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Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill

Volume 714: debated on Wednesday 4 November 2009

Report (2nd Day)(Continued)

Clause 171 : Objective

Amendment 187

Moved by

187: Clause 171, leave out Clause 171 and insert the following new Clause—


The QCDA’s objective is to promote quality and coherence in the curriculum, and accompanying qualifications, in England.”

My Lords, this will be my last attempt to be helpful. I have tried to fashion the QCDA’s objective to what I think it is supposed to be. I do not think the QCDA has sovereignty over the whole of education and training in England. It is to do with the curriculum, which is why it is called the QCDA. I would like to see its ambit confined to the curriculum. I also think—although it is not in the amendment—that “cohesion” would be a better word than “coherence”. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am very sorry to hear the noble Lord’s suggestion that this is his last amendment, but I am very happy to respond. I have two concerns about this amendment. First, the reference to “curriculum and accompanying qualifications” does not reflect the full span of QCDA’s responsibilities. For example, QCDA will also have responsibility for early learning goals, the national curriculum and other assessments and for reviewing qualifications for over-16s which are not covered by the national curriculum. Even if we were to draft a lengthy objective that reflected all of QCDA’s functions we would still risk QCDA not having the flexibility to advise and support Ministers as priorities change. Secondly, and more importantly perhaps, the point of this clause is to set the QCDA’s objectives. It is about what the agency will be trying to achieve, not what it is going to do to achieve that. As it goes about its work, its objectives should require QCDA to consider the wider context within which it is working and Ministers’ overall objectives for education and training. We would not want QCDA to come up with a curriculum that looked narrowly—one that was of high quality but did not support these wider objectives.

I argued in Committee that there was a strong case for coherence in the curriculum. The same point applies more widely; the opposite of coherence is not diversity, but incoherence. We do not want a system that is incoherent or confusing or lets the needs of some people slip through the gaps. We want an education and training system that is diverse, but within a coherent framework and which, through that diversity, can help everyone to achieve their potential. QCDA, through its work on curriculum, assessment and qualifications, has an important role to play on that. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Amendment 187 withdrawn.

Clause 175 : Assistance etc. in relation to qualifications functions of Ofqual

Amendments 188 to 190

Moved by

188: Clause 175, page 101, line 6, leave out from “setting” to end of line 9 and insert “criteria under section 132 or 139 which relate to a qualification or description of qualification within subsection (1A).

(1A) A qualification or description of qualification is within this subsection if Ofqual is required to comply with the duty imposed by section (Effect of determination of minimum requirements) (2) in relation to it.”

189: Clause 175, page 101, line 20, leave out first “the”

190: Clause 175, page 101, line 20, leave out second “the”

Amendments 188 to 190 agreed.

Clause 188 : Arrangements to promote co-operation

Amendment 191

Moved by

191: Clause 188, page 106, line 16, leave out “or Academy”

I shall address my remarks to Amendments 191 and 193, which we raised in Committee. They are designed, once again, to raise our concerns regarding the imposition on the autonomy and independence of academy schools. We have raised this issue again because the response from the Minister in our last discussion was rather unsatisfactory. We have argued that we wish to reinforce the independence of academies by not demanding that they have a duty to be considered a relevant partner in the new children’s trusts and safeguarding boards. We are fully in agreement with the Minister that academies will, in all likelihood, want to be on these boards. Academies are often located in areas with some of the most vulnerable and troubled children in the country, and therefore will most probably want to be included.

Amendment 192 would increase the bodies that should be relevant partners and so will be represented on the statutory children’s trust board. This membership would include short-stay schools in the area of the authority, a Sure Start children’s centre in the area of the authority, a representative of extended school providers in the area of the authority and general medical practitioners in the area of the authority. We have tabled this amendment to raise concerns that simply making children’s trust boards statutory will not in itself address any problems. We must also ensure that the membership of the board is expanded to include the most helpful and most relevant. I am fully aware that the Minister will say that it is very difficult to represent, for example, general medical practitioners in this way. I acknowledge that the drafting may need some attention for this reason. Nevertheless, surely, noble Lords would agree that it is important instead to find a way to make this possible, rather than just citing that it may be complex. I cannot believe that it is impossible.

The Government’s own paper, Every Child Matters: Change for Children, states, through consultation, that they have discovered that better outcomes will be secured by services working together more effectively on the front line to meet the needs of children, young people and their families. Paragraph 3.2 states:

“Co-operative arrangements need to involve among others, schools, GPs, culture, sports and play organisations and the voluntary and community sector”.

Yet the partners in the Bill do not include all these agencies. To create an integrated and fully functional board, we think it important to include all these bodies. We welcome the new statutory arrangements, but to create a really effective and operational children’s trust board, we must address the issue of membership. The often-quoted report by the Audit Commission in 2008, entitled, Are We There Yet?, demonstrated that, in terms of children’s trust boards, we markedly are not. It said that there was,

“little evidence that children’s trusts, as required by the government, have improved outcomes for children and young people or delivered better value for money, over and above locally agreed cooperation”.

To change this we must not just make boards statutory; we must ensure that they have the right members to provide a force that will truly get us there. Amendment 194, suggested by Diabetes UK, is intended to address those problems. Diabetes UK is concerned by the lack of involvement from the private and voluntary sectors. We, too, are concerned by this; we desire an integrated approach, and it seems nonsensical that the private and voluntary sectors, despite their large contribution to children’s services, are not involved. Does the Minister accept the need for bringing in these vital bodies? Diabetes UK raised the concern that it receives approximately 100 complaints a month from families who have children with diabetes, who are then excluded from school activities, made to eat alone or have to have their parents come into school every day to administer their insulin injections. It fears that if the voluntary sector does not have sufficient input into the work of children’s trusts, they will not be fully addressed.

Children’s trust boards will also be charged with drawing up the children and young people’s plan. We believe it is important that the views of the voluntary sector are taken into account here. Diabetes UK has raised this issue because vulnerable groups of children, such as those with diabetes, may not automatically be included as there is no designated list of who must be consulted in its preparation. Can the Minister confirm which bodies will be consulted, or how that will be decided?

Amendment 195 raises a concern expressed by the National Association of Head Teachers. Subsection (5) of the proposed new Clause 12A states that there is no need for a children’s trust board to have “a separate representative” from each body. This highlights a problem which schools and other organisations may have; the NAHT states that it would be difficult for a separate representative of each school to attend meetings of the children’s trust board. That may result in a system whereby the schools that are able to attend every meeting will have a disproportionate impact on that board. The alternative is that a system of representation might be established among schools. The association worries that the second option will be favoured, bringing in another layer of bureaucracy as schools have to meet outside the children’s trust board meetings to discuss representations, positions and responses. Can the Minister offer any reassurances there?

Amendments 196 and 198 draw attention to monitoring the operation of children’s trust boards. The report by the Audit Commission lists a number of bodies who currently monitor children’s trusts. Further, it argues that there should be a mechanism in order to monitor performance if standards are not being met, so can the Minister confirm that this will be put into place, and can she give us more detail on how that will operate?

Noble Lords will be pleased to note that Amendment 197 is the final one which we address in this group. It introduces a power for the Secretary of State to bring in regulations which would allow,

“monitoring the implementation of the children and young people’s plan”.

We have drawn specific attention to this because Diabetes UK is concerned that we are seeing a real conflict of interest here that could affect accountability. After all, partners implementing the children and young people’s plan are appointed by the children’s trust boards, which are then responsible for monitoring the implementation of those plans. Is the Minister concerned that this risks making those boards effectively self-appointing, and then self-regulating? I look forward to the Minister’s response. I beg to move.

My Lords, perhaps I might make a few comments on this rather mixed bag of amendments. It is a bit like a curate’s egg as far as I am concerned, as I support some and not others. On Amendment 191, I am frankly shocked and horrified that the noble Baroness thinks that academies should not have a duty to co-operate as a relevant partner on child safeguarding, which is a responsibility and duty on all of us—particularly, on every single school. However, I support Amendment 192. Although, as the noble Baroness says, it ought to be a representative of general medical practitioners, those are the sorts of people that I feel should be represented on the children’s trust board.

I am afraid that we do not agree with Amendment 193. Should every single academy be represented on the children’s trust board? In some areas, that would skew the board completely, because there are several academies, so they should not have a right. However, a good CTB would certainly have at least a representative of the local academies on the board. On Amendment 194, I think that they do that anyway. I would oppose Amendment 195 as being unworkable; you would have an enormous board if you did that. I have considerable sympathies with Amendments 196 and 198, and I look forward to hearing what the Minister says about the inspection of children’s trust boards, and how that will be done. I also support Amendment 197. It is important that when we set such things up there is a proper system for monitoring the implementation of what they are doing. If the children’s trust board is not going to do it, who is? I am afraid I have a mixed response to this group of amendments.

My Lords, I am delighted to have the opportunity to respond to the curate’s egg before us. Amendments 191 and 193 would prevent academies from becoming new children’s trust relevant partners, as the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, described them, and would instead give them a right to representation on the board. I am going to rehearse what we said in Committee: these clauses do not diminish academies’ independence but empower them to go further in their work. It is unimaginable that the schools with some of England’s most vulnerable children should not be fully engaged in the most important partnerships in children’s services. It is vital that academies are able to influence local strategic decision-making. That means having automatic, rather than voluntary, representation on the children’s trust board.

