My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]
Clause 4 [Duty to identify children not receiving education]:
Page 3, leave out line 8.
The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 23, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 25. There is a great burden of business before the Committee today and therefore I shall endeavour to be as brief as possible.
We have agreed in our deliberations so far, and underlined this understanding, that education is the right of every child. We have referred to the conventions internationally into which we have voluntarily entered as a nation and we have confirmed that we are determined to see our responsibility in respect of those conventions fulfilled. My noble friend the Minister in his very helpful responses to amendments so far put forward has given an undertaking that he will look very closely at an amendment put forward in my name suggesting that education as the right of the child should be there, directly and explicitly, at the beginning of the Bill and on the face of the Bill.
If we are so determined that this right should be recognised, it is surely equally incumbent on us to ensure that the means are in place to deliver that right. It is my contention that some of those in most need of education will, almost by definition, be those most in jeopardy in terms of fulfilling that right. The difficulty, as I see it, is that the responsibility for ensuring that right is distributed among a number of different agencies and bodies. If we are to be certain that the right is being fulfilled, there is a great deal to be said for one body having the universal responsibility for ensuring that this right is turned into practice. My amendment proposes that we should give that responsibility to the local education authority.
The purpose of Amendment No. 23 is to identify children who are not receiving education in such a way that those informally excluded pupils who remain on the register are also covered. I know, because the Minister has been kind enough to indicate to me in correspondence, that the Government will argue that it is illegal for a child to be informally excluded in such a way. Whether it is legal or illegal, it happens. I believe that because of the pressures on schools at the moment in so many respects, not least from the media, there will be a great deal of temptation, whatever we say, for headmasters and headmistresses in certain circumstances to follow that road.
I think that those of us who are concerned about children most in need would say that while we would not question the disruptive potential of such students and the need to protect the interests of the majority of children at school, very often the disruptive child is the one who is most in need of educational support of an appropriate kind. Therefore, this amendment says fairly and squarely, in effect, that it is the responsibility of the local education authority to discover whether children are being excluded in this way and to make sure that arrangements are made.
On Amendment No. 25, the force of what I have been trying to argue is, in a sense, even more acute. Young people in custodial care, psychiatric units and immigration and removal centres are frequently very much in need of the right kind of support. I have recently completed nine years as honorary president of the YMCA in England which, I am glad to say, does a great deal of work with young people in custody. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that all that I have experienced and heard from such programmes repeatedly brings it home that it would be almost amazing if the majority of these young people were not in trouble. They come from such disrupted, damaging home or social circumstances that they are desperately in need of support. Again, I am not arguing that wrongdoing should not be punished, but punishment which does not seek to rehabilitate or to discover the real background to the situation is just a waste of public money, in addition to being singularly unintelligent and unenlightened. Therefore, children in such situations should be absolutely certain that their right to education is being fulfilled.
The Minister has been kind enough to indicate to me that the Government’s case is likely to be that all the institutions that I have mentioned have a responsibility in this respect. However, those of us who have dealt on the front line with these situations will know that, whatever the formal responsibilities may be, they are not always being fulfilled. Even when they are, they are too often being fulfilled to a minimal degree to the letter of what is required but not in the spirit of what is required at all. From that standpoint, it is absolutely logical and sensible, if we are serious in our commitment to the right of the child to education and the paramount importance of that, to ensure that the local education authority is charged with overseeing such situations and making sure that whatever is in the rules and regulations is in fact being fulfilled and the education is being provided. I beg to move.
I rise to speak to Amendments Nos. 24, 26 and 26A standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Sharp. Amendment No. 24 would do something similar to Amendment No. 23 moved by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. It would require the local authority to be the educator of last resort. In other words, the LEA has to find a place for a child who fails to secure a place at a secondary school and an alternative school, home tuition or a PRU for pupils who are excluded, for whatever reason.
It is one thing identifying the children not receiving a suitable education, as this Bill seeks to do, but someone has to have the duty to provide that education. In the current climate of schools becoming independent and having the right to refuse admission to particular children, there is no mechanism to rectify that situation. I am not normally someone who wants local authorities to have a duty to pick up the pieces of other people's messes, but someone must, in the last resort, have the duty to provide a child with an education—the education to which it has a right. That will have to be the local authority.
Amendments Nos. 26 and 26A have already had the implicit support of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, in what he said in his excellent speech. Amendment No. 26 would end the current exclusion of children detained under an order of court from the statutory right to education. It is currently the case that Section 562 of the Education Act 1996 effectively permits the Secretary of State, local authorities and parents to opt out of any obligations under the Act if the child is detained by the order of a court. Although the local authority may make arrangements for educational provision for such a child, it is under no obligation to do so.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child stated in its concluding observations on the UK's second report to the committee in 2002 that it was particularly,
“concerned that children deprived of their liberty in prisons and juvenile detention centres do not have a statutory right to education and that their education is not under the responsibility of the Departments responsible for education and that they do not enjoy support for special education needs”.
Further, in its report on the UNCRC in 2000-03, the Joint Committee on Human Rights concurred. It said:
“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 that 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 JCHR scrutiny report on the current Bill also highlights as concerning the fact that as a result of Section 562, Clause 4, which puts local authorities under a new duty to identify children not receiving education, will not apply to children in custody. The report says:
“These will be some of the most vulnerable children in the LEA's area and in our view it would be preferable if the duty to make arrangements to identify children not receiving education applied to them”.
Without relevant statutory duties in place, the current situation for young people in custody with regard to education is currently very poor. Many of them start with very poor levels of education, and that is widely considered one of the causes of crime. Prison Service Order 4950 stipulates the requirements for prisons holding children. Education should be provided for at least 15 hours a week and the remaining 15 hours must be spent in accredited educative activities, which may include work-based learning. However, there is evidence, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, that these levels of provision are not being consistently met. In April, in response to a Parliamentary Question, Fiona Mactaggart said:
“The Youth Justice Board … set the young people's secure estate a national average of 25 hours a week education and training provision, rising to 30 when resources become available. Between April 2005 and March 2006, eight young offender institutions … met the national average and eight did not.
In the 2005–08 service level agreement between the YJB and the Prison Service, each YOI was set an agreed target for the provision of education and training. Between April 2005 and March 2006, five YOIs met their individual target and 11 did not”.—[Official Report, Commons, 27/4/06; cols. 1262-3W.]
Less than 50 per cent reaching their targets is pretty appalling, especially when we know that improving levels of education and training to help a young person get a job is one of the most effective levers to help them to avoid reoffending and to keep out of the downward spiral that is too often the result of getting involved with the criminal justice system. Furthermore, a recent inspection report of Her Majesty’s young offender institution, Wetherby, published in January 2005, found that four out of 10 of the young people were not accessing education or training.
The Government in their recent Green Paper, Reducing Re-offending Through Skills and Employment, recognise these serious deficiencies in the current arrangements. In the light of the Government’s own plans, the Government stated during the Committee stage of the Bill in the House of Commons that they do not feel that the repeal of Section 562 is either necessary or desirable. I find that very puzzling. I believe that by failing to end this discriminatory exemption the efforts to improve the situation will be undermined. As long as that section remains in place, it will continue to be a major barrier to the effective provision of education for children in custody.
Amendment No. 26A probes whether the duties placed on local authorities under the Education Act 1996 apply to children in immigration removal centres. Under that Act, children subject to an order of court are currently exempt, but the situation relating to children in immigration removal centres is not clear. Children in those centres are not placed there by order of court. However, there are clear differentials in standards between education provision in mainstream schools and in immigration removal centres, which calls the status of their education provision into serious question.
The following quotation was taken from a recent inspection of Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre last March. It said that the provision for children’s education was unsatisfactory and depressing and that:
“Accommodation for older children was poor, and the broad range of ages and abilities prevented effective work. There was an over-reliance on agency staff, insufficient resources and no system to measure the quality, rather than the amount, of teaching”.
When this issue was debated in Committee in another place, the Minister, Phil Hope MP, said that due to the very low numbers of children detained in IRCs it would be disproportionate to extend local authorities’ education duties to include them, and a more appropriate way to tackle the current deficiencies in the system was through the contract to run the centre. He said:
“Of the three immigration removal centres that hold families with children, two hold families for a maximum of 72 hours”,
while at Yarl’s Wood,
“in individual cases, families with children are held there for longer periods. Most will be held for just a few days prior to removal from the UK”.—[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee E, 18/4/06; col. 258.]
If the scale of the problem is so small, it would be a very small burden on local authorities.
Besides, we refute the contention that the scale of the issue is quite that small. Government figures show that of the 540 minors recorded as leaving detention, excluding Oakington, during the fourth quarter of last year, 465 were asylum detainees, a rise of 19 per cent from the third quarter of that same year. Three hundred and eighty-five of all minors had been in detention for seven days or less, 60 of them eight to 14 days and 70 had been detained for something between 15 and 29 days. That is a considerable period of time during the education of a child. A recent report from Save the Children estimates that the numbers are much greater than those quoted by the Government. I will not detain your Lordships by quoting it, but the report is easily available.
The fundamental objection to the current situation is that segregated education provision is regressive and discriminatory. One of the founding principles of the Education Act 1944 was that school-based education should be universally available. Allowing a child’s immigration status to determine whether or not they can attend a mainstream school is a dangerous and unprecedented attack on that principle and may violate the right of the child to be educated under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
I support Amendments Nos. 24 and 26. I apologise to the Committee if I have to slip out in the course of the Minister’s response, as it is the annual general meeting of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Children and Young People in Care, and my presence is necessary to make that quorate.
Clause 4, identifying those children who are not receiving education, is very welcome. It seems to me, however, as it does to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, only to go halfway to meeting the need. I shall give the case of Traveller children as an example. Recently a charity, the Ormiston Children and Families Trust, made a presentation on the needs of children of Traveller families. Three such children spoke of their experience of bullying in schools, of their need to hide their identities as Travellers in schools and, on one occasion, of having a brick thrown through their family home. They also spoke with pride about the occasions when they were encouraged at school to go and speak to their fellow pupils about their cultural heritage, and the impact that had on reducing the bullying towards them.
Nearly 40 years ago the Plowden report identified the concerns about Traveller children not taking part in education, and a report from Ofsted, The Education of Traveller Children, indicated that possibly 10,000 Traveller children were not receiving secondary school education. I know that the Government are taking several important steps in addressing this problem. The development of early years childcare, which can help to draw these families into the education system and build their trust in it, is particularly welcome. Will the Minister say—perhaps he can write to me—what progress has been made on that figure of 10,000 children?
I have no wish to burden schools any further than they already are. I welcome the prioritisation of looked-after children in the admissions for schools. We recognise that these children have been let down badly in the past. I welcome what the Government have done, but I hope that they will consider what more could be done for these other children who have been excluded.
I turn to Amendment No. 26. I believe that 28 per cent of juveniles leaving the prison estate reoffend within two months of doing so. On a recent visit to a secure training centre, the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland of Asthal, and I spoke to a 16 year-old young man, Paul. He told us that he had not been in school for several years and that he did not feel that he had much time for it. In the course of his sentence he made several years’ progress in reading ability. The education at that establishment was clearly first rate, although the Committee will be aware that the quality of provision in secure training centres and young offender institutions is variable. What really came through very clearly from all the people we spoke to on that visit, including the wonderful teachers, the social workers and the psychologists, is that when those children leave that setting, it is as if they come off a cliff. That is a recurrent theme. It is particularly true of young people in care who, sadly, too often enter custody. When they leave custody, there is no connection with services to ensure that they are properly cared for. I hope that the amendment will enable a more thorough approach to connect these children with the services they need when they move on. I hope that the noble Lord will consider that.
Will the noble Lord also consider holding a meeting on this and other matters with the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland? If the noble Baroness is to achieve her goal of reducing reoffending, which is very much a priority of hers, clearly the noble Lord’s department and that of the noble Baroness will have to work together much more closely. If I may say so, the closer the Home Office and the noble Lord’s department work together, the better will his responsibility for vulnerable children be discharged. However, I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, carries a very heavy burden and I do not wish to add to it any more than is absolutely necessary.
