§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Read a third time.
§ Clause 2 [Duty in the case of primary, secondary and further education]:1206
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Henley) moved. Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 23, leave out second ("institutions").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, a quick examination of Clause 2 will demonstrate the reason for Amendment No. 1. It is simply to remove an otiose word. Its sole effect is to improve the drafting of the clause. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 2:
Before Clause 11, insert the following new clause:
("Consideration of views of pupils
The governing body of schools and local education authorities shall use their best endeavours to secure that—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 2 is quite straightforward and follows a line of progression which we have been following in this Bill and other pieces of legislation; that is, the consideration of the views of the people, as and when the people are of sufficient age and understanding to be able to give a sensible view.
The intention is supported by the UN Convent ion on the Rights of the Child which states,
States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight".
Surely it is sensible that when a situation arises involving the future of a child and changes that are supposed to benefit the child, the child's views, where they can be expressed, are taken into account? The amendment does not ask for more than that they should be taken into account; it does not give a right of veto to the child.
§ We have given similar consideration to children with special educational needs. If we are taking into account 20 per cent. of the school population, surely we should include the rest. When a child's views are taken into account and they become a part of the decision-making process, it may avoid many of the problems of discipline and lack of understanding between the child and those in authority. It is well known that people involved in a decision-making process pay far more attention to the results of the process.
§ I look forward to hearing the Government's views on the matter and hope that they will look favourably on the amendment. I beg to move.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will speak on this matter. He told me that he intended to put his name to the amendment. I am delighted to speak to the amendment and take up some points that were made in the debate at Report stage, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, who unfortunately is not in his place. They misinterpreted the amendment. The 1207 noble Lord, Lord Renton, described it as a troublemaker's charter and as giving a pupil an opportunity of expostulating before he or she is told to change his or her shoes.
That was a gross misinterpretation of what is expected from the amendment. All we are asking is that there should be understanding that children should have the opportunity to express their views at a certain time and that we should come in line with the convention. I just wish that those noble Lords had attended the all-party group on children of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, because they would then have had an opportunity to hear some of the experts on this subject talk about children and those who support the hearing of children and giving them the opportunity to express their views.
Children will not necessarily be taken notice of. The amendment seeks to give them that opportunity. I think that it is in line with modern thinking. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, thought that schools councils would provide the opportunity, but we are asking for something more than that. I just hope that this time noble Lords will agree that it is now accepted opinion that children should have the opportunity to express their views. Those views may be different from the parents' views. The noble Baroness said that parents could express the views, but that is not the point. Very often the children have a different point of view from their parents and they should be allowed to express it. I hope that a different attitude will appear this time and that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who put down the amendment originally, will voice his support for it.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, as the noble Baroness has referred to me, perhaps I may say that I adhere to what I said at Report stage. I wish to make three brief points. First, the drafting of the amendment leaves a good deal to be desired. Secondly, if the pupil is involved in any kind of disciplinary matter, it is only right and usual that the child should be heard before any action is taken with regard to that matter against the child. Thirdly, I still maintain that for children to be involved in discussions on all administrative changes likely to take place in the school is quite ridiculous. If there is to be some kind of representative of the collective body of pupils in the school I should have thought that the right thing is for the head of the school to consult the prefects.
My Lords, I should like to intervene very briefly in support of the amendment and to speak from personal witness. I have the privilege and pleasure of having my name linked with a number of schools in the public sector of secondary education. In one of them, in north Shropshire, which is known to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, because we have corresponded on this matter, there is a body of the pupils —I forget its exact title—elected by the pupils. It is an unofficial body which is consulted by the governors, the headmaster and staff and advises them on all matters that bear on the administration, the ethos and the activities of the school, particularly the recreational and extramural activities, which affect the whole spirit of the school. I can only say from my 1208 personal experience over many years of a school of which I am very proud that the effect on its general morale and status has been wholly beneficial. I think it only right that something of this nature should be embodied in the Bill.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, is it not better for anything like that to be left as a matter of practice rather than be written into the Bill as part of the enforceable law of the country?
My Lords, I speak again from personal witness. This has had a most remarkably beneficial effect on this body of pupils and the staff and governors.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, in case the noble Baroness, Lady David, should either think that I am, or have given the impression that I am, a turncoat in this matter I should say that the amendment that I had down in similar terms in Committee was put down as a probing amendment. I was prevented, unfortunately, from being here to speak to it. The noble Baroness took the Report stage debate on the subject with the strength of legal opinion which I saw. I did not feel capable of carrying the debate further than that, particularly in regard to the fact that my interest was only in probing.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Renton that matters of this kind should be the subject of guidance and that that guidance should be strictly supervised and enforced. But to make it justiciable in the courts could lead into a mare's nest. I expressed that reservation when I originally put down the amendment. Although I must disappoint the noble Baroness, I am sure that my noble friend will take comfort from those words.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Blackstone
My Lords, I should like briefly to support the amendment. It is worth trying to establish the convention that local education authorities and school governing bodies should, when it is reasonable, listen to the views of pupils and that certainly, so far as concerns paragraph (c) of the amendment, people should be provided with an opportunity, when they are of a sensible age to do so, to have their views heard when decisions are being taken about them. I accept that there may well be a case for guidance on such matters. Perhaps when the Minister replies he will indicate to the House whether the Department for Education has any intention of issuing guidance on this matter. All good schools should adhere to the spirit of the amendment but, regrettably, as your Lordships have often said, not every school is a good school. We need to establish conventions about this kind of matter. I see no reason why this should not be on the face of the Bill, but I would be reassured if the Minister said that guidance on this matter would be issued.
§ Lord Henley
My Lords, I can certainly give the noble Baroness an assurance that there will be guidance on these matters. We have every intention of doing that.
1209 Perhaps I may start by expressing, to some extent, my surprise that the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the noble Baroness, Lady David, have brought back this amendment at Third Reading, having withdrawn it after debate on Report and after listening to the views of both my noble friend Lord Renton and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. I am rather surprised that, in view of the fact that they withdrew it on Report without any mention of bringing it back at Third Reading, they have done so on this occasion, especially in the light of the comments on the amendment of my noble friend Lord Renton.
We have heard that the amendment aims to incorporate the requirements of Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into the Bill. The primary purpose of Article 12 is to ensure that the child, or his representative, shall be afforded the opportunity to be heard in any judicial or administrative proceedings which affect the child, consistently with the procedural rules of national law. In the United Kingdom that provision already exists in education legislation which enables children, or their parents, to play an active part in choices regarding the child's education.
For example, we have long exhorted LEAs to take into account the wishes of the child when carrying out their duties in respect of special educational needs. Circular 22/89, which we issued jointly with the Department of Health, stated:The feelings and perceptions of the child concerned should be taken into account, and older children and young persons should be able to share in discussions on their needs and any proposed provisions".Where a child's age and understanding make it possible, his attitude to the choice of school—be it special or ordinary: again, I am taking them as an example—is a very relevant consideration. But that does not, of course. mean giving a child a veto over a particular course of action.
The present circular offers guidance. Clause 151 requires the Secretary of State to issue a code of practice giving practical guidance to LEAs about the discharge of their functions in respect of children with special educational needs. That will differ from our current circular in that the Bill will give it statutory backing.
More generally, parents will also have the right to say which school they would like their child to attend and to appeal to a separate appeals committee if the local council or school governors refuse the school place of their choice. If the child is permanently excluded from school the parents, or the child if he is 18 or over, can appeal against that decision.
Improvements are being made in the way appeals are made. Appeal committees on admission and expulsion cases will include an independent member as well as those chosen by the local council or governors. This will ensure that parents get a fair and independent hearing about their child's case.
We are not persuaded that the scope of paragraph 1 of Article 12 referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, is as wide as the amendment we are presently discussing implies. In our view Article 12 is about decisions affecting children individually and 1210 directly and not as a group. As I have already explained, there are already provisions in education legislation which provide for the pupils, or their parents, to have a say in decisions.
Further, paragraph (a) of the amendment as drafted lacks that individuality. It could conceivably be applied to every matter related to the organisation, staffing, curriculum and conduct of the school since they will all affect a pupil in one way or another. Clearly that would be inappropriate. The amendment is therefore simply not feasible as it stands. That is very important, particularly as we are debating the amendment at Third Reading.
I am aware of the opinion—referred to, 1 believe, by my noble friend Lord Elton and the noble Baroness, Lady David, on an earlier occasion—of Allan Levy QC that, unless Article 12 is incorporated into the Bill, a breach of the convention will occur. I am not persuaded that this is the case, and I certainly would not be able to accept that we should incorporate the noble Baroness's amendment into the Bill.
Further, one should also point out that the convention does not identify legislation as the only possible form of implementation. Other measures, such as administrative action or guidance which I referred to when responding to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, are equally acceptable, where appropriate. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Addington
My Lords, I have listened to the Minister's reply which, as we have come to expect as regards this Bill, has been full and comprehensive. I still think that there is a degree of difference between us over the idea of what is a child's and a parent's right. We are stepping into a grey area here which is one of the reasons that this amendment was brought forward. We are here talking about young adults as well as children and as and when they have a perceptual awareness which enables them to make a decision. That is the reason that this amendment is brought forward and why we are trying to discover the Government's views on this matter.
In other parts of the Bill the Government are saying that they are prepared to listen to the child in certain circumstances but not in others. Here we are asking them to listen to the child under most circumstances, if not all.
There may be technical defects in this amendment which stop me from pressing it. It has been worthwhile having the debate in order to try to clear up this area. Young adults in society are having to bear increasing pressures. They are not children any more. The teenage revolution, for what it is worth, has left us with a sub-class between adults and children. Their opinions should have been heard. If we carry the line of argument of a troublemakers' charter to its extreme, very few people would be listened to in few situations in their lives.
I shall withdraw the amendment this time, but I suggest that we have heard the first salvoes in the exchanges about the rights of teenagers and young adults which will continue for a long time. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 12 [Direction to admit child to specified school]:
Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 5, line 37, after ("section") insert:
("(a) if requested to do so by a school subject to that authority; or
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, perhaps I may speak also to Amendments Nos. 4 to 7. I shall briefly remind your Lordships of the two sets of circumstances with which this group of amendments is intended to deal. The Bill recognises that a child should be educated at a school which is within a reasonable distance of his or her home and which provides a suitable education. The definition of a "reasonable distance" is, I believe, prudently left to common sense and the courts. The definition of "suitable education" is given in subsection (6) as,
efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability, and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have".
§ Every child is entitled to be registered at a school which satisfies both the criterion of accessibility and the criterion of suitability, unless otherwise specified. Clause 12 is designed to meet the situation where a child who has either been refused admission to, or who has been permanently excluded from, every school satisfying both those criteria. It does so by giving a power to what it terms "the appropriate authority".
§ As I understand it, the appropriate authority will be the local education authority or the funding authority for the schools according to the level of opting out in the area. In parenthesis, I should be most grateful if my noble friend the Minister would explain to us the point at which the power moves from one to the other, and assure us that it will not at any time be jointly exercised with consequent bureaucratic confusion.
§ The power given to that authority, whichever it is, will be a power to order or, as the Bill has it, to direct a school to admit a child for registration as a pupil there. The direction may only be given to a school which meets the description in subsection (2). Paragraph (b) lays down that it must be a school from which the child has not been permanently excluded. Paragraph (a) says that the school must be a reasonable distance from the child's home.
§ The first observation is that there is no third paragraph. As far as I can see, it follows that, while the directing authority is thus constrained by the first criterion of accessibility, there is no limitation by, or indeed further mention of, the second, which is suitability. It therefore appears that the authority will be free to serve its direction on a school which is within a suitable distance but which does not provide an education which is suitable in relation to that child.
§ Even if we accept that no respectable authority would do such a thing, it follows, does it not, that the appropriate authority and not the school will be the final arbiter of whether or not the education which it provides is suitable to the child? It follows also that no school will be able to resist the direction on the grounds that it cannot provide the child with the 1212 education he or she needs. We already know from my noble friend the Minister's reply in Committee that it will not be able to argue either that the school is full and there is no room for the child.
§ That brings me to the nub of the question. This power of direction will only be used in extremis. Indeed, it can be given only after the authority has completed the quite elaborate consultations set out in Clause 13. One must hope (and I certainly do) that 99 per cent. of all cases begun will, during these consultations, result in the school being reconciled to accepting the child voluntarily and not as a cuckoo in the nest.
§ Directions will, therefore, only ever be given when there is no other way in which a child will be accepted. He or she is going to be injected into the school against the better judgment of the teachers. They may believe that they have no room for him; but that will avail nothing. They may feel that they simply cannot provide him with a suitable education, but that will not matter. Perhaps it may be that this unwanted recruit's reputation has preceded him from the school, or schools, or indeed, from the court or courts, in which or through which he has been making his way.
§ This last is, I believe, likely to be the most normal scenario. The teachers will feel that introducing him into the only suitable or available class will cause constant disruption or so impede its work that the education of the other children in it is damaged. They will then feel that they have a duty—and indeed they do have a duty—to protect those children's legitimate interests.
§ The authority, however, with an urgent need to dispose of the problems presented by this troublesome child—let us remember that the funding authority for schools is likely to be a very distant body with very many schools under its care —may be inclined to think that perhaps the staff of that school are simply reluctant to add another, quite reasonable but escapable, burden to their load and to disturb the cosy tranquillity of an under-tasked school.
§ The day then comes when this star-crossed pupil arrives. How will he see himself and his new school and how will the school see him? After all the procedures have been gone through, it is highly unlikely that he will not know of those procedures. He may see himself in any one of a number of ways; but I guess that most of them will cast him in the role of either victim or victor.
§ He may think of himself as condemned to a school of last resort, in which he expects every man's hand to be against him, and enter it armoured in a protective shell of fear, anger or withdrawal; or he may see himself as the victor, armed with a sort of writ from on high by which he has breached the walls of this hostile institution and within which he can set up his tent and plunder the land and arrive buoyed up by an unjustified conceit.
§ The teachers, confronting this delicately explosive parcel of humanity, will do so knowing that their professional opinion of him and of their school has been overridden on his behalf by people who are not even teachers themselves. They would be superhuman if they did not regard him with resentment and highly 1213 gifted as professionals if they kept that resentment unsuspected by the child. That three-way split between authority, teachers, and child is dangerous.
§ My amendment, by offering a means by which teachers could introduce an element of their own professional judgment into the contents of the direction itself, is intended to reconcile them both to the authority and to the pupil.
§ Amendments Nos. 4 to 6 are paving amendments to the main provision which is in Amendment No. 7. This would have effect during the consultative process by which a direction is prepared. It would require the authority, during that process, to have particular regard to any proposals made by the school for making admission to the school conditional upon undertakings by the parents or the pupil, or both, worked out between the school and the parents.
§ Many schools now have home-school contracts relating to all their pupils. I warmly endorse the pioneering work of the National Association of Head Teachers on this matter. I know from it how helpful those contracts can be. In cases such as this, the agreements would have more hold on the parents of really difficult children—and on the really difficult parents as well—if they were incorporated into the direction. They would also bring the requirements of the teachers out into the open and put their professional mark on the authority's direction. The amendment does not specify the nature of the agreements. If a specification is needed, which I doubt, it should go into a circular, not a statute.
§ All the procedures which I have so far described would be set in place by Amendments Nos. 4 and 7 alone, whether or not Amendment No. 3, which we are now discussing, is agreed to. The purpose of Amendments Nos. 3, 5 and 6 is to address another related problem by the same means. That problem, recognised by many teachers, arises because the Bill, which will limit the use of temporary exclusions, will also end the use of indefinite exclusions entirely. The effect of this amendment would be to enable a school to ask the appropriate authority to make a direction of the sort that I have just described.
§ That would provide schools with a response less draconian than permanent exclusion when they feel that temporary exclusion no longer suffices. Incorporation of conditions in the direction would make it clear that breach of those conditions would lead inevitably to permanent exclusion. That device is intended for those not infrequent occasions when a pupil or parents, or both, fail to grasp that the possibility of permanent exclusion is real and applies to their case. The formal document and the imprint of the authority would give it an impact which a less formal approach must lack.
§ At Report, I spelled out in the principal amendment the stages that would lead from the making of such a direction to the final exclusion of an intractable pupil. l have removed them at this stage in order to give more flexibility to the procedure as a whole. That surgery may have been too crude. I therefore hasten to remind your Lordships that the 1214 remainder of the group does not depend on acceptance of Amendment No. 3. It would be effective without it. Nevertheless, I beg to move.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Elton. for drawing attention to an extremely important problem. I shall not pretend to know what the solutions to it are. We shall need to go on thinking about it after the Bill has been passed. The problem of discipline is not peculiar to this country. I have seen it in the United States where it is perhaps worse. There is an increased problem because competition between schools will put schools under more temptation to exclude pupils. In some circumstances, there is very nearly a need to exclude a pupil if the school is to continue hut, equally for the pupil, the punishment will be likely to grow more and not less severe in its effect. I really cannot see how to square that circle but I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for bringing it to the attention of the House, and shall be interested to hear the Minister's reply.
§ Lord Young of Dartington
My Lords, I should like to support Amendment No. 7, which is very much a move in the right direction. It is a very serious matter for any child to be excluded from school and when it does happen it is difficult to make sure that that child will have a reasonable chance of being readmitted without a slur attaching to him or her. In these many difficult cases, if a child is to be given a chance, not to reform, but to return to school on terms that will be acceptable to that child, the parents need to be involved. There needs to be some negotiation, and that negotiation and its outcome should be recorded.
If the amendment is passed, it seems to me that it could make a difference that would be very much to the good for thousands—possibly tens of thousands—of children even though it imposes a new procedure on local authorities. Surely, however, the interests of bureaucracy should give way to the interests of individual children. I think that that would tend to happen if the amendment were passed, which is why I strongly support it.
§ The Minister of State, Department for Education (Baroness Blatch)
My Lords, I recognise my noble friend's concern that schools may be reluctant to admit pupils who have previously been excluded from another school. His suggestion that they might find it easier to do so if the admission was made subject to conditions seems on the face of it a reasonable proposal. I know that it is one with which the head teacher associations have some sympathy, although they also believe that it is a matter best dealt with in guidance rather than on the face of the Bill.
I have on the previous occasions when we have considered similar amendments made clear the Government's view on the subject or home-school contracts. We are all in favour of schools actively involving parents and seeking their understanding and support for school policies. Where that happens it helps to create the conditions under which schools can operate effectively, and teaching and learning can take place in an orderly and constructive atmosphere.
1215 Some schools have set out their policies in their prospectus, have made them part of the governors' annual report to parents or have discussed them with individuals or groups of parents. Other schools have tried informal home-school agreements as a way of gaining parental support for their policies. That seems to us to be the right way forward.
We would, however, see very real difficulties if contracts became an integral part of admission or exclusion procedures, or if schools were allowed to set conditions before they agreed to admit a child under a Clause 12 direction. Moreover, Amendment No. 7 contains no provision to time limit any agreement, which is to be maintained for as long as that child continues to be a registered pupil at that school. There is no provision for further consideration and action by a governing body, LEA or funding authority about a pupil's education in the light of changing circumstances.
There must also be the risk that the amendments would allow schools too much scope to exclude pupils for any subsequent breach of those conditions, no matter how trivial, and deprive children, and their parents, of the protection of the procedures governing the review and appeal of exclusions decisions afforded by the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 and by the articles of government of grant-maintained schools. That cannot be right.
The question would also arise of what would then happen to the child concerned. I know that at least one of the local authority associations shares our anxiety on that score. Would my noble friend expect the appropriate authority to direct his admission to another school, or would he expect the LEA to provide education otherwise than at school in pursuance of the new duty imposed by Clause 296?
We shall continue to encourage voluntary partnerships entered into by parents and schools with commitment on all sides. We are, as your Lordships know, planning to issue further guidance to schools on behaviour and discipline, on which we shall consult widely. This is one of the matters which it may be appropriate to cover in that guidance.
My noble friend also asked which is the appropriate authority for the purposes of Clause 12 at stage 2. I can confirm that the power to direct under Clause 12 will be exercised by the relevant LEA at stages 1 and 2—that is, when fewer than 75 per cent. of pupils in any phase are in self-governing schools—and by the funding agency above the 75 per cent. point. That is set out in subsections (7) and (8) of Clause 12.
In principle, it is right that the authority responsible for making enough places available should deal with the consequences of any shortfall by finding a place for a pupil who would otherwise be without one. That will be the case below 10 per cent. and above 75 per cent. But, in the interests of clarity, we decided that at stage 2—in other words between 10 per cent. and 75 per cent., when the LEA and the funding agency will share responsibility for securing the supply of places —it would be simplest for parents if only one body had the directing power. That is why it has been given to the local education authority alone.
1216 Perhaps I may take the opportunity to address Amendment No. 68, which is grouped with these amendments. The amendment has a simple purpose. It is intended to ensure that the financial adjustments which are at the heart of the arrangements proposed in Clause 261 are not triggered prematurely while the process of review of formal appeal against the decision permanently to exclude a particular child is in progress.
The principle of money following the child has clear and widespread support among those who responded to the Government's discussion paper on exclusions, but we must ensure that, as far as possible, the administrative complexities are kept to a minimum. We must ensure, in particular, that the arrangements come into effect at the point when the process of review and appeal has come to an end and the decision permanently to exclude has been confirmed. If the arrangements are triggered earlier, it would be a recipe for bureaucratic muddle and frustration for all concerned, not least the excluding school. The amendment is designed to prevent such situations occurring, and I commend it to the House.
I hope that with that explanation, and the fact that there is no distance between my noble friend, the Government and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, who identified the issue and the analysis but was unclear as to how it should be resolved, we can now direct all our energies into ensuring that there is a clear and unequivocal resolution of the problem.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend, up to a point, for her reply, and for accepting that the purpose of the amendment is reasonable on the face of it. I also thank her for her illumination of the up to 75 per cent. transfer point and the power to make a direction from the LEA to the FAS. However, that means that the authority making the order between stages 2 and 3 will be the LEA making the order on grant-maintained schools under the skirts, as it were, of the FAS and not its own.
The fears of a number of my noble friends might be allayed if I reminded my noble friend that the principal clause to which the amendment relates, and by which it is powered, is not prescriptive or mandatory but permissive. It provides:The appropriate authority may give a direction".My proposal is merely that schools "may" make suggestions which the authority "may" consider. So I am a little surprised that there has been such a flutter in the dovecotes at the proposal of this terrible engine of war being introduced when it is permissive in no fewer than three categories. I hope that I shall receive an answer from my noble friend on that aspect by the device of withdrawing this amendment and moving the next one so that she can reply to the point. I believe that that is in order. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 5, line 45, at end insert:
("(c) the agreement or conditions, if any, referred to in section (Admission of pupils: policy) below").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I speak only to ask my noble friend one further question. Will she recall, 1217 between now and the next Education Bill, the tentative nature of what I have said? Will she monitor the procedures that she has described to see whether they are effective; but, most effectively, will she please arrange for advice to be given, or guidance issued, on the implementation of what is now Clause 12 so that the opportunity to use it as a means of achieving accord and not discord between teachers and authorities is not missed? I beg to move.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I have no hesitation in giving an absolute "yes" to all three points that my noble friend has just asked me to take into account.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, my noble friend has restored my good humour. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 13 [Procedure for giving direction]:
§ [Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 not moved.]
§ [Amendment No. 7 not moved.]
§ 3.45 p.m.
Lord Young of Dartington moved Amendment No. 8:
After Clause 18, insert the following new clause:
("Separate arrangements for sick and invalid children
—(1) Where there is a hospital in the area of a local education authority which is provided by a health service body (within the meaning of section 4 of the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990), being a hospital at which separate provision is made for the treatment of children as in-patients (whether by means of the provision of a separate ward or the provision of treatment or equipment which is particularly suitable for children), the arrangements to be made by the local education authority for those children under section 296 below shall be made—
(2) Where a local education authority make such arrangements—
(3) Where a local education authority make arrangements for the provision of education at a school situated at two or more hospitals or hospital educational units they shall make arrangements for each of those hospitals or units to co-operate with the others to facilitate the adequate provision of education to the children for whose education the arrangements are made.
(4) In making such arrangements as are mentioned in subsection (1) above, a local education authority for any area shall, so far as practicable, co-operate with the local education authorities for the neighbouring areas in the use of the facilities and staff provided by them for the purposes of those arrangements.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, unfortunately I was unable to wait until the amendment in my name was debated late the other night. I had to leave the, Chamber because I had received news that my wife. who was ill, had taken a turn for the worse. I should like to thank all noble Lords and noble Baronesses who wrote to me for the sympathy that they extended, which I appreciate greatly. I should like to say a special word to the Minister because of the very kind letter she wrote me on that occasion. She reminded me, as she had reminded the House, of the great loss that she suffered when her young son died in hospital. That is a terrible thing to happen: in many ways, it is far more devastating than the death of someone who has run their life. I should like to assure the Minister that there would be no question of a hospital teacher approaching someone in that state. The hospital teacher would appear only when the doctors and nurses were clear that the patient in question was capable of learning and was well enough for it. That point would not have arisen.
§ I come now to the amendment. I, and its supporters, who are quite numerous on all sides of the House, have at no stage pressed for a Division because we have hoped continuously—I think all being hopeful people—that at some stage a concession would be offered to us by the Minister on behalf of the Government. We have been treated throughout with the utmost courtesy, and for that we are grateful. But in concrete terms we have, as often happens, gained nothing so far. That does not mean to say that our hope is dimmed entirely, even at this late stage of affairs, but we cannot pretend that they are riding very high.
§ We have tabled an amendment somewhat different from any we have produced previously, having taken the best legal advice about it that we can. Upon that basis, we make our final appeal to the House today on behalf of hospital schools and the education of sick children. We do so because hospital schools contain some of the most devoted teachers in the country. They have a special skill in relating the teaching, arid what can be done by teachers, to a detailed knowledge of the health requirements of children. They know about the interaction between health conditions and educability. That is not something that is codified easily, but it can be learnt by experience and then passed on to others. Many of the full-time teachers in the 200 hospital schools and educational units in the country have acquired that essential skill which has given a chance to tens of thousands of sick and invalid children in this country since the 1944 Act, and could continue to do so, as we see it, if only the amendment were accepted today.
§ I do not for a moment believe that the Government intend the consequence that we believe will follow from the Bill in its present state—that all the hospital schools and educational units will be under threat. As we know from experience, Bills have unintended consequences. We can think of the poll tax and what has happened to schools testing. That was not foreseen when the previous Education Bill was debated in the House.1219
§ Many things work out in a way that is unintended. Our grave fear is that that will happen in respect of this Bill unless some change is accepted. The consequence is not obvious; unintended consequences seldom are. Therefore, I must take a few minutes of your Lordships' time to present an argument showing why it should be so.
§ Clause 296, which must be taken with Clause 18, to which the amendment refers, proposes that the power to provide education for children who are not in an ordinary school should be converted into a duty. On the face of it that appears to be excellent and a considerable advance. It provides that educational arrangements should be made for all types of children not at school. Disruptive children, persistent truants, school resistors, pregnant school girls and so on are lumped together with sick children despite their different problems and needs. Since the Bill first came to the Floor of this House we have argued that it is necessary to recognise the fact that separate arrangements are needed for them because their problems and needs are different. In addition, the amendment specifies what those separate arrangements should be; namely, that they should be provided in a hospital school or hospital educational unit or based on and organised from them.
§ Why is a threat raised by the imposition of this new duty? The duty will mean that every local education authority in the country must look again at its provision for such children who are not in an ordinary school. Almost all will find that they are not performing that duty in any good measure for disruptive children; that is, children who are expelled from school, persistent truants, school resistors and so on. What will the authorities do in order to perform the duty at a time when their resources have been greatly cut? The easiest thing will be to take a chip at the only part of the educational service for such children who have moderately good provision to the extent that it falls below the most ideal standards. The easiest thing to do will be to save money by withdrawing teachers from hospital schools —therefore, they will not be sacrosanct by any means —and closing educational units. They can then provide a common service from a new tuition centre in an LEA which will look after disruptive and sick children at the same place with the same basic staff.
§ That is so likely to happen. Although it is dangerous to make prophecies—in my case no one will come back and say that I have made one that has not been borne out—I fear that during the next year or two the story in this sphere of education will be dismal. It will consist of almost continual closures of hospital educational units and the withdrawal of staff from hospital schools even though they are registered special schools.
§ I am reinforced in that view by the plans of the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley which have come to light since the Bill arrived in this House. It is not a bad authority—I am not saying that it is a bad authority in any way—but the case illustrates the kind of pressure that LEAs will be under if this duty is imposed on them without extra resources to perform 1220 it. The chief education officer of Dudley proposes that the two educational units in the two hospitals in which they exist will be closed; that all full-time hospital teachers will be withdrawn; and that the money saved will be spent on setting up a new centre for disruptive children and truants. The borough will open a new centre on or near the site of the Saltwell school refusals unit. A visiting tutor will be sent to the hospital for bedside teaching but that cannot be of the same standard as has been received in the past. According to this proposal, the standard for the sick children will be levelled down to the only standard which will work in relation to resources for the large and growing number of disruptive children.
§ I draw to the Minister's attention the fact that one of the arguments in the review of the chief education officer is that the Bill, which he expects to be passed in its present form, will put a duty on LEAs such as his to provide education for all pupils unable to attend school. That new duty means that they must do a great deal more for disruptive children and therefore they must cut down—in his case radically—on what is done for sick children.
§ Surely there is no justice in that. If the situation works out in that way—and it is only too likely that it will—why should the cost of providing more adequate facilities for disruptive children be borne by sick children? It is only an administrative accident that those children are put together under the general heading of "education otherwise". Perhaps least of all should sick children be the ones to bear that. They are children who return to hospital many times or who are in hospital for long periods. Unless they receive decent education which is linked to their medical programme, they may be socially handicapped for life and many may be unable to obtain work. They should not be the ones to suffer.
§ The Minister has said several times that, after the Bill becomes law, guidance will be given to local education authorities as regards the education of sick children. However, I put it to the Minister that the way things are going, and might well go, by the time that guidance is issued the bird—and this delightful bird—could have flown the coop. The Dudley scheme, if it is approved, is supposed to come into operation in August. Other authorities could follow quickly. The plans for adjusting to the new duty which is placed on them could be well in hand and come into force before the winter or whenever the guidance is issued.
§ That could be halted by making clear in the Bill what I believe will be made clear in the guidance that will follow; that it is not on to close hospital schools and hospital education units as the first and central means of doing something for disruptive children and truants as a result of the savings made. If the amendment were passed it would mean that staff would not be withdrawn from the 44 hospital schools which are special schools; the 160 hospital educational units in the country would not be closed; and where nothing is done—and there are such places—something would have to be done. For instance, one can look out of the windows of the bar in this House and see St. Thomas's Hospital across the river. That hospital has two successful and world-renowned 1221 children's wards. But the Lambeth Borough Council has so far refused to do anything. There is no provision for the children in those two wards. If the amendment were passed, at least Lambeth would not be able to get away with that.
§ The country has a small but very important sector of an educational service which has been built up since the 1944 Act. My argument is that purely as an unintentional consequence of what is proposed, all that might go in the next year or two. The danger is such that a positive amendment is needed to make it clear that that will not he allowed to happen.
§ Subsection (1) of the amendment provides that where there is a children's ward in a hospital, there should be a hospital school or educational unit. Subsection (2) provides that home tutoring for convalescent children should be organised from a hospital school. Subsection (3) provides for cooperation and clustering among hospital schools and units. Subsection (4) provides for co-operation among neighbouring LEAs. The fate of tens of thousands —and it may be hundreds of thousands over the next decade—of children is at stake.
§ I should like to mention the other two amendments grouped with Amendment No. 8. Many of the same arguments apply to Amendments Nos. 78 and 79. It would be an advantage if LEAs were required to make separate arrangements for sick children and not lump them together. Taken together, the two amendments form a logical pattern. I beg to move Amendment No. 8.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend Lord Young of Dartington. I use that phrase advisedly since he is a personal friend of mine. I admire his courage and determination in coming to the House to argue once again so eloquently for a cause in which he believes. Those of us who knew his late wife would like to say what a remarkable, lively and exciting woman she was. We share a deep sense of sympathy for my noble friend.
My noble friend has argued strongly for the amendment. I wish to add a few points which noble Lords may wish to bear in mind. First, as the noble Lord pointed out, the numbers of children who are in hospital schools in any one local education authority are relatively small, just as, it is hoped, the numbers of children who regularly truant and who are disruptive, although higher, are still relatively small.
The danger which the noble Lord so eloquently outlined is that of lumping together all children who present problems to a local education authority and who must be dealt with outside school. As he said, that would not only be inappropriate; it would also be devastating for children whose serious physical handicaps have taken them into a hospital school.
Many noble Lords will know people who have children who suffer in that way. We begin to see the gradual battle against such long term chronic illnesses as cystic fibrosis or serious spasticity beginning to be won. Children with those conditions now live much longer. They often live through to adulthood and, if they have been properly educated in their early years, 1222 are able to hold down some kind of occupational job. That will not be made easier by the fact that we shall see rather less in the form of early education in nursery schools. My noble friend's case is very powerful. I believe that noble Lords on all sides of the House will sympathise with it.
I ask the Minister to tell the House rather more about the provisions of the Bill which request district health authorities to work closely with local education authorities on issues which concern both. That will happen where a local education authority ceases to control the administration of a sufficient number of schools for it to be fully operational. That is envisaged in the Bill. In those circumstances, there will be a worsening of a situation until local authorities either do not pay or are reluctant to pay the sums necessary on a per capita basis to enable hospital schools to be maintained. Noble Lords will know that in some cases hospital schools are finding it difficult to wrest such payments from local authorities. As those authorities come under more and more pressure, so that task will become even harder. That is why my noble friend —and I hope that the House will allow me to use that phrase again—is trying so hard to ring fence the position of profoundly ill children whose education must take place in hospital schools. He is absolutely right. I believe that the prospect which he outlined is a real possibility. It is not intended by anyone but it is all too likely occur as local education authorities come under pressure.
I should be extremely appreciative if the Minister could say something about the situation which she envisages, not only now, but also when LEAs, or some of them, lose administrative control over their schools as may happen if a number of schools opt for grant-maintained status in a single LEA. From these Benches, we strongly support the powerful and eloquent arguments made by the noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilkon
My Lords, if the Bill is passed without amendment to the clause in which sick children are mixed up with all other non-school attenders, the fear is that the Dudley example, which has been given, could be followed all over the country.
There are some extremely good hospital schools carrying out excellent supportive work. They deal with both physical and psychological problems which very sick children must overcome. That is helped by dedicated, motivated teachers who understand the children and the many varied illnesses which they have.
It is not everybody who can work with sick children. Thousands of children with serious long term illnesses could end up being deprived of a decent education. If they are not able to keep up with the national curriculum, they may be doubly handicapped —physically and educationally—for life and may never be able to obtain a job.
The amendments are supported by the National Association for the Education of Sick Children, the National Standing Conference of Hospital Teachers, the London Hospital Head Teachers' Association, the 1223 British Paediatric Association and the child and adolescent psychiatry section of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
I hope that your Lordships will be able to support the amendment dealing with the education of sick children both within hospitals and at home. When such services are cut, the Government always seem to say that those are matters for local authorities. The education of sick children is a vulnerable commodity. I hope that your Lordships will support the sick children's educational services.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, on these Benches we support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Young. Before adding a few words, I join with others in putting on record our admiration for the pluck and determination which has brought my noble friend to these proceedings so soon after his bereavement. I am sure that he will be buoyed up in his determination in the knowledge that his wife would have wished nothing else. However, it is powerful testimony to the consistency with which he has pursued this matter.
Like my noble friend, I can think of no higher priority than a commitment to children who are unfortunate enough to find themselves in hospital. As noble Lords on all sides will know, we have argued consistently throughout our deliberations on the Bill that we believe there should be a community approach to education. In other words, a community should feel concerned for the children in its midst as regards their preparation for life, just as children should feel a commitment to the community. It is obviously at an hour of need—that is, at a time of hospitalisation—that that compassion and concern of the community becomes all the more important. Therefore, we hope that the Minister will find it appropriate to accept the amendments.
§ Lord Swinfen
My Lords, I wish briefly to express my support for the amendments. Children, whether physically disabled or ill, can frequently spend long periods of time in hospital. It is often very difficult for their normal teachers to visit hospitals and help them to continue their education. Therefore, such an amendment is, in my view, very desirable.
§ Lord Hayhoe
My Lords, after the persuasive speeches that we have heard from all parts of the House, I shall only say a few words, mainly because I am chairman of the Guy's and St. Thomas's Trust. I know that the Guy's school, which is very widely respected, can obtain grant-aided status so far as concerns the legislative provisions. But, equally, there is a concern, to which the noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, referred, that although St. Thomas's is now part of the Guy's and St. Thomas's Trust, I am not entirely clear—neither are those at St. Thomas's—whether it will be able to provide the facilities for its sick children that it would wish.
There appears to be a dependence on Lambeth Borough Council. Without wishing to be pejorative, I know well that there will be people in many parts of the House who feel that an entire reliance upon that council is not a happy situation. Therefore, I hope that 1224 my noble friend the Minister will be able to provide some reassurance. So far as concerns the amendment, I am certainly not able to judge whether it would have the intended effects. However, I hope very much that my noble friend the Minister will be able to provide the reassurance which I think all of us who are concerned with the matter are seeking. I look forward to hearing her response.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, I have supported the noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, at all stages in his argument for the cause. It seems intuitively wrong that under Clause 296 the arrangements for sick children should be lumped together with those who are excluded from school for other reasons. At various stages during the debates on the Bill—I raised the matter myself once, I believe at an inappropriate place —we have heard that the number of exclusions for truancy and other matters is rising fast and, indeed, has risen over the past two years.
The latter is an important matter which needs to be addressed separately. Moreover, it is a problem that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has tried to address and one that needs serious attention. However, such serious attention should not be given at the expense of children who need an entirely different type of approach as regards the reason for their not being able to attend school. I agree that there may be difficulties. The Government propose a common administrative procedure. If the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Young, were accepted, the administrative procedure would be different and would no doubt lead to some consequent costs. Nevertheless, I believe that the feeling in all parts of the House is that it is a matter that the Government really must address. We hope to hear from the Minister that she has had some positive thoughts in that direction.
§ The Earl of Swinton
My Lords, I very rarely, if ever, in this House agree with my noble kinswoman. However, on this occasion I rise, as an exception to the rule, to say that I entirely agree with her. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will give the amendment considerable support. In fact, if the noble Lord decides to divide on the matter, I shall be very strongly tempted to follow him through the Division Lobbies.
I was for some time a governor of a hospital school. I should like to point out that it is not always seriously ill children who are hospitalised. Indeed, the hospital school with which I was involved was very much for orthopaedic children. The children would often arrive at the hospital with broken arms and legs. I remember that as a governing body we used to have great fun visiting them and signing their plaster casts. However, that is incidental. Very often they would be admitted at critical times when they were taking exams. It was only because of the excellence of the teachers in that hospital school—they taught at all hours of the day, so that medical treatment could continue —that some of those children were successful and passed their exams. If that sort of education were to be threatened, it would prove to be a very bad state of affairs.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, perhaps I may first thank the noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, for his kind words to me personally. We are all much moved by his words, his courage and, indeed, his commitment to the needs and the well being of young people, especially young people who are sick. But in the absence of the noble Lord on that evening, which we know was very difficult for him, the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, and the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, stoutly defended the amendments tabled in his name. Nevertheless, the noble Lord was much missed on that occasion. I know that the whole House will join with me in offering him our heartfelt sympathy for the loss of his wife.
§ Baroness Blatch
I believe that we have done more under the Bill to meet specifically the needs of sick children and, indeed, the needs of all children with special needs than any other administration before us. While I sympathise with much of what was said and understand much of it, I find it difficult to reconcile that with what is actually in the Bill. For the first time in law, as the Bill finds its way on to the statute book, there will be an obligation on local authorities—even local authorities such as Lambeth—to meet the needs of children who are sick or who have other special needs.
There were two useful and wide-ranging debates during the Report stage on hospital education. I have taken care to explain to your Lordships that the Government have made comprehensive provision for the education of sick children. Under current legislation, there are two ways in which a local authority can provide education in hospital: first, by establishing a special school, with its own governing body and staff, within a hospital; and, secondly, by using discretionary powers to provide,education otherwise than at schoolin hospitals. That does not constitute school provision, or require the setting up of a governing body.
Under the Bill, the essential difference is that the discretionary power to provide education outside a formally constituted school will become a duty upon local education authorities. In other words, we are removing the discretionary element and in effect protecting and safeguarding the education of children in hospital. I am, therefore, somewhat at a loss as to the point of principle being pursued by the noble Lord in Amendment No. 8.
I have said before that Clause 296—the new duty to secure education otherwise than at school—already differentiates between those children who are out of school for reasons of illness and those children who are out of school for other reasons. The arrangements will be distinct from those for disaffected pupils in pupil referral units. My department will be formulating separate guidance on sick children in the context of the new "education otherwise" duty on LEAs. That will be a different document to that relating to other pupils for whom education otherwise must be provided.
1226 I also explained to the House that we cannot introduce separate arrangements for pupils out of school because of illness without referring to pupils in other circumstances, school phobics, pregnant school girls, pupils convalescing at home or pupils receiving home tuition, pending completion of a formal assessment or placement in a special school. There is therefore a comprehensive general duty in Clause 296. It will enable the approach to educating each child or young person who is sick to be appropriate and sensitive to individual needs.
I have used those and similar arguments before, but let me expand further. I find it difficult to see why the noble Lord, Lord Young. should read Clause 296 as defective in the sense that it does not sufficiently require LEAs to make appropriate arrangements for the education of sick children. Clause 296(1) can be read as placing an LEA under a duty to make arrangements for the provision of suitable full-time or part-time education at school or otherwise for any child of compulsory school age who, by reason of illness, may not for any period receive suitable education unless such arrangements are made for him or her. There can be no question of Clause 296 somehow operating only in relation to the generality of children in an LEA's area, and not the individual child. What then is the point of this new clause other than to prescribe arrangements which may, conceivably, be inappropriate to the area in question?
Given the definition of "suitable education" in subsection (7) of Clause 296, the "needs" of a child have to be taken into account by the LEA. In the case of sick children, I find it difficult to see how an LEA could determine education suitable to a child's special educational needs without taking full account of such circumstances as the nature and extent of the child's disability, where he is physically located, and the extent to which the need for treatment—for example, kidney dialysis—might impede the provision of education.
Amendments Nos. 78 and 79 would clearly have the effect of reinforcing on the face of the Bill the idea behind Amendment No. 8; that there is a need to prescribe separate arrangements for children who need education in hospital. For the reasons which I have previously adduced and set before your Lordships, the Government do not see the need for this in primary legislation.
I should say to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, that we will be discussing later today Amendments Nos. 43, 91, 97, 98 and 106 which address the required co-operation between local education authorities and health authorities, district health authorities and other agencies who will be required to play their part in implementing Part III of the Bill. I believe the House will welcome that degree of agreed collaboration between various agencies.
It was said during the course of the debate that the costs of addressing the needs of other children will be borne by sick children. I cannot say I agree with that statement but —I hope this is appreciated on all sides of the House—I believe there will always be tensions as local education authorities determine their priorities. Nevertheless when this Bill reaches the 1227 statute book local authorities will have an obligation in law to make provision for all children, including children who are sick or who have special needs. That, of course, is the catch-all for authorities such as Lambeth.
I understand that Dudley has not yet made a final decision on the proposals. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, mentioned that. However, when this Bill arrives on the statute book, that authority will not escape the duty I have mentioned. I believe there is another safeguard in that any closure of a hospital school has to come through my department and must be agreed by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. It is again inconceivable that he would close a school that was needed in a community without the local authority concerned making sure that there was other provision to meet the needs of the children in that area. I hope these amendments will not be pressed because I believe there is no distance between the noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, and the Government on these matters. The paramount consideration at the end of the day is that the needs of sick children are properly met.
§ Lord Young of Dartington
My Lords, I wish to say once again how grateful I am to the noble Baroness for her statement and the manner in which she gave it. However, I am not so grateful for the content of it. Before I deal with one or two of the points that were raised, I wish to say a few words to the noble Lord, Lord Hayhoe. It is perfectly true that the excellent Evelina School at Guy's Hospital, with which the noble Lord is so much concerned, cannot be closed by Southwark Borough Council because it is a registered special school. The council could try to deconstitute it but that could not be done without the agreement of the Government. However, that council can—this is the crucial point—continue to do what it has already done; that is, to cut down the staff at Guy's Hospital school. In recent years the staff have been cut by 50 per cent. There is nothing in the law as it stands at present to prevent the council from cutting the staff further. As noble Lords will be aware, there are already proposals to cut the staff at the Maudsley Hospital school by 50 per cent.