Amendment 192 was discussed in another place. All those listed could and should be involved in the work of the children’s trusts. Short-stay schools will be made statutory relevant partners through a different route. I know that that is slightly confusing. It will be done through the regulations under the Education Act 1996. Regulations will require children’s trust boards to consult children’s centre advisory boards when preparing their children and young people’s plan. Through statutory guidance we will expect children’s trust partners to consider the provision of services through children’s centres as they develop and implement the plan. There should be a children’s centre representative on every children’s trust board.

The extended school provider landscape is, of course, complex and varies locally. It includes existing relevant partners who are already represented on the board, as well as third sector providers. We recognise the vital role that the third sector plays here. We must therefore allow flexibility to ensure that the local delivery infrastructure is properly reflected in the composition of the board. That is why new Section 12A(3) will allow third sector providers to join the children’s trust board by local agreement. I hope that that will give the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, the reassurance that she is looking for.

GPs have an important role to play, as Diabetes UK has no doubt stressed to the Members opposite. It is interesting to hear about these inspired amendments. It is sometimes helpful if organisations also let the Government know what they want, because they might then find that they get more recognition in our speaking notes at the Dispatch Box. Placing a statutory duty on GPs, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, pointed out, would not be an effective means of securing their engagement. Statutory guidance will clearly set out that the director of children’s services should consult the PCT to ensure that there is a lead GP on the children’s trust board to provide their professional expertise and offer advice on how to involve the wider GP community, which is obviously quite diverse.

On Amendment 194, we agree that the involvement of parents and carers in the voluntary sector in the work of children’s trust boards is essential. That is absolutely without question. I am happy to reassure the House that the children and young people’s plan regulations will require the board to consult both groups on the plan. Moreover, statutory guidance—and this is strong—will require that both groups be included on the board, with a clear expectation that the voluntary sector is always represented. It is not acceptable for a situation to arise where the voluntary sector is not represented. That would include organisations that support children and young people, such as Diabetes UK and other organisations that support children with special needs, learning difficulties and other concerns.

Amendment 195 would require the local authority and its relevant partners to have a separate representative each on the children’s trust board. Representation is a key issue, but we must retain the flexibility of subsection (5) to prevent children’s trust boards from becoming unwieldy and therefore less effective. We recognise the importance of all partners having a voice and will use statutory guidance to set out how joint representation can happen, because we do not want that to be unclear.

On Amendment 197, we agree that the function of children’s trust boards to monitor implementation is of great importance. I note the concern around the House about that. I am happy to reassure the noble Baronesses, Lady Verma and Lady Walmsley, that this is already specified in new Section 17A(3) and will be further amplified in statutory guidance.

Amendment 196 would require inspectors to inspect the children’s trust board and to be consulted in its establishment. I understand the drive behind this amendment. How is inspection going to work? I can confirm that the contributions of children’s trust partners, such as the local authority and the police, are within the scope of the comprehensive area assessment, or CAA. Should inspectorates consider that priority outcomes for an area are at risk due to poor co-operation between partners, two or more of them can inspect a children’s trust board under Section 20 of the Children Act 2004. It would be unnecessary and wasteful to assess or inspect the workings of every board, but provision is already in place to allow for an inspection where it would be appropriate. We do not agree that inspectorates should be consulted in the establishment of the board. “Otiose” was a word used in Committee in other areas, but I think that it applies here. This would compromise the inspectorates’ independence from bodies that they might later inspect, because they would be marking their own homework.

On Amendment 198, accountability for delivering the children and young people’s plan remains with individual board partners—the PCT and the local authority. The Bill adds extra public accountability, with the board publishing an annual report on partners’ implementation. Again, I can confirm that delivery by partners is within the scope of the CAA and relevant inspections. So there is a process. The activities of the children’s trust board and the plan, as a description of what has been achieved, are within the sight of the CAA.

Government Amendment 199 is minor and technical. Through this amendment, Section 21 of the Education Act 2002, under which maintained schools must have regard to the children and young people’s plan, will not anticipate a scenario in which a children’s trust board does not produce a plan. I am assured that this is a very minor and technical amendment.

I hope, particularly with the reassurance that I have offered on inspection and on the voluntary sector, that the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, will consider withdrawing her amendment.

My Lords, I thank the Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. I am sure that they will both agree that academies most likely will want to be partners. I still feel slightly concerned that it will be a duty rather than their right to do it. However, the Minister clearly understands the reasons behind my amendments and, given her strong reassurances, I feel that the Government will ensure that guidance is full and detailed. I am disappointed that the Minister insists on academies having the duty to be a partner on CTBs, but I will read carefully what she has said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 191 withdrawn.

Amendments 192 and 193 not moved.

Clause 189 : Children’s Trust Boards

Amendments 194 to 198 not moved.

Amendment 199

Moved by

199: Clause 189, page 110, line 34, leave out from “subsection” to end of line 38 and insert “(9) for paragraph (a) (but not the “and” immediately after it) substitute—

“(a) in relation to a school in England, any plan published by the relevant Children’s Trust Board under section 17 of the Children Act 2004 (children and young people’s plans: England),”;”

Amendment 199 agreed.

Clause 190 : Targets for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children

Amendment 200

Moved by

200: Clause 190, page 111, line 23, at end insert—

“( ) In section 66(4) of the Children Act 2004 (c. 31) after “section” insert “9A and”.”

My Lords, the amendment would ensure that the first set of child safeguarding targets, which have resulted from the second report of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, following the death of Baby Peter, on which the Government are currently consulting, have to go before Parliament for a debate and vote under the affirmative resolution procedure. In Committee, the Minister agreed with the spirit of my amendment that the proposed targets should be appropriately considered and consulted on. However, she rejected the suggestion that Parliament should have the opportunity to debate and vote on the matter. Although the Government have moved towards us on many matters, this is one on which we have had no movement.

The Minister outlined the range of the consultation. It will include the subject matter of targets, the indicators against which they would have to be set, the periods to which they should relate and the procedures for setting them. She explained that the National Safeguarding Delivery Unit held stakeholder workshops during the summer to work on this and that the process is ongoing, comprehensive and inclusive. I think that I have summarised the noble Baroness’s case. However, she did not really say why she objects to Parliament having its fivepenny-worth.

Many of your Lordships and probably every Member of the House of Commons will have received correspondence from members of the public concerned about the state of child protection in this country. It is a matter of enormous public concern and, therefore, a matter for our elected representatives. Of course we must consult the experts and listen to their advice. However, just as government Ministers have been quick to emphasise over the past week that “advisers advise and Ministers decide”, in matters such as this it should also be true to say that “advisers advise, Governments propose and Parliament approves”—or not as the case may be.

Parliament must have the opportunity to have its voice heard where the lives of its constituents’ children are at stake. Why ever not? Is this matter not important enough to be heard within these hallowed walls? If Parliament can debate the status of the banks, university tuition fees, tranquilisers and anti-depressants, voting at the weekend, the political activities of former generals and the management of water resources, as your Lordships’ House did yesterday—and even sheep farmers, as it did today—why can it not debate the protection of its children? Of course that is a matter for experts and stakeholders to advise on, but the protection of children is the responsibility of every one of us. We are all stakeholders in this matter. Parliament represents the biggest stakeholder workshop of the lot. Parliament represents us—the public—and we care about child protection, so Parliament must have a say.

The Minister may suggest that my measure would entail delay and I know that she would not want that. However, I do not think that having a debate in Parliament will entail any more than 24 hours’ delay and there are certainly no cost implications. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment. I beg to move.

My Lords, I shall keep my comments brief on this topic. We support the intentions of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. As she said, the clauses in the Bill enable the Secretary of State to set statutory targets for children’s services authorities in England for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. We fully support the intention to make these regulations subject to the affirmative, not negative, procedure. It is right and proper that they should be subject to the express approval of Parliament. This will increase transparency. Moreover, the attention and scrutiny of Parliament may draw much-needed attention to this area. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

My Lords, after Committee in the other place, my right honourable friend Ed Balls committed to holding a meeting with Annette Brooke, the Front-Bench spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrats in the other place, to talk about the introduction of safeguarding targets along these lines. We had a meeting last week, when I took her through the process. In Committee in this House, I was very happy to go through at length the consultations and so on around the targets. As the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Verma, are aware, we are looking to introduce these targets in 2011, so there is a time pressure on that process of consultation. We have to develop the targets in consultation with stakeholders and then do a technical consultation. As the noble Baroness said, I am absolutely committed to getting these targets right. I do not have an issue with her on debating these important targets in relation to safeguarding. I am advised that I cannot accept the amendment, because it is defective. If it were not so, I would happily accept it. Technically, I have to say that I will consider it. I have not accepted it, but I will bring it back.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, for her support and to the Minister for her remarks. I hope that she will take the amendment away and consider whether, even if it is defective, between now and Third Reading we might in some way put it right. She would please not only every Member of your Lordships’ House but every Member of another place if she accepted that it is right and proper that Parliament should have its say on this matter; it is not likely to want to get in the way, I am sure. I think that every Member of the House of Commons is seriously concerned about these issues and would like an opportunity to debate them and give them parliamentary support. I do not expect that, after all the consultation, Parliament would turn down the advice of all the professionals who by that time will have advised on these targets, but Parliament would like to give these targets a fair wind and its support in a real way. I hope that we can achieve that by Third Reading. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 200 withdrawn.

Amendment 201 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Clause 193 : Arrangements for children’s centres

Amendment 202

Moved by

202: Clause 193, page 112, line 24, at end insert—

“( ) A local authority may not provide early childhood services unless the local authority is satisfied—

(a) that no other person is willing to provide the early childhood services (whether in pursuance of arrangements made with the authority or otherwise), or(b) if another person is willing to do so, that in the circumstances it is appropriate for the local authority to provide the early childhood services.”

