Amendment 35B

Schools Bill [HL] - Committee (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 13th June 2022.

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Lord Knight of Weymouth:

Moved by Lord Knight of Weymouth

35B: Schedule 1, page 88, line 33, leave out paragraph 35 and insert—“35 In section 127 (guidance), in subsection (2)(b), at the end insert “, including Academies”.”Member's explanatory statementThe effect is to require academies to employ qualified teachers and to be subject to the Secretary of State guidance on teacher pay and conditions that applies to maintained schools.

Photo of Lord Knight of Weymouth Lord Knight of Weymouth Labour

I find myself leading on a whole series of groups: it is slightly challenging, jumping around. This one is about teachers, qualified teacher status and teachers’ pay. It amends Schedule 1, which is about the use of other education legislation, as set out in Clause 3. This would require academies to employ qualified teachers and be subject to Secretary of State guidance on teachers’ pay and conditions as they apply to maintained schools currently. Again, this goes very much to the question: if every school is going to be an academy, what is our vision for teachers, for teaching and for teachers’ pay and conditions?

We know from the evidence—it is really well documented—that good schools are good because they have high teacher quality, and teaching and learning are well led. In a way, it is like Governments—great Ministers well led by the Prime Minister; that is what a good Government might look like one day. If we agree with that evidence around teacher quality, and if we believe in the Government’s reforms of initial teacher training, the early careers framework and national professional qualifications, then we must think that the Government’s emphasis on all that is important and will raise quality. I have some arguments about the reforms of initial teacher training, but the Government are consistent in saying that the reason they want to reform initial teacher training, the reason they want to introduce the early careers framework and have done so, and the reason they have the series of professional qualifications is to raise teacher quality. They must believe in the qualification of teachers to have all that.

In the context of all schools becoming academies, I think parents would be really surprised if they found that this then meant that all schools were no longer subject to having to employ qualified teachers. It would be quite a surprise if that was in the newspapers or wherever it is they get their news. Parents expect their children to be taught by qualified teachers, and mostly that is the case. The vast majority of academies want to employ qualified teachers and do so, so I do not really understand why we would not translate, as we move maintained schools into becoming academies, the requirement that they should employ qualified teachers as well. Of course it is also true that maintained schools can employ unqualified teachers as instructors, so they still have that get-out if they really need it. Indeed, a very long time ago, I worked as an instructor at a sixth-form college in Basingstoke. For me, it is tricky, and I would be interested in any argument that came from others as to why we would not want qualified teachers in our schools.

Then I would argue, as I have sought to do with this amendment by replacing the get-out—on employing qualified teachers—with saying that academies should abide by national pay and conditions, that we should have a coherent labour market for all our teachers, the largest single profession in the world. A coherent labour market for them, working in publicly funded schools, would mean a consistent arrangement for pay and conditions so that they can plan their own careers and are not trapped in a single MAT employer that would have its own career structure and pay structure for them. They would be able to move about and develop their career and professional expertise on the basis of something that is predictable around the country.

For me, this is a no-brainer. I devote a huge amount of my time, pro-bono, to the academies movement, but this is something we need to get right. We should have a very clear policy of having qualified teachers, based on national pay and conditions. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blower Baroness Blower Labour

I imagine it will come as no surprise that I support my noble friend Lord Knight. It seems to me that high teacher quality is obviously a critical issue in making sure that we have a well-functioning and successful education system. One of the problems by which we have been beset is that there is no coherence at the moment to the way pay and conditions work across the country—that is, across England.

At Second Reading I probably mentioned that if you are a female teacher, one of the difficulties you have in seeking to move is that you will have no idea what the arrangements are for maternity leave and maternity pay from one employer to another. While I entirely accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Nash—who is not in his place at the moment—that multi-academy trusts do seek to have a career structure within themselves, there are many reasons why individual teachers might choose to move, not just within the MAT but to a completely different part of the country. Of course, that might still be part of the same MAT, but that they might choose to move out of the MAT. Being able to have a predictable set of conditions and a predictable pay arrangement is critical.

