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Education Bill Hl

Volume 669: debated on Thursday 24 February 2005

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Further consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Schedule 12 [School organisation: further amendments]:

moved Amendment No. 86:

Page 118, line 32, at end insert—
"( ) In Schedule 8 to the Schools Standard and Framework Act 1998 (c. 31) (changes of category of school), in paragraph 2(2) after "modifications" insert "except that in all cases the School Organisation committee must approve the change of category"."
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment was discussed in Committee and we have tabled it again because of the profoundly unsatisfactory response given by the Minister to my noble friend Lady Sharp. Schedule 12 contains a whole series of modifications to three Education Acts: the Education Act 1996, the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 and the Education Act 2002.

The amendment proposes a further modification to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. It deals with a school switching from being a community school to a foundation school. The amendment would require that any such decision by a governing body of a community school has to be endorsed by the local school organisation committee. SOCs were set up by, I believe, the 1996 Act as sub-committees of LEAs, expressly to look at school reorganisation and rationalisation proposals to ensure that such decisions took into account not only local community views, but also broader LEA-wide considerations.

In his response, the Minister rightly said that the amendment was designed to frustrate the intention set out in the Government's five-year strategy to allow schools to change category and become foundation schools by a simple vote of their governing body, followed by a short consultation—guilty as charged. We are seeking to frustrate those moves because we do not believe that the Government have a popular mandate for making them. We regard what they are proposing as profoundly undemocratic and we wish to inject into the process a little more democratic accountability.

Perhaps we should consider what difference it makes whether a school is a foundation school and not a community school. As with former grant-maintained schools, the school is removed from LEA control which gives it a degree of independence in running its own affairs. The school owns its own land and buildings, employs its own staff and most importantly appoints its own governors. No longer does it need to have governors nominated by the elected LEA. Indeed, elected LEA councillors are expressly forbidden from sitting on boards of governors. The foundation may also appoint, rather than elect, the parent governors.

In Committee my noble friend Lady Sharp argued—we both remain of the same view—that this shift away from community school status towards foundation school status was a shift away from democratic control towards what might be described as appointee control. The foundation ensures that its friends sit on the board of governors. The word "cronyism" springs to mind.

The noble Baroness also argued that from a community point of view the loss of involvement of the LEA was detrimental to community interests because, as we heard earlier, schools are essentially community institutions. Rather than being encouraged to work individually and to compete with each other, we want schools to work together. to collaborate and to co-operate for the greater good of the whole community. Indeed, so states the Government's five-year strategy for schools, and yet as the Education and Skills Select Committee in another place has pointed out, the policy that they are advocating of encouraging schools to take up foundation status is wholly contradictory to that objective.

In Committee, the Minister made several statements with which I cannot agree. He said that the amendment had nothing to do with the subject of the Bill, although in the Long Title of the Bill it clearly states:
"to make other provision about school education".
The Minister stated that the change of category regulations had already been made, but they had not been published on the statutory instrument website by 12.30 a.m. on 24 February, a month after he made that statement. The Minister said that our amendment was,
"designed effectively to frustrate the intention set out in the Government's five-year strategy".—[Official Report, 18/1/05, col. 715.]
That does not mean that it is incapable of being challenged and debated in Parliament.

The Minister mentioned consultation, but the Government have not published an analysis of responses to the consultation, as is normal practice. The fact that the Minister claims wide consultation does not mean that the consultation supported the Government's proposals, for we have yet to see. I remind the Minister that, of the 21,000 primary and secondary schools in England, nearly 900 are already foundation schools. Another 4,200 cannot easily become foundation schools because they are voluntary-aided. That means that approximately 16,000 schools can become foundation and are required to make an application to the school organisation committee.

The Government propose that 2,400 of those schools should have a streamlined mechanism for achieving foundation status. That means that 13,500 primary schools will still have to apply to the school organisation committee. It is therefore difficult to understand why, to quote the Minister,
"it would be a sham for the school organisation committee to be engaged in",
assisting approximately 13,500 primary schools to become foundation schools,
"when it has plenty of other extremely important and challenging business to do, without undertaking that bureaucratic process"".—[Official Report, 18/1/05; col. 716.]
I believe that that is its job. Do we take it that the Government will now oppose the 13,500 schools wanting to achieve foundation status, so that the school organisation committee does not have to undertake this bureaucratic process?

I sincerely believe that the Minister went on to offend many excellent community and voluntary controlled schools by claiming that it was easier,
"for schools"—
foundation schools—
"to develop a distinctive ethos and make them more responsive to changing demands".—[Official Report, 18/1/05, col. 716.]
The Government have not substantiated that assertion, and the likelihood is that there are just as many excellent community schools as foundation schools, as shown by HM Chief Inspector's list of outstanding schools over the past decade, published in early January. It is interesting that the proportion of foundation schools in that list is approximately the same as that found in the wider school population.

The trouble is that the proposal has nothing to do with improving education in schools; it is just to satisfy the instincts of specialist advisers who surround the Prime Minister. What makes a good school is the quality of leadership and management and not the legal status of the body managing it. England has been bedevilled for 500 years by the hierarchy of schools arising out of their different legal status, and it is about time that Ministers understood that getting schools to play musical chairs does nothing to improve the learning experiences of youngsters. If anything, it takes away the focus on learning for a couple of years while the school readjusts to its new statutory status.

What is so objectionable about the provision? First, a major change in policy—the switch from LEA-controlled community schools to individually controlled foundation schools—has been introduced by regulation. Secondly, the regulations have been changed before, not after, the results of the consultation exercise. What use then is consultation? The Minister is effectively saying, "We've done it anyway". Finally, Parliament, which supposedly in a democratic country like ours is the final arbiter of the public interest, has not played any part in the decisions. The regulations were changed without consultation or debate in either House of Parliament. We regard that as a profoundly unsatisfactory state of affairs. The amendment does no more than make a small attempt to hold back a minor part of the process. I beg to move.

My Lords, with the leave of the house, I will address the specific impact of the amendment put down by the noble Baroness, which would prevent regulations from allowing proposals for a change in the category of school to be approved other than by the school organisation committee. I hope that I can persuade her about the virtues of what that would mean for schools. I will set out briefly the background to the provisions for schools changing categories.

The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 established the principle that provisions for schools changing categories should be set out mainly in regulations rather than guidance. The Act provides that the governing bodies of schools wishing to change category must publish proposals, but it does not prescribe the process. However, it is clear that Parliament took the view at the time that different provisions might be made in regulations for the treatment of proposals for different types of change. We think that it has proved to be an eminently sensible approach because it allows for the decision-making process to be proportionate to the type of change being proposed. I am advised that the regulations have not been changed.

Noble Lords will know that we have been consulting on proposals relating to foundation schools and the five-year strategy. There are two strands to those proposals. The first is that the governing bodies of community and voluntary controlled secondary schools should be able, following consultation, to publish proposals to change category to become foundation schools; and that they should be able to decide those proposals themselves, taking into account any representations received.

The second element of the proposals is that where a foundation school forms a partnership with a charitable foundation, the foundation should be able to appoint a majority of governors. We would not want to diminish the role, scope, effect or impact of the consultation process. We take it seriously. The noble Baroness asked why we had not published an analysis. The Government do not always do that, but we are giving the responses close consideration. We will respond shortly, and a summary of responses to the consultation process will be published. I hope that that is helpful.

Obviously, I cannot pre-empt the Government's formal response to consultation, which will be made shortly, but I will briefly reinforce the argument about why we think that we have arrived at the most appropriate way of dealing with the matter from the school's point of view. The first distinction in relation to the SOC in its traditional role is that a change to foundation status brings essentially internal changes. A school that changes category from community to foundation will not bring about any change in the pattern of provision of school places in an area or have a formal impact on other schools. The school would be the same size and cater for the same age-range, before and after the change; and the change would not in itself result in the school operating different admission arrangements. None of those changes would impact on other schools, pupils or parents. It is for that reason that we are not convinced, therefore, that it is necessary for the SOC to consider proposals for such a change. We do not believe that it is necessary, essentially, for the SOC to engage itself in matters that relate to the internal management of the school.

The second distinction is that the change of category does not result in a significant change in a school's governance. We have proposed that foundations should be allowed to appoint a majority of governors, as they do for voluntary-aided schools—there is no difference. Where schools do not have foundations—most foundation schools do not—no single body will elect or appoint the majority on the governing body. Under our proposals, it would be for each school's governing body to decide whether the school should acquire a foundation, and how many governors the foundation should be able to appoint in the future.

On the third point, the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Sharp, are concerned about accountability. We believe in all sincerity that there is no less accountability in this situation.

In terms of the governing body, in the case of a voluntary school or a foundation school with a foundation, the foundation has no statutory responsibility for the general conduct of the school. The responsibility will rest with the governing body alone. The foundation's responsibilities are limited to appointing a specified number of governors and holding land on trust for the school.

3 p.m.

In terms of the LEA itself, the foundations are required under the 2002 Act to have at least one governor appointed by the LEA. There will therefore be LEA representation on the governing body.

Governors appointed by the foundation of a voluntary or foundation school have specific responsibilities to secure that the school is conducted in accordance with any trust deed—indeed, if it has a religious character, to preserve and develop it. All governors of any category school, however, are collectively bound to act only in the interests of the school.

Secondly, in terms of inspection accountability, foundation schools are inspected by Ofsted in the same way as other maintained schools. Local authorities have the same powers to intervene under Sections 14 to 17 of the 1998 Act. Those include powers to appoint additional governors and to suspend the school's right to a delegated budget.

Thirdly, regarding the representation of parents, the proportion of governors who are parents would remain the same if the change was made to foundation status. If that school did not acquire a foundation, a third of the governors would be elected parent governors. If the school acquired a foundation, the number of elected parent governors would be reduced, but a sufficient proportion of foundation governors would still have to be parents to ensure that, overall, parents still constituted one third of the total governing body. That is exactly the same situation as for voluntary aided bodies, which account—as I think the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said—for a fifth of all secondary schools. They are no less accountable than any other type of maintained school, as I am sure the noble Baroness would agree. The different make-up of their governing body does not affect the extent to which governors are collectively answerable for the conduct of the school.

I therefore hope—in relation to what I have said about the pragmatic nature of the changes in relation to the representation of the LEA, the way the governors are organised and particularly the questions of accountability she has raised—that I have been able to persuade the noble Baroness that these changes do not make the schools less accountable to parents or the wider community. On the contrary, our proposals are aimed at giving governing bodies additional freedoms, so that they are better able to respond to local needs. I hope the noble Baroness will take some reassurance from that, and will consider withdrawing her amendment.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her detailed reply. I shall deal with her points in order.

The Minister mentioned that the regulation situation was put in place in 1998. At that stage, no one envisaged the wholesale dismantling of our school system that we see today. She talked about consultation, but how seriously do the Government take consultation if they are shortening the period for consultation on foundation status on the one hand and, on the other hand, acting before the consultation has been published, as the Minister has just confirmed? That is a blatant example of putting the cart before the horse.

The Minister says that foundation schools will have no effect on the provision of school places. However, they profoundly affect the governance of a school. The demand for change is not coming from the school; it is ideological. There is, as the Minister said, going to be one LEA governor, but one out of 12. What about the dental appointment? You only need that LEA governor to go to the dentist, for example, when there is a meeting, and you have no LEA representation at all. One out of 12 is really pathetic.

If the school has a foundation then parents are not elected, they are appointed. The Government are encouraging foundation schools to have a foundation. The main objective of this whole process is to get schools away from the LEA. I would argue with the statement that this is all pragmatic. It is not; it is ideological. Clearly, however, there is not going to be an ideological meeting of minds over this. For the moment, therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

moved Amendment No. 87:

After Clause 70, insert the following new clause—
The Secretary of State shall within two years of the passing of this Act lay before both Houses of Parliament a report which contains a comparison and assessment of the statutory provisions in respect of the establishment, changes in terms of establishment and discontinuance of academies and maintained schools and, in the light of this report, the Secretary of State shall if necessary introduce legislation to amend these provisions in order that there may be equivalence in the statutory requirements in respect of the establishment, changes in the terms of establishment and discontinuance required of academies and maintained schools."
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 105.

Both these amendments are about establishing a level playing field between academies and maintained schools. The purpose of Amendment No. 87 is to probe the differences in terms of establishment between academies and maintained schools. Essentially, when they are established, academies are guaranteed funding over the course of the next seven years, irrespective of whether they meet their targets in terms of pupil numbers and achievements. Given that many academies are set up to replace schools with a history of failure, it is not a foregone conclusion that they will succeed, especially in areas such as Hackney, where four academies have now been established in very close proximity to each other.

The Minister will know of the recent publicity given to a report on academies that the DfES itself has commissioned from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which showed very clearly that there was some querying of how successful academies would be. The question is, what happens if an academy fails? Should its funding be continued willy-nilly for the next seven years? Why should LEAs, which are statutorily required to fund academies' current costs by top-slicing their schools budgets, not be able to close down a failing academy as it would a failing school which came within its responsibilities? Indeed, were it a maintained school, it is just possible—although I have to say not very probable, since it has never been used—that the Secretary of State might step in with his powers under Clause 66 to close it down. Well, the academy gets off scot-free, at least for seven years.

This amendment therefore proposes that after two years, once this Bill has become an Act of Parliament and begun to have some effect, a review should take place on the relative rules relating to the establishment, alteration to that establishment or the discontinuance of maintained schools and academies. We are prepared to look at both. We are looking at the comparison between the two sorts of establishment. If, as we would expect, the report finds an inequality between the two, the amendment suggests that legislation be promoted which puts them on an equal footing. I quote from a conclusion of the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, about the relative success of academy-type schools:
"Evidence of attrition in enthusiasm and innovation in new schools: new schools often begin with a strong sense of purpose, high levels of collegiality, dedication, motivation and staff morale. Over time, evidence from other countries suggests that this can wane. Linked to this, the wider evidence suggests that new schools have often seen teachers investing a great deal of their own time in the early stages of school development, but that this is not sustainable in the longer term".
In other words, it is possible that academies may fail, and do so within that seven year timeframe. Why should LEAs be left holding the baby, financing them in those circumstances? Is it not fair, if you are going to establish new schools, that you do so on equal terms?

Amendment No. 105 is slightly different. It is an amendment to the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998. Its purpose is to strengthen the admissions code of practice. Again, it is trying to put the issue on a level playing field. Currently, the admissions code of practice puts a duty on relevant bodies, such as the admissions authorities—and do not forget that the foundation schools, academies and city technology colleges are their own admissions authorities—and LEAs, which are admissions authorities, and appeal panels to have regard to any relevant provisions in the code. The amendment puts a duty on the relevant bodies to act in accordance with any relevant provisions in the code. The amendment is a response to the recent High Court judgment on the status of the code in the case brought by the London Oratory School against the adjudicator. Essentially, the conclusion was that the London Oratory School could, if it wished, go on interviewing in relation to admissions to the school.

School admissions are at present set by the individual admissions authorities. With the proposed increase in the number of foundations schools and city academies, there is likely to be an increase in the number of new admissions authorities in England of something like 3,000. Alongside the expansion of the hest and most popular schools—and the recent case of the London Oratory School highlighted this—it would be increasingly difficult for local authorities and admissions forums to ensure fair admissions policies that also supported wider school improvement.

A statutory code of practice on admissions would support local authorities in their local leadership role, enabling them to use admissions policies more effectively to ensure that all schools shared the same chance to improve, and not only the best ones. While we support greater independence for schools, the correct mechanism must be put in place to ensure that individual school policies work to the benefit of all children and not just a particular group of children. I beg to move.

My Lords, these are important issues, which were touched on earlier in our proceedings. I am glad to have the opportunity to set out the Government's position. As the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, will not be surprised to hear, we would not in principle or practice want to adjust policy in a way that would lead to the very tight convergence of practice and procedure between academies and maintained schools which is behind some of the amendments, because that would defeat the importance of the academies, as we see it.

Let me set out why the freedom to innovate is fundamental. As the House knows, academies are not just any old schools, but schools that have been set up at the request and initiative of local authorities to deal with some of the most seriously failing schools in our society. The provisions set out to deal not with schools in easy, leafy parts of the world where things are going well, but with schools in areas where the education provision has been appallingly low, often for very many years. They are schools which, virtually without exception, take a higher proportion of children in very high need than anywhere else in the country. They also, usually, take a much higher proportion in need in their own local authority area. So they are schools in which there are very high concentrations of children with need—as instanced by the number of free school meals—and a history of significant failure to deliver good standard education and to achieve good outcomes for those children.

The central argument is, as the House knows, that if you keep on doing the same old things you are likely to get the same old results. Therefore, the central argument behind academies is that because, in certain areas, certain schools have not been able to deliver good education for children for many years, we have to try something more radical and more fundamental. That is the central argument behind academies and the central argument behind giving them the freedom to innovate and the space and time to do so. That has been the key to the success of the academies, as it has been for city technology colleges and city colleges for the technology of the arts.

The provisions give schools the freedom to innovate in matters of governance, staffing, a flexible curriculum or organisation, including new ways of organising the school day, term length, pay and conditions of service and how the workforce works. The central argument is that, as well as bringing in new leadership and ideas, we should give schools the freedom to innovate, to get better outcomes for those children, for a fundamentally important purpose. The amendments, if taken literally, would have the effect of eroding those freedoms and we would eventually be on a course that turned the academies back into standard maintained schools. What can give any of us the confidence that that would deliver improved outcomes for those children?