My Lords, this clause inserts new provisions into Part 1 of the Childcare Act 2006 which imposes duties on English local authorities and others to secure sufficient provision of children’s centres to meet local need. We very much support Sure Start children’s centres which fulfil a fundamentally important role in the local community. We recognise that there are certain advantages that will come from their being designated on a statutory basis, particularly because they place new duties on local authorities to respond to the local need of parents, prospective parents and young children in the local authority’s area.

Nevertheless, we have some reservations. The benefit of putting children’s centres on a statutory footing could arguably be negated, or at least there could be some serious disadvantages. One of the great advantages of these centres is that they are so flexible. Sure Start centres can adapt their services to the varying needs of each local community. They grow in size and scope depending on the needs of the area in which they operate. We very much applaud this approach and hope that that will not be damaged by the inflexibility that will come from being enshrined in legislation.

Amendment 202 would place a duty on the local authority not to provide any early childhood services unless it was satisfied that no other person could provide these services or when it would be more appropriate for the local authority itself to do so. Amendment 204 follows a similar line of reasoning because it argues that in the Childcare Act 2006, under the provision of specific duties of the local authority in relation to childhood services, there should be a restriction that an English local authority must have regard to the desirability of maintaining a different range of services and protecting the PVI sector. I very much hope that the Minister will be able to offer us some reassurance on this count. We wish most earnestly to guard against the duplication of services where it is not necessary. We believe that it is important to make the best use of the private, voluntary and independent sector wherever possible.

Responding in another place, the Government claimed that they were sure that the PVI sector was not overlooked. I hope that here the Minister might have some more substantive reassurance to offer. Those in the midst of this industry know that it is often the case that the PVI sector is indeed overlooked. We are not asking for exclusive emphasis to be placed on the PVI sector, merely that it should be included in all thoughts and considerations of the provision of services.

Our Amendment 203 raises a further consideration. This alters new Section 5E, which is being added to the Childcare Act 2006. This amendment was tabled in another place and since then, changes have indeed been made to this section, including that “local need of services” means the needs of parents, prospective parents and young children in the authority’s area, rather than the inflexible notion of just what a local authority considers should be provided. For this we are grateful. We have tabled this amendment here once again in order to raise concerns about the emphasis being placed on extending these services to disadvantaged families.

Sure Start children’s centres are described as “service hubs” where families can gather and receive seamless, integrated services and information. We welcome these for all families. Nevertheless, we believe that efforts should be made to ensure that no families are left out. Can the Minister assure us of any outreach efforts that will be made in order to secure services for those disadvantaged families? I am sure that we will receive assurance on this matter. It would be interesting to hear why there is no specific provision for that in the Bill, but perhaps I have missed it.

Finally, our amendment also serves to underline the fundamental importance of health visitor services within the local area. This is a specific mention of only one of the services which we expect to be provided in children’s centres. It demonstrates, however, our longstanding commitment to the provision of health services through Sure Start. Does the Minister expect health services to play a pivotal role here? Do the Government now agree with our longstanding plea for health visitors to be provided as part of Sure Start? I look forward to the Minister’s response. I beg to move.

My Lords, we on these Benches pay tribute to the very high standards seen in local authority children’s centres. They are invariably rated as good or outstanding and many of them cater for some of the most disadvantaged children in the community. It was a concern to read yesterday that nursery schools are coming under quite such pressure through funding being spread between government and private nursery providers. There are some excellent private providers too, but it seems they are all running the risk of being underfunded and indeed, many face closure.

We do not agree with the emphasis in Amendment 202. Mainstream provision by local authorities should, we feel, be a matter for each local authority to determine. They are already required to take account of other provision in their area, but this amendment seems unnecessarily to restrict their capacity to respond to local needs. On Amendment 203, the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, stated the need for health visitors and their position in children’s services, but we note the Government’s statutory guidance, which says that the intention is,

“to ensure that the best use is made of Sure Start Children’s Centres as accessible local outlets for services for families while not requiring that these services be delivered exclusively through children’s centres”.

New Section 5E seems to encapsulate that and we agree with that drift. We favour diversity of provision enabling parents to make the best choices for children. Amendment 204 adds more detail to the sorts of diverse provision that might be available. We have sympathy with the inclusion of the private and voluntary sector providers, but we would hope that local authorities would already be looking to those different types of provision and so do not necessarily want to see the amendment in the Bill.

My Lords, I, too, have considerable sympathy with these amendments. There are some difficulties, perhaps particularly in some of the poorer areas where voluntary centres and voluntary nursery provision have been set up and have been going for some time. I declare an interest in one of those centres, the Peckham Settlement. Schools in other parts of the country have supported the settlement and the nursery provision over many years.

A huge amount of government funding has rightly gone into such areas to ensure that there is adequate provision throughout the country and to even out uneven provision. In those circumstances, some of the providers of the past have been disadvantaged. I support the ideas behind these amendments, but I realise that the governance of these bodies and the involvement of parents in what is provided are crucial. Sure Start has been, from the beginning, the exemplar. There were equal numbers of local people, volunteers and professionals. In some areas, it got a little distorted with perhaps too many professionals. We need to keep an eye on the importance of having local people aware of and involved in providing for local needs, which will differ from area to area. I have a great deal of sympathy with these amendments.

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for this debate and for giving me the opportunity to offer the reassurances that the noble Baronesses, Lady Verma, Lady Parks and Lady Howe are looking for. Perhaps now would be a good point to note that the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, is president of the National Governors’ Association and to thank it for its tireless work. Did I say Parks? I meant Garden. I am really sorry. It is getting very late. I am so glad this is a participatory House.

My Lords, I am indeed Garden, but there is also the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, which adds to the confusion in your Lordships' House.

My Lords, I find that Hansard is really wonderful at tidying things up, but I am not quite sure how it is going to manage to tidy that up.

It has been a long afternoon and evening, but I was in the middle of thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, for the work that her organisation, the National Governors’ Association, does in promoting good governance and for the help it has given us in developing plans and establishing good governance in children’s centres. I also thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Garden and Lady Verma, for joining us in this debate and giving me the opportunity to give them the reassurance that they quite rightly require.

The noble Baroness, Lady Verma, was particularly concerned about provision for outreach work. I remind the House that we know that parents value the support that children’s centres give through outreach work and outreach workers who do home visiting from children's centres. Effective outreach services can make a real difference, as the noble Baroness suggested, to families who cannot access services, providing important information and access to services such as childcare and family support. All Sure Start children’s centres are expected to provide outreach services. It is important that there are effective supervision and escalation routes in the context of multi-agency working.

The important point is that the Children’s Plan is committed to establishing core principles and standards for an effective and comprehensive outreach service supported by appropriate materials and courses to enable some 5,000 practitioners to take up new training opportunities. The DCSF is looking at the development of this work with the Children’s Workforce Development Council, and is working with Sure Start children’s centres as an important hub for that work.

The noble Baroness, Lady Verma, asked why Sure Start centres are being put on a statutory footing. I believe that that was the thrust of her speech. She asked whether that would limit local flexibility. We want children's centres to be an integral part of the local infrastructure to support children. The provision in the Bill would ensure that that happens, while ensuring that the local flexibility that we all agree is so important is maintained, particularly with regard to health services. We know that children's centres offer significant opportunities for improving children's health. They are a key vehicle for delivering the Healthy Child programme. National evaluation of Sure Start has found that many successful Sure Start programmes were led by the health sector with health visitors reaching and engaging with families who then willingly accessed children's centre services. There are many examples of good practice. One that would be great to name would be the John Smith Children’s Centre in Tower Hamlets, which has been working successfully with breast-feeding co-ordinators from the PCT. It has initiation rates of 81 per cent, which is a great example of the success of that intervention.

We share noble Lords’ desire to maintain a good mix of quality provision. I can confirm that our existing planning guidance for children's centres is clear that local authorities should not duplicate existing provision when they establish children's centres. Therefore, they need to consult private, voluntary and independent sector organisations in developing their local service offer. I hope that I can offer the reassurance that noble Lords are looking for. It is already a condition of the Sure Start early years and childcare grants that local authorities should consult private, voluntary and independent sector organisations when planning children’s centres.

We expect them to keep evidence that they have met that condition. We do not expect local authorities to favour one type of provider over another. I understand the desire behind Amendment 203 to ensure that proper consideration is given to ensuring that best possible use is made of children's centres by all statutory partners, but I would not want to constrain local flexibility in determining where best to deliver those services. The Childcare Act 2006 already requires local authorities, the NHS and Jobcentre Plus to work together to provide integrated early childhood services, and our proposed new Section 5E inserted by Clause 193 would require relevant partners to consider providing their services through children's centres. This would include health services, of course, and health visitors in particular.

We are committed to increasing the health visitor workforce and to clarifying key aspects of their role. The first phase of the Action on Health Visiting programme launched on 14 October spells out the health visitor’s role in leading the delivery of the Healthy Child programme and in relation to children's centres. It also sets out the next steps to be taken on increasing workforce capacity and capability, which is something that the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, has been concerned about. It is right that local decisions should determine where and how these services would best be delivered and I would expect partners to consider carefully and review regularly how services are delivered according to local circumstances and local need. Despite that rather faulty start to my contribution, but with the reassurances that followed, I hope that noble Lords will not press their amendments.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Garden and Lady Howe, for their contributions and for their support for some of my amendments. It is crucial that there is a choice for parents and children, and that local needs are at the heart of provision. I thank the Minister for her assurances; I hope that she would agree with these Benches that, while outreach services are laudable, the role of health visitors is crucial. I am happy to hear her response that they must be part of the services provided by Sure Start centres.