One thing that has been noticeable over the years is that pay has become much less predictable because MATs have different arrangements. It is not so possible for teachers to be on permanent contracts and to know, for example, that they are in a position to get a mortgage. I imagine most noble Lords would believe that home ownership is something to which a teacher should reasonably be able to aspire, but in many cases it absolutely is not. A national, coherent set of pay and conditions therefore seems perfectly reasonable. I would add that that should be done on the basis of sectoral collective bargaining, but that is not in the amendment. I just like saying “sectoral collective bargaining” because it is the right way for us to run the system. I note, for example, that in Iceland there is no minimum wage because all wages in all sectors are based on sectoral collective bargaining—and that is not uncommon in other countries, too.

Finally, on the question of QTS, before I came into this House one of the things that I did was to work with colleagues in the European region of Education International, the global union federation for all education unions. The European region does not just cover the EU countries; it takes in a significant geographical area beyond that. When the arrangements came in that meant people could teach in England without QTS, it was a single thing that my colleagues in many other countries—including Scotland—were absolutely astounded should be happening in this country.

It just beggars belief that we would think it perfectly reasonable for anyone to come in and be a teacher, because it is such a critical job. Now, I have issues with the proposals for initial teacher education and training. I happen to think that we do not focus anything like enough on child development, and there are lots of other problems with how we now train and educate teachers. But the notion that there should not be something called qualified teacher status has really found absolute confusion in the minds of many teachers working in many of the European countries in which I worked. I support the QTS proposal and, specifically, national pay and conditions, and of course pensions for teachers.

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative 6:15 pm, 13th June 2022

My Lords, I have to say that I once had an aunt who was one of the most successful teachers I have ever come across. She was not properly qualified but was one of those people who came in after the war and could teach boys of 14 to sing in a very poor part of Newport in Monmouthshire. I do not start from any real belief that teacher training is a perfect answer, but I agree with the first part of what the noble Lord, Lord Knight, said. It seems sensible to have a system whereby, in general terms, of course teachers must have professional qualifications. I happen to think that we have to improve those qualifications and I have some sympathy with the reference of noble Baroness, Lady Blower, to the areas in which that ought to happen. That is really important.

If I have said that, however, I have to say too that I am much less happy about the second proposal. I have to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, that I do not know of any other circumstance in which it is thought that you must have predictability about the money you earn. It seems to me perfectly possible to have standards when you go in for jobs, and I do not understand why this is a necessary part of that. Indeed, I noticed that she started with the teacher pay issue, and I want to turn it around; I think the noble Lord, Lord Knight had the right order. The order should be standards and quality and the ability to teach. It is not unreasonable then for there to be different systems in different places to meet different requirements.

That should be the decision of those areas, not a centralised decision dominated by the teachers. I always remember having a discussion with her many years ago, when she had a big poster that said “Putting teachers first”. That was the poster and that was the argument, and I want to believe that we put children first. So I start by wanting teachers of the highest standard, but I do not believe that it is necessary to have some kind of national pay structure that does not vary from once place to another. I much prefer the mix I am presenting. I must ask the noble Lord, Lord Knight: if he really cannot ask this Government to have a vision here, I do not know where else they have a vision, so why should they have it here?

Photo of Lord Blunkett Lord Blunkett Labour

My Lords, I was not going to speak in this debate, but I am minded to say just a few words in agreement with the last phrases that have just been used. This is part of the problem.

We obviously need a highly-qualified, well-trained teaching profession, as we expect in the health service and elsewhere. When we have a basic standard which is adhered to and a career structure that people understand, we can of course then vary that in order to attract teachers to particular areas, such as opportunity areas that the Government have designated at the moment—education action zones, in my time—where golden hellos and golden handcuffs are available to ensure that we get the right teachers in the right place to overcome gross historic inequalities in the quality of education in those areas. I would have thought that we could reach complete unanimity about that.

