriculum in schools is now overloaded to breaking point. As a result, those pastoral and spiritual matters, which actually underlie most teaching, are pushed to the margins and beyond. Gradgrind, heaven help us, has won.
So what happens to the child who is bullied? What happens to the child who is the victim of abuse? What happens to the child who is chronically ill? The answer, of course, is that teachers, as always, try to cope. They call on deep personal and spiritual resources—perhaps their belief in God; their belief in love; their belief in the worth and value of every individual child. They try to put into practice that skilled companionship mentioned in our previous debate. Meanwhile, with a 1601 resounding thump, yet another set of directives arrives: more measurement, more accountability. The spiritual driving forces which took teachers into their vocation in the first place are smothered by endless torrents of documentation.
So, teachers feel battered by government—whichever party is in power—and battered, sometimes literally, by parents. I cite the Ofsted system as an example. There are, as noble Lords will know, a series of questions for parents to answer during an Ofsted inspection questions such as, "Do you feel the school encourages parents to play an active part in the life of the school?"; or "Do you feel the school achieves high standards of good behaviour?" Your Lordships will know that there is not a single question which asks parents about their role. Parental rights are assumed to exist and to have the highest priority, but nothing is said about parental responsibility.
Teachers, the Ofsted system seems to assume, have few rights if any, but, in contrast with parents, are asked to bear total responsibility. I want to suggest that every Ofsted questionnaire should have a section for parents to answer, about themselves. I should like them to be asked, "As parents, you have the primary duty and responsibility to educate your child. What do you feel you could or should do to assist your child's school in its task?" I recognise that the question is a little sharp and I know about home-school agreements—I welcome them—but I look for a shift in the balance; a shift in the culture of education from one that appears to be based on consumerist rights to one based on partnership and co-operation.
But I want also to draw attention to one particular sector of education where the problems have become especially acute—and that is in the small rural primary schools. Not only are they set in a context which, itself, is undergoing massive change; they now consist of handfuls of teachers and governors working under the most intense pressure to hold everything together. The heads in particular are supposed to keep up with every curricular change. They stoke the boilers—I exaggerate, but only just—and carry, in many cases, a full-time teaching load. They need a break; and what they look for, among other things, is a budgeting process which takes account of the special costs involved in providing education in remote areas. Where is their voice being heard? I echo a phrase in a previous speech: no one seems to be listening to teachers any more.
I believe that teaching is not just approaching a state of crisis, but is actually in one. If the pace of change does not slow down, if the culture does not alter, and if the voice of rural schools is not heard, the educational heart of our country will be broken. This crisis requires a careful response, in which qualities such as humility, trust and a willingness to listen should be high on the agenda.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Haskel
My Lords, it is my privilege, on behalf of the whole House, to congratulate the right reverend 1602 Prelate on his maiden speech—the first maiden speech from the Bishops' Bench of the new millennium. What a well-informed and thoughtful speech he gave us. We should not be surprised. The right reverend Prelate brings to this House a lifetime's experience and knowledge of education and teaching. As well as being an ordained minister, he has been a teacher, an author, a director of education for the diocese of Hereford, a school governor, a college governor, and a member of two local authority education committees. What a rich depth of experience he brings. We look forward to hearing from the right reverend Prelate often and to benefiting from his wide knowledge and experience of teaching.
The right reverend Prelate has chosen his subject well: the importance of teachers. If we allow them, teachers have an enormous impact on our lives, and not only when we are at school or when we are students. If we are lucky and perceptive enough we come into contact with people who teach us valuable lessons at all stages of our life—lifelong learning in deed and in fact.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, for moving this Motion. It gives me the opportunity to speak about four people who have taught me valuable lessons, not only at school but in life, and to honour them by telling your Lordships about them. I apologise to noble Lords who may find my remarks anecdotal and a little sentimental, but good teachers use anecdotes, and, frankly, I am sentimental about my four teachers.
At age 15, I had an English teacher called Mr Boggis. He was a man of the cloth and delivered little sermons with his lessons. He taught us a lot about morality. But the lesson I remember best was based on a photograph that he took in Canada. It was a winter scene with a country road covered in deep snow and ice. The tyre tracks were at least a foot deep. At the side of the road was a notice which said, "Be careful which rut you get into because you will be in it for the next 25 miles". It was a powerful bit of teaching, using an anecdote which we could all see and understand.
Music has been a great joy in my life. I trace that back to Sir John Barbirolli. It is not what he taught me, but something that he did. When I was a student in Manchester, he had come from America to take over the Halle Orchestra. In a wonderful piece of imagination he allowed students who could not afford to go to concerts to attend certain rehearsals. Like others, I sat in because it was warm and dry and a nice place to go. But I soon became interested in the music because of the way he explained to the orchestra how he wanted passages played. He was an inspiration, explaining his reasons for different speeds and rhythms. He said what he wanted; but also why he wanted it. Surely that is the key to an inspirational teacher.
In the late 1960s I was running a textile business. At that time the fashion in management was accountancy. Clever and creative accountancy equalled good management. My problem was to improve the performance of the business by speeding up delivery, 1603 giving better service and improving quality—problems that accountancy could not solve. A lone voice was saying that performance could be improved by what we would now call "empowering" people through training and consultation. The voice was that of Wilfred Brown. He was putting his ideas into practice at Glacier Metal, and he was generous enough to teach others his methods of improving performance and breaking down barriers. He allowed me to do what would today be called a benchmarking exercise. Perhaps that was because I was not a competitor, but what he taught me gave my company a competitive advantage over many years. He was my business teacher, my guru. He was forward-looking, generous with his time and enthusiastic about his ideas—all signs of a good teacher. Of course, Wilfred Brown was a Minister in the Labour Government of the 1960s. He renewed my interest in the Labour Party. And it was through him that I met my political teacher.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, economists were saying that the price of a strong and sound economy was greater social division and more inequality. Indeed, some still say that. To me, that only encouraged divisions between workers and employers, to the obvious detriment of the economy. Enter the final teacher whose memory I should like to honour—John Smith. He turned the economics of division on its head and taught that decency and fairness went hand in-hand with a sound economy. He taught us that fairness and equality of opportunity were the basis of a good economy, offering people the opportunity to give of their best. It encouraged change over tradition. His teaching increased our efforts to bring business and the Labour Party together. Those decent values not only characterised the man; they are also at the centre of the economic and social policies of today from which we all benefit.
Those are the four important teachers whom I should like to remember. They taught self-confidence and morality. They inspired good practice and decent values. They were rich and lasting lessons. I benefited from the creativity about which the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, spoke.
I doubt that my teachers were conscious of the impact they were making at the time. For their own personal reasons, they taught with generosity, imagination and thoughtfulness. I can only honour teachers by telling the House about them—the "fine words" referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry. The Government can honour them by giving them what they want and deserve recognition, encouragement and support for the important work they do.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Baroness Sharp of Guildford
My Lords, I join others in congratulating the right reverend Prelate on his maiden speech, which I found wise and thought-provoking. I look forward to further contributions that he will make to debates in this House.
I should like too to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, and thank her for initiating, this important debate. She made an excellent introductory speech, in 1604 which she summed up so many of the problems that confront us today on this issue. The subject of the debate is the importance of teachers. It took me back to a work that I read in the 1970s and which the noble Baroness will know; namely, Michael Rutter's first major research report, which I believe was entitled 400,000 Hours. It dealt with the performance of a series of schools in and around Greater London. It was published at a time when it was generally said that performance could be explained entirely by income and social class. Michael Rutter showed clearly in his study that schools mattered—and not only that schools mattered: teachers mattered. The more deprived the area, the more the teacher mattered. For a child, it is self-image and self-aspiration that count so much in achievement. In deprived areas teachers are vital in setting the self-image of a child and making it believe that it can go further and achieve a little more.
If teachers are so important why do we not nurture and trust them to a greater extent? Like most people in this Chamber, I know a good number of teachers. I am a governor of a small primary school in the north of Guildford. As numeracy governor, on Monday evening together with all the teachers and the head teacher of that school I attended what was called a twilight training session. We had a session with a trainer from 3.30 to 5.30 on the numeracy hour. I found it interesting but I had come to it fresh. Those teachers had been teaching all day long, and most of them then went home to families with young children. They had to feed the family, supervise homework, get sports kit ready and do all the things that mums have to do. On top of that, they spent another two hours marking work that had been done that day. I noted that the top class teacher I met took home two sets of 30 books to mark, and prepared lessons for next day.
The job involves long hours and is not very well paid, although pay is better than it used to be. It is desperately hard work, and to an extent the task is becoming harder. The school of which I am a governor is in the more deprived part of Guildford and has always had a number of difficult children, but every year there are more and more disturbed children who disrupt the classes. If one asks the teachers why they do it, they will say it is certainly not for the money. They really do not know why they do it except that it is for the children. They love their classes and get real satisfaction from raising the sights of children and seeing them achieve that little bit more. That is the creativity of which the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, spoke earlier.
Yet morale is rock bottom. Why? At the moment, however hard they try their reward seems to be further tests, targets, reports to be written and forms to he filled in to justify what they are doing and why. League tables are fine if the school is in a nice middle-class area with supportive parents and is at the top. One gets a real kick from being at the top of the league table. But value added tables, which are the ones that count in my school, are in their infancy. Governors see them but they are not published. In a small one-form entry primary school, which can provide the support and help that so many children from disturbed 1605 backgrounds need, it is all too easy to have three disruptive boys in one class who can reduce one's performance in the league table in no time at all.