3.15 p.m.

I do not ask the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, to take on trust that every academy will succeed in every respect in the next few years. But the central argument is that you have to create a significant set of new environments in the really serious situations when schools have failed, and you have to give them the support to do so and the space and time to innovate. I get the impression from what has been said that the noble Baroness believes that unless they have transformed the world within a couple of years we should shut them down and go back to the old model, which we know has failed for so many years. That is not sensible. We have to support academies and evaluate them properly and seriously over a decent period of time to see if they do, as we very much hope—and the early shoots are promisin—make a significant improvement in some of the most difficult circumstances in our society. So we do not want to take away the scope to innovate, while we do want them to have the opportunity to make a real difference to children's life chances.

The evaluation of the academies programme is a five-year longitudinal study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, as the noble Baroness said. A final report will be in the public domain in 2007—but you do not start pulling the programme apart after a year or two, particularly if you start from the viewpoint of wishing that the programme had never been started in the first place. We have to evaluate properly, but we also have to have a proper period of time in which to test how a really important experiment has been working.

We believe that admission arrangements need to be able to respond to local circumstances, but they have to do so with regard to the school admissions code of practice. A clear code of practice applies to all admissions authorities, as the House knows. We believe that the existing mechanisms are sufficiently robust: admissions authorities must consult their local authority and other schools; those consulted have the power to object to the arrangements to the school adjudicator, and the adjudicator is then able to consider the individual circumstances of the school and reach a decision.

The academies are required by their funding agreement to comply with admissions law; therefore, although it is not exactly the same mechanism as the noble Baroness proposes in the amendment, the effect is exactly the same. We use the funding agreement to lock schools into compliance with admissions law. We want no favours to academies with regard to who they take in; there is no point in having an experiment if you have favouritism. We want them to have the same responsibility to take on the full range of children's needs as any other school.

The Secretary of State is responsible for agreeing the admissions arrangements, and I can assure the House that the code of practice is rigorously applied by the Secretary of State. We have previously discussed funding issues, and I sought to make it clear to the House that no preference is given to academies on funding. Again, there would be no point—if you simply make the playing field so that they succeed, you prove nothing. You have to see whether, by giving different leadership and creating a different environment with some deregulation, schools can get better results.

A noble Lord asked what would happen if the academies failed within the seven-year period. That period is there for a good reason, because you do not expect to transform a seriously failing situation in difficult circumstances in two or three years; at least, that has never been my experience of turning round organisations—it is not usually that quick. But there are reserve powers and provisions in the funding agreement to terminate the agreement before seven years in certain situations. There are powers in case very serious things happen, so there is not a permanent knock-on. PricewaterhouseCoopers' evaluation will help to ensure that academies continue to provide a radical option and help us all to consider the evidence and debate it in years to come, so that there is some objective analysis of what has been done.

I hope that what I have said has been helpful. I may not have persuaded the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, that what is happening is what she would have wished to happen. The fundamental issue is that academies are dealing with children who have failed for years in some of the most difficult situations. We have to try something new; this set of proposals makes an enormous amount of sense and has a lot of parental and private sector support. We are very optimistic that, with leadership and the children's commitment, we shall be able to get better results in future. I hope that that is helpful, if not totally persuasive.

My Lords, before the noble Lord concludes, would he be so good as to bear in mind that the drafting of this amendment really does create confusion? I confess that I was the chairman of the only official committee since 1870 to advise Parliament on the way that statutes should be drafted. One of the matters that concerned us very much was the bringing together of too much in one amendment or one clause. It seems to me that this is a typical example of the way in which we should avoid drafting. At least two separate clauses should have been put forward in respect of it.

My Lords, I have not as yet succeeded in my endeavour to persuade the opposition parties to clear their amendments with me before tabling them.

My Lords. I plead guilty to that one. We were trying to make a point in the amendment, and the Minister has clearly understood that point. I should also make clear that from these Benches on the substantive issue we welcome the fact that academies are bringing substantial new resources to inner-city schools. We recognise that in this policy the Government are attempting to cope with schools that have been long-term failures, many of which have over the course of many, many years been deprived of resources to cope with the needs that they must face.

We on these Benches have argued for many a long year too that the only way to cope with these issues was positive discrimination—to pour in money, resources and people; to get the best teachers and the best leaders into these schools to try to turn them around and to provide a proper education for those young people, many of whom have long been deprived of a proper education as compared to their middle-class counterparts. We are delighted to see some attempt to reverse that.

Where we depart from the Government is in thinking that it is necessary to create them as independent foundations. An independent foundation can be bought for £2 million. Shall we spend £2 million on supporting this charity, or shall we buy an inner-city school? We believe that if sufficient resources were devoted to it this turning around of those inner-city schools could be done by local education authorities. It would be preferable for it to be done by the local education authority, because it looks to the community interest, not to the individual interest of the school. That goes back to the fundamental problems that we have with No. 10's policy here of setting secondary schools in competition with other secondary schools.

We are, above all, anxious to see schools co-operating with each other to provide education for their local community. We feel that has to be done as a community activity. I have argued that before, and I know that essentially there is now an ideological divide between these Benches and the Benches opposite on this; whereas for many a long year we fought battles together. I go back to the 1970s and the 1980s, when I was a fundamental member of the Campaign for the Advancement of State Education. We fought for comprehensive schools that were properly comprehensive. It is sad to see the party opposite now deserting this bandwagon and going down the route of creating schools that we feel are in danger of becoming elitist. Again, we shall see, because as they say there is an evaluation on these schools.

To take another paragraph from the PricewaterhouseCoopers report:
"There are significant concerns in the research literature about the extent to which 'quasi-markets' can contribute to the development of a two-tier system which results in an increase in stratification of students by social class. For example, some studies have suggested that middle class families tend to be more proactive in seeking what they consider to be the best school for their children, and they can use their 'cultural capital' to secure school places. Such concerns have already been expressed in relation to Academies, and addressing this issue is an important priority for the evaluation".
We are extremely pleased that in terms of admissions the city academies are included within the admissions framework of the local authority. This is clearly a vitally important issue. We were suggesting in our amendment that rather than just "having regard to", it should be the stronger "act in accordance with" the code of conduct, which would strengthen this power. Nevertheless, in a world in which parents are free to choose across the whole of London, or the whole of any community, whatever school they wish to send their children to, it is not impossible that we shall see a stratification arising within the academies. We shall have to look to the longer term on this one to see precisely what happens. There is an ideological divide between these Benches and the Benches opposite. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 72 [Functions of Agency]:

moved Amendment No. 88:

Page 41, line 17, leave out "and efficiency"
The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 88 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 89 and 90, which are grouped. These three amendments were tabled in Committee, and they seek to probe the capacity of the new Training and Development Agency for Schools to fulfil its extended remit and to probe its resource levels. In his response to these amendments in Committee, the Minister was dismissive about the important issue of resources. Therefore, the amendments have been re-tabled, as we are concerned that without an entitlement to professional development for both teachers and support staff, schools will not necessarily prioritise those in their budgets.

In response to the question asked by my noble friend Lady Sharp,
"Does he mean that schools will now get additional funding to meet the training and development needs of support staff as well as teachers?".—[Official Report, 18/1/05; col. 721],
the Minister talked much of professional development activities for teachers, but little about support staff. He stated:
"There has been a substantial delegation of funding into schools for teacher development so that they themselves have the appropriate resources".—[Official Report, 18/1/05; col. 723].
As my noble friend Lady Sharp illustrated in quoting the General Teaching Council survey, almost one in five teachers have to fund their own professional development. Clearly, schools do not believe that they have sufficient funds to support all staff in their training needs.

In a recent National College for School Leadership online discussion about professional development, a head teacher told how she works in a school,
"where they are recovering from a massive deficit brought about by too many reasons to list here. They have limited their 'external' CPD programmes and also day time programmes in order to cut these costs. The teaching staff were involved in these discussions as were the support staff and it is only with their support that it has been possible to set up extensive in-house mentoring programmes, twilight sessions for information exchanges and other such cost-effective solutions … My biggest concern is that all talk seems to be about funding Teachers CPD but with little mention of Support Staff whose role is increasing and changing constantly".
Another head teacher told how she,
"was at CPD managers conference with the GTC where they were advocating putting CPD money into school budgets. I'm afraid I was very argumentative because I feel passionate that teachers have an entitlement to CPD. The Year 4 and 5 bursaries were brilliant for this. We have also been involved as a school in many of the research bursaries which again have involved staff working together in our school and across a network of schools. I strongly feel that the professional bodies need to protect this for all teachers—and support staff. CPD should not be dependent upon a schools budget."
The TTA has, in recent years, understandably concentrated on teacher recruitment because there are several shortage areas that have needed to be addressed. The amendment would do nothing to change that priority in relation to the focus of the new TDA in its professional development responsibilities. The amendment would have a minimal effect on the way in which schools' budgets were prioritised, but it could help by sending out the right signals to school managers about the rest of the staff. I beg to move.

3.30 p.m.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for speaking clearly to what is, in a sense, behind the amendments. I will not simply respond to the amendments—they are more of a peg, to probe whether there will he adequate continuous professional development in the future. The noble Baroness is right that it is an important issue. The Government have to be concerned about CPD, as it is a critical element of improving future teacher quality. None of the amendments would increase the amount of CPD being undertaken—so in that sense, they are a peg.

Let me speak briefly about the TDA's future role in CPD. The Training and Development Agency for Schools' main role in CPD will not be to hold the purse strings, as I think the noble Baroness understands. The House has seen copies of the agency's grant letter for 2005–06 and will no doubt have noted that it will receive an increase of about £70 million on its grant for the current year. That, if I recollect correctly, is an increase of way over 10 per cent. Indeed, its budget now is nearly £650 million. The figure for 2005–06 was £560 million. It is a highly successful organisation whose grant funding from central government has been substantially and powerfully increased. It is unreasonable to expect the TDA to fund continuing training for the one million people who work in schools as well as discharging all its functions.

Some of its work will continue to be on the traditional grant-funding model, whereby it uses its funding for someone doing, for example, a specific postgraduate professional development programme. That mainly involves teachers studying for higher degrees. For the most part, its CPD functions will lie in co-ordinating provision and helping to assure its quality.

The main source of funding for CPD—I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, dislikes this—mill be the unprecedented increases in funding over which head teachers and school governing bodies now have direct control. We have pushed the funding into schools and put the CPD function there as part of their responsibilities. So, for training purposes, school governing bodies have a variety of resources on which they can draw to support the training of their teaching and non- teaching staff. They can decide how to use their LEA delegated budgets or school standards grants.

To ensure that head teachers have an incentive to use the money over which they now have direct control to invest in CPD for their staff. rather than for other purposes, the annual teaching and learning reviews that will come into effect in September 2006 will tie teachers' performance appraisals more closely than ever to identifying and meeting continuing development needs. That should not only assist head teachers in encouraging their staff to develop their skills but should help teachers themselves to insist on being given access to the development opportunities that they need. I will not argue why the specific wording of the amendments is flawed; I do not think the noble Baroness would particularly want me to do so, as it is not the thrust of the debate.

I discussed some of these issues with Ralph Tabberer, the chief executive of the forthcoming TDA, yesterday. He was passionate in his belief that they had a powerful budget at present, but the model whereby they were stimulated to add value and to provide services, which in part would be delivered only if schools thought that they delivered value from their own budgets, was a buying model, one that was intrinsically right and sound. I strongly agree with him. For example, it means that they have no automatic free meals for some functions. They will get their services bought only if the buyers think that the products and services are good.

Let me not go on at any more length. We have in place a foundation for a considerable increase in CPD and for strengthening the contribution that the TDA will make towards workforce development in schools more generally. I hope that, in part, I have been able to persuade the noble Baroness of that.

My Lords. I thank the Minister for his reply. It is certainly encouraging to hear about the increase of around 10 per cent in the CPD budget. The challenges to teachers these days are enormous—not just with changes in curriculum. For example, there is the citizenship curriculum which, at about two or three years old, is very young. I was talking to some teachers only the other day about how they were teaching it. They are still feeling their way and relying very much on CPD and networking among themselves to develop best practice in teaching the new curriculum. The enormous changes in school organisation will also require many teachers. So CPD is vital.

I was particularly interested in what the Minister said about the incentive for head teachers to make appropriate prioritisation for CPD from school budgets, and the role of the annual teaching and learning reviews in that. I hope that teachers will insist on access to CPD to help them to do their job even better. in the children's interest. That is what it is all about, is it not? I am grateful to the Minister for focusing on what was really behind my amendments. 1 beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 89 and 90 not moved.]

of Bolton moved Amendment No. 91:

Page 41. line 23, after "the" insert "behavioural,"
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 91 would require the Training and Development Agency to ensure that the school workforce was well fitted and trained to promote the behavioural development of pupils.

I am delighted that the Minister, having listened to the concerns of your Lordships' House, has decided to incorporate this element into the Bill. We differ only in where the word "behavioural" comes in the sentence. As 1 said in Committee, good discipline is one of the key determinants in producing a successful and conducive environment in which pupils can learn and teachers can teach. Therefore it is important that, as part of the training process, prospective teachers are schooled in the necessary techniques and ways in which good discipline and order can he maintained in the classroom and in the general school environment.

When I trained as a teacher, I did teaching practice in a particularly difficult school in Salford. I was coming towards the end of what I thought was a scintillating lesson on the Industrial Revolution when a boy jumped up and said, "This is a load of rubbish". He jumped out of the window and ran across the playing fields. I remember that, as I stood at the window, forlornly shouting "Come back!"—I will not tell your Lordships' House what his reply was—I wished that I had been taught how to deal with such a situation. However, I was very pleased when I went hack to the class. They said, "Don't worry, Miss—you're doing really well. He normally jumps out of the window at the beginning of the lesson".

It is vital that teachers and support staff are equipped with techniques to deal with unruly behaviour. I beg to move.

My Lords. I am glad there is unanimity. We always do what the opposition parties tell us to do when we think it makes sense. We have put the word in a different place only because parliamentary counsel thinks that that makes even more sense.

My Lords, I am delighted to see the word "behavioural" introduced in the clause and to see it alongside physical and mental development. At least we have here the two words that I fought for in Clauses 2 and 5. As I said, if I have to choose to help the teachers to get behaviour—

My Lords, both are better, but I said "If I have to choose". Let us have that debate again, if your Lordships want it. When the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, replied to me on physical development, I am sure that she had that in mind in particular rather than physical health. In the clause, teachers are being particularly encouraged to help with the "physical development" of children.

I conclude by thanking both the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, and the noble Lord, Lord Filkin.

My Lords, as a resident of Salford, and bishop of the diocese in which Bolton plays a significant part, I am delighted to be able to support in principle the noble Baroness's point. Alas, I cannot go the whole way for, having listened to the brief debate, I think that the positioning of "behavioural" probably comes better after "spiritual" and "moral". However, on such a nice point, it would be a shame to differ, and I am sure that everyone will agree with the Government on it in the end. I add my thanks from these Benches for the important point that the noble Baroness made.

My Lords, I shall be very brief. I congratulate both the Government and the noble Baroness on bringing the matter back, particularly the Government because the provision will now be clear in the Bill.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for taking on board our concerns and putting the provision in the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

moved Amendment No. 92:

Page 41, line 23. after "moral," insert "behavioural,"
On Question, amendment agreed to.

moved Amendment No. 93:

Page 41, line 24, after "people" insert ", to safeguard and promote their welfare"
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Clause 72 defines the functions of the Training and Development Agency for Schools. Subsection (2) provides the objectives framework in which the agency will carry out its functions. Currently, those objectives are,
"to contribute to raising the standards of teaching".
and so on,
"to promote careers in the school workforce, … to improve the quality … of all routes into the school workforce, and … to secure the involvement of schools in all courses and programmes for the initial training of school teachers".
Subsection (3) states that, in carrying out its functions, the TDA must in particular have regard,
"to the desirability of securing that the school workforce is well fitted and trained to promote the spiritual, moral, social, cultural. mental and physical development of,"
pupils, and to prepare them,
"for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of",
their future lives.

The amendment was proposed to us by the NSPCC, and we are taking this second opportunity to air its concerns. It would like to see an additional element added to subsection (3) that states that it is desirable for the TDA, when exercising its functions, to secure that the school workforce is well fitted and trained to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people.

That would ensure that training for the school workforce fully reflected the duty that schools now have to safeguard and promote the welfare catch ildren and young people, which came into force in June tine 2004 as a result of Section 175 of the Education Act 2002. That would equip the school workforce to carry out the duty effectively, not only in regard to child protection, where the NSPCC and I have particular concerns—I must express an interest as parliamentary ambassador for the NSPCC—but in the promotion of welfare. Promoting welfare is defined in the Framework for Assessment of Children in Need and their Families of 2000 as follows:
"Safeguarding children should not be seen as a separate activity from promoting their welfare. They are two sides of the same coin. Promoting welfare has a wider, more positive, action centred approach embedded in a philosophy of creating opportunities to enable children to have optimum life chances in adulthood, as well as ensuring they are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care".
That is very much "professional-speak", but we all know exactly what it means, and no person in the House would disagree with its spirit.

It is vital that schools recognise that key responsibility in regard to the issues of welfare, as well as those around safeguarding, of which child protection is a key part. If the school workforce is trained to safeguard children and promote welfare, schools will be equipped to carry out that new duty. The current amount of training that new teachers get in that regard, and the time given to it in CPD, is not adequate and is a bit patchy across the country.