As things stand at present, LEAs can deprive special schools of the sinew they need to keep going. That is what this amendment would prevent according to my legal advisers. If noble Lords are concerned that Guy's school should be protected and that some decent provision should be made for St. Thomas's when the two hospitals are merged, I submit that the right thing to do is to support this amendment.
The noble Baroness made a number of important points. She asked why the costs of providing for disruptive children expelled from schools and for persistent truants should be borne by sick children. I, too, wonder why that should be the case but that is the way that the local authority mind will work. Local authorities have certain budgets for "education otherwise" among their budgets in their overall schemes. Local authorities are under great pressure and the first thing they will look at is what they can 1228 save within the "education otherwise" budget. They will perceive that they can save something on hospital schools where costs can be quite substantial. Dudley has perceived that. If local authorities can make savings in that area, it is a simple thing to achieve. I can see why the chief education officer would propose that course.
The noble Baroness also said that LEAs will not be able to escape the duty to provide education for sick children along with other children. That is perfectly true. There will be a new duty imposed on LEAs in that regard. But the great question is: at what level should the duty be performed? In the case of Dudley it is said that as disruptive children only receive about one hour's education a day, why should sick children receive any more even though their needs may be different? It is perfectly proper to consider children in this somewhat egalitarian fashion. That is the way an LEA would ordinarily consider them. Therefore, that means the duty I have mentioned would not be escaped and would be performed, but it would be thinned out and debilitated as regards sick children. That is what this amendment is trying to prevent.
Even when the guidance is issued by the department on the subject of sick children's education, if authorities do not propose to act on that guidance there is nothing anyone can do about it. There is nothing any government can do about it under legislation as it exists so far. Unless teeth are put into the Bill on this point, in our submission—on behalf of all the people who are supporting the Bill—the future is grim for a deserving set of children who need not just compassion and excellent medical care but also decent educational provision provided by teachers who know about the special needs of sick and invalid children. I am afraid we have reached a stage in the discussion of this matter where I feel I have no option but to press for a Division.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 8) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 122; Not-Contents, 144.1229
|Division No. 1|
|Addington, L.||David, B.|
|Airedale, L.||Dean of Beswick, L.|
|Annan, L.||Desai, L.|
|Archer of Sandwell, L.||Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Dormand of Easington, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Ennals, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Ewing of Kirkford, L.|
|Barnett, L.||Falkland, V.|
|Birk, B.||Flowers, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||Foot, L.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||Gainford, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Gallacher, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Galpern, L.|
|Bridges, L.||Gifford, L.|
|Brightman, L.||Gladwyn, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Glenamara, L.|
|Callaghan of Cardiff, L.||Graham of Edmonton, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Guildford, Bp.|
|Carver, L.||Halsbury, E.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Hampton, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Hanworth, V.|
|Craigavon, V.||Harris of Greenwich, L.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Hayter, L.|
|Henderson of Brompton, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Hirshfield, L.||Palmer, L.|
|Hollis of Heigham, B. [Teller.]||Parry, L.|
|Holme of Cheltenham, L.||Perry of Walton, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Peston, L.|
|Howell, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Hughes, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Hunt, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Jakobovits, L.||Rea, L.|
|Jay of Paddington, B.||Richard, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Jenkins of Hillhead, L.||Robson of Kiddington, B.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Rochester, L.|
|John-Mackie, L.||Russell, E.|
|Judd, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Kilmarnock, L.||Seear, B.|
|Kirkhill, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Kirkwood, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Listowel, E.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Stedman, B.|
|Lockwood, B.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|McIntosh of Haringey, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Mackie of Benshie, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|McNair, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Mallalieu, B.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Masham of Ilton, B. [Teller.]||Thomson of Monifieth, L.|
|Mason of Barnsley, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Mayhew, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Mellish, L.||Warnock, B.|
|Merlyn-Rees, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Milner of Leeds, L.||Wharton, B.|
|Molloy, L.||White, B.|
|Morris of Castle Morris, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Mulley, L.||Williams of Crosby, B.|
|Northbourne, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Northfield, L.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Norwich, Bp.||Young of Dartington, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Cumberlege, B.|
|Addison, V.||Dacre of Glanton, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Davidson, V.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Denham, L.|
|Alport, L.||Denton of Wakefield, B.|
|Arran, E.||Eden of Winton, L.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Elibank, L.|
|Astor, V.||Elliott of Morpeth, L.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Elton, L.|
|Barber, L.||Fanshawe of Richmond, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Ferrers, E.|
|Bellwin, L.||Flather, B.|
|Bessborough. E.||Forbes, L.|
|Birdwood, L.||Fraser of Carmyllie, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Fraser of Kilmorack, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Gainsborough, E.|
|Boardman, L.||Geddes, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Goschen, V.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Granard, E.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Gray of Contin, L.|
|Braine of Wheatley, L.||Gridley, L.|
|Brigstocke, B.||Grimston of Westbury, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Harding of Petherton, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Hardinge of Penshurst, L.|
|Caldecote, V.||Harlech, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Harmar-Nicholls, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Harrowby, E.|
|Carnock, L.||Harvington, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Henley, L.|
|Cavendish of Furness, L.||Hesketh, L. [Teller.]|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Hives, L.|
|Charteris of Amisfield, L.||Holderness, L.|
|Chelmsford, V.||HolmPatrick, L.|
|Clanwilliam, E.||Hood, V.|
|Clark of Kempston, L||Hooper, B.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Cranborne, V.||Jenkin of Roding, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Kimball, L.|
|Kitchener, E.||Romney, E.|
|Lane of Horsell, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Long, V.||Sanderson of Bowden, L.|
|Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.||Savile, L.|
|Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]||Seccombe, B.|
|Sharp of Grimsdyke. L.|
|Macleod of Borve, B.||Sharples, B.|
|Margadale, L.||Sherfield, L.|
|Merrivale, L.||Skidelsky, L.|
|Monson, L.||Slim, V.|
|Mottistone, L.||Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.|
|Mountevans, L.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Strange, B.|
|Munster, E.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Murton of Lindisfarne, L.||Strathclyde. L.|
|Newall, L.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E. [Teller.]|
|Norrie, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|O'Cathain, B.||Swansea, L|
|Oppenheim-Barnes, B.||Terrington, L.|
|Orkney, E.||Teviot, L.|
|Orr-Ewing, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Oxfuird, V.||Ullswater, V.|
|Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Porritt, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Pym, L.||Wakeham, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]|
|Reay, L.||Wedgwood, L.|
|Rennell, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Renton, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Renwick, L.||Wyatt of Weeford, L.|
|Rodger of Earlsferry, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Rodney, L.||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 23 [Duty of governing body to consider ballot on grant-maintained status]:
Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 9:
Page 11, line 20, leave out from ("apply") to end of line 21 and insert ("to the governing bodies of all schools, or all schools in England or Wales, which are eligible for grant-maintained status.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the House will recall that during the Report stage of the Bill the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, tabled amendments intended to secure that an order bringing into force provisions on annual consideration of grant-maintained status would apply to either England or Wales or to both. At that time my noble friend gave a commitment to return at Third Reading with an amendment to secure exactly that intention. That is what the amendment does. I therefore commend the amendment to the House. I beg to move.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, while I thank the Minister for what he has just said, I wonder whether he feels able to make very clear for the future that there is no intention on the part of the Government to use the phrasing of this particular amendment to enable them selectively to work within the areas designated; for example, to pursue individual schools in particular areas by putting pressure on them to hold annual ballots in the hope that that will bring them round to the policy favoured by the Government. There is still anxiety in this area and it would be helpful if, this afternoon, the Minister could make it absolutely explicit that the Government have no such intentions for the future.
§ Lord Henley
My Lords, in moving the amendment I made it quite clear that it would apply to England or Wales or both but that it would certainly not apply —and this is the assurance that the noble Lord requests—to any individual LEAs. I repeat that Clause 23, as now drafted, with the amendment, applies to England or Wales or both, with no other combinations or permutations than those. I commend the amendment to the House.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 35 [Expenses in connection with proposals for acquisition of grant-maintained status]:
Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 17, line 24, at end insert ("provided that the aggregate of the payments made in a financial year to governing bodies within the area of a local education authority shall not exceed the prescribed amount in subsection (3) below.
( ) The governing body of a school shall not make any payments from the school's budget share of the general budget of its local education authority for the purpose of influencing the outcome of ballots held under section 27 of this Act.").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 10 and to speak to Amendment No. 12, which is part of a common package with it. The amendment is also grouped with Amendment No. 11 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. We think that, taken together, the three amendments would add up to an orderly series of proposals for the conduct of elections. They deal first with spending limits. Already in the Bill, we have a maximum amount to be prescribed for the local education authority to spend. Amendment No. 10 would provide that the amount made over to the governing body to spend may not exceed that amount. It would put them on all fours with each other. The amendments would also provide that no payment should be made by the governing body for influencing the ballot.
§ Amendment No. 12 would also provide that spending by the Department for Education is to be counted within the limits of spending for the ballot. Some noble Lords may remember that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, in the debate in Committee on opting back, expressed the desire that schools should not become too politicised as a result of the conducting of ballots. I believe we all agree with that. We do not want to have massive spending and tremendous campaigns. The principle of a spending limit on campaigns is perfectly reasonable and fair, provided that it is applied—as any election rule ought to be—equally to all parties. For that reason, placing a limit on payments to the governing body for the conduct of a ballot is a perfectly reasonable specification for which to ask.
§ The restriction on the governing body making payments to influence the ballot is perhaps also necessary because, after all, the governing body has to live with the result, which may go either way. It does not wish to make the mistake of making the matter unnecessarily an issue of confidence. I cannot help being reminded of the former principal of a college discussing an issue which had divided that college for 20 years. She said that if it were carried she would 1232 resign; it was then immediately carried by an overwhelming majority. That is the kind of thing of which governing bodies might usefully beware.
§ The third and most important provision is the restriction on spending by the Department for Education. That department spends large sums of money on publicity. The rule is that government departments may spend money and distribute material for information, but not for purposes of propaganda. The distinction is perfectly acceptable in all quarters. What is so difficult is actually applying it, because the selection of information may itself on occasion —however carefully it is done—appear to other people to be a partisan exercise.
§ We know from a Written Answer given in another place today that the Department for Education has spent over £1 million on information given out on the exercise of going grant-maintained. The department may think that that is entirely impartial provision of information but it is my central contention that I do not believe that the Government are impartial judges of impartiality, any more than I myself should claim to be an impartial judge of impartiality. Noble Lords on the Government Benches have heard me giving information to the House on such a matter as, say, student finance, which appeared to me to be impartial. I do not believe it so appeared to them.
§ I ask the Government to understand that it seems the same the other way round. If the local authority is to be under a spending limit—and that by itself does not worry me—it seems to me that the Government must equally be under a spending limit. In any ballot on opting out, inevitably there is a possibility that the local authority will appear to be one side and the Government will appear to be the other. If that is so, they must be under the same rules.
§ Thus, if all three of the amendments reach the statute book, I am happy. If none of them reaches the statute book, I would not be so happy, but I would regard it as acceptable. What would give me great difficulty is the passing of Amendment No. 11 if the noble Baroness were not prepared to give an undertaking to accept Amendment No. 12. So I shall listen with great care to what she says in reply.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, I am glad to support the noble Earl's amendments. Before I speak briefly to Amendments Nos. 10 and 12, perhaps I may say a word in anticipation of Amendment No. 11. As I understand it, the amendment will meet a commitment given at Report stage to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. It covers similar ground but has a different purpose from the amendments in the names of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and my noble friend Lord Ponsonby.
The Government amendment seems to seek to provide much greater regulation on the ability of LEAs to spend money for the purpose of influencing the outcome of grant-maintained school ballots. Under Amendment No. 11, the Secretary of State gains enormous powers, including those on the separate account of the expenditure which is open to the Secretary of State to inspect and the accounting 1233 period for such expenditure. The amendments do not touch on the issue of the fairness of the material produced by LEAs or governing bodies. I suggest that it is quite amazing that the Secretary of State requires such enormous powers over LEA expenditure when there is virtually no accountability over the Secretary of State's enormous expenditure on grant-maintained school publicity. Indeed, I venture to suggest that in many quarters this amendment will inevitably be seen as an affront to the democratic processes.
I turn to our own Amendments Nos. 10 and 12. The experience so far has been mixed, and, of course, perceptions differ. Much of the evidence is largely anecdotal. It has certainly been suggested by Ministers and some of their colleagues that LEAs have sometimes bombarded parents with literature seeking to persuade them against opting out. However, far more commonly. it is alleged that governing bodies or even head teachers have subjected parents to a welter of letters and leaflets seeking to persuade them in favour of opting out, often including much information which is at best highly optimistic and at worst downright misleading.
In that context, the role of the Grant Maintained Schools Centre has been highly contentious, to say no more. As we know, there is now a call in the other place for the National Audit Office to look into its activities. It would probably not therefore be appropriate for me to say more on that particular point at this stage.
During the Committee stage in the other place, on 12th January, the Minister, Eric Forth, said:This part of the Bill aims to place reasonable limits on what LEAs are able to do and to facilitate as far as is possible the provision of proper information to parents by school governors … I hope that all hon. Members share my wish for as much parity as can be achieved in the circumstances".—[Official Report, Commons, Standing Committee E; 12/1/93; col. 765.]That was said in response to an amendment which we have also tried to put forward in this House, and which would have brought the situation in England and Wales into line with that in Scotland. The Government have rejected that amendment on a variety of what I would describe as largely spurious grounds, despite the fact that the amendment offered a practicable solution to the otherwise apparently insuperable difficulty of calculating a prescribed amount in a way which could adequately take account of the hugely variable rate of balloting in different local education authorities.
The present amendment offers an alternative mechanism for the establishment of parity. It also puts to the test the Government's sincerity in seeking as much parity as can be achieved in the circumstances, for it would achieve almost complete parity between the interested parties. It would thus offer parents the opportunity to receive roughly equal amounts of information from either side, the content of which would be subject to other provisions of the Bill.
Governing bodies would be funded by the Secretary of State up to the same limit as would be applied to the expenditure of the LEA. While they would be free to raise additional funds—a freedom denied to LEAs—they would not be free to use 1234 schools' budgets; that is, the local education authority funds delegated to schools for the purposes of educating children.
It was argued in the other place that LEAs are able to take advantage of economies of scale. Indeed, the Minister said:Local education authorities can reap the economies of scale … because they can produce material in bulk and relatively cheaply for the ballots held by different schools". —[Official Report, Commons, Standing Committee E; 12/1/93; cols. 764-765.]I find that a slightly strange argument to deploy over a measure whereby schools are being encouraged to opt-out of their LEAs and thus deny themselves the benefits of such economies of scale in the future. However, leaving that particular observation on one side, it is anyway a highly questionable argument. The governing bodies are able to obtain from the Department for Education material which is produced with an economy of scale very much greater than that achievable by any LEA.
In the other place yesterday, Mrs. Ann Taylor asked a Question to which there has been an interesting Answer. It appears that the Government have now circulated more than 5½ million book lets about opting-out at a cost of £515,000—that is, a cost of £1,000 for each existing grant-maintained school, or £500 for each school which has so far voted to opt-out. If the Government are sincere in their wish to achieve parity, then this amendment will pose no problem. If the amendment is resisted, it will become manifestly clear to parents and to the public in general that the Government's real objective is nothing more nor less than an enshrinement in law of a most unequal system—a system under which, while maintaining that opting-out is a choice for parents to be made with all the trappings of a democratic process, in reality the Government will have cynically insisted that parents will be subject to the presentation of information which is heavily biased in favour of opting out.
I do not, however, believe that this arrangement will achieve the Government's wish to see more schools opting out. By contrast, I suspect that it is likely to produce a backlash of opinion among parents, who are indeed sound judges of such manipulation. If the extension of grant-maintained status can be achieved only through the deployment of such tactics, now that the Treasury has pulled tight the purse strings on financial inducements which previously tempted schools, parents will increasingly reject the idea, as indeed they have clearly been doing of late. Once again, I suggest that the Government will have nobody to blame but themselves.
My Lords, Clause 35 is an important clause about expenses in connection with proposals for the acquisition of grant-maintained status. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, seems to have a penchant for, at best, over-generously interpreting facts. Let me just give him the facts. Five-hundred thousand pounds has indeed been spent. But there are over 7 million schoolchildren. That information applies to all schools—(19,000 to 20,000 primary schools and over 4,000 secondary schools), all parents —and I hesitate to put a figure on how many of those 1235 there may be —and all children (between 7 and 8 million). Therefore I make the cost of each booklet about 12p to 14p. To allocate that cost to each grant-maintained school—schools which are not in need of that information; they have already taken the step down the road of becoming grant-maintained—is not really necessary. Noble Lords opposite press us constantly about making sure that information is available to parents. If the noble Lord believes that there is anything misleading in that booklet, I would be very pleased to hear that complaint.
Secondly, the noble Lord knows—and if he does not know, perhaps his honourable friend in another place should explain to him—that a code of conduct is being drawn up, with great co-operation between the local education authorities and my department, which will bite on the activities of the Grant Maintained Schools Centre, our department and indeed the local education authorities. That is a very good thing. It will make sure that information which is imparted is the truth and is not misleading.
At Report stage I gave an undertaking to my noble friend Lady Cox to look again at the wording of that part of the clause which deals with controls on local education authority expenditure in connection with grant-maintained status. Amendment No. 11 is the result. It is designed to secure an effective limitation of local authorities' expenditure. That was always our intention, but I have now been advised that the present wording of the Bill may not provide an adequate basis for the necessary regulations. My amendment will correct that defect. I am most grateful to my noble friend for drawing this to our attention.
Perhaps I may also remind the House of the purpose behind this part of Clause 35? It will put limits on local authority expenditure aimed at influencing the outcome of ballots of parents about whether or not the school should apply for grant-maintained status. Experience in several parts of the country has shown the necessity of limiting local education authority expenditure in this way. It is vital to a balanced debate among parents about grant-maintained status in any particular school.
Local education authorities which are opposed to grant-maintained status are perfectly entitled to put their views to parents in any school which is considering opting out of local authority control. But local authorities have sometimes submerged parents in a sea of propaganda in the process of putting their case. We take the view that this is quite inappropriate, particularly as schools have limited resources with which to play their part in the debate, and also because in the past some of that information has been misleading.
The amendment also makes clear that the limit on expenditure refers to all expenditure by a local education authority for this purpose. It provides for specific accounting arrangements to be introduced for the expenditure concerned and will allow the Secretary of State to see those accounts, if it is appropriate.
Let me turn now to the amendments in the names of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede. The first of these calls 1236 for the aggregate of payments made to governing bodies in the area of an LEA not to exceed the prescribed amount which that LEA may spend for the purposes of influencing ballots about grant-maintained status. It would also prevent schools from making payments from their normal local management of schools budgets for the purposes of influencing the outcome of ballots.
I agree that it is vital that parents are entitled to hear both sides of the debate about grant-maintained status for their children's school. But at present there is a significant imbalance. Schools considering applying for self-governing status have no alternative but to dip into their limited school budgets to finance information for parents, while, in comparison, an LEA has access to a considerable pool of resources.
Clause 35 seeks to redress that imbalance. Our intention is to make modest payments to governing bodies of schools applying for self-governing status which should be sufficient for the purpose of putting their arguments to parents. That will help level the playing field on information. But we also intend that the provision in subsections (1) and (2) should enable the Secretary of State to contribute to certain other costs which governors may incur in acquiring grant-maintained status. For instance, in some cases, because of the circumstances of individual schools, they need to incur quite significant legal costs. Once that element of the prospective expenditure is taken into account, it is quite apparent that the noble Lords' amendment would in fact tilt the playing field quite considerably in the LEAs' favour. I could not accept that.
The noble Earl's second amendment, Amendment No. 12, would offset the production costs of any of the department's publications which were distributed in an area against the total prescribed for expenditure by the LEA or, if Amendment No. 10 were approved, for payments to governors.
Many noble Lords, will be familiar with the department's publications on grant-maintained status. They are designed to be informative and helpful by explaining the procedures and experiences involved in acquiring self-governing status. They provide factual information which is of interest to those who are seeking grant-maintained status. They are not designed to sway parents one way or the other on whether their school should apply for grant-maintained status. I see no reason why such factual guidance and information should be counted against the costs of influencing a ballot. Indeed, the publications do not seek to influence or persuade parents in the way that other documents arguing for or against the case aim to do. I therefore urge the House to resist this amendment as well.
I hope that the amendments will not be pressed. But I accept always that the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and their colleagues on other Benches start from the standpoint of not approving of this area of policy in any case. We need to have real information and a level playing field awarded to both the school and the LEA in these matters.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, I understand the point that the noble Baroness makes; namely, that we start from disapproving of the policy. But I believe that she would plead guilty to the charge that she starts from approving of the policy. I am trying to suggest that that places us in an equal position. It is not possible to say that her information is impartial because it supports the policy whereas our information is partial because it opposes the policy. If we are to have an insistence upon impartiality, I welcome it.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl for allowing me to intervene. I feel that at this juncture I ought to make what I consider to be a significant point. The policy is now approved by Parliament. Grant-maintained schools are here by force of parliamentary will. The noble Earl is right to remind me of my personal views. But we have to start from where we are now: it is parliamentary approved policy. We have that policy and, whether or not we approve of it as individual Members of this House, it is important to have a level playing field for both the schools and the LEAs, as I hope the noble Earl will agree.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I said that the policy for grant-maintained schools is here by the will of Parliament.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, we may have some difference between us about what Parliament in fact approved. My understanding is that in 1988 Parliament approved the policy of giving parents a choice on grant-maintained schools. It is my further understanding that if people are given a choice, they are free to make it one way or the other.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, I, am grateful for the agreement of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, but we do not need to sing a duet just yet. It seems to me that, if there is to be a free choice, it must be legitimate to support making that choice one way or the other. What worries me very deeply is that the noble Baroness seems to be suggesting that it is more legitimate to make the choice one way than the other. If she is not suggesting that, I do not see why she brought in the will of Parliament. The will of Parliament has been to provide a choice.
The noble Baroness defended what the Government are putting out on the grounds that it is information—for that is what it is. She defended the cost on the grounds of economy. But economy was not the issue. Information may be put out in all honesty without appearing to people who disagree with its basic premise to be impartial. I am sure that the noble Baroness does not believe that the 1238 information that I give her on student finance is impartial. I am sure she recognises that I give it in sincerity. Equally, I recognise that she gives information in sincerity and believes it to be impartial. But I do not concede the claim to her any more than she concedes it to me. I believe that that puts us on art equal footing.
The Government are not the judge of what is misleading information. If we are to have a judgment about misleading information, it must be judicial. The noble Baroness said that the local authority puts out a sea of propaganda. She may not understand that to many people, rightly or wrongly —I make no judgment on that view at present—what is put out by the Government appears exactly in the same light.
I shall not press this amendment today. However, I ask the noble Baroness not to press Amendment No. 11 which, it seems to us, in a contest would put a restriction on one side that does not apply to the other. That seems to be an infringement of basic democratic; practice. I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw Amendment No. 11. If she cannot, we must advise the House to reject it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 17, line 25, leave out subsection (3) arid insert:
("(3) A local education authority shall riot incur any expenditure attributable to any period for the purpose of influencing the outcome of ballots held under section 27 of this Act if the aggregate of the amounts of expenditure for that purpose attributable to the period exceeds or, if that expenditure were incurred, would exceed the limit for that period.
(4) Regulations may make provision for determining for the purposes of this section—
(5) Regulations may require each local education authority—
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 11) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided Contents, 150; Not-Contents, 91.1239
|Division No. 2|
|Aberdare, L.||Ashbourne, L.|
|Addison, V.||Astor, V.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Astor of Hever, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Auckland, L.|
|Alport, L.||Barber, L.|
|Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.|
|Arran, E.||Blatch, B.|
|Boardman, L.||McColl of Dulwich, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.|
|Braine of Wheatley, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Brigstocke, B.||Margadale, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Bruntisfield, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Caldecote, V.||Munster, E.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Noel-Buxton, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Norfolk, D.|
|Cavendish of Furness, L.||Norrie, L.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Northbourne, L.|
|Charteris of Amisfield, L.||O'Cathain, B.|
|Chelmsford, V.||Onslow, E.|
|Clanwilliam, E.||Oppenheim-Barnes, B.|
|Clark of Kempston, L||Orkney, E.|
|Cochrane of Cults, L.||Palmer, L.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||Perth, E.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Prentice, L.|
|Cranborne, V.||Pym, L.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Quinton, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Reay, L.|
|Denham, L.||Rennell, L.|
|Denton of Wakefield, B.||Renton, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Rippon of Hexham, L.|
|Eden of Winton, L.||Rodger of Earlsferry, L.|
|Elibank, L.||Rodney, L.|
|Elles, B.||Romney, E.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Elton, L.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Flather, B.||Sanderson of Bowden, L.|
|Fraser of Carmyllie, L.||Savile, L.|
|Gainsborough, E.||Seccombe, B.|
|Geddes, L.||Sharples, B.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Sherfield, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Granard, E.||Simon of Glaisdale, L.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Skidelsky, L.|
|Grimston of Westbury, L.||Slim, V.|
|Guildford, Bp.||Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Hardinge of Penshurst, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Harlech, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E. [Teller.]|
|Harvington, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Hayhoe, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Henley, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Hesketh, L. [Teller.]||Swinton, E.|
|Hives, L.||Tebbit, L.|
|Holderness, L.||Teviot, L.|
|HolmPatrick, L.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Hooper, B.||Trumpington, B.|
|Howe, E.||Ullswater, V.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Jenkin of Roding, L.||Vinson, L.|
|Kimball, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Kitchener, E.||Wade of Chorlton, L.|
|Lane of Horsell, L.||Wakeham, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]|
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Liverpool, E.||Wynford, L.|
|Long, V.||Young, B.|
|Addington, L.||Boston of Faversham, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Bottomley, L.|
|Annan, L.||Broadbridge, L.|
|Archer of Sandwell, L.||Bruce of Donington, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Callaghan of Cardiff, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.|
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||Carter, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|David, B.||Mackie of Benshie, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||McNair, L.|
|Desai, L.||Mallalieu, B.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Mason of Barnsley, L.|
|Eatwell, L.||Mayhew, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Merlyn-Rees, L.|
|Ewing of Kirkford, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Molloy, L.|
|Fitt, L.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Foot, L.||Mulley, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Northfield, L.|
|Galpern, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Geraint, L.||Parry, L.|
|Glenamara, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Richard, L.|
|Hamwee, B.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Robson of Kiddington, B.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Hollis of Heigham, B.||Russell, E. [Teller.]|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Howell, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Hughes, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Hunt, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Hunter of Newington, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Jay of Paddington, B.||Thomson of Monifieth, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Tordoff, L.|
|Jenkins of Hillhead, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|John-Mackie, L.||Warnock, B.|
|Judd, L.||White, B.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Kirkhill, L.||Williams of Crosby, B.|
|Kirkwood, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Listowel, E.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Lockwood, B.||Young of Dartington, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ [Amendment No. 12 not moved.]
§ Clause 51 [Implementation of proposals]:
Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 13:
Page 29, line 28, leave out from ("persons") to ("appointed") in line 29 and insert ("are").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 13, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 14 to 20, 27 to 31, 33 to 35, 70, 80, and 85 to 87. Those amendments either correct drafting errors in the Bill or meet commitments made to Churches to ensure that they are consulted on matters affecting grant-maintained schools with foundation governors. I shall deal with them briefly.
§ Amendments Nos. 13, 85, 86 and 87 are technical, drafting amendments. At Report stage the Government introduced amendments which would enable initial parent governors at prospective grant-maintained schools to be appointed by the governing body if fewer people stood for election than there were vacancies.
§ The remaining amendments—Amendments Nos. 15 to 20, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35 and 80, 14, 27, 28 and 70 —all respond to concerns expressed by the Churches. Amendments Nos. 15 to 20 and 80 provide that the Secretary of State will consult the relevant Church body, either on a local or national basis as appropriate, when he makes regulations under Clause 299 or initiates changes under Clauses 56 and 57 to the 1241 instruments and articles of government of those grant-maintained schools which have foundation governors.
§ Amendments Nos. 29 to 31 and 33 to 35 will place a requirement on the funding authority to consult the relevant local diocesan authority before publishing any proposals to change the character or discontinue a grant-maintained school with foundation governors where the relevant local diocesan authority appoints one or more of the foundation governors.
§ Amendments Nos. 14, 27, 28 and 70 are concerned with the recovery of assets of voluntary-aided and special agreement schools and also of grant-maintained schools whose premises are held by trustees.
§ At Report stage, in response to the continuing concern of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford, I gave a commitment to consider further the possibility of tabling an amendment to Clause 280 to reflect our policy with regard to the recovery of assets from voluntary-aided and special agreement schools which have been provided with or enhanced by grant aid, should the assets cease to be used for the purposes for which the grant was paid. The principle underlying the amendment is that grant spent on premises owned by trustees should not be recoverable by the Secretary of State, but should be recycled for educational purposes through well-established mechanisms provided by existing education and charity law. I beg to move.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, I wish to raise a point on Amendments Nos. 29, 30 and 31. As I see it, they certainly meet a commitment given to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford on his new clause "Duty to Consult". It seems that the amendments require the funding authority to consult Church authorities prior to publishing the proposals to make a significant change of character to or to close a grant-maintained school that has foundation governors appointed by the Church of England, the Church in Wales or the Roman Catholic Church. But as I recall it, the right reverend Prelate's amendment also required consultation with local education authorities for the area. The removal of the LEAs from the right reverend Prelate's list of bodies to be consulted smacks of yet another example of the paranoia of this Government in terms of their attitude to the proper role of local government in our affairs.
Local education authorities should be consulted prior to the funding authority making proposals for such changes to grant-maintained schools. I suggest that it is wrong that that is not explicitly stated on the face of the Bill.
§ The Lord Bishop of Guildford
My Lords, I am not in a position to answer the fairly technical point which the noble Lord has just raised. He is quite right in saying that when I moved the amendment at an earlier stage I was anxious that the consultation by the funding authority should cover not only the Church authorities but appropriate other bodies as well. No doubt the Minister will respond to that point.
I rise to express my gratitude to the Government for this group of amendments which in their many 1242 different ways meet the anxieties that we have expressed both on the Floor of the House and in continuing negotiations with the Government. I am grateful for the patience that the Government have shown and the care with which they have responded to our concerns.
I am particularly grateful for those amendments which deal with the recoupment provisions. The House will know that it was on that Issue that I said that the Bill as originally drafted, or rather the Bill as it came to the House, was simply not acceptable. The amendments now put that entirely to our satisfaction. It is for that reason that I wish to express the gratitude not only of the Church or England but of the Roman Catholic Church as well, with which, over this whole matter, we have been in the closest association. I would not wish the House to be in any doubt of the gratitude of the Churches for this group of amendments.
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, I should like to confirm what the right reverend Prelate has said. The Roman Catholic Church is most grateful for the attentive and helpful way in which the Government have listened to representations which were made to them and have responded to those representations in a reasonable manner.
§ Lord Henley
My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate and to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, for their expressions of gratitude. Turning to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, I simply do not accept what he said about there being a bias on this matter against LEAs. The LEAs have a right to comment and to consult the FAS, and vice versa, on all such matters. In fact, if the noble Lord looks at Clause 96(4) of the Bill, he will see that LEAs have a right to be consulted. I hope that the noble Lord will accept that. I commend the amendment to the House.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 52 [Exercise of powers before proposed date of implementation, and payment of grant]:
Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 14:
Page 30, line 34, at end insert:
("( ) No such requirement as is referred to in subsection (6) above may be imposed where any grant is made under subsection (2) above in respect of the provision of premises for the school if any freehold interest in the premises in respect of which the grant is paid is, or is to be, held on trust for the purposes of the school.").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 56 [Subsequent instruments of government]:
Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 15 to 17:
Page 32, line 2, at end insert:
("( ) No order may be made under subsection (1) above in respect of a school having foundation governors unless the governing body have consulted
Page 32, line 8, after ("consulted") insert ("(i)").
Page 32, line 10, at end insert:
("(ii) if the order relates only to a school having foundation governors, the person who appoints them and, if it is a Church of England. Church
in Wales or Roman Catholic Church school, the appropriate diocesan authority (if different), and
(iii) if the order relates to two or more schools and any of the schools are Church of England, Church in Wales or Roman Catholic Church schools having foundation governors, a body appearing to the Secretary of State to be representative of the church in question in matters relating to the provision of education in grant-maintained schools having foundation governors.").
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 57 [Subsequent articles of government]:
Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 18 to 20:
Page 32, line 26, at end insert:
("( ) Before exercising that power, the governing body of a school having foundation governors shall consult
Page 32, line 32, after ("consult") insert ("(a)").
Page 32, line 34, at end insert:
("(b) if the direction relates only to a school having foundation governors, the person who appoints them and, if it is a Church of England, Church in Wales or Roman Catholic Church school, the appropriate diocesan authority (if different), and
(c) if the direction relates to two or more schools and any of the schools are Church of England, Church in Wales or Roman Catholic Church schools having foundation governors, a body appearing to the Secretary of State to be representative of the church in question in matters relating to the provision of education in grant-maintained schools having foundation governors.").
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 21:
After Clause 57, insert the following new clause:
("Behaviour towards others
.—(1) The Education (No. 2) Act 1986 is amended as follows.
(2) In sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (a) of section 22, after "authority" there is inserted "and for others." ").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, at an earlier stage I drew to your Lordships' attention Section 22 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 upon which is founded current visual thinking on the matter of discipline. I drew to your Lordships' attention the odd fact that the section, while it set upon the governors of every school the duty of requiring the head teacher to determine measures to be taken with a view, inter alia, of promoting self discipline and proper regard for authority, did not mention proper respect for others and that that was a wholly imbalanced approach since drilling by discipline does not necessarily produce good behaviour at all and can in fact induce bullying and all kinds of other things, as is now generally accepted. I therefore put down Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 as alternatives to each other before I saw the government amendment, Amendment No. 95. I was trying to anticipate what the next objection the Government could raise to my amendment might be and I thought that two shots at it might be better than one. Since then the Government have put down their own amendment.1244
§ The effect of my amendment would have been to introduce the words "and respect for others" in sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (a) of Section 22, which makes it a duty of the head teacher to make arrangements and so on for promoting respect for others. The Government have put it into subparagraph (ii), which makes it his duty to encourage good behaviour. I do not see the difference. I am grateful to my noble friend. I suspect that if he replies to the amendment in the terms which I expect, I shall be able to withdraw it in anticipation of Amendment No. 95. I beg to move.
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, I have supported the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in his pressure for a concept of discipline as being a matter for the whole school and for mutual respect between pupils and teachers, teachers and pupils and one another. I therefore strongly support the amendment.
§ Lord Henley
My Lords, I had better briefly respond before my noble friend feels it necessary either to move or withdraw his amendment. On reflection, we feel it is better to separate regard for authority from the more general according of respect for others. That is why we have added in our amendment, Amendment No. 95, to which I shall speak now but which I hope noble Lords will allow me formally to move later on, "and respect for others" to the requirement in paragraph (a) (ii) to encourage good behaviour on the part of pupils. I hope that my noble friend will feel able to accept our slight variation which we believe achieves slightly better the end that he desires.
I agree with my noble friend that it is highly desirable that young people should be encouraged to have respect for others, including their peers and those in society who are vulnerable. Respect for others will be a theme in our forthcoming guidance on behaviour. Therefore, I would hope, once my noble friend has withdrawn his two amendments, to be able to commend in due course Amendment No. 95.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend. I have never yet achieved words of my very, very own in statute. This is near enough. I am most grateful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 22 not moved.]
§ Clause 68 [Joint schemes]:
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede moved Amendment No. 23:
Page 40, line 33, at beginning insert ("Subject to subsection (5A) below").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I wish also to speak to Amendments Nos. 24, 25 and 26. The purpose of the amendments is to investigate further the terms and conditions of employment of teachers in grant-maintained schools. Clauses 68 and 69 were introduced as new clauses during the Committee stage of the Bill without any prior consultation. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and my noble friend Lord Judd questioned
various aspects of the employment consequences of the new clauses. In replying the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said:
But it is inconceivable that the interests of an employee would be sacrificed; they would be looked after".—[Official Report, 27/4/93: col. 277.]
These four amendments now seek to test four specific aspects of that general commitment. If the House will bear with me, I shall go through those four specific questions in a little detail.
§ First, the school teachers' review body was established under the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1991. The recommendations of the review body have been given effect by the annual school teachers' pay and conditions document, thus providing national pay scales and contractual duties for school teachers. Section 3 of the 1991 Act permits a grant-maintained school to opt out of that national pay and conditions framework for school teachers, although no school has yet done so. My first question is: does the drafting of Clause 68(5), if unamended, mean that a joint committee could opt out of the national pay and conditions arrangements for teachers, as if it were an independent school, while the constituent schools of the joint scheme did not opt out of those arrangements?
§ If Section 3 of the 1991 Act does apply, it would appear to require the joint committee only to consult those teachers employed by them rather than all the teachers in the constituent schools. We recognise that the members of the joint committee are representative of the constituent schools. But there will also be considerations of cost involved and those members might be tempted to see teachers employed by the joint committee as in some way second class. I shall be interested to know what the Government's intention is on that matter.
§ The second point is that for each grant-maintained school paragraph 2 of Schedule 6 requires the articles of government to include provision as to the delegation of functions by those on whom they are imposed or conferred. We wish to see effective and successful management which requires considerable delegation by the governing body to the head teacher. Where individuals are employed by a joint committee and there are several head teachers involved, how will the scheme provide unambiguously for effective line management for each member of staff? It would be unreasonable for an employee to be left in any doubt as to whom she or he is responsible. Here again, I shall be interested to know what is the Government's intention.
The third point is that for each grant-maintained school paragraph 3 of Schedule 6 requires the articles of government to include provisions for, first, disciplinary rules and procedures; secondly, procedures for the redress of grievances; and thirdly, procedures in the case of people the subject of contemplated dismissal. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has said that,
Mechanisms [in respect of] grievances will clearly form part of the regulations controlling the way the federation would work".—[Official Report, 27/4/93; col. 277.]
Since Clause 68 appears to contain no reference to regulations, we shall be grateful for clarification as to
whether such grievance machinery will be provided within the text of the joint scheme itself by attaching the provisions of Schedule 6 to the scheme or by some other method. In addition to the grievance procedures, will the Minister give similar assurances on the other two points covered by paragraph 3 of Schedule 6; namely, the procedures for the redress of grievances and those in the case of a contemplated dismissal?
§ My fourth and perhaps most important point is this. The provisions of Clause 68 appear to permit the governing body of a grant-maintained school to contractualise effectively parts of its necessary function. That may even include the employment of teachers. It can contractualise that to a joint committee which operates as a separate employer. That artificial device could allow the joint committee to pay less for work of equal value. The amendment seeks to prevent that happening. My final question to the Minister is this: does she not agree that equal pay for work of equal value is such an important principle that the governing bodies of grant-maintained schools should not be offered a loophole to escape from that important principle? I beg to move.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, we discussed these amendments at Report stage. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, said then that he wanted to know the Government's intention in respect of the employment of staff under the arrangements introduced into the Bill in Committee in this House for schools to enter into joint schemes under which they could delegate functions as specified in the scheme to a joint committee of governors. Although by no means intended exclusively for Church schools, the provisions were brought in as a result of discussions with the Churches and were welcomed, I believe, by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford.
I emphasised in our earlier discussions the aim of flexibility so that schools could draw up schemes best suited to their own circumstances. The provisions on the face of the Bill cover requirements which must be in all joint schemes; for example, the composition of the joint committee and provision for any expenses of exercising a joint scheme.
It is not the intention of this provision to interfere with employment law and with the normal rights and obligations of employer and employee. It will be possible—indeed, this may well normally be the case —for governing bodies to continue to carry out their normal employment functions in relation to their own teachers. We needed, however, to make special provision where the schools under the scheme decided that they wanted to employ teaching staff jointly or otherwise manage the employment functions through the joint committee. Express provision was required in relation to Section 3 of the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1991 if the schools concerned were to be able to take advantage of those provisions.
We would expect schools to want, as far as possible, to adopt the same policy in relation to all the schools with regard to conditions of employment. It is not in the interests of the schools concerned to stimulate 1247 disharmony. There may, however, be circumstances where schools joining the scheme have in some cases statutory conditions of employment and in other cases locally determined conditions. In those circumstances we would expect schools to maintain the position by keeping the employment functions with the individual governing body. There may be other cases where for particular reasons it is desired to employ staff jointly.
The amendment would allow an application only where the Secretary of State has made an order in respect of each school covered by the scheme. Its effect would be to prevent co-operative employment arrangements unless the schools were within the provisions of the Act or exempt from them. That is not flexibility. It would inhibit or prevent schools from entering into a scheme.
In saying that we are seeking flexibility, I do not mean that schools will be free to enter into loose arrangements entirely of their own devising. These will be serious arrangements intended to give the schools concerned security. They will want to know that where they decide to co-operate with other schools under a scheme, the arrangements are clear and watertight. All schemes will be subject to approval, either by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State or, should he decide to transfer the function, by the funding agency or agencies. There will be clear guidance to schools drawing up schemes. I am sure schools will welcome that. Approval will take account of the extent to which they have adhered to the guidance. A scheme which flouted the guidance would not be approved.
Not all schemes will deal with employment matters. As I emphasised when we discussed this at Report, the guidance will make clear that where a scheme does deal with joint employment matters or the delegation of staffing matters, it must contain arrangements for the staff concerned. In those circumstances the scheme would have to cover the discipline and grievance procedures set out in paragraph 3 of Schedule 6 or leave the provisions in the school's articles in accordance with paragraph 3 of Schedule 6 substantially undisturbed. Line management arrangements would be for the joint committee to determine but we would look for schemes to make clear that these should be set down clearly for the persons concerned. In that regard I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that it is absolutely essential that anyone being employed under those circumstances should know exactly what is the remit and the circumstances under which they would be required to work.
As far as equality in terms and conditions of employment are concerned, a joint committee would be expected to operate as a reasonable employer. Is the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, suggesting that a set of school governors will be reasonable yet become unreasonable when they put on their joint committee hats? Employment law offers certain safeguards to employees; staff here are covered to the same extent as anyone else. The guidance to which I have referred will be the subject of consultation. We shall seek the views 1248 of interested parties in due course. It will contain matter concerning those areas which the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, is concerned about.
§ Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
My Lords, I am grateful for most of that reply. I am particularly grateful for the Minister's concern that there should be clear lines of responsibility. That was perhaps the most positive part of the reply. I was also pleased to hear that, generally speaking, she expected that there should be the same pay and conditions for work of equal value. The point of the amendments is that that principle is such an important one that it should be on the face of the Bill.
Nevertheless, the noble Baroness has expressed her view that there should be equal pay and conditions. She also hoped that this would be properly emphasised in the guidance. At this stage of the Bill it would be wrong if I did anything other than withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 24 to 26 not moved.]
§ Clause 83 [Imposition of requirements on governing body in receipt of grant]:
Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 27:
Page 51, line 12, at end insert:
("( ) No such requirement as is referred to in subsection (6) above may be imposed where any payment is made in respect of capital grant if—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I should like to refer also to Amendments Nos. 28 to 31, to which I spoke when we considered Amendment No. 13. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 89 [Imposition of requirements on governing body in receipt of grant]:
Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 28:
Page 53, line 44, at end insert:
("( ) No such requirement as is referred to in subsection (6) above may be imposed where any payment is made in respect of capital grant if—
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 96 [Proposals for change of character etc. by funding authority]:
Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 29 to 31:
Page 58, line 26, after ("consult") insert ("(a)").
Page 58, line 26, after ("appropriate") insert ("and
(b) in the case of a Church of England, Church in Wales or Roman Catholic Church school having any foundation governor who is appointed by the appropriate diocesan authority, that authority").
Page 58, line 27, leave out ("this subsection") and insert ("paragraph (a) above").
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 98 [Approval of school premises]:
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 32, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 36 to 38, 88 and 89. These are all minor technical amendments. Amendments Nos. 32 and 88 refer to the particulars of premises which form part of the proposals for either a significant change of character or for the establishment of a new grant-maintained school.
Amendment No. 38 removes an inconsistency between Clauses 144 and 97. As currently drafted, Clause 144 implies that under Clause 97, the funding authority could adopt proposals
that the required provision for religious education should be provision for religious education in accordance with the tenets of a particular religion or religious denomination".
The funding authority is unable to publish such proposals. They cannot therefore be adopted under Clause 97 and as a consequence the words "or adopted" must be removed.