I am moving to a conclusion. I believe that the National Health Service was charged with the health of those in prison in about 1999, taking over from the Prison Service. Everyone clearly recognised what an important advance that was. When I visited Feltham young offender institution about a year after that event and spoke with the health department, I particularly noticed the significant decline in children and young people harming themselves. It is widely acknowledged that that was an important step forward. So there is a reasonable expectation that if local education authorities were to take responsibility for the matter we are discussing, there might be further improvement in the consistency and quality of education provision in these settings. One per cent of children entering the juvenile estate have a statement of special educational needs, but it is estimated that 50 per cent actually have special educational needs. That is another argument for better joining up the services provided in prisons with those outside. That might well be done by placing these responsibilities on local education authorities.
In conclusion, for all our sakes it is vital that we improve the consistency of the quality of education offered to juveniles and that we ensure they have a school place when they complete their generally short stay in custody or on remand. Both these amendments might conduce to those ends. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
I speak in support of Amendment No. 26, to which I have added my name. One year and several months on I once again find myself speaking on the very significant matter of Section 562 of the Education Act 1996, which denies young offenders and others the statutory right to a normal education.
In February last year, with very many of the same cast but with a different Minister, and with the support of my noble friend Lord Judd, we tabled an amendment on precisely this matter. I feel that we have probably not made much progress since then. I feel strongly that it is our duty to ensure that young offenders and those with mental health problems have, at the minimum, the same rights to education as all non-detained children.
I am not going to run through the arguments, which have been so ably outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. I remind the Committee of what the Minister at the time, my noble friend Lord Filkin, said about the issue, because he was not at all dismissive. He committed himself and his department to,
“look within the department to ensure that there is clear and strong ownership of this issue, both at ministerial and official level”.—[Official Report, 24/2/05; col. 1450.]
My noble friend also undertook to look into the research that many noble Lords, including me, outlined in that debate and to look at the evidence—some of which has been repeated today. He also said that he would ask his officials at some stage to organise a workshop with some of the organisations referred to in the debate that are experts in this area, to discuss with the department how best to take that forward.
I am not necessarily expecting my noble friend the Minister to report on that, because he was not the Minister at the time. But I hope that we might see some progress on this important matter and that we will take the opportunity of this Bill—which is about good education for all children—to deal with these children who are outside the Act, and outside the jurisdiction of the department and local education authorities.
I follow with great appreciation the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. It is not often in politics—and I have had a long life in politics—that one suddenly sees the clear answer to a problem emerging between all parties in an intelligent and thoughtful debate such as this one. But it is increasingly clear—the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, put this very well—that the problem of a very high recidivism rate among young offenders in prisons and young offender institutions can be met only with much closer co-operation between the Department for Education and Skills and the Home Office. I do not want to add much to the eloquent remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, or the highly informed remarks of my noble friend Lady Walmsley, beyond one or two rather stark comments .
A small percentage of children—probably only between 5 per cent and 10 per cent—follow what might be called a “fateful” path. That path often begins with their exclusion from school. Last year no fewer than 389,560 children were excluded from school, in some cases for only a very short time. But they suffered the experience of exclusion, itself a mark of the trouble that the child is in. Some of those children go on to receive anti-social behaviour orders, and some go on to young offender institutions. The one strand that is absolutely clear from the beginning to the end of this fateful process is that these children are neither educated nor trained to enable them to be a part of modern society, demanding as it is.
I was shocked by figures from the then Home Office Minister, Paul Goggins, in a Written Answer to a Question tabled two years ago in the other place by Charles Hendry. Those figures—the most recent I have been able to find—say it all. In 2004, 81.7 per cent of young offenders—more than four-fifths of the total—had a level 1 or lower standard of literacy. In other words, they were at best semi-literate and in some cases absolutely illiterate. Some 78 per cent were innumerate, nearly four-fifths of the total.
We are considering young men and women who already have, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, said, profoundly troubled backgrounds. Then, at a very early stage in their lives, they fall out. They cannot keep up with the education opportunities offered to them. Then, year after year, decade after decade, they sink ever more deeply into a situation in which they can neither cope nor be a part of our society. It is not surprising that such a large number of them end up in young offender institutions and then, all too quickly, end up in prison. Then they are all too quickly written off as members of society other than as those attacking society’s underlying strength and order. The answer lies very much with us.
I wish to cite only one other figure before I say something about Amendment No. 26A. That figure also says it all. My noble friend Lady Walmsley has given the detailed indications of how ineffective so far the attempts to educate young offenders have been, although I give full credit to the Youth Justice Board for the efforts that it has made against an almost impossible challenge. But there is another astonishing figure. It costs £34,924 to keep a young person in a young offender institution and, at present, the annual average figure for those in such institutions is about 6,500. Noble Lords should not forget the figure of more than £34,000. Set against that is the cost of £3,800 for a youngster in secondary education.
The gap between the two, given what the noble Earl said about recidivism, means that year after year, as a society, we pay huge amounts to keep youngsters in prison who—had we caught them early enough, given them proper literacy training and intensive extra support on the lines that the Government, to whom I give credit, are suggesting with personalised education—might have been taken out of this fateful journey which, apart from ruining young lives, costs our society huge sums of money. I am talking only about the costs of keeping them and not the desperate costs for the victims of sustaining the injuries and the crimes for which such young people are responsible.
The answer leaps out. We have to catch these youngsters much earlier. We have to give them the intensive training and help that they need. Frankly, even the Youth Justice Board’s idea of 15 hours of education a week is a poor joke compared with the 30 hours that we expect children who are not in trouble to have, and we have to put that right. This Bill could give the Government the opportunity to tackle the causes of crime in a radical, far-reaching and exciting way.
I wish briefly to mention Amendment No. 26A, which concerns immigration removal centres. I should declare an interest as a patron of the Gatwick detention centre, of which I am extremely proud. It recently received a Queen’s award for the outstanding nature of its work with detainees. In addition to what has already been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and my noble friend Lady Walmsley about immigration removal centres, we should bear in mind another fact. My noble friend gave the figures, which are relatively limited—even the Save the Children Fund estimate of £2,000 a year is not huge. But noble Lords will have noticed that, in the past couple of days, the Government said that they cannot accept the proposal for an amnesty for illegal immigrants, but will take steps to remove them.
Some illegal immigrants have been settled in this country for years—sometimes for more than 10 years. Their children are in school, and they have families that are settled and are sometimes working in this country. You will have a much greater problem removing them; there will be a lot of legal defences and attempts to bring cases; there will be support from neighbours; and there will be the voices of NGOs. Those people will not be deported in a matter of days, which means that, if the Government are serious in their effort, far more children will find themselves in immigration removal centres.
I plead with the Minister to consider carefully the case made by my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Judd. Those youngsters could be there not for four weeks, but for months on end or even a year or more. It is absolutely vital that the Government take steps to make education available to those children who have already been traumatised by the fact that their families are about to be removed. They are even more traumatised if that whole process is slow, long and drawn out and there is bitter controversy, as I fear will be the case.
With that background, I think many of the arguments advanced by the Minister in another place against accepting Amendment No. 26A fall to the ground. I strongly support my noble friends who have tabled it.
Having put my name to Amendment No. 26, I wish to add a warm word of support to those so cogently spoken by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and to the convincing support of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, who referred to the debate on this amendment and to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, on 24 February 2005.
Today, I have just received an update from the National Children's Bureau on the statistics that were given earlier. The bureau still says that it is very difficult to access accurate statistical information and to understand whether the number of young people who end up in prison with special educational needs is because they have fallen out of the school system as a result of their learning difficulties not being identified. I hope that some of the amendments to the Bill will help in providing better training for teachers and support people, and in the identification of needs. I hope that my statistics will dovetail with those given by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, rather just being repetition.
The DfES tries to clarify the legal position by admitting that,
“although Statements of Special Educational Need do not apply in custody, there is an expectation that SEN are dealt with according to the Code of Practice”.
That is from the Offenders Learning Journey for juvenile offenders published by the DfES in 2004. The Youth Justice Board also says that it expects STCs and YOIs to comply with the code, but whether they do and whether the expertise of SENCOs is available to every juvenile custodial establishment is unclear. I have not given the Minister notice of that question but I hope that he may be able to touch on it when he replies. If not, perhaps he could write to me before Report.
Interestingly, on its website the Learning and Skills Council, which has responsibility for education provision in YOIs, states that:
“The majority of 15 year olds in juvenile establishments have had little or no formal education or training. As well as low levels of basic skills, many of them have particular learning difficulties that need additional support”.
As my noble friend Lord Listowel and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, have indicated, although the Youth Justice Board has prioritised the provision of education and training, health and mental health care, and support in finding accommodation post-release from custody, the way in which a secure regime works makes it difficult to offer consistent, targeted and meaningful services. Sentences tend to be short and transfers between YOIs frequent. For example, the take-up of education in different institutions ranges from 80 per cent in one to 39 per cent in another. My source is People leaving Young Offender Institutions, published by the Learning and Skills Council West Yorkshire in 2004. The same report concludes that, unsurprisingly, research shows that,
“the route to rehabilitation for most young offenders is through the attainment of normal milestones—learning to read and write, attending school, gaining qualifications”—
as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said—
“getting a job, entering further education and training, finding somewhere to live and maintaining stable family relationships”.
I hope that the Minister will respond very positively to the amendment in his reply and that he will give serious consideration to the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, who spoke of setting up a workshop and involving the organisations that have been briefing us on this subject. He said:
“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”.—[Official Report, 24/2/05; col. 1450.]
I hope that we have a positive reply from the Minister.
Briefly, these amendments are among the most important on the Bill. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, on Clause 24 and the cost of our failure of these children and young people.
First, I commend warmly to the Minister the words “suitable education” in Amendments Nos. 24 and 26A. Any old education will not do, especially for those whom education has failed. It must be apt for these young people, or it will fail again.
Secondly, I do not know exactly what the intentions for the amendments’ delivery are, but I see the local authority being the champion of these young people’s educational interests, with the power and duty to ensure that they get the suitable education they need. It is getting it that matters. They need a champion, which has been lacking, to see that they do.
I also support the intention behind these amendments. I shall not attempt to repeat the eloquence of so many speakers around the Floor. The Committee clearly regards this as important. I simply ask a question of logic in supporting, for example, Amendment No. 24. Clause 4—which I warmly welcome—imposes a duty to identify children not receiving an education. The logic is that, if we were to go to the primary care trust and give a duty to identify ill people, we stop there. The point is that they should be treated and supported medically. Similarly, there is surely a duty and responsibility lying somewhere—and if not with the local authority, where?—for those needing support, having been identified as not receiving adequate education.
Clause 4 imposes an important new duty on local authorities to identify children missing from education. The various amendments seek to amend that new duty in different ways, introducing new provisions for children in custody or otherwise in detention.
Amendment No. 23, in the name of my noble friend Lord Judd, extends the duty on local education authorities to identify children on a school roll who are not receiving a suitable education, as well as those who are missing education altogether. We completely endorse and support my noble friend’s concern on this issue, but the amendment is unnecessary. Schools are already under a statutory duty to monitor attendance through the daily attendance register and can access support from the LEA education welfare service when there are attendance issues.
Moreover—and this goes to the heart of the duties on local authorities referred to by my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland—schools are also already required by the Education (Pupil Registration Regulations) 1995 to notify local education authorities of the name and address of every registered pupil of compulsory school age who fails to attend regularly or is absent from school for a continuous period of more than 10 school days. It is then the duty of the local education authority to take appropriate action. The issue of precisely what they do must of course be kept under review and, I am sure, can be improved in some cases. Absence of duty is not the issue, however. Equally, the duty proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, in Amendment No. 24, which requires local education authorities to provide suitable education for children identified as not registered at a school and not receiving suitable education otherwise than in a school, already exists under Section 19(1) of the Education Act 1996.
Amendments Nos. 25 and 26, which were tabled by my noble friend Lord Judd and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, concern children detained under a court order but not receiving suitable education. I endorse everything that the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Williams, said so movingly about the fateful path leading from failure to engage properly with the opportunities of school, and to socialise properly in that context, to the problems of youth offending and the huge cost to those individuals, their families and society of them developing in that way. We regard the needs of that group of extremely vulnerable children, most of whom have had a very poor experience of education, as a key priority. We also regard the needs of Traveller children, who were referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, as a key priority; I will write to the noble Earl with the figures that he was seeking.