In response to the amendment in Committee, the Minister said that he could not accept it as he did not want to create an exhaustive list of outcomes in the clause. Although the fear of creating too long a list is understandable, the reasoning behind the amendment is to ensure consistency with the Every Child Matters outcomes framework, not a desire to create long lists. The Minister suggested that all qualified teachers train to secure children's welfare as part of their ITT. However, research from the NSPCC clearly shows that the level of training is very limited, and the anxieties of teachers in regard to child protection are widespread. They do not feel sufficiently well equipped to do the job.

Furthermore, on top of the duty now on schools to safeguard and promote the welfare of pupils by virtue of Section 175 of the Education Act, the Bill will introduce an element to inspections which looks at the contribution made by schools to the well-being of pupils. Although we welcome both those steps, it seems unreasonable to place duties on schools and inspect against those matters if the school workforce is insufficiently trained to deal with them. It simply is not fair.

For those reasons, safeguarding and promoting welfare should be explicit in the objectives of the Training and Development Agency. If the Government's aim is to move towards early identification and preventive services—I know that it is—teachers will play a vital role, and they must be properly equipped to do so. That is only right. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

My Lords, I am glad to say that I substantially agree, and that we will bring forward an amendment at Third Reading that will add the desirability of securing that the school workforce is fitted and trained to contribute to children's well-being—within the meaning given to the word by Section 10 of the Children Act—in those things that the agency is obliged to do. I am doubly delighted because I have, as part of the day job, responsibility for vulnerable children and well understand the importance of the provision. I hope that that is helpful.

My Lords, it is indeed helpful. I thank the Minister for that. I am sure that he was behind the fact that an amendment will be brought forward, because I know how sincerely he feels about the importance of protecting vulnerable children. I am delighted to hear what he has to say and look forward to seeing the new amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 74 [Membership etc. of Agency]:

[Amendment No. 94 not moved.]

had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 95:

After Clause 74, insert the following new clause—
The Agency shall produce an annual report that shall be laid by the Secretary of State before both Houses of Parliament for affirmative resolution."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in order to speed things up, I shall not move this amendment either.

[Amendment No. 95 not moved.]

Schedule 13 [The Training and Development Agency for Schools]:

moved Amendment No. 96:

Page 120, leave out lines 18 and 19.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am sorry and will not be a moment; I was slightly taken aback by the fact that two excellent amendments on which I had very full speaking notes were not moved. Never mind; we are very pleased.

When the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, moved her amendment to Schedule 13 in Committee, I undertook to consider it further. The government amendments to which I now speak include Amendment No. 96, which was moved by her in Committee, and which she and the noble Lord, Lord Hanninglield, have again tabled.

The changes which the Government's amendments make are designed mainly to bring the provisions in Schedule 13 into line with current legislative practice and government accounting rules, as they would apply to a completely new non-departmental public body were one to be established now. For example, it has not been standard practice for almost a decade to oblige Secretaries of State to seek Treasury approval before setting the remuneration of members and employees of the agencies for which they are responsible. The Government's amendments remove that obligation, and leave it to the Secretary of State alone to make this determination. In those circumstances, where Treasury approval continues to be required the requirements of the government accounting rules will be sufficient to ensure that this is achieved. Another series of amendments recognises the fact that responsibility for the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme rests no longer with the Treasury but with the Minister for the Civil Service.

I should also point out, finally, that Amendment No. 100 replaces the requirement that the agency submit it accounts to the Secretary of State before the end of August after the end of the financial year to which they apply. In future, accounts will need to be submitted before a date determined by the Secretary of State. The purpose of this change is to provide sufficient flexibility for the agency's accounting timetable to be brought into line with the department's. The latter currently aims to produce accounts by the end of July.

In proposing these amendments, I make it clear that they are not intended to relax the financial controls that the Government exercise over the TDA for schools. I am sure that I do not need to say that, but I will. Government and accounting rules and procedures will continue to be as binding on the TDA for schools in the future as they have been on the TTA in the past. Instead, they are intended both to align procedures which apply to the agency with the current requirements of government accounting, and to provide sufficient flexibility for them to be kept in line in the future. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am overjoyed that the Government have taken on board our suggestion in relation to Amendment No. 96. Indeed, I am delighted to see that the DfES has declared a fraction of independence from the all-encompassing and ever-seeing Treasury.

I hope that such a move has not damaged the career chances as Ministers of the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, or the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, when the Chancellor of Exchequer finalises his new Opposition line-up some time after 6 May. It is perhaps a shame that heads and schools cannot so easily rid themselves of excessive interference in the management of their finances as the DFES has managed to do on this particular issue. It would be churlish of me not to welcome this move and l thank the Minister for moving her own amendment in Committee.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

moved Amendments Nos. 97 to 102:

Page 120, line 27, leave out from "State" to end of line.
Page 120, line 31, leave out from second "the" to "may" in line 32 and insert "Minister for the Civil Service, at such times as the Minister may direct, such sums as the Minister"
Page 120, line 37, leave out "Treasury" and insert "Minister for the Civil Service"
Page 122, line 14, leave out from "General" to end of line 16 and insert "by such time as the Secretary of State may direct."
Page 122, line 18, leave out "with the approval of the Treasury"
Page 122, line 25, leave out "with the approval of the Treasury"
On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 91 [ Duty to provide information]:

[ Amendment No. 103 not moved.]

moved Amendment No. 104:

After Clause 97, insert the following new clause—
The Secretary of State shall exercise his functions with regard to the desirability of avoiding excessive administrative burdens on governing bodies, head teachers, teachers and other school staff of all maintained schools, special schools, pupil referral units and local education authorities in England and—
  • (a) shall lay before Parliament for approval an annual report detailing the general level of administration within all types of maintained schools and local education authorities and the steps both taken and planned to reduce such burdens, and
  • (b) the report shall include an evaluation of the effectiveness of such measures."
  • The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 104 would introduce a new clause designed to place a duty on the Secretary of State and by inference everything that her department does to reduce the level of needless paperwork and bureaucracy that schools and teachers must contend with. It would compel the Secretary of State to report to Parliament once a year on what measures had been introduced and how effective they had been in reducing the level of unnecessary bureaucracy on our schools and teachers.

    We are concerned that the current level of red tape and bureaucracy in schools is stifling teachers from getting on and doing what they do best and what they must do—teach.

    We on these Benches believe that the teachers' first priority must be to deliver quality education and not to please officialdom in Whitehall. Perhaps the Minister can explain if anything in this Bill will actually reduce the level of bureaucracy placed on our teachers. There is nothing whatever on the face of the Bill which addresses this key issue. We all know that one of the biggest single reasons why teachers are disillusioned with their jobs and are leaving the profession is because they often face too much red tape.

    A recent edition of the Times Educational Supplement made the following, encouraging point:
    "New teachers are enthusiastic about the job, but most are unsure just how long they will stay given the workload and bureaucracy".
    It also points out that, according to a recent survey, "just over a third" of new teachers,
    "expect to be teaching after 10 years".
    They blame this on the workload and the bureaucracy. Teachers who I meet express concerns about workload, not in the context of time spent teaching, but on necessary diversions that the Government have put in their way.

    I and, I hope, the Government believe that we have a duty to try and control the volume of paper pumped out in the direction of schools—4,400 pages of documentation were produced last year, which is equivalent to some 17 pages per day. The danger is that useful regulations might go, rather than useless and unnecessary ones.

    I challenge the Government to say that they support this amendment, and the view that something needs to be done about the pressure on head teachers and teachers and that they will do something dramatic about it. Those involved in education throughout the country will want to see solid evidence that the Government really mean to do something about this—the recent efforts have really not been enough.

    Teachers want the freedom to get on and teach and to have a breathing space from the torrent of regulations that are placed upon them. They want an explicit and clear statutory requirement that will give some relief from what has been a clear failure of this Government who over-regulate, over-control and over-centralise education provision, even as they claim that their objective is to deregulate, decentralise and allow greater autonomy.

    I hope that the Minister can support this important and much needed amendment. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I can support the objective behind the amendment but I hope to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, that it is not literally needed.

    As the noble Lord will recollect from Second Reading, behind this Bill lies the new relationship with schools. A central part of this new relationship is a recognition that schools need the freedom and space to get on with their core job. Part of that is a minimisation of the amount of burdens imposed either by central government or the local authority in any way that is needless.

    Measures to be taken which will be a part of this minimisation include: shorter and sharper inspections; three-year budgets; school profile largely populated by data provided electronically and centrally; the changes to school data from three surveys to one survey; all of these will benefit schools, as the regulatory impact assessment that lies behind this Bill makes clear.

    Let me go further. We are strongly committed to reducing the burdens and bureaucracy placed on schools and LEAs. We established in April 2003 a small body called the Implementation Review Unit, which is not another big body of officials but an independent panel of 12 experienced practitioners selected from schools of each phase across the country with extensive knowledge of the education system. Their job is essentially bureaucracy busting, to look at what is going on in terms of the paper and they have complete freedom to report on and challenge that. For example, following recommendations from the unit, any policy that the DfES wants to implement that could impact on 10 or more schools must now be assessed and authorised by a panel of senior DfES staff to ensure that it is manageable for schools, that it is necessary and that it has minimised any bureaucratic burden.

    Within the department we must guard against requiring schools to jump through bureaucratic hurdles and Section 38 of the Education Act 2002 already places duties on the Secretary of State to consider the desirability of sending materials to school before doing so. Having been in the department for six months I can say that there is quite a strong atmosphere about trying to minimise sending stuff out. The automatic mailing of paper to schools has been stopped and replaced with an online ordering system so that schools can help themselves rather than having it all thundering on to their desks.

    The 2005 report will concentrate on the remaining paper mailings undertaken to schools by the non-departmental public bodies and to chairs of governors by the DfES—looking as to who else might be sending paper and looking at what chairs of governors are getting so we can have a go at that as well.

    There is a lot going on and there is plenty more to be done. For instance, we now send out less than a third of the number of documents sent automatically, compared to the 1999–2000 school year. There is substantial progress in this respect. Bureaucracy has to be continually fought—it is similar to bindweed: it will keep on coming back if it is not fought.

    The reason that we do not support the amendment literally is because, as I have instanced, there are already statutory powers and there are already processes in place. What the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, is proposing, tongue-in-cheek, is a little bit of bureaucracy to tackle other bits of bureaucracy. We think we can get to where we need to with him by driving ruthlessly on in the way I have described. I support his intent but I do not think we need the amendment.

    4 p.m.

    My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I picked up his reference to a committee of officials to control this monster. When I was chairman of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, such bureaucracy, load, and all the initiatives were very much on my mind. A deputy secretary was given special responsibility for dealing with this monster and here we are, 10 years later, and it is still with us. It requires a ministerial champion to achieve anything—personal accountability by the Minister. We have discussed the role of HMI and its reports to the Secretary of State. Perhaps HMI might be invited to render reports on this matter and on the progress achieved.

    My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, has made some interesting suggestions. I shall not reply to them fully, but we will reflect on them in the department.

    My Lords, I agree with the interesting suggestions made by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing. In all our lives, whatever we do, we want to improve things. In discovering how that can be done, there is a likelihood of creating more paperwork and bureaucracy. Sometimes we therefore have to be dramatic and say, "We have to do away with this. We have to do it differently". None of us has done that. The Government and their supporters have not done so and they now admit it. They are constantly increasing paperwork in every sphere. Although they intend to reduce bureaucracy, they do not because they get rid of one bit and create a lot more.

    I will analyse the Minister's reply. He gave many instances where he thought bureaucracy was being reduced and I will try to add them up to see what they mean. I will also reflect on what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, and we could well return to the matter at Third Reading. However, today I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendment No. 105 not moved.]

    Schedule 16 [ Funding of maintained schools]:

    moved Amendment No. 105A:

    Page 135, line 19, leave out sub-paragraph (7).
    The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 105A, 106A and 106B relate to Schedule 16 and the role of schools forums. Noble Lords who sat through the 2002 Education Bill—there are some in the Chamber who I recognise from those days—may remember that we spent a great deal of time discussing the role of schools forums. They were set up under the 2002 Act and are composed of some local heads and chairs of governors. To some extent, they are a self-perpetuating oligarchy of people; they are not democratically elected. They are representative of the professionals in terms of the heads, and, in terms of chairs of governors, of those members of the population who give a great deal of time and effort voluntarily to helping to run schools.

    In that debate, the question was whether, as the Government then wished, schools forums could be the ultimate arbiter of the allocation of local authority budgets. In the 2002 Act, we had for the first time ring-fencing of funding to schools. The allocation of what was left was to go to the schools forums, which were to take decisions on how the extra funding was to be allocated.

    In an unholy alliance between the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, on the Opposition Benches and our Benches here, we fought a long battle and eventually secured an amendment to the Bill. So in relation to schools forums, the Act eventually provided that their purpose is,
    "to advise the relevant authority on such matters relating to the authority's schools budget as may be prescribed by regulations".
    We were well pleased with the amendment and the schools forums were purely advisory.

    In our discussion on a different but somewhat analogous amendment in Committee, proposed by my noble friend Lord Livsey, the Minister, when suggesting that Schedule 16 sought to return to the issue, said firmly,
    "this is in no way a second bite of the cherry that was snatched away from us in the 2002 Bill".
    She then went on to say:
    "We propose to extend the powers of schools forums in only two limited areas and to strengthen local accountability in so doing. The powers will apply to two sets of regulations, the first of which govern the composition of the LEA, schools and individual budgets and the second of which governs the determination of the individual school's budget shares".—[0fficial Report, 24/1/05: cols. 1047–48.]
    The relevant paragraph is paragraph 7 of Schedule 16. It all gets hidden because we are amending amendments. The 2002 Act amended the 1998 Act, but paragraph 7 states:
    "The purpose of the schools forum is"—
    and paragraph (a) is as stated in the 2002 Act—
    "to advise the relevant authority on such matters relating to the authority's schools budget as may be prescribed by regulations under section 45A(3) or by regulations under this subsection".
    Paragraph (b) is new:
    "to exercise any function that may be imposed on the schools forum by virtue of section 45A(4A) or 47(2)(g)".
    One might well ask what on earth Sections 45A(4A) and 47(2)(g) are about.

    If we turn back to paragraph 3(7) of Schedule 16, we see that we are inserting a new subsection (4A) into Section 45A. It concerns a new regulation and states:
    "Regulations under subsection (3) may also make provision … enabling any expenditure falling outside any classes or descriptions of expenditure prescribed by virtue of subsection (4)(a) to be deducted from the authority's schools budget if the deduction of such expenditure is authorised, on the application of the authority, by the authority's schools forum or the Secretary of State".
    In other words, the authority must go cap in hand to its schools forum and say, "Please sir, may we deduct this sum?" Paragraph (b) then states:
    "enabling any limit or condition that would otherwise apply by virtue of subsection (4)(b)(i) or (ii) to be varied or excluded, on the application of the authority, by the authority's schools forum or the Secretary of State".
    Again, the authority must say, "Please sir, may we do this?".

    That is Section 45A(4A), but what about Section 47(2)(g)? If we look at paragraph (d) at the top of page 139 of the Bill under paragraph 6 of the schedule, we find new Section 42(2)(g), which reads as follows:
    "authorising local education authorities in prescribed cases to determine (or redetermine) budget shares, to such extent as may be prescribed, in accordance with arrangements approved by the authority's schools forum or the Secretary of State in accordance with the regulations".
    Once again, the authority is required to go cap in hand to its schools forum and say, "Please sir". In these circumstances, the schools forum is far from advisory; it is now put back into a determining position in relation to budget shares, which is where the Government originally came from in the 2002 Act.

    Therefore, I see this as a sneaky way in which the Government are trying to overturn the will of Parliament. The will of Parliament was quite clear in 2002. We voted not once but several times on this issue before we reached this arrangement with the Minister at the time, the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton. I think that this is a sneaky way in which to act. The measure is hidden from us all at the back of almost the last schedule to the Bill in language that most people cannot understand and it overturns the will of Parliament. I beg to move.

    My Lords, on this amendment my name and that of my noble friend Lady Morris are added to those of the noble Baronesses, Lady Sharp and Lady Walmsley. I shall not add much to the debate other than to say that, if we are not careful, we shall create an unelected body that takes decisions on behalf of many people. One has to be very careful how one uses the schools forum. It might be a useful talking shop but it certainly should not be empowered any more than it was under the original Act, as my noble friend Lady Blatch and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, sought to secure. If this is something that is being brought in by the back door, I am sure that we shall all regret it, and so I support the amendment.

    My Lords, I suspect that the unholy alliance rides again. I must say to the noble Baroness that I cannot respond in kind to the forensic analysis that she has offered. This is an instance when we shall read Hansard carefully. But I want to reassure the noble Baroness, and I shall do so in the simplest way possible. If I have reason to write to her, I shall of course do so.

    However, I reassure the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, emphatically that this is in no way a sneaky way of reopening or overturning the debate that we had on schools forums in 2002. We were beaten on that issue in 2002 and we remain beaten in that sense. The powers proposed in this Bill do not remove powers that currently rest with local authorities.

    As the noble Baroness said, I stated in Committee that the powers seek to allow schools forums to take decisions in respect of two very specific issues where proposals currently have to come to the Secretary of State. As I argued then, this was a way of reasserting some local control. Those two issues are: variations in the limit on central expenditure within an authority's schools budget; and variations in the detailed operation of the minimum funding guarantee to reflect schools' individual circumstances. That is the burden of those interrelated schedules and details.