§ Amendment No. 36 repairs a small technical defect in Clause 113 as presently drafted. As was pointed out during discussion of these provisions at Report stage, our intention is for the tribunal's determination to be binding on the Secretary of State in relation to the maximum consideration—that is, its full market value. But, as presently drafted, subsection (7) does not require the Secretary of State to reconsider the amount of consideration paid to trustees by virtue of subsection (4). This omission is clearly at odds with the intention of these provisions, and Amendment No. 36 repairs the defect.
§ Turning finally to Amendments Nos. 37 and 89, at Report stage the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford queried the need for paragraph 2(3) (b) of what is now Schedule 8, which provides for the persons named in the school's instrument of government to appoint externally appointed core governors for groups. We are indebted to the right reverend Prelate for his attention. We agree that was not right. Amendment No. 89 therefore removes paragraph 2(3) (b), leaving the power to appoint externally appointed core governors with those named in the instrument of government for the group. Amendment No. 37 is a drafting amendment, consequential upon earlier amendments. I commend these amendments to the House. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 104 [Proposals by funding authority for discontinuance]:
Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 33 to 35:
Page 64, line 4, after ("consult") insert ("(a)").
Page 64, line 4, after ("appropriate") insert ("and
(b) in the case of a Church of England, Church in Wales or Roman Catholic Church school having any foundation governor who is appointed by the appropriate diocesan authority, that authority").
Page 64, line 5, leave out ("this subsection") and insert ("paragraph (a) above").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to these amendments with Amendment No. 13. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 113 [Disposal of school property]:
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 36, I should like to refer also to Amendments Nos. 37 and 38. I spoke to these amendments with Amendment No. 32. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 121 [Core governors]:
Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 37:
Page 75, line 41, after ("Act") insert ("(which makes provision in relation to core governors for groups)").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 144 [Changes in religious character of schools]:
Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 38:
Page 89, line 30, leave out ("or adopted").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ 5.45 p.m.
Lord Young of Dartington moved Amendment No. 39:
After Clause 150, insert the following new clause:
("Sick children: application of Part II to hospital educational units etc
.—(1) Regulations shall make provision for this Part of this Act to apply to a hospital educational unit, or a group of such units, or a group of home tutors for sick children as if the unit or the group were a school to which this Part may apply.
(2) Regulations made for the purposes of this section may apply any provision of this Part of this Act with or without modification.
(3) In this section—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the whole of this part of the Bill has been about grant-maintained status. Under these provisions, hospital schools, which are themselves special schools, will be able to seek grant-maintained status if that is their wish and particularly if it turns out that their local education authorities are not giving them the support that they deserve. So far, so good.
§ But the weakness in the Bill on this matter is that hospital educational units are not going to be able to seek grant-maintained status. Although I have said on so many occasions (to the extent that I am sure that have bored some Members of the House) that I hope that hospital educational units will be allowed to cluster together in order to get grant-maintained status in the same way as hospital special schools are able to do, so far my pleas have fallen on deaf ears from the very top of the Department for Education right to the somewhat more humble levels with which I have been dealing. I have been sorry about that because it seems to me that there is an especially strong case for hospital educational units in some circumstances to have the freedom to apply for 1251 grant-maintained status, subject to submission in the correct manner to the Secretary of State, as is the case for other schools.
§ The fact is that the distinction between hospital schools which are special schools and hospital educational units is very arbitrary. It depends on a whole host of local accidents about the way in which education committees and chief education officers have thought about these matters. A further fact is that, because of that arbitrariness, some hospital educational units are much larger than some hospital special schools and are doing a very grand job. It is strange that, although it is recognised that the distinction is an arbitrary one and that hospital educational units are, in most cases, doing the same job as hospital special schools, there has been no bow to that in the way in which the Bill has been drafted. If the amendment were incorporated in the Bill, it would make it possible for hospital educational units to be treated in the same way as hospital schools. It provides that they should figure in Part II of the Bill in the same way as though they were hospital special schools.
§ As I see it, the argument is straightforward. It is partly a question of justice as between one type of school and another. However, it is also much more than that. It seems particularly strange that the 160 hospital educational units in this country (which are, in effect, hospital schools, and which could become even more effective if they were clustered together in the same way as is provided in the Bill for small primary schools) should not be allowed to do that.
§ We have to look to the future—or at least some way into the future—even though "through a glass darkly". If these units were given the option of having grant-maintained status where the local education authorities were not able to provide or were not providing the right degree of support, that would give them some measure of security where things were not going well. It would also give them some degree of security in places where the funding agency becomes more important—if it does become more important —as a provider of funds.
§ In the medium term, if the scope and power of LEAs continues to be reduced, they will have even fewer resources for hospital educational units. If they were able to have recourse to grant-maintained status that would at least give them the option of keeping afloat. They would then be able to seek funds from the centre, like other grant-maintained schools. I have always thought it odd—with all respect to the Minister—that she is unable to accept the strange inconsistency that she supports the grant-maintained principle to such a large extent, but not in this case, which, in my submission, is especially strong. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, the main difference between hospital schools and hospital educational units is that the schools are better funded and have the resources to offer access to the national curriculum. That opportunity is perhaps being denied to children in the units. In his introduction to the White Paper Choice and Diversity, the Prime Minister 1252 stated clearly that all children everywhere should have the same opportunities to receive education. The amendment seeks to offer to all sick children that equal opportunity to receive education. I shall be interested to hear the Minister explain why she allows that inconsistency in the Bill.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, I strongly support the amendment. I have already said that because so many changes have taken place within the Welsh education system, the grant system and the system of support will be in chaos when the provisions of the Bill are introduced. As no strong arguments were put forward in response to earlier amendments, it seems to me that the Minister is close to being able to say that it would be sound common sense to implement the amendment and take it into the Bill.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, perhaps I may say at the outset that there is absolutely no inconsistency. I support, my Government support, and my colleagues support the policy that parents should be able to choose grant-maintained status for their schools. We do not afford that choice to units in the mainstream of education and so we are not affording to units and loose federal groups of peripatetic teachers within the hospital system the opportunity to become grant-maintained schools. It is absurd even to consider that they should become grant-maintained schools.
There is, however, a serious inconsistency on the Benches opposite. They do not support the policy of grant-maintained schools or that parents should have the choice of having grant-maintained status, but for one reason or another, in this difficult area, noble Lords opposite think grant-maintained status a good thing. That is one inconsistency. The other inconsistency was named by my noble friend Lady Masham. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister was right—again, this is consistent with what is in the Bill—in that the needs of all children, irrespective of their background or however special their needs, shall be met. The Bill places a duty on local authorities, schools and various agencies to provide education for children of all needs, special or otherwise.
We debated this amendment at great length on 14th June on the second day of Report, and we also considered these questions in Committee back in April. I shall therefore, if your Lordships will forgive me, be very brief. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, contends that a hospital teaching service should have the opportunity to be a grant-maintained school. The Government believe that that would not be appropriate. Part II of the Bill is about grant-maintained schools, and teaching services are not schools.
We have made it possible for mainstream schools under LEA control to become grant-maintained schools. We have made it possible for bona fide schools in hospitals to become grant-maintained schools. Here we are talking about hospital services and, as I say, loose groupings of teachers who teach in the hospital service. It is inconceivable that they could become a grant-maintained school.
1253 Where a school exists in a hospital, it is a special school. It will therefore have an opportunity in future to consider whether to apply for self-governing status. In other words, such schools will be eligible to become grant-maintained special schools but not grant-maintained schools. We have recently added extra flexibility: there are new provisions in the Bill to enable special schools, like ordinary schools, to apply in groups, or in groups containing ordinary schools. Obviously, we envisage that hospital schools might therefore be included within such groups.
Some teaching services, although not properly constituted under Section 9(5) of the Education Act 1944, may de facto be "schools" for all practical intents and purposes. In those circumstances, LEAs should think carefully as to whether they should make proposals that those institutions be established formally as schools and therefore receive funding under LMS from April 1994. That must be a choice for the LEA. But for the small-scale services the position is different, and it may be unwise to concede the principles of self-governance. The provision may only consist of a part-time peripatetic teacher. Like hospital schools, there would be no coherent parent body. Additionally, such services will lack governors and head teachers. In short, there will be no competent managerial structure outside the LEA. Many would never make suitable candidates for self-governing status.
The Government therefore consider that it would be inappropriate for hospital teaching services or home tuition services to become grant-maintained schools. There is no provision for other special units to acquire such status, and it could import damaging inflexibility into the system. I urge the noble Lord not to press his amendment. I believe that, in the interests of the children, federation of services needs a proper co-ordinating body. That co-ordinating body will be the LEA.
I take this opportunity to answer a question put to me earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, about the LEA's responsibility once the 75 per cent. trigger point has been reached. The LEA retains for all time that co-ordinating role for education, or for otherwise, and for meeting the needs of the sick children who will be outside the school.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may ask a question. Is she aware that there is a hospital unit in Newcastle which is bigger than most hospital schools? This matter is complicated and a mishmash.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I am aware of that. I said that if the LEA wishes to confer upon that unit the status of a school, it becomes eligible to seek grant-maintained special school status.
§ Lord Young of Dartington
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. There are one or two points about it that I should like to raise. The Minister said that it would be absurd for a hospital educational unit to become grant maintained without making it clear why it would be absurd. The Bill provides that small primary schools which may have only one or two 1254 teachers can join to form a grant-maintained primary school. Even those who, like me, are opposed in general to the grant-maintained principle would welcome closer co-operation among small primary schools in rural areas. If it is possible for them, why is it not possible for hospital educational units, even though in some cases their staff numbers are small?
There was also a reference to the unsuitability of any management structure which might operate for a number of hospital educational units. But where under the Bill there is provision for the promoters of new types of schools to seek grant-maintained status there is not ordinarily in those cases any management structure at the beginning. The management structure must be provided by setting up a suitable trust with a governing body in accord with the usual model for the organisation of schools. Having done that, grant-maintained status is sought. Of course, that would happen in respect of the hospital educational units if they took that course in some areas where the LEAs were not doing what they should in order to support the service for sick children. New trusts would be set up with governing bodies and they would proceed to seek grant-maintained, status together with the promoters of other types of new schools.
Those two objections seem to me not at all strong and nor, I am afraid, do any of the others. However, we have discussed the matter on several occasions arid no doubt we shall return to it in the future. Certainly I shall wish to do so when an opportunity presents itself. Having divided the House once this afternoon I believe that it would not be proper for me to do so again and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6 p.m.
Lord Brightman moved Amendment No 40:
Before Clause 151, insert the following new clause:
The Secretary of State shall make regulations for the purpose of securing that, in respect of every grant-maintained school,—
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 40 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 41 but not at this stage to Amendment No. 40A. On Report I moved an amendment relating to grant-maintained schools which provided that an efficiency study should be made every five years either by the National Audit Office or by the Audit Commission. That amendment is now Amendment No. 40 on the Marshalled List.
I shall read the response of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, to the amendment that I tabled on Report. She said:
I would accept the principle of Amendment No. 199. I should prefer to come back on Third Reading with a suitable amendment, but it is my intention to accept the principle". —[Official Report, 14/6/93; col. 1265.]
She said later:
I give the House an assurance that I will put on the face of the Bill a commitment and clear requirement that an examination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness at grant-maintained schools should be held on a regular basis". —[col. 1333.]
What was done to implement that undertaking? The answer is Amendment No. 41 which does not provide or require that any efficiency studies should ever be made on a regular basis or on any other basis. Subsection (2) of that amendment states:
The Comptroller and Auditor General shall, in each session of Parliament, report to the House of Commons… whether he has carried out… any examinations in respect of grant-maintained schools, and if he has"—
contemplating, of course, that he may not have—
the results of such examinations".
Therefore, under Amendment No. 41 the supposed implementation of the undertaking given to your Lordships, not to me, the Comptroller and Auditor General is not required to carry out any efficiency studies. I do not see how Amendment No. 41 can conceivably be a fulfilment of the undertaking given to your Lordships because it does not require any efficiency studies to be undertaken.
§ In those circumstances, when I saw Amendment No. 41 I reinstated my Amendment No. 40 which is now before the House. It seems to me that this is a matter of procedure and not of politics. What is to be done if an undertaking given to the House is not implemented? If an amendment is accepted in principle by the Government, as in so many words was my amendment, and if an undertaking is given to table a government amendment containing that principle and that undertaking is broken, surely in all justice the original amendment should be allowed to stand. Otherwise, what is the value of an undertaking given to this House?
§ The noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, has asked me to apologise for his absence from the Chamber and to say that he shares my disappointment. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I wonder whether the House will allow me to intervene at this stage. I shall not prevent any noble Lord from speaking after me because I shall not regard my comments as a summing up. However, my intervention my be helpful.
On Report I promised to come back with an amendment putting on the face of the Bill a clear requirement for examinations of economy, efficiency and effectiveness at grant-maintained schools on a regular basis. I believe that that is what Amendment No. 41 is about.
In brief, it would put into primary legislation the Comptroller and Auditor General's right to inspect the accounts of grant-maintained schools. That is presently secured only through regulations. As a result, there will be no question in future about the National Audit Office's responsibility to undertake value-for-money studies covering grant-maintained schools. Your Lordships will be aware that the NAO 1256 has already exercised such responsibility in its recently-published report on financial controls in grant-maintained schools. Amendment No. 41 will provide an even firmer basis for such studies.
It will also go further. The amendment extends the current position and I believe reaches the heart of some of the anxieties which were expressed previously and today by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman. It requires the Comptroller and Auditor General to report to Parliament in each session on the studies of grant-maintained schools which have been carried out. It will thus ensure that there is opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny of the findings of such studies. It will also provide an opportunity for Parliamentary comment on the adequacy of the programme of studies undertaken. I believe that it is inconceivable that this will not lead to a significant and regular programme of studies of value-for-money at grant-maintained schools. Such a programme would almost certainly be undertaken a good deal more frequently than the once every five years, which was specified in the amendment we discussed on Report.
Moreover, in conducting such studies the Comptroller and Auditor General will be required under Amendment No. 41 to have regard to any value-for-money studies which have been published by the Audit Commission in relation to the grant-maintained sector, whether relating to individual schools or groups of schools. This will help ensure that the auditing organisations properly learn from each others' findings. But it will also help to avoid unnecessary double scrutiny which will put an undesirable burden on schools.
It may be, of course, that a study by the Audit Commission turns out to have substance warranting further investigation; in which case the NAO's hands would not be tied. I see this as being a most useful encouragement to ensuring that there are independent professional studies over the sector as a whole, and that such studies are mutually supporting.
I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, for having looked at Amendment No. 41 in the short time that was left after various technicalities had been sorted out in its production. We had a most useful discussion about it yesterday afternoon—he talked at some length with my officials —and he made then many of the points which he has made again eloquently today. I assured him, and I readily assure the House, that I fully stand by the commitment that I gave on Report. That was the intention of Amendment No. 41. It is implicit in the amendment that there should be regular studies, and I believe it to be inconceivable that the requirement for the Comptroller and Auditor General to report to Parliament every year will not lead to regular studies.
The noble and learned Lord, however, would prefer there to be an explicit requirement for regular studies. I recognise that my amendment does not include such an explicit requirement. If the feeling of the House is that it should, I would be very happy to use my good offices with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State before the Bill is considered further in the other place, and to draw his attention to the 1257 desirability of such an explicit requirement. Noble Lords will appreciate that, given the usual conventions, that is the strongest undertaking that I can give. Such an approach would meet the principal point raised by the noble and learned Lord and in view of that, I hope that he will accept that the amendment in my name will very largely achieve our common objectives; and agree that, with the addition of the sort of specific requirement that I have mentioned, it would wholly do so.
In the meantime, however, I would be prepared to accept Amendment No. 40A. I have been advised by counsel that that amendment is not without its difficulties; in particular, because of the duty it places on the Secretary of State to make regulations, and because of the problems to which that may give rise in relation to the much prized independence of the Comptroller and Auditor General. I trust that those difficulties will be resolved when the two new clauses are considered side-by-side in the other place. Indeed, given the particular role of the other House on these matters, it is probably best that they should be resolved there.
Therefore, I advise the House that my amendment, together with Amendment No. 40A in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, should be accepted and should go together for consideration to be approved technically in another place.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Brightman moved Amendment No. 40A:
Before Clause 151, insert the following new clause:
Economy and efficiency of grant-maintained schools
(" The Secretary of State shall make regulations for the purpose of securing that an examination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness at grant-maintained schools shall be held on a regular basis.'').
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 41:
After Clause 152, insert the following new clause:
Inspection of accounts and reports to Parliament
("—(1) The accounts of the governing body of any grant-maintained school shall be open to the inspection of the Comptroller and Auditor General.
(2) The Comptroller and Auditor General shall, in each session of Parliament, report to the House of Commons—
(3) The first report under subsection (2) above shall cover a period beginning with the commencement of this section and each subsequent report shall cover a period beginning at the end of the period covered by the preceding report.
4) in determining whether to carry out any examination under that section in respect of grant-maintained schools and, if he determines to do so, the nature of the examination, the Comptroller and Auditor General shall have regard to any relevant published report of any study promoted or undertaken by the Audit Commission under section 220 of the Education Reform Act 1988.").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 153 [Interpretation of Part II]:
Lord Brightman moved Amendment No. 41A:
Page 93. line 36. at end insert:
(" "the Audit Commission" means the Audit Commission for Local Authorities and the National Health Service in England and Wales,").
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, believe that it is necessary to move the amendment, otherwise there is no definition of the Audit Commission which is referred to in subsection (4) of Amendment No. 41. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 160 [Qualified duty to secure education of children with special educational needs in ordinary schools]:
§ 6.15 p.m.
Lord Renton moved Amendment No. 42:
Page 97, line 44, at end insert:
("( ) Unless the consent of the parent has been obtained. subsection (1) above shall not apply to any mentally handicapped child.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I move this amendment at the request of my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch who cannot be here until 8.30 p.m. The amendment stands also in the name of my noble friend Lady Cox but she is in the Sudan doing work in connection with humanitarian aid and human rights.
§ Amendment No. 42 would add a new subsection to Clause 160. That clause enacts a qualified duty to secure the education of children with special educational needs in ordinary schools; in other words. it provides for integration, But at earlier stages of the, Bill it was pointed out by a number of your Lordships; —and I spoke on the matter—that integration is generally unsuitable for mentally handicapped children. We argued that for strong reasons and I hope that it is not necessary for me now to repeat them. The matter was gone into fully both in Committee and on Report.
Therefore, Amendment No. 42 makes an exception in favour of children who are mentally handicapped by adding this subsection which reads:
Unless the consent of the parent has been obtained, subsection (1) above shall not apply to any mentally handicapped child".
If that subsection is added, Clause 160 makes good sense and is just as effective, apart from the one exception which some of us believe should be made. I hope that it will receive the support of my noble friend on the Front Bench and of your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ Lord Swinfen
My Lords, I support the amendment. Surely the parents of mentally handicapped children have their best interests at heart and will know whether or not they are likely to fit into an ordinary needs school. They will know how their child gets on with other children and will be able to assess whether a child will survive being in an ordinary school. One can recall from one's own schooldays what little varmints children can be and how they can torment one another, particularly if they think that there is anything odd or unusual about an individual.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, the House will expect me to support the amendment in view of what I have said on many occasions. I agree totally with the idea and 1259 concept of integration and the real purpose behind it, but it is possible to see that the case made by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is extremely strong. The arguments are very persuasive. Parents of mentally handicapped children are extremely concerned that their children will in many ways—in terms of finance, general support and comfort of life—lose out by being caught up in the integration which may be so valuable for other children.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I do not support the amendment. I believe that it is too absolute and I should prefer to see a degree of flexibility. However, I take this opportunity to thank the Minister for inviting some of us to discuss this clause with her in her office a few days ago. I tabled an amendment on Report which assumed that a parent has a right of veto. Following our discussions, I am convinced that that is not so.
I should like to go through what the Minister said to make sure that I have got it right. When the Minister replies, perhaps she will confirm that I have the facts right. First, the clause makes a presumption in favour of integration. Secondly, the reports and assessments are made by the professionals which result in a statement. In that statement a school will be named as the preferred school. At that point the parents come into the picture and have the opportunity then to say that they either approve or disapprove of the school.
However, that is not quite the end of the matter. I understand from what the Minister said that the child's needs are paramount. If the LEA still does not think that the parents' wishes are compatible with paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (2) of Clause 160, then the parents' wishes may not take precedence. There is still the opportunity for the LEA, because of the paragraphs to which I referred, to make the decision. I hope that the Minister will confirm in her response that I have got the position right. In that case, I shall be quite satisfied with the clause at the end of the day.
§ Lord Addington
My Lords, I rise to intervene briefly in the debate. I am one of those people who have riot been 100 per cent. convinced by the arguments either for the opt-out of integration or for total integration. My view has been based on the fact that I have specific knowledge about one area of special needs; namely, dyslexic children. I have felt, on occasion, that they would benefit from being placed in a sheltered environment. As the noble Baroness, Lady David, said, it is important to note that we have now reached the position—and the Government have been very helpful in this respect—where we are allowing for the best interests of the child.
In any one category of special needs we shall come across people who vary within it. If we have one category that states an absolute opt-out we shall, by definition, be creating a situation which will not apply to all of them. Parents do not always know best, even if they have the best interests of the child as their main concern. They should leave as much of the decision-making as possible to the experts, and simply 1260 provide assistance. That will ensure that there is enough flexibility to allow the correct choice to be given to the child. Even when we start to break down special educational needs, we are breaking them down into very large blocks all of which have very different requirements. As someone who does not always support the Government, I can say that I believe they have moved forward on the matter in a very positive light.
Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)
My Lords, I should like to echo the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady David, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington. I, too, found the meetings with the Minister extremely helpful and illuminating. I am convinced by her explanation of the meaning, even if I am not enamoured by the existing wording of Clause 160.
I shall not bore your Lordships with a speech on the Motion that the Bill do now pass. Therefore, I should just like to say how grateful I am to the Minister for the several meetings that I have had with her or her officials. I should also like to thank her for her willingness to make time to listen and discuss the issues. I feel that We have reached a good understanding.
In passing, I hope that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, will remain; or at least something to that effect. I also hope that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, will not press his amendment. I recognise the depth of feeling, the conviction and the personal experience with which he and the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, speak. I urge the noble Lord to remember, as I am sure he does, that there are also parents of children with a mental handicap who may feel that they already have to struggle hard to obtain mainstream education. On reflection, and after hearing the Minister's response, I hope that the noble Lord will feel that the Government have got the wording just about right to meet the needs of both groups of parents.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, I should just like to add a few remarks to those made by the noble Baroness, Lady David. I find that "shall" and "must" represent very strong language in this connection. Is it not the interests of the child which are paramount? Some parents can be very protective. As the amendments are grouped, I must point out that there is something in Amendment No. 43, tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that worries me. Working on an FHSA, I wonder whether reference should be made to the "health authority" rather than "any District Health Authority". I ask that because it may concern other health authorities; indeed, there are now so many different health authorities. The provision is rather limited if it refers only to "any District Health Authority". I should have thought that it would have been better to make it more flexible.
Perhaps I should stress that I am speaking about Amendment No. 43 which I believe is grouped with Amendment No. 42.
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should like to speak to Amendment No. 43A separately.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I am finding it difficult to follow the question asked of me by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, I apologise to the House. I was confused by the grouping, in particular by the use of the letter "A". However, with the permission of the House, I was also talking to Amendment No. 42 in support of the noble Baroness, Lady David. It is very strict in its application.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I believe that that has clarified the situation.
I should like, first, to thank all speakers for their kind words. I, too, found the meetings on this, and on many other issues, very useful. Indeed, I believe that we all learned something from them and our understanding of the Bill has increased on each occasion. The issue is a delicate and complex one. I appreciate that some of your Lordships have been fearful that the Bill accords parents a right of veto over a mainstream placement. As the noble Baroness, Lady David, said, at the same time I am aware that others might wish to seek such a veto. I should like to explain, as clearly as I can, why the Bill provides no such veto and why we believe that it would be wrong to do so.
I believe that the Bill strikes a proper balance. It embodies the principle that children with special educational needs should be educated alongside their peers wherever that is possible and sensible. It also provides and gives proper weight to parents' views and allows for a special school placement where that is appropriate. But above all, the Bill seeks to ensure that in every child's case the LEA placement will be the most appropriate placement consistent with the needs of the child. Securing the appropriate placement for the child is the heart of the issue.
I have previously explained to your Lordships that when we were drafting the legislation it became clear that we might impose conflicting duties on LEAs both to integrate children with special needs into mainstream schools where that is appropriate and to comply with a parent's preference for, possibly, a maintained special school. We therefore decided to give a steer in favour of the parent's wishes. Thus, Clause 160 gives local education authorities a duty to integrate a child with a statement of special educational needs in a mainstream school, provided certain reasonable conditions are met and unless the parent wishes his child to attend a special school.
If the parent expresses a preference or makes representations for a special school placement, the LEA's duty to integrate the child falls away, but the LEA's power to name a mainstream school does not. The LEA will always be under a duty to arrange an appropriate placement for the child. If the authority decides that a special school placement is not appropriate but a mainstream school is, then it will be 1262 under a duty to specify a mainstream school in the child's statement. Clause 160 does not, therefore, involve a parental veto on mainstream placements.
The effect of the primary legislation is that the most appropriate placement for a child, consistent with the efficient education of other children in the school and the efficient use of resources, will always be considered for a child with a statement of special educational needs. In addition, the code of practice will give guidance to LEAs on the many issues to be weighed up when considering a school placement.
I understand and have sympathy for the position of my noble friends Lord Renton and Lord Pearson; and, of course, of my noble friend Lady Cox whom we wish well on her present mission. They speak with the authority of their own experience. I understand the fear that parents who wish their child to attend a special school may be intimidated by an authority which is actively pursuing a policy of integration. But I maintain that the Bill as drafted protects the position of parents who wish their children to attend a special school and gives them every opportunity to secure such a placement—provided that a special school placement is the right placement for the child.
I have mentioned the code of practice and the guidance it will give LEAs about choice of school. The code will also promote the importance of partnership between parents and the authority, not confrontation. It will stress the need to enable parents, at an early stage, to take an active part in the decisions relating to their children's future. Related to this, the code will also recognise the valuable role which voluntary agencies may play in supporting and advising parents on all aspects of their children's special education, including at this important time when a child's statement is being drawn up and agreed. All these points will also be explained, in plain English and translated into other languages, in the guidance for parents on the new SEN system which will be issued from my department.
Furthermore, I remind your Lordships that we amended the Bill at Report stage to enable my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to require LEAs to provide parents with full details of their rights to make representations over their child's statement, and also of the various schools outside the maintained sector which might be appropriate for the child. These details will accompany the copy of the draft statement served upon the parents. Parents will therefore be fully informed of their right to express a preference for a school in the maintained sector and to make representations over the contents of the statement, including for a placement outside the maintained sector.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, I hope the Minister will accept from me that many parents of mentally handicapped children would have great difficulty in reading texts on this subject. They would need help and advice on the matter. Will that be forthcoming? I know the fact that they are unable to read or accept the advice given in a certain form does not in any way remove their right to object strongly to a placement with which they disagree.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Parry, makes an important point. We intend that the code of practice will make all of the system as user-friendly as possible to parents, particularly parents who for one reason or another are unable to read or interpret the information. In addition to making sure that the information is given verbally rather than simply in writing if that is necessary a parent can be accompanied by a professional from a particular society, for example, Mencap or the Spastics Society, to help that parent understand the information upon which he will make his choice. The noble Lord, Lord Parry, makes an important point. It will be covered in the code of practice.
Turning to Amendment No. 43A tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, I suggest that the provisions of the Bill already meet his concern and that his amendment is therefore unnecessary. Part of parents' right to make representations is the right to require meetings with the authority to discuss the statement. If they wish to express a preference for a maintained school, they must do so within 15 days of receipt of the draft statement or of the last of the meetings to make representations. Thus a parent who is convinced that his child requires a special school placement may make representations for, say, a non-maintained special school, discuss those representations with the authority and, if the LEA indicates that it is not minded to meet his wishes, thereafter express a preference for a maintained or grant-maintained special school. There is a fall-back position which can be taken into account. The authority will then be under a duty to comply with that preference, subject to the usual conditions.
Furthermore, there is nothing to prevent parents seeking advice from the school which they wish to be named on their child's statement when making such representations or expressing a preference of school. Similarly, a parent who appeals to the tribunal against the school named in his child's statement in favour of, say, a non-maintained special school placement, may receive support and advice, in preparing and presenting his case, from someone from his desired school. This has been another matter of concern to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. I hope that what I have said reassures him.
I must, however, be firm in response to the amendment in the name of my noble friends Lord Pearson and Lady Cox. If their aim is that there should not be a presumption in favour of an integrated placement where the parent wishes his child to be educated in a special school, the Bill already meets their concern and their amendment is not necessary. We have made extensive provision in the Bill for parents of children with statements of special educational needs to express their views on the appropriate placement for their child. So far as maintained schools are concerned, we have obliged LEAs in law to abide by the parents' preference so long as certain reasonable conditions are met. We have obliged LEAs to consider very carefully any representations made by parents in favour of a school outside the maintained sector. Regulations and the 1264 code of practice will ensure that parents are fully informed of their rights and choices. But let me be clear: at the end of the day the decision rests with the LEA, subject to the scrutiny, on appeal, of the SEN tribunal. The crucial considerations determining the LEA's decision are that the placement should be appropriate to the child, appropriate to his peers and compatible with the efficient use of public resources. We cannot allow parents' views to override these wholly reasonable considerations: we cannot give parents a veto.
I know the anxiety that my noble friends Lord Renton, Lord Pearson and Lady Cox have. They are concerned about those local authorities that have aggressive policies for integration. They are concerned that the desire of those local authorities for integration will override what might be a sensible decision and that the authorities will impose a decision that is inconsistent with a parent's preference. That cannot happen. Clause 160 will bite and will give parents' preferences and wishesproper consideration. The duty to integrate will fall away as long as those preferences are being considered. Only if the preference or representation made by a parent is inconsistent with certain measures which include, most importantly, the needs of the child, will a local authority move away from that preference. That decision will, of course, be subject to scrutiny by the tribunal.
I say again how much I have appreciated the positive contributions to what is a sensitive and important debate. I repeat that I am convinced that the Bill strikes the right balance. The noble Baroness, Lady David, was absolutely right in her remarks except in one detail. The draft statement does not contain the name of the school. Parents are allowed to make their choice either through preference or representation and the local authority must then consider it. The local authority will only move away from that choice if it believes it is inconsistent with the needs of the child. The noble Baroness is absolutely right in that at the end of the day the needs of the child are paramount in Part III of the Bill. I hope that in the light of those assurances my noble friend, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Pearson, will not press the amendment.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, first may I say I am grateful to those noble Lords who have supported the amendment. I hope that those noble Lords who have opposed it will not be too disappointed by the speech of my noble friend Lady Blatch which gives me very great pleasure. She is quite right in saying—on further thought I agree with her—that the amendment is unnecessary because Clause 160 as it stands makes it clear in subsection (1) by the use of the words,unless that is incompatible with the wishes of his parent",that if the parents do not want the child to go to an ordinary school, the child will not have to go there. I am very grateful to my noble friend for the full and very sympathetic explanation that she has given as to the way in which mentally handicapped children's cases will be considered before it is decided where they 1265 are to go to school. With a load off my mind I ask your Lordships whether I may withdraw the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 43:
After Clause 166, insert the following new clause:
Duty of District Health Authority or local authority to help local education authority
("—(1) Where it appears to a local education authority that any District Health Authority or local authority could, by taking any specified action, help in the exercise of any of their functions under this Part of this Act, they may request the help of the authority, specifying the action in question.
(2) An authority whose help is so requested shall comply with the request unless—
(3) This subsection applies—
(4) Regulations may provide that, where an authority are under a duty by virtue of subsection (2) above to comply with a request to help a local education authority in the making of an assessment under section 167 of this Act or a statement under section 168 of this Act, they must, subject to prescribed exceptions, comply with the request within the prescribed period.
(5) In this section, "local authority" means a county council, a metropolitan district council, a London borough council or the Common Council of the City of London.").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment is grouped with Amendments Nos. 91, 97, 98 and 106. An important part of this debate has centred around the provision of services by agencies other than the LEA, and co-operation between the LEA and such agencies, in particular district health authorities and social services departments. I must take into account immediately the matter referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. Her point is covered in that all agencies are required to play a part in the implementation of Part III of the Bill. Amendments seeking to address this issue have been tabled in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady David, Lady Faithfull and Lady Williams of Crosby, and of the noble Lords, Lord Elton, Lord Howell and Lord Northbourne.
§ Both at Committee and Report stages, my noble friend Lord Henley and I have spoken of the aim shared by my department and the Department of Health to ensure closer co-operation between agencies concerned with children with special educational needs. Your Lordships are aware that the Department of Health conducted a consultation exercise with this widely supported objective. You will also recall my noble friend Lord Henley's commitment on behalf of the Government at Report stage to come back to the House with an amendment if, in the light of that 1266 consultation, that proved possible. I am therefore very happy to be able to put the amendments before the House today. I commend them to your Lordships.
§ The amendments provide the much requested statutory underpinning to co-operation between LEAs, district health authorities and local authorities' social services departments in their dealings with all children with special educational needs. There was a full and positive response to the consultation. Many people made detailed suggestions which do not lend themselves to inclusion in primary legislation, but we shall consider them carefully when drawing up the regulations, the code of practice and associated guidance, all of which will be the subject of further consultation this year.
§ This is a significant step forward. It stems from the Government listening to what people have said about the need for assurance regarding the co-operation of district health authorities and social service departments and consulting those concerned as to the way forward. The result is legislation which is wide-ranging and clear.
§ The amendments would also enable district health authorities and social service departments to be subject to the statutory timescales for the making of assessments and the issue of statements which will be embodied in the regulations. That should give reassurance. There are good examples of authorities which have already negotiated agreements with district health authorities and social service departments. The amendment will spread that good practice further for the benefit of all children who are being assessed and may need a statement.
§ Your Lordships will see that the amendments to Schedule 19 have the effect of repealing Section 27(4) of the Children Act 1989. The purpose is to bring together into one place all legislative provisions dealing with co-operation between authorities concerning children with special educational needs. Part III of the Bill is the most appropriate place.
§ I commend the amendments to the House as meeting the anxieties which Members of this House and others have expressed previously. I am most grateful for the contributions of many of your Lordships to this important debate, which has culminated in the amendments and, I believe, a good deal for our children. I beg to move.
§ Lord Dormand of Easington
My Lords, will it be necessary for any special financial arrangements to be made to carry out those functions?
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, with these amendments we are concerned with proper co-operation between appointed agencies. Local education authorities have their money and have to decide their priorities. However, there are now proper obligations in law which they have to meet. We now have the highest possible degree of co-operation between the health authority, where it is appropriate that it should have a part to play, and the LEA. It is impossible for me to answer the noble Lord's question other than to say that there are now obligations in law which will have to be met.
Lord Young of Darlington
My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister a question about the amendment. I am thinking of my own King Charles's head. The district health authority and local authority need to collaborate in many different ways, but particularly because the district health authority provides the premises in schools for which local authorities provide the staff. I am not sure whether it is intended that that should be covered by the amendment. If it is intended, and it clearly could be because hospital schools are special schools providing a particular form of special education, then is it not a failing in the drafting of the amendment that there is no reference to hospital trusts?
District health authorities' functions have been diminished and they no longer provide many of the hospitals directly but purchase services from them. It may be the case that before very long most of the hospitals in the country will be hospital trusts, although I regret that fact. District health authorities will then be concerned almost entirely with purchasing services from them. Therefore, hospital trusts would be required to provide such co-operation, especially where the needs of sick children are concerned.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, I wish to follow up the point made by my noble friend Lord Young. Obviously the new clause should be welcomed. It meets a commitment given at Report stage. However, the problem lies in what I hope I am not unfair in describing as poor drafting. I hope that it is not a determination to make the system as complicated as possible, but the drafting makes the new clause far less helpful than it might otherwise have been.
The problem to which my noble friend referred is that the clause refers to the district health authority rather than to National Health Service bodies, which is the term used in the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990. As a result, the LEA will be forced to ask the district health authority to act even when the appropriate body would be the NHS trust, as my noble friend suggested, or the family health service authority. The term "National Health Service bodies" would have included NHS trusts, family health service authorities and the commissioning district health authority. It seems absurd for the Government to create such a bureaucratic system when they claim to be against increasing bureaucracy. Is there really no way, even at this very late stage, that the situation can be put right?
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, when she replies can my noble friend resolve a doubt that I have as to the effect of the amendment? Of course, I welcome the amendment.
The problem relates to subsection (4) of the new clause set out in Amendment No. 43. Is the effect of that subsection to set aside the waivers in subsections (2) and (3)? Subsection (2) provides that an authority shall comply unless it considers that the help requested is not necessary or one of the two conditions in subsection (3) applies. Subsection (4) provides for regulations to be made, providing that: 1268where an authority are under a duty by virtue of subsection (2) above to comply with a request to help a local education authority in the making of an assessment under section 167 of this Act or a statement under Section 168 of this Act, they must, subject to prescribed exceptions, comply".My narrow concern is to ask whether, even when they are subject to such a regulation, authorities will be able to decline to assist in the making of an assessment or statement because of the reasons given in subsections (2) and (3), or whether the object of the regulations is to set aside those two requirements.
I hope that I have made myself clear to my noble friend the Minister and that there is time for her to give advice on this question, to which I have been unable to obtain an answer.
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords, I should also like to ask a question. It would be less than gracious not to thank the noble Baroness for what she has done in response to the debate at the Report stage. However, perhaps I may pursue the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, by asking a question in relation to the force of subsection (2) (a) of the amendment. The phrase:they consider that the help requested is not necessaryis very broad. Perhaps the noble Baroness can say more about exactly what it is intended to cover.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I should also like to ask a question. Subsection (3) (a) states:in the case of a District Health Authority, if that authority consider that, having regard to the resources available to them".Does that mean that, for example, in the case of speech therapy which we have raised so often, if it is though: that speech therapy is necessary for a child, the district health authority can say that it does not have the resources to provide it? Can the noble Baroness clarify that point?
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, as always, under any government, at the end of the day there will be a finite sum of money. I understand that, therefore, it is parliamentary practice to say that if there is no money, then clearly the service cannot be provided. With the amendment we have provided for the highest possible degree of co-operation between all the key agents in the process.
As regards speech therapy, under the Bill as amended by these amendments a local authority may request the help of a district health authority with the provision of speech therapy and that health authority will be obliged to give that help, provided that the conditions within the clause are met. One of those conditions relates to the efficient use of resources.
It is also right that, given that the health authority is in the lifesaving business, it too has priorities to order. It is important that at the end of the day there is not a total pre-emption of health authority moneys. But as far as is practicable, the health authority has agreed, under the amendments to the Bill, that there will be the highest degree of co-operation that is permissible.
For one reason or another, the district health authority has been considered an inappropriate body, but that authority purchases the services from hospital units and the hospitals themselves. I was fascinated by 1269 the comment from the noble Lord, Lord Young, and his aside about his regret that hospitals and units may become trusts over time. We have spent part of this afternoon being pressed to accept that schools and units should become independent bodies; in other words, to have trust status. There is a slight schizophrenia in the air about these matters.
In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Young, in principle the answer is yes and the most obvious example relates to the provision made in a statement for a pupil in hospital. It would require the appropriate co-operation of the health service.
My noble friend Lord Elton referred to subsection (4). I understand that subsection (3) overrides it; it is not appropriate for the LEA to override a medical service judgment. I apologise—I am having difficulty in reading this writing and I am not sure that I have given my noble friend a satisfactory answer. Perhaps, even at this late stage, he will allow me to write to him.
In answer to the noble Lords, Lord Young and Lord Judd, the principal aim of the new clause is to strengthen the co-operation between the health and social services departments, and the education authorities, in carrying out their duties towards individual children who may require an assessment or a statement of special needs. The real breakthrough here which hitherto has not been possible, and nor have we received agreement on it, is the agreement to stick to deadlines. I have been into too many schools where children are waiting for their statements to be completed but one agent or another has been holding up the process. There is agreement on these amendments to abide by deadlines and that is an important breakthrough which I hope will be welcomed.
§ Lord Dormand of Easington
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps she could help me. When I asked about the financial arrangements, her answer was that there were provisions in law to deal with such matters. With great respect, she may correct me in her reply but it seems to me that the answer she gave contradicts the one she gave to my noble friend Lady David. The Minister is quite right, resources are finite and I made that point throughout the debate on the Bill. Any government cannot do everything that everyone wants all the time. I fully accept that. But it seems to me that there is a contradiction in her comments. I received the impression from them that, whatever the body, there is provision in law and therefore the needs must be met. Does the Minister not see that as a contradiction?
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I did not give the answer that the noble Lord said but, like him, I shall read Hansard tomorrow. I can say that there will always be tension between the global amounts of money given to health authorities and the global amounts given to local education authorities. Each of those bodies will have duties placed upon them by this House. Month after month the House lays duties upon various bodies, in particular on public service bodies. They have obligations to meet in law and, so far as is practicable, they will meet them. All I am saying is that in these amendments—as I hope I said 1270 —at some stage when there is absolutely no money and when co-operation is required from the health authority, it can plead in aid that it cannot respond to a request because it simply does not have the money to do so. That is because there is no blank cheque policy operating anywhere in the public services.
However, in these amendments we have the highest possible commitment to co-operation and collaboration between all the key agencies—health authorities, social service departments, local authorities, schools, individual hospitals and units—in the interests of meeting the needs of individual children. The hope is that the resources they have at their disposal will be properly deployed in the interests of the children in their care.
§ Lord Dormand of Easington
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down. I believe that she agrees with what I said, that there might come a point—and in my view there will—when an authority is simply unable to carry out its obligations.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 167 [Assessment of educational needs]:
Lord Northbourne moved Amendment No. 43A:
Page 100, line 44, at end insert:
("( ) In any case where a patent requests a non-maintained special school for a child with special needs that parent may also express a preference under paragraph 3 of Schedule 10 to this Act for a maintained or Grant-maintained special school to take effect only in the event that the request for a non-maintained school is refused.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for dealing with this amendment in its grouping. I had intended to take it separately but, with consummate skill, the Minister read my mind and put it at rest on the issues which worried me. So I can be brief. My anxiety in this amendment and previous amendments which I tabled is to ensure that the fine tradition of voluntary and independent schools dealing with children with special needs in this country should be preserved or have the best possible opportunity of being preserved. There is obviously a danger that, if local authorities are under pressure, there will be a tendency for them to support their own special school. As a result, they may not send the same number of children to the independent schools.
§ The noble Baroness has been able to give a number of assurances. One was at Report stage, when she made clear that full publicity will be given to all parents of children at special schools, including the non-maintained special schools which are available to children with whatever problems they may have.
§ The second point is that when representations are being made to a tribunal, the parent will have the opportunity of having a representative from a special school, including possibly—if it is the parents' choice —a non-maintained special school, so that the case can be properly made. The non-maintained special school can explain why it believes that it can do the best possible job for the child at a cost no greater than the local authority provision.
§ Finally, if a parent makes a representation that he would like his child to attend an independent school, that does not estop him from subsequently making a preference for a special school in the maintained 1271 sector, otherwise that might have been a strong deterrent to parents from making such a representation. I am most grateful to the noble Baroness and I beg to move.
§ Lord Jenkin of Roding
My Lords, I wish to take the opportunity of the reference to the non-maintained schools to say publicly on the Floor of the Chamber what I have said privately to my noble friend on the Front Bench. She has moved a long way to meet the anxieties that some of us expressed at Committee and also Report stages on the Bill about ensuring, so far as possible, that the wishes of parents who want their children to go to a non-maintained special school should be respected. I recognise that she could not go the whole way or as far as some of us asked, but I am grateful to her for going as far as she did.
I add that there is a case in my former constituency of parents whose child is severely spastic. They wished the child to go to a school with conductive education on the lines of the Peto Institute in Hungary. The local authority decided that it would be cheaper to send the child to the local junior training centre. We are still arguing on the case. The problem is real and the only thing I have been able to tell the parents and the school is that under the Bill there are new procedures which they will be able to follow, including the right of appeal. I am therefore grateful to my noble friend for what she has done.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, the noble Baroness informed me today through the channels, confirming what was said earlier in the debate, that there are only seven maintained schools in Wales. Therefore, the choice for parents would be fairly limited.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, I should like to ask one brief question about the appeal procedure. How long does it take? There is concern about crossing borders, as mentioned when we discussed the hospital schools amendment. Local authorities are not good about crossing borders. I should like to know how long it takes for a parent to appeal.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, it is quite difficult to be specific. So much will depend on the complexity of the case and the degree to which professionals have to be questioned or investigations have to be carried out. The code of practice will cover the procedures in very great detail and it should take the shortest possible time. We hope that that is what the guidance will produce.