However, it is not the case that we have been inactive in this area. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, referred to the Youth Justice Board, which took responsibility for overseeing the youth justice system in England and Wales in 2000. Funding of prison education at large, including youth offender education, moved to my department then, and we have seen much closer working between the Home Office and my department as a result. My honourable friend Phil Hope is the Minister directly responsible for these issues, and most people in the field regard the fact that the education department has direct responsibility for educational provision and outcomes in the Prison Service as a significant improvement.
The responsibilities of the Youth Justice Board include responsibility for the funding of education and training in the three types of secure institutions for young people aged under 18. There has been significant improvement in this regard. During the 2004-05 academic year, the average number of hours of education delivered was 24.4 within young offender institutions—a three-fold increase from only seven hours in 2002. In no small part, that is due to a quadrupling of spending on young offender education from some £5 million to £20 million between 2002 and 2005. While I would be the first to accept that there is still more to do, I believe that we have taken significant steps forward and need to keep up the pace of improvements. Further improvements carried out by the Youth Justice Board in addition to increasing the number of hours of suitable education and training include major capital investment, a national audit of need, the introduction of individualised literacy and numeracy programmes and the employment of a large number of extra learning support assistants and additional specialist expertise.
We accept that there is more to be done. Earlier this year, we published the Green Paper Reducing Re-Offending through Skills and Employment, which pledged us to take further steps. One of them was the establishment of a joint policy team involving my department, the Home Office and the Youth Justice Board, on school-aged offender education. That team will consult relevant partners and agencies to develop proposals and I give an undertaking to the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, that there will be consultation with those in the sector. I am happy for that consultation to include noble Lords, and I will honour the commitment made by my noble friend Lord Filkin on that. We will produce further proposals later in the year.
However, we do not see Amendment No. 26 as an effective way forward, although we wish to keep this matter under review as we seek to improve services for young people in custody. Amendment No. 26 would simply apply the existing duties conferred on the Secretary of State, LEAs and parents under the Education Act 1996 to anyone detained under the order of a court and we believe that it would cut across the detailed framework of duties and powers already in place, which we have enhanced, to implement and regulate the education that is provided to children detained under a court order. Simply inserting the new clause proposed here would create significant legal confusion about who is responsible for what inside the prison and secure estate and would not improve the education available to those in detention. We are taking forward a process of continued investment and reform inside the service.
Amendment No. 25, which was tabled by my noble friend Lord Judd, raises two issues. The first is whether young people in custody are receiving a suitable education; I have already set out the steps that we have taken on that. The second is whether to place the duty of identifying children who are not registered pupils at a school and not otherwise receiving suitable education on the LEA within whose area the custodial establishment is located. One problem with that is that that local authority will seldom be the local authority to which the young person will return after he is released from his custodial sentence.
We completely understand the issue that my noble friend raised about the immediate continuity of education after the completion of a sentence. It is precisely to meet that concern that today we have laid regulations that will require schools to keep young offenders who enter custody on the school roll for a minimum of four months. At present, a child can be removed from the roll after four weeks. The new regulations will allow removal from the school roll only where the proprietor of the school does not have reasonable grounds to believe that the pupil will return to the school at the end of the custodial sentence. These changes will apply in England from 1 September and will mean that many more young people are released from custody directly into a school place that is already theirs so that they can experience continuity of education.
Amendment No. 26A is, the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, a probing amendment on immigration removal centres. Three immigration removal centres hold families with children, two hold families for a maximum of 72 hours and one is located in Scotland, to which this Bill does not extend except for technical purposes.
The immigration removal centre at Yarl's Wood, to which the noble Baroness made specific reference, may, where necessary in individual cases, hold families with children for longer than 72 hours, although most will still be held for just a few days prior to removal from the UK. The figures that I have relate to the last two quarters in 2005 and show that nearly 70 per cent of the 995 children who left detention did so in seven days or fewer from immigration removal centres; a further 11 per cent left within eight to 15 days; a further 14 per cent left within 15 to 29 days; and 5 per cent left within one to two months. We know of only one or two cases where detention lasted for as long as three to four months. I think that those figures put the issue in perspective. That is not to say that we do not recognise our substantial obligations for the education of those held at Yarl’s Wood.
As part of the requirement placed on the operator, the centre provides education based on the national curriculum and tailored to the needs of individual children. Ofsted is part of the inspection team that covers Yarl’s Wood. The noble Baroness referred to the recent inspection report on Yarl’s Wood. This inspection report identified areas for significant improvement, and we expect those improvements to be made, but we do not believe that simply extending legal responsibilities of local education authorities would enhance the rate of those improvements. The operators must take responsibility for that issue, and we intend to see that that happens.
I hope that I have been able to give a full response on the issues raised. Work is ongoing on the further steps that we will take to improve education for young people in custody, and we are anxious to continue engaging with noble Lords on that.
I have a couple of questions arising from what the noble Lord has said. He referred to Section 19(1) of the Education Act 1996, which allows part-time education. Clause 94 of the Bill imposes an obligation for full-time education on the local education authorities for excluded pupils. Therefore, to match that, should we not amend Section 19(1) so that for the other children, about whom we care presumably just as much, the obligation is there for full-time education?
Secondly, the noble Lord referred to this strange diaspora of children who are in prison or being educated in this or that way by local education authorities or otherwise. Can we have some form of reporting system on the performance of these children about whether the various obligations are being met, so that we can see where the problems lie, how big they are and what we must do about them? I am not aware that the educational performance of children in prison is published. Surely it should be. The educational performance of children in PRUs tends to be pretty patchily reported. Especially as these are children about whom we care deeply—because if we do not look after them well, they will have a great deal of trouble in their lives and we will have a great deal of trouble as a result—we should have a better reporting system than we do.
It may be helpful if I respond to that specific point. Pupil referral units are inspected by Ofsted, but I shall write to the noble Lord and copy to the Committee the set of measures that we have in place for tracking performance of the pupils whom he mentioned. Section 19(1) of the Education Act 1996, which I have in front of me, states:
“Each local education authority shall make arrangements for the provision of suitable full-time or part-time education at school or otherwise than at school for those children of compulsory school age who, by reason of illness, exclusion from school or otherwise, may not for any period receive suitable education, unless such arrangements are made for them”.
I am happy to take further legal advice, but I take that reference to “suitable full-time or part-time” as meaning that, where suitable education is full time, that should be the arrangement that the local education authority makes.
That has certainly not been the case in the past. Local education authorities have used that section to provide part-time education for excluded pupils, which I think is why Clause 94 is in the Bill, making full-time provision compulsory. I do not share the Minister's optimism about how that section has been read in the past.
I share the view that the issues raised in this debate are hugely important, but I shall not delay the Committee. It seems unrealistic simply to throw more and more responsibilities at the local authority. In my experience, there is no evidence that all local authorities either have been able to or have in fact honoured their obligations in any of these respects, especially in relation to excluded children.
More important, I did not hear the word “family” mentioned once. Even when children are very detached and damaged, they have families and they work in a context—they are not individuals floating around. Part of the rethink that we should be having about the needs of those children is how we can integrate them either back into their own family group or, if their family group is totally unsuitable, into some other group so that they can have a feeling of belonging.
I shall pursue two questions with the Minister very quickly. First, he gave very encouraging figures about the Youth Justice Board and the big increase in the amount of education. I accept that, but can he say whether what is sometimes called “churning”—moving people from one institution to another—has had any substantial effect during the past year or two on the continuity of education in youth offender institutions? A difficult problem has arisen from looking for additional places and beds, which tends to disrupt the educational flow. The other question is whether, given the figure of £34,000-plus that I gave, as against £3,800, he has considered the possibly radical thought that some young people coming out of young offender institutions might go to boarding school.
We are indeed considering placing vulnerable children in boarding schools where that would be appropriate and where boarding schools feel that they can take responsibility for them. I agree with the noble Baroness; boarding schools could have a role to play. Indeed, if there was better engagement with the boarding sector, one would hope that some of those children would not end up in the youth offender institutions in the first place. We are considering promoting more boarding education for children in care or at risk. I will write to the noble Baroness on her first point.
Before the noble Lord, Lord Judd, withdraws his amendment—or perhaps he will not—I will respond on my amendments and thank noble Lords who have supported them. On Amendment No. 24, the Minister said that local authorities already have such a duty. Then why is it not happening? Why are there children who are not receiving suitable education? Perhaps local authorities need reminding.
On Amendment No. 26, I, too, pay tribute to the work of the Youth Justice Board in delivering improvements, but clearly it is not enough. There are three very good reasons for putting the duty on the local authority, despite the reservations of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. The first is continuity, so that the young people do not fall off a cliff at the end of their detention if they are being released into the same local authority. I welcome the Government holding open the school places of those who go to a young offender institution in another local authority. That is a good thing. But there could be continuity of courses if the education of those young people in the young offender institution was provided by the local authority, and they would not have such difficulty in getting a place in a school when they leave.
Secondly, the local authorities have a great deal of expertise with children with special educational needs, on which they can call. There are dozens of SENCOs in local authorities whose expertise could be brought to bear. It is quite clear that those who currently have the contracts for delivering education in prisons do not have that range of expertise.
Finally, it is an anomaly that the National Health Service can have responsibility for the health of all prisoners, without any difficulty with legal clarity, yet the DfES and the local authority cannot have the same responsibility. The Minister said that the legal duty as to who is responsible for the education would be in difficulty, but it does not seem to be a problem for the NHS. It has the responsibility for health, and the prison authorities have the responsibility for security. The split would be exactly the same. I really do not see the difficulty with it.
On Amendment No. 26A, the Minister still seems to stick to his figures and to think that the problem is very minor. I did not burden the House with the figures from Save the Children, but it believes that more than 2,000 children are detained each year. The detention period for those interviewed as part of its report ranged from seven days to 268 days, and half of all the families interviewed were detained for more than 28 days. Some families were detained significantly in excess of that. There is clearly some dispute about the magnitude of the problem, but that disagreement does not detract from the current situation in which the education of these children is being severely disrupted. They should have the same right to an education in the mainstream that any other child has while they are in this country.
I shall not detain the Committee for more than a moment, but I had not realised that the Government had quadrupled their investment in the education of children in the juvenile estate between 2002 and 2005. I warmly welcome the commitment shown by the Government to these children. I also welcome what the Minister has said about the continuity of education and the fact that school rolls will be kept open for four months. That is an important step forward, which I welcome. It was news to me.
There will be general agreement that this has been a particularly good debate. I would like to express my own appreciation for the contributions made by those who have spoken to amendments that are kindred to my own. I hope that the Minister has listened—I am sure he will have done—not only to the force with which the arguments were put but to the strength of them. I shall make a couple of comments.
The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, mentioned immigration, and I am very glad that she did. It would be obscene if we, as a country that regards itself as civilised, were to deprive children who were suffering all the trauma, uncertainty and upset of the immigration processes, whatever the outcome at the end, of the right to education. These children have not generated the situation in which they find themselves. We as a responsible nation must fulfil our obligation to support them in every way possible.
I should like to make one further point which I hope will not be regarded as over the top, because I believe it to be highly relevant. We are so often in our deliberations in this House concerned with security and the battle for hearts and minds. How can it be helping in the battle for hearts and minds to send away children who find themselves in a process of that kind, having, on top of everything else, not had the opportunity of any kind of educational support? Is that winning the battle for hearts and minds? Or is it indirectly assisting in the process of alienation on which the extremists play?
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has again spoken—and again particularly powerfully—on rehabilitation. I think that the whole House respects his direct experience, commitment and genuine belief in these matters. I do not understand how it makes sense in any of our penal policy to punish without a commitment to rehabilitation. I of course accept completely the need for punishment, but the challenge is rehabilitation and how we turn people who have offended, wherever possible, into decent, constructive, productive members of society. That is the big challenge. Locking them up is the easy part. The challenge is to win them back to a constructive part in society. That is a challenge to all that we say is the basis of our civilisation, but it is also economic sense. As has been said in this debate, if we do not do that we are piling up trouble and extra expense for ourselves.