We all want Sure Start centres to be part of the integrated services, but I hope that the Minister will take on board that there must be flexibility to allow them to respond to local needs. I feel that she understands my reasoning about PVIs: they have suffered with the iniquities of funding. Having heard all of the Minister’s reassurances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 202 withdrawn.

Amendment 203 not moved.

Clause 196 : Arrangements in respect of early childhood services

Amendment 204 not moved.

Clause 197 : Free of charge early years provision: budgetary framework: England

Amendment 205

Moved by

205: Clause 197, page 120, line 4, at end insert “including the protection of centres of excellence”

Amendment 205 seeks to protect centres of excellence in early years education when the new budgetary framework comes into force. During Committee, I expressed my concern that these leading-edge settings, which set the standard for the high quality of early years education, to which we should aspire for all children, are being threatened by the way local authorities are planning to implement the single funding formula. The Minister did not think that I had any cause to worry. I hope to disabuse him of that view in the next 10 minutes.

I apologise to the House as I will need to go into some detail. Unfortunately, there are a lot of very important issues at the end of this Bill, and it is tempting late at night, when we are all tired, not to give them the consideration they deserve. In this case, however, I really feel that considerable detail is required.

I have obtained evidence from Early Education, the leading UK voluntary organisation that supports practitioners, parents and others who are not just involved in the development of young children, but are committed to ensuring that they receive the best possible care and education. It carried out a survey of 138 heads and teachers in maintained nursery school provision between 26 June and 24 July this year. It found that only one in five of maintained nursery schools and children’s centres had yet been advised of their single funding formula base rate. It found that almost all of those maintained nursery schools that responded to the survey did not believe that the single funding formula would create a level playing field in the early education and care market through raising qualifications and training staff.

The survey found that less than a third believed that they would also be in receipt of a quality supplement, and many said that they would not be able to maintain the level of quality and effective practice that their schools and centres deliver now. Few respondents—17.6 per cent—know how or if the local authority will manage any adjustment of the single funding formula once it has been implemented. The majority of local authorities—74 per cent—have yet to say whether there will be any transitional arrangements to manage the significant cuts in funding that the implementation of the single funding formula will bring. My noble friend Lady Garden of Frognal mentioned the press coverage yesterday: there is considerable concern out there and, although the single funding formula has not yet been implemented, things are going wrong already. I hope there is still time to put things right before too much damage is done.

While I accept that the Government’s aim is to improve the fairness and transparency of the way the funding is allocated to providers who deliver the free entitlement, and thereby support its extension to 15 hours, I have serious concerns that it is being implemented in such a way as to throw out the most important baby with the unfairness bathwater.

Many of those working in the maintained sector report that they are increasingly being threatened with closure or significant budget cuts with immediate effect. Others working in the private, voluntary and independent sectors report that many of the rates currently being proposed by local authorities under the early years single funding formula amount to little more than pennies, and are not enough to support them to deliver their aims. Many are also noting that the proposed rate will leave them unable to comply fully with the draft code of practice on provision of the free education entitlement.

As the implementation of the funding formula enters its final phase of consultation, there is increasing evidence that many local authority proposals will have significant adverse consequences for services to the most disadvantaged children and families. It will especially affect the most vulnerable and at-risk children, and those with special educational needs—in other words, those who need the highest quality provision.

So local authorities must be both supported and rigorously monitored to ensure that the aims of the single funding formula are genuinely achieved across all sectors. Can the Minister say how this is being done? I am particularly concerned about the maintained sector, as there is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates its good outcomes for children. Results from the Effective Provision of Pre-School Education project showed that combined centres, described as similar to nursery schools, which have developed their provision of extended care to include full daycare and parental involvement, ranked in the good to excellent range in regard to quality of provision. EPPE concluded that well resourced pre-school centres with a history of integrating education are more successful at providing care in education than centres from the care tradition.

The effectiveness of maintained nursery schools is also confirmed by Ofsted reports. The 2007-08 annual report of the Chief Inspector of Schools noted that nursery schools are particularly effective, with 96 per cent of those inspected being good or outstanding and, of those, 47 per cent fell into the outstanding category. By comparison, Ofsted’s 2005-08 review of all childcare and early education settings, excluding maintained nursery schools, revealed that only 3 per cent were judged outstanding and 57 per cent were good. Ofsted was also concerned as to the ineffectiveness of early education settings outside the maintained nursery sector in disadvantaged areas.

Any discussion of maintained nursery provision should include their value as a quality provider, as demonstrated by Ofsted and the EPPE research. Maintained nursery schools are often copied by the private, voluntary and independent settings as models of effective practice and as a resource to improve the leadership, pedagogy and practice across all sectors. They play a significant role in the provision of training qualified teachers for other early learning and childcare providers. Maintained nursery school head teachers and their management teams also facilitate a significant leadership within their local areas, and in some cases regionally and even nationally.

Over the past 10 years, there has been significant investment in early education and care, and we must give the Government credit for that. But if the single funding formula is implemented in its current state, a decade of investment benefiting the most disadvantaged children and their families is at risk and the highest quality and most effective early education provision will be lost. Your Lordships know the long-term costs of not investing in early years: lower education achievement; poor physical and mental health; crime and delinquency; and so forth. The economic benefits of investment far exceed the costs. High-quality programmes are necessary for large economic returns but where the quality is meagre, they are likely to be less effective.

As it is presently proposed, the implementation of the single funding formula risks undoing all those benefits of the significant investment that the present Government have made. Any levelling of the playing field must take into consideration differences in the quality of the early learning experiences on offer as well as the impact on poverty, ill health and other adversities. These disadvantages are beyond the control of the individual child and their family, and social justice therefore demands that adequate provision should be made.

That is why I feel it is so important to put in the Bill that one of the things each local authority must take into account when devising its formula is the need to protect centres of excellence. Without them, all settings will suffer since they are in the vanguard and have pulled up the whole sector to a higher standard than ever before over recent years. Please do not let us destroy that. I beg to move.

My Lords, following on from the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, we also wish to raise some points on the single funding formula. In February 2006, the Government introduced the code of practice which meant that there would be provision of free nursery education places for three- and four-year-olds. At the moment, maintained sector early years education providers are funded by the local authority through the individual school’s budget. Most local authorities base funding for maintained early years education provision on the number of places offered, not on the take-up of places. In contrast, funding for PVI authorities is nearly always based on participation rates. In 2009, this was true for participation in all but one local authority. This leads to unreasonable disparities.

In June 2007, the Government announced that local authorities would finally have to use a single funding formula for funding early years provision in the maintained and PVI sectors from 2010-11. This would mean that funding across maintained and PVI providers would be transparent and based on the same factors. We believe this is an important transition to make. What progress has been made with these changes?

As will be obvious, ours is a probing amendment at this time. We look forward to the Minister’s response.

My Lords, I understand the concern expressed, although I gave reassurance at the Committee stage. Given the recent article in the press, et cetera, I understand the concern.

This amendment was tabled in Committee. I again reassure the House that this clause is not a threat to maintained nursery schools. We share the view about their excellence. The presumption against closure remains the same and is clearly set out in statutory guidance. We are aware of the concerns that maintained nursery schools and others have about these reforms. I stress that we want to create a system where all providers are funded on a more equitable basis that reflects the costs of different types of providers in delivering high-quality early education and care.

We are supporting local authorities to achieve this aim. I am pleased to announce that on 29 October the Minister for Children wrote to every director of children’s services with a maintained nursery school to reaffirm our expectations on the single funding formula. She made it clear that an equitable funding system should not mean that the future of high-quality provision, such as that found in many maintained nursery schools and private providers, is put at risk.

Amendment 206 seeks to disapply the code of practice on the provision of free nursery education for three- and four-year-olds in a local authority area until that local authority has produced a single funding formula. While we understand the intention that if local authorities fail to implement a single funding formula then PVI providers should be free to charge top-up fees, we disagree with it. We are asking local authorities to implement their funding formula from April 2010. To disapply the code until then would mean that some 143 local authorities would not be covered by the code between January and April 2010. This would remove vital safeguards for children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds whose parents rely on their free entitlement.

Allowing early years providers to charge top-up fees would be in contradiction to the Childcare Act, which says that free early years provision must be exactly that—free. We do not want to restrict access to this vital early education and care to children in any way, especially those from poor and disadvantaged families. We accept that there are concerns locally about the implementation of the single funding formula. Local authorities around the country are working with their providers to solve them.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, made a couple of points on the survey of maintained nurseries and the delay in implementation. The implementation is proceeding to plan, and subject to the Bill will take place in April 2010. The early education survey was undertaken in June last year while local authorities were still working on their formula for public consultation, which took place in September/October 2009; it was probably a little early.

On the point about the rates being too low, rates should be calculated using the cost analysis undertaken by local authorities. Local authorities are still out to consultation on their rates. We are collecting data on the rates being proposed by local authorities so that we can challenge them where necessary.

I hope that I have covered all the points raised. We want to see what the noble Baroness describes as centres of excellence. These are not defined but I understand what she means—high-quality provision. We are all at one on that. I hope that we have demonstrated our commitment to it and to the progress of the process. Given what I have said, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

My Lords, I am grateful to those who have taken part in this short debate. I take some comfort from what the Minister said about the letter from the Children’s Minister to all directors of children’s services. It would be good if I could have sight of that letter; perhaps that can be arranged.