So far as concerns Wales, what we have provided for in terms of parents making choices is that they will have the right to make a preference or a representation covering every single school in Wales, whether it is LEA maintained, grant-maintained, a non-maintained special school or an independent school. It is important that, however many schools there are in Wales, they will all be available to be preferred or made representations for by a parent.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Baroness Warnock moved Amendment No. 44:
After Clause 172, insert the following new clause:
Inspection of accounts and reports to Parliament
(" .—(1) Where it has come to the attention of the local education authority that the governing body of a county, voluntary or grant-maintained school is not fulfilling its duties under section 161 of this Act in respect of a pupil for whom a statement of special educational needs is maintained under section 168 of this Act then the local education authority shall direct that the governing body make the special educational provision specified in the statement.
(2) In order to carry out its duty under this section, the local education authority shall have the power to inspect the special educational provision and require the governing body to supply such reports as the local education authority may require.
(3) After a period of two months after the making of a direction under subsection (I) above, the local education authority shall review the special educational provision made for the pupil for whom the direction was made and, where it appears that the provision has not been made, the local education authority shall review the educational needs of the pupil under section 172 of this Act.
(4) Where, as a consequence of a review under subsection (3) above, a new statement of special educational needs is made under section 168 that names a different school, the Governing Body shall pay to the local education authority the cost of educating that pupil for the remainder of the financial year, the cost of reassessment and such compensation to the parents of the pupil as the local education authority deems reasonable.").
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, before speaking to this amendment I should like to call attention to a rather strange side note that has crept in here. It ought to read, and did read yesterday:
Duty to direct governing body to make special educational provision".
I do not know how that substitution happened.
§ The purpose of my moving this amendment is simply to tidy things up. So far as the content of the amendment goes, it has already been included in Clause 165. But in Clause 165(2) the addition of the clause proposed in this amendment is referred to. So it seemed necessary that there should be such a clause to be referred to in Clause 165(2). I beg to move.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, this is not an amendment which I would ordinarily accept. Nonetheless I recognise that the Bill would be technically defective if this amendment were not accepted. It is inextricably linked to Clause 165, which was introduced into the Bill by an amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock at Report stage. On these grounds alone I shall not be opposing it.
Having said that I stress to your Lordships that neither Clause 165 nor this amendment are necessary. I maintain that the amendments which my noble friend Lord Henley moved on behalf of the Government at Report stage address the heart of the concerns which have prompted this amendment and Clause 165.
The Bill as amended by the Government at Report stage contains wide-ranging measures which will strengthen the provision made in schools for pupils with statements. The Bill ensures that LEAs are able to monitor and review both the continuing suitability of a child's statement to his special educational needs, and the delivery of the special educational provision specified in that statement.
1273 I would also remind the House of the other measures we have taken in this Bill to strengthen provision generally for pupils with special educational needs. All schools will have to formulate and report on their policies for special needs. All schools will be inspected by independent inspectors on a systematic basis for the first time, and inspection of the school's special needs policy will feature highly in any inspection. All schools will have to have regard to the code of practice.
The Bill is not improved by Clause 165 and this amendment. Nonetheless, I am concerned for the legal integrity of the Bill as it passes to another place, and so will not oppose the amendment. It will be for my colleagues and Members in another place to consider carefully the implications of all amendments made by this House.
§ Lord Dormand of Easington
My Lords, the side heading to which the noble Baroness referred is completely different from the one that we just discussed. I hope that it will be possible to have that corrected when the clause is printed.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, perhaps I may say—it is with the leave of the House because I thought that we had gone beyond the point of no return—that the reference that the noble Baroness made is simply a typing error in the margin of the Marshalled List; it will have no part to play in the amendment.
§ Lord Dormand of Easington
It is not a typing error.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 183 [Establishment, etc. of maintained or grant-maintained special schools]:
Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 45:
Page 110, line 5, leave out ("referred to in") and insert ("for the purposes Or).
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 46 to 57 and 82 to 84.
§ Amendment No. 45 should not detain the House over long. It is purely a drafting amendment and has no substantive effect on the provisions in Clause 183. Amendments Nos. 47 to 55 and Amendment No. 84 are concerned with school attendance orders and are essentially technical in nature. First, they allow parents who apply for and subsequently secure a place for their children at a grant-maintained school to have that school named in a school attendance order, provided that they notify the LEA responsible for the school attendance order or for the application within 15 days, starting with the day on which the notice was served.
§ Secondly, they allow for the situation which will arise at stage 3, when responsibility for paying for private education where it is needed' because of shortage of places passes to the FAS. The arrangements will apply where the education provided at an independent school is at the expense of the FAS. Again, the LEA responsible for the school attendance order will be notified.
§ On Amendments Nos. 56 and 57, at Report stage I gave a commitment to consider further the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and 1274 the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, which sought to place a requirement on the face of the Bill that education associations should include at least one member with experience of the relevant kind of education or of the management of education.
§ In most circumstances, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State would indeed expect to appoint people with experience of the relevant kind of education. It is also possible to envisage circumstances in which it might, for example, be appropriate to include a secondary school head as a member of an education association established to conduct a primary school.
§ Amendment No. 57 ensures that an education association must include at least one member appearing for the Secretary of State to have experience of and to have shown capacity in the provision of either primary or secondary education, giving the Secretary of State the right degree of flexibility. This wording would include those with experience of management of schools, such as school bursars.
§ In considering further the amendment of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, I also felt it appropriate to place a requirement on the face of the Bill that where an education association is to conduct a special school it should include a member with experience of providing for children with special educational needs.
§ Amendment No. 56 is a drafting amendment, intended to ensure consistency of expression across Part V.
§ Amendments Nos. 82 and 83 to Schedule 2 relate to the functions of the LEA at stage 3 in meeting the costs of boarding pupils with statements of special educational needs who are attending schools in the maintained sector. Amendment No. 82 clarifies the circumstances in which the LEA will be required to meet such pupils' boarding fees. Amendment No. 83 corrects an omission in the Bill and secures that LEAs have power to meet the boarding costs of a pupil with A statement where they are not otherwise under a duty to do so.
§ Amendment No. 46 to Clause 190 carries forward into the Bill the existing powers and duties of LEAs regarding the provision of board-arid-lodging pupils with statements of special educational needs attending schools outside the maintained sector. The amendments reflect the provisions of the Education Act 1944 and the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953 in this respect. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for having met the points raised in the debate earlier at Report stage. We are very grateful for the concession that he has made.
§ Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
I should also add my thanks, but in so far as I understood the noble Lord's answer, he is offering us part of a loaf—though that is certainly welcome—rather than the whole loaf. I understand from his reply that there is no requirement as such that somebody with specialist knowledge should have primary knowledge when applying for a primary school or secondary knowledge when applying for a secondary school. I must say that I fail 1275 to see why he should not be a little more specific in requiring the appropriate kind of knowledge for the appropriate school. Nevertheless, as I said, half a loaf is better than none.
§ Lord Henley
My Lords, I am grateful for the gratitude of both the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. As the noble Lord said, he has not had quite the full loaf but I would not go so far as to say that he has only got half a loaf. The noble Lord is correct. We believe that the Secretary of State ought to have appropriate flexibility and someone with experience of either primary or secondary education for either level. In other words, one could take someone with expedience of secondary education in the primary area or vice versa. We feel that that gives the appropriate flexibility.
We do not feel that it is necessary to tie down my right honourable friend quite so specifically as the noble Lord wishes. No doubt, where it is appropriate that it should be particularly one or the other, my right honourable friend will take that into account. To that extent, I feel that the noble Lord has got jolly nearly a full loaf.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 190 [Provision of education at non-maintained schools]:
Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 46:
Page 114, line 37, leave out from ("school") to end of line 44 and insert ("and
(b) if board and lodging are provided for the child at the school and the authority are satisfied that the necessary special educational provision cannot be provided for him at the school unless the board and lodging are also provided, pay the whole of the fees payable in respect of the board and lodging").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 193 [Choice of school: child without statement of special educational needs]:
Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 47 to 51:
Page 116, line 20, after ("above") insert ("(i)").
Page 116, line 24, after ("application") insert ("or
(ii) the parent applies for the child to be admitted to a grant-maintained school and notifies the authority by whom the no ice was served of the application").
Page 116, line 30, leave out ("not maintained by a local education authority") and insert ("which is not maintained by a local education authority and is not a grant-maintained school").
Page 116, line 32, leave out from first ("school") to end of line 34 and insert ("under arrangements made by the authority under which the fees payable in respect of the education provided at the school are to be paid by them under section 6 of the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953").
Page 116, line 38, after ("authority") insert ("and is not a grant-maintained school").
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 195 [Amendment of order at request of parent: child without statement of special educational needs]:
Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 52 to 55:
Page 118, line 9, after ("authority") insert ("or grant-maintained school").
Page 118, line 20, after ("authority") insert ("or a grant-maintained school").
Page 118, line 21, leave out from first ("school") to ("and") in line 23 and insert ("under arrangements made by the authority under which the fees payable in respect of the education provided at the school are to be paid by them under section 6 of the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953").
Page 118, line 29, after ("authority") insert ("and is not a grant-maintained school").
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 209 [Destination of reports]:
Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 56:
Page 126, line 7, after ("make") insert ("a copy or).
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 218 [Power to establish education associations]:
Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 57:
Page 132, line 43, leave out subsection (5) and insert:
("( ) An education association—
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 224 [School conducted by education association acquiring grant-maintained status]:
§ Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 58: Page 136, line 4, leave out ("become a grant-maintained school") and insert ("continue").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment, together with Amendments Nos. 59 and 60, raises a fundamental issue of principle about the Bill. Under Clauses 224 and 225, once a school has been taken over by an education association because it is failing, there are only two possible outcomes for the school: the Secretary of State decides either that the school should be discontinued or that the school should become grant-maintained. In other words, the parents of the children in that school have absolutely no say in the school's future.
§ That is counter to the Government's philosophy in favour of parental choice, the principle which we have been led to understand underlies the Bill. Surely if the Government believe that parents with children in LEA-maintained schools should have the right to decide the future of their children's school, then parents in a school which has not been performing satisfactorily and has had to be given special help to recover and improve the education that it provides should have the opportunity to decide whether the school becomes grant-maintained. This amendment would give parents precisely that say, by amending 1277 Clause 224 to provide for the organisation of a ballot on exactly the same basis as a ballot called under Clauses 24 or 25 of the Bill.
§ Why should parents be denied their rights and in effect be penalised for a situation which certainly was not of their making? It has been argued in Committee stage and elsewhere that the school's crisis might well have resulted from a failure by the local education authority. But even if that were the case, the intervention of the education association could well prove the catalyst for a transformed local situation, which would make staying with the local education authority a very attractive proposition.
§ The ballot would be an option only in the case of a school which the Secretary of State considered was able to continue. If the Secretary of State was of the opinion that the school should be discontinued, obviously there would be no vote. However, should the Secretary of State make a positive decision for continuing, surely he would want the future of the school to be based on the choice of the parents, by which he sets so much store everywhere else in the Bill.
§ This Bill is either about parental choice or it is not. We have already heard that in our previous discussions today. As things stand, it is altogether too obvious that it is only about choice when the outcome is likely to suit the Government's book. I beg to move.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords, I am sure that Ministers will wish to continue the harmonious atmosphere that currently attends the discussion of the Bill and therefore that they will be more than ready to concede the point that has now been raised.
I should like to add one other thought to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I recognise that there are people in all parts of the House who at one time or another have been engaged as education Ministers and have been faced with the problem of having to order the reorganisation of schools or sometimes the discontinuation of schools. The kind of examples that one comes across in real life can cover an appalling LEA—there have been one or two appalling LEAs, notably in south London—where the main responsibility for the school going bad has rested squarely with the LEA. That proposition was discussed in the earlier stages of the Bill. There is no doubt that there are precedents and examples to bear it out. But also sometimes a school goes bad because of the head teacher. In Britain we are very lucky in having excellent and responsible head teachers. But among any group of men and women there are always one or two who are not up to the job. There have been instances--I shall not name them in the House this evening—where schools have gone wrong largely because they have been badly led by the head teacher. In one or two cases it has been because the head teacher was a wholly inappropriate person to appoint to a leading position in a school. A third and rather less usual reason why schools occasionally go wrong is because they have irresponsible governors or, in some cases, extraordinarily cantankerous or contradictory 1278 governors who appear to press a case to the school based on little experience, knowledge, or understanding of the needs of the school.
All three examples spring to mind when one considers actual instances of reasons why schools have had to be reorganised or closed. There are plenty of examples in the annals of Her Majesty's Inspectors, and no doubt soon will be in Ofsted, in every one of those categories, which will bear out my words.
Where the fault lies with the LEA, the Bill as drafted is perfectly proper and right. That is the reason why the school has been a failure. It is highly unlikely that parents would wish to keep the school with such an LEA. But should we rule out the possibility that the main cause of a school going wrong could fall into one of the other two categories which, from direct experience, one can so frequently name: a poor head, or in some cases a difficult group of governors? Those two possibilities exist. In those instances, when the LEA may have been doing its very best to change the situation, why do we insist that the school cannot be put back under the control of the LEA, even though the parents wish it?
I do not want simply to echo the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, about the essential nature of parents being allowed to make the judgment, as the Government have argued that they should make the judgment in the case of grant-maintained schools. I want to bear out what he said by bringing forward specific instances of the kind of reasons why schools sometimes get into trouble and specific cases where the reason for that trouble could not reasonably be found to rest with the local education authority. Therefore, I add to the pleas that parents in this instance, as elsewhere in the Bill, should be the people who make the final decision about the well-being of their children.
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
My Lords, I should like to echo what has already been said and say, as we have pointed out before, that it is another of these cases where the Government's enthusiasm for parental choice and variety of schooling is shown to be somewhat hollow. As with the refusal to allow an opt-back in, the provision for a possible annual ballot and the move to grant-maintained special status, it is clear that as little as possible is to be left to chance; that is, to the wishes of parents on the spot. They might—horror of horrors!—decide to stay with their local community of schools.
In cases where the local authority has been at fault, it is indeed most unlikely that parents and governors would so decide. In those cases they will do the Government's job for them with more legitimacy than if no choice had been provided. But in cases where an LEA is not at fault—we gave examples at previous stages of the Bill and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, reinforced them just now—it is simply not right that all decisions about the school's future should be taken away.
As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, pointed out, under our amendment it is still open to the Secretary of State to close a failing school if it is felt that that is the only thing to do. But in all other circumstances it is the 1279 people on the spot who should decide what happens to their school. A ballot under Clauses 24 and 25 is the proper way to do it.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, in order to understand the amendments I have amended my copy of the Bill and put a metaphorical wet towel around my head. But I find them confusing. Perhaps I may deal with the three amendments in detail.
To say, in lines 4 and 5, as the first amendment does, that we should delete the words "become a grant-maintained school", overlooks the fact that under Clause 227(2) the report may recommend that the school should become a grant-maintained school; we cannot get away from that. Yet the amendment seeks to delete the words "become a grant-maintained school", and substitute the word "continue". That means that not only has a limited hypothesis been reached, but in my opinion a wrong hypothesis.
My point in relation to Amendment No. 59 is a minor drafting point. The words,as though the ballot had been called",are not really necessary. And I am sorry to say that I cannot make any sense of Amendment No. 60. Taken together, I doubt whether the amendments express the intentions of those who are moving them. I shall be interested to hear what my noble friend Lady Blatch has to say.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, I listened with care to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. It is possible that some technical tidying up may be needed. But it would not be impossible, if the principle of the amendment were to be accepted, for that to be done.
The principle of the amendment is rather important. The point the noble Lord, Lord Judd, made in regard to choice, is significant. It makes me doubt how the Secretary of State can claim to be in favour of freedom of choice until, by deed poll, he changes his name to Hobson.
Also, I should like to add one more to the list of reasons given by my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby for the possible failure of a school; that is, the economic and in some cases social failure of the area. The Minister will undoubtedly say that living in a depressed area does not necessarily lead to a failing school. She is quite right. Being shot does not necessarily lead to death; but there is a risk that it may do so.
The constituency in which I live—I will not follow the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, and say that it is my constituency, as it is Mr. Ken Livingstone's constituency —now has adult male unemployment of 40 per cent. Figures like that harm the self-respect of an area. It is a struggle to maintain self-respect in that sort of situation. If one finds one's local school is taken away from the local community and put under the control of professionals thrust in from the outside, as I am sure it will be perceived even if wrongly, it may be one final measure towards the loss of self-respect in the community, which can only cause more work for the police.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, the amendments in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, would have the effect of requiring the education association to organise a ballot for grant-maintained status where the Secretary of State had received a report stating that the school was no longer in need of special measures and had decided that it should continue.
I have said many times before, and believe that it is worth repeating, that if we could have that kind of concern for the democratic rights of parents who in law have the democratic right to vote for grant-maintained status, what noble Lords were saying would have more meaning and would be a genuine plea for parental rights. But it is not. It is a plea to keep the LEA in business almost for its own sake.
I hesitate to repeat what I have already said to the House on more than one occasion, but am forced to do so in the light of the Opposition's suggestion that we, on these Benches, do not value the opinion of parents. That is completely unacceptable. Of course parents know what is best for their children. But these are not normal circumstances. Let me take the House back a step. If the Secretary of State thinks that the school and the LEA have set out effective action plans for dealing with the problems identified in the inspection report, he will not transfer the school to an education association in the first place. If the plans are implemented effectively, the school will remain with the LEA. Only where he judges the plans to be inadequate, or the school and the LEA incapable—I stress "incapable"—of implementing them effectively, will a school be transferred to an education association. It will be very much the exception. It will not be a frequent occurrence. It is not a normal situation. It is certainly not, as noble Lords have suggested, a backdoor route to self-governing status.
We have no interest in seeing schools fail—that should unite the whole House. We want parents of pupils in schools which are giving their pupils a high standard of education to have the free choice whether or not to opt for self-governing status. But in the exceptional circumstances where a school, and its LEA, have failed the pupils and their parents we see no choice but to have exceptional arrangements for a quick, simple move on to grant-maintained status. Noble Lords opposite have argued that moving swiftly is not an important factor. On the contrary, it is central to the case. A failing school will have been subject to uncertainty of different kinds over a lengthy period, not only failing as a school, but the local authority failing to restore good education to that school. Therefore, decisive action is highly desirable in such cases. Balloting for grant-maintained status would just mean a further period of uncertainty for the school.
However, these amendments do not even properly address the issue of what might happen as a result of a parental ballot. Where a county or voluntary school has a ballot for grant-maintained status, parents have a clear choice—either to keep the school as it is, under LEA control, or to choose self-government. That 1281 would not be the case with a ballot organised by an education association. The school could not remain in the care of an education association in perpetuity if parents voted "no". Perhaps it was the intention of those tabling these amendments that, were parents to vote against grant-maintained status, an assumption would be made that they were voting for returning the school to the LEA. But as they stand that is not the effect.
My noble friend Lord Renton is right to point out that the amendments are not only slightly defective, but wholly defective. I have done my best in previous debates on this issue to point out to the Opposition the technical failings of their amendments. I should have thought that at this late stage in the progress of the Bill they might have tried to produce amendments which would actually achieve their intended aim. However, they appear to have completely given up on any attempt to produce workable amendments. There is no provision for a school to transfer back to the LEA. There is no provision for the LEA to say whether it is prepared to take the school back. There is no provision for the establishment of a governing body. I cannot help but feel that there is no heart in these amendments. We have the makings of a procedural cul-de-sac.
Parents being balloted for grant-maintained status in. LEA controlled schools can make a judgment as to whether they believe the school is operating to their satisfaction under the LEA or whether they would prefer the school to enjoy the benefits of self-government. A parental ballot at a school conducted by an education authority would not allow them to make that same judgment. They would have the evidence before them that an education association, operating in much the same way as the governing body of a grant-maintained school, had turned the school around. They might also have vague promises from the LEA which had failed the school in the past about what it might do in the future. Although I have no doubt about the way in which they would vote, I do not believe that that is a reasonable choice to ask parents to make.
The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, quite rightly reminded us of the different circumstances in which a school could fail. I recognised many of the reasons given. But we are talking about schools that are already under local authority control and every example that was given by the noble Baroness is a matter for the local education authorities. They can, if they are concerned about the future of a school and good education in a school, put in an inspection team. They can call the school to account. There are many ways in which they can do something to make sure that the education in a school does not arrive at such a stage that it is deemed by Her Majesty's Inspectorate as being a school at risk of not giving good education to the children.
The noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, referred to an LEA not being at fault. I am afraid that we are talking about an LEA that is at fault. It is only if an LEA is at fault that an education association would be 1282 put into place. If an LEA is found incapable of restoring good education to a school it is only then that an education association would be put in place.
I am not saying that the local education authority is necessarily the cause, as indeed the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, said. It may not even have contributed to a school failing or contributed to the crisis, as the noble Earl mentioned, in a failing school. What I am saying is that the local education authority will have failed that school in failing to restore good education to it. It is only in that circumstance that an education association would be put in place.
We shall have to continue to agree to differ on the issue. We believe that the Bill gives considerable choice to parents. But where a school has arrived at the sorry state of having failed its children, and where the local education authority has also failed those children, it is my view that good education should be restored and that the school's future should be secured in the grant-maintained sector.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, I hope that the Minister will forgive me if I say that I find her strictures at this hour a little rich. More than 900 government amendments were tabled to the Bill—most of them described as technical and drafting amendments. With all the resources of draftsmanship and of the Civil Service to assist the Government, that is the reality.
Of course we are sorry if there are imperfections in our drafting. If the Minister were prepared to meet the principle, if she would give an indication that she is prepared to meet the principle, we would sit down at once with the noble Lord, Lord Renton, with all his expertise, and others and work out how this could be put right. It is no good the Minister retreating behind technical arguments when she knows full well that it is the principle to which she objects. That is what brings me to the centre of the issue.
We have been told over and over again during our deliberations that the Bill is about extending parental choice and that the health and future of schools depend on parents being committed to what is happening in schools and to playing their part. That argument has been repeatedly deployed. Here is a situation in which a school has gone through all the trauma of an education association coming in. The whole object of the exercise is to normalise the situation and bring the school into line with what the Government have said is appropriate for the country as a whole, a situation in which parents will feel content with what is being done. Now we hear, even at the last moment, the Minister telling the House that the parents are not to be trusted in that situation, that their judgment is not valid, that the Secretary of State knows better in that situation than the parents. is the Minister really arguing—
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. He missed out an important part of the trauma for that school. The school has already been deemed to have failed its children. The local education authority is given in this process an opportunity to restore good education to 1283 the school. It is the local education authority which then fails that school and those children. That is the extent of the trauma. To suggest that it should go back to the LEA is simply unacceptable.
I thought I made it clear that I was not rejecting the amendments only because they are defective. I said that they are defective and that I thought it was unfortunate that there was no provision for the school to transfer back to the LEA, no provision for the LEA to say whether it was prepared to take the school back and no provision for the establishment of a governing body. The amendments are not only partly defective; they are defective in so many cases. But on the principle of sending it back to the LEA, I have made it absolutely clear that we do not agree.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, the length of the Minister's intervention reminds me of her reaction to an intervention by me earlier in the proceedings. But we will not go into that just now. What we are emphasising in our approach is that the more upsetting the experience for a community—for the children and the parents—the more important it is that everyone concerned is on board with what is being proposed. If the Secretary of State made a decision about the future of a school and it was known widely that the parents of that school were totally opposed to it, would that be a good basis for normalising the situation in the school? Is that what the Minister is suggesting? Would that be a sound basis for putting right what had been wrong? It would be to perpetuate the instability, the uncertainty and the tensions which had led to the crisis in the first place.
As to the Minister's point about local education authorities failing, I do not understand her position. She reminded me —quite specifically, me—as well as the House as a whole of her experience in local government. Does she believe in the principles of local democracy, or does she not? As the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, pointed out powerfully in Committee, there may have been a crisis in a school which necessitated the presence of an education association. As a result of that crisis there may have been a total change, in an election, of the political leadership of the borough concerned. The action taken by the Secretary of State would, whatever we may feel about education associations in general, have to be commended because it would have been the catalyst that brought about a democratic change for the better. In that situation, because of her doctrinaire and dogmatic commitment on the issue, the Minister says that it would not be possible to find a democratic and sensible solution in which the parents could participate. No, that is not acceptable. Although it be the hour for dinner—I apologise for delaying what we are all looking forward to in that respect—on this side of the House we are determined to press the issue to a Division.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 58) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 57; Not-Contents, 128.1285
|Division No. 3|
|Addington, L. [Teller.]||Lockwood, B.|
|Airedale, L.||Longford, E.|
|Archer of Sandwell, L.||Macaulay of Bragar, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Mackie of Benshie, L.|
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||McNair, L.|
|Barnett, L.||Mason of Barnsley, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Buckmaster, V.||Ogmore, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Parry, L.|
|Clinton-Davis, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Plant of Highfield, L.|
|David, B.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Desai, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Rea, L.|
|Eatwell, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Ewing of Kirkford, L.||Russell, E.|
|Fitt, L.||Seear, B.|
|Galpern, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]||Stallard, L.|
|Gregson, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Hamwee, B.||Thomson of Monifieth, L.|
|Hollis of Heigham, B.||Tordoff, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Jay of Paddington, B.||White, B.|
|Judd, L.||Williams of Crosby, B.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Young of Dartington, L.|
|Aberconway, L.||Dundonald, E.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Eccles, V.|
|Alport, L.||Eden of Winton, L.|
|Arran, E.||Elles, B.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Elliot of Harwood, B.|
|Astor, V.||Elton, L.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Ferrers, E.|
|Auckland, L.||Fraser of Carmyllie, L.|
|Beloff, L.||Gainsborough, E.|
|Blatch, B.||Gisborough, L.|
|Boardman, L.||Goschen, V.|
|Borthwick, L.||Grantchester, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Greenway, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Guildford, Bp.|
|Braine of Wheatley. L.||Halsbury, E.|
|Brentford, V.||Harmar-Nicholls, L.|
|Brigstocke, B.||Harvington, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Hayhoe, L.|
|Bruntisfield, L.||Henley, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Hesketh, L.|
|Caldecote, V.||Hives, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||HolmPatrick, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Howe, E.|
|Cavendish of Furness, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Jenkin of Roding, L.|
|Chelmsford, V.||Kimball, L.|
|Clanwilliam, E.||Kitchener, E.|
|Clark of Kempston, L||Lane of Horsell, L.|
|Cochrane of Cults, L.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Lawrence, L.|
|Cornwallis, L.||Leigh, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
|Cranborne, V.||Long, V. [Teller.]|
|Crawshaw, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Cross, V.||Lyell, L.|
|Cumberlege, B.||McColl of Dulwich, L.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.[Lord Chancellor.]|
|De Ramsey, L.|
|Denham, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Denton of Wakefield, B.||Margadale, L.|
|Mountevans, L.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Sanderson of Bowden, L.|
|Moyne, L.||Seccombe, B.|
|Munster, E.||Sharples, B.|
|Murton of Lindisfarne, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Napier and Ettrick, L.||Stewartby, L.|
|Norfolk, D.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Norrie, L.||Strange, B.|
|Northbourne, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Norwich, Bp.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.|
|Onslow, E.||Swinfen, L.|
|Orr-Ewing, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Oxfuird, V.||Tebbit, L.|
|Park of Monmouth, B.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Peel, E.||Torrington, V.|
|Pender, L.||Trumpington, B. [ Teller.]|
|Perth, E.||Ullswater, V.|
|Prentice, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Pym, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Rankeillour, L.||Wakeham, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]|
|Renton, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Rodger of Earlsferry. L.||Wynford, L.|
|Romney, E.||Young, B.|
|St. Davids, V.||Younger of Prestwick, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ [Amendments Nos. 59 and 60 not moved.]
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.30 p.m.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
[The Sitting was suspended from 7.46 to 8.30 p.m.]
Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 61:
After Clause 229, insert the following new clause:
("Amendment of. sections 4 and 232 of the Education Reform Act 1988
—(1) In section 4 of the Education Reform Act 1988, subsection (5) shall be deleted.
(2) In section 232, in subsection (3), after 3(4) (a), there shall be inserted "4(2) (c)".").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 61 and to speak also to Amendment No. 64 which is grouped with it. Both amendments deal with testing. The purpose of Amendment No. 61 is to amend the provisions of the Education Reform Act 1988 which laid down the procedure for the Secretary of State to set out methods of assessment. It was to be done simply by executive order. There was no procedure for parliamentary scrutiny of any sort. I accept the point which the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, made about this on Thursday—that we ought to have paid attention to that in 1988. But we did not. We set up a procedure allowing the Secretary of State to do it by himself without coming back to Parliament to report on what he had done or to secure any approval. That may be regarded to some extent as our own fault. If so, I am one of those who has to say, "mea culpa". The effects have been unfortunate and we should consider what we can do to put them right.
§ The effect of the amendment would be to make any future setting out of methods of assessment subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, which would mean that it would be necessary to bring them to this House. One advantage of that is that it is a fairly regular experience that administrative work which has to be submitted to the scrutiny of the House is carried 1286 out with rather more care and is perhaps rather higher up the list of priorities than it might otherwise be. There is also a value in the way of obtaining consent and, whichever point of view we hold, it is vital that, whatever the assessment arrangements arrived at in future, they should enjoy general consent. It gives the House a chance to satisfy itself that whatever is proposed is practical; that it can be made to work; and, above all, that it is ready. It is very difficult to convey to those who work regularly in Whitehall quite how strong a resistance there is among those who work in education to exposing their pupils to tests for which it has not been possible to make them ready. That is something that one would expect anyone with any academic training to refuse to dc. One of the advantages of making any new procedure come before Parliament is that it gives us a chance to satisfy ourselves that what is offered is ready.
§ When we discussed these matters on Thursday evening in an Unstarred Question, the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, was kind enough to vouchsafe to me an advanced view of her answer. As she did that, 1 think that it is in order for me to respond to some of the points that she made. She said that it was necessary —and I agree with her on this—to strike a balance between the demands of effective scrutiny of legislation and the no less pressing demands on the time of this House. It is a fair point, but my plea is that the time of this House has not actually been saved. By allowing a mess to be made, the House has created a great deal of work for itself, whereas if something adequate had been put in front of us for scrutiny, vie might have got through the work much more quickly.
§ The noble Baroness also argued that we should ask whether it was realistic to expect Parliament to approve the details of assessment and testing arrangements. She said that those were essentially operational matters and matters of detail. I am sure that the noble Baroness remembers our debate on 5th May 1988 when the powers which I seek to amend were originally approved. In that debate, a great many noble Lords (some of whom are now present in the Chamber) expressed strong and detailed views about the differences between different methods of assessment. They expressed a willingness to approve some but not others. The record of the House therefore refutes that argument.
§ The noble Baroness also asked how one could scrutinise papers which needed to be confidential. There is such a thing as a specimen paper. When one is introducing something new, it is fairly normal to show a specimen paper and to consult on it in advance while keeping the actual paper secret. So I do not see any great difficulty in that.
§ Next time—in a year's time—we should not be where we are now. I do riot think that the conclusions of the Dearing Review can be accepted as wholly revealed. There needs to be consultation about them. It is essential that that consultation should be brought to Parliament so that we can see whether we are satisfied with it. In the long-term, I hope that that might save more trouble than it creates. I beg to move.1287
§ Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
My Lords, I rise to speak briefly to Amendment No. 64 which stands in my name, although the noble Earl, Lord Russell, has covered most of my points.
The purpose of the amendment is to ensure the full consultation period where it is "reasonably practicable" to do so. The gist of the argument which the noble Earl has advanced is that the Minister has not said that only consensual changes shall be made; nor has she said that only urgent changes shall be made. Since she has not, as I understand it, given those undertakings, I do not see why the full procedure as originally agreed should be short-circuited in this way. Although the amendment seeks to keep in place the Minister's changes, we are speaking about arrangements where it will be "reasonably practicable" to do that. Those two simple points are all that I have to say about my amendment.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, perhaps I may take Amendment No. 61 first. We had the opportunity to consider these matters during Report on 21st June. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, did not speak to the similar amendment in his name on that occasion. But this House has also had the opportunity to consider the issue of subordinate legislation at large during the course of the short debate which the noble Earl, Lord Russell, initiated on 1st July.
The House will be aware that in framing legislation there is always a balance to be struck between matters of principle and matters of detail. This amendment seeks to shift the present balance in respect of assessment orders made under Section 4(2) (c) of the Education Reform Act.
As I said on 21st June, I see no need to do so. Assessment and testing are part and parcel of the national curriculum. They must address the statutory statements of attainment laid out in the curriculum orders for each subject, which are themselves the subject of widespread consultation. The principle of assessment in the national curriculum is enshrined in primary legislation in the Education Reform Act.
The assessment orders themselves bring into effect arrangements for assessment and testing at each key stage and for each subject as determined by the Secretary of State. Their substance is inevitably detailed and technical. They cover issues such as the relationship between teacher assessment and national tests in each subject, the means of arriving at an overall subject result, arrangements for pupils who are disapplied from part of a subject and the way to deal with pupils who are absent from a test paper. Essentially, they are concerned with operational decisions about how and when assessment and testing should take place.
For the sake of clarity, I should add that the assessment orders do not address the tests themselves; that is, their format, how many papers there should be, and the style and content of particular questions.
I do not see that Parliament needs to concern itself with scrutiny of such operational decisions. As I said on 21st June, Parliament has had no control, for example, over public examinations such as the GCSE and A-levels which are of at least equal importance for the pupils taking them.
1288 We have taken pains to consult those affected about these operational decisions. The assessment orders for 1991, 1992 and 1993 were themselves subject to consultation. The orders for 1994 will be framed in the light of the review of the curriculum and assessment framework being conducted by Sir Ron Dearing after extensive consultation. As part of his review, Sir Ron has consulted widely on those matters which the orders will cover. That is surely the right way to go about framing the assessment orders and for consideration of the largely technical and mechanical matters which they cover. Against that background, I see no need for the kind of parliamentary scrutiny that the noble Earl envisages.
The effect of subsection (1) would be that the tests themselves could no longer be published separately but would have to form part of the order itself. That would be a strange procedure indeed. The tests are taken "unseen" by pupils. They need to remain confidential until taken by pupils. There is nothing in the amendment to suggest that the papers would be samples. They would be the tests themselves that are going before pupils. To include the tests for each subject as part of the order would obviously destroy the concept of "unseen" tests. I have difficulty in imagining how this Chamber, even with the expertise holed up here, could deal sensibly with the individual questions in those tests that would be asked of children at all the different ability levels. A practical consequence is that the orders would be remarkably large, running to several hundred pages.
I cannot see that it is proper for Parliament to exercise scrutiny of those technical matters as the amendment proposes. It is also the case that it is simply impractical for Parliament to consider the tests themselves at each key stage and for each year as the amendment envisages. I would ask the noble Earl to withdraw his amendment.
I turn now to Amendment No. 64. I share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, who is not in her place, that there should be all necessary consultation before changes to the national curriculum are introduced. I can assure the noble Lord that the Government are committed to consulting widely, and will continue to do so.
I cannot accept the amendment since it is unclear that it adds much to my right honourable friend's duty under this clause to consult. I can, however, give the House assurances that, wherever possible, we intend to follow the procedures set out in Sections 20 and 21 of the Education Reform Act. Where we need to proceed more quickly, and use the flexibility introduced by this clause to hold only one round of consultation, we intend to consult at least as widely as the minimum required in the Education Reform Act, and would expect to consult more widely, along the lines of our current practice for the first stage of national curriculum consultations.
In addition, I can assure the House that we will allow adequate time for consultation, appropriate to the organisations which we consult on any particular 1289 proposal. We recognise that if schools themselves are to respond, they need time fully to consider documents and to discuss them before doing so.
We do not intend to bypass consultation. But where there has been extensive consultation on broad principles, as part of the Dearing Review, there may be—I only say "may be" —no need for the full two-stage consultation process. We intend to respond to teachers' concerns effectively and quickly following the results of the Dearing Review. That is the purpose of the clause. I hope that noble Lords will accept my assurances as to how the Government intend to proceed and will not press the amendment. I acknowledge that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, has introduced an important point.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply which was careful, detailed and considered. I shall not pretend not to be disappointed, but neither shall I pretend to be surprised. First, I owe the House an apology for my absence on 21st June. I was in the chair at my seminar, listening to a paper attacking my own work with some vigour and feeling a momentary sympathy for the Minister.
The Minister argues that the amendment deals with detail, that the matter is technical, and therefore Parliament should not be concerned with it. That detail or technical matter is in danger of bringing the whole process of state education to a halt. We can cope with that type of trouble one year, but if we have to do it again, it will be a serious matter indeed. I cannot help but feel that when Parliament sees something of this magnitude going wrong it will not take kindly to being told that it is merely technical and a matter of detail. When schools are not working, that is a little more than a matter of detail.
The Minister said that she could not see that Parliament needed to concern itself with the matter. I am afraid that I can see that Parliament needs to concern itself. She said that she saw no need for parliamentary scrutiny; that the processes of consultation were sufficient. It is fair here to say that we judge by results. This year's results do not appear to bear that out. If in a year's time the results again do riot bear it out.. then Parliament would be deeply concerned indeed.
The Minister says that Amendment No. 64 adds nothing to the Secretary of State's duty to consult. But he has not been very good at that duty so far. The Secretary of State will have to understand, if he is to consult adequately, that, as the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, once said to the House, consultation is a two-way process. Until it is understood that it is consultation between two codes of values, between which some accommodation must be reached, consultation cannot be successful.
The magnitude of this issue is such that I would be entitled to divide the House. On the other hand, I cannot see that I advance an argument for consensus by doing that. So, under the circumstances, I shall beg leave to withdraw my amendment. But if we are here again in a year's time, I shall not.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1290
Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 62:
After Clause 240, insert the following new clause:
(".—(1) In section 2(1) of the Education Reform Act 1988 (content of curriculum), after "school" in paragraph (a) there is inserted—
(aa) in the case of a secondary school, provision for sex education for all registered pupils at the school;
(ab) in the case of a special school, provision for sex education for all registered pupils at the school who are provided with secondary education".
(2) In section 114(1) of the Education Act 1944 (interpretation), after the definition of "Senior pupil" there is inserted—
"Sex education" includes education about—
(3) After section 17 of the Education Reform Act 1988 there is inserted—
Exemption from sex education.
17A. If the parent of any pupil in attendance at any maintained school requests that he may be wholly or partly excused from receiving sex education at the school, the pupil shall, except so far as such education is comprised in the National Curriculum, be so excused accordingly until the request is withdrawn.
(4)The Secretary of State shall so exercise the power conferred by section 4 of that Act to revise the National Curriculum as to secure that the subject of science does not include—
(5) The governing body of every maintained or grant-maintained school and, in relation to pupils who are provided with secondary education, the governing body of every maintained special school shall—
(6) In relation to any county, or controlled, secondary school, and in relation to any pupils who are provided with secondary education in a maintained special school, section 18 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 (policy for curriculum in county etc. schools), shall have effect with the omission of subsections (2) and (6) (c) (i) and of the references to the matters mentioned in subsection (2) of that section.")
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in bringing forward this amendment we are seeking to achieve two objectives. First, we want to ensure that sex education is placed firmly and unequivocally within the curriculum of all maintained secondary schools. Secondly, we want to give expression to the right of parents to play an important part in determining how their children should be educated in this particularly sensitive area of the curriculum.
§ I shall explain briefly how these provisions will operate. In primary schools, the position will be 1291 similar to the current one: it will remain the responsibility of governors to decide whether they wish to offer any sex education and, if they do, what it should cover and how it should be taught. There is, however, one important change. If parents do not wish their children to receive some or all of the sex education offered by a primary school, they will have the right to withdraw their children from that provision.
§ In secondary schools, sex education will be offered to all pupils. That provision will include education about sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and AIDS. It will be for governing bodies to decide, within that broad requirement, the content and organisation of sex education in their school. Parents will have the right to withdraw their children from some or all of that provision.
§ There is an important proviso here which I should like to stress. Some aspects of what might generally be termed sex education—broadly speaking, the biology of human sexual development and reproduction—will continue to form part of the national curriculum. The parental right of withdrawal will not extend to these aspects; nor will governors have any discretion to allow children to be withdrawn from them. I hope the House will agree with our view that it would be quite wrong to legislate for the possibility that some children might leave secondary education without a clear knowledge of the basic biological and physical facts of life. But beyond those aspects, parents will be able if they wish to withdraw their children by specifying that they do not wish them to receive sex education or, if their concern extends only to certain aspects, by specifying those aspects. I should make it clear here that we do not think it appropriate or practicable to require parents to justify their request or to oblige governors to decide whether to grant these requests. If parents feel strongly enough to make such a request, that in our view is sufficient.
§ I hope and believe that there will in practice be very few such requests. We are often told that the great majority of parents want their children to receive sex education at school. By ensuring that it is available in all secondary schools this amendment will meet the wishes of these parents. Moreover, I very much hope that, as happens in the best cases at present, schools will seek to involve parents closely in the process of drawing up their programmes of sex education. This will do much to keep the number of withdrawals to a minimum. And I must emphasise here that the provisions of Section 46 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 will continue to apply in full. All sex education in schools, whether or not it forms part of the national curriculum, will have to be taught in such a way as to encourage pupils to have due regard to moral considerations and the value of family life. It will not be as at least one lobbyist group put it to me; "Don't let spiritual and moral values get in the way of safer-sex education".
§ I know that some concern has been expressed about the position of children whose parents exercise the right of withdrawal but fail to make suitable alternative arrangements for their children to learn 1292 about these important and sensitive matters. I have to say that I do not think that that is a very great risk. Parents are unlikely to go to the trouble of withdrawing their children without having thought through the issues. In most cases I believe that they will have a very clear idea of the alternative approach that they intend to adopt. It is, after all, the most discerning parents who take the step of withdrawing their children from any part of school education. But as a safeguard we intend to issue guidance which will encourage schools to offer help, advice and information to parents who are exercising their right of withdrawal. I should like to take this opportunity to point out—and I believe that schools will also wish to make it clear to parents—that this right carries with it a corresponding responsibility. Parents should think very carefully about how they intend to ensure that children are not deprived of information and understanding which will be of increasing importance to them as they approach adulthood.
§ In conclusion, perhaps I may once again acknowledge—as I have done many times before in discussion of these issues in this House—that we clearly recognise that this is a topic on which there are widely differing but equally strongly held views. I do not imagine that this amendment will satisfy everyone. I do, however, hope that the House will recognise that it represents a sincere attempt to remove existing sources of confusion and distress and, at the same time, to ensure that all our children receive necessary information and guidance in the way that is best suited to them.
§ In moving the Government's Amendment No. 62 I set out fully our thinking behind the decision to confer on parents a statutory right to withdraw their children from lessons on sex education. In doing so, the Government have responded to the concerns about sex education and education about HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. We believe that individuals should have the right to act on strongly held beliefs in this difficult and sensitive area. We wish to respect the right of parents to decide for themselves whether their children should receive sex education at school. The right of parental withdrawal is respect for the right of parents to ensure education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions. This accords with Article 2 of the First Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights.
§ I am told that I must not respond to Amendments Nos. 62A, 62B and 62C. However, I intend to respond to them because I believe that time will be saved and that it will help the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, to understand my response to this cluster of amendments. I believe that they are unnecessary. In practice, I find it hard to imagine a child who is of an age and has reached sufficient maturity to decide that he or she wants to attend sex education lessons being prevented from doing so by his or her parents asserting the right of withdrawal. We believe that those parents who are sufficiently concerned to be considering exercising the right of withdrawal will take full account of the child's views.1293
§ Amendment No. 62A would be difficult if not impossible to implement. It would be unreasonable to require governors or head teachers to make judgments about whether the pupil was of sufficient understanding to make an informed decision. What would the test be about the understanding of the teaching of HIV and AIDS, for example? Schools would need to apply a common set of criteria, and I would have thought it impossible to draw up a universally acceptable set of criteria to adjudicate on whether a pupil has sufficient understanding to make an informed decision. And Amendment No 62B would be unworkable. The age of sexual consent is, of course, applicable to girls; none applies to boys.
§ I have already explained and made clear that we expect requests from parents to withdraw their children from sex education to be kept to a minimum given the mechanisms that enable consultation between governors and parents to take place on the formulation and implementation of sex education policies, and the guidance which we are proposing to give schools on this subject. In those circumstances, we believe that it is not necessary to hedge the provision on parental withdrawal with provisos of this kind.
§ With those reassurances I hope that the noble Baroness will consider that it is important to have this debate but that at the end of the day she will not wish to press the amendments.