I was very struck by what my noble friend said on the measures that he has just put in place on assisting with continuity of education in this context. We will all be watching with great interest and it was extremely encouraging to hear that. But—I hope that he will forgive my saying so—I do not think that he dealt fully, in his otherwise helpful reply, with my amendment, which was specifically targeted at those who are informally excluded. I believe that the informally excluded is the real issue. Whatever our intentions, I do not think that it is a problem which will easily go away. It would be helpful therefore to give the local education authority a direct responsibility for ensuring that it is tackled.
Incidentally, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, was slightly sceptical—to put it mildly—about piling responsibilities on local education authorities. I would say to the noble Lord, whom I greatly respect, that—if we accept that a local education authority has responsibility for the educational system and that the system is intended to ensure that the right of the child to education is applied—it seems absolutely self-evident and logical, that you therefore give the same body the task of ensuring that that right is being fulfilled.
I believe that in all legislation what is necessary is not what we come to understand in this House through the processes of our own tortuous debate as being the intention and purpose of legislation; it is the clarity, the thrust and the understanding of the legislation in wider society as a whole, particularly by those who have responsibility. It seems to me that the Minister in being helpful has underlined the problem. He has referred to this responsibility here and that responsibility there, and this provision here and that provision there. My amendment and, I think, other amendments have sought to say, “Look, we are all committed to the right of the child to education”. If we are committed to that right, we must be committed to an effective way of delivering it, not one in which people have to delve into the files to see where the responsibility lies. The most straightforward and clear-cut way of doing this is simply to say that the local education authority, in providing and ensuring that a system is in place, is also responsible for ensuring that the right is being enjoyed by every child within its area. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, who is always so effective in these debates, was absolutely right to point out that if at the end of our tortuous deliberations we come to the conclusion that residually the local education authority does somehow have the responsibility—I remain to be totally convinced that that is categorically clear—why not simplify it by stating in the Bill that it is responsible?
The Minister has been helpful, as he always is. We shall go away and consider very carefully what he has said and I hope that that is a mutual situation. We shall also consider whether and how it might be appropriate to return to this matter on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 not moved.]
Clause 4 agreed to.
[Amendments Nos. 26 and 26A not moved.]
Clause 5 [School improvement partners]:
Page 3, line 22, leave out subsection (1) and insert-
“( ) A local education authority must, with a view to improving standards, appoint suitable persons (to be known as school improvement partners) to provide assistance and support to head teachers and senior management teams in maintained schools, academies and city technology colleges.”
The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 27 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 37, 38 and 40. We move on to Clause 5 which relates to school improvement partners. Just to remind the Committee, the Education Act 2005 introduced a new, lighter-touch school inspection arrangement and established school improvement partners following the publication of the Ofsted/DfES document, A New Relationship with Schools, in June 2004. The Government have described the school improvement partner as the “professional critical friend” which is to play a central role in improving a school. The partners will be accredited by the National College for School Leadership, and the White Paper published last autumn implied that all secondary schools should have a school improvement partner by this autumn and that primary schools should phase them in soon thereafter.
The purpose of these amendments is to make clear that the responsibility for appointing and maintaining the role of school improvement partners lies with local education authorities. Amendment No. 27 would provide that school improvement partners will be appointed to maintained schools—community, foundation, voluntary-aided and voluntary-controlled schools—and to academies, city technology colleges and city colleges of the arts and technology which are at present excluded from their remit. We seek that because we feel strongly that in so far as a critical friend is a good idea for a school, it is also a good idea for academies, CTCs and city colleges of the arts and technology. We would like to see the role of school improvement partners extended to such schools.
Amendments Nos. 37 and 38 provide that the appointment should be made by the local education authority, not by the Secretary of State. What schools need in their critical friend is someone who knows the local scene and understands the context in which the school operates. In effect, we see local education authorities using school improvement partners often as informal pairing arrangements, bringing the head teacher from a strong school into contact with perhaps a less strong school and being able to pass on best practice from one to another. I think that that is very much the role the Government themselves see in this. It is a relationship not only with the head teacher, but also with the senior management team. In that context, we feel it is extremely important that those who appoint are knowledgeable about local schools. This is why we again come back to looking to the local education authority to make the appointment rather than to the Secretary of State. We do not think that the Secretary of State can have the necessary local knowledge of the school to make the appointment.
Thirdly, Amendment No. 40 is in line with the vision of formal and informal pairing between the school improvement partners. We put forward Amendment No. 40 to make it clear that where schools are working either formally or informally with each other under some sort of federation, this can be deemed to fulfil the function of the school improvement partner. In the other place, the Minister made it clear that the Government do not consider a federation to be a substitute for the critical friend in terms of the school improvement partner, yet they are very anxious to promote collaboration. Both the GTC and the Association of School and College Leaders—the old Secondary Heads Association—endorse very strongly this notion of collaboration. They ask in the general briefing they have given us that some sort of incentive towards collaboration should be written into the Bill. Insofar as this is concerned, Amendment No. 40 encourages collaboration in this way and we believe that it is a good way forward to promote the ideas of collaboration.
As to the general issue of school improvement partners, I should like to put two questions to the Minister. First, who will they be? The document A New Relationship with Schools: Next Steps appears confident that they will probably be serving head teachers. The proposal for experienced, credible persons in the role of advising a school on its effectiveness and the ways in which it can improve is, in theory, welcome. In practice, however, there are serious concerns about the capacity within the system for this to occur. Given the current shortage of head teachers, is the department confident that there is the capacity within the system to provide this necessary extra role for head teachers and that they are able to perform it?
Secondly, who will pay for them? If they are appointed by the LEA, will the LEA pay for the time of the school improvement partners? Or, given that schools will be controlling their own expenditures, are schools expected to pay from their own delegated budgets for the time given up by other head teachers to helping them? I beg to move.
I must advise the Committee that if this amendment is agreed to I will be unable to call Amendments Nos. 28 to 32 inclusive because of pre-emption.
I shall speak first to Amendment No. 27 and then to Amendments Nos. 37, 38 and 40, all of which seek to change the nature of the school improvement partner’s role.
I share the wish of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, to make appropriate assistance and support available to all members of the school community, so let me explain the remit of the school improvement partner—or SIP, as I will refer to it from now on—which has elements of both challenge and support and which, as the noble Baroness has reminded us, is part of the lighter touch, less bureaucratic, new relationship with schools.
The “challenge” part of the SIP remit is the key process by which schools are held accountable to their maintaining authority. This part of the remit therefore needs to be determined by the local authority so that the line of accountability is clear.
The SIP, as a “professional critical friend”—as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, quoted—will help to challenge and focus the school’s leadership team on the school’s self-evaluation, leading to agreeing priorities and targets to improve pupil attainment, attendance and behaviour. The SIP will challenge on those key aspects for which the school is accountable to the local authority—the maintaining authority.
The SIP’s support role is important but limited in scope. It is focused on helping identify and broker assistance for the school, relevant to the school’s needs and the needs of the school community, where appropriate. But the determination of assistance for a school is for the school itself. It is not for the school improvement partner to throw its weight around, making determinations. That is very much part of the self-evaluation to which schools have signed up.
Amendment No. 27 covers academies and city technology colleges. In law, these are independent state schools. Therefore, we feel it would be inappropriate for local authorities to appoint their improvement partners. That is not to say that the external accountability of these publicly funded schools is any less important. The equivalent maintaining authority to which academies are accountable is the Secretary of State. Accordingly, the SIPs are contracted to the DfES, and no legislative support is required to do that. By September 2006, we are planning for 45 academies to be working with their school improvement partners.
The amendment would also remove the requirement for the SIP to provide advice to the governing body of the school. That may not be the amendment’s intended effect, but that is what it does. Since a school’s governing body is responsible for the school’s strategic direction, the school improvement partner needs to interact with the governing body as well as with the head teacher. The SIP will offer the governing body a professional view on the overall direction of the school and will have specific responsibility for advising governors on the head teacher’s performance management objectives and the school’s performance management arrangements. The range of meetings and other contacts between the SIP and the governors for this work will of course be for local determination. Quite a lot of flexibility is built into this programme.
Finally, the amendment opens up a potential danger. It does not say specifically that every maintained school is to have a school improvement partner. Accountability, as I said earlier, is essential for every school, and we need to be able to head off decline even in schools currently performing satisfactorily.
Amendment No. 37 would hamper our efforts to guarantee national standards in the ways that local authorities hold their schools to account. School improvement partners will need to provide a consistently high standard of challenge and support to all schools, and be credible to schools. National accreditation is therefore essential to help achieve this and to provide assurance to local authorities and schools about the experience and quality of the individuals they will be working with as SIPs.
We have introduced a system to provide this. School improvement partners are accredited by the National College for School Leadership and the National Strategies contractor, go through a vigorous training programme and are involved in continuous professional development. However, I can assure noble Lords that local authorities will play a key role. They will be responsible for appointing SIPs and deploying them to schools in their areas. The SIP will be primarily accountable to the employing local authority. Authorities will also share with the National Strategies contractor the continuing professional development of SIPs.
Amendment No. 38 goes further than Amendment No. 37 by removing the role of the Secretary of State altogether from the requirements for accreditation and by seeking to remove from the clause the regulation-making power available to the Secretary of State. We have set out our minimum policy requirements on the face of the Bill—that each school should have a SIP and that each SIP should be nationally accredited. Those are the minimum requirements. But as with any policy, there are other more detailed requirements that it would not be appropriate to put into primary legislation but where the Secretary of State needs to be able to legislate if necessary. We have therefore created reserve powers in subsections (3) and (4) of the clause to enable the Secretary of State to put more detailed requirements into regulations should the need arise. We would consider using these powers only in the event of widespread or persistent failure by local authorities to implement the school improvement partner function in accordance with government policies.
On Amendment No. 40, desirable as school federations certainly are—we are enthusiastic supporters—I do not believe that they are an adequate substitute for a school improvement partner. We want every school to have a school improvement partner to reflect our commitment to the potential of every child being fulfilled. Federations of two or more schools can make a major contribution to the raising of standards. We are keen to support federations and other forms of partnership among schools and we are building on the success of these partnerships in our proposals for trust schools.
However, when schools federate they do not lose their individual identities or accountabilities to the maintaining authority. They receive funding individually and they are subject to inspection individually, so the SIP has a separate role for each member school. To facilitate that role, it will often make sense for a single SIP to be deployed to each of the members of a federation, but the SIP role has to remain distinct for each member school. To maintain the integrity of its challenge function it would not be appropriate for the head teachers of schools in a federation to act as SIPs to one another.
Aside from the principled arguments, the amendment proposes a very imprecise criterion be put into legislation—that of two or more governing bodies, head teachers and senior management teams having merely agreed to work together in the way proposed—and I do not believe that that would be workable. On the basis of those arguments I invite the noble Baronesses to withdraw their amendment.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, asked whether we are confident that there is capacity in the system for a suitable and adequate supply of SIPs. The evidence so far has been quite positive. I understand that 51 local authorities have appointed secondary school improvement partners and 99 local authorities have said that they will appoint SIPs by September this year. We have had more than 2,000 responses to the advert that went out at the beginning of the year for the four waves of school improvement partners for primary schools. So we believe that the supply is there. They are in the main serving current or former head teachers and some senior school advisers.
On funding, we understand that there will be a need to supplement funding and not have that as a burden on local authorities. The steady state of funding on this is £28 million, of which £21 million will be supplied directly by the department to local authorities. With that, I hope that I have answered the noble Baroness’s questions.
I apologise to the Minister for asking her these questions after she has spoken, although I believe that that is permissible in Committee. One reason for that is that there are aspects of the SIP proposal that I did not think that I had fully understood, so it has been extremely helpful for her to have said more about it.