I am pleased that she emphasised that high-quality provision should not be threatened by the way in which the directors of children services implement this new formula. I hope that it will be borne in mind that high quality usually costs more. I agree with the Government that top-up fees should not be allowed because that would get in the way of equity and some families could not afford to pay them. It is important that the high-quality specialist provision being offered to the most vulnerable children can be afforded. It would be disastrous if some of these centres had to close.

How will this be monitored? I accept that the survey to which I referred was about four months ago, which is not a long time—and, yes, things have moved on a little since then—but there is enormous worry among some of the very best early year settings about their ability to carry on delivering for the most needy children. It would be disastrous if local authorities went off at a tangent and did not do what the Government think they are going to do. How will the Government monitor that the system is working in the way that they clearly intend it to work? I am sure the Government’s intentions are right in this matter but the proof of the pudding is in how many high-quality nurseries have to close and how many children with special needs do not get that vital early intervention that can prevent so many problems later.

The Minister has a frown on his face. Shall I go on a bit longer while he reads his note?

I will read the note and look for more inspiration. The precise question was how we will monitor it and my note says that we accept there are concerns about the implementation but local authorities around the country are working with providers to solve them and government offices are providing support. Officials from the Department for Children, Schools and Families will continue to support government offices with local implementation issues. I am not sure that that answers the question. I have received a signal which I now know how to interpret: we will write to the noble Baroness to describe the process of how it will be monitored.

I interpret that as, “We will keep an eye on them”. I hope that is exactly what will happen.

I hope that the debate has highlighted the problem—the newspapers highlighted it yesterday—and that the Government will keep an eye on this and make sure that it is working properly. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 205 withdrawn.

Amendment 206 not moved.

Schedule 13 : Powers in relation to schools causing concern: England

Amendment 207

Moved by

207: Schedule 13, page 232, line 39, after “60” insert “on those grounds”

My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 224 to 227, 229 and 230. These are minor and technical amendments. Amendment 207 amends Schedule 13 to ensure consistency between new Sections 69A and 69B inserted by Schedule 13. Amendments 224 and 225 make it clear that this technical power to amend or revoke directions applies to directions given by any body under the Act, including the YPLA, and Welsh Ministers, not just the Secretary of State. Amendments 226 and 227 are repeals made by the Bill and missed out of Schedule 16. Amendment 229 corrects a missed commencement power of repeal. Finally, Amendment 230 corrects a cross-reference. I beg to move.

Amendment 207 agreed.

Clause 201 : Complaints to which this Chapter applies

Amendment 208

Moved by

208: Clause 201, page 121, line 40, at end insert—

“( ) The Secretary of State shall issue regulations and guidance as to which of the powers and duties of a head teacher shall be regarded as a “prescribed function” for the purposes of subsection (2).”

I shall speak also to Amendments 211 and 212. We now come to the proposed new school complaints system. We on these Benches are still not fully convinced that this system is going to be any better than the previous one. It introduces another layer of accountability for schools rather than letting complaints go to the Secretary of State, if they have exhausted the local complaints process. We understand that 2,200 of those went to him last year.

Schools are now answerable to a plethora of bodies: the independent appeals council for permanent exclusions, the LGO for fixed-term exclusions, the first-tier tribunal—formerly SENDIST—for special needs and a schools adjudicator on admissions. Now we are to add the LGO on complaints. The practical effect of formalising the complaints system like this will be an increase in record-keeping and a reduction in teaching time. Schools feel that they will need to keep records of any expressions of concern about the school, in case they should turn into complaints at some future date. That has serious workload implications.

Let us consider the amendments. Amendment 208 specifies that the prescribed functions referred to in Clause 201 should be specified in regulations. That would prevent the local commissioner from merely substituting his judgment for that of the head teacher. We need to be clear what those functions are, otherwise the head teacher is undermined and, worse, the school does not really know where it stands. In Committee, the Minister uncharacteristically told me next to nothing; I hope that she will be able to tell me a little more today. She said:

“The functions for which a head teacher may be the subject of a complaint will be set out in regulations under Clause 199(2). I can reassure noble Lords that before we make these regulations, as you would expect, we will consult with stakeholders—including, importantly, teacher unions and parent representative bodies—on what might be included”.—[Official Report, 19/10/09; col. 524.]

So that is OK then. No, in fact, it tells me nothing. I have relaid the amendment to give her the opportunity to tell me a little more.

Amendment 211 is about the power of the commissioner to consider complaints from pupils who are no longer in the school. They should do so only when that is in the public interest. In response to this amendment in Committee, the Minister said that this was to take care of a situation where, for example, there is a complaint against a school about the handling of the exams that a pupil took just before he left the school, making him therefore an ex-pupil. Consultations are continuing on this provision, but how would the commissioner judge whether a complaint by a parent who had taken their child away from the school fell within these provisions?

If we cannot be clear about this, schools will have an eternal sword of Damocles hanging over their heads whenever a pupil is removed by a dissatisfied parent. For how long should a school keep the paperwork about pupils? How will they know which former pupils are going to complain about the conduct of their exams after they have left? Is there to be a time limit? We need to know more about these measures.

Amendment 212 is similar to the amendment that I laid in Committee about the provision of advocacy, but it limits the provision to those children who want it from the following groups: children in care, or who have recently been in care; children with disabilities or special educational needs; or any other child who is considered by the commissioner to need such help.

The current system of complaints has produced only 2,200 complaints to the Secretary of State a year. Few of those, if any, have been from children or young people themselves; most have been from parents. It is likely that, as now, most cases referred to the local commissioner will be from parents. For these provisions to have meaning, however, we must ensure that children can access the LGO without having to rely on parental support to do so.

The amendment makes it clear that the advocate should provide confidential information, advice, representation and support to the child. They would not make decisions but support the child to understand the process. There is growing evidence that advocacy not only improves decision-making for children but also safeguards their well-being. It would also be beneficial to the school, because the advocate could be provided before a formal referral had been made who could help the child to pursue the school-based system. Local resolution and conciliation would be better all round, which might be achieved with the help of an advocate. It would also help the Local Government Ombudsman for the advocate to help the child to provide correct information as to the grounds of complaint and in the format required. It would save him from dealing with the early stages of a complaint that turned out to be beyond the bounds of his remit.

I realise that there is a small cost implication to the amendment, even though a very small number of children would fall into the categories set out in it. However, I hope that the Minister will give me some assurance that the system will at least be trialled, piloted or publicised in its early months. I beg to move.

My Lords, we return to issues that we covered in Committee. I hope that the Minister will feel able to offer some further response, as we remain very concerned about them.

Our amendments in this group are designed to restrict the complaints that can be brought against a school and then taken up for consideration by the local commissioner. We on these Benches are not too worried by the complaints structure introduced by the Bill as a whole. It is important for parents and pupils to have a channel through which they can communicate complaints and, as many noble Lords said in Committee, it is clearly unsuitable for this to be the Secretary of State. He should be a last port of call, not the first above the board of governors.

However, we have some reservations about the scope of the powers. In Committee, we were happy to receive a concession from the Government that allowed the local commissioner discretion not to commence, or to stop, investigating any complaint that he deemed to be vexatious. We welcomed the Government’s agreement in this matter.

Here, we would like to limit the scope still further. Our Amendment 209 would restrict complaints so that those relating to temporary exclusions could not be reviewed through this channel. Amendment 210 would exclude complaints relating to enforcing any decision that would come under the published rules of the school.

We thank the Minister for her responses in Committee. We are glad that she does not intend the provisions to be draconian, that it is intended for teachers to have the right,

“to agree their own behaviour policies and rules”,

and that they should be able to apply them as they wish, as long, of course, as it is in a “reasonable and lawful” manner. She assured us that she did not consider that the provisions would be,

“asking good schools to do anything that they are not already doing”.—[Official Report, 19/10/09; col. 523.]

We accept all those reassurances and are grateful for them. Nevertheless, our concerns remain. It is possible for the provisions to have a damaging impact on teachers’ morale and on school discipline. The Minister said that she would not demand anything more of good schools than was already happening. Yet a wide-ranging complaints procedure may cause damage regardless of a school’s implementation procedure. If pupils feel that they have been unfairly treated and it is all too easy to complain, they may take too much advantage of it. The process of external investigation by the local commissioner may be very damaging to teacher morale, even if the complaint is not upheld. Furthermore, it may discourage teachers from using disciplinary measures open to them, such as temporary exclusion, out of fear of investigation and all the embarrassment that it might entail.

We received some reassurances from the Minister relating to the ability of the local commissioner to disapply the time limit to listen to complaints. She assured us that she would work with teaching unions and others to make sure that all involved knew exactly what the restrictions of the service might be. I wonder if there are any further updates on discussions.

I am sure that the Minister is entirely honest in her reassurance that the intention is not to open the door for long-gone pupils to resurrect grievances from bad schooldays; I do not doubt that that is the case. Nevertheless, we are concerned that, while this may not be the intention, there is a possibility that this may be the effect. Can the Minister offer us any more reassurances?

My Lords, I have considerable sympathy with most of these amendments. It is essential that there is a route for complaints for parents and particularly for children. Under the rights of the child, this side needs to be taken much more seriously than it has been previously. In particular, the advocacy clause needs thorough endorsement, because children in care who have special needs, for example, must be properly represented when there is a complaint. I emphasise that those with a genuine complaint—nobody is advocating the encouragement of vexatious complaints—must have the right to go down the route, albeit not directly, to the Secretary of State. I support the amendment.

My Lords, I remind the House that it is vital that there continue to be strong, effective relationships between schools and parents. The introduction of this new scheme is not about undermining that in any way. It is not about undermining the professionalism and the strength of leadership in schools. We made strong commitments in the children’s plan to support parents to become partners in their children’s learning. This includes enhancing the dialogue and the partnership working between schools and parents. This scheme is actually about that too.