To cap it all, the Government propose to move to performance-related pay. Does the Minister not understand that when one does not do the job for money the reward is the collegiality; that is, the sense of being part of a team and working together to achieve common goals? For that reason, many one-form entry schools will not be bidding for performance-related pay because effectively it spoils the team and destroys that collegiality. The Government may find that they have gone one step too far and have destroyed the one thing that holds the profession together.
I finish by quoting from a speech given last year by the Prime Minister to the National Association of Head Teachers:I know that … what we are trying to do … will succeed or fail on the efforts of individual teachers in every classroom in the country".The Prime Minister knows what we mean, but there is a great danger that at the end of the day, as a result of the measures that the Government are pushing through, their plans will be undermined by a failure to recruit and retain the teachers that they need. As the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, made clear, we must trust our teachers and respect their professionalism.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Massey of Darwen
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, for raising such an important issue and sharing some, but not all, of her concerns. I, too, congratulate the right reverend Prelate on his incisive contribution. For about 20 years I was a teacher mainly in secondary schools but also in pre-school settings. I became a teacher because the importance of teachers was clear to me from an early age. As a working-class child from the north of England, certainly I would not have gone to university had it not been for the inspiration and guidance of teachers. Their talents were not simply the imparting of knowledge and academic excellence but their communication skills and attention to positive relationships with pupils.
As the Lebanese philosopher Kahil Gibran said, the valuable teacher is one who can lead you to "the threshold of your own mind". I, too, am a school governor of a London primary school where over 50 per cent of the children receive free school meals. That gives an idea of the level of deprivation. Yet that school performs extremely well in the league table for academic achievement—better than many middle class schools in the same area. Why is that? Under the visionary leadership of a head teacher there is a commitment to purposeful learning, motivating children and an emphasis on personal, social and health education which contributes to the positive ethos of the school. Teachers do not work in isolation but as a team with school helpers from the community. Parents, too, are involved by the school in their children's education.
1606 The school promotes a culture of achievement in both academic and social terms and children of many cultures, faiths, languages and abilities are encouraged to reach high standards. Therefore, two important aspects go together: good teaching and good school management. Teachers in that school are not negative about their jobs and are creative. They were years ahead of the literacy scheme referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, and have simply built on it.
School governors as well as schools are deluged with information, and I recognise that that is daunting. I was encouraged, however, to receive recently two pieces of information. The first was a letter to chairs of governors from David Blunkett stating that the funding available to schools this year and next would be increased by £1.1 billion, with an extra £50 million from DfEE resources to support school budgets, an extra £500 million grant and £450 million to support pay increases for teachers. There was also ring-fenced money for nursery provision and class size reduction.
The second piece of information was a document to governors from the Qualification and Curriculum Authority and the Centre for the Study of Comprehensive Schools. That document discussed performance data and the ways that that could be used by governors to set targets. It included questions to ask schools, action to take and suggestions for monitoring change. All of those matters are essential in raising standards and encouraging dialogue between governors and their schools. I believe that a commitment to excellence for the many, not just the few, through a combination of pressure and support will increase levels of learning and teaching. It also demonstrates an emphasis on the importance of teachers.
Recently, I asked a number of friends who are teachers or headteachers about their response to the Government's strategy for education. They complain about paperwork and about difficulties in recruitment, but point out that newly qualified teachers may find some schools difficult places in which to start their careers; hence the case for improvement in schools. However, they are unanimous in believing that performance management, target setting and curriculum guidance will improve standards for all children.
Teacher satisfaction comes from seeing children do better than expectations and perform well. Teachers know that they are important in this. Policies at national and local level, strategies and guidelines which support good teaching are vital to success. They need not be constraining. A recent Ofsted inspection in my school consulted parents, teachers and governors and confirmed our confidence in the school.
Research quoted by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, from the Institute of Education—it was actually called Fifteen Thousand Hours—conducted in the late 1970s demonstrated the difference schools can made to children's lives. I believe that such research would be relevant today. Teachers are important and all children are entitled to effective teaching and well-managed schools.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Lord Pilkington of Oxenford
My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, I came from a working-class family in the north and I owe everything to the teaching that I received. I have spent the whole of my adult life teaching, first, in an African boarding school, then in a secondary modern school and then in schools of which the Minister may not approve. However, I can assure her that her noble colleagues were not an easy task to teach in their youth!
All of us can accept the truth of my noble friend's Motion; the importance of teachers. But because of my experience, I must be realistic. I am not accusing other speakers of failing to do so, but when one has been at the chalk-face, realism and practicality are high in one's sense of priorities—and even, at times, is a certain criticism. Because of the importance of teaching, it is crucial that only the best fitted for the role are admitted to the profession. As any practising teacher knows, above all they must be in command of their subjects, whatever they are.
In my experience, disorder and failure often spring from a teacher's weakness in the subject he or she is trying to teach. Pupils are inspired and enthused, and are orderly in consequence, only if their teacher has a knowledge and depth of understanding of his subject. In that context, it would be useful, although costly, if the Government could consider introducing subject teaching at pre-secondary level. It is hard to expect teachers to give imaginative teaching of mathematics to pupils under 11 if the limit of their own achievement was a grade C at GCSE. I accept the Government's initiative in imposing more demanding tests on trainee teachers.
However, if we are to fulfil our duty to our children, we must attract talented graduates to the profession. That means increasing the prestige which teachers enjoy. In the end, it will, I fear, mean paying them more. True, they are paid more than they were, but a graduate teacher will receive less than a secretary. The difference between the salary of my eldest daughter who teaches in Tower Hamlets and that of her sister who works in advertising is about £15,000 a year—and my eldest daughter does a more demanding task.
The top priority for the new General Teaching Council is to give attention to the need to give the profession the respect, importance and prestige that other professions enjoy. Following the praise that has been given to teachers, I must enter a small note of criticism. Of course respect can only be given if it is earned. And we must recognise that, so far as concerns society, in part teachers have suffered from the fact that in their training from the 1960s onwards many teachers' colleges emphasised the most progressive choices, practices and theories.
I accept that teaching must be creative and none of us would support reaching by rote, but the methods which prevailed in the 1960s and 1970s essentially rejected many of the previous structures and followed the ideas of American professors of the early century such as Dewey which suggested that learning should be caught rather than imposed. At the turn of the century 1608 in his university school in Chicago, Dewey taught mathematics by playing at shops in school rather than doing whole-class teaching. Those ideas may work in small classes of children of university lecturers, but they are less effective in a class of 30 in Bethnal Green.
In a sense, a balance was found on the continent. We must pay regard to the continent because its teachers enjoy greater prestige than do ours in this country. It is not always teaching by rote and they were less touched by the more extreme progressive methods which governed some English teacher training colleges in the 1960s and 1970s.
The emphasis on greater informality and lack of structure was paralleled by a general development in society which has made the teachers' task more difficult; the collapse of hierarchy in the 1960s and 1970s. That had an effect, which we and the General Teaching Council must recognise, on the way in which society regarded teachers. We have ground to make up. Things are now changing and I appreciate that the Government and the Secretary of State recognise the problem and have tried to do something about it. However, it is important that teachers are trained to deal with the situation that they face and not moulded in audacious and revolutionary theories which are not sustainable in the tough world of the classroom.
Inspection is crucial and I strongly support the work of Ofsted. But it is also crucial that inspectors are carefully chosen. They must not be teachers who have fled the classroom. In parts of east London, they are known as the men in grey suits who sit at the back. Furthermore, I have grave doubts—and I echo those of other speakers—about whether the Government's tendency to feed out ever more documentation from the centre has much effect on improving standards. Too many trees die in vain.
There is a lot to do, but in the end an important step is to give individual schools more responsibility both financial, which is how they pay their teachers, and organisational, which is how they appoint their teachers. When that is done and the close collegiality which exists in schools is created, good schools are created. I have bored noble Lords with my praise of the London Oratory school, but it is an example of what can be achieved. That school in a tough, rough area of London does not just select the best. It has produced a transformation with its use of organisation and the reality with which it has faced its task.
It can be done. We are not in an antagonistic situation. Teachers have problems to overcome and we can help them. They are not all good—they need patting on the back and occasionally they need a little rap over the knuckles, although it is forbidden.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Lord Smith of Clifton
My Lords, in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Perry of Southwark, on introducing this important and overdue debate, I want to make three points. One is general and two are specific. My general point revolves around the fact that during the past two decades successive governments have relentlessly pilloried school teachers 1609 as a failing profession which in one way or another has let the nation down. That attempt at character assassination of an entire profession has been totally counter-productive if ever its perpetrators thought that such castigation would improve educational standards.
Everyone desires a general raising of such standards, but lowering the morale of the very people who are meant to achieve that is not clever. In the first instance, you have to build with the bricks you have.
A concomitant of this tide of denigration, again on the part of successive governments, has been to impose a series of initiatives and changes, some worth while, others pernicious. Either way, cumulatively, these have compounded the stresses and strains felt in schools. Teachers have been subjected to a "double-whammy" reminiscent of practices devised behind the Iron Curtain: Soviet-style Gosplan edicts issued with the rapidity that characterised the "continuous revolution" strategy promulgated by the late Chairman Mao. To these, I should not be surprised to see added, a Napoleonic-type national timetable constructed just to round off the centralisation, indeed the nationalisation, of the entire school system.