There are three things that I find profoundly worrying—and I do not pretend not to be profoundly worried about some aspects of the SIP proposal, although I can see that in some circumstances it could be helpful and useful. First, I echo the question asked by my noble friend Lady Sharp of Guildford, which I do not think the Minister completely answered, on the source. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, was kind enough to copy to me a letter that he had written to the noble Baroness, Lady Shephard, on the subject, in which he confirmed what the Minister has just said—that he expected most SIPs to come from the body of serving, retired and in some cases seconded head teachers and that a few additional people might be drawn from school management teams.
My profound worry is, as the Minister will agree, that we face an extremely serious problem about head teachers. More and more responsibility for leadership now rests on head teachers and the problem is particularly serious with primary schools, which is the group to which the Government intend to extend the requirements of the Bill in the very near future. I happened to look through the Times Educational Supplement for this week, last week and the week before and in every case there were five, six or seven pages packed with advertisements for primary school head teachers. In some cases, as the Minister is aware, there have been primary schools that have had to replace head teachers several times—the most extreme example being Dunmore school in Abingdon, which has had 13 head teachers in 10 years, many of them in the past few years.
I raise this because everything in the Bill rests on the capacity and ability of head teachers to respond to a huge range of additional responsibilities, challenges and requirements for standards. I wonder whether weakening the pool of head teachers in this way is wise—and it is not simply me who says that. For example, the deputy assistant secretary of the children’s care services in Oxfordshire responding about Dunmore said that there was a rapidly dwindling supply of well qualified and motivated people to become head teachers. That is sadly generally true.
Secondly, I was not clear—although this may be my fault, in which case I apologise—on the position of trust schools and academies. Was the Minister implying that they would have to have a SIP but that the appointment would be made by a governing body and not a local education authority?
Thirdly, I am troubled about what could be the quite difficult personal relationships between SIPs and the head teachers. What happens if there is a direct conflict? That is one reason why my noble friend proposed the idea that there should be only one SIP; schools might agree to federate just so one would not have personal conflicts about what the objective of the school was. All of us who have been involved in education for a long time will be very much aware that the good head very much cherishes his or her right to make the final decision in his or her judgment. Indeed, you cannot be a good head unless you have confidence in your judgment.
I am troubled by whether SIPs, especially if they are seen to be answerable to the Secretary of State—and I repeat, “seen to be”—might be seen by heads as undermining their authority, particularly if the head has a view about how to conduct education which is not the same as the SIP’s. Can the Minister say something about whether that would go to a school adjudicator and how it would be handled? I ask the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, to forgive me if I am trespassing on his territory, but I know that he and I share a profound concern about what happens if there is a personal conflict or sharp disagreement on strongly held grounds between a SIP and a head teacher, and how that would be resolved.
I hope that I may also be forgiven for intervening here, as this is very much on one of the points that the noble Baroness has just raised. The whole business of exactly how this will work was explained by the Minister. That was not clear even from the very detailed letter that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, sent us. I endorse the fact that if the SIP is seen as accountable—and I endorse, too, the words “seen as”—to the Secretary of State, as the Bill seems to imply, rather than appointed by the local authority, that might prove problematical.
I was particularly interested in the percentage quoted in the letter from the Minister. I think that it was a figure of 80 per cent of primary school applicants who had head teacher experience and 50 per cent were still heads. When I read that originally, I thought it was a good idea. It would be a way forward, perhaps, when teachers wanted some flexible working—maybe during a family career break. That would be one very useful aspect. It might also be useful for head teachers getting to the point when they wanted to do less work; it might be a way for them to scale down, while providing their absolutely excellent experience to other schools and head teachers and—very importantly—to governing bodies. That could be a hugely important role. Some governing bodies might know from their own experience in different parts of the education world what was going on outside which might be stimulating for that school; but to have it as a duty so the governing bodies have that extra help will, I am sure, be helpful.
I should like to hear a little more detail about how the Government see the pool of recruitment growing. I should love to think that this will not diminish applications for head teacher, particularly at the primary school level, but will improve the ways of flexible working and perhaps keep more teachers for longer in the profession.
I hope that it will draw back into schools all those head teachers who have retired at 60. I know that noble Lords find the idea of retiring at 60 ridiculous—indeed, retiring at 85 is something of a problem for us. A lot of teachers who retire may require a break of a year or two to start to miss school, but they often do after a while, and they should be welcomed back in this role. I am delighted that the Government have found a role for them, but this role sounds like something that has been dreamt up in Communist China, where you have a party representative in every factory. There will be an LEA spy responsible to the LEA in every school. Fine, you will survive that in the ordinary course of events—but if you get difficulties or conflicts, that person will very quickly be regarded as the enemy and not as the critical friend. That is a fundamental difficulty in what is being done here.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, in his letter to my noble friend, referred in the fourth paragraph to a trial and went on to say that those head teachers who had SIPs,
“especially in relation to the value of challenge and support from a credible professional”,
had said what a good thing they were. Is that information that the Minister would be prepared to put in the Library? Is the result of the trial something that he would be prepared for us to see, along with the subsequent comments by head teachers? It would not damage anybody to make that public, and it would give me a lot of confidence that this will in general work well.
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, I see a conflict here. When things are tough, you want someone who sees their role as being a critical friend, but as your friend first, and who is not there to report to someone else. If you are in the business of choosing that person, do you want the choice imposed on you by someone else who does not understand the personalities or your priorities, or, to get the best critical friend, are you going to want to have a say yourself? We are trespassing a bit on subsequent groups of amendments, so I will not speak for too long—although this should all be one group, in my view. None the less, I wanted to enlarge on the points that the noble Baroness raised.
We might be getting this a bit out of proportion. My experience is that this sort of role exists now in a fair number of schools and, where it exists, is welcomed by head teachers. The advisers, who are called “mentors” or a range of other things at the moment, work best when they are people with experience, but who are a little more than just friends. Where I do not agree with the noble Lord is that at times they will have to be pretty critical in order to get things moving; if the person was always someone who the head teacher was entirely sure would be a friend before a critical friend, that would be a mistake and would not be worth the investment. We have to be careful and make sure that, while the role is that of a mentor and entails working with the staff and governors, it is also about improving the schools, not just making people feel comfortable.
Fifty-one local education authorities have already appointed SIPs. That implies that there are a limited number of people who would take on a duplicate role with lots of different schools. What then is the difference between the role of the old local authority adviser, who was often a retired head who went around and advised current heads, and the role of the SIP? My impression is that what the Government really wanted was a much more intimate, friendly relationship of the sort that the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, referred to. That was one reason why we picked up the idea of doing this within federations—you pick your own friend within a federation, to some extent, but their role is to be a critical friend. It seems that this will not work entirely satisfactorily if you get an old education authority hack—this applies particularly to primary schools—with 20 primary schools under their wing, to fulfil the old local education authority adviser role. I would like to know what the difference will be.
I shall reply to the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, to begin with. Where a former head teacher is a SIP, there will be very little difference in the quality of the experience, advice, support and challenge that will be given. The vast majority of the SIPs operating in the future will be current or former head teachers. They will, however, have gone through a vigorous training process. They will not be “old hacks”. They will, for example, have to have looked at, under quite strict conditions, all the new data that are now available to local authorities, schools and the Secretary of State.
Today, for example, we can put together data on children who have free school meals with data on their academic performance. That was not the case even a few years ago. The data are becoming finer and finer. The new SIPs, with that training, will have to be able to deal with that, to talk as a critical friend to heads about those data and to encourage heads to see from those data whether they are reaching their targets. That is just one example of how these people will be under constant professional development and have vigorous training. However, the majority will be head teachers.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, was worried that this might be some sort of Stalinist move, or some sort of spy in the cab. This system replaces the current one in which link officers from local authorities go to schools to advise and to be a critical friend. We have been consulting schools where that system has perhaps not been working too well. Heads want someone who is a peer reviewer, whom they find credible to have that serious and challenging conversation with. Mainly, they want another head teacher. So we are upgrading a system that has existed for some time, whereby a person comes and helps with the challenging aspects of the school’s accountability to the local authority.
The noble Baronesses, Lady Williams of Crosby and Lady Howe of Idlicote, wanted to push me a little further on the supply issue, particularly in the context of the concern expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, about, as she saw it, the problems with people coming forward to be head teachers. As I said earlier, over 2,000 individuals have responded to the first advert for primary SIPs. Eighty per cent of those are people with experience as a head teacher and 50 per cent are serving heads. These are serving heads who have volunteered, knowing the pressures of the job, to be SIPs.
We suggest that the time requirements of the job are quite modest. Typically, there would be 19 days a year per SIP head. That would be in addition to the work that they already do, but the requirements would not take over their current job. We also believe, very much in the spirit of the intervention of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, that the system will develop the senior staff of the SIP’s home school by giving them managerial opportunities to deputise. This can have a good knock-on effect for the home school.
I am very happy to write to the noble Baroness about the details of pay. The payment systems will be different for different SIPs. It depends whether you are a current head teacher and this is additional to your responsibilities, or a retired head teacher who is a consultant and who would want a fee for the day. There is not just one system of payment. For maintained schools, it will be up to local authorities to decide, in consultation with the SIP, which method of payment will be most appropriate. I am happy to write to the noble Baroness with more detail on that.
I hope that I have answered all the questions asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. I am sorry if I did not make my next point clear, but SIPs are not appointed by the Secretary of State. They are accredited by people whom the Secretary of State appoints, such as the National College for School Leadership and the national strategies. The appointment is made by the local authority because the SIP is a key part of the local authority’s accountability for the school. The SIP is accredited by the Secretary of State because we want high standards nationally for all these people and we want schools to be reassured about those standards. However, the appointment is made by the local authority. On conflict, if a head teacher does not get on with—
Before the Minister deals with conflict, I asked whether not only maintained schools would be required to have SIPs but trust schools and academies, as set out in my noble friend’s amendment, and, if so, who would appoint them and whether they would require the Secretary of State’s approval.
In the case of academies, the Secretary of State would appoint the SIP. However, the SIP would go through the same accreditation process and would have the same role as SIPs for local authority maintained schools.
Perhaps we could explore conflict and what happens if a SIP does not get on with a head, or vice versa, when we discuss the next group of amendments, which cover that.
I am grateful to the Minister for responding at length to all our questions. I am also grateful to those who participated in the debate. We are all clearer about the whole purpose of SIPs and how they will be appointed. The Minister said that the Government wished to change the nature of the role, but I am not sure that that is the case. We looked to the local authority to appoint the person and we accepted accreditation through the National College for School Leadership. However, we argued strongly—and we still argue this—that in the case of academies, city technology colleges and so on the person should be appointed at a local level, not by the Secretary of State. We have parted company with the Government on that issue on many occasions.
We are sceptical about whether we will find enough people to fulfil these roles and whether there is enough money in the system for that. If 19 days are involved, a sum of £28 million has been put aside and there are roughly 25,000 schools in the country, that is, roughly speaking, £1,000 per school. That will not go very far and it is not much of an incentive. Nevertheless, we have had a very interesting debate. I have certainly learnt a lot about the Government’s proposals. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 3, line 22, leave out from beginning to first “a” in line 23 and insert “The governing body of a maintained school must appoint”
The noble Baroness said: I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 28, 30, 32, 34 and 43 and to Amendment No. 33, which concerns a slightly separate point on SIPs. It is unfortunate that this group of amendments was degrouped. I am concerned not so much about the time taken in debate as about the fact that the debate becomes a little disjointed. One wonders whether to jump up or not. I hope that we might think about regrouping in some instances as we go through the amendments so that there is a more joined-up debate. I will certainly take that on board.
This cluster of amendments would maintain the role of school improvement partners—like the noble Baroness, I shall refer to them as SIPs—but alter the direction to ensure that they would be part of a school’s own management team, rather than imposed by an outside authority.
Amendment No. 28 would change the appointments procedure, putting the appointment of a school improvement partner in the hands of the governing body. The main reason for giving appointment of SIPs to the governing body will be clear to the Committee and the Minister. I remain convinced—as I and my noble friends were at Second Reading—that the schools themselves are the experts on schools. In other words, we would take the issue much further than the Liberal Democrats would. We believe that the schools and the governing body should have this role; even though the local authorities might, in the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, know the local scene, that is not enough.