Schools already have to consider complaints. This will continue to be the case. There are systems in place already. This is not about formalising a complaints system; it is about streamlining and improving a complaints system for all concerned. The principles of good complaint-handling must already include a degree of record keeping and we would expect schools to be doing this already. We do not expect the new arrangements to require new form-filling. I think that is a really important point to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. The LGA service will support schools where their decisions have been correctly reached. In practice, this means that the service would not uphold a complaint or overturn a governing body decision where that decision was sensible and lawful and had been reached in a proper and timely way, as the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, has already said. To be clear, we are not asking schools to do anything, or keep records, that they do not do already.

Having a really good system for dealing with complaints, in my experience, does help to relieve a burden on the staff if they know, and parents know, that these things are being dealt with professionally and appropriately. This helps morale. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, talked about advocacy, which is very important. Access to advocacy will be offered during the testing phase, which I will come to in a minute, and will be closely monitored. This will give us very important evidence for understanding how it can be rolled out more widely through the scheme. It will allow us to assess the costs and the likely demand before the scheme is rolled out nationally. In the testing phase we will be working with the local commissioner and we will ensure that the service is tested, which is very important. We intend to do this on a small scale next year. It is intended that the initial testing phase will be carried out across selected local authorities. During that period, schools in other local authorities will continue to use their current complaints processes. We want to ensure that we have a robust system, which is easy to use and offers schools value for money. We will look at the effectiveness of the new system compared with the current practices and how the service has investigated complaints. That will include looking at transparency, speed of resolution, how schools and complainants are kept involved, disadvantaged groups’ involvement and cost per complaint. We will also look at processes and practices at school and complaint service level. A key objective of the service is to streamline and provide clarity around complaints processes for schools and parents—so it needs to be better and a benefit for all those involved. We intend an inclusive system that does not exclude parents from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

Both noble Baronesses, Lady Verma and Lady Walmsley, asked how long the period would be within which pupils can complain. We will need to consult on this, but the anticipated time limit would be 12 months. I hope that that gives more background. The noble Baroness, Lady Verma, asked for more assurances that the service will not encourage people to complain against schools from—I am sorry, but I cannot read my officials’ writing. I shall move on gracefully.

I assure noble Lords that we must ensure that people whose complaints are not resolved at school level have an effective and independent route of redress. At the same time, I reiterate the assurance that I gave noble Lords in Committee that this service will not undermine schools’ authority or place any additional burdens on them. I should like to provide more information than I gave in Committee. I think that there is a misconception that Clause 201 is saying that all existing functions of a head teacher are going to be within the scope. That is not the case; in practice, we will need to choose, in consultation with teaching unions and other stakeholders, which functions it is appropriate to include, and will then use regulations—that is what is meant by prescribed functions in the clause—to set those out. Effectively, the functions that can be complained about will always be a subset of the total head teacher functions. The functions that we expect to include are their general duties, including discipline, the school’s behaviour policy, fixed-term exclusions and the curriculum. We will consult on and draw up the regulations.

We have briefly debated during Committee whether discipline and the published school rules should be excluded from the service, for all the reasons that the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, talked about again. I still believe that they should be included. Schools are best placed to agree and enforce their policies and rules; indeed, schools are under a duty to consult pupils about their behaviour policy principles. That is an important element of pupil and parent engagement—the dialogue that I mentioned earlier. However, when schools have not applied the rules as intended, pupils must have a route of redress. I want to reassure noble Lords that when those rules and their application are reasonable and lawful, there would be absolutely no reason why those decisions should be changed.

These amendments would mean that parents and young people would not be able to complain about, for example, the school’s behaviour policy, including its discipline policy. That would leave parents with the current route of redress, whereby they must approach the Secretary of State if they feel that their school has not dealt with a complaint about their child being bullied, for example. That is a really important aspect of this scheme. It is clearly not right; we cannot have a situation whereby some parents of young people are able to ask the commissioner to look at their complaint while others’ only redress is the present unsatisfactory route, which will also create confusion for parents and schools. That is a complexity and burden that none of us wants to see.

With regard to complaints from former pupils, I can similarly reassure noble Lords that the intention behind Clause 202(6) is to allow for some flexibility. I gave an example in Committee of where a pupil may have left the school, and noble Lords are well versed in that. I am happy to reassure the noble Baroness that in consulting and formulating such regulation—

I am sorry, but may I have some clarification of where the board of governors comes in all that conversation?

The noble Baroness referred to parents and pupils feeling that they had no redress at the school. I would like to know where the board of governors comes in that conversation.

Normally, we would expect the school’s own procedures to be followed first and foremost. A school would have its own complaints procedure, and before going on to the new system it would first be expected to have pursued its own procedures. Does that answer the noble Baroness’s question?

The Minister said that if parents and children felt that the school was not responding to their complaints, they would have the local commission. I accept that, but I need to know where the board of governors is because the pupils and parents will, surely, still have redress from it.

They would, my Lords, but when we refer to a school in the Bill, the school is actually its board of governors. That is the entity. I am very happy to look at Hansard and to make sure that I write to the noble Baroness to make this clear. I am slightly regretful of the time; I might, perhaps, be less good at communicating at this hour than earlier on, but I am happy to do that if it would help the noble Baroness.

I thank the Minister for her reply, and agree with her about the benefits of a good complaints system. I used to work for a very good marketing director of a large hotel chain, who turned every complainant who came her way into a customer for life, because she dealt with them so well. She would get on the phone to the complainant, find out what their grievance was and pay them back in bucket-loads—with free weekends, bottles of champagne or whatever—to put things right. She got customers for life out of that, and that is the way to do it, not that I am suggesting that parents who are complaining should get bottles of champagne.

Bottles of champagne can be very handy at all times. However, I will make one attempt here to be clear that the LGO cannot hear a complaint until the school’s governing body has first dealt with it. That is the situation with the Secretary of State now; we are transferring those arrangements to the LGO, so that it is a layered approach.

To continue, I thank the noble Baroness for telling me a little more about the sorts of head teacher duties that would fall under this scheme. It was very helpful, too, to have that further information on the time limit for ex-pupils. I am also delighted to hear that the new system will be tested; the criteria that the noble Baroness outlined sounded very sensible. I think she also said that advocacy will be offered during that testing phase to certain children. I have one further question. If, during that testing phase, this complaints system does not appear to be coming out better than the old one, will the Government withdraw it?

My Lords, I would not want to pre-empt what future Ministers might want to do, but it would be very foolish to establish a testing period with proper evaluation and put parents and schools through all the anguish of dealing with a system that did not work properly. We would be committed to making sure that the way forward makes a positive contribution to schools.

My Lords, I was hoping that the Minister would say that. In light of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 208 withdrawn.

Amendments 209 and 210 not moved.

Clause 202 : Power of Local Commissioner to investigate complaint

Amendment 211 not moved.

Clause 205 : Investigations: further provisions

Amendment 212 not moved.

Clause 237 : Power of members of staff to search pupils for prohibited items: England

Amendment 213

Moved by

213: Clause 237, page 142, line 26, at end insert “but does not include property such as lockers and desks, which may be searched without the presence of P”

My Lords, we have tabled these amendments to continue in our quest to ensure that teachers are given the power, professional judgment and discretion that they need to enforce discipline in schools; and so allow maximum emphasis to be given to the most important part of their job—teaching. We tabled these amendments at the request of the Association of School and College Leaders, which wishes to allow there to be times when a search can take place without the pupil concerned being present. Does the Minister accept that there may be times when it is entirely impracticable for a search of lockers to take place if it is required that every pupil who has a locker or desk must be present? This would be time-consuming, difficult to organise, impossible to police and potentially embarrassing for the young people concerned.

What would be the situation, for example, if a locker search were to take place and no one noticed that the child was not present? Would that then cause great difficulties for the teacher concerned? What would be the fall-out? Would there be a case for action against the teacher? We accept that the provisions in the Bill deal with searches without consent, and not simply general searches. Can the Minister clarify a couple of issues? First, what would be the situation if a teacher asked a pupil for permission to search their desk and the pupil refused but was still present? Could that desk be searched?

Secondly, does the Minister accept that there may be situations where it would be useful and more appropriate to carry out a general locker search without the presence of all pupils? What if the teachers would like to search for an article stolen from another pupil? It could be more appropriate to search lockers and desks without the presence of all pupils. It might be inappropriate to expose the culprit to the whole school or class who are being searched before disciplinary measures are decided on.

I look forward to the Minister’s response to these amendments and to those tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. We appreciate that in her amendments the concerns raised are to ensure that the teacher who may be disposing of seized drugs or alcohol is afforded the protection of a witness and has the discretion to dispose of the products themselves. I will listen carefully to the Minister’s response. I beg to move.

My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 213A, 213B, 215 and 216 in this group. Following our debate in Committee, I drafted Amendments 213A and 213B to protect any teacher who seizes drugs or alcohol during an authorised search. It is important to protect teachers from any possible allegations that they had used the drugs or alcohol themselves, or even sold them or given them to someone else. It is important that disposal occurs before a witness. Since then, I have had a letter from the Minister, dated 28 October, telling me that the current guidance says that where drugs are being disposed of, rather than handed to the police, a witness should be present. This seems sensible, since that is almost exactly what is in my amendment. However, there is a difference. My witness is not just any witness, but one authorised by the head teacher. This is important, because otherwise the teacher may just ask a friend to witness the disposal, thereby laying himself open to allegations anyway.