It is all part and parcel of a cast of mind that has determined education policy at all levels, primary, secondary and tertiary, for far too long. This is well illustrated by remarks made by the Secretary of State following the announcement on 20th October 1998 of the creation of a head teachers' staff college. He actually said that his department,saw itself as the equivalent of regional group management with head teachers as its plant managers".The language employed is very revealing.
The cumulative effect of this unbridled innovativeness can be criticised on its own managerialist terms and edicts that has all but overwhelmed the teaching profession was never properly project managed. No one ever stood back to question whether the school system could absorb the plethora of changes and cope with the rate of change to which it was being subjected. As the famous economist, Joseph Schumpter, once aptly observed, governments,always plan too much and always think too little".The result to date reveals a demoralised profession, as other noble Lords have attested. Recruitment remains low. There are currently 500 vacancies in London alone and only last week an employment agency has been contracted to bring teachers from Wales to London on a daily basis. It gives a new meaning to the term "bussing" in the lexicon of education. Staff retention is problematic; headships are proving difficult to fill and the plastic and performing arts and team sports are being crowded out of the curriculum. The continuous barrage of reformism has nurtured within teaching—to coin a phrase—a culture of institutionalised fatigue.
My two specific points concern reforms which, in one case have had, and in the other will have, deleterious consequences. The first is the publication 1610 of league tables. They do little for the generality of schools. They are of use only to those parents who can afford to move to what, by the criteria used to compile the tables, are "good" catchment areas. The tables are utterly incapable, for example, of identifying those schools that really add value, serving the most deprived and disadvantaged localities. Struggle as they may, I am convinced that the statisticians in the DfEE will not be able to construct future tables that will be able satisfactorily to accommodate the value-added dimension and give it its due weighting.
Secondly, I wish to raise my voice along with other noble Lords, as regards the effect of performance-related pay, due to be introduced next September for those at the top of their pay scales. I could accept it for head teachers and others in senior management in our schools, but how on earth will the methodology of assessment be so refined that it can discriminate between, say, a team of teachers preparing pupils for key stage 4? As it is, no less than 200 full-time and 2,000 part-time assessors—a vast army of drones and inspectors, which is one of the growth industries of recent times—are being hurriedly empanelled, together with 30 regional co-ordinators (echoes of Gosplan) at salaries worth £40,000 per annum. Large consultancy fees are being paid to consultants for this exercise in futility—money which could be spent more effectively in our schools. It is high time teachers were allowed to regain their sense of being a profession in the fullest meaning of the definition.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Lord Puttnam
My Lords, I greatly echo the thanks of the House to the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, for making this evening's debate possible. She has given us something to live up to. I also congratulate the right reverend Prelate on his outstanding maiden speech.
I must begin by declaring several interests. I am chairman of the General Teaching Council, a member of the Government's Education Standards Task Force and chairman of the Teaching Awards Trust. Far more important than any of this is that, in common, I am sure, with most if not all of your Lordships, I declare an obsessive interest in the creation of a successful social and economic future for this country and an absolute conviction that the future rests to a quite extraordinary degree on the shoulders of a gifted and committed generation of schoolteachers. We need teachers with the ability to inform, to inspire and to illuminate. In short, we need teachers with the passion to pass on to every young person in their care an interest in, and a love of, learning sufficient to sustain them through the rest of their lives.
Looking ahead, the future of classroom practice will almost certainly be dramatically different for teachers and students alike. The changes will feel all the more dramatic given the relative lack of recent development in the methodology of teaching. A doctor from 1900, transported in a time machine to the year 2000, would have absolutely no chance of playing any active role whatsoever in a serious operation. The operating theatre itself would be an entirely alien environment—almost something of a space fantasy. But contrast that 1611 with a teacher from 1900. The children may look a little different, but give our teacher a piece of chalk, stand her in front of 30 faces and 30 desks, and she could deliver in most subjects what would be entirely recognisable as a lesson. The change that she would experience goes way beyond the mastery of any "technological" toolbox. The responsibilities of teachers are evolving to meet the changing needs of society.
In many inner-city environments, schools represent a sanctuary, a refuge even, for any number of children—those who, whether because of poverty or domestic discord, feel isolated from their own families. For many children, school is starting to feel more like home than home itself.
The Government have sensibly identified a new set of needs for a generation of young people who have no access to the traditional learning environment of the family. Now teachers must fill these social gaps by incorporating the fundamentals of citizenship and teaching basic responsibility for health. In doing so they are expected to supervise their pupils for ever longer hours before and after the traditional school day.
A fairly recent survey compared the greatest concerns of teachers in 1940 with those of their counterparts in 1990. The results are startling: those of the 1940s included running in the corridors, eating sweets and talking, out of turn, whereas the concerns of the 1990s are something quite different. They include assault, rape, robbery, suicide, pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse.
In the past 30 years the divorce rate has more than doubled and teenage suicide has increased by almost 300 per cent. In the US the number one health problem for women is now domestic violence. A quarter of all adolescents contract a sexually transmitted disease before they graduate from high school. We have here in Britain developed an impeccable record of mirroring the very least attractive social developments in the United States.
The time has come to acknowledge, with respect and gratitude, the changing social function of our teachers. In a variety of ways those responsible for preparing young people to meet the growing challenges of adulthood must undoubtedly become, if not the masters, then at the very least, the increasingly expert managers of change.
It has been estimated that by the year 2005, we shall need 150,000 additional teachers, presenting us with a very considerable recruitment challenge. I say "additional" because that allows for wastage and retirement from the existing workforce. It is to be hoped that the new pay scales for teachers, outlined in last year's Green Paper, are just the beginning of a radical rethink of the reward system of this, the most important of all our professions. However, there are other, more subtle and reflective facets to the recruitment issue than the straightforwardly financial.
Any definition of a "good education" must surely include confidence. Yet, the very people we look to as a source of confidence are also the profession which we 1612 as a society have tended to undermine more systematically than any other. If we are not criticising the recruitment of teachers, we are sneering at the quality of teachers. Our media seem also embarrassed to celebrate the hundreds of thousands of truly remarkable success stories, preferring instead the snappy headline that sensationalises a minuscule number of failures. For example, during the difficult period of 1996–97 when the Ridings School in Yorkshire was placed under special measures, over 300 articles appeared in the national press, blasting out the unequivocal message that we were facing the end of education as we know it.
However, thanks to Herculean efforts by a new head, she and her team have turned the school around. But, with good news out of fashion, that "mini-miracle" warranted just seven mentions in the national press two years later. Fortunately, the Government at least took notice, and I for one was delighted to see the efforts of the school recognised in this New Year's Honours List.
As I get older, I am inclined to agree with H L Mencken's view that for every complex problem, there is a simple answer—and it is usually wrong! There can be few problems as complex or as enduring as that presented by our education system. In 1908 approximately 16,000 new teachers were wanted but only 9,000 could be recruited. In 1944 the McNair report on the supply, recruitment and training of teachers concluded that:We are convinced that nothing but drastic reforms involving the expenditure of considerable additional sums of public money will secure what the schools need and what children and young people everywhere deserve".Therefore, the problem and the overarching solution have not shifted dramatically.
However, I draw one development to the attention of your Lordships. That is the establishment of, and the potential that may be offered by, the new general teaching council, which will become fully operational in September next year. I offer the following remarks by way of an invitation to your Lordships or to the Minister for any ideas, advice or even warnings. I see from the Clock that I shall need to ask for your Lordships' indulgence for a short while.
As I see it, the GTC has a role in meeting the challenges which face the teaching profession in at least three distinct ways. First, in comprising a majority of teachers, the council will set a benchmark of quality across the whole profession. Through the register of qualified professionals, a code of practice and advice on entry and subsequent career development, teachers will at last have a unified public voice, defined by knowledge, expertise and experience.
Secondly, many, if not most, of this Government's initiatives seek to raise standards by identifying and spreading excellent practice—that which has been tried and tested and shown to work in the classroom. The GTC must ensure that it establishes itself as a respected, creative and constructive voice that will, in the future, be instrumental in the very architecture of change and in decisions relating to the continuing professional development of every single teacher. As a 1613 result of that involvement and like any other profession, teachers should develop ownership of the mechanisms through which they are expected to raise the standards of achievement.
Thirdly, the GTC must prove itself an apolitical advocate for the representation of teachers as they truly are: expert and even, frequently, gifted professionals. The issues of morale and status must be a real priority. With a vastly improved and justifiable stature, a public voice and ever-improving standards for entry, I believe that many of the necessary ingredients exist for raising the public perception of this remarkable profession. The GTC must help to build the trust of the public by celebrating the best, publicising the good, and dealing swiftly, unequivocally and demonstrably with any breaches of that trust. Unfortunately, other key components, such as pay, fall well beyond the remit of the GTC. Here, we can but look to our colleagues in Her Majesty's Treasury for inspiration.
In closing, I sum up my contribution to the debate by reminding your Lordships that teachers, and only teachers, provide the foundations on which this nation's prosperity rests. That prosperity can then deliver us the well staffed, well resourced health service that we all want, and the humane, dignified and sustainable social security system that we all deserve. I should be interested to hear whether any of your Lordships present this evening can offer any formula for the future of a successful Britain that is not in every single respect built upon a generation of highly trained, highly skilled and brilliantly motivated teachers. I know it to be the determination of this Government to work with the teaching profession to achieve an education system for this country of which we can all be proud.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Blackburn
My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Perry of Southwark, for introducing this timely debate. I congratulate my brother Prelate the Lord Bishop of St Albans on giving what I knew would be and, indeed, proved to be an outstanding maiden speech. I welcome the foundation and the establishment of the GTC and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, as its first chairman.
