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Schedule 13

Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 26th March 2009.

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Powers in relation to schools causing concern: England

Question proposed, That the schedule be the Thirteenth schedule to the Bill.

Photo of David Laws David Laws Shadow Secretary of State (Children, Schools and Families)

As clause 191, which we have debated, makes clear, schedule 13 makes provision for schools that are causing concern in England. Under the schedule and the clause that follows it, important powers fall to the Secretary of State in particular to intervene through local education authorities to tackle school performance and to address teachers pay and conditions warning notices.

I have some questions about the intention behind paragraph 4 of the schedule, which inserts a new section 60A in the Education and Inspections Act 2006. The new section introduces a system of teachers pay and conditions warning notices, as the explanatory notes make clear, which allow LEAs to issue notices to the governing body of maintained schools when the LEA is satisfied that the governing body has failed to comply, or failed to secure compliance by the head teacher, with the provisions of an order under section 122 of the Education Act 2002. The explanatory notes also make it clear that new section 60A provides that if a teachers pay and conditions warning notice is given and after a compliance period the governing body has not complied with it or successfully made representations to the LEA against it, the school will become eligible for intervention.

Rather than hearing from the Minister that the schedule speaks for itself, I want to know why the Government think it important to introduce such powers, what evidence they have that the powers are needed, what problems the Department has identified in the implementation of the teachers pay and conditions document over the past couple of years, and how those cases have been dealt with. In other words, is the power really necessary, is use likely to be made of it and is it worth legislating for?

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

Local authorities will for the first time be able to intervene in schools that do not comply with the statutory provisions in the school teachers pay and conditions document—the STPCD. The document sets out school teachers’ conditions of employment and places a number of duties on head teachers and others, including that of carrying out the induction performance management of teachers in accordance with relevant regulations.

Those conditions are incredibly important to the standards agenda for a number of reasons. First, we cannot expect our teachers to raise pupil attainment if they have not been inducted into the profession properly. Secondly, if we want schools to play their full part in the heart of the 21st-century system of children’s services they will need a highly skilled and motivated work force who are well led, effectively deployed and able to engage effectively with a range of professionals from across the children’s service spectrum. Thirdly, they are important because statutory requirements are just that—statutory requirements. They are not optional extras that schools can choose to disregard, just as key stage 2 standard assessment tests are not optional extras.

However, there is evidence that some schools do not comply with all the document’s statutory requirements relating to teachers conditions of employment. Although arrangements exist to resolve non-compliance, they are cumbersome and slow. For example, discussions between one school and the local education authority took more than a year, which was extremely burdensome for the local authority and frustrating for the staff. It is for those reasons that we seek new powers for the local education authority and the Secretary of State.

Photo of David Laws David Laws Shadow Secretary of State (Children, Schools and Families)

I hope that I am not pre-empting the next part of the Minister’s speech, but as it seems that he might be nearing the end of it will he specify what non-compliance issues there have been over the past couple of years, and whether any of them are ones from which academies would be exempt?

Photo of David Laws David Laws Shadow Secretary of State (Children, Schools and Families)

I was exploring whether any of the non-compliance issues demonstrate a use by maintained schools of some of the flexibilities given by the Government on a statutory basis, and therefore whether the Committee might have a different attitude to those flexibilities than to other abuses of the pay and conditions document from which academies might not be exempted.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

I am sorry, but there are aspects of the hon. Gentleman’s intervention that I may have missed. It might help if I tell him of some of the non-compliance of which we have evidence.

In March 2008, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers did a work-load audit of its members; it reported that 5 per cent. of respondents had been denied planning preparation and assessment time, and 37 per cent. said that they were directed to do activities not related to planning, preparation and assessment in PPA time. In particular, there have been problems with invigilation roles.

Photo of David Laws David Laws Shadow Secretary of State (Children, Schools and Families)

I am grateful to the Minister for being so patient. Are those identified areas ones in which academies are also exempt?

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

We give academy governing bodies the power to innovate in relation to employees’ terms and conditions; they do not have to abide by national pay and conditions. That is a key plank of academy policy, and one that academy teachers most frequently cite as contributing to transformational change. Academies are exempt from all aspects of the STPCD.

Mr. Lawsrose—

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

No, I do not think that I should give way again, although for one moment I was tempted. Through the device of interventions, I have adequately explained the elements referred to under the schedule. The Committee will note that there are also measures for intervention on the basis of performance, in respect of the power to direct local education authorities to consider issuing a performance warning notice, and for an expansion of the Secretary of State’s ability to appoint additional governors or direct that there should be an interim executive board.

Photo of David Laws David Laws Shadow Secretary of State (Children, Schools and Families) 11:15 pm, 26th March 2009

Given the number of important issues under the next clause that we are to discuss, I shall not hover too long over the schedule other than to note that the Government seem to be taking additional powers to direct schools to do things from which some schools are exempt. That raises the same issue that we discussed earlier about the way in which academies have greater  curricular freedoms. My questioning of the Government is not because I want to take away those powers, but because of their policy between different types of schools and whether that inconsistency is based on a rational analysis of the needs of schools.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

I will not labour the point long, but when I and my predecessor who had responsibility for academies looked at the individual case for an academy in particular circumstances, one of the things that we examined was how the sponsor would propose using the freedoms that are available to academies in order to do the difficult job of turning around performance. The freedoms in respect of pay and conditions are one of the things that we look at given that they will probably pay more money than the STPCD allows to recruit the very best people to turn around those particular schools.

Photo of David Laws David Laws Shadow Secretary of State (Children, Schools and Families)

Yes, but I am not sure the Minister has reassured me. He seemed to be saying that the Government are giving freedoms to academies, but looking carefully at how they will use them. That highlights the Government’s inconsistent approach to school freedoms and how they are acquired throughout schools. The Government wish to give freedoms and flexibilities to a particular class of school yet are legislating under the Bill for powers to force other schools to do things from which academies are exempt. However, I shall not press the issue to a Division.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 13 agreed to.