In her letter the Minister said that the department will be issuing revised guidance on the extended search powers. I ask her seriously to consider that in the revised guidance the witness must be someone authorised by the head teacher. That would tighten up the provisions a little and protect teachers just that bit more. It does not have to be in the Bill, but could we have it in guidance? Amendments 215 and 216 make the same provision in the clause relating to searches in colleges. Can the Minister confirm that similar new guidance will also be issued to colleges, and will she say whether she will insist in that guidance that the witness is authorised by the principal?

On the matter of lockers and desks, I do not think there is a problem. My understanding is that they are the property of the school and can be searched by the staff without any consent, but I am sure the Minister knows better than I do.

My Lords, I think I can give the noble Baronesses the reassurance that they are looking for. On Amendments 213 and 214, I can reassure noble Lords that the new powers do not remove existing common law powers to search for any item with consent. This is stated explicitly in the clauses so there can be no doubt on this issue. Under common law powers, schools and colleges are already able to search lockers and desks, provided the learner agrees, as we have established. Furthermore, it could be made a condition of having a locker or a desk that the learner consents to future searches at which they are not present. In order to reduce the risk of any false allegations that staff have planted evidence or confiscated items they are not permitted to take, the new powers of search without consent require that these searches should be conducted in the learner’s presence and witnessed by a second person. We also consider it advisable that the learner and a witness be present during the with-consent searches of lockers and desks or other possessions, even though this is not a requirement but advice.

On Amendments 213A, 213B, 215 and 216 and the disposal of alcohol found as a result of a search, my department’s current guidance for schools regarding drugs recommends that where alcohol is found, parents or carers should normally be informed and given the opportunity to collect the alcohol, unless this would jeopardise the safety of the learner. The clause, as currently drafted, allows the alcohol to be retained until the member of staff can properly dispose of it. There is a requirement that searches without consent for alcohol be witnessed by a second member of staff, as the noble Baroness knows. We think it would be good practice for the witness to the search also to witness the disposal of the alcohol and we will ensure that our revised guidance on the search powers is clear on this. The noble Baroness talked about the person being designated by the head teacher. That seems like a sensible suggestion and I do not see any good reason why that should not be the case. The idea of it just being a friend does not seem to be a sensible solution.

Finally, on Amendments 213B and 216, I appreciate that noble Lords may be concerned that suspicion may fall on a member of staff in a school or college who has seized alcohol or who has chosen to dispose of controlled drugs. The difficulty is that unfounded allegations may be made whatever the law says about these items and how they should be disposed of, but we think it is right that staff should have discretion in relation to the disposal of alcohol and controlled drugs. The clause provides protection for members of staff who seize, retain or dispose of alcohol or controlled drugs by providing that they are not liable in any legal proceedings for loss or damage arising from their actions. I agree that it is good practice to have a second person present during the disposal, as the noble Baroness suggests. Our current guidance already recommends this and we will reinforce it in revised guidance. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, asked whether the guidance will be for colleges, too. The answer is that it will cover both.

I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, will agree that the Bill as drafted, together with our commitment to develop further guidance in response to these discussions, will protect teachers and give them the flexibility that they need to do their jobs.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her response. The Minister has offered some reassurances that the schools already have powers to search, but at this late hour, it would be prudent to read Hansard tomorrow. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 213 withdrawn.

Amendments 213A and 213B not moved.

Clause 239 : Power of members of staff to search students for prohibited items: England

Amendments 214 to 216 not moved.

Clause 241 : Recording and reporting the use of force in schools: England

Amendment 217

Moved by

217: Clause 241, page 149, line 13, at end insert “subject to the discretion and professional judgement of the head teacher”

My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 217A, and I apologise that it was tabled late. This group of amendments and the next are about behaviour in one way or another. A similar amendment to this was tabled by us in Committee to ensure that the head teacher who knows the child and his family may use his discretion as to whether to report the use of force on every occasion to the parent or carer. Having studied the current guidance since then, I have added Amendment 217A to ensure that, when using that discretion, the head teacher—as well as the governors, who are already included in the Bill—have regard to the guidance. I understand from the Minister that the guidance will be revised following the passage of this Bill.

Having read the guidance, I think it is very sensible, but I accept that some further development of the concept of the term “significant” will be needed. It might be argued that the head teacher’s interpretation of “significant” will give him or her sufficient discretion in the matter, but I am afraid that I must tell the Government that head teachers out there in the real world do not think so. They are concerned that they, who know the child better than anyone in Whitehall writing guidance, will be put into some sort of one-size-fits-all straitjacket which may have unforeseen adverse consequences. For example, a child from a violent home may be so used to violence that it is the norm for him. He gets into fights in the playground frequently. The incidents are recorded and reported to the violent father who beats the child as a consequence. One can easily envisage it happening. Even worse, a child who displays challenging behaviour may have to be restrained by staff, quite properly. However, if this is reported to the parents and they do not understand the underlying cause of the child’s distress, they may punish the child, when in fact they should be co-operating with the school to help the child.

I am grateful to the Minister for her letter of two weeks ago in which she explained the background to this part of the Bill. It goes back to a child with a learning disability who was properly restrained 25 times but the parents were not told. We do not need this legislative sledgehammer to crack that particular nut. In so many cases with this Government we have, “Here is the nut; on the one side we have a nutcracker, on the other a sledgehammer”—guess which one the Government choose. The case I refer to was simply bad practice under the current guidance and should never have happened. That is why I have tabled Amendment 217A, which emphasises that the head teacher must have regard to the guidance when using his or her discretion. Those parents should have had a thorough discussion with the school about the child’s needs and an appropriate protocol agreed long before the number of restraints reached double figures. That was not even in line with the current guidance and best practice on how to deal with children with learning difficulties who sometimes display challenging behaviour.

The Government often tell us that hard cases make bad law. They are making the mistake of reacting to a hard case by making bad law and I hope that they will think again. It is extremely important and I really hope that we can get some movement on it. I beg to move.

My Lords, we support the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. We agree with the intentions behind them and hope that the Minister will see sense in them. We understand the necessity for recording and reporting the use of force, as parents have a right to know what is going on in their children’s school life, and we would not wish to remove that right. Nevertheless, it is sadly the case, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, that there may be instances when the child would be put in greater danger if parents were informed that disciplinary action involving some force had been required while a child was at school. In these circumstances it may be more appropriate for the head teacher to exercise some discretion and make a suitable judgment about how to act in a particular situation.

The Bill legislates only for a general circumstance; the head teacher will know the pupil and be aware of any particular situation. Head teachers will therefore be able to act with discretion and with a child’s best interests at heart, which will not be the case if a blanket requirement, which is stated in the Bill, is imposed. In Committee the Minister stated that it might be possible for head teachers to exercise discretion and report the use of force to social services if it were deemed that the child’s parents would react violently to the news that some degree of disciplinary force had to be used. We would welcome regulations that stated that fact. We think that it would be appropriate for the head teacher to decide whether the duty to report should be to the parents or to social services if it were thought necessary for the safety of the child. I wonder if we might hope to see something along those lines at Third Reading.

My Lords, I shall not reiterate what I said in Committee. I understand the concern of the noble Baroness that a teacher should never be put in the position of having to make a report when they know that it would put a child at risk. The Government would never want to precipitate that situation. To guard against that eventuality, I commit to returning at Third Reading with a compromise that the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, could consider, giving head teachers the discretion to making a report to social services rather than to the parents. We agree and make it clear that we intend to consult teaching unions, head teachers and children’s rights groups to get this right.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, for her support and the Minister for her reply. I already had a hint that she might be offering us this concession, and I am delighted to hear it from her own lips this evening. It is a step in the right direction, and I thank her for it. I look forward to seeing that amendment at Third Reading. Obviously, we will need to think carefully between now and Third Reading as to whether it really fulfils our concerns, but it sounds as if it might. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 217 withdrawn.

Amendment 217A not moved.

Clause 243 : Co-operation with a view to promoting good behaviour, etc.: England

Amendment 218

Moved by

218: Clause 243, page 150, line 18, leave out “at least one other relevant partner” and insert “a group of relevant partners”

I shall also speak to Amendment 219. Both amendments refer to school behaviour partnerships but I shall first say something about Amendment 219 and then I will come to Amendment 218.

Under the Bill, schools are required to join together into behaviour partnerships to work together to promote good behaviour. I am sure that the Minister is aware that the vast majority of good schools do this already, but I suppose it was felt that making it a statutory requirement will force the not-so-good schools to do it too. That is all well and good and I do not disagree with it. That is why I do not support Amendment 221 in this group, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Verma.

Co-operative working has produced some excellent results. No one has a monopoly of the best ideas and it makes sense for schools in a locality to work together on this, particularly since some of the bad behaviour that they want to tackle happens out on the streets of their town or village and is a problem common to all the local schools. However, it is going over the top to require the partnership to have to send an annual report to the children’s trust board. Surely that board has quite enough to do with child safeguarding apart from reading such reports. I would question whether the children’s trust board has any levers that it could use anyway against the schools if it is dissatisfied with the contents of that report. Let the partnership send a report to the CTB by all means, if it wants to, for information, but please do not impose further bureaucracy by forcing it to do so.

When I looked into the rationale for this, I discovered that it was an attempt to put pressure on schools to form proper partnerships and not just allow a bad school to link up with another bad school in a nominal partnership that does not do anything. I can understand that concern—there is a loophole in the Bill. That is why I have tabled Amendment 218, which changes the wording of subsection (2) to say that it has to be a partnership with a group of relevant partners, rather than a minimum of one, as it says in the Bill. One other school cannot be regarded as a group, by any stretch of the imagination, so I hope I have proposed something that would close that loophole. Let us use a nutcracker to crack this nut, not a sledgehammer which would impose an unnecessary time penalty on all good-behaviour partnerships.