§ I fully appreciate the thinking behind Amendment No. 62C but I have to tell the House that it is also unnecessary. Section 1(2) of the Education (Schools) Act 1992 already requires the Chief Inspector for England—
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, I passed a message to the Minister's colleague to inform her that I want to move Amendment No. 62C separately. It is not an amendment to the Minister's amendment; it is a separate new clause.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I had not been informed of that prior to speaking to these amendments. Of course, if we are now in the business of decoupling Amendment No. 62C, which is a great pity because we are to have a debate about sex education, it is unfortunate that we shall have two debates on sex education. It might have been a little more courteous to have told me before I stood to address these amendments. I beg to move.
Baroness Jay of Paddington moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 62, Amendment No. 62A:
Line 22, at end insert ("provided that the request is in accordance with the pupil's own wishes if the pupil is of sufficient understanding to make an informed decision.").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with the permission of the House, in moving Amendment No. 62A I shall speak also to Amendment No. 62B. I have tabled these amendments because I am extremely anxious about children's rights. The noble Baroness in moving her amendment spoke several times about the rights of parents but I wish to speak a little about the rights of children.1294
§ I am also concerned and somewhat surprised that Amendment No. 62 has been tabled to the Education Bill at this stage. I am surprised because it is, after all, only a short time since there were major revisions to the sex education provisions in schools, which are being worked effectively in those schools. Any new revisions must necessarily destabilise, confuse and overburden school systems, which are already grappling with a difficult subject in difficult circumstances.
§ It was only in August 1992—not yet one full school year —that there was a revision of the science orders in the national curriculum to include HIV and AIDS. A full school year has not yet elapsed in which one can see how well those are working. It is also less than two months ago when, in this House, the noble Baroness, winding up in Committee the debate on an amendment including some of the same provisions tabled by my noble friend Lord Stallard, argued and argued forcefully that existing legislation contained sufficient safeguards for parents. She said that at col. 1115 of Hansard.
§ It was only in April that the Department for Education issued its revised circular on sex education emphasising the importance of working with parents and of achieving their co-operation and not giving them the opportunity to opt their children out of sex education altogether. As I understand it from looking again at that document this afternoon, the consultation period on that extremely important revision document ends on 16th July. I do not know what is the status of that document now and I should be grateful if the Minister could tell me in her reply. This is a matter which is being taken very seriously by those working in the field and it is extraordinary to believe that the Department for Education now considers it dead.
§ As I said, the draft circular spoke of the importance of developing a partnership with parents because—the noble Baroness referred to this in moving the amendment—it recognised the importance of parents in the sphere of sexual health education. I do not believe that anybody in this House would disagree with that. The vast majority-96 per cent.—of parents want sex education in schools. Therefore, as the noble Baroness said, the number who will opt out of the new provisions will probably be a tiny minority.
§ My fear is that that tiny minority may be precisely those most in need of sexual support and education within school rather than in their home. Those children may be unwillingly opted out and may be opted out in circumstances which are detrimental to their well-being.
§ In Committee, I spoke briefly about my experience with Moslem girls in London who came to me when I was director of the National AIDS Trust to speak about an AIDS project which they were doing at school and which they felt unable to discuss with their parents. However, I am encouraged to hear today that the representative body of Moslem parents says that it has no general desire to opt its children out of sex education and, therefore, will not take advantage of the amendment.1295
§ On the other hand, I am disturbed by the NSPCC's view in relation to the government amendment which stands before us this evening; namely, that those who have been involved in sexual abuse may opt their children out of sex education at school because of the fear of disclosure. That is not a wild red herring but comes from the NSPCC—a very authoritative source. It reflects precisely the anxieties which will arise if, as the noble Baroness said, parents are not required to give any indication of their reasons for opting their children out of sex education.
In this day and age the rights of a child must be recognised. The language of my Amendment No. 62A, which the noble Baroness queried, was taken specifically from the Children Act 1989, which refers in various different clauses to personal decisions about young people and children. Examples are clauses concerning their health and property. That legislation uses the phrase:
of sufficient understanding to make an informed decision".
That is the exact phrase that I used in my amendment. Your Lordships may say that it is vague but I assume that it is workable because it is already included in government legislation, and very important legislation; namely, the Children Act.
§ The Children Act respects the autonomy of young people but the United Kingdom is also a signatory to the UN's international convention on children's rights, which gives entitlement to education and information that enables the child to lead a responsible adult life. The European Court has now ruled to give young people a right to education in this area.
I am concerned also about, and draw the attention of the House to, the entitlement which exists under existing educational legislation in this country and which speaks of ensuring:
education in sexual matters sufficient to ensure that their children's health is not impaired".
All those pieces of international and national law simply reflect the realities of young people's lives in the last decade of the 20th century. Young people achieve independence and autonomy early. They lead lives which their parents may not know about, may not wish to know about and may not contemplate. To ignore that fact is simply to ignore the realities of life. The children may not be leading lives which any of us would necessarily wish to repeat. They may not be leading lives which, as parents, we should commend. But we must acknowledge that they are becoming sexually experienced at a very young age and that they seek to experience their own autonomy.
§ In Committee my noble friend Lord Ponsonby and on Report the noble Lord, Lord Addington, referred to the generation gap which exists in the House on this issue. I entirely support their view. Those of us in our forties, fifties and sixties who have real involvement with young people today and who have real experience of schools and the way in which young people live their lives, particularly in some of the more deprived areas and areas of social concern, know that some of the facts which I shall give to the House are correct.
§ Let us list the basic statistics which we know about young people's lives. Thirty-five per cent. of young 1296 people under the age of 16 have had full sexual intercourse. Fifty per cent. have had full sexual intercourse by the time they are 18. One-third of those young people do not use contraceptives in a new sexual encounter with a new partner. Twenty per cent. of HIV infection in this country is among young people aged 15 to 25. This country has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the developing world. We cannot ignore those facts. They are not anecdotes. They are not wild stories from pressure groups. They are not lurid tales from the tabloid press. They are responsible facts. Most of them have been produced by the Government's work through the Department of Health and the Health Education Authority.
All of that argues the case for more, not less, sex education. That will improve matters. Less will make things more difficult. If those parents are allowed to withdraw their children from the schools, we shall see a threat to what has been increasingly good sex education in schools. We have seen the development of cross-curricula activities. Again, if I may, I should like to quote the Minister's remarks in Committee. In referring to the threat to cross-curricula activity if parents were allowed to withdraw, she said:
We took the view that to concede a right of withdrawal from lessons would work against the interests of securing an effective, broad education for every child … Schools' programmes of sex education are often part of their wider programmes of personal and social or health education"— [Official Report, 10/5/93; col. 1116.]
I entirely agree. But why has that position been changed in just six weeks? I fear that what we shall see if parents can opt out is a return to one compulsory lesson. However, sex education should not be allowed to be reduced to just one lesson. It is not an event; it is a process. In summing up the debate in Committee the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, precisely reflected my thinking in terms of the broad and general approach that there needs to be to the subject.
§ Finally, I should just like to point out that it is sometimes suggested—and, indeed, it was suggested in our earlier debates on the subject—that concern about parental withdrawal and concern about children's rights is simply a concern of what has been described as the "AIDS industry". In speaking to her amendment, the Minister again spoke somewhat pejoratively of one lobby group. That is an element that has crept into our debates.
§ However, since the Minister's amendment was produced, I have received a considerable number of letters, telephone calls, and so on, from people who do not represent such groups that are spoken of so pejoratively. For example, the 15 organisations of the Women's Health and Screening Delegation to the Minister of Health have described the amendment as a retrograde step. They represent five million women. Among those organisations are, the Mothers' Union, the National Council of Women of Great Britain, the National Federation of Women's Institutes. The Townswomens Guild and the Young Women's Christian Associations.
§ I have also received some considerable help with my thoughts on the matter from members of the Sex Education Forum. That consists of 30 organisations, 1297 including the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council, the Jewish Marriage Advisory Council, the Methodist Church Division of Education and Youth—
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for sitting down. However, I wonder whether she will comment on my conversation this morning, not with the lobby group that I mentioned earlier but with members of the Townswomens Guild. When asked whether they had read the amendment, they said "no", and when asked whether they had read the Hansard report on the debate they said, "no". All they had received was information from another lobby group which was wholly inaccurate. When I had the time to explain precisely what the amendment sought to achieve, a lady actually said to me, "That is precisely what we would have supported had we known it in the first place".
I suspect that many of the women's groups that have written in have done so on the basis of some pretty scurrilous information that has been flying around about the amendments which is wholly inaccurate. Frankly, I would not use such information in the debate because many Members in the Chamber are in receipt of such correspondence and have spoken to some of those people who speak from a point of ignorance on the matter.
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I cannot of course produce any quotes from the Townswomens Guild because, I admit, I have not spoken to that organisation. However, I have with me a letter from the chairman of the Women's Health and Screening Delegation. She states that she speaks for her members—it is possible that she is not appropriately briefed, but that would surprise me because she is a very responsible person—and says: "In our view, allowing parents to withdraw their children from sex education lessons and/or cutting out all reference to sexually transmitted diseases in the national curriculum would be a retrograde step. We would urge the Government not to implement the proposed amendment to the Education BillI report that comment to your Lordships in good faith. Of course, I should be very happy to allow the Minister to see the letter. I have absolutely no reason to suppose that the chairman of the Women's Health and Screening Delegation does not think she accurately represents her members.
If I may, I should like to continue with my speech. I do not know whether the Minister wishes to challenge the Sex Education Forum's response. However, I must point out—as I was about to do before she intervened—that it includes the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council, the Methodist Church Division of Education and Youth and, again, Relate. I believe that all of them are serious and responsible organisations. If the Minister wishes to challenge their view, that is a matter for her. I am simply reporting what has been given to me by representatives of those organisations in signed and serious letters.
In conclusion, I feel that those people represent a wider, a more respected, a more usual view of what both parents and young people want in the country. 1298 By introducing the amendment, I am worried that the Government (in the form of the Department for Education) are breaking the very effective consensus which has existed on health education and sexual health education in the country.
Several years ago the Department of Health produced an advertisement about HIV and AIDS which became famous. The advertisement stated, "Don't die of ignorance". I thought we had moved beyond that but this government amendment suggests that we have not. I beg to move.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Lord Ashbourne
My Lords, I welcome Amendment No. 62, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. believe your Lordships' discussions on this subject in all the different stages of this Bill have been marked by thorough debate. I am sure the solution that the Government are now proposing is the right one. thank the Government for listening carefully to the views that have been expressed in this House.
Sex education is a vital subject and one which I believe needs to be tackled sensitively in every secondary school. Thus I welcome the move to give sex education a special place in the curriculum, but education about sexual matters, and especially sexually transmitted diseases, takes us into some very personal and difficult areas. That is why it is right that all such education should be subject to the moral framework required by the 1986 Act. To be successful, sex education needs to be a partnership between parents and schools. I think it is absolutely right that parents can, in extreme circumstances, remove their children from sex education lessons. I do not imagine it will happen often but by giving parents this new right the Government are saying, "You have to share the responsibility for this important area in your child's life". I hope that as a result of this amendment the quality of sex education will be improved and that the lives of all our children and grandchildren will benefit as a result.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, as someone who has never had any children I feel considerable hesitation in joining in this discussion. However, to me this government amendment is totally unreal. What does the noble Baroness think will happen when children are withdrawn from a class on sex education? I can think of nothing which will motivate them more strongly to find out what is being said. Instead of their finding it out and being told properly by the people who are giving the instruction, they will receive garbled versions from their companions who have attended the class. They will certainly not sit outside, or wherever it is they are sent, and not ask their companions who attended the class what it was all about. For heaven's sake, if it is a matter of sex education they will especially want to know what has been said.
It is an absurd idea that one can stop children finding out about this matter by taking them out of a class where sex education is being taught, as it is a matter in which they are all profoundly interested. I should be extremely surprised if the excluded children 1299 were not listening at the keyhole. If they are not, they will certainly find out what has been said within 10 minutes of the class finishing.
§ Lord Stallard
My Lords, I rise to support the new clause moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I have listened carefully to the speech made by my noble friend Lady Jay. I may touch on her speech as it contained a number of inaccuracies. I welcome the constructive and helpful new clause which the Minister has moved. I believe it meets the concerns which I and others have expressed in this House over the past 18 months since the rather hasty decision of a previous Secretary of State to include education about sexual matters in the context of education about HIV and AIDS within the compulsory national curriculum. I believe the Minister has listened carefully to the representations that have been made. She has been patient in considering the concerns on this issue and the views of all of those in this Chamber, and many outside. She has produced a new statutory framework that will be better for children, parents, teachers and governors—indeed the whole school community and society at large—if people will consider honestly what is in this new clause.
I believe, too, that the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, struck the right note in his speech on Report on 21st June when, in the light of his immense knowledge—I pay tribute to his knowledge of all the issues surrounding education about HIV and AIDS —he confessed that many groups would feel that the package (that is how he referred to my amendments, which have now been embodied in the Government's proposals) on aggregate,will produce more sex education than at present, including HIV education".—[Official Report, 21/6/93; col. 136.]That is said by a man who is an expert on this subject. He saw the amendment, before it was tidied up and in its present form, as resulting in more sex education, not less, and certainly as resulting in more information about HIV being given. I consider that to be the case. I suggest that the fears that have been raised in some quarters will not be realised. For example, Rachel Thomson, senior development officer at the Sex Education Forum, suggested in the Guardian on 29th June that the changes would undermine a cross-curricular approach to sex education and were undemocratic because they met the needs of a small minority. I greatly respect much of the work that the Sex Education Forum has done, in particular its bringing together of people of different religious persuasions to look at sex education issues. Much has been achieved in relation to the interface between morality and sex education. However, I believe that she is mistaken in her understanding both of the impact of the amendments and of the support for them.
It seems to me, and it has been confirmed by educationalists with much more experience of curricular matters in school today, that rather than undermine a cross-curricular approach the new statutory framework will make it easier. HIV/AIDS education was tied in to a small part of the national curriculum in science and linked with other factual 1300 scientific issues such as human reproduction. By taking it out of the national curriculum we have created the opportunity for greater cross-curricular co-operation and greater emphasis on the all important relational aspects of sex education. I believe that it will also highlight the need for more training on this issue through giving sex education a distinctive place within school life. I urge the Government to give greater priority and funds to training on this issue. On that point I agree with Rachel Thomson.
However, Rachel Thomson also argued that this issue is being "engineered" on behalf of a small number of people in the Plymouth Brethren. On that point I wish to take issue. That is not because I am a member of the Plymouth Brethren. I am certainly not at this moment. She says:We are, however, aware of a well-organised lobby which has targeted the Department for Education for some time "on behalf" of the Plymouth-Brethren".That is completely inaccurate, as everybody knows, as well as being ill-informed. That becomes evident after even elementary research into the statement.
Rachel Thomson goes on to say: "This very small fundamentalist Christian sect is opposed to the provision of sex education in schools".The truth is that no one from the Plymouth Brethren has lobbied me, or anyone else in this House, about ending sex education in schools.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt my noble friend. I have been lobbied by the Plymouth Brethren.
§ Lord Stallard
My Lords, no one has been lobbied by the Plymouth Brethren to end sex education in schools. They have been lobbied in relation to the various amendments which have been put down, but they have not been lobbied to end sex education in schools. Anyone who says that they have been is not telling the whole truth.
Anyone who wants to know more about the matter should note what a noble Lord on the other side of the Chamber—the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine—said about his own research into the Plymouth Brethren after he had discussed this and other matters with them. After he had researched the matter he explained to the rest of us that if the Brethren are to be referred to, they adhere to the scripture in Romans, chapter 16, verse 19, in which the apostle Paul says:I would have you wise unto that which is good and simple concerning evil".The incidence of HIV and AIDS among them is nil.
Rachel Thomson said that the campaign of the Plymouth Brethren now appears to have been successful. That puzzles me because a few sentences earlier she said that they were a small fundamentalist group opposed to the provision of sex education in schools. She now says that the campaign has been successful. It has been so successful that sex education is now to be made compulsory in schools. What kind of success is that?
That lady is the same lady who was quoted earlier by my noble friend Lady Jay as the director of the Sex Education Forum.
§ Lord Stallard
My Lords, Miss Thomson is the director—or whatever—of the Sex Education Forum. She was the girl who wrote the article in the Guardian. She also sent out a brief in conjunction with another lobbyist called Ceri Hutton. Ceri Hutton is from the National Aids Trust and Miss Thomson is with the organisation which my noble friend Lady Jay mentioned.
Miss Hutton was interviewed by Capital Gay. She is a member of the National Aids Foundation which is supported by that long list of organisations which my noble friend Lady Jay, read out. They support the National Aids Trust, of which Ceri Hutton is the general secretary. In a report to Capital Gay newspaper, she said:There is no way that religious or moral belief should get in the way of safer sex education".We could quote to each other all night from those two people, the same kind of material that I received from the Townswomen's Guild as well. Like the noble Baroness, I telephoned them and had much the same conversation, although I did not know that she knew them. I was told the same. The people there had not read it but had received it from that organisation and those who work in it. I say no more except that it does not make matters better that people should work in that way.
It seems to me that those people have misjudged the breadth of support at Report stage from all sides of the Christian Church and others for the suggestion that has been engineered on behalf of a small number of the Plymouth Brethren. The main briefings I have received are from Christian Action Research and Education, CARE, a mainstream Christian lobbying group with over 60,000 members throughout the United Kingdom from many Christian denominations. I checked its credentials which are meticulous and positive.
Another key benefit of the new statutory framework is that it will clear up the confusing dual system that we have at present where some sex education in secondary schools is compulsory and some is not. I have gone through this umpteen times. Some of it is directly under the control of the governors; some is not. We shall now have a unitary system with compulsory sex education subject to the provisions of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 on the content and moral framework. There seem to be objections to making sex education compulsory, which surprises me. The draft guidelines which the Department for Education issued, attempting to square the circle on the previous arrangements, will now, we hope, be rewritten. Here I agree with my noble friend Lady Jay. I believe that department officials will find that they have a much easier task given the new framework.
I wish to refer to the opt-out provisions offered to parents under the new clause. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford kindly supported the approach that I took at Report stage. However, he rightly raised proper questions about how the withdrawal provisions would work. Those have been repeated tonight. I hope that he can be reassured about his anxieties. I have given them much thought 1302 and have discussed them with a number of people. First, he wondered how withdrawal could happen if sex education came up on the spur of the moment in a classroom in response to some issue that was being discussed. I understand that. He mentioned that particularly in the context of the primary school, arid I would not wish teachers to be fearful on the point. They will need to answer questions as they would normally anyway, as they arise, in an appropriate way. That can usually be done without trespassing into more sensitive areas. I have great faith that the vast majority of school teachers know exactly how to answer questions which may arise at any time anywhere, in the same way that parents would if the questions were asked at home.
I doubt that many parents, if any, would wish to exercise a blanket right of withdrawal from all sex education. The evidence is that few exercised that right when it was available on request under the 1987 guidelines. Thus I do not think that teachers need worry about straying a little into sex education when dealing with other lessons. However., there is need for a school policy to guide teachers and inform parents. That is what this is about, so far as I am concerned.
The right reverend Prelate was also worried that if sex education was so bad that parents wanted to withdraw their children from it, then surely the education should be improved rather than the children withdrawn. I accept and understand that view and have much sympathy with it. I am personally very much in favour of education on AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. I believe that it can be done in a responsible way which will satisfy the vast majority of parents. Indeed, I perceive the granting of this withdrawal option as giving parents an ultimate sanction that enables them to discuss with a school ways of improving the sex education programme. A few parents may exercise the right—
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would be kind enough to give way. We are at Third Reading. The general subject was discussed at great length in the earlier stages. It has been the convention of this House at the later stages, particularly where the Government have agreed to consider and bring back a different response, that speeches might be limited to perhaps four or five minutes. There are a number of noble Lords who wish to speak. I wonder whether noble Lords would agree that that is a fair reading of our convention.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Lord Stallard
My Lords, I am not in any position to comment on that convention. It is the first I have heard of it. I was coming to the end of my remarks anyway.
A few parents might exercise the right to withdraw children from all sex education. But it is more likely that some parents, if they are concerned about what is happening at the school, will discuss it with teachers, governors and the head. The result will be improved education rather than the withdrawal of the child. In my view, withdrawal is and always should be the very last option after all other avenues have been explored.
1303 Finally, the right reverend Prelate was concerned that in these issues the classroom would always be better than the playground, and if children were withdrawn they would hear a distorted view of sex education in the playground. That point was mentioned again by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. I am convinced that only the most responsible parents will consider withdrawal; and they are the ones who will ensure that their children receive the information that they need.
I was interested to read a report of a conference at Leeds Castle in 1992 on why the AIDS message was not getting through. The conference was sponsored by the National AIDS Trust and the King's Fund. One contributor to that conference reviewed interviews that had taken place with teenagers on this issue and discovered that they would prefer, ideally, to receive education from their parents or from a doctor, and not from a peer group or the mass media. That view did not come from me. Whether or not it is unbelievable, that came out of a 1992 conference at Leeds Castle sponsored by the National AIDS Trust. It is clear, however, that children welcome their parents talking on this issue. We must build co-operation between parents and professionals at school and in the health service.
I understand that the concern among professional AIDS educators is that it is not the lack of information about the AIDS issues, but that young people are not changing their behaviour as a result of having the information. That point also came out at the conference. Surely that argues in favour of a properly thought out programme of sex education which addresses the moral and behaviour issues. A new statutory framework will encourage that. I must draw my remarks to a close—
§ Lord Stallard
My Lords, I do not apologise. I am lectured all the time by all sorts of other people. I am entitled to make just a few points in return against a very powerful lobby. I draw my remarks to a close by again thanking the noble Baroness for all the hard work that she has done, and by encouraging those who are worried by these proposals to see them as an opportunity rather than a threat. I ask the noble Baroness whether she might be able to give us any indication this evening of the timetable for implementing these changes, and when the national curriculum science order will be changed. It would also be helpful to know what the Government propose to do about the draft guidelines that they have already issued. Will a new draft now be circulated for consultation based on the new statutory framework? I hope that the Government will move quickly to carry through the excellent arrangements that they propose this evening.
§ Baroness Brigstocke
My Lords, (a) I shall be brief; (b) I do not belong to a pressure group; and (c) I speak out of great concern and care. I am a current member of the Health Education Authority and I am a former teacher.
1304 I am worried about parts of Amendment No. 62. I understand the concern that lies behind it, but in my view in its present form the amendment would create more problems than it would solve. Let us keep clearly before us the education format of 1988 which placed a statutory responsibility upon schools to provide a broad and balanced curriculum which prepares pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life.
I welcome the Government's intention to make sex education compulsory for secondary school pupils. All children have that entitlement. I think particularly of teenage girls—that subject has already been mentioned. The number of teenage pregnancies is rising alarmingly at the moment.
However, I do not welcome the Government's intention to remove references to sexually transmitted diseases, especially AIDS and HIV, from the programme of study for the national science curriculum. How can reference to AIDS, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases be removed from the national science curriculum when human biology and sexual development remain?
A good teacher will encourage pupils to ask questions. If those questions concern AIDS, HIV or sexually transmitted diseases, is the teacher to say, "I am sorry but I cannot answer that question. I am not allowed to answer it now", so losing the opportunity to impart possibly life-saving information to a pupil who asks for it? Pupils do not learn in an orderly and patterned way. Teachers can teach but there is no guarantee even with modern methods that the pupil is listening and learning. Every opportunity for ensuring that the pupil learns must be grasped.
Various questions of sexual behaviour can arise naturally in English, history and even Latin lessons. It is important that they be answered, there and then, naturally. Education for life, including some sexual aspects, is delivered in many lessons in many ways.
What we need in our schools is much more help for teachers in the form of initial and in-service training, and teaching materials that are sensitive and appropriate. I can recommend the National Curriculum Council's curriculum guidance booklet No. 5 on health education. It emphasises at key stage 3 the need to discuss moral values and to explore those held by different cultures and groups. Moreover, the Health Education Authority at the moment plans to publish in the autumn a new publication entitled Sex Education, Faith and Values, which will provide guidelines for those involved in school sex education to help them develop programmes that are sensitive and respect the beliefs and values of parents and the community. I beg the Government to think again before removing AIDS and HIV from the subjects of the science curriculum. Could there be further consultation about it?
My only other point concerns the right of parents to withdraw their children from receiving sex education at school. I return to the school's statutory responsibility to prepare the child for adult life. We have already heard that the overwhelming majority of parents-96 per cent. —support school sex education. So we are talking about 4 per cent. of parents who 1305 might want to withdraw their children from receiving sex education at school. The children of those parents are then at risk. There is no way of knowing whether the parents will instruct the children at home. In fact, all the evidence shows that parents find it much easier to discuss sexual matters with their children when the subject has already been raised at school.
I do not believe that parents have the right to deny their children access to basic information any more than access to basic skills. The amendment has been developed too hastily; it needs further consultation.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, this is the first opportunity that I have had to speak in the debates on this long Bill. That is not because I have not been interested or have desired to do other things. But 1 and other elderly Members of your Lordships' House have been excluded from taking part in debates on this important Bill simply because of the hours which the House has kept on the Bill right from the beginning. There was a Committee stage of seven days on none of which did the Committee rise before midnight; on two nights it rose at 3 o'clock in the morning. At one stage on Report it rose at 4 o'clock in the morning. That is not the way to conduct business in your Lordships' House. If that situation is not remedied, then there will be excluded people who are present, if not for their physical strength, at least for their experience and wisdom.
I do not wish to detain the House for more than a few minutes. I make a strong plea to leave matters as they stand. It is fortuitous that we are discussing this subject on this Bill at this time. It is only because we have a Bill on the structure of the education system that we are discussing religious education on SNEs and sex education for people covered by Amendment No. 62. We are dealing with those matters only because the Bill offers the opportunity to those who wish to raise them on every conceivable occasion.
We have been over the ground before. We are dealing with old experience—though some aspects of it may be new. But surely nothing has arisen in the existing situation that demands attention at this time. The system should be allowed to settle down and teachers given the chance to absorb the complex changes in their lives as professionals in our education service. There is no doubt that at the present time they are under the weather and are finding the strain considerable.
I echo every word uttered just now by the noble Baroness. I plead for some qualification of parental responsibility; I have suffered from it. As a boy I was the subject of a claim for an exemption from compulsory vaccination. My brother and I forwent compulsory vaccination for 16 years.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, for giving way. I hope that he will accept, with respect, that I understand the point he has made about the lateness of the hours. But there are a large number of Members in this House who have doggedly sat through every minute of the Bill to 3 o'clock and 4 o'clock in the morning. I know that they would like to speak on the amendment. It will not be long before somebody will call the 1306 amendment to an end and they will not have been given an opportunity. I believe that their determination and patience should be rewarded by being allowed to speak on the amendment.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, I have not been on my feet for more than three minutes. I claim the right to put my point of view in just the same way as my noble friend Lord Stallard, who spoke at length. He spoke at length also on an amendment at Report stage.
This ground has been covered by noble Lords on both sides of the House. I am saying that some qualification should be imposed upon parents in regard to their responsibilities. I do not say that we should veto their decisions. But they should receive counselling on the consequences of the decisions that they are about to take. I was excluded from vaccination for 16 years until I joined the Army because my father refused on conscientious grounds to have me vaccinated. I was refused a tonsilectomy when I was nine. The result is that I had to have one when I was 90. The consequences of parental irresponsibility can last a long time, my Lords!
There should be some counselling if parents are going to take the view that they do not want their children admitted to this knowledge. Have noble Lords on both sides of the House realised how a pupil feels if he is the subject of parental exclusion from certain parts of the curriculum? "Why can't I go there, Mum? What's happening that I can't go in that class?" It is a discrimination that school children do not like. It is much better that parents should riot be allowed to enforce it without consultation.
I am sorry, but I think that there is every reason for leaving religion and sex education alone in this Bill. Let us go along and give the existing system a longer try before we seek to amend it. We have no right, as the noble Baroness said a few moments ago, to deny children information which it may be essential for them to have to lead happy and healthy lives. Unless they have information and knowledge, they can fall into the trap of temptation that surrounds them. The temptations are far more powerful than the equipment that they may have to resist them.
I would oppose Amendment No. 62. If it is carried I should like to see the amendment of my noble friend Lady Jay accepted, but I think that the best thing would be to let the system go on longer before we begin to tamper with it again.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Lord Addington
My Lords, my name is attached to two of the amendments that we are discussing. This is the third time round on this issue and basically we have a merry-go-round with two horses bobbing along. One is the parents' right to remove a child on moral grounds. The other horse happens to be the child's —the young person's—right to information.
We have heard already in the discussions today the fact that there are limitations to parental control and parental rights regarding special educational needs. The parent is not always right. Indeed, the parent is sometimes wrong. No matter how well intentioned, 1307 mistakes are made. We are also talking about an issue which it requires considerable courage to face up to. Are parents who do not feel that they want their child to receive this information, on whatever grounds, no matter how deeply felt, likely to be able to discuss this at home? Is it likely? I would suggest that it is not. I agree that it would be beneficial if all this was done at home, if all parents were well enough informed to be able to discuss this at home. But they are not. They are not even prepared to do it except in a certain number of cases.
The first of the amendments to the government amendment uses a term which has already been used in government legislation. If for one piece of legislation the Government can come up with a definition of sufficient clarity for people to make an informed decision, they should be able to do it for another. How can they possibly not do so unless they are going to reform the initial piece of legislation? With regard to the second amendment, Amendment No. 62B, when a person is over the age of 16 and is entitled to indulge in sexual activity of a heterosexual manner, surely it is absurd in the nth degree to deny that person information on something on which he or she can go and do the practical—no theory, but you can do the practical. That is insanity. I suggest that we strongly consider whether the Government amendment is appropriate. I said at Committee stage that the Government should stick to their guns because I thought that they had got it right. If we decide to approve the measure, I suggest that either or both Amendments Nos. 62A and 62B be passed.
§ Viscount Caldecote
My Lords, we should all be most grateful to my noble friend Lady Blatch for bringing forward this amendment after the discussion we had at Report stage. The issue is not whether there should be sex education in schools, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, implied in her speech—we all agree that we need sex education in schools—but how best that can be done.
It is a question of the balance of advantage to the children. It is a difficult judgment. There is the balance between the potential damage which can be done by too little instruction as against the potential damage which can be done by giving sex education which is unsuitable because of content in relation to the state of the child's development. If good sex education suitable to the child is given in schools there is no problem. Most of it will be good sex education. It is only in a minority of cases that it will be unsuitable. In the case of good education the parents will be satisfied and there is no problem.
But if in carrying out their parental duty—we need a little more stress on duty compared with rights—parents believe that the education being given is unsuitable in relation to their child, then caring, loving parents will want to remove their child and provide the instruction themselves. Because they are caring and responsible they will do it.
I totally disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, that there is a danger that the wrong sort of parents will take their children away. The other kind of parents who are not responsible will be only too 1308 pleased to leave instruction to the school and absolve themselves of that responsibility. They will not want to take their child away.
I also strongly believe, as I believe we all do, in the value of the strong family. One pillar of that is to encourage strong, parental responsibility. For all those reasons, on balance—and it is a clear balance to me—I support Amendment No. 62 as it has been put forward by my noble friend Lady Blatch.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, I speak as a Christian when I say that when one looks hard at what is happening in our society something is very wrong. We have the terrible tragedy of unwanted pregnancies and teenage abortion. I feel that the message that the safest sex is having one partner bound by the sacrament of marriage is hardly ever heard. The Churches should be getting that message across, but they seem to be so often silent over sexual matters. The problem of sex should be shared between the Church, parents and teachers. The subject needs sensitivity and growing young people need to be prepared for life. It can be a matter of life and death.
I am concerned that teachers may be gagged in helping children who may be abused by their own parents. Teachers may provide the only opportunity which the children will have of confiding in a trusted adult. Children are very often abused by family members—fathers, uncles, stepfathers, brothers and even grandfathers. Will this amendment restrict help coming from teachers to children? What happens if the abusing parents withdraw their children from sex education? That point has been mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Jay of Paddington. I, too, press the Minister to answer that point. We must try to get this matter right.
§ The Lord Bishop of Guildford
My Lords, I wonder whether I might respond to the challenge of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, that the churches are quiet over this issue. I hesitate to speak because, as the French say, there are three sexes: men, women and clergymen. When preparing people for marriage, I have sometimes wondered whether my job is to try to turn night owls into homing pigeons.
I should like to try to stand back a little from a debate which is necessarily heated because we all feel passionately about this issue. I wonder whether, by standing back a bit, we can embark on what I would call some cool analysis. It seems to me that the government amendment achieves certain gains and we need to register that point. First, it secures that sex education in all secondary schools will be compulsory. That is a great gain because it is not the case at the moment. Secondly, it ensures that so far as can be achieved, sex education will be unified and drawn together in one operation, if I can use that phrase. Thirdly, it will ensure that all sex education takes place in a moral context. It will, I hope, ensure that our sexuality is considered as part of our creation and in terms of the sustaining of personal relationships. That is the context within which we need to understand it. The other factor to be borne in mind is that human 1309 reproduction and its implications will remain in the national curriculum. We seem to lose sight of those basic facts in our passionate concern to press our case.
When this matter was discussed at previous stages, I expressed my considerable concern (which remains) about parental withdrawal. I gave three reasons then which I shall now argue at length. The noble Lord, Lord Stallard, has already mentioned them. First, I do not think that sex education is always predictable in the context of a school. Therefore, it will be extremely difficult in practice to allow for withdrawal provisions. One can only he assured of that if there is a refusal to respond to problems, questions and comments as they arise. Secondly, giving parents the right to withdraw their children means that many will withdraw them rather than insist on improving the sex education that is given in schools. Thirdly, it can be argued that, although one can withdraw children from the classroom and what happens in it, one certainly cannot withdraw them from what they pick up behind the bicycle shed. They will pick that up anyway. We must not mislead ourselves about that.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jay, was absolutely right when she reminded us of the generation gap. I think that we need to bear that in mind because—I have said this before—I do not honestly believe that parents are always the best people to teach or even to discuss with their teenage children their developing sexuality. At that age, the emotional undercurrents are often too strong to be managed in that context.
On balance, I support the government amendment but I am ambivalent on this issue and, to that extent, the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, is right that I am not as clear-cut as I would wish to be Although I would go along with the government amendment, I like the amendments to it even if not, perhaps, in their precise terms.
However, to leave the amendments on one side, surely what we want to achieve are the gains in government Amendment No. 62. If there is to be a right of parental withdrawal, I can see that that would be acceptable at primary level, but I cannot believe that it is sustainable or acceptable at secondary level —and certainly not at the age of 16-plus when children are able to get married, with their parents!' consent. To deny children access to sex education in any form at that stage seems a contradiction in terms.
The phrases in the amendments may not be the right ones. Although it is used in other legislation, I am not happy with the phrase,if the pupil is of sufficient understanding to make an informed decision".I see the point of that, but it would land schools in impossible situations. How are they to make that decision? The Minister made that point. schools have problems enough in this area without trying to get them to adjudicate between parents and children who are at loggerheads.
I wonder whether we are at the stage where we should have a cooling off period and perhaps return to this after further informal consultations. If we are to press ahead with the amendments, I hope that the general agreement might be that we should accept Amendment No. 62 but qualify the "withdrawal" 1310 amendments along the lines that I have been bold enough to outline. I hope that the noble Baroness who says that the Church does not give a lead in these matters will now at least accept that some Church leaders do give a lead in some contexts.
§ 10 p.m.
My Lords, I am sure that there will be an opportunity for all noble Lords who wish to speak. Perhaps we may have, first, the noble Earl, Lord Perth, from the Cross-Benches, and then the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, could speak immediately afterwards.
§ The Earl of Perth
My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the Minister. I know that if she were here the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, would also support it. Unfortunately she has gone, and quite rightly gone, to Khartoum in relation to a serious issue that has arisen in the Sudan.
My belief is that moral and family values are an essential part of sex education. The amendment gives an opportunity to promote them. I shall not speak long because there are many other noble Lords who wish to speak. We have heard a number of arguments on one side or the other. At earlier stages, we heard a great deal about the corruption and abuse being peddled in certain cases to children. That is something against which I am sure almost all your Lordships, if not all, want children safeguarded. The amendments go a long way towards avoiding that potential damage.
Am I right in thinking that under the amendment it will be possible for a parent, or whoever is the appropriate person, to complain if the matter being taught is corrupting—if that is the correct word to use? If the complaint is upheld, can the necessary, appropriate action be taken to put things right? Of all the arguments advanced, the most important point is to sustain moral and family values while at the same time ensuring that children receive a proper sex education.
§ Lord Eatwell
My Lords, this is a complicated amendment which has a simple purpose. That purpose is to eliminate the compulsory teaching of the facts about HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases to every young person in this country. That is the sole purpose of the amendment. The rest of the amendment, as indeed is some of the discussion that we have heard on the three occasions that we have debated this subject, is just so much camouflage to disguise the true intent.
Of course, teaching young people about sex, sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases is a highly sensitive matter, and something which should rightly be of great parental concern. There is room for legitimate differences of opinion about sex education. Some who are in favour of sex education in schools might feel that young people withdrawn from such 1311 classes would grow up less well rounded and less secure human beings. Others who are against such education may believe that young people who are withdrawn will benefit from a stronger moral lead given at home.
Those are differences of opinion to which the Government have been rightly sensitive. But the space for differences of opinion shrinks to nothing in the age of HIV and AIDS. The risk faced by young people who do not learn the facts about HIV and AIDS is not the risk of an emotionally stunted life nor the risk of moral confusion. The risk that they face is death. AIDS kills; it kills with certainty and it kills the young. And AIDS is catching. Therefore, the risk is not confined to those who are denied the facts about HIV and AIDS by the amendment. The ignorance of the few is a threat to all.
Let us remember that the HIV virus usually lies dormant in an individual for many years after infection before the person develops full-blown AIDS. Those who do not know the facts cannot even suspect the truth. They can be the unsuspecting means by which the virus is spread. That is why it is vital for all that everyone knows the facts. But will the young people who as a result of this amendment are withdrawn from classes about HIV and AIDS learn the facts?
On Report I asked noble Lords who proposed a similar amendment three questions which I shall now ask the Minister. First, is she certain—I repeat, certain —that parents who withdraw their children from classes will themselves be in possession of the full facts about HIV and AIDS? Secondly, is she certain that they will keep themselves up to date on the progress and characteristics of the epidemic. Thirdly, is she certain that the parents who withdraw their children will actually teach them the full facts about HIV and AIDS in a clear and unambiguous manner? If the Minister cannot answer "yes" without equivocation to those three questions she must in all conscience withdraw her amendment. I suggest that in this area which is so clouded by fear, prejudice and misinformation the Minister cannot answer "yes" to those questions.
The Minister and other noble Lords have argued that parents who withdraw their children from education on HIV and AIDS are likely to be the most conscientious and caring parents. Of course, some of them will be but I suggest that some of them will be the most frightened and ignorant parents. The Minister's remarks which pretended that all parents will be conscientious are just another piece of camouflage.
There remains a further puzzle about the amendment. In the White Paper, The Health of the Nation, the Government declared that:HIV infection is perhaps the greatest public health challenge this century".Why, therefore, when the Government have spent millions of pounds in trying to inform everyone of the facts about HIV and AIDS, are they now prepared to 1312 undermine that information programme by eliminating the most cost-effective and most comprehensive means of providing those facts; namely, through the national curriculum?
I conclude by suggesting to those noble Lords who are thinking of voting for the amendment that when in future years they open a newspaper and read about a youngster who has just died of AIDS, or about the rising HIV epidemic, they might stop and wonder whether that boy or girl would be alive that day if, on 6th July 1993, they had voted against Amendment No. 62.
§ The Duke of Norfolk
My Lords, I support the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, and I disagree with a great deal of what the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, have said.
I wish to add only one simple point to the debate. Do the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, and the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, really believe that a parent would withdraw a child from sex education, knowing, as the right reverend Prelate said, that it would be talked about in the school playground or the bicycle shed, without thinking that that would be in the child's best interests? It may be that in some schools parental choice should be exercised and that family life should come first. It may be that a school is going to the dogs and, therefore, the parent would wish to have the right to withdraw his child from such education. I am not saying that there should be compulsory withdrawal. The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, in Committee gave parents the right to choose. I believe that that is important and I ask your Lordships to support that right to family life.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, some 25 years ago I was asked by a teenager to define maturity. I said that maturity was a stage at which in a debate about parents and children one began to think of the parents as "us". Listening this evening to the Minister on the rights of parents, I began to think that that definition was premature. I began to think that one does not reach maturity until, in a debate between parents and children, one thinks of the grandparents as "us".
Having reached a definition of maturity which leaves me still short of it, I can say that on the rights of parents I agree entirely with my noble friend Lord Addington and the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. Nobody is infallible and parents are no exception. The noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, asked whether parents would take a decision without it being to their child's advantage. I should say that they would not take that decision without believing it to be to the child's advantage. I do not believe that parents are infallible in their decisions about what is to their children's advantage. I have certainly not been infallible in that regard and I should be surprised if the noble Duke had been infallible in that capacity. I am sure that we have both made mistakes; everybody has.
On these Benches we feel a considerable suspicion of arbitrary power. Anyone in a position of authority may possess arbitrary power. A great deal of the debate has been about AIDS, but there is also the question of contraception. It will not have escaped the 1313 attention of my noble kinsman Lord Henley that during the weekend there has been a great deal of debate about single parents. In fact, the problem that we have here is riot a large part of that issue because out of 845,000 single parents, only 45,000 are between the ages of 16 and 19. We shall never stop that altogether because it has happened in every century, but I am sure that we shall agree that that figure of 45,000 is too high.
I do not know how many of those single women became pregnant out of ignorance. I listened to the statistics quoted by the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, and I found them telling. I am certain, however, that far more of those young people became pregnant out of ignorance than they did out of a desire to obtain a council house.
I have here an article from the Guardian reporting a case in March of this year in which a 16 year-old girl came home early from school with pains in her stomach. She got into the bath and gave birth. The girl later said that she did not know that she was pregnant. She said that it was very strange. That sort of story has gone on for centuries. However, in this century we have the knowledge to make it happen rather less frequently. I think that we should use that knowledge. The noble Baroness, Lady Jay, quoted very appositely the maxim: "Don't die of ignorance". I say that I do not think we should be born of ignorance.
Having listened to the noble Baroness in Committee and having heard the reply to the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, a year ago, I wonder whether there is in the Government's concession an element of desire to appease the Right. If that is sot they should remember the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Healey, that offering defence cuts to the Left is like throwing herrings to a sea lion.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkin of Roding
My Lords, I should like to tell my noble friend that I share the unhappiness with the proposed new clause which was expressed so eloquently a short time ago by my noble friend Lady Brigstocke. I think that both points—that is, removing the teaching about sexually transmitted diseases from the compulsory section and giving parents the right to withdraw their children from sex education—seem to me to be somewhat dangerous steps. I find myself in very close agreement with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford in saying that there are, indeed, some positive virtues in what we now have before us in Amendment No. 62. However, it is not yet quite right.
I must tell my noble friend that I shall probably feel constrained to vote against her amendment. I believe that the dangers have been made clear in the debate. The health trust that I chair had a board! meeting last Friday. We were told that the most rapidly rising group of abortions is as a result of teenage pregnancies. I believe that we have heard much about that this evening. If her amendment is carried, I beg my noble friend between now and the point at which the Bill returns to another place to consult again widely to see whether she can persuade her right honourable friends in another place to table a further 1314 amendment. I thought that the suggestion of confining withdrawal of children to primary schools was a very wise one. However, we must keep the sexually transmitted diseases in the compulsory section of the national curriculum.
In earlier debates there was much talk about what I can only describe as thoroughly undesirable and irresponsible teaching material which is available in some schools. I beg those who have any influence on the people who prepare and disseminate such material to try to persuade them of the damage that they cause. The right to opt out and the threat that parents may want to do so comes as a direct result of the dissemination of that undesirable material.
In conclusion, perhaps I may quote from the remarks made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford on Report. I thought that he put it absolutely splendidly when he said that,if the teaching is so unsatisfactory that parents want to withdraw their children from it, then it may be better that the teaching should be criticised and improved, rather than sidestepped. We shall not improve the teaching which ought to be given if we merely pull our children out of it"—[Official Report, 21/6/93; col. 130.]They seem to me to be very wise words. However, I have to say that the proposed new clause is taking a blunderbuss to hit the target. I am very unhappy with it. If my noble friend can tell me that she will indeed consult between now and when the Bill returns to another place, then perhaps I may reconsider my position.