I do not have an aunt who used to teach me, but I did have my mum, who left school at 14. She was pretty good at correcting my English, which says something about the schooling of today and quite a lot about what she learned up until she was 14. I would not recommend people leaving school at 14; I think I had better make that abundantly clear.

I have a PGCE myself for teaching in further education, and a great deal can be done in the post-16 area to ensure that people are appropriately qualified. I just wanted to make this point: ex-Ministers or present Ministers may eulogise about students acquiring a key body of knowledge—and with that a historic view of how teaching might take place—but it is impossible to ask pupils to acquire it if those teaching them have not acquired it themselves. That is why trashing teacher training through university is a big mistake, because someone has to have that historic foundation and knowledge of pedagogy in order to know how best to develop for the future the best way of teaching in entirely different circumstances to the ones that people might experience in the school they first enter.

I have one small caveat and disagreement with my noble friend Lady Blower. I was involved in battling for years to get a national minimum wage, because collective bargaining in some areas was about differentials and the clash between the craft unions and the general unions—I do not want to go back to those days.

Photo of Lord Agnew of Oulton Lord Agnew of Oulton Conservative

My Lords, this is an important question, but, again, I would be looking for the output, not the input—in other words, when asking whether teachers should be qualified, it is the quality of the qualification that matters. At the moment, it is a nine-month course without any validation at the end. We have the Teach First initiative, which was pioneered very successfully by Labour, which is six weeks of training. Looking at parts of the economy where we are desperately short of good teachers—take a subject such as computer science, for example—I would say that you could bring those sorts of people into teaching for a couple of years, because they might want to put something back in an initiative similar to Teach First but then go on to a different career.

So, if we are worrying about the quality of teachers, we must be careful that this is not just about some formal qualification. It is about how good they are and, particularly in response to the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, it is about how good they are at enthusing children in the classroom. I think we have moved into a new and very difficult game post-Covid. Children were learning across screens remotely on and off for two years, and the skills needed to enthuse and engage children in that way have changed, rather than just standing in a classroom. So, I am sceptical, but this is an important point, and I am glad that we have the chance to debate it, because this is exactly what a Schools Bill should be doing.

Photo of Lord Nash Lord Nash Conservative

I support my noble friend. I say to the noble Lords, Lord Knight and Lord Blunkett, that if a teacher has been teaching in the private sector for 20 years and is well qualified in their subject—through university and through practising it for 20 years—are we really going to make them take a course for nine months, at the end of which there are no exams, so that they are qualified to teach? I think we need to be a little more flexible about this.

Photo of Baroness Morris of Yardley Baroness Morris of Yardley Labour

Just to add to that, I think there are—or there used to be—ways for teachers moving from the independent sector to the state sector which were far less than nine months.

I take the point about a subject like IT. I absolutely agree with the amendment: teaching is a profession, and all the evidence internationally shows that the better qualified the teacher, the better the achievement for students. That is what this is all about. But if the problem is that, in a fast-moving world, there are a set of skills such as IT that people need to come into education to deliver, there needs to be another way of meeting that need and getting those people in rather than saying to the whole of the school system that teachers do not have to have a qualification. This is not being used to get people with specialist IT skills into schools to help children. It is being used by headteachers and schools where they cannot get staff with qualifications in front of children in classrooms, so they go for those without qualifications.

Although I share with the noble Lord, Lord Agnew, the wish to get the latest skills into the classroom without making people do a year-long PGCE, we just need a bit more creative thinking in order to make that happen. It cannot be that we go back to a profession that not only is not a graduate-level profession but is not a qualified profession at all. The message that gives is something that none of us who are committed to the education of children ought to support.

Photo of Baroness Wilcox of Newport Baroness Wilcox of Newport Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

It is a real pleasure to follow my noble friend. She is absolutely right: this is about profession.