As a former teacher who is now privileged to visit schools right across the educational spectrum—indeed, I began this day with numeracy hour in a school in a part of the world which will be well known to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen—I see at first hand the teachers' dedication, the enthusiasm for their task, their sheer professionalism, creative imagination and pastoral care for their pupils.
I believe it is sad that the quality of their work is often obscured by the attention drawn to the minority of teachers who, as in other professions, underperform. Standards are rising despite the pressures on our teachers. Those pressures in part stem from the fact that we have too few teachers. Therefore, 1614 last October I was delighted to share with people from the DEE, the TTA and many others in a day conference on the vocation to teach, hosted at Lambeth Palace by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In my own diocese of Blackburn, where education is a high priority, I decided to mark the new millennium by launching a specific appeal for people to consider whether they had a vocation to teach. As chairman of the Church of England Board of Education, I am sure that the recruitment and training of teachers will feature in the major review of Church of England schools which is to be chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, to whom we owe an immense debt of gratitude for all that he has done to improve our educational provision in this country.
However, there are real pressures on teachers which prevent them giving of their best and being "that loving authority", as I heard their role described recently at a seminar in Cape Town—one which gives the pupil a sense of security and cares for both the pupils and the subject they teach. Some might question whether, in reality, the present pressures on teachers are any greater than those on doctors, lawyers, the clergy or managers in industry and commerce. "Too much paper" is a constant refrain in school staff rooms. There is too much accountability in the form of returns to be completed. Those things can sap even the best teachers' enthusiasm for their work. T S Eliot asked:Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?Do we want our teachers to educate and to bring out the best in their pupils, or do we want some lesser, if important, purpose; namely, for them to train our youngsters to earn a living?
However, I detect, as have other noble Lords, some significant pressures on the staff in our schools. The first has gone on for years under both administrations. Through a proper desire to obtain the best for the youngsters and for society, new ideas have been thrust upon the schools. I suspect that few of them have been allowed to be tried for a generation to see what the outcome might be before the next educational panacea to our ills has been introduced. I favour the national curriculum. But I know how many things have been introduced without our teachers being given the necessary time from their ongoing work to assimilate change and to adjust to what is required. The result is that fatigue creeps in. Since, unlike the Palace of Westminster, there are no hiding places in a classroom, even good teachers can become jaded. The management of change requires additional time, money and resources. If we are honest, those have often been lacking.
Secondly, it is entirely proper that parents, taxpayers and others know how things are going in our schools, and that weak and ineffective staff are weeded out. We do not want them. Ofsted has much to commend it. However, like the rest of us, the inspectors are not always right. Some do not have much clue about the pressures in particular areas in which the schools are situated. Some seem more 1615 interested in the number of policy statements that a school can collect than in pastoral ca re of the pupils. Some do not listen. There is evidence to suggest that they come with their own specific agenda.
My question to the Minister is whether all that needs to be quite so public. There are newspaper articles in local papers which target individuals who have little opportunity to reply. That is set alongside league tables which fail to show the value-added achievement of schools in Blackburn, Preston and inner cities where for many of the pupils English is not their first language. Such matters put unnecessary pressures on some of our best head teachers and their staff.
The clergy tell me that they spend a good deal of time pre-Ofsted and post-Ofsted giving pastoral help to teachers who feel less than valued by the process.
The third area of pressure on teachers is much more difficult to describe and, I suspect, address. The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, referred to it. It can be summed up in two words—over-expectation. Sadly, there are many problems in society and most of them find their way, through the children, into the classroom. Pupils experience poverty, violence, child abuse, racism, family breakdown, and so on. But to that must be added the tendency to believe that if parents, the law, the Church and faith communities and the Government cannot solve those problems and create that decent society which we all desire, then the schools will do so.
In that way, citizenship is added to the curriculum. It seems that training for parenthood is to be next. There is a list of good ideas which is almost endless. But it is not reason able to expect teachers to deal with those matters in a society in which, despite the valiant efforts of people like Dr Nick Tate, the QCA, the Churches and others, there is no generally accepted moral and spiritual framework of values. That is a great change from when I was in the classroom. Teachers are expected to make up for the deficiencies which others detect in the upbringing of the young but without an agreed moral framework within which to do that, let alone compete with the pressures of home, the television, peer groups, and so on.
An increasing number of parents turn to church schools to provide what they require. On the other hand, I know that it these days of political correctness, it can be tough for Christian teachers and pupils to be open about their faith in some community schools. Nevertheless, teachers of all subjects do and must realise that their words and example influence the lives of impressionable children and young people and, as such, they bear an awesome responsibility for the future.
I speak as chair of the governor of St Martins, Lancaster, which is one of the largest providers of ITT. I hope that during initial teacher training, the help will be given, which is desperately needed at the present time. I hope that on Inset days, those problems will be addressed.
1616 Teachers must be women and men of hope whose values and commitment to service will inspire others and help to create a caring society. Teaching must be a vocation and not simply a job of work to be done.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Lord Dormand of Easington
My Lords, in my early days as a chief officer, we had no sophisticated method for the payment of teachers like sending a cheque by post or putting a payment directly into their bank accounts. It was much more simple than that. The head teacher of the school was sent a cheque which would cover the salaries of all the teachers in the school at that time. The head teacher would pop down to the local Co-op—this was in the north-east, of course—cash the cheque and then put the money into envelopes. The head teacher would then trot round and put the envelope on the teacher's desk. On one occasion, there was a six year-old who was watching what was going on with great curiosity. He said to the teacher at the desk, "What is that?" The teacher said, "It is my pay". The little six year-old, with even more curiosity, said, "Oh, where do you work?" That demonstrates a number of things. But the child obviously thought that it was a great pleasure and joy for the teacher to come to school and have the privilege of teaching him.
Most people accept the importance of teachers. But the real question is: what can be done to improve, and improve substantially, the status and importance of teachers in society and particularly in the view of parents. The fact that there is a continuing shortage of teachers, particularly in some specialist areas and in some secondary schools, is a clear indication that teaching does not appeal to many younger people.
The Government have made strenuous efforts to improve the situation and to recruit more teachers. The recent campaign which had the theme that no one forgets a good teacher was excellent. I praise the Government for that. There has been an increase in recruitment since that campaign started. But much remains to be done.
Two major steps have been taken in recent years to enhance the status of teachers. First, making teaching a graduate profession was of great importance. For a long time the emphasis was on training rather than on education. Effective training was and is of crucial importance. But society must see teaching as requiring high academic standards. In my view, that has not necessarily been the case in the past.
The degrees of B.Ed and M.Ed and the postgraduate Diploma in Education are not yet, I fear, firmly established in the minds of people concerned about education. But I am optimistic about the future.
Secondly, establishing general teaching councils in England and Wales is an achievement which some of us have advocated for many years. I am delighted that the present Government recognised the importance of the councils so quickly and had the provision placed on the statute book so soon. The councils are independent of government and will reflect the views of teachers. They will provide advice to governments 1617 on initial teacher education, induction and the professional enrolment of teachers. They will be responsible for registering all qualified teachers. Registration will be a requirement for employment as a teacher in maintained schools in England and Wales.
The GTCs will have powers to discipline or deregister teachers on the grounds of professional misconduct or serious incompetence. As a former chief officer, I can say that that is of great value.
It is crucial that personal conduct and behaviour should be a measure of that importance, not least because teachers are dealing with young people. Misconduct by teachers tends to receive a great deal of publicity, much more than, for example, solicitors and doctors, although the medical profession has received its fair share of adverse publicity in recent months.
I mention that because it is a self-discipline to which teachers are subjected and they are remarkably successful considering the thousands of them doing a very difficult job day in, day out.
There is another practical way in which the importance of teachers can be recognised; that is, by the greater employment of teachers' assistants. Much of their work, although not all, is of a physical nature, usually, although not always, carried out before and after lessons. It is work which should not be done by teachers simply because it takes time away from the professional duties of the teacher. I hope that my noble friend understands—and I am sure she does—how much teachers appreciate such assistance. I was heartened by the recent announcement by the Minister in another place that there is to be not only a major increase in the number of teachers' assistants but—and this is of equal importance—also that they will receive appropriate training for the work.
I repeat, but not in detail, what has been said by noble Lords about the number of forms, returns, questionnaires and so on to be completed. When talking to teachers, one finds that they all make the same complaint. I hope that the Government will recognise that and do something about it. The work, professionalism and time of teachers is far too important to have it curtailed by such time-consuming matters which are not directly related to teaching.
The importance of teachers is self-evident. It has been repeated many times in the debate so far. It is self-evident to many of us. But it is the duty of society, through Parliament, through local authorities and universities and colleges to ensure that their value is maximised. That will require continuing examination of their work and how it is done. That should be done not in a critical sense but in a positive and constructive way and done with full consultation with teachers.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, I believe passionately in the importance of teachers. I am most certainly not a teacher, although I was married to a distinguished one for over 30 years.
1618 However, when the French master in my husband's school was ill, I was given the opportunity to teach a class of boys who would never make French scholars. I began with the novel that they had already started reading about two characters, Georges et Cecille. Of course, my pupils took the mickey out of me, insisting that George kissed Cecil.
A change was indicated. I thought that it would be useful for the boys to translate articles from French newspapers. That ploy did not last long, owing to the undesirable articles that they chose to translate!