    Secondly, I want to emphasise and make clear that schools forums will not be able to make proposals themselves. Their decision-making power is limited to approving proposals that come to them from the local authority. The purpose of the proposed powers is simply to ensure that those decisions, which are very specific to the local circumstances of each local authority, can be taken locally. As I said in Committee, it is a principle that I hope noble Lords will agree is entirely correct. 1 would be very surprised if they did not do so in view of what noble Lords have always argued. On that basis, 1 applaud the tour de force of the noble Baroness and I hope that this simple but honest response will suffice for her to withdraw the amendment.

    My Lords, I thank the Minister for praising my efforts on Saturday afternoon but I am not totally satisfied, partly because of the weasel words. The local authority has to ask for approval. Asking for approval from the schools forum is different from the schools forum being merely advisory. In 2002, the issue was the determination of budget allocations. It was a question of whether the schools forum should be able not just to advise on, but determine, budget allocations. The decision taken by Parliament was that the LEA—which is, after all, the elected authority—would decide on its own budget allocations and it would take the advice of the schools forum on that occasion.

    The Minister will say that the power of the Secretary of State to override that was written into the Act. Neither the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, nor I was particularly keen on power of the Secretary of State to override, but we wore that one because we recognised that Parliament makes Acts and can override local authorities. Indeed, to our regret, Parliament has taken over many of the powers that local authorities used to exercise and overrides local authorities on many occasions. We would like to see it otherwise. But it is established that the Secretary of State, with the authority of Parliament, can override the will of a democratically elected local education authority.

    What is being suggested here is that a local authority should have to go cap in hand to an unelected body and say, "Is that all right? Can we do it?". We do not think that that is the right procedure. We believe that decisions on spending money should be derived from the democratically elected body representing those people and that the local education authority is the right authority to make these decisions. Ultimately, if the electorate does not like the decisions the local education authority makes, it throws it out. We have seen that happen quite often. But that is the right procedure and is the one that we think should happen here.

    The Minister may use her weasel words and say that that is not the intention of the Government, but I think that her officials have perhaps pulled a fast one here and that the power goes further than the Minister thinks. I shall withdraw the amendment for the moment, but we may well return to this at the next stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    4.15 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 106:

    Page 135, line 30, at end insert—
    ( ) "After subsection (5) insert—
    "(5A) An authority's schools' budget will include such amount as the authority may determine for meeting expenditure by the authority to secure improvement in the provision of services by some or all schools within its area.""
    The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the purpose of Amendment No. 106 is to ensure that an authority's schools budget includes an amount determined by the local authority to enable it to plan inclusive services strategically to promote improvement for children locally. The amendment was suggested to us by the LGA, which represents local authorities. It is concerned that ring-fencing 100 per cent of local authorities school budgets would impede the ability of local authorities to plan strategically.

    While it welcomes the assurance given in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, that the Government do not want to alter the relationship between schools and local authorities, and that schools should continue to go to their local authorities, which will have the role of leadership and support for raising educational attainment for children in their areas, it does not believe that local authorities will be able to perform that role if the budgets are completely ring-fenced. It feels that will lose the flexibility that local authorities currently have to pool funding for schools and other local authority services in order to shape services locally.

    There is concern that the link between schools and other services in the community will weaken. There is a wide range of examples of services that local authorities provide that could be threatened if the entire schools budget was ring-fenced. I have two examples. The first is a county council that uses its detailed knowledge of schools to inform its preventative work. That knowledge is used to support schools' self-evaluations and is used comparatively to inform improvement. Its support programme has been developed jointly with schools. Critical information is brought together from a range of areas to identify additional support needs. Such early intervention enables performance issues to be addressed at an early stage to avoid the more expensive approaches to school and community regeneration that become necessary if early intervention is not carried out. I know that sort of approach is exactly what the Government really want.

    The second example is support on issues such as attendance. The local authority is well placed to draw together strategic approaches to the complex issues underlying the challenges facing schools and the community in the area of attendance. We fear that the local strategic knowledge and resource may be lost as a result of the proposed changes. Councils' ability to influence schools and promote their wider role in the children's agenda—for example, becoming extended schools with the possibility of other children's services such as social workers or health visitors being located on school sites—would also be affected.

    The LGA agrees that it is important to provide schools with greater certainty over school budgets, but it does not agree with the Minister's statement in Committee:
    "Only if we introduce a ring-fenced grant will local authorities and their schools be able to plan more firmly and take into account funding increases".—[Official Report, 24/1/05: col. 1028.]
    The organisation is concerned that the decision to move to three-year ring-fenced budgets was taken with no consultation with local government, and without waiting for the outcome of the ODPM's consultation. The decision means that school funding will be placed on a completely footing from other local government services, with councils becoming in effect an agent of central government. That will lead to decreased flexibility and autonomy at a level with regard to education funding, and contradicts the Government's policy of restricting ring-fencing in order to allow local authorities greater flexibility.

    With consultation on three-year budgets not yet having been published, we believe that the provisions have not received proper parliamentary scrutiny, because we do not have the wherewithal to do so. While local authorities welcome the Government's assurance that, with regard to the powers that will introduce three-year ring-fenced school budgets and abolish the existing reserve power to set an authority's minimum school budget, they will consult fully before putting in place regulations under any of them, the LGA still believes strongly that it does not make sense for the Government to introduce those new provisions without having undertaken comprehensive research and consultation with local government and other key stakeholders regarding the implications of the new powers. If they did consult, I think they would hear a unanimous call for our amendment. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I shall read Hansard with interest to see exactly what are the arguments being put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on behalf of the LGA. A little like the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, at an earlier stage, I would raise half an eyebrow at some of the assertions that it makes. Methinks there is a danger of protesting too much on some of these issues. It is certainly not our intention to make councils agents of central government.

    Without repeating all our discussions from the many earlier stages, I shall summarise clearly where we are, and why it is right that we are there. First, I shall deal with the definition of the classes and types of expenditure allowed under the local educational authority budget and the schools budgets. These were decided on following a full-scale review in 2001–02 of funding for education. A working group, including officials from the department and a wide range of partners, looked at what made sense to be in the LEA budget and what made sense to be in the school budgets. The arrangements were introduced in 2003–04. We see no evidence which suggests that there is a need to alter them, in terms of changing the definition of those categories, so soon. That is not what people want.

    What will change from 2006 in England is that a new ring-fenced grant will be introduced to ensure that the funding central government makes available for schools reaches them. Our intention is that the ring-fenced grant will cover expenditure that is currently within the scope of the schools budget, but not expenditure in the scope of the LEA budget.

    The effect of the amendment would be to allow certain items that rest within the LEA budget to be paid for by funding from the ring-fenced school grant. The House will know why I shall resist the amendment. First, and most importantly, allowing authorities discretion to meet non-schools budget expenditure from the ring-fenced grant would mean that schools would no longer be guaranteed to receive their full entitlement from the ring-fenced grant. We would undermine the entire purpose of the ring fence. In other words, all this effort would become nugatory.

    Secondly, the department believes that the current split between the LEA budget and the schools budget is appropriate. School improvement is a strategic function in so far as it consists of taking an overview of standards, intervening as necessary in failing schools and taking forward locally national initiatives. That is fundamentally different from the schools budget, which provides money for individual schools or for the various centrally provided pupil-specific services.

    To allow school improvement in the schools budget would leave this strategic role vulnerable to the competing pressures of the school-delegated budgets and other pupil-related expenditure. What I would say, and I think I have said it previously, is that there is nothing stopping a group of schools locally deciding collectively to fund an initiative for their schools, either on early intervention—a matter mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley; and I agree with her on the importance of that—or on attendance.

    There is increasing evidence that schools will behave in that way and work in a variety of federations to recognise that in some cases some of their budgets can get better value for them if they collectively pool them to fund X or Y initiative that benefits their schools. We think that that is absolutely right—and more strength to them in doing so.

    Ring-fencing will not stop the kind of preventive work therefore referred to. We cannot use ring-fenced grants for intervention work-for example, failing schools. But we cannot use the schools budget for that now anyway.

    To put the matter at its simplest: we think that there are enormous advantages in schools having a three-year forecastable budget. They would get certainty, clarity and predictability. We think we shall get enormous benefits in terms of them knowing what their resources are and being able to plan with confidence for the future. That is the bucket of three-year funding. We are not going to now start drilling a hole in the bottom of that bucket.

    My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. It is one of the virtues of this House that we get the opportunity to reflect the views of outside organisations. The House of Commons does not get the same opportunity.

    This morning in "Yesterday in Parliament" I noticed the conjunction of two interesting references to the House of Lords. On the one hand, it was being called the greatest Whitehall farce of the present day and the next news item was relying on the House of Lords to consider the proposed terrorism legislation forensically in a way that the House of Commons will not do.

    That is a bit of a red herring, but relevant to the argument that we are having at the moment. There is no argument that the majority of the money should go to schools. I do not think that the LGA, to be fair to it, proposes that very large amounts should go elsewhere—and certainly to non-school activities, said the Minister. That suggests that it is being proposed that this money is being spent on something that is totally unrelated to schools. That is not the proposal; it is stuff that is to do with the whole range of schools.

    The Minister has suggested other ways in which these things can be funded— by groups of schools getting together. It is true that that could happen. The Minister often talks about the strategic role of LEAs and yet the way the funding is being structured takes away their ability to undertake that strategic role. That is not how I feel about it but how they feel about it. The Minister may not believe that this feeling is justified, but the reality is that that is how an organisation that represents all local authorities does feel about it. That is why I am happy to reflect their concerns in our debates today. However, the Minister has said a number of helpful things about other ways in which those important services could be managed by local authorities. It may not satisfy the LGA, but that is the situation. For the moment we have to live with that, so I beg leave to withdraw.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    4.30 p.m.

    [ Amendments Nos. 106A and 106B not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 107:

    Page 139, line 25, at end insert—
    "After section 48 insert—
    Regulations may provide for the establishment by the Secretary of State and by the National Assembly for Wales of bodies to be known respectively as the School Funding Review Body for England and the School Funding Review Body for Wales with the functions of reviewing from time to time and of coordinating and advising local education authorities in England and in Wales, as the case may be, on matters relating to the equitable distribution of funds available for use in schools according to the ages, abilities, aptitudes and needs of pupils.""
    The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in Amendment No. 107, we are still on the whole question of financing schools. The amendment is relatively self-explanatory; it is asking for the establishment of a school funding review body. Looking back over the period since 1997, there has been a welcome increase in investment in education. We admit that additional investment has made a material difference in schools, both in terms of school revenue budgets and to improvement in school building. However, analysis shows that the trajectory of increase may have flattened out. The Government objective was achieving spending of 5.6 per cent of gross domestic product on education by 2006. It was 4.5 per cent in 1997, and I regret that it is still hovering about the 5.2 per cent level. The Government have some way to go.

    In addition, the School Teachers' Review Body report states:
    "We do not have responsibility for the funding system for schools but we are aware that settlements that appear reasonable overall, might not translate to appropriate provision at individual school level".
    It is also noted that the latest findings of the Education and Skills Select Committee, which criticise the lack of evidential base for introducing changes in the schools funding formula, commented that,
    "the new system is beginning with a leap of faith that all schools will be adequately funded".
    While the mechanism for funding education in England at local authority level has been somewhat clarified, the fundamental question of how to quantify and meet the basic and additional needs of schools has yet to be resolved. Quality of access to education cannot be subject to short-term changes in funding. The Government's three-year spending reviews have cased abrupt changes in public spending levels, but more sustained mechanisms for supporting education spending are needed. In this sense, we welcome the guaranteed three-year funding for schools—although as my noble friend Lady Walmsley suggested, we have to see how it works itself out.

    The amendment argues that the Government should set up a funding review group to establish a funding mechanism for schools and local education authorities which is based on costing the requirements placed on schools. That group will draw on previous work conducted by the Government's Education Funding Strategy Group. One priority for such a group would be to establish a single mechanism for schools, replacing the two current funding streams for secondary schools with sixth forms. It would also be important for such a group to provide a proper examination of the role and capacity of local authorities to sustain across all services the needs of socially and economically disadvantaged communities.

    The Education Funding Strategy Group was a joint group of representatives from central and local government, teaching and support staff unions, schools' and governors' organisations and the churches. That group was responsible for overseeing the development of a new school and LEA funding system, based on greater transparency in line with the Government's proposals set out in the local government Green Paper, Modernising local government finance, published in September 2000. The group was as inclusive as possible, which had distinct advantages—as highlighted by the School Teachers' Review Body in relation to consultation on changes to teacher's pay and conditions. It stated:
    "A range of input of practical experience should carry far more weight than any one organisation setting out to provide an implementation guide on its own. Moreover, this approach should greatly assist in ensuring smooth and constructive consultation at local school level, a better communication and understanding of changes to stalling structures, and a more positive reaction to change from staff".
    Given the critical importance of the guidance, all the main parties must be involved in such consultation. For example, school governor representatives and the NUT have much to contribute, and their involvement should help to improve understanding and assist effective communication and implementation. As I said, there is a strong case for some kind of review body to consider how the new arrangements are sorted out, and we recommend that the Government think in terms of an inclusive body of that sort. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I am not certain that it is clear how much the amendment was focused on our previous debates about activity-led models for constructing funding formulae proposed by the NUT and how funding streams are handled. Let me just put some points on record.

    In Committee, we considered an amendment that would have required school funding regulations to specify that factors relating to the age, ability, aptitude and needs of pupils be included in the formulae that LEAs use to calculate school budget shares. I tried to explain that that probing amendment was unnecessary because the current regulations already allowed education authorities to use the activity-led model in constructing their funding formula. Indeed, some do so, and they are welcome to. That is different from thinking that we should somehow insist that all local authorities act in that way if they do not want to. It can be a useful local tool, but there is no need to force it on other education authorities, so we were a little sad to see the amendment return in this form.

    Clearly, the equitable distribution of resources must be a continuing goal of government, but there is no simple answer to that, as the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, will know as well as I do. There are many happy years to be spent debating standard spending assessment formulae or distribution mechanisms. That keeps many statisticians happily engaged. There is no simple answer. To have a statutory body, as the amendment appears to propose, inquiring into every authority's arrangements for funding schools and giving advice that would have no particular status strikes us as undesirable. We cannot see what value that would add, but it would certainly lead to costs and could lead to confusion and dissent locally.

    If what is proposed is not a quango but something softer—a review body—I must say that we have worked intensively on a partnership approach in working up policy on school funding with the local authority associations and others. The proposals issued for consultation only last week were developed after extensive discussion with local authorities, teacher associations and other partners on the school funding implementation group. We expect to continue to use that approach as we move towards 2006–07. We have in our ears the words of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, that we must prove that we will do it well, and we intend to.

    To provide in statute for a body such as that proposed seems inappropriate. If the argument is to merge the LSC and LEA income streams, I must say that, in 2000, we decided to set up the LSC to enable a coherent approach to post-16 funding throughout all sectors and, through the LSC's planning functions, to ensure that provision for post-16s in each area properly met their needs. It would not add value to start unpicking that or holding an autopsy on it.

    So it is not really clear what is behind the amendment. Perhaps it is the belief that if we have enough statisticians considering an activity-led set of costs and needs and prove that we need a bigger pot of money, that means that the Government will provide a pot of money. Would that life were that simple or naive. It is not. Of course, anyone who has been in a managerial role knows the answer that one receives by looking at elements collectively. Saying, "You need that much", does not necessarily mean that you need that much. There are ways in which one can use wit and wisdom to acquire more value by the collective use of resources rather than by looking at them just on an activity level.

    I shall not drone on as that will weary the House. I hope that I have said enough about why we shall not be persuaded on the NUT's proposals in this respect.

    My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. He is correct to say that we tabled this amendment at the behest of the NUT. He has convinced me that there is little need for such a review body to pursue the issues suggested in the amendment. We have two sets of review bodies in relation to the funding. As regards local government, I suppose the Audit Commission is the appropriate review body. It seems to me that there is a strong case for the Audit Commission to look at school funding arrangements after a while to see how they are panning out. I am not sure that it is necessary to establish a separate quango. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 99 [ LEA targets: England]:

    moved Amendment No. 108:

    Page 53, line 9, at end insert—
    "( ) The Secretary of State shall have due regard to published data and evidence from each maintained school or special school and other inspection reports for the local authority's area before modifying a proposed target or requiring an LEA to modify a proposed target in regulations made under subsection (2) above."
    The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 108 ensures that if the Secretary of State wishes to modify LEA targets or request the LEA to do that itself, those targets should be devised with due regard to evidence of attainment and from inspections.

    The rationale behind the amendment is simple and straightforward. Local authorities wish to know whether the regulations referred to in Clause 99(2) will ensure, particularly with regard to Clause 99(2)(c), that targets are realistic, appropriate and linked to inspection findings as per Clause 5 inspections and as regards those findings from the proposed joint reviews and the annual performance assessments. It is neither sensible nor helpful, in the context of supporting improvement, for the Secretary of State to set targets that do not bear reference to inspection regime findings. That is where the school inspection regime must again be joined up with the wider children's services and local authority inspection regimes. I shall not say any more as it is quite simple. I hope everyone understands that and I am sure that the Government must accept that. I beg to move.

    My Lords, Amendment No. 109, standing in my name, is grouped with Amendment No. 108. It is almost identical and has exactly the same purpose. In the context of supporting improvement, it is neither sensible nor helpful for the Secretary of State to set targets that do not bear reference to the inspection regime findings.

