Controversial new rules for schools in Wales have been buried, says David Davies.
Speech to the National Assembly for Wales
"What concerns us here is not party politics, but the fact that this set of regulations contains a principle of the utmost importance in terms of how schools are run, namely the role of classroom assistants.
Buried away in what is a veritable thicket of legal jargon, which is presented in these seemingly innocuous regulations, is this important principle.
These items, in my view, are the legal equivalent of a magic-eye picture. When you first look at them, they are an innocuous, garbled mass of words and phrases, but when you stare at them a little longer, just before you become cross-eyed, an entirely different picture emerges.
If these regulations are passed today, they will enable a classroom assistant to be put in charge of a classroom.
The Minister will argue that that can only happen under supervision, but the question that she fails to answer is what that supervision entails.
My idea of supervision is that the teacher would be in charge of the classroom, with the classroom assistant helping out somewhere else in the room.
However, when the Minister was cross-examined on that—it took a while to get to this in the Education and Lifelong Learning Committee—she admitted that supervision could simply mean that the classroom assistant has been given some form of lesson plan that has been approved by the headteacher.
In other words, and I ask her to confirm or deny this when she replies today, a classroom assistant could easily take the class without the teacher being present. That goes to the root of the problem.
The Minister also tried to defend these regulations by saying that it would not be compulsory for headteachers to put classroom assistants in charge of a classroom.
I do not recall any Assembly Member, any of the unions or anyone else ever suggesting that it would be compulsory. The Minister is following one of the oldest tricks in the book, which is to try to counter an argument that nobody has even made.
Of course it will not be compulsory, and I invite her to say who has suggested that. It would not be compulsory, but it would be the educational equivalent of a Trojan horse because headteachers would be allowed to use classroom assistants, and, due to funding cuts, the results of which we have seen all over Wales, they would probably feel some pressure to use them.
Nobody is suggesting that it would become a widespread practice overnight, but it would open the door to undermining the teachers' role and to enabling local education authorities to get education on the cheap. That is why we will vote against these regulations today.
Finally, it is disgraceful that something as fundamental as this has been hidden away in all kinds of legal jargon to try to make it difficult for people to know what is going on.
There is a constant thread running through New Labour's policies: nursing auxiliaries are doing a job that used to be done by nurses, police support constables are doing a job that used to be done by police officers before this Government sent them off to fill in all kinds of forms, and now we are replacing our teachers with classroom assistants.
I hope they never get around to doing the same with politicians, or I do not know where we will be."