Finally, I struck gold. I remembered that my brother had once told me that he had turned to his dinner date remarking that he hated sweetbreads and promptly ordered riz de veaux, so I thought that the most useful thing I could teach those boys was how to read a French menu. That was a great success and the term ended with the entire class and myself cooking the most outrageous lunch in my kitchen. The guest of honour was my husband. The campus was denuded of flowers for the table and an impeccable menu was put in front of every participant.
A postscript to that experience is that I had overlooked the fact that I would have to write something in each boys' report. To this day, I hope that some of those 15 boys are grateful to me for writing:This boy should be sent to Paris to find out what life is all about"!Seriously, what I have described certainly taught me a little about the patience, humour and tenacity needed to be a teacher. Over and over again I have heard people pay tribute to a particular teacher whose special efforts provoked their curiosity and sparked off the interest and love of a subject which have remained with them throughout their lives.
That influence or encouragement can be started at the beginning of schooling. The primary school teacher who senses when a child has difficulties and who puts in that extra effort and commitment is as important as the sixth-form teacher or indeed the university tutor.
These days one becomes outdated so quickly that I hesitate to mention that in the past I was a governor of two secondary modern schools in Cambridge as well as a school that was then known as an approved school. Far too often people forget the amount of extracurricular activities undertaken by teachers and they are unaware of the extra work involved in adapting to frequent government changes to the curriculum.
Often people ignore the physical dangers that teachers may face in poorer parts of the country. Bullying does not occur only on a pupil-to-pupil basis. On occasion, children may try things on with a young and inexperienced teacher. What the Army used to call "dumb insolence" is indeed one of the most difficult aspects of life that a teacher must overcome.
My husband was headmaster of the Leys School in Cambridge for 17 happy years, where it was not always easy for the teachers to teach the rather moderate sons of Nobel prize winners who had great aspirations for 1619 them. Incidentally, that school was the inspiration for the book Goodbye Mr Chips, written by an old boy. Several Members of this House and the other place were pupils of my husband. Indeed, he always said that Douglas Hurd was his brainiest pupil.
Married life in three different boys' schools, in one as an assistant master's wife and in two as the wife of the headmaster, gave me ample opportunity to observe teachers and in most cases to admire their dedication and mastery of their subjects. As a profession, teachers are far too often underrated. Surely, it is right to change an old saying: behind every great man is a great teacher.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Baroness Linklater of Butterstone
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, for calling our attention to this most crucial subject. I congratulate the right reverend Prelate on a marvellous maiden speech.
Nothing is more important than the lives and future prospects of our children, and their experiences of the teachers that they encounter on the way is pivotal. Albert Einstein said:It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge".I hope that we have all known one or two who have opened our eyes and influenced our lives for the better.
I shall never forget Miss Menzies in my first, one-teacher school in Butterstone village who was a much loved, much respected and well remembered figure in the community. I have also seen children whose teachers have unwittingly failed to understand their difficulties or meet their particular needs. That is the experience of the "educationally fragile" children when they come to the school that I founded in Perthshire.
That school is also a graphic example of the potential that good teachers have to transform the lives and prospects of children for whom, in our case, life had hitherto been nothing but a struggle. In a learning environment that suits them and with teaching that suits their learning styles, they discover that they are capable of more than they ever dreamed of. This year our first pupil went to university. Through the teachers at the school, joy in creative expression and knowledge is a reality.
I want to concentrate on the issue of the professional development of teachers and of head teachers in particular. It is, of course, vitally important in the careers of all teachers, but if anything this is particularly true for head teachers whose role and influence is so critical in any establishment, whatever its size.
If head teachers are to grow and develop, if they are to be in a position to keep up with the demands of society both globally and locally, if they are simply to be able to top up their skills, knowledge and awareness, and if they are to develop into that relatively rare animal the "reflective practitioner", the regular provision of professional development is essential.
1620 It seems extraordinary that only in the past few years has the availability of any training in a national or coherent way become established. The national professional qualification for headship followed by headlamp is now available for aspiring heads and those on their first appointment, but the leadership programme for serving heads is only one year-old and not available to every head teacher. The fact that the Education Secretary has said that the qualification for aspiring heads will become mandatory by 2002, and that there are plans to have a national college for school leadership by the autumn is greatly welcomed.
The same process is taking place in Scotland, where we have had a GTC for some time. Indeed the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc. Bill was laid before the Scottish Parliament on Thursday. The national qualification for headship is only just coming on stream for aspiring heads—it is also likely to become mandatory—and a development programme for serving heads is still at the concept stage. In Scotland, ideas have not yet gelled on what form a national staff college may take.
Professor John Tomlinson's definitive contribution to the debate on inclusive learning revolves around achieving a better understanding of the differing learning styles of people of all ages and abilities, and also the importance of creating the most appropriate educational environment for individuals to achieve the most effective outcomes. I believe that not only does his thinking apply to all learners, but it can also he usefully applied to teachers and their development. One parallels the other.
If we are to maximise the uses of head teacher training, provision must take account of the individual needs of heads, including their strengths and weaknesses, in the multi-layered role that they have to play. After all, they are required not only to be educators and managers, but also businessmen and women, PR people, fund raisers and above all leaders. Those skills have to be deployed in a vast range of settings from small rural schools to large inner urban comprehensives and specialist schools.
Therefore, to be meaningful all these factors have to be taken into account if the potential of head teachers is to be maximised. Professional development programmes will have to address the individual needs and circumstances of individual heads. Head teachers' development needs run parallel with those of the children whom they teach, and the environment in which they all teach and learn. Ultimately, the status and respect in which the profession should be held by society will be enhanced by the growth in skills, professionalism and quality of teachers, thus providing more opportunity for the Miss Menzies of this world to shine through.
I have been involved in the creative writing prize in Scotland called the Pushkin Prizes. Each year the Russian children we meet speak openly and easily about the respect they have for their teachers and how much they value their school—not a common experience in this country. I am also a trustee of the Esmee Fairbairn Trust which made available £750,000 1621 in 1999–2000 for projects designed to promote the professional development of head teachers, for which bids came in from throughout the country. The final 12 projects selected, of remarkable range and quality involving 215 schools, demonstrated the value placed on such an opportunity for quality reflection and development time with fellow professionals. I hope that the outcomes will ultimately help to develop skills as well as the status and respect that our teachers surely deserve.
Despite all the competing demands and claims on resources, I urge the Government to put added commitment as well as cash into this still terribly undeveloped but hugely productive and important area of teachers' lives.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
My Lords, I am grateful for the chance to contribute to this debate from the Cross-Benches after the party speakers have all spoken. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness. I was delighted to hear her say so many good things about teachers which I firmly believe myself. I hope she will not take it amiss if I say that calling attention to the importance of teachers is akin to praising motherhood. There are few people who would disagree with the sentiment. Yet for some reason in this country we never seem to accord the profession the support and status that it deserves. We are quick to blame teachers for the ills of society when things go wrong. When things go right, and this country enjoys success of whatever kind, I have never heard our schools praised for their part in it.
I taught for some years in the secondary sector; first, in a very traditional boys' public school, and then in a small-town comprehensive. On teaching practice, and later as an LEA education officer, I saw something of the problems that teachers face in really difficult areas and my admiration for them knew, and knows, no bounds.
At the best of times teaching is a demanding job; "desperately hard work" in the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. I shall never forget the first few days in my first school. For sheer pace I can only compare it to one's introduction to army life: my feet hardly touched the ground for a week. I think there are two things which outsiders do not grasp, even when the workload and commitment are generally accepted. One is that the initiative in the classroom lies with the teacher the whole time. There is no let-up. It is as if one spent one's working day chairing a succession of meetings with people many of whom would much rather not be there. The toll in nervous energy can be extreme, as has been shown in objective medical tests of stress taken in the school holidays—those holidays that are often criticised for their length but are barely sufficient for recharging batteries and catching up on one's own affairs.
The second factor is that the teachers run their schools. There is no separate cadre of administrators to attend to health and safety, order the necessary 1622 teaching aids, set up parents' evenings and so on. The teaching staff do it all, on top of their classroom work. Secretarial support is virtually non-existent. As for the costs of such work, I well remember a local business friend saying to a head teacher in my presence, "You'll put that down to expenses, of course?", and the cultural shock this produced in a milieu where there is little money for basics, let alone expenses, and teachers stand much of the cost of materials and car mileage out of their own pockets, as they always have done.
So why is all this not generally recognised? Well, sometimes it is, but for some time now, as has been said, we have been in a climate of blame where the pendulum has swung, as pendulums do, towards one end of the educational spectrum. The seeds were sown of course when it was at the other end, back in the 1960s and 1970s. I believe this period has not received its due. I was trained as a teacher in those times and, in contrast to what the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, said, they were not all bad. There was a liveliness, a questioning, an enthusiasm in the profession which did not sell our children quite as short as is now claimed. Above all, there was a reaction to a certain dry, fact-and memory-based approach to learning which I believe was overdue. I have taught in both modes, and I can assure your Lordships that it is a great deal easier to sit your class down and tell them to open their Whitmarsh at page 51 and work through the first four exercises than it is to produce something imaginative which will make them want to become lifelong learners as opposed to passing their GCSE with a minimum grade.
Teachers then were trying to do something more difficult than their predecessors had done, and they deserve recognition for it. It went too far, as pendulums do. There is no question of that. As a linguist I had an uphill battle persuading some pupils that you had to learn lists of vocabulary if you were going to get anywhere with the subject. But the good that came out of those times should not be overlooked, however unfashionable it may appear in a different climate.