My Lords, we asked to de-group this amendment from that of my noble friend Lord Knight, because it is such an important issue and deserves its own debate. Our Amendment 36 would remove the exemption teachers in academies have from needing to have QTS but gives a grace period until September 2024 to give schools and teachers sufficient time to adjust. We felt that this is a sensible way forward. The amendment redresses the opt-out given by former Prime Minister David Cameron and Secretary of State Michael Gove when they removed that need for academies to have QTS in 2012.

Since that time, there has been a decade where children and young people have been taught in academies by unqualified staff. We would assert that in recognition of the preparation teachers have to undergo, the term “teacher” should be reserved solely for use by those with QTS and that a person in training—or indeed, a specialist or person qualified in IT—should have a different designation. This amendment would ensure that, in future, all pupils in every school were taught by a qualified teacher.

When I was looking at the background to the debate today, I looked at what the Sutton Trust had said. It is a research institution that fights for social mobility so that every young person—no matter who their parents are, what school they go to or where they live—has the chance to succeed in life. In its seminal report, What Makes Great Teaching?, it said that the quality of the teacher is the most important factor in academic and non-academic attainment. We have heard from other noble Lords previously in Committee about the importance of leadership and a justification of the enormously inflated salaries enjoyed by heads within academy trusts, but the Sutton Trust research firmly places the attainment factor in the hands of the teacher in the classroom. Those of us in your Lordships’ House who have had the privilege—indeed, it is a privilege—to work in this profession would no doubt agree.

The research defined effective teaching as that which leads to improved student achievement and focused on six common components that should be considered when assessing teaching quality. First is pedagogical content knowledge. As well as a strong understanding of the material being taught, teachers must also understand the ways students think about the content, be able to evaluate the thinking behind students’ own methods and identify their common misconceptions. These are all areas covered in training teachers towards QTS. It is not just about having the knowledge and content of the subject itself; you have to have knowledge and understanding of how children learn in order to convey that knowledge. The research further identified the quality of instruction, classroom climate, classroom management—which I was very good at, as your Lordships might guess—teacher beliefs and professional behaviours, all of which impact on the quality of education.

I also looked at research by the University of Oxford’s Nuffield College from 2019, which found that pupils are more likely to be taught by unqualified teachers in academies than in maintained schools. It concluded that this widens class-based inequality because schools with more pupils from lower socioeconomic backgrounds tend to hire more teachers without QTS, and that in secondary schools

“this relationship in academies is almost double that in LA-maintained schools, revealing a role for academies in widening class-based inequality in access to qualified teachers”— which seems like levelling down, rather than levelling up.

It further found that:

“More than a third of unqualified teachers in primary schools do not have an undergraduate degree and nearly a quarter do not in secondaries … policies that outsource the management of the education system and undermine professional accreditation are degrading the teaching workforce and widening inequality in access to qualified teachers.”

Furthermore, the report authors concluded that:

“This has likely undermined the quality of … education because teachers without QTS have less pedagogical training and less subject knowledge than their qualified colleagues.”

We believe the Government need to match the ambition of Labour’s national excellence programme, our plans and vision for education, whereby we will recruit thousands of new teachers to address vacancies and skill gaps across the profession. We will reform Ofsted to focus on supporting struggling schools and ensure we have the best fully qualified teachers in our schools by providing teachers and head teachers with continuing professional development and leadership skills training. This amendment will begin to address the current failings.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education 6:30 pm, 13th June 2022

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 35B and 36, which amend Schedule 1. Schedule 1 extends certain provisions in maintained school legislation which currently apply to academies through funding agreements to academies directly.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, for Amendment 35B. He is seeking to require academies to employ qualified teachers and to be subject to the Secretary of State’s guidance on teacher pay and conditions that applies to maintained schools. However, the provisions in Schedule 1 that the amendment changes relate specifically to special schools and the removal of the power for the Secretary of State to prescribe that special academies employ qualified teachers. The amendment would not have the effect that the noble Lord is seeking to achieve.

