Lords Amendment

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 23rd July 2002.

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Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative 6:00 pm, 23rd July 2002

My Lords, the one issue on the lips of governors, head teachers, teachers and parents is that the volume of regulations, guidance, guidelines and extraneous material that is sent to schools by the DfES is a serious concern. The most frequent reason given by most teachers leaving the profession is the same—too much bureaucracy, too much interference and too many government initiatives.

I have been struck by the incredible efforts made by Ministers at the department over recent days to duck out of accepting a duty to limit regulation and the volume of paper sent daily to our schools. The government amendment does not go far enough. It is pathetic to invite teachers to accept that the Secretary of State will have regard to the desirability of providing information about good educational practice. I refer to the desirability—not the duty—to limit regulation.

The National Union of Teachers has produced a good paper with some interesting comments. It speaks for teachers in our schools. At Third Reading the Minister said that my amendment was,

"lacking in that it does not address the issue of the quality of information issued. I know from my own experience of being both responsible for issuing information and being on the receiving end as a chair of governors until last year that it is the quality equally as much as the quantity—indeed, more so—of the communication or regulation that is of paramount importance".—[Official Report, 3/07/02; col. 261.]

I should say that I prefer the phrase "chairman of governors" to "chair of governors".

I agree with the Minister's comments about the quality of communications. However, we all agree that too much information is sent to schools, whether it is well intentioned and has good substance or does not have such good substance.

Many teachers do not feel in control of their work. They regard not being in control as a real cause of distress. That is brought about by the pace and manner of change that occurs. Much of that change is ill thought through, such as the companies measures that we have discussed today. Teachers are given insufficient support to meet those changes. They resent having to engage in tasks which do not support learning.

The NUT study of teachers' workloads quoted a teacher as saying that despite the plethora of new announcements, initiatives and requirements launched annually, in her entire career she had never seen a notice or an announcement requesting her to stop doing something rather than do something.

I am aware that the Government are full of good intentions to remove burdens on teachers. However, a full-blooded commitment—as my amendment provides—would impress teachers rather more than having regard to the desirability of reducing burdens on them. The greatest thing that the House could do today would be to accept the amendments and to tell teachers, as the Bill completes its passage through both Houses, that the Secretary of State accepts with grace a duty to limit regulations and to control the amount of material that is sent to schools.

I believe that the Liberal Democrats will support the Government, while requiring them to have regard to the desirability of reducing the burdens on schools. As Conservatives, we support head teachers, teachers and governors in wanting a positive duty on the Secretary of State to reduce paperwork—not simply to have regard to the desirability of doing so. Fine words and good intentions are not good enough. I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 14 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 14A in lieu thereof, leave out from "No. 14" to end and insert ", do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 14A in lieu thereof but do propose Amendment No. 14B in lieu of the Commons amendment.[Baroness Blatch.]