The reaction to the '60s and '70s has been compounded by perceptions of falling standards. As someone whose interests have recently moved towards healthcare, which aims to be research-based, I am often appalled by the poor quality of evidence for so much that is claimed about schools. This is not a criticism of educational researchers, but of the readiness of opinion-formers and policy-makers to draw sweeping conclusions from the slenderest of bases.
I simply do not believe that the situation in schools has been as dire as it is often painted, nor that teachers deserve the opprobrium that is heaped upon them. One of the worst offenders, I am sorry to say, has been The Times, which for years has run a relentless crusade against the maintained sector, characterised by an absence of sound evidence, frequent misunderstanding of the issues, and a technique of highlighting failures while leaving to the small print, if at all, any mention of success. The constant repetition of this kind of thing 1623 has had its effect—the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, made something of this point—on public opinion as well as on teacher morale.
We have had two decades now of radical change, with a tidal wave of legislation (in some of which I have been involved in your Lordships' House) which has kept the ground constantly moving under teachers' feet, accompanied by a rise in form-filling and general paperwork in schools which has been unprecedented. I am no more claiming that all reforms, in their conception at any rate, have been bad (for example, the GTC) than I would claim that everything a generation ago was good. But the whole thing has been overblown. The pendulum has swung too far, and against a background of declining family values teachers are under greater pressure than they have ever been. That is not ultimately good for our children.
It is not surprising that many schools cannot get the staff they need. There will not be a supply of teachers unless the profession is seen as a desirable place to be. It will not be so seen unless pay, working conditions and general resourcing are acceptable; unless a period o F stability is introduced, with future change the subject of thorough consultation; unless, as the noble Baroness emphasised, teachers' creativity is encouraged; and, above all, unless teachers are given full credit for the good and difficult things that they do, and the habit of destructive criticism is reined in. This is the best way we can call attention to the importance of teachers.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Lord Tope
My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, not just for initiating this debate; not even for what was an excellent opening speech, with every word of which I agreed (which is rare with speaker; on the Benches on which she sits, but she summarised the position exceptionally well); but also for giving us a debate where every single speech has been excellent and to the point, at least so far. We heard an excellent maiden speech from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, and also from his colleague whose speeches on this subject I always enjoy.
I must start by declaring some interests and non-interests. I have frequently said in these debates that I am married to a teacher. I do not believe I have before confessed that I met her in her second year at teacher training college; I lived through teacher training. I have lived through every change, good and bad, in the teaching profession in schools for the past 27 years, so I have a little idea of the effects of those changes.
I have a rather sad non-interest in that my 25 year-old son graduated with a first-class degree last summer and a place at teacher training college. He chose not to take it up. I have had discussions with him and his friends about why and, sadly, in that we have so much in common.
I have never stood to teach in a classroom in my life. In that I am uncommon in this debate. It struck me that most of the people speaking in this debate at least have personal experience of what it is like to be at what 1624 in this House we probably still call the "chalk face"—I suspect a rather old-fashioned term. I have never done that, but for most of the past 25 years I have been a school governor and for the last five or six years I have been a governor of a fairly small junior school in the ward I represent on the council—a council on which I served as leader for 13 years. It is of course a local education authority. So I have enough experience to know and to have a strong view about the role of a politician in education and the role of a teacher in education.
We spend a large sum of money, though not enough, on training teachers to be professionals, and we need to treat them as professionals. It is not my job as a politician who has not been trained as a professional teacher to tell teachers how to teach or even what to teach. My job, and the job of all of us in our political roles, is to provide the resources, the framework and above all the climate in which teachers can be enabled to do the job for which they have been trained.
That is the root of what has been coming through from speaker after speaker in this debate. It is about climate. There is a common view in this country that morale in the teaching profession is low. We have been saying that it is at rock bottom for as long as I can remember, and it is undoubtedly low. Many teachers are exhausted and many of them of my age and generation are longing for retirement. Indeed, not so long ago the Government had to take measures to tackle the problems caused by so many teachers taking early retirement.
We know about the difficulties in recruitment and we know about the efforts of the Government and of the Teacher Training Agency to try to tackle recruitment problems. In some geographical areas and in some subject areas we know there is certainly a crisis. The measures which have been taken to combat that, while bringing some improvements, have certainly not solved the crisis. If it is a problem now, it is going to be an even greater problem in 10 or 15 years' time when teachers coming into the profession now are taking up senior positions. So my concern is not just for now but for the problem that will have to he faced in our schools in 10 or 15 years' time.
I am based in London and I know that the problem is particularly acute there. We are concerned not only about the quality of teachers, but one difficulty is that teachers simply cannot afford to live in London and the south east of England. They have a different quality of life in other parts of the country. Why on earth a young person should wish to come to teach in a London school, with all the stresses and strains of the job and also those of trying to pay for even basic accommodation in London, I simply do not know.
Other problems on which there is a common view today include initiative overload. We have initiatives, initiatives, initiatives. Some of them are very good: I acknowledge that. Some are indifferent and some, I would say, are bad. In one sense that almost does not matter because there are just too many initiatives. That is the point. Perhaps I could say in parenthesis that letters from the Secretary of State sent to each school 1625 telling them how much extra money they are going to get do not help. They are at best grossly misleading and simply set the school against the education authority, the education authority against the Government, and so on, in a vicious spiral.
There has been too much measuring and testing. The justification for testing—and none of us is against it as such—must surely be to improve the child's education and not to provide information for a government to use, and sometimes to misuse. Much has been said about league tables. They too are misleading. I come from an education authority which, mostly because of our geographical situation but also because of the quality of teaching, is almost always at the top of the league tables. It is wonderful to be at the top and of course I would rather be there than at the bottom, but those league tables are misleading. If we are going to have them at all—and I would much rather we did not—we need to concentrate on finding effective tables that measure added value. Then my local education authority would have a much harder job getting to the top of the table. Of course I hope it will and I shall do my best to help it to get there.
Performance-related pay has also been talked about. I worry about that. As an idea, I am not strongly against it: it is not unknown in many other professions and occupations. However, I have come to worry more and more about the way in which it will be implemented. It is a question of the practical effect. As it happens, on Sunday evening at home my wife and I were talking about the effect that she thinks PRP could have within her small infants school. I suspect that it will take the decision—it has not done so yet—that my noble friend's school has taken: that it will not go for PRP simply because it will be so divisive and destructive to the team which is necessary to run a small school.
We have during the debate perhaps been a little long on the problems and a little short on the solutions: 'twas ever so, and I do not suggest there is any quick fix. This problem has not come about in just the past few years, so certainly I cannot talk about any quick fix. However, I suggest that the most popular initiative the Government could take would be to declare an initiative-free period. If they were to announce tonight—and I offer this to the Minister—that there will be no more new initiatives for perhaps 12 months, I guarantee the Minister instant popularity with the teaching profession.
We need to change the climate; we need to concentrate on raising and praising, not naming and shaming. There is nothing more undermining to teachers than to talk about bad teachers. Yes, there are bad teachers, but they are a tiny minority and the people who feel most strongly about bad teachers are other teachers. We need praising and raising. Let us stop undermining. We need to encourage creativity. The national curriculum is here to stay, I acknowledge that; but it needs to be a lot more flexible and a lot less prescriptive. We need to encourage the creativity that others have talked about.
1626 The General Teaching Council we have discussed here many times over many years has a most important role to play. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, is to be its first chair. I wish him and his colleagues every success. It is vital for it to succeed and for us to demonstrate that we are treating teachers as professionals.
On recruitment, if we are to attract bright young graduates—and I have to say that not all graduates going into teaching are those with the highest qualifications—into post-graduate teaching we have to grasp the nettle. I acknowledge it is rather an expensive nettle but we ought to pay them an actual training salary. Other professions do it. The police do it and it is common in industry. If we really value teachers then we need to show that at the beginning and be prepared to pay the students a training salary. We must tackle the problem of relocation expenses. Perhaps I may ask the Minister in conclusion whether it would be possible to allow relocation expenses to be payable from the standards funds.
This has been a useful and important debate. If it becomes known to the teaching profession, which I fear it may not, it would do something to increase morale. The title of the debate refers to the importance of teachers and, to quote the noble Baroness who introduced it, now is the time to turn our fine words into fine deeds. I believe that all of us in public life have a role to play in that. It is not just a job for the Government: it is a job for all of us in public life.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I, too, welcome the debate that we are having this evening. It has been excellent and was opened with an equally excellent speech from my noble friend Lady Perry, who speaks with wisdom and great authority. Indeed, she has devoted all her working life to date to education. I welcome my noble friends Lady Trumpington and Lord Pilkington who, again, also speak with knowledge and experience, albeit with teaching young boys French in a novel way.
Almost every one who has spoken so far has done so from direct experience. But it is confessional time. Like the noble Lord, Lord Tope, the only direct teaching experience that I can claim, apart from having been something of a teacher to my children, is as a Sunday school teacher. I have voluntarily helped in schools and have been chairman of a playgroup and toddlers' group for many years. However, apart from that, my experience does not match that of many other noble Lords.
This is an important debate not least because, as so many have acknowledged, teachers are central to education. They are central to the lives of all our children and teaching is a noble profession. There is something awesome about the responsibility for liberating, developing and nurturing the skills and talents of young people.
My noble friend Lady Perry rightly focused on the professional nature of teaching and on the importance of giving teachers their professional freedom. I hope 1627 that the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, for whom I have the greatest admiration and whom I know to be passionate about teachers and teaching, will take up this issue and cast a critical eye over the creeping central control over every aspect of teachers and teaching.
