Clause 10

Education Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 22nd March 2011.

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Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Education) 12:00 pm, 22nd March 2011

I beg to move amendment 57, in clause 10, page 19, line 9, leave out and insert

The amendment is relatively brief and straightforward. It is designed to probe the Minister’s thoughts on the transitional period and what happens to teachers within the disciplinary system when the GTCE is abolished. I understand that the Government plan to abolish the GTCE by 31 March 2012, until which time teachers must continue to register with the organisation. Employers must continue to ensure that they do so, and continue to refer disciplinary cases to it.

What are the Minister’s intentions regarding teachers who have been referred to the GTCE for disciplinary matters before its abolition? Will teachers in such situations be able to finish those disciplinary processes under the organisation’s existing disciplinary regime? I understand that the Bill proposes that a prohibition order, or a conditional registration order, made by the GTCE will remain in force following the GTCE’s closure. By implication—although, as currently drafted, the Bill is not entirely clear—the arrangements for monitoring conditions will also continue to apply. That means that any failure to comply may result in a further hearing to consider that failure, which may result in the imposition of a further sanction.

In those circumstances, will the Minister make explicit whether monitoring arrangements will continue to apply following the abolition of the GTCE? In addition, it is not entirely clear what will happen with any induction appeals that begin before the planned abolition date of 31 March 2012. Again, will the Minister clarify his intentions about what will happen to such cases following the closure?

We have heard this morning how the GTCE is working closely with the Independent Safeguarding Authority. In Committee last Thursday, I referred to the fact that more referrals are being made to the GTCE as a result of that close partnership working. Employers have been expected to decide whether to refer cases to the ISA or to the GTCE, so cases might often have been wrongly referred. The National Union of Teachers told us that close liaison is still needed to provide effective safeguarding of children, which we would all agree with. Will the Minister confirm whether he intends the ISA to continue working closely with the Secretary of State as the GTCE’s functions transfer? Will he confirm arrangements for liaison with the ISA during that transition period? It would be helpful if he set out his plans for teachers who are in the middle of disciplinary investigations and action when the GTCE is abolished.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

Amendment 57 would allow the Secretary of State to take over investigations that are currently carried out by the GTCE, but would require him to complete them under the existing arrangements for regulation that operate under the GTCE. As drafted, it would not require the Secretary of State to undertake any new cases that were referred to him in accordance with the current GTCE system of regulation.

My understanding is that the current rules will remain in place until the Secretary of State takes over regulation of the teaching profession on 1 April 2012. The Department is working closely with the GTCE to plan and manage that transition. A joint transition board includes the GTCE’s chief executive and members of its management team. It has been working closely with officials at the  Department to plan and manage transition arrangements, including the details for the transfer of case work. The board will continue to work closely with the GTCE, to learn from its experience in the development of the new arrangements. That is the procedure in dealing with the ISA, monitoring and existing cases. I hope that that is enough to satisfy the hon. Member for Hartlepool.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Education)

I am sure that it is my fault, rather than that of the Minister, but I have a relatively straightforward question for a relatively straightforward answer. If a teacher has been referred to the GTCE for a disciplinary matter still ongoing at 31 March 2012, when the council is abolished, will that process be finished under the existing disciplinary regime? A relatively straightforward yes or no from the Minister would be helpful.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

I will write to the hon. Gentleman about that precise handover point later today.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Education)

That is very helpful. I will expect to see the letter at 4.34 pm or, perhaps, 17.18 pm. Given the Minister’s commitments, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

Clause 10 makes transitional provisions for certain functions currently undertaken by the GTCE. Any person who is barred from the profession under the GTCE will continue to be so under the new arrangements; any sanctions put in place by the GTCE will continue for the specified period or until revoked. The clause provides that the list of prohibited teachers held by the Secretary of State, as detailed in clause 8, may include any person on whom the GTCE imposed a conditional or suspension order.

It is right to honour decisions made by the previous regulator, if sanctions were put in place, based on the criteria at the time the case was considered. The alternative would be a costly reconsideration of all past cases against the new parameters, which would place additional burdens on all concerned. A person with a sanction may still appeal against the continuation of the sanction after the relevant time period specified has elapsed. The appeal would then be considered under the new regulatory arrangements.

The clause also makes provisional arrangements to allow the Secretary of State to take over consideration of cases that the GTCE has already commenced when it is abolished. Cases referred to the GTCE currently take an average of 60 weeks to be concluded, so the provisions are needed to ensure a smooth and timely transition to the new arrangements for regulation by the Secretary of State.

Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Shadow Minister (Education)

I understand and appreciate what the Minister said, subject to the commitment that he will provide the Committee with reassurance about the point I made under amendment 57. We are happy not to divide the Committee on the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 10 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.