However, it is clear that the intended purpose of this amendment and Amendment 36, which is about removing the exemption that academies have for teachers to have qualified teacher status, would provide for a restriction to a core tenet of the academy system, namely that, with the exception of special academies, all academy trusts have the freedom to employ those they believe are suitably qualified to teach in their academies and that all academy trusts can make decisions about pay and conditions of service in their academies.

The academy standards regulations will reflect existing requirements in the funding agreements, including those relating to enrolment in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme or the Local Government Pension Scheme. I have heard the fears expressed about a future Government using these regulations to undermine the freedoms that enable academy trusts to collaborate, innovate and organise themselves to deliver the best outcomes for their pupils, and I am carefully reflecting on those concerns.

On teacher pay and conditions, although all academy trusts have the freedom to set their own pay structure and conditions of service for teachers, we believe the vast majority follow some, if not all, of the guidance in the school teachers’ pay and conditions document. We believe it is right that academies continue to benefit from this freedom because it allows heads and trust leaders to have the flexibility to respond to their local context to support recruitment and retention of teachers. I am reminded of the phrase used by the noble Lord. I do not want to misquote him, but he spoke very powerfully on the first day of Committee about how important and attractive it was to trust our leaders, and that is exactly where these freedoms fall.

Academy trusts are also allowed the freedom to make their own decisions about who they believe is suitably qualified to teach pupils in their academies. However, most schools, including academies, understand the importance of well-trained teachers and choose to employ teachers who have undertaken initial teacher training and gained qualified teacher status. I agree very much with the sentiment expressed by my noble friend Lord Agnew in relation to the quality of the qualification as opposed to just the qualification in its own right. I am slightly baffled at your Lordships’ focus on this, as 96.9% of teachers in academy schools held QTS in November 2021, compared to 97.7% in maintained schools, so there is less than a percentage point difference between the two. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, seemed to suggest that there are examples where it might be much higher. If that is the case, perhaps she would be very kind and share them with us, so that we can look into that.

The intention behind the amendment is to place additional requirements on academy trusts that would undermine the discretion and flexibility at the front line that fundamental academy freedoms give to heads and MAT leaders. That is not the intention of this Bill. On that basis, I would be grateful if the noble Lord would withdraw Amendment 35B and if the noble Baronesses would not move Amendment 36.

Photo of Lord Knight of Weymouth Lord Knight of Weymouth Labour

My Lords, I am grateful again for this half-hour debate and for the Minister’s reply. It is important that we have a vision for the whole system, now that we are moving to a single system, and perhaps this is something we will continue to reflect on.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Deben, for his comments. The core of the argument for having a single national pay and conditions arrangement for teaching relates to the difficulty of recruiting people into the profession. It is a critical profession for the future of our country and any society, and we must make sure that we recruit the finest people to be teachers—as one of their careers. These days, we are going to live longer and work longer. I am not saying that you necessarily have to do 40 or 50 years as a teacher, but would it not be great if, for one career, people wanted to be a teacher? It is easier to recruit people if they know that they have a predictable pay progression with a predictable, quality pension at the end of it, as part of their public service—as part of the motivation and the vocation around becoming a teacher.

I hear and respect very much what the noble Lords, Lord Agnew and Lord Nash, say about the output and the nature of the different routes into the profession. There is of course the assessment-only route. People who have been working for 20 years in the private sector or who are coming in from industry could perhaps have some brief training in some of the pedagogic or behaviour management elements that my noble friend on the Front Bench talked about and can then be assessed against the standards that are set around what we require from qualified teachers. They do not have to go through training; they can just be assessed against those standards. One of the things I pioneered when I was working at TES, with the TES Institute, was a route through the assessment-only process.

I am happy to withdraw this amendment. I hope this brief debate has given us cause and a pause to reflect on what kind of system we want for the teaching profession in the context of every school being an academy.

Amendment 35B withdrawn.

Amendment 36 not moved.

Schedule 1 agreed.

Clause 4: Academies: guidance

Amendment 37 not moved.

Clause 4 agreed.

Amendments 38 and 39 not moved.

Clause 5: Power to give compliance directions