There are many issues that impact on the lives of teachers and their teaching which need addressing. I have in mind funding, pay and conditions, professional autonomy, quality, recruitment and much more. I make no apology for raising the issue of funding first because expectations of teachers in May 1997 were very high, and now there is some anxiety. Staffing is well known to be the largest head of expenditure. Therefore schools are concerned about the level of that core funding for the every-day running of their schools.
As a percentage of GDP, spending on education has in fact gone down. From 1992–93 to 1996–97 it was 5 per cent of GDP; it has now fallen to 4.7 per cent. Expenditure that would be needed to match spending as a percentage of GDP between 1992 and 1997 at today's prices would be £222.6 billion. The Government's actual and planned spending between 1997 and 2002 is £209 billion, leaving a real shortfall of £12.8 billion. These are official figures from the House of Commons Library, based on the Treasury's own statistics.
More and more staff, governors and parents are realising that the public presentation of the £19 billion allocation to education over three years was not only grossly exaggerated; it was also triple counted. The allocation in each of the three years was just over £3 billion. As I said, it does not add up to the percentage of GDP provided for education during the last five years of the previous Conservative Parliament.
It is certainly true that the day-to-day core funding for schools has been disproportionately affected by the money that is now held back by the Department for Education and Employment. The volume of moneys "top-sliced" annually by the department has grown to an all-time record. Whether local education authorities or schools receive any of these resources is something of a lottery and the raft of administration required to process the allocation under the various schemes is also costly. If we add to this the mountain of bureaucracy that was created within schools and LEAs by the Government in the 1998 education Act, we can see that it is very costly and time consuming.
No fewer than 13 statutory plans have to be prepared, negotiated and consulted upon, sent to the Department for Education and Employment for approval and then reviewed and updated annually. All this has put incredible burdens upon hard-pressed professional staff, including head teachers and their staff. Only this week a head teacher brought to my notice an incredible tome of guidelines to schools on exclusions; and there were shelves of other such weighty documents.
The introduction of a very bureaucratic system of performance related pay—it has already been referred to—appears to have stumbled. I understand that next 1628 year's pay award is likely to be announced any day now. In fact, the fairies at the bottom of my garden tell me that it may even be tomorrow. However, I have to tell that Minister that unless local education authorities receive considerably more than is planned they will not have the ability to meet any pay increase above the rate of inflation. Given that teachers are expected to receive their performance related pay this September, can the Minister tell us what progress is being made on all the necessary preliminary work as regards assessment? My information is that there is a considerable delay in this work. Will LEAs be reimbursed in full to meet the cost of performance related pay? I totally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, who described this as a "cumbersome" system. Like him, I believe that the people best able to judge the proficiency of their schools and of their staff—and operate collegiately if that is their wish—are the head teachers and governors at local level.
As regards recruitment, can the Minister comment on recent reports of a crisis in London, which, again, has already been mentioned? I have in mind schools that recruited a number of Commonwealth teachers, including some from Australia and New Zealand. I understand that a number of those teachers visited their relative home countries for the millennium holiday and have not returned to London. Can the noble Baroness tell the House how many vacancies there are in London and what the state of recruitment is in our London schools?
As has been widely reported in the press, there is also a dearth of science and maths teachers. Can the Minister tell us what the position is in this respect? Throughout the country one hears about chemists teaching physics and biology, physicists teaching chemistry and biology and biologists teaching chemistry and physics. This appears to be widespread. Given the importance of science in today's world, can the noble Baroness comment on this mis-match between the teacher's qualification and the subject being taught?
I understand that there is also to be a change in A-level teaching this September. I know that many teachers have welcomed the thrust of that change and the philosophy behind it. But, again, my understanding is that they have not received the syllabuses. That makes it very difficult and puts enormous pressures on secondary school teachers who have to plan the teaching programmes for the coming two years.
As my noble friend Lady Perry emphasised, the most worrying aspect of the education reform since 1997 is the degree to which professional autonomy has been lost. One head teacher was quoted as saying, "For all the freedom I now have, I might as well rent deck chairs on the beach". There is now so much prescription, Secretary of State direction, compulsory form filling, mindless bureaucracy and a serious loss of whole-school autonomy. What to teach, how to teach and when to teach is the order of the day. Why is it not possible to exempt those schools that are delivering good teaching and high standards from such detailed 1629 prescription? Why not concentrate only on those under-performing schools? During the debate on a recent Starred Question, I commented upon the number of really excellent primary schools and their staff who feel inhibited by the highly-prescriptive literacy strategy. Why not, in conjunction with their Ofsted reports, set them free?
I turn now to the new initiatives to train an army of teaching assistants and technicians. If they are not to substitute for the teacher—I hope that that is not the case—they will be an additional cost to train and to employ. Can the Minister say how many of them there will be, what will be their cost and who will pay? Further, will the source of funding again be the fast-diminishing £19 billion?
The Government speak the language of standards and excellence in education. Like my noble friend Lady Perry, I do not doubt the genuine aims of the Secretary of State and his team in the matter. However, the record so far is questionable: the abolition of assisted places, which was an important rung in the ladder for bright young people from low-income families; the abolition of the autonomy of grant maintained schools which is much missed; the curtailment of selection on the grounds of ability; a pernicious war of attrition through a petition and balloting system against our grammar schools—another important lifeline to bright young children from low-income families; the emasculation of the professionalism of our teachers; the introduction of a costly bureaucracy; and the unprecedented central control over a record percentage of the education budget.
There was also the matter of the delivery of the class size pledge for five, six and seven year-olds. Whatever one may think about that, it was predicted that it would put pressure on our junior schools, and indeed it is doing so. Over the past two years class sizes in nursery, junior and secondary schools have risen and more children are now being shunted around as a direct result of the inflexible nature of the implementation of that pledge.
I refer to the unfairness of requiring would-be primary teachers studying for Bachelor of Education over four years to pay student fees for the fourth year when graduates who spend a fourth year doing a PGCE have the fee waived. So many initiatives have been announced and have become lost in the ether. I agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, in that regard.
Schools are already subject to regular inspection and to a transparent system of information to parents and their communities. We would wish to cut through this costly bureaucracy. We would wish to devolve more funding to local level and we would wish to re-introduce more autonomy and flexibility to schools. We would wish to free up the good professional teachers to do best what I described as an awesome challenge; namely, to liberate, to develop and to nurture the skills and talents of young people. It is a 1630 noble calling. I know that my noble friend Lady Perry had that in mind when presenting the opportunity for us to discuss the importance of teachers.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone)
My Lords, I begin by congratulating the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans on his excellent maiden speech which I thought was delivered with passion and conviction. It demonstrated a great deal of understanding of the teaching profession.
I am also most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, for giving me this opportunity to pay tribute to teachers and to outline what we are doing to strengthen the profession. I confirm that it is our intention to raise the status of teachers. I very much agree with what she said on the importance of creativity in our education system and indeed in our society.
The importance of teachers is no longer self-evident. The profession started when information was scarce. Famine has now turned to feast and the argument that teachers can be replaced by machines looks increasingly seductive, although it is completely wrong. There are many ways in which information and IT can enrich and accelerate children's learning, but the importance of teachers has never been greater. All of us are only here today because of the inspiration of some teachers who taught us when we were young. I was grateful to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, and my noble friend Lord Haskel refer to some of the teachers who had inspired them.
Education is the key to prosperity and social inclusion, both individual and national. That is why this Government are so firmly committed to ensuring that every child realises his or her full learning potential. The classroom is, and will continue to be, the single most important place where learning happens, and teachers are the people who make it happen. At this point I should join with my fellow Front Bench speakers in the "confessional". I have not been a teacher in primary or secondary schools, other than during one brief experience before I went to university when I taught for one term in a boys' prep school. I cannot match in any way the amusing anecdotes of the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington. However, I became much more popular as a result of instituting a good-night kiss for the eight and nine year-olds when they were put to bed when it was my duty to do so!
The Government regard the status and quality of the teaching profession as crucial to the future of this country. Therefore strengthening the profession is one of our top priorities. Professions need an independent voice. That is what the General Teaching Council will provide. For years teachers have pressed for such a body and we have now made it a reality. I very much appreciate the welcome that was given to the GTC by my noble friend Lord Dormand of Easington and the noble Baroness, Lady Perry. I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Puttnam will be the first chair of the 1631 council. As other speakers have said, he is a dedicated champion of the teaching profession. His outstanding work in establishing a national award scheme for excellent teacher!; clearly demonstrates that.
It is certainly true that many teachers are doing an excellent job. Rising standards of achievement by pupils show that clearly. However, the profession has recruitment problems and a career structure which does not properly reward good work in the classroom. The quality of leadership, training, professional development and support is also patchy. The challenge is to make teaching a first-class profession which attracts and gets the best out of the kind of people who make good teachers. That is what our reform programme is all about. It has four interlocking strands designed to improve leadership, rewards, training and support for the profession.
The first strand seeks to strengthen school leadership. Not much has been said about that in the debate, with the notable exception of the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater of Butterstone. This strand includes the establishment of a new national college for school leadership, a more coherent framework for leadership training and enabling schools to extend their leadership tier beyond heads and deputies. To attract future leaders we also propose a national fast-track programme for high quality graduates and serving teachers capable of rising quickly through the profession. I shall return to that point a little later if I have time.