§ Lord Ennals
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken speaks with the authority of a former Secretary of State who carried responsibility for these matters. As a former Secretary of State myself I must say that I agree with every word he said. I also agree with every word that the noble Baroness, Lady Brigstocke, said. It is unfortunate that we have this amendment before us at Third Reading. If I had to make a choice between obtaining small gains or taking the great risks that are involved in this matter, I know that I must choose to reject the thought of the risks that are before us. We are faced with an enormous danger in terms of AIDS. and HIV. I plead with the Minister to accept the advice of her noble friend, to consult, to think again and to allow some opportunity for a little more wisdom to be brought into the debate.
The Earl of Halsbury
My Lords, the amendment of the noble Baroness is an honourable discharge of the undertaking she gave at an earlier stage of the Bill. For that reason I support it and if she divides the House I shall follow her into the Lobby. I do not agree with what has been said against the amendment. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, was exactly the same as the one he made on an earlier occasion. We hear too much about HIV and AIDS. I am told there is now an antibiotic resistant syphilis germ on the loose. One can open any newspaper and read a great deal about AIDS. I shall follow the noble Baroness into the Division Lobby, and I shall oppose the two amendments to her amendment.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I qualify as a mature person in the terms established by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. It is worth mentioning the kind of lessons 1315 from which I would like my children to have the right to withdraw their children—my grandchildren. First, I would wish my children to have the right to withdraw my grandchildren from lessons which are taught to them when they are emotionally or physically insufficiently mature to take them. We should remember that children mature at different rates within groups intellectually, morally, physically and emotionally. They do not mature at an equal rate. Secondly, I would wish my grandchildren to be withdrawn from lessons in which sexual activity was taught as a subject in a moral vacuum as a purely mechanical, biological function because that is true of animals but not of human beings. Thirdly, I would wish them to be withdrawn from lessons about sexual congress—
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I would rather not give way as I shall only speak for another few minutes. Oh, very well.
§ Lord Eatwell
My Lords, I just wanted to make the point that Amendment No. 62 will leave sex education in the national curriculum consisting purely of biological functions. The situation the noble Lord wants to achieve, where reproduction is discussed within a moral framework, is being ruled out by the amendment.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, the noble Lord has interrupted me to no purpose because he has misread the law as proposed which requires sex education to be taught in a moral context. He will see that that is the case if he reads the measure. As I was saying, the third kind of lesson about sex that I would wish my grandchildren to be withdrawn from would be that containing a moral dimension with which the parents profoundly disagreed and regarded as likely to mislead or corrupt their children. I believe there are lessons so taught.
This amendment would give my children the right to withdraw my grandchildren from those three kinds of lessons. I heartily welcome that. I would also, however, wish all young adults to be aware of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases of the sort we have been talking about, including those referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. I believe that the state of our press is such that it is impossible to become a mature person without being aware of those diseases. However, I ask my noble friend, if it is practicable, to take the advice of my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding to ensure that this information can be given.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, this has been a significant debate. Great passion and sincerity have been shown on all sides of the House. I hope therefore that I shall be forgiven if, for a moment at the beginning of my remarks, I concentrate on a drafting point. Having decided to legislate on this sensitive and controversial issue at a very late stage in the passage of the Bill and before the outcome of the Department for Education's own consultation on its draft circular on sex education 1316 is known, I fear that the Government have produced an amendment which appears to have some potentially serious flaws in technical terms. Can the Minister explain the position in relation to primary schools? The amendment, in my view, does not make their position clear.
Subsection (5) of the new clause appears to include primary schools and therefore seems to make the provision of sex education in all maintained or grant-maintained schools, including primary schools, compulsory. However, subsection (6), which amends Section 18 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986, excludes any reference to primary schools. The implication is that all except grant-maintained primary schools continue to be covered by that section, which allows governing bodies to decide whether or not they wish to provide sex education as part of the curriculum. Can the Minister explain when she replies to the debate how a primary school can be required under subsection (5) of the new clause to provide sex education and at the same time be allowed under the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 to determine whether sex education should be included in the school's curriculum?
We have all been impressed by the sincerity and firmness with which my noble friend Lord Stallard and those who agree with him have pursued their cause. However, I suggest that there is a need to distinguish between the regulations and the content. If the content is not fulfilling the objective of the regulations—and I believe that some of it has been unacceptable—it must be changed. However, that does not of itself invalidate the regulations.
This debate has underlined one overriding reason why we should be very careful about the change now proposed by the Government. There is no known cure for HIV or AIDS. Therefore, it is vital that children are educated to avoid contracting the disease. If tuition on HIV and AIDS is removed from the national curriculum and included as part of sex education within the rest of the secular curriculum, then parents who have objections to sex education as a whole will, in effect, be faced with withdrawing their children from education concerned with HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The children's consequent ignorance will not only endanger them as individuals but highly significantly, and I could not agree more with my noble friend Lord Eatwell, could endanger other people.
Incidentally, it has been pointed out that the amendment affects only the science national curriculum order and not, for example, English or history. Presumably, it will still be in order to teach about the Reformation, Henry VIII and sexually transmitted diseases in such contexts but without authoritative scientific background for the children involved. As the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said earlier in our debate, speculation will only intensify very rapidly.
Can the Minister clarify whether she sees the right of parents to withdraw their children from sex education as consistent in all respects with the principles behind the Children Act 1989 with its recognition of children's right to have their wishes 1317 considered? In 1976 a European Court ruling about sex education in Denmark upheld young people's right of access to information and education in this sphere. Can the Minister give your Lordships' House a firm assurance that the Attorney-General has been consulted specifically about the implications of what she now proposes in terms of our obligations as a nation under the European Convention on Human Rights, to which she herself referred? What did the Attorney-General say? It is important for your Lordships' House to know, before any vote this evening.
Children do not exist in a shielded environment. They grow up attacked. from every direction by the cynical, vicious, commercial exploitation of sex. There is a desperate need for them to have reliable, authoritative information with which to cope with these cruel pressures. Amid the cult of selfish individualism—dare I say it, not least in some religious quarters, no less than elsewhere—there is, of course, a profound need to develop a balanced attitude towards sex in the context of sensitivity, social responsibility and respect for the integrity of others. On that, I believe, there is widespread agreement in this House.
Before I conclude, perhaps I may quote, amid all the mass of material sent to us all, from a communication which particularly impressed me. It came from the British Medical Association and I should like to quote it all, but obviously shall only use some. This is what the BMA said:There are also substantial practical dangers attached to a statutory right for parents to withdraw their children from sex education. It is now generally recognised that the most effective and appropriate method for delivering sex education is via an integrated cross-curricular approach. This may mean that discussion of sexual behaviour and relationships takes place within several different subject areas, but always within the policy framework laid down by the school's governing body. It is clearly impractical for a child to be withdrawn from sex education classes by their parents. Thus, the objections of a very small number of parents could undermine the quality of the education provided to all children in the school.Perhaps I may quote two other brief passages from that communication. It continues:Another practical difficulty arises in dealing with questions which pupils may raise spontaneously. Teachers need to have the confidence that they can respond to such questions as they arise, within the framework of the school's policy, and again this is not readily compatible with a statutory parental right of withdrawal. It might even be that a child whose parents had withdrawn him or her from sex education would ask a teacher for information or guidance, potentially relating to a serious problem such as pregnancy or abuse. Would teachers be expected simply to refuse to help a child in such a situation?The communication concludes with this observation:The existing law and the carefully prepared draft circular which was recently issued for consultation by the Department for Education provide a good framework for ensuring that the issues surrounding sex education are sensitively handled and that parents' views are taken into account, and avoid the difficulties associated with these latest proposals".That is from the British Medical Association.
Far better than making the priority to put the right of parents to withdraw their children from sex education on to the face of the Bill would be the maintenance of the status quo, at the same time taking steps both to encourage all schools, in full 1318 consultation with parents., to make proper provision for sex education and to re-emphasise the approach adopted in the first circular following the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 which allowed governors the: discretion to permit withdrawal in exceptional circumstances.
These issues strike deep to the heart of conscience and to the heart of honest emotions, and differing views must therefore be respected Votes must obviously be cast according to conscience. Nevertheless, it would be far, far better to keep things as they are, with the provisos that I have indicated. If that is not to be, I commend for serious consideration the amendments standing in the names of my noble friend Lady Jay, and, later in our proceedings, of the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, opened this debate by saying that she was surprised that my amendment was before the House at this stage of the Bill. I am surprised that she is surprised about that. Throughout this Bill, this matter has been subject to very lively debate in this House.
The noble Lord, Lord Stallard, both in Committee and at Report stage, attempted to have amendments discussed and accepted by the House. I concur with the remarks that were repeated by the noble Baroness, Lady Jay. I did make those comments at that stage of the Bill. But the noble Lord will agree with me that at that time not only were the amendments imperfect but there was no suggestion that there was any sex education put in their place in our schools. I could not agree with that.
The noble Baroness also asked, and so did a number of other noble Lords, about the status of the draft circular. If my amendment is accepted tonight, that document will have to be withdrawn. It will have to be re-written and modified in the light of the amendment. There will, of course, be extensive consultation. That is what the circular is about. It is out for consultation.
We pride ourselves on being a revising Chamber. This amendment is before The House, and it is for this House to decide whether it should be accepted, just as it will consider the amendments of the noble Lords opposite.
I too had discussions with the Moslem community, in the days following the amendments that were discussed at Report stage. I also heard a very sensitive and interesting interview with members of that community this morning on Radio 4. 1 thought that their response to this amendment was an interesting one. The Moslem community welcomed the amendment, and the fact that HIV and AIDS were to be put alongside sexually transmitted diseases and made a compulsory part of the school curriculum. But they also welcomed the right of parents, if they wished, to withdraw their children.
I also spoke to the member of the Townswomen's Guild who signed the letter that was sent to the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, and also to me. She told me that she was only in receipt of information that came from the women's health and screening delegation, who incorrectly advised her. On the basis of this incorrect advice she sent a lobbying letter to noble Lords in this 1319 House and Members of another place. When she knew of the intention behind my amendment and its full effect, she said to me—I have to say, informally at that stage—that she thought it was everything that she could have wanted in these amendments. She is now waiting to see copies of Hansard, which the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, is sending to her, and copies of my amendment following tonight's debate.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jay, read out some depressing statistics about young people in today's world. I have to pose a question in response to that. We should all be concerned about the decline in the personal behaviour of our young people, but could it be a result of some insensitive sex education that has been taking place for years in our schools? How much more effective it might be for this House to throw its full support behind the Government's proposals to underpin all education morally and spiritually, instead of a myopic view of sex education; that is, the concentration mainly on safer sex and not on a healthier lifestyle.
My noble friend Lady Brigstocke, with great sincerity and feeling, asked why we do not stand by the national curriculum as it was devised in 1988. I tell my noble friend that HIV and AIDS were not part of the national curriculum in 1988. They were only slipped in to the national curriculum in this last academic year, and only became effective from 1st August 1992, a mere 10 months ago. They are compulsory—which I believe is quite extraordinary—only for 11 to 14 year-olds. We all know that there was some fairly insensitive sex education given in our schools to young children of 11 and 12 years.
The noble Baroness amused us all with what she felt was the informal way in which young people would receive their sex education if they were withdrawn from school. I believe that schools are capable of handling this issue very sensitively. As the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, said earlier, when the informal question arises spontaneously in the classroom, that can be coped with. It is possible for schools to structure that kind of sex education in a way which makes it distinctive and gives scope for parents to exercise their rights under this amendment.
We have taken the view that it is important that reproduction and biological processes should be part of the compulsory national curriculum. But I can tell the noble Earl, Lord Russell, that this kind of sex education would cope with the distress of the young girl who produced a baby in the bath and had not even known that she was pregnant. We were talking about sex education as it relates to reproduction and not to some of the deviant behaviour which is involved in the other kind of sex education which has more to do with lifestyle.
I enjoyed momentarily the exchange between the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, and the right reverend Prelate. I do not intend to enter into that debate, except to say that I believe that it would be helpful for the Church to be more overt in producing some moral guidance for our young people and not only from the pulpit, although that is of course important. The Church has fought all the way through the Bill for an 1320 involvement with schools and local education authorities. It has a passionate interest in education. Let us see some of that interest manifest itself in a practical way, with practical guidance and a serious moral and spiritual lead for our young people.
An interesting point was raised about 16 year-olds. I shall ask the House tonight not to accept any of the amendments to my amendment. But I believe it right that my honourable friends and colleagues in another place should think about the issues that relate to 16 year-olds. An interesting point has been made. I wish to repeat that it was 11 to 14 year-olds for whom HIV education was made compulsory. I find that a strange phenomenon.
I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, was wholly patronising about criticism of those Members who brought the amendments in good faith to the House at Report stage. I do not believe that they had a hidden agenda. I responded in equally good faith by bringing this amendment to the House at Third Reading. It is consistent with the aims of those previous amendments. I have no hidden agenda.
I was asked whether I could give unequivocal answers to three questions posed by the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell. I hope that I can paraphrase them. I wrote them down as quickly as I could. First, was I certain that parents who withdraw their children will always have the facts? I cannot be certain. Secondly, will those parents who withdraw their children necessarily know the consequences? I cannot be certain about that either. Thirdly, will they necessarily teach their children in the most effective way? I cannot be certain about that.
I have promised that we will make available to the schools proper guidance about working with parents who wish to exercise that right. But I cannot also be certain that every single teacher of sex education will teach it in an equally sensitive way. As I said, we have a moral decline. Is it possibly because of some of the sex education that has been going on in schools? Sex education has been so effective that it has done very little to reduce the numbers of young people indulging in sex under the age of 16 and the number of pregnancies of girls under the age of 16.
My noble friends Lord Jenkin of Roding and Lord Elton asked me to think again. I shall ask the House unequivocally to support my amendment. I believe that it is for my colleagues and colleagues of noble Lords opposite in another place to think about this amendment. That is the democratic process, and that is the course of action that I wish to recommend to the House.
I was also asked about unsuitable literature. The most unsuitable literature is very often distributed to schools by the very organisations which have been so actively opposed to these amendments in this House tonight and which have been lobbying very hard to persuade people to oppose my amendment.
I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, was confused about primary education and the effect of these amendments. At the outset I said that the amendments do not impact on primary education except in so far as in primary education as it is at the moment under the 1986 Act the governors are free to 1321 determine whether sex education is taught. Where the governors take the view that it should be taught, we are allowing parents the right to withdraw their children. But if the school takes the view that it should not be taught, that is the governors' right under the 1986 Act. If the noble Lord wishes to amend the 1986 Act, he is free to do so.
I was asked whether I saw the right of parents to withdraw their children from sex education in schools as being correct, and whether it should override the rights of children. We cannot on the one hand encourage parental responsibility, which we should all like to do, and then take away that responsibility in an area that materially affects their spiritual, moral and sexual development. How can we deny parents their responsibility in that instance?
The noble Earl, Lord Perth, raised the issue of parents complaining about the use of inappropriate materials. It is an important point. The statutory mechanisms and safeguards for dealing with complaints about teaching approaches or materials are already in place. Section 23(1) of the Education Reform Act 1988 gives local authorities initial responsibility for dealing with certain complaints against themselves or the governing bodies of maintained schools, except for grant-maintained schools, which are covered by Section 55(5) (e) of the 1988 Act. Once the local authority complaints procedure has been carried through, the complainant, if not satisfied, may take the complaint to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State under Sections 68 or 99 of the 1944 Act.
The parental right of withdrawal is not in breach of the European Convention as was suggested. The Kjeldsen case did not address those issues. It was concerned with the contention that compulsory sex education breached parents' rights to have their children educated in accordance with their own religious and philosophical convictions. It is not, therefore, a relevant commentary upon the matters we are discussing tonight. And it is not usual to reveal the sources of legal advice.
Sex education, as a result of my amendment, will be a central and mainstream subject. Sex education will now be taught as a mainstream and compulsory subject in the curriculum, with HIV and AIDS, together with other sexually transmitted diseases as part of sex education which deals with lifestyle, sexuality, personal hygiene and so forth, and taught appropriately and sensitively in schools teachers. I believe that is a package that addresses all the concerns of this House and I hope that noble Lords will follow me into my Lobby tonight on my amendment.
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I should like to reply briefly to the comments on the two specific amendments which I tabled on the question of parental withdrawal. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for suggesting that she will take back to another place the question about 16 year-olds. I accept that assurance and hope that there will be a successful outcome of it.
I must return to the point I made at the beginning of the debate, that I am frankly concerned—and that 1322 concern was reflected in the contributions of many noble Lords—about the potential breakdown of what I see as having been a successful consensus on health education and education about sexuality which has been developed extremely well in our schools over the past few years.
I was particularly interested in the contributions of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding. speaking as an ex-Secretary of State for Health, the noble Baroness, Lady Brigstocke, speaking from her background as the headmistress of a well-known and successful girls' school, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford speaking for the Churches. That is precisely the kind of consensus which effectively produced a successful change in sex education in our schools and which successfully led to some of the facts on which we can congratulate ourselves, such as the low HIV rate in this country.
But we do need—and I do not intend to repeat the statistics that I mentioned at the beginning of the debate—to keep up our vigilance about those matters. Putting the teaching of HIV and AIDs in the national curriculum was a sign of that vigilance. 1t is extraordinary that the Minister should use words such as "slipped in" and "strange phenomenon" about a piece of legislation which was only recently introduced by her predecessor in her department at the wish of her government. I do not see HIV and AIDS being in the national curriculum as something "slipped in" or "a strange phenomenon". I regard it as centrally important and something from which parents should not be allowed to withdraw their children. However, I understand that the noble Baroness will be asking us to give our opinions on the whole package, as she described it. I therefore seek leave to withdraw my amendment.
§ Amendment No. 62A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 62, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 62B, as an amendment to Amendment No. 62, not moved.]
§ 10.51 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 62) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 131; Not-Contents, 33.1323
|Division No. 4|
|Aberconway, L.||Buckmaster, V.|
|Ackner, L.||Caldecote, V.|
|Annaly, L.||Carnegy of Lour, B.|
|Arran, E.||Carnock, L.|
|Ashbourne, t.||Cavendish of Furness, L.|
|Astor, V.||Chalker of Wallasey, B.|
|Attlee, E.||Chelmsford, V.|
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||Clanwilliam. E.|
|Beloff, L.||Clark of Kempston, L|
|Belstead, L.||Cochrane of Cults, L.|
|Biatch, B.||Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Coleraine, L.|
|Boardman, L.||Colwyn, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Cork and Orrery, E.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Cornwallis, L.|
|Braine of Wheatley, L.||Craig of Radley. L.|
|Brentford, V.||Craigmyle, L.|
|Brightman, L.||Cranborne, V.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Crawshaw, L.|
|Bruntisfield, L||Cumberlege, B.|
|De Ramsey, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E|
|Denham, L.||Liverpool, E.|
|Demon of Wakefield, B.||Long, V.|
|Dundonald, E.||Longford, E.|
|Eccles, V.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Elles, B.||Lyell, L.|
|Elton, L.||McColl of Dulwich, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]|
|Fitt, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Fraser of Carmyllie, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Gainsborough, E.||Marlesford, L.|
|Gisborough, L.||Monson, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Mountevans, L.|
|Grantchester, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Grimston of Westbury, L.||Munster, E.|
|Guildford, Bp.||Norfolk, D.|
|Halsbury. E.||Northbourne, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Norwich, Bp.|
|Hardinge of Penshurst, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Harlech, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Harvington, L.||Oxfuird, V.|
|Hayhoe, L.||Pearson of Rannoch, L.|
|Henderson of Brompton, L.||Peel, E.|
|Henley, L.||Pender, L.|
|Hesketh, L. [Teller.]||Perth, E.|
|HolmPatrick, L.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Howe, E.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Johnston of Rockport, L.||Reay, L.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Renton, L.|
|Kimball, L.||Rodger of Earlsferry, L.|
|Kinloss, Ly.||Romney, E.|
|Lane of Horsell, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Leigh, L.||Sanderson of Bowden, L.|
|Seccombe, B.||Swinton, E.|
|Simon of Glaisdale, L.||Tebbit, L.|
|Skidelsky, L.||Torrington, V.|
|Stallard, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Stanley of Alderley, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Stewartby, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Stodart of Leaston, L.||Wakeham, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]|
|Stoddart of Swindon, L|
|Strange, B.||Wharton, B.|
|Strathclyde, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Strathmore and Kinghorne, E. [Teller.]||Wynford, L.|
|Addington, L. [Teller.]||Kennet, L.|
|Brigstocke, B.||Kilmarnock, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Lockwood, B.|
|Craigavon, V.||McNair, L.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|David, B.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Eatwell, L.||Northfield, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Parry, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Hamwee, B.||Rea, L.|
|Hollis of Heigham, B.||Russell, E.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Jay of Paddington, B. [Teller.]||Seear, B.|
|Jenkin of Roding, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Judd, L.||Williams of Crosby, B.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.1325
§ 11 p.m.
Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 62C:
After Clause 240, insert the following new clause:
("Amendment of S.2 of Education (Schools) Act 1992
.—(1) The Education (Schools) Act 1992 shall be amended as follows.
(2) In section 2, there shall be added at the end—("(e) the extent and quality of sex education given at the school in accordance with the Education Act 1993."").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I can promise your Lordships that this will be a fairly brief coda to the previous debate. I asked for my amendment to be uncoupled from the grouping of amendments which was originally published because it is, in fact, a separate new clause and addresses a rather different problem from the question of parental withdrawal, which was the core of the previous debate.
§ When the Government accepted the principle of the amendment moved on Report by the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, there was some uncertainty - and even a division of opinion among those of us interested in the matter - as to whether this would lead to an aggregate increase in sex education in schools. The noble Lord, Lord Stallard, who is no longer in his place, referred to that.
§ I was rather inclined to the former view because it was estimated in an HEA report of March 1993 that only 60 per cent. of schools nationally are teaching sex education that is "informed by a policy". A further 19 per cent. were preparing a policy statement. But even with the prospect of an increase to, say, 80 per cent. the problems of funding, teacher training and timetabling (together with opposition to any sex education policy at all by 4 per cent. of schools) made it certain that there would always be significant lacunae, or gaps, under current arrangements. Therefore, 100 per cent. coverage of secondary schools, even allowing for some withdrawals, could be seen as an improvement.
The noble Lord, Lord Stallard, mentioned my view on that and I accept entirely what he said. But doubts then crept in as to how it would work out in practice. These doubts are not wholly dispelled by the new clause which was tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, which has now been incorporated into the Bill. Some words of subsection (5) have been lifted from Section 18 of the 1986 Act. They would oblige schools to,
make, and keep up to date, a separate written statement of their policy with regard to the provision of sex education",
make copies of the statement available for inspection—by parents—free of charge".
§ However, experience under the former regime—as I suppose that I should now call it—was not encouraging. Research suggested that the statutory requirement on school governors to produce a sex education policy (whether positive or negative) was not fulfilled by approximately 30 per cent. of all schools. There is no indication in the Government's new clause of how the new regime is to be monitored and no requirement for it to be included in any inspection. If this is to become mandatory, we surely need to know if and how that is being done. That brings me to "where" and "when". If three or four 1326 parents withdraw their children from sex education then, as was brought out in the previous debate, it will be impossible for teachers to mention sex across a wide range of subjects and the school may be forced to cannibalise sex education into short, one-off lessons for which there may be little or no room in the timetable. At present, governors are expected to negotiate a sex education curriculum in close consultation with parents. That was the flavour of the month, if I may call it that, in Mr Forth's draft circular to which the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, referred and which the Minister has told us is, in effect, to be replaced by a new document.
I turn to my amendment. The new clause introduces into Section 2 of the Education (Schools) Act 1992 the very simple requirement that among the matters about which the chief inspector must keep the Secretary of State informed will be,
the extent and quality of sex education given at the school accordance with the Education Act 1993",
which is what the Bill will shortly become. Why is that necessary and desirable? If HIV, AIDS and other sexually transferable diseases (and education about them) are to be taken out of the national curriculum and included in a discrete subject area with a parental right of withdrawal comparable to that for religious education, it only seems reasonable that that should be liable to monitoring and inspection in the same way as religious education. When the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, first introduced his amendment which, in effect, the Government have taken up, he drew the strong parallel between religious education and sex education.
If we do not have inspections of some sort or another, how can we ensure that the new subject is developmentally appropriate for the age groups concerned and meets the general requirements of the 1986 and 1988 Act as regards the moral. framework? We need to know whether a school has a. policy; what that policy is; how many parents have withdrawn their children and why. It might well be on religious grounds, but it might also be that the material is ill-chosen and that some guidance is required. That is why the quality of the education is important. But the document Framework for Inspection of Schools which I have, and to which I thought the Minister would refer, although I do not believe that she did, makes only one mention that I can find of sex education. It is on page 16 where we are told that an inspector's report should have investigated whether the governors,
have agreed policies for SEN, sex education, equal opportunities and other statutory functions".
SEN means special educational needs.
§ The reference there to sex education presumably reflects the not very well observed requirement for a statement under the 1986 Act; that is to say, under a non-mandatory regime. I suggest that at the very least we need something more positive here. I gather that the document is under revision. So can we be assured that the revision will set out clearly the governors' responsibilities under the new clause of the Bill? For example, does national curriculum guidance five on health education at key stage 3, mentioned on page 16 of the document, which was commended in the Forth 1327 circular, still represent the approach expected of schools? If so, when and where will that be indicated? Will it be in the revised circular? The Minister has told us that we are to have a revised circular. Or will it be in the revised Framework for Inspection of Schools?
§ I hope that I have shown that the new clause raises several questions about the implementation of what is, in effect, a new policy. We are entitled to an assurance of proper inspection before we can feel fully confident about it. The Minister herself referred to it as a mainstream and compulsory subject, something to which she has accorded considerable status. Surely it deserves no less than to be inspected properly along with other subjects.
§ We had a bird in the hand before, and it is not yet clear to me what we have in this bush. So if the Minister can give me any assurances on those queries, I shall be more than grateful. I can tell her that I am seeking information. I want to know how the Government plan to handle this matter. I do not propose to push the amendment to a Division. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I appreciate the thinking behind Amendment No. 62C, but it is unnecessary. Section 2(1) of the Education (Schools) Act 1992 already requires the Chief Inspector for England to keep my right honourable friend the Secretary of State informed about, among other things, the quality of education provided by schools, and the effect of that upon the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at those schools. The extent of sex education provided in the school is for the governors themselves to determine.
We did not prescribe separately and specifically for religious education in this section of the 1992 Act. Similarly, there is no need to prescribe separately for sex education; it already has to be covered in Ofsted's inspection reports of schools. General inspections must include coverage of the way a school promotes the moral development of pupils across the curriculum. All Section 9 inspections will be conducted according to HMCI's published Framework of Inspection. The registered inspector will state his or her findings in a published report and the governors are required to publish an action plan in response setting out the action they propose to take to remedy any deficiencies identified.
This public, open reporting will provide a sound basis for parents and others to judge the spiritual and moral ethos of a school. The governing body is also required by the 1992 Schools Act to include an update on the progress that it has made in implementing their action plan in their annual report to parents. This will ensure that a school's performance is kept constantly under review. The annual parents' meeting itself will give parents an opportunity to question governors about their decisions. Indeed, the first port of call for the inspectorate on arrival at a school is the parents and to talk to them about how they perceive their school.
I hope that the House will agree that there is no need to write a specific requirement on the quality of sex education into the 1992 Act as an additional duty; 1328 it is already adequately covered. With that explanation I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, will not press his amendment. If he were minded to and if the House were to accept it—which I am sure it will not—we would have to include other issues which must be covered by the inspector. It is much better that the inspector is responsible for inspecting all education which takes place in our schools.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, before the Minister sits down perhaps I may ask a question. The House has just passed Amendment No. 62. I remain somewhat sceptical as to whether it will be workable and whether it will be incorporated in the Bill. However, let us consider that it is. Will the Minister say whether the present system of information-gathering will provide information about the number of children who are withdrawn from the new compulsory sex education classes? It would be useful to know how great a percentage of parents do so.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I am not able to enter into that kind of detail at this stage. I do not believe that it is envisaged that schools will report on which children withdraw from sex education, in the same way as we do not ask how many children withdraw from religious education, as they are allowed at present.
It will be a compulsory subject in the curriculum and it will be necessary for the registered inspectors to comment on the policy of the school which they are inspecting, the effectiveness of that policy and the outcomes of that education for its children. It may well be that if a significant number of children are withdrawn in a school a comment would be included in the report. Every single report will be made public.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, I understand from the Minister's reply that she does not want to put anything relating to this issue on to the face of the Bill. I said in my opening remarks that I did not intend to press the amendment. However, perhaps I may take the opportunity to ask her a question. I received a draft circular issued by Mr. Forth on 22nd April. The Minister said that that had been issued for consultation and that as a result it may be revised. When can we expect that and will it give guidance on the issues that I have mentioned?
There is in addition the document entitled Framework of Inspection, which I understood was due to be revised. Will any opportunity occur in that document to draw the inspector's attention to this particular area, which is only cursorily mentioned at present? If the Minister can reassure me on those two points I shall be more than happy to withdraw the amendment.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, my amendment was accepted by the House only a matter of minutes ago. It must go before another place for approval and the Bill must receive Royal Assent. It would be inappropriate for me to start to write the new circular. That circular will be withdrawn. Comments on it will be extremely valuable because quite a lot of that circular will find its way into the new circular. But the circular addresses the quality of sex education in our 1329 schools, the framework within which it is taught, the way in which it will be taught and the way in which those parents who exercise their right to withdraw their children will be counselled. It would be wrong for me to go into more detail and to pre-empt the circular. It will be out for consultation and the noble Lord will have an opportunity to respond to it at that time.
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, in view of the acceptance of the government amendment, will the consultation period on that document be extended? I believe that we were due to respond to it by the end of July.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, the consultation period is almost up. That will be the end of that circular. The comments on it will be considered carefully by my department because some of them will be appropriate to the new circular. I cannot give a specific date for the re-issue of the circular.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, perhaps I may remind the noble Lord that this is Third Reading; we are not in Committee.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 63 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]
§ Clause 241 [Temporary procedure for making certain orders]:
§ [Amendment No. 64 not moved.]
§ Clause 243 [The School Curriculum and Assessment Authority]:
Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 65:
Page 150, line 19, leave out from ("persons") to end of line and insert ("who appear to him—
(4A) Where in carrying out his functions under subsection (4) above the Secretary of State proposes to appoint a person who appears to him to have experience of, and to have shown capacity in, the provision of education, he shall have regard to the desirability of including persons engaged in the provision of primary or secondary education.").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the appointment of members is central to the success of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State takes his responsibility in making those appointments very seriously indeed. As I have said in this House on previous occasions, we think that the Bill as currently drafted already provides for the assurance we would all want to see, that no future Secretary of State could possibly appoint a set of members who between them had no knowledge of or experience in education.
§ However, it has become clear during the Bill's passage through Parliament that some noble Lords, and in particular the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, feel 1330 that the formulation as at present in the Bill should be spelt out in more detail. We always try to meet such concerns when we can. I am here to please. Therefore, this amendment closely follows the wording suggested by the noble Earl. I beg to move.
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for this amendment. It is, as she says, similar to the one that I brought forward on Report following a certain amount of encouragement in Committee. In correspondence since then she indicated that she was prepared to accept it with the minor revision that I proposed, because I believe that subsection (4) as drafted is too weak for the job. The new wording, although a little different from mine in shape, has the same effect in strengthening the provisions on the face of the Bill for this most vital curriculum body, and I warmly welcome it.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 66 not moved.]
Baroness Williams of Crosby moved Amendment No. 67:
After Clause 258, insert the following new clause:
("County, voluntary and grant-maintained schools. teachers' qualifications
In section 218 of the Education Reform Act 1988 (school and further and higher education regulations) after subsection (3) there is inserted—
"Additional provisions in relation to qualified teachers.
(3A) In exercising his powers under paragraph (a) of subsection (1) above in relation to making provision in respect of qualified teachers by or under regulations, the Secretary of State shall have regard in particular to the desirability of securing that a qualified teacher possesses—
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, sometimes wish that I had the eloquence of Pericles or the voices of men and of angels because I might then he able to hold enough Members of this House at this late hour to discuss the amendment tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and myself. However. I notice that both the Chamber and the Galleries have largely emptied, the fascinating subject of sex education having passed beyond our purview.
§ The fact that this amendment is about a matter as important to the standard and quality of education and to the prospects of our children as any subject which we have discussed so far may have escaped the notice of some people who would otherwise be in the Chamber. I do not apologise for detaining the House for a few moments—I shall be brief—on what I regard as one of the most important aspects of primary education at present.1331
§ The amendment is concerned with the circular recently issued by the Secretary of State with regard to the qualifications required by primary teachers. Some will be aware that that circular, which the amendment addresses, suggests that there should be a special qualified teacher qualification for teachers of children between the ages of four and eight—what is called key stage 1. It suggests that there should be a one-year course of training for teachers in that category—that is, teachers of infant and reception classes—and that that one-year course should be restricted to mature students over the age of 26 with some experience of young children. It also says that the qualifications for the course, apart from the one year of training, should he the requirements for advanced or higher education; maybe two A-levels at some level like D or E. As I understand it, the requirements laid down for the course--and I have the circular with me—are that there should be 18 weeks' training in school as a minimum, which, I estimate, leaves not more than 22 weeks of training in a college of education, assuming a 40-week year. It is possible that it will be a 44-week year, but the differences are not of great significance.
It is strange to me that the proposal for a one-year course, which means a dramatic decline in the qualifications of the teachers of our youngest children —noble Lords will know that, at present, the minimum period of training for teachers is a three- or four-year course—should be put forward by a Secretary of State who in his circular says that the Government wish:
to ensure that newly qualified teachers are fully equipped to contribute to high-quality teaching and improved standards of achievement in primary schools".
I may be very simple minded, but I find it hard to imagine how reducing the requirements by two-thirds or three-quarters will produce an improved standard of education in our primary schools.
§ I absolutely agree that it is important that teachers should have experience of working with young children. I believe that so strongly that, when I was Secretary of State, one of the things that I went out of my way to accept as part of the qualifications for a teaching course was the experience of being a married woman who had raised her children. I yield to no one in believing that experience is a major qualification for teaching. But experience is a complement to education and training, not a substitute for it. It is the combination that creates such a powerful argument for quality in the training of young children.
§ I believe the latter so strongly that I am a trustee of the Learning by Experience Trust. It attempts to assess the quality of experience, not only for teachers and managers but also for people in many walks of life. I know from that experience that you cannot just make a rough estimate of the quality of experience; it requires very careful assessment of what people have learned. As noble Lords may know, some people learn a great deal from experience while others learn relatively little. You cannot assume that the simple passing of time brings wisdom with it as an automatic by-product.
§ Secondly, one of the most crucial areas of education—indeed, perhaps the most crucial—is the 1332 education of very young children between the ages of four or four-and-a-half when they enter infant school and seven or eight when they leave. That is not an easy area of education; indeed, it is a very difficult and challenging area. One educationist after another and one teacher after another will tell all of us that the teaching of reading and mathematics to very young children is an extremely skilled occupation. It is not something that you can do because you once brought up a child, though I believe that that is useful experience. Children learn 80 per cent. of all that they ever learn before the age of eight. That represents the crucial building blocks of a child's values, of its morality, of its education, of its thirst for knowledge and of its curiosity.
§ Thirdly, as noble Lords have already emphasised at length in debates on the Bill, one of the most crucial aspects of being an infant teacher is that that person is the one who will pick up special educational needs and children's disabilities, such as early deafness, the inability to handle words properly and dyslexia. If these things are picked up early, they can be remedied, but if they are left to run on they may become major handicaps throughout someone's life.
As chance will have it, only an hour ago I received a letter from a teacher, Mrs Diane Wilcox of Southgate. I should explain that I do not know Mrs Wilcox. She has written to me out of the blue. She states:
I have been an Early Years teacher for 11 years and a parent for just over 8 years … A wide and varied curriculum needs to be planned both daily and throughout the Early Years covering the core subjects and all other aspects of the curriculum".
I commend this thought to the House—
A far greater degree of contact with parents is expected at this level than at any other and this requires skills in counselling, advising and working together as partners … The early detection of problems like ear, eye and speech defects which if undetected could prove detrimental",
is one of the things that Early Years staff have to be trained to spot and to detect at an early stage.
Finally, Mrs. Wilcox points out that teachers are,
increasingly required to train as well as teach with NNEB students, Articled teachers schemes and work experience students".
If teachers do not have first class training how can they hand on training to others?
Given this situation and given the fact that, according to the most recent report of Ofsted, 73 per cent. of our primary school teachers are, as they leave training, teaching to
either a satisfactory or better standard"—
which is, incidentally, a higher standard than for secondary school teachers—I cannot understand why the Government are advancing this extraordinary scheme at this time. I shall mention four practical, rapid disadvantages of it. The first is inflexibility. These trained Early Years teachers will not be qualified to teach any pupils except those in the early years. We are assured of that in the Secretary of State's circular. So what happens in a small school when the junior teacher is ill? He or she would normally look to the infant teacher to help out, but what can be done when this infant teacher is not qualified to teach any other age group than pupils up to the age of eight? In the school which my daughter attended there were five
classes and three teachers. How could a teacher possibly have filled in at that school if he or she had been trained only to teach the youngest children in that school?
§ The second disadvantage is that the scheme is a major barrier to promotion. Teachers who have received training to teach a particular year will be most unlikely to be promoted to posts of responsibility, let alone to deputy headships and headships. They will be blocked at an early stage in their career. What incentive is there for the people of excellent quality we want to enter infant teaching to go into such teaching if there is little or no prospect of them ever advancing, however dedicated and excellent they are, from that relatively humble position?
§ Thirdly, we have been engaged—I thought across the parties—over several years now in improving the quality of our teachers. In 1972 the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, announced in a circular that teaching would now be an all-graduate profession. That publication was entitled Education, A Framework for Expansion. The noble Baroness, then the Secretary of State for Education, declared, as if on a banner, that it was one of the major purposes of the Conservative government of that time to create an all-graduate profession. Five years later, when I was Secretary of State for Education, I laid down a requirement that all teachers needed to have a minimum qualification in Maths and English of at the very least a GCE at pass level or a CSE at level 1. That was later accepted by the government of the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher —then Mrs. Margaret Thatcher—who included it as a requirement for GCSEs in 1984.
§ From 1972 onwards governments of both parties have consistently attempted to raise the qualifications for our teachers. They have done so with their eyes open, in the belief that that was the single greatest contribution they could make to the raising of standards. That did not divide one party from another.
§ My fourth objection, which is a very serious one, is that none of these infant teachers will be able to teach in any other school in the Community because of the terms of the 1989 directive which laid down that the Community would not recognise, for the purposes of teaching in any other Community country, any teacher who qualified in under a three-year course. My Lords, I appeal to your sense of patriotism. Do we really want to be a country whose teachers are not accepted in any other country of the Community—in Greece, in Portugal or in Italy—because they are inadequately trained? Is that good enough for our children when it is not good enough for the children of Greece or the children of Italy?
§ Lastly, I turn to expert opinion. The Secretary of State referred to the support of the Chairman of the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, Sir William Taylor, as if he were in support of the scheme. On the contrary, Sir William Taylor's CATE said that the scheme will blight the future prospects of those who take part and damage recruitment to the rest of the profession by ending all-graduate status, 1334 and it will be difficult to pack enough learning into a one-year course. That is the view of the chairman of CATE, who was appointed by the Government.
The Council of Local Education Authorities—including its Conservative members—said just a few days ago that this would be:
a second, subsidiary grade of teachers".
The Early Childhood Education Forum's chairman said:
The changes present a very real threat to the quality of young children's learning".
Finally, the chairman of the National Association of Infant Teachers, Professor Gamage, said that it will mean a second-class training for infant teachers.
§ Why are the Government putting out a circular against which so many expert voices have been raised. which is incompatible with the directives of the Community and the broad effort supported by all parties to raise the quality of teacher education and which has nothing to do with raising the standards of the teaching of our infants? There are only two possible conclusions. The first is that it is to save money: that one pays a lower salary to a teacher with a one-year training than to a teacher with a three or four-year training. Oh, not right now. I understand that very well. But I ask how long it will take before a teacher with a one-year training is paid less than a teacher with a three or four-year training. It runs in the face of all experience to believe that that issue will not at some point be raised by local education authorities and grant-maintained schools trying to keep down their budgets.
§ If that is not the reason—and I still do not know what the reason is because there is no shortage of primary school teachers; we have more trained teachers than we can supply jobs for, so that is not the reason—there is only one other possibility. That possibility is that the Government want to split off the training of teachers from higher education institutions and universities which provide the training or teachers with some of the enrichment, the intellectual breadth from which teacher training benefits so greatly.
§ Why do I say that? I say it for two reasons: first, the Government propose that the prime course for secondary school teachers shall be a three-year Bachelor of Education degree and that much of the time shall be spent in schools. I have no great objection to that; I think that teachers learn a lot from learning and practice in schools. What I fear, however, is that the Government in their circular propose to finance the training of teachers in schools by taking the money from the higher education institutions, thereby fundamentally undermining the best work that they do.
If noble Lords do not care to listen to me—because after all they know that I have a point of view which has been established over many years—let me conclude by quoting the words of a distinguished former editor of The Times Educational Supplement —no socialist he—Mr. Stuart Maclure, who referred in a recent article in that educational supplement to the unrelenting attack of this Government on the professional status of teachers. He said that we must fight this with all we have, we must block this iniquitous plan. He went on:
We owe ourselves and our pupils nothing less".
I beg to move.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. It is tremendous to have her powerful experience and passion with us in this House.
Teacher education is certainly at the crossroads. Never has it needed more clear support by all the community in order to secure the best for students of education and for pupils in our schools. Recent proposals have, I suggest, shown how slim the Government's commitment to a graduate profession for teachers really is. By proposing to dilute the qualifications and status of nursery and infant teachers, the Government are all too obviously signalling the end to teaching as an all-graduate profession.
The first significant step was taken in that direction in 1989 when the Government introduced the licensed teacher proposals. Now we have the most disturbing proposal of all: that to teach five and six year-olds it will be enough just to be eligible to go to university and to have experience of working with children. Such a proposal flies in the face of reality. The early years of a child's education are the most important. Those years are the bedrock upon which all academic and social progress is built. Teachers in this sector should therefore be particularly carefully prepared for their immense responsibilities. The Government, however, seem incapable of recognising that fundamental priority. The Government's new proposals for the reform of primary and initial teacher training are designed clearly to achieve training on the basis of minimum investment, a response—as I think the noble Baroness has already indicated—to the short-term demands of the current economic circumstances facing the Government.
However, getting teacher training right is a vital long-term investment in our economy. The successful education of pupils now and into the future depends on the Government getting that policy right. A five-week consultation period at the end of the school year on policy of this magnitude is woefully inadequate.
Successful teaching of young children at school demands complex moral and intellectual choices—and we have been debating some of them tonight—and the need for teachers to understand how children learn; how to differentiate and match activities to children's ability; how to extend children's ability to take on greater challenges; and how to pinpoint and seek support in responding to the problems encountered by children with learning difficulties.
Meeting these priorities requires a highly qualified teaching profession, and I emphasise the word "profession". It is a profession with a critical awareness of its own practice, a high level of confidence and understanding of the process of learning and of the skills needed in handling subject knowledge and in teaching it to pupils. An education service of quality will always, I suggest, depend upon 1336 well motivated, properly qualified and trained teachers with time and resources available to them to fulfil their professional role.
It is widely recognised that the work of teachers is becoming more difficult all the time. The break-up of communities and families, the explosion of knowledge and the competition of television have all contributed to demand for higher levels of skill and competence from teachers. It is therefore dangerously irresponsible to propose reducing the level of qualifications required to enter teaching at this juncture. It makes no sense to reduce entry qualification for primary teachers at a time when we know that more than ever primary education is fundamentally important if standards of education in general are to be raised.
It is for these reasons that we argue that an all-graduate teaching profession is critically necessary. It need not be inflexible. Overseas teaching qualifications can be taken into account; prior learning and experience can be accredited, but the standards should be retained, not least as a guarantee of quality for parents.
At this point perhaps I may deal with an argument which previously I have heard the Minister use. I want her to know that on one point I strongly agree with what I believe she and the Government seek to do. I believe that it could be a tremendous regeneration of education to have more people coming from outside the profession, with wide experience of the world as it is, into our schools to stimulate our children. I applaud that endeavour. But that is not instead of professional qualifications. It would be absolute madness to bring those people in and then hamper their contribution by not enabling them to have the preparation, the training and the professional standards of their own contribution ensured.
The Government's proposals deny this status of profession. As Robin Alexander, Professor of Education at Leeds University, wrote in The Times on 7th June:if one sees teaching as a demanding and sophisticated activity, requiring considerable reserves of knowledge, understanding, skill, creativity, and empathy, and if one believes that children in schools, no less than students in universities, need to be challenged by the liveliest minds and keenest imaginations then higher education becomes central to teacher training".I warmly support the amendment of the noble Baroness.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, on two points that she made in her opening speech: first, about the importance of teachers—they are the key to the educational service and success—and, secondly, on the importance of early education. However, that said, I am afraid that I must part company with what she had to say on this particular amendment.