    In the past there has been concern that targets have been arrived at with no clear rationale, no reference to local circumstances or consideration about how the targets would be reached; for example, many feel that about the key stage 2 targets. If the clause is not amended, central government could set targets that bear absolutely no relevance to local needs or priorities.

    Of course, there is a wider point about the usefulness of targets and outputs in a climate in which we are surely agreed that outcomes for children and young people, notably the five Every Child Matters outcomes, are what fundamentally count. Simply setting educational attainment targets alone is too narrow a view of what a local authority's remit for children should cover and how elements across the five outcomes need to interplay and cross-refer. There needs to be a requirement on the face of the Bill that the Secretary of State should consult with LEAs, as it says in the Explanatory Notes, and take full account of local needs, circumstances and crucially existing baseline data. I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield.

    My Lords, in Committee we had a debate about the importance of the utility of targets, and I believe there was broad acceptance, although I have heard what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has said about the wider context of the targets following the Children Act measures. We talked about the ability of the local authority to carry out its job of providing a challenge function to schools in its area and we talked about the need, as we saw it, of the Secretary of State to be able to hold local authorities to account over targets to improve. Therefore, at Report stage, the focus is tighter and narrower. It is about whether those discussions challenge that debate between the Secretary of State and local authorities and, where it is judged necessary to have such a debate, it is to be based on reality.

    I can assure the House that the department and its advisers have a wealth of information about local education authorities. It is used to inform the discussion about their targets—data on past performance of schools and pupils, including those from ethnic minorities and those with special educational needs; data from the Fischer family trust, which takes into account pupils eligible for free school meals, gender and age of pupil: reports from Ofsted both on schools and local authorities; and support from the national strategies programmes aimed at improving attainment in low attaining schools or in particular subjects.

    4.45 p.m.

    In addition to looking at the large amounts of data—we are probably one of the most evidence-based and richly provided for countries in terms of our understanding of what is happening in the educational system, built on the good work of the Ofsted over the past dozen years or so—the department's advisers hold a stock-take meeting with every local authority towards the end of the autumn term. Again, this is intended to be an intelligent discussion between officials about what the data are showing, what they are making of the data and what that implies for action in the future.

    Advisers also hold regular meetings with local education authorities throughout the year on a wide range of issues, and standards in schools are a key priority for those discussions. The knowledge enables those involved to make informed judgments about an LEA and how effective it is in supporting its schools.

    These discussions should be informed by evidence. They should not be informed by prejudice. We have a rich welter of evidence and we do not therefore believe that it is necessary to legislate for this purpose. The department is not trying to second-guess local education authorities, but have an informed and mature dialogue with them. I hope that it is self-evident, but I am happy to confirm that such a dialogue is always based, and always will be based, on the available information, and on nothing else. I hope that that is helpful both to noble Lords who are listening and those who might read Hansard subsequently.

    My Lords, before the Minister finishes, there is tremendous variation within local authorities, especially large ones such as Essex. One is looking for totally different improvements in Basildon compared with Chelmsford or Colchester, so it is not just a case of talking to local education authorities but actually looking at schools' improvement. I am sure that the same is the case within a London borough where there are different aspirations for different schools. The whole idea is improvement, but I did not quite get that from the Minister's reply.

    My Lords, the noble Lord is right. I have been chided by him at earlier stages to keep my responses crisp, but he is absolutely right. Intelligent conversation cannot just be about the average of the total of what is happening in a good authority such as Essex. There also needs to he a dialogue about where the ambition of schools needs to be raised across the piece on particular segments—whether there is a need for change in languages or maths or for geographic or particular social-class based reasons. The data allow for that sort of intelligent discussion between officials in the department and the authority and between the advisers and the authority. However, we are talking essentially about a dialogue between the department and the education authority—albeit going under the skin of the averages—not between the department and individual schools. I agree with the noble Lord on that. It ought to cover such discussions as well.

    My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. He seemed to accept what we said. What concerns us is that at the moment targets are set in public sector agreements for school attainment that nobody can reach—they are ridiculous targets. The targets to bear a relationship to the ones that might, as I said just now, help to bring about improvement in a school. That must be an important part and the Minister acknowledged that. It is a pity that that cannot be acknowledged on the face of the Bill so that ridiculous targets cannot be set in the future as they have been set in the past. We shall reflect on what has been said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 100 [ Removal of requirements for governors' reports and parents' meetings]:

    moved Amendment No. 110:

    Page 53, line 29, at end insert—
    "( ) In section 22 of the 2002 Act (training and support of governors), after paragraph (b) insert—
    "(c) take such measures as they consider appropriate to promote and encourage the constructive involvement of parents in the education of their children at schools, including in particular their membership of school governing bodies"."
    The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I move Amendment No. 110, which is the first of three amendments dealing with annual parents' meetings and the school profiles. There was long debate on these issues on the fourth day in Committee, for which I was unfortunately not present because I was on a Select Committee trip, but I have read Hansard with considerable interest.

    We tabled this relatively broad amendment in order to keep the debate open. During the debate there was considerable disquiet was expressed from the Opposition Benches about the proposal to do away with the annual meeting, although there was understanding on everybody's part that these annual meetings can sometimes be a waste of time. There was, however, a feeling that there is considerable importance in providing a mechanism for dialogue between parents and staff at a school about general issues in the school, but not necessarily about the specific issues of their own child, such as occurs at a parents' evening. In addition, there was considerable alarm at the prescriptive nature of the school profile as set out in Clause 101.

    Since that debate, we have had considerable lobbying from a number of groups. The disability lobby, in particular, is very concerned that we need to keep some mechanism open for dialogue with parents. There is alarm among parents' groups. The National Governors' Council, the National Association of Governors and Managers and the Campaign for the Advancement of State Education are all asking that we should not do away with the annual meeting. As I say, we recognise the futility of holding a meeting where no parents turn up—which does happen from time to time. Yet you quite clearly need some mechanism if you are going to have elected governors playing a substantial part in the governing body of the school. You need some mechanism for electing those governors. You need some kind of coming together where people get to know who is who, and so forth. This poses something of a problem.

    The advantage of the annual report to parents from governors was that there was an opportunity to reflect on what had happened during the year, and to report back to parents on that. Good schools, we know, have regular newsletters and, in some senses, do not need it. There are some schools, however, that do not do this. We have had further discussion on the role of the school profile, and the Government have assured us—and we take these assurances at face value—that it is not just going to be a tick-box pro forma. Each school is going to be able to develop it into something which is special to that school, reflecting developments within it. We are reassured by what the Minister says.

    Since that debate, the need for the school to have proactive policies for keeping parents informed and involved with the school has been emphasised by those who have lobbied us since then. We know, from all the research that has been done, that the more parents are involved with their own child's education, the better the child does at school. There is a great deal to be said for this.

    In some ways, I am sorry that we did not manage to group Amendments Nos. 110, 111 and 112 because the issues are very similar, and we need to regard their debates as a whole. I think that my suggestion that we should group them came too late to be acted upon. I see this amendment as a minimalist amendment, and tabled it to keep the debate open. We had hoped that there would be some indication in Committee that the Minister might come back with a proposal, but that has not happened. We want to keep the debate open and try to ensure that after this debate we do not simply end up by doing away with the parents meetings and annual reports without having put something satisfactory in their place. I beg to move.

    My Lords, in supporting Amendment No. 110, I shall speak also to our amendment, Amendment No. 111. We were suggesting that the governing body should have the power to call meetings. I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, said in Committee that people could have a meeting every week if they wanted one—and some of them might want a meeting every week. If something is included in the Bill, even if it is not obligatory and simply says that the governors should be able to call a parents meeting if they want one, there will be some encouragement to do it.

    I want to support the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, in saying that it is imperative that parents should be seen to want to be involved in schools. By including something in the Bill about calling parents meetings, even if they are not always that well attended—in some schools they are much better attended than others; it is disappointing that they are not well attended in all schools—more parents meetings will be encouraged to happen than would be the case if nothing was included in the Bill. So I hope that the Minister will give some encouragement that such a provision will be included in the Bill, so that there will be parents meetings of some kind.

    My Lords, I want to ask the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, a question. In subsection (2) of Amendment No. 111, does he mean "head teacher" rather than "headmaster"?

    My Lords, I apologise—that wording must have been copied from when the matter last came up. I totally agree with the noble Baroness.

    My Lords, I support the intention of keeping all the issues open until we are satisfied. I apologise that I was not able—if I was invited—to be at the meeting when the issues were discussed in detail.

    Having real people gathered together who are concerned specifically about their own children but collectively about the quality of the education in those schools has a tremendous amount to be said for it. To go against that goes in the face of the idea, which is gaining pace every day, that more and more people should be consulted—that the views of this lot and that lot, and certainly children, should be taken into account when formulating decisions. That is at the coalface—the local level. We have also heard that NAGM—the National Association of Governors and Managers—and other organisations still feel strongly about the matter. Either we will be reassured that all is well, or we shall bring the matter back at a future stage.

    The other point that I want to make strongly is that someone may come along to a meeting and believe that he or she has nothing to contribute; but when other people in the same position—in other words, parents—start talking, that can spark off ideas and thoughts that he or she would like to express. So there is an added plus in having people on the spot and not doing it all via a form or electronically. The collective approach to such things is valuable.

    My Lords, I shall respond to Amendment No. 111, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, as well as to Amendment No. 110, so that we can have a more collective discussion.

    The short answer to the examination question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, in her amendment—I sought to make this point when debating with the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, the other day—is that it is really the question that in policy terms we are asking ourselves in the department. I was signalling that we were looking in policy terms at what we want to promote and change in the relationship between parents and schools in future, in the interests of parents, children and the school itself.

    5 p.m.

    I suppose, busking from the Box for a second, there are at least three legs to that stool in this context. One is the relationship of parents in the governance of the school. Clearly, we know where we are on school governors, and there is always room for further thought as to whether one should go further than that, or whether just having parent governors is in itself sufficient.

    Secondly, there is the relationship of the parent to the school as a consumer. We broadly know what we mean by that—in other words, "You have got my child and what are you doing with him or her? Are we getting the educational attainment that we want? Is he or she safe and bully-free?". We know about the worries of parents; we know from our own experiences. One has walked out many a pair of shoes going to a school to say that one is not quite happy with the ambition of the schools in the past, at least in my day. There is a lot more to be done in that respect in terms of the relationship between schools and parents as consumers.

    I shall put it politely, but some schools essentially see the job of the parent as to deliver the child to the door, fed and clean—and "Please keep away and do not cause trouble". I am being slightly crude, but I think noble Lords know what I mean by that. The parent is seen as a problem if they get involved, rather than as a partner in the educational development of the child. We are doing a lot of thinking on that area.

    Thirdly, there is the parent him or herself as an educator. We know, from the discussions that we have had about the work of Charles Desforges, that that is absolutely fundamental. That is not about the parent getting involved in school governance—you want that, but according to the evidence it does not do much for the educational attainment of the child—you want that for other reasons. How parents behave in terms of their child from the very early years onwards makes a significant difference to the educational attainment of their child. Therefore, public policy needs to establish more seriously how we support parents who have these ambitions for their children to know how to help them to do it better. This is not the long arm of the state reaching in; it would be by other mechanisms. Those three issues are part of an active, ongoing discussion that we were having this week with Ruth Kelly as part of our work programme on this.

    I also agree with our disability lobby. I gave a speech earlier this week about the next stages on disabled children. Both parenting and disabled children are part of my day job, which is why I am probably going on longer than I should be. Clearly, we should consider how parents of disabled children feel that schools touch them. We had a discussion about SEN earlier. There is a thread running through all of that, about how the parent feels about the way in which that local institution, either the LEA or the school, affects their feelings about the services that they get. It is because of that, and because we think that there is a lot more to be done on that, that we are being difficult, as some noble Lords see it, by not thinking that the annual meeting is Valhalla.

    The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, is right in the sense that all of us agree on the vital importance of involving parents in school. It is better for the Government not to prescribe for schools the precise mechanisms through which they should involve parents. He is also right that schools may be well advised to continue producing an annual report and holding an annual meeting to satisfy the needs of the parent body if they wish to do so. His amendment clearly has a thrust in that direction. We really want to get across that it must go a heck of a lot further than that. If we just stay where we are and give in—which we do not intend to do—and say that we must have an annual meeting, the danger is that they will think that the job is done. That would be absolutely hopeless. We must go much further than we are going at present in just going through some formulaic process of issuing a dull annual report and having a non-attended annual meeting.

    My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me for intervening. Can he tell us where it says in statute that, to use his own words, they must go a hell of a lot further than that?

    My Lords, I gave the rodomontade that I did at the beginning because I was describing that we are in the middle of a policy process in which we are considering by what processes we stimulate the system to go further—much further—into the future. That is what I was saying in the Lord Northbourne debate. I am beginning my candour in opening up to the House. It is always a mistake.

    My Lords, is there not a danger that, by not putting anything in the Bill, people will think it does not matter? That is our point. Although we all agree we want to go further, ignoring it totally in the Bill does not help at all.

    My Lords, I was seeking to say that we are not minded to change the removal of the annual meeting. According to evidence we have seen, that is a superfluous obligation and we should remove superfluous obligations. I was trying to treat the House seriously in indicating that and was not making a debating point by saying "No, we won't do that". I was signalling that there is some pretty serious work going on in our present discussions about the agenda of parental involvement in education. I and my officials are very keen on it; we hope to be in a position to have a wider debate during this year. Here is just a teeny element of that wider discussion, and I assure noble Lords that we will come forward with further thinking and debate it before too long.

    My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that. The Bill does present an opportunity for the Government perhaps to provide a statutory framework for doing something later. Our Amendment No. 110 suggests, in that respect, that the Government,

    "take such measures as they consider appropriate to promote and encourage the constructive involvement of parents in the education of their children at schools".
    We may perhaps leave the amendment there, although in it we suggest including,
    "in particular their membership of school governing bodies".
    It is the sort of broad, statutory, permissive statement that we could arguably do with having within an Education Bill, on which subsequent developments can be built. Perhaps the Minister wishes to respond.

    My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for giving way. The reason that I am not now leaping at that with both hands is because I clearly signalled that we are in the middle of a policy process. We have not concluded that process. Also, while I see its almost cosmetic attraction, that amendment would be difficult to enforce or police. It is difficult to know exactly what it would mean in practice. I suspect we will be looking for greater clarity about what should be done in future—having a richer dialogue with local authorities and schools about what they should do in consequence—and, on the back of that, we will see whether there is a need for legislation.

    My Lords, it might be helpful to provide the Minister with a hook on which he can hang his subsequent developments. I imagine we will probably not get another education Act next year. I certainly hope we do not get another immediately.

    My Lords, I thought they were like immigration and asylum Acts; we are guaranteed one every year.

    My Lords, we have had a very useful debate. There is a common understanding of shared objectives here. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendment No. 111 not moved.]

    Clause 101 [ School profiles]:

    moved Amendment No. 112:

    Page 54, line 6, after "prescribed" insert "including all registered parents"
    The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 112 is a simple amendment. It seeks an assurance that a copy of the new school profile will be sent to all registered parents. As the Bill stands, it appears to be left to regulations to determine to whom the governing body shall provide a copy. That does not go far enough for our liking. We feel it is crucial that parents have the full facts available to them about how their child's school is currently doing. It is a simple amendment. I beg to move.

    My Lords, we too want to make sure that all parents receive a copy of the school profile. The guidance accompanying the profile will make this clear to schools. The guidance will provide for all schools to give a hard copy of the profile to parents, except where parents have requested information electronically.

    I should make clear that the regulation-making power in Clause 101(2) is intended as a reserve power, to be exercised only if the Secretary of State considers it necessary to prescribe by regulation. The reserve power is intended to ensure that there is a legislative safeguard for parents' rights to information; we use this power if evidence shows that schools are not providing the information in an appropriate manner and at an appropriate time. That is consistent with the discussion we have had on bureaucracy and minimalisation; in other words, it is there to be enforced, but we will make clear what we expect should happen—and hope that we never need to use it. The central point is that every school will be expected to send every parent a profile physically, except when they want it electronically. I hope that that gives the noble Lord the confirmation that he wants.

    My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. We would have preferred to see a provision in the Bill, but his assurances will be in Hansard that one can be made by regulation. We all agree that it is important that that happens. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 102 [ Provision and funding of higher education in maintained schools]:

    [ Amendment No. 113 not moved]

    moved Amendment No. 114:

    After Clause 102, insert the following new clause—
    In section 89 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (c. 31) (procedure for determining admission arrangements) after subsection (1) insert—
    "(1A) Regulations may require the admission authorities for maintained schools to include in their admission arrangements such provision relating to the admission of children who are looked after by a local authority (within the meaning of section 22 of the Children Act 1989) as may be prescribed, which may in particular include provision for securing that, subject to sections 86(3) and (3A) and 87 (cases where duty to comply with parental preference does not apply), such children are to be offered admission in preference to other children.""
    The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment will allow for regulations to make it a requirement for admission authorities to set admission arrangements that give priority for a school place to children who are looked after by a local authority. In effect, such children will, in most cases, have preference for admission over other children. Outside the normal admissions round, when many schools would already have offered places up to their published admission number, we would expect local protocols on placement of hard-to-place children to ensure that looked-after children were placed quickly. Regulations will spell out that duty and specify how it will apply to each admission authority, including faith and grammar schools.

