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Education Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 24th January 2005.

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Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions) 6:45 pm, 24th January 2005

Only 45—I wish.

I struggle to understand what benefit would be obtained by what I believe is an NUT-inspired or promoted amendment. Let me explain why.

Clauses 109 and 110 lay the basis for a new, more comprehensive and less burdensome system for collecting data on the school workforce by replacing the stream of existing surveys with a single, streamlined data collection system. That will give us the most accurate picture ever of our school system and will be a powerful management and planning tool, both at national and local level.

The amendment proposed would not increase the transparency we are trying to achieve. Every year, if we take the amendment literally, the Secretary of State would be obliged to publish a figure for the total number of people who should be employed at, or otherwise working in, schools. That would include not only teachers and support staff, but school secretaries, dinner ladies, handymen and so forth.

The figure would not be a target because, even supposing that the Secretary of State could or wanted to get such a national figure, how would such a global figure be distributed between the local authorities and schools? Even if one divided it by 150 or 24,000, in some spurious way, what benefit would it be as a consequence? It would not have any benefit that we can see for schools and certainly not for children.

None of what I have said means that the Secretary of State does not have clear responsibilities under the 1994 Act to secure an adequate supply of trained teachers. I shall not weary the Committee with the story on that, but over the past few years that story has been remarkable, powerful and successful.

Clause 76(7) obliges the new Training and Development Agency to have regard when providing financial support for training to the Secretary of State's estimates of future demand not only for teachers but also for other members of the school workforce.

While the Secretary of State clearly has to review the total numbers and take cognisance of factors such as the ageing of various workforce populations and increasingly to be thoughtful about how the school workforce is shaping at both national level and local level, just as local authorities will as part of their children's plan, specifying national targets or local targets would no doubt consume an enormous amount of effort, time and argument, and what benefit would flow from it? While I do not wish to be dismissive of the amendment, we struggle to see that it would achieve anything that would be useful.

I am happy to engage further on the matter in case I have missed any of the noble Baroness's points. However, at this point, we can see little benefit in the amendment and ask whether she would consider withdrawing it.