However, the amendment would leave the funding of SIPs to the local authority. This would ensure that, while a SIP was approved by the governing body as a matter of government policy, the school would not be expected to pay for a role that, while potentially very useful, is not a teaching or welfare role.
The Minister’s words in another place seemed to support the concept that schools should have a strong voice in the appointment of school improvement partners. Jacqui Smith stated:
“The final determination of support for a school is for the school itself … Its choices should not be restricted to people appointed by the local authority that maintains it”.—[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee E, 30/3/06; col. 173.]
However, the regulatory impact assessment takes a slightly different line. On page 54, it states that SIPs could,
“enable Ministers to enforce the implementation of the SIP function in accordance with their policies”.
It goes on to say that legislation is,
“not required for the activity”,
“to take place, but to enforce it if it does not, or if it takes place in a way that does not meet Ministers’ policies”.
The disparity in those statements concerns me. SIPs are just that—they are there to work with the governing body of a school to improve its status. They are not called policy commissioners, but the regulatory impact assessment description suggests that that may be the case. What is more, if they are there to ensure that government policy is followed to the nth degree, I do not see why schools should bear the burden of cost. The regulatory impact assessment states that the Government expect the whole SIP project from April 2008 to cost around £28 million, as we have heard—I assume that that does not account for inflation—but that the Department for Education and Skills expects to contribute only £21 million, subject to the outcome of the next spending review. Does that mean that schools are expected to pay an extra £7 million for what I suspect may be a form of full-time inspector? We have heard that the measure is no such thing and involves only 19 days, but we might want to pursue that matter a little further.
It is vital to get the right people to do the job—as the Minister has said, the SIPs need to be credible—not just local authority employees instructed to keep an eye on schools, which has posed a problem in the past and would pose more problems, according to the regulatory impact assessment. I am pleased that there will be formal training for the role, but I am concerned at the extra cost of that training.
It is interesting to note the high percentage of former and serving head teachers who have responded to advertisements to work as SIPs. I take on board very much what Members of the Committee have suggested—that head teachers, possibly more than any others, have much to contribute to that role. However, I question whether a serving head teacher, who is probably crucially tied up with that important role, is able to provide an extra 17 or so days a year. I presume that those 17 days would on the whole be best served during term time. Therefore, I can see a conflict in terms of time.
I am mindful of the fact that out of those people of working age who are qualified to teach, more are not currently teaching than are. The challenge to raise standards in education has many sides. There have been some fantastic teaching initiatives, not least the Teach First scheme. I congratulate the Government on that scheme, which we thoroughly support. But more needs to be done to encourage and sustain a steady stream of people into teaching. I worry that while the role of a SIP will provide an avenue for people who are passionate about education to play a part in its improvement, it might create a diversion from the teaching roles that we so desperately need those people to take on and retain. I have suggested the concept of secondment to the Minister in relation to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill, and I wonder whether he would also consider secondment in this context.
Amendments Nos. 32 and 43 extend that logic. Their effect would be that only those schools that require significant improvement or fall under special measures under Clause 54 would be compelled to have a SIP. I was surprised to see that SIPs would be compulsory for all schools, given that in the White Paper, SIPs are dealt with under a section entitled,
“Tackling Coasting Schools and Coasting Departments”.
As my honourable friend John Hayes has mentioned in another place, while the added-value measurement has its problems, it enables us to identify coasting schools. The White Paper rightly points out that,
“the challenge is to secure continuous improvement”.
No one could argue with that. But it is not quite clear to me why it is absolutely necessary, given the costs of training and remuneration involved, not to mention the other collateral costs of SIPs, to implement them in every school.
The amendments seek to ensure that SIPs would be an elite body for improvement and that the very best candidates would be chosen to ensure continued progress in our schools. My amendments, to ensure that only failing and coasting schools would benefit from their role, have as much to do with wise economics as with an objection to policy. We must ensure that where education is concerned, an effective, carefully thought-out route is chosen, which stands to benefit our schools the most and which makes the best of limited resources. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, mentioned that there might be a figure of £1,000 per SIP. We need to attract the very best; and the very best will command a higher income to take them away from their other role.
I ask these questions out of genuine concern for the role of SIPs. I accept that they could prove to be a useful ingredient in the new drive to improve school standards, which is key. They could be invaluable to schools that are valiantly struggling to improve but need extra support. I pay tribute to those schools and to the head teachers, teachers and governors in them who do excellent work while making progress. I hope that the amendments will go some way to ensuring that those who need the most focused support will get it, and those who are in no need do not prove an unwilling drain on resources.
Amendment No. 33 would ensure that school improvement partners accept the religious basis of a denominational school. It is a probing amendment that reflects concerns expressed by groups representing such schools, particularly the Catholic Education Service, that the school improvement partner might threaten the schools’ distinctive character and ethos. That concern is reflected in the summer newsletter sent to school governors by the Diocese of Portsmouth department of education. A common question asked of education officers and listed in the newsletter is:
“Is our governing body right to be concerned about the forthcoming appointment of a school improvement partner who may have little understanding of what we are trying to achieve as a Catholic school?”.
The answer given by the newsletter is:
“In short, yes … Ideally, School Improvement Partners should have recent leadership experience in the Catholic voluntary aided sector. At the very least they should be fully aware of the legal differences between voluntary aided schools and other maintained schools and they should be sympathetic to the Catholic ethos and understand how it can be developed and strengthened. The CES continues to discuss these issues with officials”.
That could extend to all kinds of other voluntary aided schools.
It is very important that the development of school improvement partners does not lead voluntary aided schools to feel under threat. That is particularly important when one considers the vital role that such schools play in providing a high-quality education for many of the most vulnerable children. For example, in voluntary aided schools where 33 per cent of pupils are on free school meals, an average of all pupils shows that 47.6 per cent achieve five or more A* to C-grade GCSEs, rather than the 40.6 per cent in other schools. Overall, 23.7 per cent of pupils with free school meals at voluntary aided schools achieve five or more A* to C grades, including English and mathematics, compared to 16.3 per cent at community schools.
Similarly, the proportion of pupils with special educational needs achieving five or more good GCSES is 10.4 per cent in voluntary aided schools. That is a commendable record. The record of voluntary aided schools is beaten in these areas only by city technology colleges. It is perhaps for that reasons that so many parents, even non-religious parents, are so keen to put their children into voluntary aided faith schools. It is important that the school improvement partner appreciates the reason for these successes, as that would place him in a far stronger position to make constructive criticisms of the school’s approach. It is also important that SIPs have the confidence of parents and of the religious bodies that support faith schools. I encourage the Minister to consider our amendments as a means of achieving that. I beg to move.
I have a number of amendments in this group, and by and large they support what my noble friend has just said. I shall start off with a request and a question. My request is whether I may have an answer to the question that I asked in the last group of amendments about whether we might see the result of the trial.
I would love to know where; that would be a great help.
Secondly, what is happening to Amendment No. 36? It does not appear to be on the groupings list. Perhaps I am just being blind. It has not been referred to. Are we covering it now or later? Some guidance would be appreciated.
The difficulty that I have might be illustrated by imagining that the Minister and his team at the Department for Education and Skills were approached by the Treasury, who said, “We think that ministries could do with a better understanding of financial affairs, so we are going to give you a Minister who is expert in these areas, who will hang around for 20 days a year and make sure that you are up to scratch in these things”. I think under those circumstances that any departmental team worth its salt would say, “No; if we need that sort of expertise we will appoint it ourselves”. It matters a great deal whether the person who is advising you and helping you is regarded, in ordinary day-to-day things, as part of your team and as part of the way that the school works; although you regard them as your peer and as having a lot of independent and real expertise, and you understand at the end of the day that they have responsibilities that run outside the school.
I can see that I am not going to win this argument, and I will wait and see how these things go, but I foresee that conflict will occur. I also think the provision misses a great opportunity, in that these people ought to be operating between LEAs. There is such a difference between the practices of LEAs.
To come back to a matter that I mentioned on the first day in Committee, and which was raised by the noble Baroness just now, there is a lot of data out there. I have looked at these data on special educational needs in primary schools, and children with special educational needs in Windsor and Maidenhead have more or less the same value added as those without them. If you go right down the list to Slough, just a few yards away on the other side of the Thames, children with special educational needs are doing about half a key stage 3 worse than children without them. That difference is not affected in any way by the proportion of free school meals. There is no correlation there. The difference is not affected by language or race, as far as I could discover, and it is not affected by the overall level of results achieved by a local education authority. All of those figures have been run through wonderful statistical engines for me in Oxford, and I can see no correlation whatever.
My conclusion from that is that we have here an effect that depends on the way in which a local education authority supports its schools. If you talk to some of the better LEAs, as we have, you can see just how supportive and effective they are in helping schools deal with the questions that arise regarding supporting children with special educational needs and why they might be doing so well. Well, that is fine; but if Windsor and Maidenhead has its own SIPs and Slough, across the water, has its own, the expertise in Windsor and Maidenhead will never cross into Slough. It will never find out what it could be doing better to vastly improve the average performance of nearly 20 per cent of its pupils—and it has not done so by any existing mechanism.
If there was a system in which SIPs were subject not to LEAs but were appointed by schools, and if I were a school in Slough, the first thing that I would do would be to appoint someone who knew the Windsor and Maidenhead system, because a great deal is going on there that I should be picking up. That would never happen if SIPs were responsible to LEAs, because LEAs are so jealous of each others’ performance. If they were not, that difference would not persist.
While I am concerned at a personal level that the Government’s proposals will not work, they miss a big opportunity for cross-fertilisation between local education authorities in practices that have become common at LEA level.
I support the amendments in this group, particularly the probing Amendments Nos. 33 and 35, and I shall refer also to Amendment No. 28. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, was concerned over the grouping and not being sure about whether to jump up. So, I have seized this opportunity of jumping up now to say that a school improvement partner has an important role in a school—and that is obvious. But, if the person appointed is not in sympathy with the character, ethos, or purpose of the school, the advice and support that they offer will not be as effective as it should be. It may even be counterproductive and, in a worst-case scenario, could be disruptive or even destructive.
Local education authorities could make a mismatch and misjudgment—after all, they are only human. However, if, as Amendment No. 28 proposes, the governing body of a school made the appointment, that would be less likely. We on these Benches support the thrust of the amendments.
I have tabled Amendments Nos. 35 and 42 in this group, which I shall discuss together. The first concerns the incompatibility issue, to which reference has been made already. The proposal is that if, after two years, it is clear that the relationship is not working, the governing body should be able, if the local authority will not agree to a change, to make application to an adjudicator for a decision on a change. That would not be saying that a person would be unsuitable to be a school improvement partner, but that he would not fit in those circumstances. If this is going to work, the two people must be partners and critical friends.
I have to admit that people whom I have dealt with in my career and whom I have admired greatly would not be the kind of friends who would get on with me. Imagine the reaction of some right honourable gentlemen who have been Secretaries of State if some other right honourable gentleman had walked through the door and said, “I have come to help you for 19 days”. Some relationships just do not work, although they may involve admirable people. So, when the relationship is not working, it is necessary to have the provision proposed by my amendment. Amendment No. 33, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, refers to that point—as did the right reverend Prelate.
We are talking about some 20,000 appointments. If you get 99 per cent right, you would still have 200 disasters—and 99 per cent would be a high score. So there must be a way out of a relationship when the governing body says, in all conscience, after two years, “Look, this isn’t working”.
Perhaps I may comment en passant on the money side—the £2,000 for the 19 days. It works out at very much the same rate of pay as that of a dinner lady at £6.50 an hour. It seems a trifle light and I suspect that a lot of money will have to come from another pocket—not £20 million, but something like £60 million—to pay for this.
So I hope that the Government will be responsive to that practical suggestion. I have seen excellent people in both industry and commerce. People at the head are often strong-minded and opinionated, and they do their magic in very different ways. If you put two wrong kinds of magic together, you get hell.
My second amendment is practical and echoes what the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said about time. Some schools do not need much help, while some need a lot of help, although they may not realise it. The local authority should have power, after consultation with the governing body, to say, “In your case, there should be X amount of time, and in the other case, there should be much more than X”. There should not be a standard ration. Some schools desperately need the help of a wise partner, while other schools need very little, and we should say, “Thanks very much for all you are doing and we will leave you to get on with it”. So I hope that the local authority will have the power in some cases to insist on more time, while in others to say that so-and-so time is enough.