I have not the slightest doubt that the main routes to education will continue to be the ones that they are now: through the B.Ed degree and through the PGCE course. I might just say, in parenthesis, that I think it will be extremely important that both courses maintain a high and relevant standard. I regret to say —and certainly I know from my own experience—that a great many of my husband's pupils who read 1337 chemistry refused to go into teaching because they thought the PGCE course was so poor. I have heard it laughed at by a great many other graduates. It is not something which I think is good, but it is something which the educational world needs to address.
My understanding is that the Government are proposing another route into teaching. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, has already referred to one—namely, the licensed teachers—which was greatly criticised at the time but which brings into teaching men and women who have had wide experience of life arid have something to contribute to all sorts of courses, particularly in technology. It seems to me quite wrong not to accept these people into teaching.
As for the other proposals, the idea that the teachers will be unqualified is simply not true. They will have to do a course. One needs to ask what they will bring to teaching. In the first place, they will be older people, with a minimum age of 26. I believe that that is very valuable, because they have had experience of life. I am not at all against young teachers. But the young man or woman who has been through school, gone straight into some kind of training course and comes out at the age of 22 has had no experience of life and no real experience of children. And one thing that one does need and from which one benefits is the experience of knowing children—on the matter of discipline, if nothing else. It is a quality which itself is or extreme value.
I believe, although I realise that it is a matter of opinion, that the idea that they will be unable to identify children with special educational needs is quite untrue. I should go so far as to say that they would probably be much more likely to identify them because they will have had experience of life and of children, the children of their friends and so on, unlike young teachers who will not have had that experience.
§ 11.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept that on this side of the House we in no way disagree with the very valuable point that she makes about experience? With great respect, that is not the point at issue, which is whether somebody with experience will not benefit by having, in addition to that experience, an adequate training course. It is not a choice between a training course without experience and experience without a training course.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I entirely take the point that the noble Baroness makes. As I understand the matter, there is no question about them not having a proper training course. It is quite untrue to say that the whole object of the exercise is to save money. It simply brings into the teaching profession people with a different background who, I believe, will have something to contribute. To rule out the proposal for that reason would be quite wrong. The hour is late and I shall not pursue the argument. However, I believe that it would be quite wrong to think that we would be admitting to the teaching profession people who are unqualified and unsuitable. They have much to contribute.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, in Glasgow they have a definition of an atheist: one who is neutral at a Rangers-Celtic match. Similarly, it might be a definition of one who is non-political: that he is neutral during a speech by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff.
Recently, the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, moved an amendment to delete the educational competence of the European Community from the Treaty of Maastricht. This House rejected that amendment by an overwhelming majority. I feel that we should pause to think a little longer about the indifference shown by the Government to the European Community Directive 89/48. That does not even arise under the Treaty of Maastricht. It is part of the harmonisation of professional qualifications which is a necessity for freedom of movement.
Exactly a week ago today we approved a power in the Treaty of Maastricht which was put there at the recommendation of our own Government. It provides for those who ignore European Community directives to be fined under the authority of the European Court. It would be a little foolish of the Government, having insisted on putting that power in place, to volunteer to be the first government to suffer under it.
I listened with care to the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I was interested in what she said about another route. But that particular route has been regarded, by everybody with any competence to pass judgment on it outside the Conservative Party, as an inadequate one. I am sorry if it causes offence on the other side of the House when we suspect that cost cutting is the real motive. But we have such long experience of damage caused by government cost cutting. I speak not from listening to any pressure group but from personal experience. Having been 10 times burned, we are rather inclined to fear the fire.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, I have several times warned in this House about the damage that is done to education by swingeing criticisms of the teaching services of this country at almost every level, often based only on senior common room gossip. We have sat through a number of debates when the teachers have been criticised for almost everything that has gone wrong with education over the past 25 years. We have heard again tonight a total dismissal, apparently echoed on the Front Bench, of the training of graduates in teaching, which has done tremendous work for the education process over the years.
It is a frustration to me that, after 32 years in the classroom and eight hours on these Benches tonight, we have to truncate our remarks arid cut short our contribution to what is, as has already been said, the most important part of the debate. If the teaching service of the country in a democracy is disillusioned, then that democracy is in danger. We have a disillusioned teaching service, and part of that disillusion has been brought about by baseless criticism.
That is not to say that there is no criticism to be made of all aspects of the teaching service, properly focused, in order to improve it. My experience is that there is scarcely a teacher in Britain today who does not feel that his or her basic education could not be 1339 improved by further education. Most teachers are convinced that the speed of change and the changes with which their children will have to grapple challenge them to further education.
On this very day my daughter, after 17 years in teaching special education, collected her special diploma for education of those specially in need from a university extension course that she attended in her spare time. I want it to be understood that the majority of the teachers of this country are good teachers who understand children and are urgent in their desire to help those children with the moral, spiritual, physical and educational demands that are made on them.
Why do we not say that more often? At a time when we have painfully and painstakingly, through the education system of this country, provided a teaching service that is basically all right, why do we suddenly assume that people can come into it simply because they passed chemistry at Cambridge or at a red brick university? Instead of dismissing what is provided, why do they not accept the challenge of further preparation for the specific task of bringing their fine minds and their good education to bear on younger children?
Let us not repeat those rumours. Let us prepare the system. Let us not make it seem easy to teach four to six year-olds, as though anyone could take up that job: they intended to go in for chemistry but they did not like the system of education so they took the cheap option and taught somebody's four year-old child!
I urge the House to place emphasis on the fact that anyone who goes into the classroom, bringing new experience, also takes the hurdle. I understood the noble Baroness to say that there will be a requirement for the education of people who have taken a degree who come into the classroom to teach at that level. Let us hear what that requirement is. Tell us whether it measures up to the old standards. I went into teaching after the war, at the time of the emergency, when it was necessary to give our classrooms new teachers and we introduced a scheme called the "emergency teachers scheme". Women of wartime experience, of industry and of the services came into the classrooms. They had one year's preparation in a training college in order to do that, and almost all of them felt that they needed to continue their education. So we evolved for them in-service education.
Only today a local authority in Wales announced that it is contemplating cutting £17 million from its education budget. What will that mean? It will mean that in-service continuing education and other aspects of the education service will be threatened. Where will the cuts fall? They will fall on the new people who are coming into the education service—"We do intend that they should qualify, but we cannot manage it just now".
I feel deeply and strongly about this issue. I urge the Government to be careful to ensure that any structure that they propose is adequate and meets the needs of the classroom teacher, because even at this time 1340 teachers are dissatisfied that they cannot, in in-service education or in extension courses, get the opportunities that they need.
§ Viscount Eccles
My Lords, I once carried out a big test on the teaching of mathematics in primary schools. I found that more than 50 per cent. of the teachers who taught mathematics in primary schools did not have O-level in mathematics themselves. That demonstrated to me that teacher training had to be improved. It may be thought that the universities can do it —and perhaps they can—but my experience is that they do not do it at all well. Today there are more university graduates without a job than ever before and the position is worse still in America. They are not being trained to do the things that we need in our society. If we want better leaders in our society—whether it is in a primary school or in No. 10 Downing Street—we had better not rely simply on universities.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, in the time I have spent in the House I do not believe that I have ever witnessed such misinterpretation and such fertile imagination used on a document. Before I go any further, I wonder whether I may ask the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, a direct question. Where is her evidence for saying that we would settle for Grades D or E at A-level for those coming in?
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords, perhaps I may repeat what I said to the noble Baroness. If she checks Hansard she will find that this is what I said. The circular which I have beside me states that the qualifications are those required for entry to higher education. The lowest level qualifications required for entry to higher education are Grades D or E at A-level. I therefore inquired whether those would be regarded as adequate qualifications. The only information given in the circular uses the phrase,the qualifications required for entry to higher education".That is the point I was making.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I think that we should both read Hansard tomorrow because I was listening very carefully when the noble Baroness made the comment.
Perhaps I may start at that very point and give some of the background of teachers coming into the system right at this moment. First, between 35 and 40 per cent. of our teachers in primary schools are graduates, which means that around 60 per cent. of our teachers in primary schools are not graduates. At least 15 per cent. of entrants to primary PGCE courses are social studies graduates, which is about the same proportion as mathematics, science and engineering graduates combined. The average A-level point score —I ask the noble Baroness to note this point—for entry into primary BEd courses in 1991 was 10.6, just slightly better than a C and a D. So we are not getting in quality people anyway.
The noble Baroness made reference to a rough estimate of who who received qualified teacher status. Again, that is a gross misreading of the document. No one is going to make a rough estimate about awarding qualified teacher status to a mature student. I ask the noble Baroness, who I assume has read the document, 1341 to turn to the annexes and look at the competence expected of newly-qualified teachers; the requirements of courses of initial teacher training; other responsibilities of institutions and schools; criteria for initial teacher training in the primary phase; aims of the initial teacher training; competences expected of newly-qualified teachers; the whole curriculum; the content, the planning and the assessment; the subject knowledge and application; assessment and recording of pupils' progress; teaching strategies and pupils' learning; teaching strategies and teaching techniques; further professional development; requirements of courses for initial teacher training; directed time for curriculum and subject studies. I could go on and on with a great deal of detail which sets out the importance of the course content and the qualifications which teachers need before receiving qualified teacher status.
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords, the noble Baroness asked me a direct question and I am responding only to that. I do not want to delay the House. Perhaps I may quote directly from the circular, which states that the Secretary of State,wishes to see one-year courses developed for parents and other mature students with considerable previous experience of working with young children (such as nursery nurses who have worked for some time in schools)".There is no further definition of how that experience is to be assessed or how it is to be measured. The document goes on:who have the necessary academic qualifications for entry to higher education".The noble Baroness will know that among the entry qualifications for at least some parts of higher education are Grades D and E at A-level.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I am not arguing about that. I am saying that the noble Baroness should read the whole document. She should refer to the back of it and see what is said about the competences that are required for teacher status. It refers to the teaching techniques and strategies and the hours suggested for further study. All of that is wholly ignored by the noble Baroness in her comments.
I agree absolutely with something which she said: my noble friend Lady Young also touched on it. The teaching of reading, particularly at Key Stage 1, is probably one of the most important skills for a teacher. How interesting it is that so many young teachers coming out of higher education, having been taught to teach, have not been taught to teach reading. That is a terrible indictment of teacher training at this moment.
Noble Lords will notice in the same circular the increased time which is given during training to be devoted to core subjects, including English, mathematics and science, and the specific time to be devoted to the teaching of reading, which is a very important skill, particularly for people teaching at Key Stage 1. My noble friend Lady Young identified what I believe is a considerable undervaluing of the experience of mature people who bring something different to education.
1342 The noble Lord, Lord Judd, said that he is not against mature people coming in. That could have almost fooled me after much of what has been said about this proposal. Mature people are coming into training and some on the back of just one-yeas courses are going into secondary education. Some of our technology teachers are learning on the job. Our licensed teacher and articled teacher schemes have been very successful. There have been independent reports on them which have commented very favourably.
The noble Baroness suggested that there were two motives here, and pretty devious ones at that. Somehow, by some kind of sleight of hand—not now, but sometime later—this awful, nasty meaning Government are going to pounce and say, "We've got you in now. We've paid you normal salaries like other teachers and now we're going to lower them deliberately". I find that pretty patronising and quite unacceptable as a criticism.
The other reference was made to splitting up from higher education institutions. Our motive here is to provide for very capable, talented, mature people who could make a very real contribution at Key Stage 1 for our young people, and who cannot afford to go away and spend two, three or four years at teacher training colleges. Why should we not give them the opportunity to come into the profession? Why should we not give a chance to people with Grade A, B or C at A-level and some creditable prior learning experience that is relevant? On top of that they do not do 22 weeks on one course, as the noble Baroness, again rather disparagingly, suggested, but a proper, intensive one-year course with follow-up in-service training in schools. I find it extremely patronising not to give this opportunity to mature people who are capable and talented.
I wish to reinforce the point made by my noble friend Lady Young. This provision will not substitute for the other forms of teacher training. The BEd degree and the PGCEs will continue, as will the articled and licensed teachers. This will be just another route to enable talented, mature people to come into the classroom and teach our young people.
One of the main objectives of our teacher training policy is to attract into teaching mature people with relevant skills —and I mean relevant skills—and experience. We are determined that all those entering teaching, by whatever route, will receive training which is rigorous and relevant to the needs of schools. There is absolutely no question of schools being asked to employ poorly trained teachers. I must also advise the noble Baroness, who was so wrong in almost everything that she said, that there is no suggestion of awarding qualified status to a teacher who has done a training course without experience or who has experience but has not attended a training course. That is a travesty of the circular.
But we question the assumption that the best teachers invariably and only arrive via graduate entry or by long courses lasting three years or more. Ask some of the head teachers in our schools whether their teachers without a degree are necessarily poorer teachers. After all, a high percentage are doing a good 1343 job. The noble Baroness used a statistic, so I advise her that 73 per cent. of teachers in primary schools are doing a good job and that a large proportion—in fact, more than half—are teachers without degrees.
A significant minority, trained through the licensed teacher scheme, do not arrive via graduate entry, but, as recent HMI evidence has shown, their experience of work in other fields is often useful to their work as teachers. Most new entrants to the profession are and will continue to be graduates. But we should remember that many of the best teachers, in both primary and secondary schools, entered teaching as non-graduates. We should continue to provide opportunities to those who are well suited for teaching but who have missed out on a university education.
As has been said, we have recently issued a consultation document—and it is just that—on the reform of primary teacher training. The proposal that some of those intending to become teachers of Early Years pupils should train via one-year specialist courses has aroused controversy. This amendment is perhaps intended to sabotage that idea. As I have made clear, it would affect the tried and tested licensed teacher scheme as well. How sad that we should lose the licensed teacher scheme for the amendment.
The proposal is still out for consultation. Much of the reaction to it has been based on false assumptions. We have heard many tonight. The proposed courses would not replace other routes into Early Years teaching, but would supplement them. The courses would be intensive and longer than the usual academic year—contrary to what the noble Baroness said. Entry would not be unrestricted, but would be confined to mature people (aged 26 and over) with substantial successful experience of working with young children and with qualifications at least as good as those required for entry to degree courses. Indeed, we would expect many entrants to these courses to have better A-level scores than BEd entrants at the moment. Those successfully completing the courses—and I mean "successfully"—would be qualified to teach up to the end of Key Stage 1 and no further. They would be specialists. They would not—like some of those trained through the licensed teacher scheme—be eligible to teach in other EC member states, but this would not affect the eligibility of teachers trained through other routes.
I have two final points. On the point about flexibility, no school is obliged to employ these people. If a school wants more flexibility, it will not employ one of these teachers, but there are schools that would give such teachers an opportunity to teach Key Stage 1. I am fascinated to know how any school copes with five classes and only three teachers. Do two classes each day go without a teacher? That was what the noble Baroness said about her daughter's school.
I ask the noble Baroness to think for one moment and to imagine this scenario. A young person goes to university on pretty low grade A-levels, does a degree in sociology with no thought of the possibility of teaching but, on graduating, finds it difficult to get a job and decides after all to go into teaching. That young person does the one-year, 30-week course, 1344 mostly in a higher education institution, and is then employed in a school, qualified to teach across Key Stages 1, 2, 3, and 4 because, as long as a school will employ him or her, that person is free to teach. I wonder how much better qualified that person is than somebody who has equally good A-levels, who has prior accreditable experience and does an intensified year's course directly related to Key Stage 1 and national curriculum requirements. I think that I would put my money on the second option.
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords, I do not wish to detain the House long, but I must press the amendment. I want to make just two points before I sit down. The first is to repeat that there is no conflict over the value of experience, which I fully appreciate and about which I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, and the Minister. That is not the issue before us. The issue before us is whether any proper teacher training can be accomplished in one year at a time when we are asking teachers to understand the national curriculum, assessment and testing—a set of principles which so far are little known to the teaching profession and which teachers now have to learn.
It seems to me ludicrous to believe that in one year teachers, however able and however great their experience, can accomplish all that. I notice in the circular that only 500 hours of direct training is required for this new route to teaching whereas 1,600 hours (nearly three and a half times as much) is required for people going into teaching through the normal routes. I fear that that will undermine the value of teaching, and that is why I must press the amendment.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, how many hours direct training are there in the PGCE, which is just a one-year course for someone who has come in, as I say, on the back of a degree taken when they had no idea of teaching?
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, if I may, that is not comparing like with like. That is comparing apples with pears. Let us compare two one-year courses.
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords, I am afraid that I will not be lured into that by the Minister for the straightforward reason that a three-year graduate training will give a young woman or young man substantial study experience in the field in which they are teaching. I must reiterate that I believe that a one-year training course is a long step backwards in the qualifications of the teaching force of this country. I believe that the Government will live to rue that step.
§ 12.12 a.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 67) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 15; Not-Contents, 54.1345
|Division No. 5|
|Addington, L.||Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.|
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||David, B.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Kilbracken, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.[Teller.]||Parry, L.|
|Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Russell, E.|
|Hamwee, B.||Seear, B.|
|Judd, L||Williams of Crosby, B. [Teller.]|
|Annaly, L.||Henley, L.|
|Arran, E.||Hesketh, L. [Teller.]|
|Astor, V.||HolmPatrick, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Howe, E.|
|Belstead, L.||Long, V.|
|Blatch. B.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Boardman, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Caldecote, V.||Norfolk, D.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Norrie, L.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Northbourne, L.|
|Chelmsford, V.||Pearson of Rannoch, L.|
|Clark of Kempston, L.||Renton, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Rodger of Earlsferry, L.|
|Cranborne, V.||St. Davids, V.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Sanderson of Bowden, L.|
|Denham, L.||Seccombe, B.|
|Denton of Wakefield, B.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Elton, L.||Strange, B.|
|Ferrers, E.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Fraser of Carmyllie, L.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E. [Teller.]|
|Guildford, Bp.||Trumpington, B.|
|Harlech, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Henderson of Brompton, L.||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 12.20 a.m.
§ Clause 261 [Exclusion of pupils: funding]:
Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 68:
Page 161, line 10, at end insert:
("( ) For the purposes of this section the permanent exclusion of a pupil does not take effect until—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Blatch spoke to this amendment when speaking to Amendment No. 3 in the name of my noble friend Lord Elton. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 278 [Inter-authority recoupment]:
Baroness David moved Amendment No. 69:
Leave out Clause 278.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, on the last day of our Report stage on 21st June I did not move a similar amendment because there arrived on my desk that very afternoon a consultation document about inter-authority recoupment. It seemed too absurd to discuss that matter before I had had an opportunity to read the document.
§ I have now had an opportunity to do so and I therefore move the amendment. The history of the clause is that on 2nd February Ministers tabled an amendment in another place to alter the legal framework within which inter-authority financial 1346 recoupment for extra-district/out-county pupils operates. The amendment, which now forms part of the Bill at Clause 278, would remove the automatic recoupment provisions of Section 51 of the 1986 Act and substitute an enabling power for the Secretary of State for Education to define categories of pupil for whom recoupment would be allowed. That would be achieved by regulations on which it would be the Secretary of State's intention to consult closely with the local authority associations and which would be subject to the affirmative resolution in Parliament.
§ The DFE is seized of the need to continue recoupment where costs are high and the pattern of provision is uneven; for example, in respect of provision for special and hospital school pupils. But the intention is to do away with recoupment for the bulk of school pupils by directing the revenue support grant to the providing LEA rather than the home LEA.
§ The DFE claimed that late introduction of the amendment, with the details of how it is implemented still to be worked out, was prompted in part by CLEA's representations that automatic recoupment should be extended to under-five's provision. However, that is a disproportionately drastic solution to that problem and is a change of sufficient constitutional significance to have merited consideration on Second Reading, no less than in Committee. In the event, it was not discussed in either forum. The late introduction of the amendment ensured that it would not be debated.
§ The present position is that outside central London the recoupment arrangements for mainstream pupils in schools—the part the Government intend to replace with grant arrangements are not particularly onerous. Invoices are exchanged between authorities on the basis of a snapshot count of pupils each January and the same count is used also for DFE statistics. Those statistics have to collected in arty event.
§ The price per pupils is recommended by CLEA on the basis of an estimate of the actual average costs of provision by reference to the Government's public expenditure forecasts and can be reviewed during the year if unforeseen factors change the costs. Government grant, rather than recoupment, would simply be based on a government assumption about the need to spend and so would be less responsive to the actual position.
§ For most authorities, recoupment covers only a small minority of pupils crossing borders but there are problems in the central London area where the dismemberment of ILEA, creating a large number of small LEAs, has resulted in some areas of up to 60 per cent. of pupils crossing borders. Late payment of bills is a frequent complaint, although that problem could be resolved easily by a regulation requiring 90 per cent. of any claim to be settled within a specified period.
§ The problem then is that recoupment rates effectively determine an LEA's education budget. That is not changed by switching from recoupment to grant. LEAs are unlikely to increase their council tax to improve facilities in their schools if the benefit is to 1347 go to children and families who do not pay tax in their authorities, irrespective of whether the other income comes from recoupment or from government grant. Government grant is based on past student numbers because they can be more precisely measured than forecast numbers for the year ahead. Cross-border flows can vary significantly from year to year as places become available or schools change in popularity.
§ A grant system would therefore create problems for an LEA which found itself with a sudden and significant increase in the number of pupils for whom it had to cater because more were crossing a border. On the other hand, recoupment both in principle and in practice is more flexible and better able to cope with such fluctuations and, indeed, with any significant demographic change.
§ The Government's proposals are unlikely to create any significant administrative saving which, I presume, is one of the reasons or aims behind them. The main administrative burden of recoupment lies with the special education cases which, it is proposed, will continue to be the subject of recoupment between LEAs.
§ The new clause represents a fundamental erosion of the constitutional principle that LEAs are responsible for their own residents. The clause is drafted as an enabling provision which creates a further centralisation of control as the definitions of what is covered by grant and what by recoupment will be subject to regulations which can, of course, be changed whenever the Government so choose. In any event, it is singularly inappropriate to seek to make a constitutional change of such importance by means of enabling legislation.
§ However, what is clear from the consultation document is that the Government are still intent on abolishing mainstream school recoupment and that they intend to retain the more difficult aspects of recoupment for special education and hospital schools. Nothwithstanding their intent to abolish mainstream school recoupment, they are engaging in a genuine consultation, presumably because they do not know the answers to many difficult questions. Nine paragraphs of the consultation document end with the phrase, "We would welcome comments".
§ The introduction of the new system is to be postponed until 1995. In the light of all that, it would seem totally reasonable and sensible to delete the enabling clause which gives the Secretary of State more powers and to leave the situation as it is until the consultation paper has been discussed and the responses received in October. That is what the local authorities want. I hope that that common-sense attitude can be followed and that the Minister will agree to the deletion of the clause. I beg to move.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, the clause that we seek to delete reveals in the tell-tale words,The Secretary of State may by regulations provide",that it could lead to the abolition of recoupment by regulation. I agree with the noble Baroness in that I believe that that would be a change of some substance. When considering recoupment one should also take into account cases of people who attend what is in 1348 effect the local school, even if it is not in their local authority's area. I say that as one who has twice lived within 100 yards of a local authority boundary.
If it is to be done by regulations and if it is a convention that we do not vote against regulations, then the last chance that the House would have to vote against the abolition of recoupment would be tonight. I should like to thank the Minister for her letter to me of 1st July in which she said something that I found most interesting. She said:Nor do we regard the affirmative resolution procedure as a formality; the clause explicitly requires approval of draft recoupment regulations by resolution of both Houses, and as I understand it the Lords would be entitled to withhold its approval, provided that the Commons did not regard this for any reason as a breach of privilege".Is the Minister telling us that merely in strict theory, or is she telling us that, within the conventions of the House, we could, without disapproval, vote against regulations to abolish recoupment? If that is what she is telling us, we would have a reason to withdraw the amendment; otherwise not.
§ 12.30 a.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, the current arrangements are wholly inflexible. The categories of pupils to whom recoupment applies are presently fixed immutably in primary legislation. There is no possibility of making any alterations to reflect changing circumstances without new primary legislation. For example, the present legislation does not allow local authorities to recoup by right the costs of educating rising fives who lived in neighbouring authorities, even though the law on school admissions obliges them to admit such children on the same basis as rising fives from their own area. The noble Baroness dismissed that as irrelevant but if one cannot even change that it is very unjust on the local authority which is taking the children. Because local authorities cannot get this money back, the present system of inter-authority recoupment provides a perverse incentive to LEAs not to provide any education for rising fives. The Government recognise the problem but when the local authority associations complained we had to point out that we could not make any changes to the recoupment system without primary legislation. Now the noble Baroness plans to abolish the very clause with which we could respond to the concerns of local authorities.
Clause 278 could overcome this sort of difficulty because it would give the Secretary of State power to prescribe in regulations categories of children for whom recoupment would be allowed. Such regulations would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. If we do not take action to change the system now, matters are likely to become even worse for two reasons.
First, the number of pupils crossing LEA boundaries to attend school is increasing as a consequence of greater parental choice. There were some 182,000 pupils at January 1992. The reorganisation of local government may encourage the trend. The process of local authorities sending each other bills and arguing about when and whether to pay them 1349 is liable to occur every time parents decide to send their child across an authority's border even if the school is close to the child's home.
Secondly, the expansion of the grant-maintained school sector makes it increasingly anachronistic for money to pass between LEAs when the main financial relationship is between central government (or the FAS) and self-governing schools. It also makes the process of recouping the cost of providing education even more convoluted as authorities have to recoup from others the cost of extra district pupils in self-governing schools with whom the LEA otherwise has no link. We believe that Clause 278 is important to allow these changes to happen. Otherwise we are in an absolute stalemate and no change whatever can be contemplated.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, it seems odd that the Minister says that our amendment is unjust to authorities but it is CLEA which is asking that this clause be deleted. The problems are not so great except —as that body admits—in London, the former ILEA area. Some 114 of 116 local authorities belong to CLEA and it is CLEA that is asking for this clause to be deleted. That constitutes a large proportion of authorities that are agreed on the matter. The consultation clearly shows that the Government do not know what is the best thing to do as they have said that they would welcome comments on nine paragraphs in the document. The Government do not know what to do.
If the Minister does not agree to delete the clause, I hope she can give me an assurance, considering the number of outstandingly difficult problems which are to he resolved—and which CLEA agrees must be resolved—that the Government will keep an open mind on whether or not to abolish mainstream school recoupment in 1995, or indeed at any other time, until they have had a chance to reflect on the situation. Will the Minister give me that assurance? If so, I will be inclined to withdraw the amendment.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, the only assurance I can give is that there will be no change before a regulation comes before the House under the affirmative resolution procedure. Both Houses will have an opportunity to comment at the time.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I am asking for an assurance that the Government will keep an open mind about what should happen in the future.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, the consultation document is out at the moment and the consultation time is not up until October. We are receiving comments in from that consultation. When those comments come in we will consider them and the regulations will be drafted in the light of those comments. I cannot possibly pre-empt what that might be at this stage.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I suppose that is the best I shall get. If the regulations are to be made in the light of the comments on the consultation paper, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 280 [Grants by Secretary of State in respect of aided and special agreement schools]:
Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 70:
Page 173, line 26, at end insert:
("( ) No such requirement as is referred to in subsection (8) above may be imposed where any payment is made in respect of grant under this section if —
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the amendment was spoken to with Amendment No. 13. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 292 [Corporal punishment]:
Lord Henderson of Brompton moved Amendment No. 71:
Page 179, line 30, after ("degrading") insert ("or was not consistent with the pupil's human dignity, or involved physical or mental violence").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 71 I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 72A, which is consequential on Amendment No. 71. In doing so I am very glad to have the support of two noble Baronesses in this House. If the hour were not so late a third noble Baroness, the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, who supported amendments through the earlier stages of the Bill, would also be present.
§ The purpose of the amendment is to add the obligations and implications of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to the clause which was introduced in this House by the Government which limits corporal punishment and is now part of the Bill. The wording of the amendment is taken from two articles in the United Nations convention. If the amendment is accepted it will have the effect of ending corporal punishment in independent schools, just as it has ended in state schools. It would mean that this country would be honouring its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Government introduced the clause which I seek to amend so as to ensure that any corporal punishment given to fee-paying pupils in independent schools does not breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The clause uses the words "inhuman or degrading" from Article 3. That is the test. At Report stage when 1 raised the implications for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Henley, responded by saying:
We do not believe that this convention creates obligations as regards the use of corporal punishment in schools which go beyond those imposed by the European Convention on Human Rights".—[Official Report, 21/6/93; cols 105–106.]
I shall seek to show that if we are 10 honour the convention, as we have already agreed to do, then my amendment is necessary.
§ I was more than a little surprised by the Government's response. Therefore, I have taken informal legal advice. Following that advice, it seems to me that if the Government wish to meet their international obligations they have no alternative but to agree to my amendments, which would bring the Government into line with the United Nations convention.
That convention is the first international instrument which applies specifically to children—children being defined as anyone under the age of 18. The convention refers to school discipline, in Article 28.2, which states that:
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child's human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention".
Article 37 of the convention reflects and adds to the wording of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, stating that:
States Parties shall ensure that:
(a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".
Article 19 of the United Nations convention provides an additional protection:
States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child".
I could rehearse many more arguments, but due to the lateness of the hour I shall confine myself to the United Nations convention. Article 2 emphasises that states parties must "respect and ensure" the rights in the convention to all children,
without discrimination of any kind".
§ But, as I indicated, the current law on corporal punishment discriminates against pupils in independent schools whose education is not supported by the state. So does the clause which I seek to amend. My amendment has the advantage of removing that discrimination.
The preamble to the United Nations convention recognises the:
equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family".
It goes on to emphasise that:
childhood is entitled to special care and assistance".
In a number of ways—and I have illustrated all those which I find relevant—the United Nations convention insists that particular standards for treatment of children are required, beyond those required by the European Convention on Human Rights. That is the object of the amendment. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has been fully covered by myself and if the Government are to implement their international obligations, of which the United Nations convention is one, they should use the opportunity presented by the final stage of the Bill in this House to take, in the words of the convention,
appropriate legislative action to comply with the Convention as enjoined by Article 19 of the Convention".
§ It would have the happy result that all school pupils in this country are protected equally from corporal punishment. That is the purpose of the amendment. I beg to move.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has explained the purpose of the amendment. It does not take a lawyer to tell us that hitting children with gym shoes or canes is a form of physical violence. The UN convention obliges us to protect all our children without discrimination from all forms of physical violence. If the Government wish to take that obligation seriously, they should abandon this squalid last-ditch defence of institutional corporal punishment.
During the first debate on the issue in Committee, I raised the bewildering divergence of policy between the Department of Health and the Department for Education. That was on 10th May, at col. 975 of Hansard. At Report stage, I asked the Minister to explain the divergence. That was on 21st June, at col. 103. I ask again: why does the DFE persist in defending some level of corporal punishment of some pupils in some independent schools, both day and boarding, when the Department of Health has implemented its policy, through the Children Act, that corporal punishment has no place in the child care environment outside the family home?
In previous debates, I also mentioned the views of David Jewell, a former chairman of the Headmasters' Conference, and Master of Haileybury College. I have been shown a copy of a letter he sent to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, on 2Ist June. In it, he indicates that he was dismayed by the vote not to extend abolition to cover all independent school pupils. I quote from it:I understand that the principal reason for the loss of the vote was that the Government wishes to continue to insist that parents should have a right to choose a school which still uses corporal punishment. I know of no reputable independent school which does, and I cannot believe, therefore, that any parents who wish to choose a disreputable school should be encouraged to do so by the Government … I am convinced that the independent sector does not want the right to use corporal punishment, and does not want discriminatory legislation in relation to it, and I believe all my colleagues would prefer the simple and straightforward solution of extending the existing legislation to apply to all pupils. I do hope we can end this wretched practice once and for all".It is not quite too late for the Government to think again, to consider seriously their obligations under the UN convention, to listen to influential voices from the private sector, and to come up with the only principled solution. The nearest they can get to it now is by accepting the amendment which we propose tonight.
§ 12.45 a.m.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
My Lords, as the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, is bracketed with Amendment No. 72, which deals with Scotland, I should like to make a few comments on Amendment No. 72. I divide my remarks into two parts, the first being the substance of the amendment and the second being the manner of the delineation of the reference of the amendment.
On the basic question of the amendment, it appears to me that there has been no consultation whatever in 1353 Scotland about this late addition to the Bill. I do not believe that the private education sector in Scotland will he any more enthusiastic about this clause than are their colleagues in England. It is absurd to go to these lengths to try to preserve the possibility of corporal punishment in a few private schools. Frankly, I had thought Scotland had got beyond that debate. Recently our courts have convicted parents who use implements to hit their children, and the Scottish Law Commission has recommended in its Report on Family Law, which was presented to Parliament in May last year, that it should become a criminal offence for anyone to strike a child with an implement or in a way which causes, or could cause, injury or significant pain or discomfort lasting more than a very short time.
The Government should think again before the final stages of the Bill and come back with the principled solution of extending abolition to cover all pupils, which would satisfy the private sector and the overwhelming majority of those involved in education. This clause can only please a very small minority who retain an unhealthy interest in corporal punishment for schoolchildren. For this point I expect the Minister will have his reply ready.
On the second point, which is on the mechanism of this particular clause, I should like to make a few points. When I read the amendment, I went to the Library and looked up the references. I looked up the 1980 Education (Scotland) Act which this amendment amends. I found that there was no reference in the 1980 Education (Scotland) Act to Section 48A, to which the amendment would refer. Section 48A of the Education (Scotland) Act was nowhere to be found in the Library. So as a raw amateur in terms of legal matters I tried to dig a little further. I found that the section of the 1986 Act which has a reference to this particular amendment does not appear to have been brought into force under the powers given to the Secretary of State for Scotland in Section 66(3).
Therefore, it seemed to me that, as worded, Amendment No. 72 attempts to amend a section never implemented of the original Act; namely, the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. I raised the matter with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate who, with his expertise, was able to examine it. Few Members of this. House have sufficient training and experience to do that. He was able to dig out, headed "Education, England and Wales; Education, Scotland" the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 (Commencement No. 2) Order 1987. Buried within it was an interpretation:In this Order 'the Act' means the Education (No. 2) Act 1986".Let me make a plea. How does the ordinary Member of this House, who has not had a strict legal training, find his way through all that. I thought that I had found something irregular. However, a statutory instrument, pushed through the House, probably at a time not unlike the present hour, in the middle of the night, clears up the whole matter. I feel that that does riot encourage someone who wishes to be enthusiastic about his work in this House to continue.
I make two points. One is the substantial point on 1354 the issue of the amendment. The other, possibly of more importance to Members in the long run, is how we are to understand what is happening when we have amendments so abstruse as the one before us. When Members go the Library—your Lordships' House has a Library which is generally considered to be extremely good in legal matters—they find that the paper work is almost unintelligible. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate for having helped me. Without his help I should have been totally lost.
§ Lord Henley
My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, has taken advice from my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate. I shall come back to that point later. We have had a full and informed debate on the issue of corporal punishment in independent schools on previous occasions. I must stress that we are talking only about independent schools.
The Government's position, which centres on parental choice —I repeat that to the noble Baroness, Lady David—is well known. I should say in passing that I do not believe that the remarks that the noble Baroness quoted from the Master at Haileybury are relevant to the argument. The views of other head masters in the independent sector are not necessarily relevant to what individual schools might wish to do. As I said, I believe that this is a matter entirely for parental choice.
However, as we said earlier, in recognition of concerns expressed in Committee, we brought forward at Report a government amendment which the House accepted. The effect of that amendment, which is now Clause 292, is to ensure that corporal punishment cannot be justified if the punishment is inhuman or degrading. It thus ensures that any punishment given does not lead to a contravention of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The amendment now proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, to Clause 292 and the amendment in respect of Scotland tabled in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Fraser, to which I shall speak in a moment, seek also to take account of Articles 28(2) and 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. We are being asked to write on to the face of domestic legislation particular words taken from those articles.
We do not believe that this is an acceptable way to implement the United Kingdom's international obligations. One cannot expect the proper meaning of those articles to be deduced by domestic courts in that way. The references to "human dignity" and "mental violence" are insufficiently precise as they stand to be used in domestic law. Taken literally, the amendment would seem to contradict Section 47 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 by prohibiting corporal punishment altogether, which, as I said earlier, is not our intention.
In the Government's view, as regards the use of corporal punishment in schools the convention does not impose any obligations which go beyond those imposed by the European Convention. Punishment which is not consistent with the pupil's human dignity and physical violence constituting inhuman or 1355 degrading treatment are already covered by Clause 292 for England and Wales, and by Amendment No. 70—which I shall come to in a moment—for Scotland.
Clause 292 and the proposed amendment for Scotland represent a genuine recognition by the Government of the strength of feeling on this issue. They are a pragmatic compromise, recognising the views of those who wish to see corporal punishment retained while, on the other hand, ensuring that punishment is not administered in a way which would be inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights. We see no need for further amendments in relation to the United Nations Convention. I hope therefore, after I have spoken to the Scottish amendment, that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, will not feel it necessary to press his amendment.
I take this opportunity to speak briefly to the amendment tabled by my noble and learned friend Lord Fraser. As we have said before, Amendment No. 72 fulfils the Government's commitment to bring forward at Third Reading a parallel provision of Clause 292 for Scotland.
The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, complained of the lack of consultation. As I am trying to make clear, the amendment seeks to ensure that the concession that we brought forward, to ensure that our law was consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights, covered not only England and Wales but also Scotland.
I am glad that the noble Lord consulted my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate. I understand that he is worried by the mechanism by which our amendment achieves exactly what it is supposed to achieve. I intended to explain that I understood, as did my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate, that the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 and Commencement Order No. 2 1987, did exactly that. But my noble and learned friend, in private, had already told the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, that that was the case.
The noble Lord then asked how people were ever supposed to be able to interpret statutes of Parliament or Bills as they went through this House. At this hour of the night that goes slightly beyond the Bill before us and no doubt is a matter one can consider at a later occasion. However, I imagine the noble Lord simply consulted the Queen's printer's copy of the Bill. There are certainly commercial publications to which the noble Lord could turn which give the Act, the Act as amended, and the Act as amended by further Acts and so forth. If he went to those he may have greater luck in finding his way round the Acts of Parliament and the various orders resulting from them. That is certainly the process I recommend to him. As I said, how we draft Acts of Parliament is something beyond what we should be discussing at five minutes to one in the morning.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
My Lords, I do not want to detain the House longer than is necessary. But here we have a clause in an English Bill which refers to a Scottish Bill. When one refers to the Scottish Bill one must then refer to a later Scottish Bill and there is still nothing in that. It was only because 1356 of the skill, ability and training of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate, and the fact that I asked him, that he was able to dig out a statutory instrument which dealt with the whole matter.
It is becoming almost impossible for ordinary people—and we are supposed to be representative of ordinary people—to understand what is happening. The noble Lord tells us that publications are available to tell us these things. Perhaps in a quieter moment he can give me a note of a quick way I can find my way through the provisions. I will be happy to go through the process I tried to go through in attempting to find my way about the statutes. Perhaps the Minister can tell me which commercial publications I could use to understand the process better. I was appalled at the difficulty I had in trying to understand what was happening in regard to a small Scottish provision buried in an English Act.
§ 1 a.m.
§ Lord Henley
My Lords, as I said, I note the noble Lord's concerns. I cannot deal with them at the moment. I think that they go far, far wider than what we are now discussing. If the noble Lord will bear with me, I am certainly prepared to write to him in greater detail on how we interpret Acts of Parliament. All I am saying is that we sought to bring forward an amendment to deal with that simple problem of bringing Scotland into line with England. I hope, having said all that, that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, will be prepared to withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Henderson of Brompton
My Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in the debate. I should like to take up the point that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, about the complexity of this legislation and ask the Minister whether he would say a word about the request that he considers issuing a Keeling schedule. The request came not only from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, but from myself and one or two others. It is extremely complex for anyone to get at the law as it now is. If we had a Keeling schedule it would be easy for anyone to see what the law actually is. It would be at the back of the Bill in a schedule. Would the Minister care to comment on that?
§ Lord Henley
My Lords, again with the leave of the House—I remind the noble Lord that it is Third Reading—I am sorry that it has not been possible to produce a schedule along the lines that the noble Lord and others requested at an earlier stage. The department will need to write to all independent schools to notify them of the changes which have been agreed under the Bill. I can assure the House that we shall take all necessary steps to draw the provisions to the attention of those affected by them. There are, as I said earlier, commercial publications which produce consolidations of education legislation. The Government's intention, on top of that, is to produce a consolidation Education Act at the first convenient opportunity.
§ Lord Henderson of Brompton
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that very helpful reply. There is nothing much more to say except that the Government have left the House with a choice of either the House, the Government and the country being in breach of the United Nations Convention or of accepting my amendment. It is far too late at night to press this matter to a Division but I think that it is rather shameful that we should remain in breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 72:
After Clause 292, insert the following new clause:
Corporal punishment: Scotland
.—(1) Section 48A of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (corporal punishment) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1), after "pupil" there is inserted "to whom this subsection applies" and after that subsection there is inserted—
(1A) Where, in any proceedings, it is shown that corporal punishment has been given to a pupil by or on the authority of a member of the staff, giving the punishment cannot be justified if the punishment was inhuman or degrading.
(1B) In determining whether punishment is inhuman or degrading regard shall be had to all the circumstances of the case, including the reason for giving it, how soon after the event it is given, its nature, the manner and circumstances in which it is given, the persons involved and its mental and physical effects.
(3) In subsection (5) for the words preceding paragraph (a) there is substituted "In this section "pupil" means a person for whom education is provided at a school or for whom school education is provided by an education authority otherwise than at a school.
(5A) Subsection (1) above applies to a pupil-
(4) In subsection (8) (a) for "(5) (a) (iii)" there is substituted "(5A) (a) (iii)".").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 71. I beg to move.
§ [Amendment No. 72A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 72, not moved.]
§ On Question, Amendment No. 72 agreed to.
§ Clause 293 [Provision of goods and services by local education authorities]:
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley moved Amendment No. 73:
Page 180, line 10, leave out subsection (4).
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, we come again to the question of what goods and services local authorities may supply to grant-maintained schools. We had a long and convoluted debate in Committee on a rather more radical amendment which I had put down on the subject. I think it would help if I summarised the common ground that emerged from it. I will be as short as I can, but it is important, and it is not entirely easy to take short cuts.
§ The usual interpretation of the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970 is that it does not allow an authority to retain staff and operate services which go beyond what it requires for the efficient exercise of its own functions. Within that margin (which is not easy to define) it can trade, and will continue to be able 1358 to do so under the Bill which is before us. If it has spare capacity, it can still use this to provide services to anyone; for example, to grant-maintained schools.
§ While some who had misunderstood the position were reassured to be told this in Committee by the noble Baroness the Minister, because they had feared that Clause 265 (as it then was) would put a stop to all trading with GM schools after two years, most of us, I think, were not reassured. For the problem of the margins of trading remained.
§ It seemed to us, even after the noble Baroness had expounded at great length on the subject, that as more and more schools opted out, sooner rather than later you would find yourself as an LEA retaining more staff than you needed for your own schools and would be legally obliged to start winding down your services. We are talking here of such things as extra-curricular music, out-of-school drama, the schools library service, outdoor centres, in-service training and advisory work which is so important to professional development, as well as the more central services such as the personnel and legal departments. As these services wind down, the diseconomies of scale will adversely affect not only the GM schools—which., we must remember, are on record as very much wanting to be able to go on buying from LEAs—but the local authority schools as well.
§ The noble Baroness sought to make a distinction concerning those services which were school-specific, notably the LEAs' advisory service. But it is not only those services which will be affected as schools opt out. If 60 per cent. odd of your local authority payroll are in education, there is no way you will be able to justify to the District Auditor and the courts retaining any significant capacity for the grant-maintained sector once a sizeable chunk of schools has left your control. Education is such a large part of a local authority's manpower that the margins will soon shrink whatever the services you are looking at; the notion that you can hang on to your present capacity until the point when just about all schools have opted out (which is what the noble Baroness seemed to suggest) simply cannot be right.
§ Interestingly, the thrust of the noble Baroness's counterpart in Committee and on Report in another place was not at all to take the reassuring line that the noble Baroness has done with your Lordships. Mr Forth's approach was not, "Don't worry, it may not happen for ages": it was, "We want to see a profusion of other providers in the marketplace"—and, by implication, as soon as possible. This makes me wonder how much the Government actually believe that the LEAs will be able to go on supplying their services to all-corners.
