Following my discussion with representives of the National Union of Teachers on 21 January the Department is consulting the other teacher associations and the local authority associations to explore the prospects for further joint consideration of the appraisal of teachers' performance.
Does my right hon. Friend notice the almost universal welcome for his proposals on teachers' assessment? Does he not think it essential that annual assessment should be linked to pay increments? Does he agree that the vast majority of teachers would welcome such a move, even if the unrepresentative leaders of the NUT would not?
I agree with my hon. Friend that there must be a large number of teachers who would welcome at least discussion of the possibility. I remind the House that the Government stand ready to make available some taxpayers' and ratepayers' money for the carrying out of pilot schemes on the workability of appraisal systems.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that in assessing the quality of staff in schools the head teacher's role is fundamental and that, therefore, the highest quality of head teacher should be appointed, who should then be given more freedom than is currently the case to dismiss those members of staff who are not coming up to scratch?
I agree with the first two limbs of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. As for the third, it is important that head teachers and others concerned should be able more systematically to use in-service training for the benefit of teachers who can be improved in their effectiveness thereby.
Why do the Government believe that substantial extra resources should be given to the already well-off by way of tax cuts to make them work more effectively, but that teachers' salaries should be reduced substantially to make them work more effectively?
There is no question of reducing teachers' salaries, which have kept pace with inflation in real terms since 1979. The hon. Gentleman is misunderstanding the current emphasis on tax cuts, which many of my hon. Friends believe should go to raise the tax threshold and thus to increase the net earnings of those on all levels of pay.
How does the right hon. Gentleman intend to assess teachers when a late hon. Friend of mine had a brother-in-law who obtained two double firsts in English at Cambridge university and who was employed at his local grammar school, where it was widely accepted that he could not teach for toffee?
The assessment would need to be by people who could judge the effectiveness in the classroom of each teacher, which would mean including the head teacher, the head of department, the teacher's own peers and representatives of the local education authority. The Government propose to run pilot schemes to assess the best way to carry out the appraisal. I hope that hon. Members will remember that there are many callings where assessment is regular and taken for granted.
Will my right hon. Friend consider suggesting to the unions that there are serious problems with the teachers' career structure? Does he agree that with the tremendous collapse of the birthrate and the reduction in promotional posts in schools, it is vitally important to have some form of discriminatory assessment that gives encouragement to the best teachers?
I agree with every word of that supplementary question. Even if the pay factor were not considered, the necessity for some system of appraisal to improve the use of in-service training is itself a strong argument for it.
I have told the world of education and the House several times that if the employers of teachers and the teachers' associations agree on a system that I can fully accept as negotiable, affordable and good for education, I shall be willing to take the agreement to my colleagues, though I have always emphasised that I cannot guarantee that my colleagues will make the necessary money available.