    Noble Lords will be aware of the recommendation made by the Education and Skills Committee that priority to children in public care in the school admissions process should be given statutory support. The Government consider that to be in the best interest of such children. On the first day of Committee, we listened very carefully to the concerns of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, about children in local authority care. I am sorry that he is not in his place at the moment; he would take pleasure in what we are doing. I pay tribute to his work, in the course of many debates on many Bills, in keeping our eyes fixed on the problem of looked-after children. We agree that there are particular challenges for those children. They are disadvantaged in many ways and the Government consider that the amendment goes some way to addressing those disadvantages.

    Amendment No. 132 is consequential on Amendment No. 114 and makes it clear that the regulation-making power is exercisable in relation to Wales by the National Assembly. I am sure that noble Lords will give a warm welcome to the government amendments. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I want briefly to welcome the amendment. I know that the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, would do so as well, because I have discussed it with him. He was very pleased when he saw it tabled on the Marshalled List by the Government. Children who are looked after often move around and find themselves at a disadvantage when trying to get into the best schools—as do children of service personnel, who have a similar problem. That matter may not be so well dealt with; perhaps we should come back to it at some other time. However, we warmly welcome this amendment.

    My Lords, I know that the noble Earl would wish to be here, but I believe that he is at this moment campaigning elsewhere for looked-after children. I am sure that he will return to the issue. Meanwhile, I give grateful thanks.

    My Lords, I merely add to everyone's praise for the amendment. I am absolutely certain that the noble Earl would be beaming with delight about it. It is a step in a direction for which he has been campaigning. I would love to think that it might be followed a little later by there being a special duty on a particular school governor to keep a friendly and beneficial eye on such children. In the mean time, everyone is very grateful.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 104 [ Supply of information: education maintenance allowances]:

    moved Amendment No. 115:

    Page 55, line 3, leave out "providing" and insert" who by virtue of any contractual obligation or by or under any enactment provides"
    The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 115, I shall speak to all the amendments grouped with it up to Amendment No. 121, which are all very similar. I have given the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, advance notice of why we tabled them, and I shall cut directly to that to give the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, the opportunity to give me the reassurance for which I am looking.

    There is a great deal of sensitive information that might fall within Clauses 104 and 106 and the concern was that from the way the clauses are worded the obligation might fall on teachers. The relationship between teachers and parents can be a very delicate one. One would never want teachers to be accused of "telling tales" because that might upset that relationship, which is so important to the educational attainment of the children.

    I am therefore looking for reassurance that teachers are not the people envisaged as being obliged to give this information to agencies who, we all accept, have every right to the information. I hope that the Minister can reassure me. I beg to move.

    5.15 p.m.

    Yes, my Lords, I can give the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, the assurance. I can assure her that the intention of the term "providing services" in Clauses 104 and 106 is to cover those persons who are providing particular services to this department, the Inland Revenue, or the Department for Work and Pensions by a legally binding contract; for example, IT contractors, or those who provide those services under appropriate legislation.

    The term "providing services" has been used by draftsmen to achieve this effect and reflects other legislation in the same respect. For example, both the Finance Act 1989 and the Social Security Administration Act 1992 use the phrase "providing services" and it makes sense for this legislation to be consistent with that. I hope that will help and clarify.

    My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendments Nos. 116 and 117 not moved.]

    Clause 106 [ Supply of information: free school lunches etc.]:

    [ Amendments Nos. 118 to 121 not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 122:

    Page 57, line 37, at end insert—
    "(5A) The references in subsections (4) and (5)(b) to a local education authority include references to any person exercising on behalf of such an authority functions relating to eligibility for free school lunches and milk."
    The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move this amendment, standing in the name of my noble friend on the Marshalled List. Clause 106 is an enabling power, designed to remove the legal barriers to data sharing in order to enable information held by the Inland Revenue and the Department for Work and Pensions to be used to implement a more efficient system for determining eligibility for free school lunches and milk.

    Plans for implementation of the scheme would see certain information being supplied from the Inland Revenue and the Department for Work and Pensions to my department to set up an electronic system whereby registered users within local education authorities could make checks on an individual's entitlement to free school lunches or milk, thereby removing the checking responsibilities from schools.

    These technical amendments are necessary to allow for the circumstances where a local education authority has contracted out most of its services, including the responsibility for checking the eligibility for free school meals. These amendments would ensure that, in those authorities, the contractor can carry out his functions effectively. Without these amendments, information could not legally be passed to anyone checking eligibility for free school meals on behalf of an LEA. This would mean that the provisions would not provide an equal service to those authorities, and schools within those authorities that have contracted out their services either on a voluntary basis or pursuant to a direction under Section 49(7A)(4) of the Education Act 1996.

    Free school lunches and milk are aimed at families with the lowest incomes in society, usually nonworking families. This is achieved by making free lunches and milk available to claimants of income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance and child tax credits where working tax credit is not also being claimed and income is below a certain level. Lunches and milk can be supplied free of charge only where an application has been made by an eligible claimant.

    At present, eligibility for free school lunches and milk is assessed locally, and the system for doing so varies by LEA authority areas but usually consists of either school or LEA staff manually checking documents such as tax credit award notices or benefit books to establish eligibility.

    The provisions are intended to reduce bureaucracy, particularly for schools, and to reduce the current capacity for fraud and error. They will facilitate a national scheme, based on LEA checking, in place of the various systems operating at present.

    I hope that, with that brief background information, the House will be content to accept the government amendments.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    moved Amendments Nos. 123 and 124:

    Page 57, line 39, leave out "(as defined in section 512 of the Education Act 1996 (c. 56))"
    Page 57, line 46, at end insert—
    "(6A) In this section, "school lunch" has the same meaning as in section 512 of the Education Act 1996 (c. 56)."
    On Question, amendments agreed to.

    Clause 111 [ Power of governing body to make alternative provision for excluded pupils]:

    moved Amendment No. 125:

    Page 60, line 40, after "education)" insert "after "governing body of a maintained school" insert "and the governing body of an Academy, a city technology college or a city college for the technology of the arts" and"
    The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 125 and 126 are concerned with exclusions, the subject of Clause 111, and seek to probe the role of the governing bodies, in particular those of non-maintained but state-funded schools—the academies, city technology colleges and city colleges for technology and the arts—and also the role of the local education authority in relation to exclusions.

    Each local authority should be required to provide behaviour support for schools. No school should be required to continue to accept on its roll pupils with continuing unacceptable behaviour. Equally, no child or young person should be written off. It should be a requirement of all local authorities to maintain and have access to a range of provision, including behaviour support services and schools for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties. All local authorities should maintain or have access to pupil referral units and to hospital and home services. Later we will talk about parent support services.

    Such services are vital in supporting children and young people who are not taught in mainstream schools and are vital also in meeting the needs of vulnerable children. The right to education of all children needs to be protected.

    In the context of the new local authority responsibilities for vulnerable children, each local authority should appoint lead professionals whose role would be to provide advice to schools and to take action where necessary when a vulnerable child has been identified. The proposed children's services grant should be sufficient to fund the appointment of lead professionals. With schools and teacher organisations, local authorities should continue to develop practical policies on pupil behaviour, including on bullying and homophobic bullying.

    The amendments have been tabled to probe the issue of placement of difficult pupils in popular schools. The DfES guidance on behaviour and exclusions does not apply to independent schools, city technology colleges, academies or sixth-form colleges, which have separate exclusion procedure. Academies, however, are supposed to have exclusion procedures that are consistent with those set out in the guidance.

    The King's and Unity city academies in Middlesbrough, for example, appear to have operated separately and expelled 61 problem children between them since the start of the school year 2002. That compares with 15 exclusions from all other secondary schools in the borough.

    In November last year, Mr Clarke, who was at that time Secretary of State for Education, announced a package of pupil behaviour measures. They included local agreements for admissions forums to share the allocation of hard-to-place pupils between schools and to limit the number of excluded children that each school would have to admit. In addition, it involved encouraging schools forming foundation partnerships to put in place formal agreements to pool behaviour support funding. It also encouraged them to make provision for pupils at risk of exclusion and to work with local education authorities to cater for those who were excluded.

    Yet, on 1 February this year, the new Secretary of State, Ruth Kelly, appeared to backtrack a little on this issue. The Department for Education and Skills press release stated that she had,
    "set out her ambition to see every secondary school being part of a partnership to manage pupil behaviour by September 2007".
    but that,
    "In return, new admissions protocols for hard to place pupils—which are to be agreed by September this year for vulnerable pupil groups such as looked-after children—need not apply to excluded pupils until such time as schools have agreed arrangements with LEAs for strengthening the support available to schools to deal with disruptive pupils".
    However, according to the press release, she is still,
    "prepared to consider legislation to ensure that admissions protocols are in place everywhere, once the support infrastructure is in place".
    My question to the Minister is: where are we with these various provisions? Various declarations have been made, but I think that we have been left somewhat in the dark in knowing precisely where this new brand of independent state school, in particular, stands in relation to the exclusion protocols. In addition, what do the Government see as the continuing role of LEAs? I should be grateful if, in reply, the Minister could give us some indication of that. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for her clarification of what lay behind the amendment. To some extent, 1 suspect that what I say initially will deal more with the context rather than the specifics of what she said. But no matter; if she will bear with me, I shall at least ensure that I set that context.

    Amendments Nos. 125 and 126 impact on the section of the Education Act 2002 which is concerned with the governance of maintained schools. We agree entirely that local authorities must be fully involved in the process of planning alternative provision. However, we believe that the amendment is unnecessary because its intention is served by existing processes and procedures.

    We agree that local authorities are best placed to respond to the needs of pupils within their particular areas and that they play a vital strategic role. They have a statutory duty to provide sufficient schools in number and character to ensure appropriate education for pupils. They are also charged under the Education Act 1996 and the Children Act 2004 to get better outcomes for all their children.

    Clearly, it is important that the needs of the children are placed first. When dealing with excluded pupils, schools must work closely with the local authority. That is explicitly addressed in our current guidance on exclusion for schools and pupil referral units, issued last October. We make it clear to schools that they have a statutory obligation to inform their local authority of all exclusions, other than fixed-period exclusions of five days or less, and remind them of the need to work with their local authority when dealing with an excluded pupil's needs during and after exclusion.

    The Education Act 2002 gives schools the authority to refer pupils to off-site facilities, to alternative curricula and to alternative provision. It is often unnecessary for schools to involve the local authority in making these arrangements. Doing so could put a considerable burden on schools with the result that resources are diverted from other, more useful activities. We believe that the amendment would have the effect of requiring schools to consult their local authority every time they wanted to send a pupil to other premises. It would also remove their ability to adopt reasonable, flexible working practices. Therefore, taking the amendment at face value, that is one reason that we believe it would be undesirable.

    Moving on to the specific issues raised by Amendment No. 126, the amendment could not apply to the categories of school specified as the relevant section of the Education Act 2002 does not extend to non-maintained schools. Perhaps I may explain why we believe that the amendment is unnecessary.

    Maintained schools are governed by statute, and the governing bodies of maintained schools need statutory authority for their powers. That is why the Education Act 2002 gives governing bodies a specific power to require pupils to attend off-site provision. Without that power, there would be doubt about whether they could do that. Although they are publicly funded, academies, city technology colleges and city colleges for the arts are, in the classification of the Education Acts, independent schools. They are conducted by charitable companies and are not subject to all the statutory provisions that apply to maintained schools. They are already able to make arrangements for pupils to receive some of their education off-site and do not need to be given statutory powers to do so, which is one of the specific relevant points.

    5.30 p.m.

    The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, also asked where we were more generally and particularly asked about my Secretary of State's letter in February of this year. The Secretary of State was making it clear that admission protocols for hard-to-place pupils need not apply to previously excluded pupils, if the schools in the area do not consider themselves ready to take them. That should allow agreements to be made quickly about finding places for looked-after children and other hard-to-place pupils covered by the protocols, which should still be agreed and put into practice in September. Once arrangements for strengthening the support available to them to deal with disruptive pupils have been agreed between schools and with their local authority, it should be completed by September 2007.

    To put it at its simplest, it is essential that there are effective protocols and mechanisms for getting hard-to-place pupils, whether excluded pupils or looked-after children, back into school when they are ready to be placed there. We have put a priority on that. We have put a statutory duty in the Bill to give looked-after children top priority. I think that that is right, for the reasons that we have debated on other occasions.

    It is possible that we may need to legislate subsequently, to ensure that there are effective protocols for the readmission of hard-to-place pupils, but we do not want to go fast as we did originally. A better way of doing it is to give a bit of space to local authorities and the schools in their areas to agree effective support arrangements for taking back hard-to-place pupils who have been disruptive, rather than forcing them in in advance of the support mechanisms. That is intelligent because it is trying to ensure that, before the process is forced, the support mechanisms are in place to make it more likely to work. It is sensible and in the interests of the child. We do not want the child thrown out again in three months' time if support mechanisms between the authority and the school are not there to make it work. That is the best interpretation or help I can give on the noble Baroness's question. I hope it is helpful.

    My Lords, I thank the Minister for clarifying the position. It has been a great help. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    [ Amendment No. 126 not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 127:

    After Clause 111, insert the following new clause—
    The Secretary of State or the Assembly may by regulations require a pupil referral unit maintained by a local education authority to collect and publish data on levels of education achievement and attainment or any other information as may be prescribed."
    The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 127 would allow the Secretary of State or the Assembly in Wales by regulation to authorise a pupil referral unit to collect and publish data on levels of educational achievement or any other such information as may be prescribed. Before I explain the rationale behind the amendment, it might be useful for your Lordships' House if I provided a little background information on the current requirements expected of PRUs.

    PRUs are legally both a type of school and a form of education. However, they are not subject to all the legislative requirements that apply to mainstream and special schools. A pupil referral unit must, however, have an SEN policy and appropriate child protection procedures. The number of pupils in a PRU will vary. Grouping of pupils may occur by age and by the nature of their referral. Many pupils in PRUs will have special educational needs, and a significant number will have statements, usually for emotional and behavioural difficulties.

    At present, the LEA must have a statement of curriculum policy for PRUs. The teacher in charge should prepare a statement of the curriculum aims of the unit, reflecting the LEA's curriculum statement. The teacher must consider the views of the community, the police and the management committee in drawing up the statement. It is good practice for a PRU to have a curriculum policy that shows how staff will deliver. PRUs should offer a balanced and broadly-based curriculum that promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils and of society, and prepares pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life.

    PRUs do not have to assess pupils at the end of each key stage. However, the PRU's annual report to the LEA should report a pupil's progress. We believe that PRUs should be subject to the same kind of measures in relation to the collection and publication of academic results as their mainstream counterparts. We recognise that a number of pupils may not be able, for a series of reasons, to take standard examinations. In that instance, we can accept their omission. We also accept that such an approach may well have to be value-added, given the complexities of the students involved. However, there is no reason why we should not introduce an element of competitiveness between PRUs.

    Providing value-added results—and I stress "value-added"—would allow parents the opportunity to compare the performances of different institutions, both locally and in other local authority areas. I suspect there will be some noble Lords in the House who will balk at such a suggestion, but the publication of exam results has transformed the ability of parents to choose the school best suited to their child's abilities. It should be no different in regard to a PRU. Such a step will boost accountability and transparency in the process. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment. I would go a lot further than examination results, because, essentially, the customer for a PRU is the local authority. We have a difficult situation at the moment, with local authorities running PRUs. That is the kind of incestuous relationship that has led to so much difficulty in the past, with children's homes and other institutions run by LEAs. They can become places where no one really cares what the results are. The necessary first step in solving that problem is the publication of detailed, specialist and value-added results. It would do PRUs no harm at all if, on taking a pupil, they had a set of objectives, agreed with the pupil's previous school, against which the pupil's performance was measured when he or she left the PRU, to see how the PRU had performed.

    I would like to see a system where PRUs became independent of local authorities, as they seem to me a sector of education ideally suited to being hived off from local authorities. They ought to be a service provided to those authorities by others, so that the local authority, to take the phrase the Minister used early on in the consideration of this Bill, became the friend and adviser of the parent and the family. They would be responsible for choosing the best PRU education from the competing providers in respect of that particular child. That is perhaps further than the Government intend to go at this election, given that not many parents of children in PRUs are regarded as swing voters, but it seems to me to be a jolly good way to go from the point of view of the Government's ultimate ambitions.

    Where the purchaser and the provider are one and the same, there is always the danger of the poor old consumer getting done in. The consumer in this case is not only the vulnerable children, but also the rest of us who will suffer the consequences if these children do not receive the education and attention they deserve. I hope the Government will take their underlying philosophy and push it further. A good first step is the provision of proper information to enable all of us, not just some little clique within the LEA, to judge how well a PRU is doing.

    My Lords, this has been an interesting debate. I shall initially make some points that should be on the record, and then I shall give a reflection.

    At the formal level the amendment is unnecessary because the powers already exist. There is a statutory basis for collecting information in this way. Some of the information is already published. The PRU census, which is published each year, collects information on gender, ethnicity, free school meals, the number of pupils with statements of SEN and the number that are dual registered. In addition, PRUs are required to keep an admissions register and an attendance register.

    There are several reasons why we do not publish information on achievement and attainment in PRUs. Many pupils passing through PRUs never sit an exam. As the majority of pupils spend fewer than two terms in a PRU, it is not simple to interpret any achievement and attainment data collected.

    One of the main ambitions of PRUs is to re-engage the pupil in learning with a view towards his speedy re-integration into mainstream education. For that reason, there is a much more flexible pattern of study and assessment.