I should have thought that the Ofsted inspection was a much better lever than any annual report sent to an already busy CTB. Ofsted should be looking at how the school tackles its behaviour problems overall and once the duty to be part of a partnership becomes statutory, that will go further up Ofsted’s checklist. We all know that schools and Ofsted inspectors look at what a school has to do first before then looking at what it is desirable for it to do. I offer my little package of amendments as a less bureaucratic, more effective way of ensuring that schools do the right thing and I hope that the Government will accept it, if not in this form, then in some other. I beg to move.

If I may, I should like to say a few words on this group of amendments. I seem to have caught the late spot for the second time this week, but not quite as late as the Minister, I have no doubt. I am a bit worried about deleting subsections (3) and (4), because, if we delete those, I fear that we will be giving behaviour and attendance partnerships a responsibility without accountability. I have a raft of statistics here to demonstrate the link between special educational needs, poor behaviour and exclusions, but I imagine the House would be glad to be spared these and take the matter on trust at this stage of the evening. Placing a responsibility on school behaviour and attendance partnerships through statutory guidance to address the disproportionate exclusion of children with SEN and disability is a simple and sensible step to help address this problem. In the first place, improving behaviour and reducing exclusions are intimately linked and both can easily be accommodated within the partnership framework.

Requiring reports to be made to children’s trust boards seems only right from the point of view of providing an essential accountability mechanism for behaviour and attendance partnerships. Such reports should certainly not be seen as a means of naming and shaming individual schools or areas, but rather as a way of ensuring accountability and providing schools with a further collective incentive to ensure that they are focusing on steps they can take to avoid the exclusion of children with SEN and disabilities. So I am sorry to say it to the noble Baroness, but it does seem to me that the Government have got it right on this.

Our amendments wish to address the concerns raised by the NUT, which believes that Clause 243 creates yet another bureaucratic burden on teachers and schools. There is already evidence that 98 per cent of maintained secondary schools enter into voluntary partnerships, therefore this duty seems unnecessary. To carry on with the theme of sledgehammers and nuts, I believe that this is a sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut approach and that the Government would be well advised to rethink this. Surely it would be far more appropriate and responsive to put what is already happening voluntarily between schools and partners into guidance, rather than enact a blunt piece of legislation that has no sanctions for non-compliance.

We on these Benches trust and support our head teachers and teachers. We feel that, under this Government, our schools have had to bear the addiction to bureaucracy, diktat and interference that has so obsessed the Government. Yet again, when schools are playing an active role in ensuring school behaviour partnerships, the Government do not need to interfere. Is the Minister able to give us details of the Government’s impact assessment of the time it would take schools to produce annual reports to children’s trusts and how much it would cost them? Is she able to say what that information will be used for? I look forward to her response.

My Lords, I am delighted to respond to this short debate. Amendment 221 removes the duty for schools to be part of behaviour and attendance partnerships. Amendments 218 to 220 remove the requirement for behaviour partnerships to report annually to their children’s trust board. I am grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Low. I am sorry that he has caught the late shift again, but I am delighted that he is here.

We have talked about the Secretary of State reaching into Ofqual. I see behaviour partnerships being able to reach into children’s trusts. Schools want to work together to improve the commissioning of support services to improve behaviour, particularly for children with special educational needs. The reach into children’s trust boards and the careful prioritisation and planning that goes on in them is a very good contribution, and the Bill is very helpful. Behaviour partnerships are extremely valuable. Early evidence from pathfinder pilots has been very positive, with local authorities, such as North Tyneside, North Lancashire, Lincolnshire and St Helens reducing permanent exclusions to zero or near zero through effective partnership working. Furthermore, a report by the National Audit Office that was published in July found that 80 per cent of head teachers felt that partnerships had improved attainment and behaviour. They deliver results.

However, the same report found that while the vast majority of schools were working in behaviour partnerships, a significant minority were not working together effectively. We want all pupils and schools to benefit from successful partnerships. This is why it is vital to have a statutory duty and why guidance, which has been in place since 2005, does not go far enough. The annual report to the children’s trust board is a light-touch accountability requirement designed to encourage all schools to play a full role in partnerships. The amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, could not achieve this. A group of schools could fail to work together effectively, and more than two schools might not be practical in rural areas. We prefer to leave the composition of partnerships to local decision-making. The report is also an opportunity for partnerships to take stock of what they have achieved. For example, statutory guidance will ensure that partnerships with disproportionate levels of exclusions among certain groups, such as children with SEN, can address that as a priority. The annual report will enable schools to assess their progress in this area.

I understand the concerns of some teachers, and they will be an important consideration. We do not intend this to be an additional burden. We listen very carefully to teachers, but that is not the view of all teachers. The NASUWT has described the requirement to report to children’s trusts as an important necessity, and we are working to ensure that any information schools have to provide is aligned with existing data streams to avoid extra bureaucracy. I am very grateful to the NASUWT for the support it has given us in developing behaviour partnerships and behaviour policy and in working to ensure that teachers know how much we have strengthened the position for teaching staff.

This is also an opportunity to set out what contributions other partners can make to support the behaviour and attendance strategy that we expect to be included in the children and young people’s plan. It is important that children’s trusts take this strategic interest because behaviour and attendance impact on the delivery of a number of wider local outcomes relating to anti-social behaviour and narrowing the gaps in educational attainment. We know how important it is. I hope that with the reassurances that I have offered and the views from across the House in support of this the noble Baroness will consider withdrawing her amendment.

I said that we would be aligning the production of data for any reporting with existing data streams, so we do not envisage any significant additional costs in any way.

I thank the Minister for her response and the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, for her support. I am afraid that I disagree with the Minister when she suggests that this is an opportunity for the partnership to reach into the children's trust. I think that it is the opposite: it is an opportunity for the children's trust to reach into the partnership. Frankly, it has better things to do. Although I share the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Low, I do not agree with him about the best way to address them. Ofsted is the better agency to monitor this. It is much better than the CTB. I fear that this will be seen as a very peripheral duty by the CTB, which is already burdened by the life and death responsibility of children's safeguarding. Why on earth should it pay too much attention to something like this? This would be much better inspected by Ofsted.

We are debating the question of what works. I am saying that this will work and the NASUWT says that it will work. The NUT says that it will not work. Should we look at how this works over a period of time and then take a view? Should we be considering some kind of a review? Would that be a way forward?

My Lords, if we are trading trades unions, the NAHT is also against it, as are the ASCL and the NUT, so that is three against one. Let me make it quite clear that we on these Benches are not against making behaviour partnerships statutory, but we still disagree about the best way to make sure that that happens. I still think that it is not appropriate to give this to the CTB and I do not think that that will work very well. Once it is statutory it will go right up the list of those things that Ofsted will inspect, and so it should. Ofsted is very concerned about what schools do—about ensuring that children with SEN are not unnecessarily or unjustly excluded. I know that Ofsted takes that very seriously. It would look very carefully at how schools address these issues and how they work with other schools to do so.

The CTB is absolutely the wrong agency, but I can see that we are not having a meeting of minds over this, so for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 218 withdrawn.

Amendments 219 to 221 not moved.

Amendment 222

Moved by

222: Before Clause 245, insert the following new Clause—

“Careers education in schools: England

(1) Section 43 of the Education Act 1997 (provision of careers education in schools) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (2) insert—

“(2ZA) Subsection (2ZB) applies to a programme of careers education provided in pursuance of subsection (1) to registered pupils at a school in England that is within subsection (2)(a), (c) or (e).

(2ZB) The programme must include information on—

(a) options available in respect of 16-18 education or training, and(b) apprenticeships.”(3) In subsection (3) for “subsection (2B)) is” substitute “subsections (2ZB) and (2B)) is (or are)”

(4) In subsection (6), at the appropriate place insert—

““apprenticeship” includes employment and training leading to the issue of an apprenticeship certificate under section 2 or 3 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009;”.”

Amendment 222 agreed.

Amendment 223 not moved.

Clause 257 : Directions

Amendments 224 and 225

Moved by

224: Clause 257, page 160, line 30, leave out “by the Secretary of State”

225: Clause 257, page 160, line 31, leave out “Secretary of State” and insert “person or body by whom it is given”

Amendments 224 and 225 agreed.

Schedule 16 : Repeals and revocations

Amendments 226 and 227

Moved by

226: Schedule 16, page 240, line 10, column 2, at end insert—

“In Schedule 7A— (a) in paragraph 1, the words “approved or” and “approval or”, wherever occurring; (b) in paragraph 3(4), paragraph (a); (c) paragraphs 5(1), 6(1) and 7(1) and (2).”

227: Schedule 16, page 243, line 12, at end insert—

“Foundation degrees: Wales


Extent of repeal

Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (c. 13)

In section 76(1)(b), the words “in England”.”

Amendments 226 and 227 agreed.

Clause 263 : Commencement

Amendments 228 to 230

Moved by

228: Clause 263, page 162, line 20, after “sections” insert “(Meaning of “completing a Welsh apprenticeship” ) and”

229: Clause 263, page 162, line 34, at end insert “(and the associated entry in Schedule 16)”

230: Clause 263, page 162, line 37, leave out “and (i)” and insert “, (i) and (l)”

Amendments 228 to 230 agreed.

House adjourned at 10.49 pm.