These Benches have great sympathy with the two amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing. The issues being discussed are the degree to which a SIP should be compulsory and the degree to which a school should choose its own SIP. We have much sympathy with both issues. The model that we were picking up from the Government and trying to put forward was one which, to a degree, moved in that direction, although it was still left to the local authority to appoint—but we were looking at the federation model as a self-choosing model. We have much sympathy with the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, which removes the “must” and allows the school to decide its own partner.
I, too, support Amendments Nos. 33 and 35, because they are essential safeguards if we are to go ahead with the Bill as it is roughly constituted. There may, however, be a better way, suggested in the other amendments in this group, by giving to the governing body responsibility for appointing a SIP. That body will know what its needs are and will have to live with the consequences. That is important, also.
I wish to ask a question about compulsion and the extent to which that might be moderated. If it is compulsory to have a SIP, one could envisage a situation where a head teacher who is about to retire, who is trained and accredited as a SIP, gets a letter on his last day saying, “You are now an accredited SIP”. The next day, the new head teacher gets a letter saying, “Your school requires a SIP, although your predecessor was good enough to run a very good school and be accredited as someone who can help other schools”. Even more improbable would be the possibility of a head teacher being accredited as a SIP and getting a letter appointing them with the PS: “Someone will be in to help you and your school next week”. That is the logic of the compulsion laid out in the Bill.
This group of amendments is about aspects of the appointment of school improvement partners. I shall speak first to Amendments Nos. 28, 29, 31, 34, 39 and 41. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, asked about Amendment No. 36. I understand that that was debated last week.
Local authorities have responsibility for the standards and levels of attainment in the schools they maintain, and schools are accountable to their maintaining local authorities. We are introducing school improvement partners to support that accountability. It is therefore right that each school's SIP should work for the local authority under its direction and be contracted to that authority. We expect the local authority to pay attention to the preferences and needs of individual schools when deploying SIPs, which might well entail discussion with the governing bodies. Once appointed to work with a school, the SIP will need to be sensitive and responsive to the views of the governing body. But the role of the school improvement partner is to provide external challenge and support to the school. That challenge and support are more likely to be consistently effective if the SIP is appointed by, and accountable to, the maintaining authority rather than the governing body of the school, which is responsible for the school.
Amendment No. 34, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, seeks to specify that the local education authority shall remunerate the school improvement partner appointed by the school governing body. We believe that the amendment is not necessary. Some local authorities are already employing or engaging school improvement partners, which is quite rightly part of their role. My department also provides funding to local authorities to help them run the SIP programme, and that funding includes an element for the remuneration of the SIP as appropriate.
Amendment No. 42, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, concerns the time that each school improvement partner will spend with the school. The interaction of school improvement partners with schools will not be uniform. Our guidance is that each SIP will devote five days a year to the school, but that is an average for all schools. There is sufficient flexibility in the system which will allow for the days allocated to each school to reflect the needs and context of each school. It is quite right that this level of detail should not be dictated by the department. Local authorities will be able to appoint SIPs and allocate them to schools, reflecting local context and local priorities and tailored closely to the school's individual needs and circumstances.
Amendments Nos. 30, 32 and 43, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, seek to relax the requirement to appoint a school improvement partner to each school. We are committed to the appointment of SIPs for all primary and secondary schools because all schools need to work systematically for improvement. Even in schools that perform well overall there may be underperformance by particular groups of pupils; for example, relatively low achievement by its most able pupils, low achievement by pupils entitled to free school meals, low achievement among members of one particular ethnic minority group—
As training and professional development allow for high standards of peer review for SIPs, if a school needs assistance in a particular area, I believe that it will be better off with five days a year than without it.
A decline in progress among 11 to 14 year-olds is another example, as is low achievement across all pupils in a specific curriculum subject. Even schools doing extremely well sometimes need that extra assistance and challenge. We believe that we would be letting down many thousands of underachieving pupils if we did not extend the SIP function to their schools. We need to be able to head-off decline in currently satisfactory schools. The introduction of SIPs to all schools is also about learning from others and sharing good practice. In our debates last week, noble Lords talked about the importance of the sharing of good practice. Feedback from SIPs, using local authority and national networks, will support all schools in learning from success in particular schools.
I turn to Amendments Nos. 33 and 35. The way that the local authority and the school work together on this has to be approached in a spirit of partnership. When a local authority deploys SIPs, we expect it to pay attention to the preferences, needs and characteristics—including religious characteristics—of individual schools and their governing, bodies. We expect SIPs as well as local authorities to be responsive to the individual circumstances and characteristics of the schools they work with, including their religious characteristics. The national assessment for people seeking accreditation to be SIPs strongly stresses that expectation. It is designed to withhold accreditation from anyone who might work with a school without taking account of its ethos, including religious ethos, and other characteristics.
Authorities will therefore need to manage effectively the SIPs that work with their schools. Authorities will use a range of approaches to that task, including feedback from schools and evidence on the impact that advice from SIPs is having on the schools’ performance. The discontinuance of a SIP’s deployment to a school will be one of the available management actions.
If a governing body has serious concerns about the SIP allocated to its school—and here we return to concerns raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Williams and Lady Buscombe—the first step should be a discussion between the authority and the school. Local authorities are also supported by regional co-ordinators from the national strategies who can help to resolve such issues. The local authority and the school are not the only two players; they can call in help when conflict arises—as they may well do, as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, suggested.
I hope that that will reassure noble Lords that effective mechanisms are already in place to resolve this kind of conflictual issue. That aside, the use of the schools adjudicator in this area would of course be new work for the adjudicator and outside his current remit. The adjudicator, as noble Lords will know, currently has two main functions: to consider and make decisions on objections to schools' admission arrangements, and to determine proposals to set up, close or make changes to schools.
Noble Lords asked a number of questions and I will try to answer them as quickly as possible. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, asked why not let schools appoint their own SIPs. As the debate on Clause 4 illustrates, society has big expectations of the school system that go beyond the concerns of the individual school and the pupils currently on its roll. An external body has to hold schools to account for delivery of those expectations. The SIP works for that body—the local authority—while acting responsively to the schools. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, also mentioned SIPs that were to be seconded. When a head teacher works as a SIP, the arrangement is effectively a part-time secondment. The head’s school has notice of the arrangement and financial recompense, money which can be used to back up its organisation and to bring in extra resources.
Several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, asked for further details on funding.
In the case of a current head, the extra money would go to the school. Perhaps it will be clearer if I make a few more comments on funding.
Establishing the SIP function is an important change for a local authority, and the Government are providing them with funding to facilitate it. The level of funding recognises both the cost of the SIP function—to which the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe referred—and the savings to authorities that the SIP function makes possible. The cost of the SIP function arises from the allocation of SIP time to each school and the allocation of time for each SIP to take part in updating and professional development. Savings arise because, when SIPs start work with an authority’s schools, the authority can discontinue the link adviser function through which authorities currently hold schools to account.
We estimated time allocations and costs for the SIP functions from our experience in trials of the new relationship with schools. We took link adviser time allocations and costs from the benchmarking data. We expect SIP work with each school to require, as I said earlier, about five days a year. Our information suggests that the current link adviser work with a school typically takes three days a year excluding any follow-up school improvement work. We therefore need to subsidise local authorities for the extra two days required for SIPs beyond the current school link work and for SIP-related professional development for SIPs who are serving heads. The subsidy amounts to £2,000 per school with authority set-up costs of £380 per secondary school and £770 per primary. That funding is expected to meet about 75 per cent of authorities’ costs. To save time, perhaps I may undertake to write to all noble Lords on funding, payment and costs. I hope that that will be suitable.
Those replies were very helpful. I thank the Minister. On my second amendment, on time, all that the Minister said was fine. But I want to be clear that the local authority will have the power to insist, if it wants to, that a school improvement partner will spend a lot of time in a school and the school cannot say, “No, we don’t want it”.
On the first point, about the relationship not working, I welcome all that the Minister has said. However, I had hoped, if there is a clear disagreement between the local authority and the governing body, that after a reasonable period of working with a school improvement partner, an independent person could come in and adjudicate on the matter. It does not matter if it is the adjudicator or whoever.
As we are in Committee, perhaps I can reply to the noble Lord, Lord Dearing and then the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, can come in.
On the question of time and the local authority, I think I am correct in saying that the local authority can insist. On the other question, perhaps I can write to the noble Lord.
I was going to say that I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, will pursue that amendment. It is terribly important that there is a safety valve. Not all local authorities behave as perfectly as they might all the time. When a school is under the cosh for half a decade at a time merely because the chairman of the local authority education committee does not like it—it is perfectly possible; who will be imposed on the London Oratory, for instance?—there must be a reasonable escape. It is certainly possible as the regulations are provided for, but it is not in the draft regulations that there should be any such power for someone to adjudicate. There may be other ways out of it, but I very much hope that we pursue it. And I very much hope that we will get some support from the Liberal Democrat Benches. We would very much like to see this. If we do not get a satisfactory reply on it, I hope that we will pursue it to a Division, if we have to.
I was disappointed by the Minister’s illustration of how the school improvement partner will be using all these figures to point out where a school could improve itself. The best schools were using these figures 10 years ago. The systems ought to be there so that it is obvious to a school that, “We have a problem with our Afro-Caribbean children between the ages of 11 and 14”, or whatever it may be. I know of at least three commercially—or semi-commercially—available systems out there that will provide this information as a matter of course. Yes, the Government can help by providing some base data to feed into these things so that there is an accurate comparison between developments in the world outside. But a school ought to have a system that tells it not only that it has a problem in this area but also how to do better with its 11 to 14 year-old Afro-Caribbean kids. The chances of it being a random SIP appointed by a local education authority are pretty small. At that stage you want to be going out to a much wider audience.
I have always hoped that the Government would create a system that worked for spreading expertise and making it available to schools, but they never have. Beacon status has not worked and its successor has not worked particularly well. A good school will know what is wrong and where to go to put it right. I would support anything a Government did to do that, but the idea that this will be the SIP, or that the SIP should perform the function that the Minister described, I find extremely depressing.
I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, finds the examples depressing. It will be the SIP’s role to call attention to areas where, through self-evaluation, the school realises that it is underperforming in certain respects. We were saying that even good schools can underperform in some respects. The school would talk with the SIP about where it feels it could do better. On the example of the Afro-Caribbean children, it is not for the SIP to say, “I have the answers to this problem”; it is for SIPs to use their experience as head teachers to say, “I know someone or an organisation that might be able to help”. It is brokerage and a directional assistance; it is not SIPs imposing what little knowledge, or the extensive knowledge, they have in a particular area. It is guiding the school to resources and areas that can help tackle the under-performance problems they might be facing with certain pupils or areas of school management.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, raised the issue of the cross-border movement of SIPs. I hope he will take encouragement from the fact that we strongly encourage cross-border movement, which is already happening extensively in the SIP programme. Some authorities—for instance, South Gloucestershire—have all their SIPs from outside their own authority. Requiring cross-border movement is just the sort of thing that we might use regulations for.
Finally, the evaluation of the trial to which the noble Lord referred is published. I will ensure that a copy is placed in the Library.
The Minister has already responded to the questions but I should like quickly to highlight a concern. The debate has been interesting and I am sorry that I could not be present for all of it. It reminded me of my concerns about children’s homes. I hope that the Committee will not mind me briefly raising the subject. The Minister kindly wrote to me recently about the training of staff in children’s homes, but the situation is far worse than I thought. The Government’s target was for 80 per cent of staff in children’s homes to have an NVQ level 3 in childcare by January last year, but—if I have understood the Minister’s letter correctly—in March last year, only 23 per cent had such a qualification.
I have seen consultancy make an invaluable contribution to improving the quality of outcomes for children in children’s homes. Listening to this debate about mentoring for head teachers and about experienced head teachers supporting other teachers, I wondered whether I might plant in the Minister’s mind the thought that, as we look at the Green Paper on looked-after children, we might consider whether there could be a similar model for children’s homes. I apologise for distracting from the main thread of the debate.