    Achievement and attainment data are recorded on a pupil's individual learning plan, which goes with the pupil when he returns to mainstream school. That allows the school to see how the pupil progressed while attending the PRU.

    A further point is that PRUs are different. A hospital PRU will be different from a PRU for teenage mothers, which will be different again from one catering mainly for excluded pupils. It would, therefore, be difficult and potentially misleading to publish comparative data across all PRUs to capture those different circumstances.

    Individual learning plans are focused on the specific needs of each child—as they should be. For example, for a pupil with behavioural problems, the focus may be much more on trying to address and shift those behavioural problems than on academic achievement. For good reason—you are basically trying to get that child's behaviour into some form of conformity to make education in a mainstream setting work. I do not think that any noble Lords who have spoken would want to disturb that.

    Those are very good reasons why, first, one does not need a legislative power, and, secondly, why it is not simple to publish performance data. One is still left with the proper examination question about by which process we—by which I mean the local authority, central government or parents; any of those stakeholders—appraise the performance of PRUs.

    This is not my policy brief. It is not part of my day job, so I will not busk as far as I do on some other areas. While I do not think that this is the time and place to find an answer to that, we should at least reflect on it because it is a proper public policy question. I will ensure that the issue is conveyed back to my colleague Ministers for reflection.

    My Lords, I thank the Minister for his thoughtful reply. Yes, it is complex, but that does not mean that we should not still try to capture the information. I thank him for saying that he will take the issue away and think about it. I believe very strongly that just because these children are excluded does not mean that they should be forgotten. We should have just as much ambition for them as we do for all other children. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    moved Amendment No. 128:

    After Clause 112, insert the following new clause—
    "Education of detained children and young persons
    Education of detained children and young persons
    Section 562 of the Education Act 1996 (c. 56) (Act not to apply to persons detained under order of a court) is repealed."
    The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that children and young people detained in youth justice and mental health settings have the same right to education as all other children and young people.

    I apologise to the House for not getting my act together in time for the Committee stage of the Bill in order to have the issue discussed. Section 562 of the Education Act 1996 denies young people who are detained either through criminal justice or mental health legislation the absolute right to an education. While it does not preclude local authorities from making provision, it does not require them to do so.

    It seems to me that there are two main bases for repeal of the section and I believe that we should take the opportunity the Bill presents to do so. The legal basis for repeal is Article 2 of the first protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights. It reads:
    "No person shall be denied the right to education".
    Although the UK has a reservation in respect of Article 2, it is not in respect to the right to education itself. Further, Article 14 of the European convention prohibits discrimination on a number of grounds, including persons having "other status". That should preclude young people in custody and those detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 being subject to a lesser, and therefore discriminatory, right to education.

    In relation to education in detention, the 10th report from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights concluded:
    "We do not find the arguments presented by the Minister for Children and Young People against giving detained juveniles the same rights to education as other children persuasive—indeed we find them puzzlingly contradictory. He argues that such guarantees are unnecessary because the Government is doing all that is required. The same sorts of arguments were made against the application of the Children Act and the consequence was a judicial finding against the Government. We consider the persistence of the Government's resistance to placing the educational rights of young offenders on a statutory footing is a contravention of the UK's international obligations".
    The committee further pointed out that the most effective route out of crime was through better education and training opportunities.

    The second case for the repeal is the moral case. The Government are clear on their commitment to education and on the role that education plays in giving life chances to young people who are socially excluded. Young people detained in the under-18 secure estate or under Mental Health Act 1983 powers are among the most vulnerable and face numerous disadvantages. In addition to the stigma and difficulties associated with experiencing mental ill health, the young people most at risk are those living in poverty and poor housing and those with experience of physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

    In 2002, the Social Exclusion Unit published research on prisoners which clearly illustrated that behind the majority of young people in custody lay a childhood of disadvantage, abuse and loss. Over half the children in custody have been in care or involved with social services; 40 per cent of the girls and 25 per cent of the boys in prison report violence at home; and over half the girl population in prison and two thirds of the boy population had alcohol problems before entering prison. I am sure that your Lordships' House is well aware of the facts and figures.

    We know that the Government and my noble friend the Minister have every intention that those children and young people should be properly educated. We also know from the work of the Prison Reform Trust and organisations such as NCH and Barnardo's that the provision of formal education is patchy at best.

    I shall look briefly at the education provision in the under-18 secure estate. Although the majority of young people receive some form of education, a report commissioned recently by the Youth Justice Board showed that the provision available, particularly that in young offender institutions, left much to be desired. The staff are mostly part-time, turnover is high and qualification levels are relatively low. There is a serious deficiency of learning support, assisted teaching staff, special needs education co-ordinators and educational psychologists. A broad, balanced curriculum is not on offer, and the response to young people with SEN is a major weakness. The report found that education was not the focus of young offender institutions in the way that it was in local authority security units and secure training centres.

    The report of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons, Juveniles in Custody, found that 34 per cent of young people surveyed in young offender institutions indicated that they required help with reading, maths or writing, and over a quarter of them were not doing any education at all. In 2002–03, the Youth Justice Board set a target of 30 hours' purposeful activity, including 15 hours of education, each week for children in young offender institutions. However, that target is not being met.

    What about educational provision for those detained under the Mental Health Act 1983? The DfES guidance on access to education for children and young people with medical needs states that,
    "pupils who have an illness or diagnosis which indicates prolonged periods of absence from school … need to have access to education so far as possible from day one".
    It further states that education should be of a similar quality to that available in schools. Further, Standard 9 of the National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services states that children and young people with serious mental health disorders require their ongoing education to be provided either in home tuition units or in hospitals. The framework is clear that partnership working with education is essential, pointing out the links between mental health problems and educational failings.

    However, I believe that the provision is, at best, patchy. I quote from the NCH's recent research among that cohort of youngsters. A young person from Bury who had been in an institution due to mental illness said, "We are that bored on the ward, and when we all get this stuff out you actually go and do it—craft activities like sticking on bits of card—because you're so bored and if you don't do it then you've just got to sit. We've got no kind of access to education in the ward or anything like that".

    In its 10th biennial report, the Mental Health Act Commission found that where children and young people had been admitted to adult wards, only 11 per cent of those wards had managed to make arrangements for educational needs. Clearly, although some young people's level of mental disturbance may preclude them from benefiting from education were it provided, it seems unlikely that that is the sole reason underlying the paucity of provision, as only 30 per cent of wards had identified a planned programme of ward activities appropriate to a minor.

    It is past time for legislative change. The wrong message will be sent to those managing secure provision, whether in the arena of mental health or juvenile justice, if existing legislation suggests that the education of those whom they are looking after is neither here nor there. It is clear that the Government are committed to providing those young people with an education and are concerned about the quality of that provision. Therefore, it must be time to repeal this outdated legislation and ensure that all young people, especially those most in need, receive the benefit of a decent education.

    In conclusion, I would like to thank other noble Lords for their support in this matter and the Minister for listening so carefully. I also thank the Prison Reform Trust, Barnardo's, the Children's Legal Centre, Children's Rights Alliance, National Children's Bureau, National Children's Homes and Voice for the Child in Care for their briefing and their work in this area. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I support the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, on her amendment. I congratulate her on laying it before the House today and on the way in which she has introduced it. Clearly, in her speech she relied on an enormous amount of research that has been carried out. She listed a large number of reputable organisations whose standards of research are beyond reproach. I would add to that list the Forum on Prisoner Education of which I am a patron. It has given us many examples of best practice and of the benefits of high quality education, particularly in the secure estate.

    Referring back to a previous amendment, some of the youth offender institutions could be PRUs in their own right as most of the young people who find themselves in them are there partly because of their special educational needs, which need to be addressed while they are within the care of the state. The state has a duty to provide that. It is good not only for the children themselves but also for the state because it helps a great deal towards stopping them committing further offences. For many reasons 1 strongly congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, and hope that we shall receive a positive response from the Minister.

    My Lords, I warmly support the amendment. I am very concerned that those most in need can be denied an education. Being particularly interested in special educational needs, I consulted the National Children's Bureau. Apart from what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, the bureau said that it is very difficult to access accurate statistical information on the number or proportion of young people in prison custody who have learning difficulties. There are plenty of statistics on the percentage for literacy and numeracy problems, but it is difficult to collate the two. That may be due to the fact that a large number of young people who end up in prison have fallen out of the school system. There is some anecdotal evidence that that is related to their learning difficulties being seen as problem behaviour, and so remaining unidentified and unassessed, which means that they do not enter the SEN statementing process and receive the additional support that they require.

    More research is needed in this area. I suggest to the Minister that that would be a very useful thing to do. Certainly, it is known that in such places there are people with learning difficulties, dyslexia and so on. On I4 June last year the Guardian reported on a new study on the proportion of young offenders with dyslexia. The British Dyslexia Association, with a youth offending team in Bradford, undertook local research that suggests that over half of all young offenders are dyslexic as opposed to 10 per cent in the general population. The more serious the offence or the greater number of offences, the higher the likelihood that the offender is dyslexic, which I find scary. A lot can be done for dyslexic people as we know.

    Although the education and training provision in custodial establishments is a priority for the Youth Justice Board, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, showed very clearly in her compelling, cogent and comprehensive introduction, serious deficiencies have been found. There is a huge lack of help for children with SEN.

    I urge the Minister: if he cannot agree to the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, now, he should at least take it away and think very seriously about it and see whether there is some other way to ensure that it will no longer be legal for children to be denied an education which is most needed, because it is the basic human right of all their fellow peers.

    My Lords, I will speak very briefly on this amendment. Having listened to what has been said and also having read this very detailed and convincing document from a number of children's charities represented to us by the National Children's Home, I think that the case is overwhelming. Apart from anything else, given the fact that we know how inadequate the education process has been for the children who end up in custody or mental health institutions, we should use the opportunity when we have these children detained. As they are behind closed doors, what better opportunity to concentrate almost the entire time on these issues? We should update their skills and increase their basic education so that they have a better opportunity when returned to ordinary civilian life of leading as normal a life as humanly possible with much better opportunities.

    This is a case for using the very best teachers—the very best skilled psychologically and in every other aspect, but above all in communication—so that they can engage the interest of the children. We all know how important it is to have a really good teacher, and it is even more important when we are dealing with children with these kinds of difficulties.

    My Lords, the Minister knows my family commitment to prison education so he will not be surprised that I entirely support what noble Lords have said on this occasion. It seems to me crucial that we try to get ourselves into a position where prison education is something to be proud of. We are supposed to be, at heart, a Christian country. Christianity teaches us about the lost sheep being the one to which we should pay attention. That has not been the case in the past—and I am talking about our government's Act so I am not trying to ladle any blame on to the present Government—but this is an area of darkness into which we should shed some light. Light may be pretty zippy—186,000 miles a second—but enlightenment seems to spread much more slowly and these areas of darkness can persist for a long time.

    This is a difficult problem to tackle because, as other noble Lords have said, you need top-quality teachers, a quantity of resources in terms of special educational needs provision particularly, and tactics which overcome the fact that most of these kids have failed in education in the past. You cannot just sit them down in front of a standard teacher and expect them to learn. A lot of effort and innovation is required to make it happen. It is not something that wins anybody any votes ever. It will always be right on the political back-burner and potentially requires a lot of money to get right, so it is a difficult thing to make happen. Therefore, I like the approach of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton. Sometimes, when you want to get old hippopotamuses to canter, the best way is to tie them to the back of a train and blow the whistle. If the amendment of the noble Baroness went through, there would be chaos all round. No one would know how to deal with this obligation which had suddenly been imposed. who the responsibility rested with, or how they were going to deal with it. People would have to start rushing around at great speed.

    So I suspect it cannot be done this time, but I would recommend the general approach to the Government. Get in there, stick some serious obligations on somebody and then let them cope with it. That way, we might get some action. Wait until everything falls into place and we have a Chancellor whose number one priority is prison education, however, and nothing will ever happen.

    6 p.m.

    My Lords, we seem to be having a sequence of rather thoughtful debates at this stage of the Bill, which is not quite what you expect. I do not mean that in any way other than seriously. I shall first of all describe where we are, and then respond more fully to the spirit of the debate, rather than just the literal aspects of the amendment.

    First, we think there is progress going on in the Prison Service, Youth Justice Board and the department, together with the Welsh Assembly. They are working closely to ensure effective education is provided for juvenile offenders in custody. The Youth Justice Board has developed a national specification for learning and skills, which requires the Prison Service to deliver a full educational and vocational training programme, with a broad and balanced curriculum appropriate to the age and abilities of each young person.

    The ideal education provision for each young offender is meant to be tailored to meet the unusual and specific needs of each young person in custody. Providing an appropriate programme is not a job for education professionals alone. Youth justice teams, incorporating representatives from policy, social services, health, education, drugs and alcohol misuse and housing clearly need to work collectively.

    Over the past three years there has been a threefold increase in spending per person for juveniles in prison. We have invested nearly £13 million in new classrooms and workshops. We are also replacing existing prison education contracts in England with a new partnership between the Learning and Skills Council and the Prison Service.

    Secondly, there would be practical difficulties if one took the amendment literally, which is why the hippopotamus tied to the end of train would not lead to quite the outcome that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, would wish. I am not being dismissive, however. For example, there are around 500 young offenders of compulsory school age in custody. As their number is so few, the provision of young offenders institutions is centrally managed. It is paid for and provided by the Home Office via the Youth Justice Board. Detention is rarely in the child's home local authority.

    At present, a single youth offending team is responsible for the transition of each youth offender from community to custody and back to the community, chasing historical information in all respects. I can see the sense in that. If it was totally devolved to local authorities, there would be considerable problems in terms of the specialism and how the management of those processes would work.

    I put that all to one side, because I do not think the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, was expecting me simply to say "Yes, we will enact exactly that," although she would have been pleased if I had.

    Let me say what we should do. This, too, is on my day job agenda—I am slightly worried by the number of times I have said that this afternoon, it seems to be one of the features of the day—in the sense that offender education, children's mental health and vulnerable children intersect there. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and one or two others may know, a fairly serious review of the objectives of offender education—and how to increase the likelihood that offenders will get into work and he normalised and stabilised—is going on. That has tended to focus on prisons and offenders in the community. The first thing I want to do is bring detained children into that work stream. There is clearly no reason why they should not be there. They are offenders, and therefore the education needs of those children, and how one gets those children into normalisation, stabilisation and employment, must be part of that. I do not think it totally sits within that area, however. There are other issues which need to be addressed.

    I also want to look within the department to ensure that there is clear and strong ownership of this issue, both at ministerial and official level. I believe that there is, but I want to make doubly sure. I should like to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, to let me have the evidence that she has so skilfully amassed from a range of organisations. I should like to peruse it, if I have a few moments, and ensure that my officials are au fait with it, because the noble Baroness made many points and I should like to see the source information.

    The last thing that I should like to do—and I shall ask my officials to do it—is at some stage formally to organise a workshop with some of the organisations to which the noble Baroness referred so that we can have a serious discussion. We should probably invite some of the institutions with managerial responsibility for those issues so that we get in the skin of the current state of the system and how it is delivering; see how it is perceived by the specialist organisations; and consider an agenda for change that we might take from that. I am not by that suddenly implying that I shall be able to magic instant change or that we shall manage suddenly to find large amounts of money, but I want to give the matter a clear policy focus over the next year—if I am spared—because it is an important issue. I hope that my remarks are at least helpful, if not ideally what the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, would have wanted.

    My Lords, I cannot imagine what my noble friend the Minister means by being "spared".

    I thank him very much for that answer. I suppose in my heart I did not expect that the Government would just say "Yes, we will enact your proposal". However, I have two things to say. First, I believe that the Government will find themselves in trouble on the issue, because of the legal problems that it presents in terms of human rights legislation. That is something that they will possibly have to face, and I always think that it is better to jump than be pushed. Secondly, I thank noble Lords for the support that I have received across the House on this issue, which should indicate to the Government that there is a very broad consensus about the need to tackle the issue.

    I thank the Minister, too, as he has clearly decided to engage with the issue—and I am very pleased that it is part of his day job. Now we have it on the record that he is going to have a workshop, and we shall certainly ensure that the information is sent to the Minister and his department. We shall pursue the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    moved Amendment No. 129:

    After Clause 112, insert the following new clause—
    In section 133 of the 2002 Act (requirement upon teachers to be qualified), for subsection (1) there is substituted—
    "(1) Regulations may make provision as to the work, (to be known as "specified work") which may only be carried out at a school by a qualified teacher or other person possessing or seeking such qualifications as may be specified and as to that work which may be carried out to support or assist the carrying out of specified work by persons employed otherwise than as teachers at a school.""
    The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 129, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 130 and 131, which are grouped with it. All three amendments seek revisions to Sections 133 and 134 of the Education Act 2002.

    Amendment No. 129 would allow for regulations identifying what is the work of a qualified teacher, alongside separate regulations identifying the work of support staff. Under Section 133 of the Education Act 2002, the Secretary of State may set out in secondary legislation the work to be carried out in a school only by a qualified teacher and the work that may be carried out by support staff and unqualified teachers.

    The DfES document, Time for Standards, says that the underlying policy aim of the regulations made under Section 133 is to safeguard standards in the classroom and to preserve the role, status and overall responsibility of qualified teachers in schools. The regulations made under the section are structured currently on the basis that anyone, qualified teachers or unqualified persons, may carry out "specified work" on specified conditions. Only the conditions distinguish qualified teachers from others. That approach is really unsatisfactory; there is a vital need to define the core characteristics of practising qualified teachers so as to offer a clear distinction between their work and that of teaching assistants; otherwise, as is already apparent, the uncertainty of the current approach could be exploited for cost-cutting reasons in a way that may, insidiously, deny pupils the right to be taught by a qualified teacher rather than merely supervised.