Many speakers in this debate have raised the issue of performance pay. I wish to spend a little time discussing that. The second strand of our reforms is designed to provide better rewards and a better career structure for classroom teachers. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, as regards the importance of providing the right rewards for our teachers. Under the present system teachers have an effective salary ceiling of £23,000, unless they take on management responsibilities. We want to strike a better balance between rewarding good teaching and recognising other responsibilities. That is what the proposals for a performance threshold and upper pay spine, which we put to the School Teachers Review Body, concern. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, who I thought indulged in a certain amount of purple prose in this respect, that this is far from being an exercise in futility. The threshold is central to our proposals for reforming teachers' pay and its purpose is to reward teachers for good classroom performance.
Every teacher with nine points for qualifications and experience would be eligible to apply. Schools will receive application forms and guidance at the end of March. Teachers who want to apply this year would be expected to put in their applications by the beginning of June and the application form would ask them to provide evidence that they met specified national standards of teacher effectiveness. Heads would assess teachers' applications against those standards. To help them do that, every head would have the opportunity to attend a training conference on assessing applications. To ensure national consistency heads' assessments would be verified by external assessors. 1632 Passing the threshold would give teachers an immediate pay increase of up to £2,000. There would be no quota on threshold successes. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that schools will get the extra money they need to pay for every teacher who crosses the threshold. A special grant will be established to cover that.
The Government have allocated £1 billion over the next two years for the teaching profession reforms. The bulk of this will be allocated for pay. In time the national standards used for the threshold should also inform the new performance management arrangements for teachers which will replace the present appraisal regulations. We know that teachers want to provide the best possible education for their pupils; systematic performance management will help them to do that.
There have been a number of further detailed comments about performance pay which time does not allow me to go into. I shall write to noble Lords about them. I should like to say to the noble Baronesses, Lady Perry and Lady Sharp, that we believe it is right that good teaching should be rewarded. We believe that the scheme that we are introducing will become accepted by the profession. Indeed, there are already signs that it is doing so. The starting point for the new system will be teachers agreeing objectives with their head or other team leader.
Let me turn now to training. Performance reviews will certainly identify development needs. So performance management will feed into the third strand of our reform programme, which is about better training and professional development. Effective professional development is of course crucial to raising the status of the teaching profession and to raising standards in our schools. Raising standards means continuous improvements by pupils—and that cannot be achieved without teachers continually developing their knowledge and skills. I am sure there is agreement about that. That is why professional development is such a key part of our national strategy. We intend to set out a clear national framework to bring together national, school and individual priorities for continuing professional development. I shall not apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, if he considers that that is another new initiative.
My noble friend Lord Dormand of Easington and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn mentioned the issue of initial teacher training. We are also starting from the beginning by developing more flexible and rigorous initial training for teachers. I agree with the right reverend Prelate—I think the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, also said this—that teaching is a vocation; it is not just a job of work that has to be done. So we shall be introducing changes to the initial training which we believe will meet that commitment.
The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, mentioned the new skills tests for trainee teachers in numeracy, literacy and IT. That is another important part of our reform programme. Recent evidence from Ofsted has 1633 confirmed that the literacy and numeracy standards for a significant number of teachers in our schools are not good enough. The new skills tests will ensure that newly-qualified teachers have the skills that are needed to carry out their professional roles effectively.
The fourth strand of our programme is about offering better support to help teachers get on with the job. This includes extra money to recruit 20,000 more teaching assistants. It also includes grants to improve the working environment for school staff and for administrative support for small schools, a point mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans. We are looking at ways of reducing the amount of overload that teachers have had to deal with for many years, an issue to which the right reverend Prelate referred.
Taken together these four strands make up what the Prime Minister has called the most fundamental reform of the teaching profession since state education began. This reform programme is a crucial part of government policy precisely because of the importance we attach to individual teachers and the profession as a whole. The future of this country, quite literally, is in their hands.
Against this background I shall now turn to some of the other issues that have been raised in the debate. A number of noble Lords referred to issues surrounding recruitment to the teaching profession. Recruitment to primary initial teacher training is buoyant—for 1999–2000 it was up by 3 per cent and on target—but we still have problems in some secondary subjects. We are trying to address these problems. We have introduced £5,000 incentives for students doing secondary maths or science PGCs and taking up posts in this area. As a result, recruitment to maths teacher training is up by 16 per cent compared to the same time last year, and science is up by 3 per cent. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, asked about that. The incentives will be extended to modern foreign languages from next September.
In the longer term, our Teachers' Green Paper will create a new structure for the profession founded on better leadership for all schools, better pay for good teaching, more training of a higher quality for all teachers and improved support. That will help with the recruitment problems.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, asked specifically about London. There is an allowance for teachers in London of £2,241 per year and, in addition, schools can pay up to three points on the pay spine to classroom teachers employed in posts which are difficult to fill. I hope that that will help the particular problems in the capital to which both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness referred.
I shall write to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, with some of the more specific details she asked for on mismatches between teachers' qualifications and the subjects that they are teaching.
1634 Let me turn now to the issue of teaching assistants, about which the noble Baroness also asked. The Government recognise the value of teaching assistants in helping to achieve higher standards in our schools. We have already announced our intention—I think I have mentioned this—to increase by 20,000 the number of full-time equivalent teaching assistants working in our schools by 2002. An extra £130 million in the next financial year will allow LEAs to recruit up to 15,000 more assistants, with the remainder to be recruited the following year. Work is also in hand to develop a national framework of training and qualifications which will clarify the role of the teaching assistant and help to give these people the qualifications that they need.
I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, was perhaps a little negative and pessimistic when she discussed the perceptions that young people have about going into teaching. My noble friend Lord Dormand was closer to getting this right. The Teacher Training Agency commissions regular research on how school pupils and undergraduates view teaching as a career. I am very pleased to say that recent evidence is that it remains fourth as a choice of career. In a separate MORI poll in 1999, 46 per cent of younger pupils thought teaching was a rewarding job, and 39 per cent thought that teachers were well respected. The Green Paper reforms should drive these figures up and create the scope to encourage and reward the creativity in the classroom to which the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, referred.
There has been reference in the debate to the fast track. The fast track is at the core of our vision of an excellent teaching profession and we believe that it is a way of encouraging really high quality graduates to become teachers. We hope that they will then be the most talented and dedicated serving teachers. Any school will be able to offer a fast-track teaching post with challenging objectives and opportunities, and to recruit from fast-track applicants.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans referred to wastage rates of teachers who leave the profession. Again, the Teacher Training Agency is working to try to reduce the number of people who leave and to help those who have done so to come back later. It is funding a number of courses specifically for those who want to return to the profession. We shall monitor the extent to which that is successful.
I should like to say a few words about standards, a subject that has been touched on in the debate. It is still early days, but I believe that there are already signs of progress. Attitudes are changing, in spite of what has been said by some speakers in the debate. In 1998 the literacy and numeracy strategies were criticised as central government prescription. Now almost 90 per cent of primary heads support the literacy strategy and 70 per cent went so far as to adopt the numeracy strategy early.
Standards are beginning to rise. Over the past year the number of failing schools has fallen steadily and the average time it takes to turn around a failing school has come down from 25 months to 17 months. Those figures are a tribute to our teachers.
1635 In response to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, testing is about raising standards in our schools. It is not about collecting information for its own sake. The percentage of pupils leaving school with no qualifications has fallen for two consecutive years, while the percentage of pupils achieving higher grade GCSEs has increased each year. Again, that is a tribute to the professionalism of our teachers.
Most importantly, the percentage of 11 year-olds achieving the standards for their age rose significantly last year. In May 1997 just 57 per cent achieved the standard in English; that rose by 13 per cent to 70 per cent in 1999. In May 1997 only 54 per cent achieved the standard for their age in maths; that rose by 15 per cent to 69 per cent in 1999. We are well on track to hit the 2002 target.
This is good news, but there is still some distance to go before we can match the best worldwide. We shall be working to try to achieve that. Teachers are of central importance to driving up these standards. For that reason, we are committed to the extra funding that I have already mentioned to strengthen the profession.
Teachers are also integral to the success of Excellence in Cities which requires them to work collaboratively with teachers in other EiC schools to come up with new solutions to old problems. Our education action zones are intended to raise levels of attainment for pupils in challenging circumstances, but also—and crucially—to provide the teachers working in those schools with the additional resources and support they need. Teachers are involved in drawing up the activities taking place in individual zones and schools through working groups, staff conferences and direct forum membership.
I agree that it is right to praise teachers and to show confidence in what they are doing. That is what this Government are doing. Many of our initiatives are designed to support our teachers and to build on that confidence.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Baroness Perry of Southwark
My Lords, it only remains for me to thank all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. We have had a very high quality discussion and a most excellent maiden speech on which I congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans.
There has been a remarkable unanimity of message from all speakers and I hope that t he Minister has taken on board the concern that has been expressed from all sides of the House about the low morale in the teaching profession and a sense of far too much being imposed from the centre. I know from personal experience—perhaps I should say mea culpa here—that reforms, from the point of view of the higher reaches of the Department for Education and Employment, can took much more attractively simple than they do from the point of view of the classroom.
However, I do not feel pessimistic. I believe that there are some goad signs and I feel great optimism about the position of the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, 1636 as chair of the GTC. I think that much work needs to be done there and I believe him to be the right person to do it.
In particular, I hope that the Minister will not remain too complacent about how simple it is to raise the morale of teachers. At the moment both she and the country have a problem in this area. I shall not feel truly enthusiastic and hopeful about recruitment to the teaching profession until I see a considerable improvement in the A-level grades of those being recruited for the B.Ed. However, we have had a very good debate and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.