I thank the Minister for her full response to the questions posed, and thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. My noble friend Lord Lucas and I are a little sceptical about local authorities working in partnership. I was pleased to hear what the Minister said about South Gloucestershire, but historically local authorities have tended to work in isolation, jealously guarding their own patch. Having been a district councillor, I know how that plays out. It is a bit like government departments with all those thick walls and glass ceilings.
I have a great deal of sympathy for the wish of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, to have more flexibility if there is incompatibility between the character or personality of the SIP and the school. We need to avoid a standard ration. We should focus on coasting schools when considering the role of the SIP. I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, agrees with us that the appointment of the SIP should be for the governing body.
In relation to that, I think that I have come up with rather a good idea that I shall air now and may propose in an amendment on Report. The Minister spoke about the need for those making the appointment to be able to set themselves apart to play an external role to challenge and support, and I accept that. However, the point that the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, made is tremendously important. We need to avoid conflict, and the head of the school and its governing body must be able to work well with that critical friend. So, what if the local authority were to make the appointment but the governing body would interview for that role? That could be a way round the problem. The governing body would have a role in the appointment of the SIP, and can assess the chemistry to ensure that there is a strong chance that that relationship can work well.
We are setting the SIP a huge task in some instances, particularly in relation to coasting schools and schools that are underperforming in a number of ways. We are asking him to give a lot of advice and counsel in an average of five days per year. That is better than nothing, but we must ensure that those five days do not just prove disruptive because they are window-dressing so that we can tick another box. If we just say that too many schools are underperforming but a SIP in every school can help them improve, I cannot see that improvement happening in practice. I urge the Minister to consider focusing SIPs, rather than putting one in every school, and paying them better to work with schools that are underperforming. We should not talk about five or 19 days; they should have real time to mentor and work with schools.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, talked about mentoring for children’s homes; we have mentoring in business and right across the board. Most people who are mature in the role that they play in life appreciate that there are times when a mentor can have a positive role to play and can make a real difference. There is more that we can think about in this regard. We want to help the Government to ensure that the role of the SIP is effective and can make a difference in raising the standard of education in our schools.
I am grateful to the Minister for her response to Amendment No. 33, which was a probing amendment. I take on board what she said about working together in a spirit of partnership, and recognising the individual characteristics and ethos of schools that make them distinctive and in large part rather successful. I thank her for agreeing to write to us in respect of funding. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 29 to 43 not moved.]
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 [Functions in respect of recreation etc]:
Page 4, line 16, at end insert “enter into partnerships with other public, private or voluntary organisations in order to”
The noble Baroness said: In moving to Clause 6, we move to the subject of sports and games. We on these Benches welcome Clause 6 and the proposals in it for enhancing the role of the Government and the local authority in encouraging better provision for sports and games for our young people. For too long, there has been no statutory authority for that responsibility, and it has not had attention or resources that it needs.
That said, some of our amendments are meant to probe the Government and some to tease them. Amendment No. 49 is intended seriously and requires team games to be considered. My noble friend Lady Williams will speak to it and to Amendment No. 54.
I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 44 and 45. We were slightly surprised and amused by the way the Bill is framed. Under Clause 6, local education authorities are encouraged to set up,
“functions in respect of recreational and training facilities for children”.
For the purposes of doing so, a local education authority may,
“establish, maintain and manage, or assist the establishment, maintenance and management of … camps, holiday classes, playing fields, play centres, and … other places, including playgrounds, gymnasiums and swimming baths not appropriated to any school or other educational institution”.
We were slightly surprised that the Government have put a great deal of emphasis on the fact that they do not want local education authorities to run schools. They are to commission schools. Now they are suggesting that local education authorities should run holiday camps.
Perhaps I may assist the noble Baroness. If she goes on with her reading of Clause 6, she will see that new subsection (3) states that,
“a local education authority must, in particular, have regard to the expediency of co-operating with any voluntary societies or bodies whose objects include the provision of facilities or the organisation of activities of a similar character”.
So, I am glad to say, we are entirely consistent.
As I say, to some extent we were teasing. As I have read out, the Bill suggests that the local education authority should provide these things directly, although also perhaps commissioning them, but we thought we would help them a little along the way. Therefore, our amendments enable them to go a little further in that direction.
Amendment No. 49, which would add to the end of new subsection (4)(b),
“including facilities for team games”,
and so on, is a serious amendment, and my noble friend Lady Williams will speak to it, but I would like to speak briefly to Amendment No. 54. It would remove the necessity for the Secretary of State to issue guidance to local authorities in terms of fulfilling their functions. In many senses it is an attempt once again to try to get away from the micromanagement that we see so constantly by this Government. There is no need for them to issue detailed guidance on all these sorts of issues. Amendment No. 54 is an attempt to relieve the Government of a few of the pressures that fall on them, because there are many more important things they should be doing. I beg to move.
Amendment No. 49 stands in my name and that of my noble friends. It concerns team games. I will make my points quickly as I realise we are making heavy weather of the Bill—in my view, quite rightly.
There is considerable concern, reflected in many of the articles in both health and professional educational magazines, about the problem we have with boys in the upper end of primary schools and the earlier end of secondary schools, in their assessment of themselves and their self-confidence. I was in secondary education some time ago, but I remember the exact mirror image with girls. There was an endless discussion of girls’ underperformance, the reasons for it and the lack of confidence they had in themselves as scientists and mathematicians. It is extraordinary that in one lifetime of politics I should have seen this completely reversed and exactly the opposite theme now picked up.
Nevertheless, for many boys, and not least the boys to whom the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred in an earlier discussion—those from the Caribbean community—great importance is attached to achievement in sport. It is a way in which young men, and to some extent girls too, measure their achievement and ability and begin to gain self-confidence.
I have been extremely troubled by the effects of the sale of playing fields, which I admit happened largely under a previous Conservative Government. It meant that many schools simply dropped team sports from their curriculum, and in some cases had to bus youngsters long distances to play just for a couple of hours on some remote football field or cricket pitch. In other words, the ability of schools to embrace team games within the school curriculum has been steadily lost.
It is not surprising that youngsters who do not have the opportunity to let out some of their natural exuberance—very marked between the ages of about nine and 14—in what one might call constructive and enjoyable activities make themselves a problem in estates, which often have large signs up saying “No ball games”. It is very sad that we have so steadily closed down on the outlets that youngsters in this age group, both boys and girls, have. To be quite blunt, it has all been made much worse by the profound and understandable concern about paedophilia, which means that it is very difficult now to get anybody willing to lead a Scout troop or Cub pack, or even a Girl Guide company or Brownie pack. More and more youngsters do not have any opportunity to test their physical skills and sense of adventure or, for that matter, to thoroughly enjoy school because they are achieving something somewhere. It is very serious, and I do not think that I sound like somebody harking back to the past in saying so. I have seen so many youngsters on estates in new towns and elsewhere for whom there simply is no outlet and they end up, yet again, watching sports on television but not playing sports themselves.
There is another aspect, which is that team sports are very different from what is slightly pickily described as “positive leisure-time activities”, which often can mean forms of yoga and so on. Those are enjoyable in their own way, but do not build up a sense of belonging together—of commonality and common purpose—which a well refereed team game is able to do and, incidentally, with it building up friendships that may last a lifetime. It is just not the same to play on your computer Game Boy on your own in your bedroom, which is what many youngsters do for their leisure-time activities.
I will not hold up the Committee for long, but it is extremely important that we get team games back into the curriculum. At least a couple of hours a week should be spent on such team games as part of the school day which do not depend on parents busing or driving children back, which often they will not do as they may not be home or they may be too tired to pick them up. We have to bring team games back to make for a more rounded curriculum. I therefore urge the Minister to look very closely at this—the Government's heart is in this—and consider whether we could not strengthen the wording, to encourage authorities and schools to make sure that team games are part of the range of choices children have available for a properly rounded and properly demanding form of education.
It may assist the Committee if I come in immediately after the noble Baroness to say that we agree with everything she has said, and that it is encompassed in the current clause.
The sale of playing fields now requires explicit ministerial consent in every case. I know because I am the Minister whose desk these issues cross. The sale of playing fields has almost ceased and only a tiny number are sold each year. They are sold only if our professional advisers are satisfied that alternative arrangements for playing fields are sufficient. In almost all cases, the proceeds of the sale go into investing in sports facilities in the school, typically new sports halls or facilities of that kind.
We have significantly boosted the role of sport and team sport, reversing the lamentable trend highlighted by the noble Baroness that has taken place in the previous 20 years. We have invested £978 million in our PE, School Sport and Club Links strategy with the target of ensuring that, within and beyond the curriculum, 75 per cent of pupils by this year and 85 per cent of pupils by next year engage in at least two hours of high-quality PE and school sport each week. We have made significant progress in that respect. The last independent survey on school sport, which covered the last academic year, showed that overall 69 per cent of pupils in partnership schools participate in at least two hours of high quality PE and sport, which is up 11 per cent in one year. There have been improvements.
In the amendment, the noble Baroness specifically highlights football and cricket. We agree that they are of great importance, and Clause 6 encompasses them. Our concern with the amendment is that it might unhelpfully narrow a local authority’s view of what facilities it should provide if we specifically highlighted those. We consulted more than 11,000 young people in the process of drawing up our Youth Matters Green Paper, which found that they wanted more sports facilities in their area. The provision they sought included requests for activities such as swimming, hockey and netball—the last two of course are also team games. Twelve per cent wanted more youth clubs, 11 per cent wanted,
“the opportunity to try extreme sports”,
such as waterskiing or canoeing, and 9 per cent wanted to see improved provision for dance and youth theatre.
All those are encompassed within Clause 6. We want a significant increase in opportunities for team games, including cricket and football. Measures are in place to ensure that. Our concern about the precise wording of the amendment is that to include it in the Bill might highlight some areas at the expense of others within the duty of local authorities. We think that they should follow local consultation and ensure a balanced extra provision of suitable youth facilities in their area.
First, I understand that swimming is to be dropped from the curriculum—that is, apparently, the advice that has been given—which means that one fundamental, significant sport may drop out of the provision. Secondly, in some cases about which I happen to know, the provision of sporting facilities has included the provision of large leisure centres that charge substantial sums to people, which is not exactly an alternative. I am not in any way criticising the Government—I know that they are doing their best to reverse the trend—but some aspects give me concern.
I very much agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said. I trumpet the duty at the bottom of page 4. We need a reference of some kind to team games because they require so much space. If local authorities, especially city local authorities, are not told to provide space, they will stick houses on the space or do something else with it. They need to know that they must provide the space and that providing a climbing wall is not a substitute for a football pitch. What, in line 13 of page 4, does “provided for their area” mean? Clearly that is different from “provided in their area”, but does “provided for” mean that it has to be specifically allocated to them or just available to them? That is an odd wording and I do not understand exactly its intention.
It means things such as outdoor adventure centres, which may not be in the area but are provided for the area. I assume that that is what is meant. It is quite common, especially for city authorities, to maintain facilities or engage with the voluntary sector in respect of facilities outside their area. I will happily confirm that.
The noble Baroness said that she was teasing me. I thought that she had accepted that I had responded to the first amendment. We need to read new subsection (2) with new subsection (3), which begins:
“When making arrangements for the provision of facilities or the organisation of activities in the exercise of their powers under subsection (2), a local education authority must”—
I repeat, must—
“in particular, have regard to the expediency of co-operating with any voluntary societies or bodies”.
Although I understand that the noble Baroness is trying to tease me, that is my response.
We think that local authorities will find guidance in these areas useful, not least because it can highlight best practice, which they usually find useful when the department makes it available. I would not want local authorities to be deprived of the benefit of any wisdom that we might be able to bring to bear in these matters.
Some local authorities might like to be deprived of that guidance but, nevertheless, I thank the Minister for his reply. He is quite right: we were teasing him through the first two amendments. The substantive point was the one raised by my noble friend Lady Williams about team sports, about which we feel strongly. I hope that we may find some way and a form of wording to write in the Bill the importance that we attach to them. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 45 not moved.]