    I now move to Amendments Nos. 130 and 131. Earlier this year, the General Teaching Council for England expressed grave concern that under current plans qualified teachers working in the new, independently managed academies will not be required to register with the council. Although many academies may well wish, encourage, or even require, their teachers to register, that does not address the fundamental concern that all pupils whose education is publicly funded should benefit from the protection that registration of qualified teachers confers. Parents whose children attend academies are not making a conscious decision to opt out of the safeguards offered by the General Teaching Council's regulatory and professional standards framework. They are simply choosing what they consider at the time to be the local school that will best meet their children's needs. They often may not know that the teachers, or some of the teachers, in that academy are not registered.

    Public interest demands that registration should be a requirement for qualified teachers working in academies. This is not just my view; it is shared by 13 national educational organisations that represent parents, governors, teachers, diocesan authorities and disability organisations as well. They have all joined together to call on the Government to take this step and to bring these teachers within the scope of mandatory regulation. For example, the Church of England education division has indicated that it will expect teachers in any academy it sponsors to be registered with the General Teaching Council. The GTC and its partners want to see a consistent approach to registration so that teachers moving between schools do not slip out of the net of professional regulation. It is welcomed that the Church of England education division takes that approach, but we cannot rely on the good will of such organisations to ensure that it happens.

    David Butler, the chief executive of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations has said that he believes that parents will be deeply troubled to think that teachers in academies are not operating within the same framework of professional standards and regulation as teachers in other neighbouring schools. Worse still, a teacher who had been subject to a disciplinary order by the GTC could evade that and seek employment in an academy. Registration is an important safeguard both for parents and for the wider public interest. Amendments Nos. 130 and 131 relate to this issue. if the Government are really serious about wanting to ensure that the learning experience of children in academies is of the highest quality, I hope that the Minister will respond positively to this group of amendments. I beg to move.

    The purpose of this amendment is to recast one of the key provisions of Part 8 of the Education Act 2002. Broadly speaking, this provides powers to the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales to set out in regulations what types of staff may carry out work in what types of schools and under what conditions. This is a basis, among other things, for the national agreement to reduce teachers' workload that the Government are implementing for England and the National Assembly is implementing for Wales in partnership with school employers and all of the school workforce unions except two. The agreement has been superb in the way that the participant unions and others have worked to try to ensure that we improve the ways in which the workforce works better in schools, and it is delivering some significant results. On the face of it, Amendment No. 129 attempts to make that agreement at best difficult to implement and at worst entirely unworkable, while Amendments Nos. 130 and 131 would impinge unnecessarily on the freedoms that academies. CTCs and CCTAs were set up to enjoy.

    Section 133 of the 2002 Act has brought an overdue clarity to the respective roles of teachers and other staff. Thanks to regulations made under this provision, certain types of work known as specified work, are recognised as essentially the job of qualified teachers. That work comprises: planning and preparing lessons and courses, delivering lessons, and assessing and reporting on the development, progress and attainment of pupils.

    6.15 p.m.

    Those tasks may only be carried out without supervision by qualified teachers and certain other specified groups—such as overseas-trained teachers and people on employment-based routes to qualified teacher status. It is also possible for other types of staff, such as higher level teaching assistants, to carry out specified work—but only in order to assist or support the work of a teacher, only under their direction and supervision, and only where the head teacher is satisfied that the member of staff has the necessary skills, expertise and experience to carry out the work. In the Government's view—and that of its social partners—that is a proportionate and sensible safeguard for the quality of teaching that children receive.

    Amendment No. 129 would replace this clarity with a situation that may lead to some valuable school staff no longer being able to do their current jobs. Let me give just one example. If they are no longer able to carry out "specified work", instructors with special experience—who have been a small but important part of our school system for decades, especially in the delivery of vocational subjects, languages and sport— might well have to cease to exist. At the same time, however, the amendment might make it perfectly possible for HLTA status to be included in the list of approved qualifications that would allow someone to carry out specified work without supervision.

    The current firm of Section 133 and the regulations made under it have not brought the widespread replacement of qualified teachers with unqualified adults that many—including some unions, perhaps—predicted. There are more qualified teachers in our schools today than at any time in the past 20 years. Instead, these provisions are delivering meaningful reductions in teachers' workloads—and allowing more adults to be brought into the classroom, in appropriate roles, to support the work of qualified teachers.

    I turn now to Amendments Nos. 130 and 131. Amendment No. 130 would invite the Secretary of State to bring forward regulations making academies subject to the same qualifications requirements as maintained schools, in respect of the staff they employ. Amendment No. 131 would make provision to extend to qualified teachers who work in academies, also by regulations, the requirement to hold full registration with the GTC that already applies to those working in maintained schools. non-maintained special schools and PRUs.

    Children who attend academies should be taught by staff with at least the same level of qualifications as those who do not. That is precisely why the funding agreements between the Secretary of State and academies set requirements as to the qualifications and health standards of the teachers they employ. Yet there is a world of difference between this approach—which makes clear upfront which conditions an academy's sponsors will have to meet—and that taken by Amendment No. 130, which would simply bring academies into the same regulatory framework as other schools. Amendment No. 131 raises much the same issues.

    There are entirely legitimate concerns, which the GTC England and others have voiced, about the fact that qualified teachers who work in academies may not fall entirely within the council's disciplinary framework. When I speak of discipline, let me be clear: I am not speaking about the mistreatment of children. A teacher who has been barred by the Secretary of State—on grounds of unsuitability to work with children, or misconduct—is debarred from obtaining work in an academy. I am speaking rather of teachers whom the GTC England would bar on grounds of professional incompetence, and who would not fall within the Secretary of State's own powers to ban.

    The GTCE register is, however, only one of the available means of checking the standards of a teacher's past performance. For example, a teacher moving into an academy would certainly be required to produce references from their previous employers. It is inconceivable that a previous employer would fail to mention the fact that they had been dismissed for incompetence, or that there were serious concerns in relation to that.

    In addition, I can assure the House that there are certainly no bars on teachers in academies registering with the council, if they decide that it is in their interests to do so. I can also confirm that many academies have decided that it is right to require that their teachers should be registered. Moreover, the Government will continue to encourage academies to register new and existing staff with the council. I believe that this approach, rather than regulation, is the correct way forward. I apologise for the length of my answer, but I hope that has at least in part been helpful.

    My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. The Minister says that we are trying to limit the freedom of academies as to who they can employ: well, yes we are—in the interests of the children. It is because we believe a certain minimum standard of staff is necessary. The Minister is yet again relying on the funding agreements to achieve all kinds of things in relation to academies. Time alone will tell whether these are watertight or full of holes. I worry somewhat that those funding agreements are being relied on so heavily to achieve a large number of issues in relation to the provision of education by the academies. Neither the Minister nor I can tell for the moment, but I am sure that both of us will keep a careful eye on the matter.

    The Minister also said that the General Teaching Council register was only one mechanism that could be used for ensuring the quality of a member of the teaching staff. It may be, but it is probably the best that we have—the most watertight and generally accepted. If the Government are encouraging academies to encourage staff to be registered, or even to require them to be so, I find it difficult to see why that cannot be put into statute. That would be a clear indicator of the Government's determination that the level of staff in the new independent state schools was no less good than in any other state schools.

    It is clear that the noble Lord does not find himself able to listen on this occasion, as he has on many other occasions during the course of the Bill. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendments Nos. 130 and 131 not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 131A:

    After Clause 112, insert the following new clause—
  • (1) It is the duty of the appropriate authority to ensure that any registered parent of a registered pupil attending a relevant school is able to seek guidance and advice in relation to the behavioural and emotional development of that pupil.
  • (2) All parents shall on registration of their child as a new pupil at any relevant school be given information as to where they may seek such guidance and advice including information about telephone help-lines, internet websites and the availability and contact details of local authority, school-based and voluntary support services.
  • (3) This information shall also be included each year in any school profile issued to parents.
  • (4) "Relevant school" and "appropriate authority" shall have the same meaning as in section 112."
  • The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I tabled the amendment because I have for some time been worried by the fact that help in terms of parenting is offered to parents when the problem of bad behaviour has become so chronic that the behaviour is, in effect, unmanageable and spills out to the wider community. At that point, we see ASBOs and compulsory parenting classes.

    Equally, as our discussion earlier made clear, the role of parents in bringing up children is crucial. Positive parenting can result in a high level of performance on the part of children, and impact substantially on the child. The down side is that bad behaviour on the part of children is often a reflection of perturbation in home circumstances. It may reflect violence at home, the break-up of a marriage or the death of a family member. I have been impressed by the evidence presented to me in the past six months or so of the depression suffered by young people at both secondary and primary school, and of how, if we can nip that in the bud, they frequently not only perform much better at school but are assimilated within society to a much greater degree.

    It is clear that many parents find it difficult to know where to go for help if they find their children difficult to manage. They might go to their GP and say that they have difficulties, and the GP will more or less say that it is natural in a growing period. They may go to teachers—that is very obvious—but some parents feel inhibited about going to school and admitting that they have difficulty managing their own children at home. If parents go to a teacher and say, "Help! What do I do?", teachers frequently do not have recourse to much in the way of help in any case. Local authority psychological support services are not very extensive and are frequently already overworked. A referral to an educational psychologist may well take three or four months, if not more. Some parents sometimes feel that it is not always that helpful to go and talk with such people. They tend to come away saying that the advice that they received was motherhood and apple pie.

    At the same time, I am conscious of the fact that a lot of positive initiatives are taking place. Through the All-Party Group on Parents and Families, I have had plenty to do with the National Parenting and Family Institute, and know that it has been piloting, for example, parent information points. Much of its work has had positive results.

    That has led me to the conclusion that it would be helpful if schools, as a matter of routine, were to make available to parents knowledge about telephone helplines and Internet sites and so forth and about whom to contact in local authorities, where there are school-based services or voluntary services that are frequently available locally. Parents do not always know how to access such information.

    If, when a new parent registers—even if it is of a child who is only 3 or 4—they are given this information and if it is repeated in the annual school profile, or whatever the annual report is, it is there if they need it. It is an immediate resource that they can seek help from, particularly if they feel inhibited about talking to the teachers at their children's school about the difficulties that they are having.

    One of the things that has become apparent from talking with the people at the National Family and Parenting Institute is the degree to which, where parenting classes are run, many parents reply. "Why didn't you tell me about these before, it would have helped so much". The earlier we can get in here, the better. It is really a matter of providing information.

    The Minister has already talked about some of the initiatives that are emerging in his department. This is a prompt to him to say, "Look, here is an idea. We need to make sure that parents get this information". Every child has to be registered at a school at some point. Parents may lose the information, but if it is repeated in the annual school report—it need only be a little bit at the end —at least it is there and it is in a place of first resort. I beg to move.

    My Lords, the prompt was well received, is the short answer. This could have been part of our more general discussion earlier, so I will not go on at excessive length. I agree with a lot of what the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, has said and must make sure that I read it in Hansard as well.

    It is certain that the issues she talks about are in the work programme that we have got under way. In other words, we are looking at what information parents need; the evidence for that; the circumstances in which national helplines work; their reach and penetration; and in what circumstances they need to be backed up by more localised sources of information. The noble Baroness referred to evidence about parents, who are often seriously disadvantaged, surprisingly saying that they welcomed some of the interventions that some of us were slightly worried about initially, and that if only they had had this before it would have been helpful.

    It is both about identifying what universal services would, in a perfect world, be available and also where targeted services are needed in particular circumstances, if there are serious difficulties with how a parent is coping. That needs to be seen in the context of normalising the need for parenting support. All parents, me included, have problems at times. My daughters are always telling me that the problem is me, but I do not always believe them. I am not being flippant, but this is part of life and this is not an indication that the state is about to set up something massive. It is clearly more subtle than that.

    The point about transitions is accepted, as is the point that some of those who perhaps most need support find it the most difficult to access the support. In other words, some families are least likely to ask the school for help whereas lots of other parents will do so. Let me not go on, but I would just like to signal that I am four-square with the noble Baroness on many of the issues. They are on our work programme, which I talked about earlier today and earlier in debates.

    6.30 p.m.

    My Lords, on this issue there is a meeting of minds between our Benches and the Minister. I also have support from Members on the other Benches. The amendment was a prompt to the Minister and I hope that he will keep the House informed of developments. There is a great deal of interest in the matter in this House. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, who has not been present for the past week or so, would have been delighted with the Minister's response. We look forward to positive moves in this direction. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 115 [ Functions to he exercisable by National Assembly for Wales]:

    moved Amendment No. 132:

    Page 62, line 35, at end insert—
    "section (Admission arrangements to make special provision for looked-after children) (admission arrangements to make special provision for looked-after children):"
    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Schedule 19 [ Repeals]:

    moved Amendment No. 133:

    Page 146, line 15, at end insert—
    "Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 (c. 13)In Schedule 4, the entry beginning "Registered Inspectors of Schools Appeal Tribunals"."
    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 121 [Commencement]:

    moved Amendment No. 134:

    Page 65, line 12, at end insert—
    "( ) The following provisions may only come into force after the regulations have been laid before and approved by both Houses of Parliament—
  • (a) section 98, and
  • (b) Schedule 16."
  • The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of the amendment is as clear as it is important. The changes to the funding system as proposed under Clause 68 amount to a complex piece of legislation. As mentioned in Committee, we on these Benches welcome in principle the idea of a three-year funding cycle, yet we have a number of continuing concerns not only about the Government's proposals under the clause but about the way in which they have gone about implementing them.

    As stated in Committee, much of what the Government intend to introduce will he implemented at a later date through regulations and guidance. We have been given the green light to these proposals with scant knowledge of their details or how they will operate in practice. The consultation on three-year education budgets, for example, was published only last week.

    Indeed, the decision to move to two or three-year ring-fenced budgets was taken without consultation with local government and without the outcome of the ODPM's own consultation, as stated by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, earlier. It will mean that school funding will be placed on a completely different footing to other local authority government services.

    Given the importance of the funding issue and the desire of the Committee to get it right, it is therefore imperative that the Bill and any subsequent regulations or guidance relating to the future of schools' funding receives proper parliamentary scrutiny and is not rushed through in undue haste.

    Amendment No. 134 would therefore ensure that future regulations which would bring in Clause 98 and the reformed funding system must first be debated by Parliament. This, we believe, is a sensible and rational approach designed to ensure that the proposals are properly scrutinised and vetted and that we do not have a repeat of the funding fiasco of two years ago when new funding was hastily rushed in with almost predictable consequences. I believe that even this year there have been funding problems—Buckinghamshire got Bromley's amount and another authority got someone else's amount. However good modern technology and however good our intentions, funding 20,000 schools in a new way could be difficult and complex and could go terribly wrong. We therefore believe that the Government must put much thought and effort into the implementation. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I understand and agree with the interest in the detail of the regulations and the importance of getting them right. However, the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, will not be surprised to hear that I do not believe that the amendment is necessary or appropriate, although the fulfilment of his concerns is. I am told that on the Buckinghamshire/Bromley issue, the money was capital and I am sure that that makes a great deal of difference to the noble Lord. I was also thinking, "I bet that the one which got more kept quiet but the other one didn't". Let me not be flippant.

    The regulation-making powers in the Bill were set out in our memorandum to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee and the committee agreed that they were proportionate. It did not suggest that affirmative resolution was necessary in relation to Schedule 16 powers.

    The Government have also made it very clear how they propose to use the new powers for schools forums. Our intentions were set out fully in the memorandum to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, in the notes on clauses and during the debate at Committee stage. The regulations will not be complex. They will simply give effect to those proposals—that is, that forums should in future be able to agree to proposals from the LEAs to vary the detailed operation of the minimum funding guarantee or to exceed the limit on central expenditure to reflect local circumstances. Where it is not possible to reach a local consensus, the LEA may ask the Secretary of State for a decision.

    In relation to three-year and academic-year budgets, the Government have now published a detailed consultation paper setting out how we propose that the new arrangements should work. Copies were sent to Front Benchers and also to the House Library. Although the detail is still subject to the outcome of consultation, the main elements which will be covered in the regulations are clear from the consultation paper. The principle of three-year budgets based around the academic year has received support from all sides of the House, as well as from key stakeholders outside. The detail is still to be resolved but it is not particularly controversial; it is just a matter of finding technical solutions that will work best for LEAs and schools.

    It has also been suggested that all regulations tinder Schedule 16 should be subject to affirmative resolution. We do not believe that that would be a good use of parliamentary time. Schools funding regulations are currently updated every year—for example, to set the level of the minimum funding guarantee for the year ahead. Much as we love being here, I think that it might test us a little if we persisted with that level of detail. I shall not go into our reasons, but we cannot accept the amendment because it is also technically flawed.

    I hope that that has been helpful to the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. In particular, I draw attention to the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, which thought that this was an appropriate level of scrutiny. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will feel minded not to press his amendment.

    My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I reiterate my concern: how the measure is implemented will need to be thought through very carefully. Again, I am supportive of the whole initiative of three-year funding and, in turn, of moving to an academic year. But, because of that complication, it could go dramatically wrong. I shall read in Hansard what the Minister said and reflect on it further. But, with that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.