§ I will not elaborate on all the arguments we put forward in Committee. Competition is acceptable, but we believe, with the heads of grant-maintained schools, the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations, the Girls' Schools Association and others, that LEAs should be able to join in too. They have their long-established expertise which we know schools want to profit from and, they should not have to break up teams into money-orientated units to 1359 supply it. Children deserve the best, from whatever source, and this should be the overriding consideration.
§ There may turn out to be a thriving market in school services, including in rural areas where profits will be thin, but, then again, there may not. Schools may or may not be able to band together into co-operatives: my own experience of voluntary co-operation, where the agendas are all slightly different among schools, is not encouraging. Under the guise of a two-year liberalising clause this is at bottom another anti-LEA measure, designed further to break up the local community network of schools.
§ What we propose in this amendment is very simple: it is to leave out the two-year restriction in Clause 271(4) so that LEAs will not be debarred thereafter from offering their services to anyone who will buy them. Schools want this. The Secretary of State will still have to sanction it (subsection (1)). The geographical limits will remain. If there is to be a marketplace, LEAs will then sink or swim with the rest. Above all, the widest possible choice will remain open to teachers and children. This is how it should be. I beg to move.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I very strongly support the noble Earl in this amendment. The Government claimed that it will be possible for LEAs to arrange for the division of goods and services to grant-maintained schools which wish to buy such through the establishment of arms-length companies in succession to the in-house services provided by local authorities directly. That may be possible in some cases, but none can guarantee that such companies will flourish in the medium to long term. If they fail and a vacuum is left, is it really sensible to legislate in terms which would prevent the local education authority from offering help and support to grant-maintained schools which they repeatedly say very much want to keep these services?
I do not understand what the Government would be losing by accepting this amendment. Nobody can be sure that the private sector will be able to provide the full range of services in all parts of the country two years after the orders are triggered. When one thinks of the library and museum services, the peripatetic music teachers and on, one realises that there are so many services to be provided. Certainly, there are examples of Government action on the basis of promises which have not been delivered as expected.
If the Government were to accept the amendment, future Secretaries of State would be able to discontinue public service provision if they were satisfied that the private sector could provide all that was needed on reasonable terms. That would be a simple matter of unmaking the relevant order, but at this stage, with so many uncertainties ahead, to tie the order-making power in primary legislation to a two-year limit has to be unwise.
I very much hope that the Government can accept the amendment, which does not derail their basic policy but allows the extension of public service 1360 provision in the event that things do not turn out as they currently assume —and they simply cannot be sure that they will turn out like that.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, the underlying point behind this amendment is exactly the same as the underlying point behind the amendment moved yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil. The case for one amendment is as strong as for the other.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, this Bill has consistently revealed the Government's contempt for LEAs, their democratic role and the services that they provide. Our amendments endeavour to highlight the value of LEA services, which are often those that the schools would be hard pressed to find in the private sector, but those are precisely the services which the Government seek, through what is now Clause 293, to deny some schools even when those schools wish to continue to purchase them.
Recent evidence of what has happened with the inspectorate eloquently underlines the reality. The responsible private sector is simply not geared to answer many of the educational needs of schools. One trembles at the thought of the irresponsible cowboys who nevertheless may well yet emerge from the wings.
Dogma has repeatedly blinded Ministers to the obvious. Surely the aim of education should be to ensure the broad development of children. Such development must include the opportunity for character-building outdoor activity, sport and creative, artistic and cultural pursuits, of which music is a magnificent example. Services reliably and imaginatively provided specifically for schools by LEAs promote just those objectives. What is more they are cost effective services because they are provided for the majority of schools in the area.
In music, on the basis of the LEA commitment, we should all be proud that our schools lead Europe, if not the world. The anxiety—despair even—at what the Government are about to do cannot be exaggerated. I have received many communications and should like briefly to quote from a letter that I have received from the county of Staffordshire —just one of our counties which is involved in teaching and promoting music in schools. This is what the staff, agonising about the situation, have written to me:This appalling prospect could result in the loss not only of instrumental lessons for 10,000 children, but also the disintegration of the Bands, Choirs and Orchestras of the County's nine Music Centres, as well as the six award-winning groups f the County Music School".The letter concludes:At this time of economic turmoil and increasing social deprivation we feel most strongly that the service we provide is of value to the wider community to a degree never before appreciated. To risk losing such an important part of our national cultural heritage for want of a two year limit in this clause is criminal".The staff say that because, as they state:The remaining LEA schools would only be able to support a reduced core service which would not benefit from economies of scale and the GM schools would be prevented from employing the services of a quality institution with fifty years experience of educational provision, having only the private sector, motivated by profit, as an alternative.Although music is now enshrined in the National Curriculum, it is not widely recognized that instrumental 1361 playing is a vital and integral part of the National Curriculum, GCSE and 'A' level syllabi to make no mention of its social, cultural and aesthetic value. A team of professional teachers and instructors who can deliver such a service takes years to establish and yet could be quickly dissolved".I am sorry to learn that, evidently, no Minister has been able to accept the invitation to attend the National Festival of Music for Youth this very week across the river at the Royal Festival Hall, where 6,500 young musicians are taking part. Many more have participated in the the preceding 40 regional festivals across the land. Music for Youth is the first to acknowledge the enormous part played by the LEAs, their music advisers and peripatetic music teachers in making all that possible. Does the Minister want to jeopardise all that? Does she not appreciate that the quality of music in individual schools is enhanced by the wider, more challenging opportunities which the LEAs covering a whole range of schools and their talent provide?
Similarly, on outdoor activities, many LEAs have established an outstanding record for imagination, standards, professionalism, and most important, for safety. Indeed, there have been some alarming indications in the past year of what can happen outside the LEA service when the priority of safety begins to slip.
In that sphere, we see once more the depressing dangers and social costs of a government mesmerised by their own dogma to the exclusion of common sense. It would be tragic if invaluable opportunities were denied automatically to some pupils merely because the Government are unwilling to see beyond their ideological antipathy to LEAs and to make the Bill's provisions more flexible.
§ 1.15 a.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, that we discussed the background to Clause 293 at some length in Committee. I doubt that the House would thank me for going over such well tilled ground again at great length and at such a late hour. The noble Earl might enjoy the experience. Other Members of the House just might consider that it was an example of mental violence and report me to the United Nations Convention on Human Rights. But, more seriously, no new points have been introduced tonight. I therefore rest my case as per the record in Hansard.
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
My Lords, I am sorry, I did not catch the end of what the Minister said because the Attendant was just speaking to me.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I suggested that no new points had been raised in the debate tonight. So I rest my case as per the record in Hansard.
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
My Lords, I am grateful for that, and for the noble Baroness's brevity. I certainly would derive no enjoyment from going over it again. We debated it at enormous length in Committee. Clearly at this hour of night and with the present attendance it would be a futile exercise to press this to a Division. Were that not so, I would have no 1362 hesitation in doing so, because it is a matter of great importance. That being so, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave. withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 74 not moved.]
§ Clause 295 [Power of Secretary of State to direct appointment of members of committees]:
Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 75:
Page 180, line 20, leave out from ("committees") to ("conferred") in line 21 and insert ("wholly or partly for the purpose of discharging any functions with respect to education").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 76, 77, 92. 99, 100, 101 and 104. When I came before the House on Report, I explained that I intended to introduce an amendment agreed with the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Guildford to Clause 295 on Third Reading. As previously put before the House, Clause 295 gave the Secretary of State power to direct the appointment of members to any committees dealing "exclusively or mainly" with education. That formulation did not achieve the intention of the Government which was, and remains, to provide those who appoint foundation governors for voluntary schools with the same rights as they enjoy currently on existing local authority education committees under the new arrangements made possible through Clause 294 of this Bill. With the freedom authorities will have to discharge their education functions in committees dealing with other matters when the Bill is enacted, it is right that those who appoint foundation governors for voluntary schools, including most particularly the churches, should not be disadvantaged. As the right reverend Prelate will be aware from our discussions, the arrangements safeguarding those interests will be embodied in the direction or directions 'to be made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. Your Lordships have my assurance that we will consult fully about the terms of the direction to ensure that it serves the Churches' essential interests, in particular in strategic planning of local school provision.
§ Clause 295 amended here (together with a number of consequential amendments) has the agreement of the right reverend Prelate and reaffirms the rights to representation and voting which would otherwise be lost to the Churches. I believe that these are helpful amendments which should find support in all corners of the House and I commend them to your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ The Lord Bishop of Guildford
My Lords, I thank the Minister for these amendments. I should have preferred a different solution but we have discussed the matter fully. I am not dissatisfied with what she has now put before us and I am grateful to her for the time that she has given to this matter.
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 296 [Exceptional provision of education in school or elsewhere]:
[Amendments Nos. 78 and 79 not moved.]
Clause 299 [Orders, regulations and directions]:
Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 80:
Page 182, line 40, at end insert:
("( ) Before making any regulations under section 55 of this Act, the Secretary of State shall consult—
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this amendment was spoken to with Amendment No. 13. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 304 [Index]:
Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 81:
Leave out Clause 304 and insert the following new clause:
(". The expressions listed in the left-hand column below are respectively defined by or (as the case may be) are to be interpreted in accordance with the provisions of this Act listed in the right-hand column in relation to those expressions.
|admission for nursery education (in Part II)||section 153(5)|
|admission to school (in Part II)||section 153(6)|
|appropriate appointing authority (in Part V)||section 204(2)|
|appropriate authority (in Part V)||section 204(2)|
|appropriate diocesan authority (in relation to a Church of England, Church in Wales or Roman Catholic Church school)||section 303(1)|
|authority responsible for election arrangements under the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 (in Chapter V of Part II)||section 79(2)|
|capital grants||sections 82(1) and 88|
|the chairmen's panel (in Part III)||section 177(2)|
|change in character of a school (in Part II)||section 102(1)|
|character of school (in Part II)||section 153(3)|
|child (in Part III)||section 154(5)|
|Church in Wales school||section 303(1)|
|Church of England school||section 303(1)|
|contract of employment||section 303(1)|
|core governor||section 121 and Schedule 8|
|date of publication of proposals (in Part II)||section 153(7)|
|date of implementation of proposals for acquisition of grant- maintained status||section 36(2)|
|date of implementation of proposals for establishment of new grant-maintained school||section 53|
|dissolution date (in sections 110 to 115)||section 110(6)|
|education associations||section 218(2)|
|eligible governor (in Part II)||paragraph 4 of Schedule 7|
|employed, employee, employer||section 303(1)|
|employed to work at a school (in Part II)||section 153(9)|
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 304 of the Bill lists terms used in the Bill. For each of those terms it specifies the relevant clause which defines the term or which states how the term should be interpreted. Amendment No. 81 simply updates the index to incorporate new terms to be included in the Bill since it was introduced. This is purely a technical amendment. I beg to move.
§ [Amendment No. 81A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 81, not moved.]1366
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 2 [Distribution of functions where order made under section 11]:
Viscount Astor moved Amendments Nos. 82 to 84:
Page 195, line 9, leave out from ("if") to end of line 17 and insert ("he is provided with board and lodging at the school or otherwise than at school and either—
Page 195, line 32, at end insert:
(".—(1) Where a pupil in the area for whom a statement is maintained under section 168 of this Act is attending a maintained or grant-maintained school and is provided with board and lodging at the school or otherwise than at school, then—
(2) In this paragraph the "responsible education authority", in relation to a pupil, means the local education authority responsible for the pupil for the purposes of Part III of this Act.").
Page 195, line 47, at end insert:
("—(1) Section 193 of this Act shall have effect as if for subsection (5) there were substituted—
(2) Section 195 of this Act shall have effect as if for subsection (3) there were substituted—
(3) If at any time—
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ Schedule 3 [Proposals for schools to become, or be established as, grant-maintained schools]:
Viscount Astor moved Amendments Nos. 85 to 88:
Page 199, line 32, after ("election") insert ("or appointment").
Page 199, line 33, after ("held") insert ("or made").
Page 199, line 39, after ("election") insert ("or appointment").
Page 201, line 22, after ("particulars") insert ("prepared or").
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ Schedule 8 [Core governors for groups]:
Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 89:
Page 212, line 7, leave out from ("school") to end of line 12.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 19 [Minor and consequential amendments]:
The Duke of Norfolk moved Amendment No. 90:
Page 242, line 33, at end insert:
(". In section 55 (transport), at end of subsection (3) there is added "and to any wish of his parent for him to be provided with education at a school or institution in which the religious education provided is that of the religion or denomination to which his parent adheres"".).
§ The noble Duke said: My Lords, on Report I brought forward an amendment about school transport. The Government kindly said that they would improve upon it. Now they have brought forward this amendment, which a parliamentary counsel has carefully drafted. I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford who has helped a great deal in this matter. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I accepted in principle the amendment on denominational transport tabled on Report by my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk. I looked forward to accepting a new amendment on Third Reading provided that parliamentary counsel approved it. I am happy to say that this amendment has that approval and that the Government are prepared to accept it without further ado.
§ Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
My Lords, before the Minister sits down will she repeat what she said on Report, that nothing in the amendment increases 1368 expenditure? If the amendment is accepted by the Government —as indeed it has been—and it has no effect on expenditure, why is it necessary to make this change to the Bill? Why is it a consequential provision; in other words, why is it in Schedule 19?
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, my understanding of my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk is that the policy should not change. The situation will stand and local authorities will have to think carefully if they wish to implement any change in policy. However, there is nothing in this amendment which requires increased expenditure on the part of local authorities over and above that which they would incur anyway.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Viscount Astor moved Amendments Nos. 91 and 92:
Page 246, line 8, at end insert:
("The Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 (c. 42)
. At the end of Schedule 1 to the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 (enactment conferring functions assigned to social service committee) there is added—
|"Education Act 1993.||Help for local education authority in exercising functions under Part III of the Act.|
|Section [Duty of District Health Authority or local authority to help local education authority.]" ")|
Page 246, line 36, leave out from ("substituted") to ("conferred") in line 37 and insert (""wholly or partly for the purpose of discharging any functions with respect to education").
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 93 and 94:
Page 251, line 4, leave out (' 8, 11, 12, 13") and insert ("8(1) and (2) (b) and (d), 11, 12").
Page 252, line 6, at end insert:
("and that section shall have effect as if the transfer of a school to a new site in pursuance of section 16(1A) (c) of the Education Act 1980 were an alteration of a kind mentioned in subsection (5) of that section.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 102 and 103. The amendments in this group are technical amendments. Perhaps I may first address Amendment No. 93. As currently drafted, Schedule 19 provides for all of paragraphs 8 and 13 of Schedule 3 to the Education Act 1981 to be saved from repeal. However, paragraphs 8(2) (a) and (c) and paragraph 13 are now spent. Amendment No. 93 therefore repeals those paragraphs.
§ I turn to Amendment No. 94. Section 16 of the 1980 Act is amended by the Bill to include a new provision to enable LEAs to transfer county schools to new sites where certain conditions apply without the need first to publish statutory proposals. The amendment secures that the requirement to review grouping arrangements applies whenever an LEA-maintained school transfers to a different site under the new provisions.
§ Amendments Nos. 102 and 103 are technical amendments which bring the arrangements for charging for copies of the inspection report on a school's denominational religious education or 1369 worship made under Section 13 of the Education (Schools) Act 1992 into line with those which apply to the report by the registered inspector under Section 9 of the 1992 Act. 1 beg to move.
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 95:
Page 252, line 31, at end insert:
(". In section 22 (discipline), in paragraph (a) (ii) after "behaviour" there is inserted "and respect for others".")
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 96 not moved.]
Viscount Astor moved Amendments Nos. 97 to 103:
Page 258, line 1, at end insert:
(". Section 27(4) of the Children Act 1989 (duty of local authority to assist local education authority) is omitted.").
Page 258, line 2, leave out ("the Children Act 1989") and insert ("that Act").
Page 258, line 39, leave out from ("authority") to ("conferred") in line 41 and insert ("wholly or partly for the purpose of discharging any functions with respect to education").
Page 258, line 44, leave out from ("authorities") to ("conferred") in line 46 and insert ("wholly or partly for the purpose of discharging any functions with respect to education").
Page 258, line 49, leave out from ("committee") to ("that") in line 50 and insert ("wholly or partly for the purpose of discharging any of").
Page 265, line 41, at end insert:
("( ) In paragraph 14(4)—
Page 265, line 42, leave out ("paragraphs 14(4) (c) and 15(3)") and insert ("paragraph 15(3)—
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ Schedule 20 [Transitional provisions and savings]:
Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 104:
Page 267, line 20, leave out from ("appointed") to ("conferred") in line 21 and insert ("wholly or partly for the purpose of discharging any functions with respect to education").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to. Schedule 21 [Repeals]:
§ [Amendment No. 105 not moved.]
Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 106:
Page 273, column 3, line 21, at beginning insert:
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. At the Second Reading of this Bill, I had two key messages I wished to convey to your Lordships. The first of those was the importance of the Bill's provisions and the second the importance that I, personally, attach to the role of this House as a scrutinising Chamber.
1370 Your Lordships have devoted over 100 hours to consideration of this Bill. In the traditions of this House, it has been much amended as a result of your deliberations. Many of the government amendments have been tabled in response to anxieties raised by noble Lords in debate, and I pay tribute to your Lordships' powers of scrutiny.
To give an example, we have amended the Bill to meet anxiety expressed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford that Church schools—whether voluntary or self-governing—should continue to prosper, and to have the full support of the Church education authorities. The right reverend Prelate said on Second Reading that the Church of England jury was still out pending the extent of clarification and assurance offered by the Government. Well, my contention is that we have now met all the significant concerns of the right reverend Prelate and, I hope, of my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk.
My noble friends Lord Skidelsky arid Lady Cox have removed a barrier to the early establishment of new GM schools by independent promoters.
The Government have also of their own accord brought forward new provisions. The most important of these relate to the exceptional provision of education in school or elsewhere. 'Those were introduced in your Lordships' House, but they reflected the promise in the White Paper to replace LEAs' existing powers to provide education otherwise than at school. That reflects the importance we attached to securing soundly based arrangements for a vulnerable group of pupils.
This Bill, of course, has been distinguished by its examination by the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee of your Lordships' House under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Rippon. It was the first Bill so examined. As a result of the committee's report on the Bill, we have made further amendments. We have provided for regulations governing the publication of proposals for GM status to be subject to the affirmative, rather than the negative, procedure. We have—and I know that this has been particularly welcomed in this House—provided that the code of practice on special educational needs should be subject to the affirmative procedure not only when it is introduced but also, subsequently, when it is amended. I have no doubt that there is a great deal more that one could say, but the hour is late. I am sure that all noble Lords will find the scrutiny committee's study of Bills a valuable contribution to the work of the House. I commend the Bill to the House.
Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Baroness Blatch.)
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, as at our accustomed hour we come to the final stages of our marathon session together on this Bill, I wish that I could bring myself to wish it well. I cannot and it would be making a joke of our proceedings to pretend that I do. I hope that the amendments which we are sending to the Commons will at least help to balance a few of its worst excesses.
I am glad that this House has put LEAs back at the centre of the stage with key responsibility for strategic 1371 planning of all nursery, primary and secondary education in their areas. I am delighted that we have insisted that nursery education should be available for all children with special educational needs; and even more so that the Secretary of State should review after three years the need to make provision for all children whose parents desire it. I am heartened that the arrangements for overseeing the provision of special educational needs in general have been strengthened. It is also good that we have proposed that the Church, with its rich wealth of experience and commitment in education, should be consulted more fully.
Over the many hours of days and nights that we have debated together, I have honestly come greatly to respect the candour, the stamina, the sincerity and the commitment of the Minister. Her mastery of her brief and of detail is formidable. I wish that we were on the same side; she would make a powerful ally. The sadness—and I really mean it—is that, with all those outstanding qualities, her policy is so wrong. In thanking her for the unstinting way in which she has responded to all the points raised, I must also thank the noble Lord, Lord Henley. He is an accomplished performer at the Dispatch Box. His courtesy and friendliness, even at impossible hours, have been something quite special.
I must also express real gratitude to those who chaired our proceedings—to all the Government Whips, led by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, the Clerks, the civil servants, the Hansard staff, and officials and servants of the House who have made our work possible, on occasion almost until dawn.
On our side, it is invidious to name names. So many people have helped. The degree of sustained interest by professional, educational, parent, governor and local authority organisations has been a tremendous encouragement. I thank them all. I especially thank the AMA for its tireless staff work, the NUT, the ATL, the ACC and all the others. Perhaps I may make special mention of just a few noble friends. I start with my noble friend Lord Ponsonby. He has been a pillar of effective support, good humour and sound advice —constantly telling me when to get up and when to sit down. Then there are my noble friends Lady Blackstone and Lord Peston, with their specialist knowledge and expertise, together with my noble friend Lady David, with her deep commitment to special needs, unstintingly made available despite her sad bereavement earlier in the summer. We congratulate her especially on her amendments; she obviously has the knack.
I should also like to mention my noble friend Lord Dormand of Easington who, again with rich experience, has seldom missed a clause, and my noble friend Lord Young of Dartington, with his commitment to the young in hospital. I must also express my thanks to all those noble friends who contributed from time to time. Katherine Quarmby, in the Labour Front Bench research office, has done wonders. Finally, I would mention our own Chief Whip, my noble friend Lord Graham, and his colleagues who have attended us so well. They deserve a special tribute.
1372 Elsewhere in the House, all those have have participated should be commended. I particularly appreciated the wisdom of our Liberal colleagues. That was a good experience. I also appreciated the wisdom of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford, of the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, of the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, among others. Altogether, it has been an interesting, if too often frustrating, parliamentary occasion and an unforgettable learning experience for me personally as a relatively new Member of the House.
The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, sagely underlined the need for long-term education policy to be based upon consensus. He is right. The greatest possible sense of ownership among all concerned— parents, governors, teachers, teacher trainers, lecturers, pupils, educational administrators, inspectors, LEA members and more—is essential.
It is a source of deep concern that there has been a manifest failure to generate any such consensus for the currently proposed legislation. The inexcusable rush on the White Paper last year—with most of the time for consultation falling in the school summer holidays; the use of the guillotine in the House of Commons; the mass of late and hastily tabled government amendments (more than 800 in total) right up to the bitter end of our repeatedly late night proceedings in the House, have all served to accentuate the anxiety.
Many of us are saddened by the social divisiveness of bringing the market ethos into the heart of education, encouraging competition for the easiest pupils while the rest go to the wall, and inevitably demoralising many of the most dedicated teachers working in the most demanding and difficult circumstances.
We are perturbed by the demeaning of education by what in all honesty we fear is the undermining still further of any appreciation of education's own inherent value in a civilised society, and by the way it is increasingly presented as no more than a means to material ends. Those material ends are denied to many of our young in this age of large scale unemployment. We are apprehensive about a "Brave New World" nightmare of quantitative preoccupations to the exclusion of qualitative concerns, knowing—as it has been put—the price of everything and the value of little. It was B. F. Skinner who earlier this century made the point so well when he said:Education is what survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten".There is altogether too much intolerable stress for teachers caused by the cumulative pressures to administer education as distinct from teaching in the classroom. Uncertainty and instability add to that stress and I sense deep misgivings about the unacceptability of a war of attrition with compulsory annual consideration of ballots, if so instructed by the Secretary of State, accompanied by financial inducements, even if all too short lived, to wear down governing bodies into accepting grant-maintained status.
1373 Paradoxically, there is also a real danger that "down the line" grant-maintained schools will find themselves to be increasingly vulnerable small fish in a huge impersonal pond with little muscle to deal with central government. In this respect we should note the nonsense already evident in the budget arrangements for grant-maintained schools this year. These are but some of the genuine criticisms of current education policy and the Bill which remain as strong as ever as it leaves this House and which I just hope the Minister will come to respect.
Perhaps, however, I could conclude with some of the real priorities for education as we see them on this side of the House—priorities which sadly and worryingly have been badly neglected in this Bill, despite being repeatedly claimed by the Government as a blueprint for education in the quarter century ahead.
First, there is the need to enhance the status and self-respect of the teaching profession, as in Scotland, arid to encourage it to play a self-confident, positive arid dynamic part in the development of education policy including, of course, regulations covering admission to the profession and the principles governing training. That is why there is such an urgent need for a general teaching council, as increasingly advocated on all sides of this House.
Secondly, there is the vital priority of nursery education for all parents who want it. This is probably the single most important and cost-effective contribution that can be made to the successful education of our children and to the full realisation of their potential. All the evidence indicates that it will pay for itself within a few years by enhanced talents, a strengthened national economy, greater social stability and less delinquency.
Thirdly, we need testing and assessment which is relevant and school based and which teachers can use flexibly in the context of their creative approach to education—that is, as teachers in the fullest sense, not as classroom technicians—and which measures progress in the development of the child, not least in character and personality. Again, the Scottish model and experience are highly relevant.
Fourthly, we need to understand the significance of education as a preparation for understanding and shouldering the demands and responsibilities of citizenship in an open democracy and as a means of ensuring that rights are fully understood. Fifthly, we should enable pupils on a cross-curricular basis to understand the reality of global interdependence and their place within international society. Sixthly, education should prepare children for the challenge of living in a multiracial society; for example, by understanding religion and religious values rather than being indoctrinated with a particular set of religious beliefs. That is the difference between religious education and teaching religion.
Seventhly, in an age of ruthless commercialisation and exploitation of sex through advertising, videos, television and the rest, education should support children from their earliest years with reliable information about it in the context of social responsibility and respect for others. As we heard 1374 tonight, HIV and AIDS have only served to underline the importance of this. Eighthly, we should make the school a dynamic centre of community life—not least in music, the arts and outdoor activities, for which the local authority should have a continuing support role.
Ninthly, above all, we should enable schools and education to play a lead role in rebuilding a sense of real community and belonging; in other words, of social cohesion. That is an approach to education which recognises the responsibilities of local communities for their children and of children towards their communities, and the indispensability of partnership between local community and Whitehall and hence the key role of the LEA Surely that is particularly obvious at a time when we have just seen the grim consequences of over-centralisation in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Finally, as the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Wilson, Principal of Westminster College, the education college in Oxford with which I, together with the noble Baroness, Lady Young, am proud to be associated, recently put it:By attending to these three fundamental concerns of self-knowledge, mutual understanding and the nature of the human, there is encouraged the search for justice, truth and beauty. And any education system worth its salt will want to encourage that".He went on to call for an educational system which enables individuals to contribute, through remunerative employment, to the well-being of society and, equally, promotes the personal capacities of individuals to make and sustain personal relationships through loyalty, courage, affection and mutual concern. He concluded:We want an education system which encourages the establishing and sustaining of open, creative, ambitious, critical but supportive communities—international, national and local—both responsive and responsible, which enable the human being to flourish in society".I settle for that. The sooner we have a Bill which is designed to provide it, the happier I shall be. There is no higher priority. As H.G. Wells so powerfully perceived:Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe".
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble Baroness very warmly. First, I should like to thank her for the incredible endurance she has shown during the progress of the Bill. I take my hat off to her. I should like to thank her for her care, her persistence, her total integrity at every stage, for her skills as a negotiator—manifest in the university amendment, for which I feel particular gratitude—and for arguing her case with as much determination as I do myself. I know where I am with her.
I should like to join the Minister in thanks to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee, which I believe has done a great deal of good. I should like to join the noble Lord, Lord Judd, in wishing well to the amendments which have been carried in the Division Lobby. I should also like to join him in our thanks to the servants of the House, and I am sorry that we have kept them out of bed as long as we have.
I should like to thank the noble Lord for his compliments and to reciprocate them. I shall not follow him in extending thanks to other noble Lords 1375 because we would be here all night as I feel gratitude to so many. I should like to mention the work done by Anton Obholzer in our Whips Office, which has been most valuable.
One cannot touch on the Bill without reflecting on the length of time it has taken. I am beginning to think that under this Government education Bills are becoming a cruel and usual punishment. It is perhaps an occasion for remembering the advice given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, and the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, that all governments attempt to legislate too much. It is no good saying, "Please, my Lords, it wasn't me". For any part of that length of time which is my fault I apologise to the House. Next time I shall reflect whether we need to table as many amendments as we have. However, I do not believe that that is the only reason.
When one has within one Bill education, religion, sex, violence and special needs it is perhaps inevitable that time will be taken up. It is also worth looking at today's Marshalled List. We had 106 amendments, of which 71 were government amendments. I appreciate that many of those amendments have been concessions and are to be welcomed. A government amendment that is needed is better late than never and one should never say anything which discourages governments from acting on that assumption. But I remember at this stage the point that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has made on many occasions, that a large part of' the consultation process for this Bill was during the school holidays. Listening, for example, to the exchanges between the Minister and the right reverend Prelate, I wondered many times whether what should have been the consultation process has been going on in this Chamber. I think we have done it rather well, but it takes a great deal of everyone's time. I hope that next time we shall have a consultation process which is not confined to the summer holiday and which deals with a number of the matters before they reach the Chamber.
I had not realised before I came here quite how much Parliament is a long-stop in the legislative process. If the long-stop is getting overworked, you do not change it, you change the wicket-keeper and, in extreme cases, the bowler also. Like the noble Lord, Lord Judd, I am afraid that I cannot speak of the Bill with warmth. The speech which has been in my mind all through the Bill is one delivered in 1989 by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, speaking on the health service White Paper. She said that she feared that the approach would lead to the fragmentation of the service. That is a fear which runs all through government policies for the public services.
I have been reminded many times also of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, last week, moving an amendment to deal with a situation where people run trains, partly over franchised lines and partly over exempt lines on two completely different terms of operation. What I have described as the Balkanisation of the local education service carries some of the same dangers and is the fruit of some of the same policies. 1376 Public services are like dogs. They behave well for those who like them. At the moment, I fear, our public services are dogs in the hands of cat lovers.
§ 1.45 a.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Guildford
My Lords, this is becoming a little like an end-of-term speech day and I apologise for adding yet further speeches. I ought to say that when I celebrated the end of term, I normally did it by going to the Lamb and Flag. However, I fear that that will long have been closed.
I must put on record the gratitude of the Churches to the Government. Over the past 12 months we have expressed our interests and concerns on matters varying from property provisions and trust funds through to the clustering of small village schools. In almost every case, the Government have listened, discussed and responded positively, as we have worked to secure the continuing partnership between Church and state in education.
I wish to thank the Secretary of State, the Minister and her officials for their courtesy and patience. At times, I have to say that there has been long, tough, blunt talk. I am even on record as having shocked the Minister, but I do not detect that she has had any difficulty in responding with equal firmness to what I had to say. Whatever our disagreements have been and however vigorously they have been expressed, I place on record our considerable gratitude. The way in which the Government have met our anxieties has, I think, done a great deal to secure the partnership between Church and state in education for the years ahead.
I had other comments I should have liked to make, but I wish to restrict myself to one. That is to reflect not so much on the Bill, but, following what the noble Earl said, more about our legislative process.
I am patently not a politician and I sit to one side of both Government and Opposition. Having sat through the long hours into the small hours, I wish I were able to say that whatever the outcome of our debates, at least the processes of legislating are exemplary. But I honestly cannot say that. The Bill will have been put through within 12 months from White Paper to Royal Assent. There was no prior consultation, the Standing Committee in another place, I have to say, hardly did justice to the educational issues in the Bill. We have sat here repeatedly into the small hours of the morning when we have been too weary to give of our best. Negotiations with the Minister and the department have often been compressed into periods too condensed for considered thought. At times we have had to complain that basic communication has not been achieved. Some decisions, I have to say, have been secured as much by party ambush as by reasoned argument.
What is remarkable in all this is that so many people have worked for so long with such skill, stamina and dexterity. I particularly admire those qualities in the noble Baroness the Minister. But it is not a process which leaves me free to turn to Church or nation and say: "We have made some good, some bad decisions, but at least we have given adequate 1377 time and thought and hammered out the best solutions which human minds can manage". The truth, I fear, is that we have hustled it. I have often been more aware of rush than reason, and of weariness than wisdom.
I have to say that. But none of these laconic remarks—occasioned perhaps it being so late in the day, or the night, or the morning; I cannot even work out where we are —must be allowed to detract from my great sense of privilege in having been able to take part in these proceedings, my admiration for those who have given long hours to the work, and the impressive mastery of detail—if I am allowed to use such a sexist phrase—by the noble Baroness the Minister and her colleague. It is on that note of appreciation rather than on any words of criticism that II wish to conclude.
§ 1.55 a.m.
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
My Lords, we have had a long haul and I too shall cut short what I was going to say. It seems an age now since a flock of Vice-Chancellors wheeled, settled briefly on Clause 1, then flew away to their higher nesting-places. What have we achieved?
I looked back at the closing stages of the Education (Schools) Bill, just over a year ago, and saw that at that time I expressed a hope that we might see a period when educational change was kept to a minimum; when future governments would see the virtue of working with the educational profession and not against it, because only in that way would we see real improvements made. Well, whatever has been achieved in recent months, it is not that. And more is the pity.
We have seen, with this Bill, despite the welcome changes that your Lordships have made to it, a consolidation of the swing of the educational-political pendulum. We now have the authoritarian model with a vengeance. The Government are perfectly right to claim that they have devolved greater power down to school level. But that is only part of the picture. What they are oddly reluctant to concede is that many more powers have gone to the political centre. And that, in a democracy, is deeply disturbing.
All was not perfect when the pendulum was at the other extreme. That was in the days when I went through teacher-training. I was enthused then by a vision of education for which the present Government seem to have no place. It was a vision that was sadly never fully part of the public domain, and so it has too few advocates outside the profession now. But with it there did go a lack of rigour that made me uncomfortable as a classroom teacher. The rigour needs to come back. But the vision needs to stay.
It is no solution to make LEAs the scapegoat for the perceived failings of a system which could have done better, but has not done all that badly in the face of considerable difficulties, which include some 13 years of constant upheaval. I will say no more about the abandonment of so much professional expertise and of the concept of a community of schools, because I have said it all before. It is very sad. Since 1988 the Government have been preoccupied with changing the 1378 system: an approach which looks good politically, which is as old as the Romans, and which is largely irrelevant to the needs of the service. Not all the reforms are bad of course. But the emphasis on the big stick approach, and the lack of consultation, fly in the face of the evidence that we do have about what makes for successful change. That, put briefly, is a matter of shared aspirations and professional autonomy. Above all, the swing of the pendulum will make it that much harder to arrive at the kind of consensus, a marriage of vision with rigour, which offers the best prospect for real educational gain in this or any other country. I fear it may prompt yet another swing when the present Government lose power.
We have had many strenuous debates, some of the very highest quality, and it has been a privilege to be able to take part. I too have been filled with admiration for the skill and stamina of the main participants: the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for his passion and his grasp of the big issues, with the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and the rest of his very effective and experienced team behind him; the Liberal Democrats for their galaxy of debating talent, among which it was a pleasure to hear again the distinguished voice of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams; my noble friend Lady Warnock, who sadly is not in her place, for her persistent pursuit of justice and common sense; the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford, for his coolness and wisdom; and above all the noble Baroness the Minister, whose quickwittedness, candour and encyclopaedic knowledge of her subject have made her, with able assistance from the noble Lord, Lord Henley, an almost faultless performer at the Dispatch Box. As an afterthought, it is a sadness to me, and perhaps symbolic of our attitude to education, that in contrast to the university sector almost nobody from the whole vast area of schools —24,000 of them—finds their way on merit into your Lordships' House. That might be something for a future government to ponder, since it would undoubtedly raise the quality of informed debate to an even higher level.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I do not want to talk about the content of the Bill. I want to say something about my dismay and disapproval of the way in which the Bill has been presented to Parliament and the conduct of its passage through this House, which I feel has been a disgrace. I follow up what the right reverend Prelate said.
First, I should like to remind the House that the 1944 Act, the seminal Act which has stood up for 50 years, had 122 clauses and nine schedules. This Bill., for a start, is longer than any previous Bill. It has become longer with every stage that it has gone through. I believe that it started ill thought-out and badly drafted.
When it first appeared in another place, the Bill had 255 clauses and 17 schedules. In Committee 27:3 government amendments were made to it; on Report, 78 amendments. So when it arrived here it had 276 clauses and 18 schedules. In this Chamber there have been 256 government amendments in Committee; 296 on Report and a further 71 today—878 government amendments in all. It is building the Bill on the Floor 1379 of the House. Admittedly, some amendments have been made in response to commitments made, but the majority have been corrections to drafting, second thoughts or bright ideas that have come to the Secretary of State or the department during the passage of the Bill, the most infamous of which was bringing in the universities in Clause Zero at Report stage in another place. We can congratulate ourselves, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, on dealing with that as it deserved.
It is not only the insult of having such an untidy and ill prepared Bill presented to us; it is the conduct of the Bill in this House about which I want to complain. The six Committee days originally planned were quite inadequate. Even with a seventh day, sessions ended up in the small hours. It was the same at Report. To allocate only three days, with all that was left over from Committee, together with many new matters brought in, was ridiculous. We finished two successive Monday sittings at 3.15 a.m. and 3.45 a.m. on the Tuesday. We are supposed to be a revising Chamber, as the Minister said. But how can Members, many elderly, be expected to sit up and listen intelligently to arguments in the early hours of the morning? It is no way to legislate about so important a matter as the education of our country's children.
I believe that the result of that method of forcing the Bill through has been counter-productive. People moved their amendments briefly, not putting their arguments fully out of consideration for those brave enough to stay, because they wanted to hear the Minister's replies. Those replies have been of great length and delivered at great speed. So the inevitable happens. The amendment is withdrawn in order for the mover to be able to read and understand the reply and it is then brought back at the next stage. So the forced long hours just do not save time. I certainly intend to ask the Procedure Committee to look at what I believe are abuses of the rights of Members to discuss and give proper consideration to the Bill. We cannot have a repetition of that; I consider it to be grossly unfair to the staff of the House, and it is so unnecessary. We have not sat on Fridays until this week, and debates on Wednesdays could have stopped sooner. Contrast the treatment of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill: that was a Bill of just seven clauses, not 300; it had six days allotted to it in Committee, three for Report, and each day ended at 11 p.m. There seems no equity in that.
We have had 15 education Acts since this Government came to power, and this is the 6th—an average of more than one a year and I am not including Scotland. That large number shows uncertain judgment on the part of Ministers and a total lack of overall vision and intent. I have twice asked whether the Government intend to consolidate the education Acts and have been told that they will, but it has not happened. Consolidation might help the Government to see rather more clearly where they are going, and it would be a good tidying-up job.
The ideology of market forces and hatred of local government colours everything. That is the so-called philosophy behind these Acts. The 1988 Act was 1380 supposed to be definitive. After four years, the criticisms we made on this side of the use—the national curriculum was too prescriptive and the plans for assessment and testing were too complicated and demanding on teachers to work—have been proved right. The result has been disruption and turmoil in schools, so unfair to pupils who only have one school life.
The Secretary of State succeeded in alienating teachers, local authorities, councillors, governors and now parents—the very people about whom he says he is most concerned. Why he remains in his post is a mystery to me.
I suppose I must end on a more conciliatory note. I have the greatest admiration for the stamina of the Minister and her mastery of her brief, which we have all admired. She has shown great ability. I do not know how she managed to stand up to the demands made on her. I thank her for the opportunities she gave to Peers to meet her and discuss points that they raised. Those meetings proved extremely helpful. One wonders whether, if the drafting and meaning of the Bill had been clearer, so many of the misunderstandings which had to be cleared up would have occurred.
I pay tribute also to the other Front Benchers and noble Lords and Baronesses who have endured these long nights and days. I believe that Part III of the Bill has been improved in the course of the discussions. With my interest in special needs, I am extremely grateful for that.
§ 2 a.m.
§ Lord Addington
My Lords, I rise briefly to say thank you to the Minister for something mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady David; that is, the improvements for special needs. I believe in this Bill the Government have taken the opportunity to bring an end to the process of putting in place the special needs structure, the counselling and requirements. Whatever else is wrong with the Bill, that is certainly a great improvement. I thank the Government, and particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, this debate, in the final stages of the Bill, matched our earlier proceedings, if not in length, certainly in vigour and strength of feeling.
I am proud to have played a part in the evolution of the Bill. The importance of the Bill to this House is perhaps best reflected in the number of noble Lords who have contributed to our proceedings. At over 120 I cannot thank them all by name, but by their contribution this Bill has been tested and shaped.
I have been fortunate in the support that I have enjoyed. My noble friend Lord Henley made an enormous contribution. He had to master education briefs at the same time as continuing his responsibilities as a Minister in another department. As though that were not enough, he is also making a contribution to the European Communities (Amendment) Bill and I thank him warmly for his support.
My noble friend Lord St. Davids ensured that the interests of the principality have been well served. I thank also my noble friend Lord Astor and his 1381 colleagues from the Whips Office who have supported me on this Bench. I cannot thank all those people enough for the hours that they have spent overseeing the smooth passage of the Bill.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Judd, who has done much to ensure that our time on the Bill has been well organised and used to good effect. I must admit that I found him somewhat fearsome at the outset of the Bill, but I thank him for his good humour, courtesy and friendliness, both on and off stage.
I believe that this is the first Bill on which the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, has served on the Opposition Front Bench. I pay sincere tribute to his effectiveness and constant good humour. It has been a sterling effort for a first Bill. If I look back at the time when I entered the House, there is no way in which I could have performed so formidably. It has been superb. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, has, sadly, been unable to be with us for much of the Bill. His absence has been a sad loss to us all. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, even with some of her difficulties during the course of the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, have proved more than worthy substitutes, particularly as they have all been involved with other parliamentary business. I express my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, who has brought her great experience to bear on our proceedings. I know that we shall enjoy a great deal more of her expertise as the weeks and months roll on.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford and my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk have represented the interests of Church schools courteously and with determination. I say "with determination" with feeling. I remain to this day embarrassed about my own intemperate outburst to the right reverend Prelate. However, I believe that in the end peace broke out and I thank him most warmly for that. My noble friend the Duke of Norfolk has displayed extraordinary patience. Time and again he suffered the frustration of having his name appended to the last amendment of the day. In his absence, as he is not in his place, I thank him most warmly too.
On special needs, there are too many noble Lords to mention. However, my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway, on whose Private Member's Bill Part III of the. Bill was drafted, proved a great strength to me during our proceedings—perhaps just a little too strong on one occasion when he carried the whole of the House in another Lobby against the Government. All of us would have to say how grateful we were for the expertise and experience brought to bear by the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, who is not in her seat. Not only were we able to update her 1981 Act, which made such an impact in the early part of the 1980s, but we have kept the best parts of it and built upon it. I believe that special needs provision will be improved as a result. We thank the noble Baroness in her absence.
I thank my noble friend Lord Renton, who made so many wise interventions. He has an impressive record in the House both for his contributions to our proceedings and for his staying power. I thank my noble friend Lord Elton, with his experience and his 1382 concern for the pastoral care of young people, and all noble Lords who have been concerned about special educational needs provision. I include my noble friend Lady Faithfull, whom we congratulate today. She is absent from our House in order to be honoured elsewhere. I thank my noble friends Lord Pearson., Lady Carnegy, Lord Renfrew, Lord Lucas, Lord Rennell, and Lady Young, on whom I have always looked as something of a. mentor in these matters. I also thank my noble friend Lady Perry, who today says goodbye to her post as chancellor of her university, and my noble friend Lady 13rigstocke, who has paid great service to the concerns that head teachers have. I believe that the Bill serves their needs rather better now. I thank my noble friends Lord Skidelsky and Lady Cox who together pressed me to improve the Bill in parts.
It is fair to say that the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, and I have had our differences along the way but our debate has always been candid both on and off stage and I hope that it was always courteous. I thank him very much for his friendship both in and out of the Chamber. The noble Baroness, Lady David, has always been most constructive, and I thank her too. I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Darcy (de Knayth) and Lady Masham, with their great interest in special needs, and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, who has been most diligent in following the workings of the Bill. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Peston, who is not in his seat. He has brought his experience to bear on the Bill. I thank my noble friend Lord Peyton, who has given me not the easiest of times on the Bill, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman. It was a very eleventh-hour resolution of the issue in which they had an interest, but I thank them for their persistence, their courtesy and always their constructive discussion.
We started at Clause 1 of the Bill and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, was right to remind us. of that. There was no malicious intent to impact on the higher education sector and I hope that the noble Earl will accept that. I was grateful for the persistence, collaboration and co-operation of the House in making sure that we put beyond doubt that this 13ill did not impact on the higher education sector.
I owe my own private office a debt of thanks. I am not the easiest person to work for and I thank them for their patience. My officials have given me outstanding service and I thank them most warmly for that. They have also seen many Members of the House during the passage of this Bill. On behalf of noble Lords who have been to my department meeting my officials, I thank my officials again for their constructive help, because many of the changes have been made with their help.
I do not know where or who he is; he is out there somewhere. He is called "Parliamentary Counsel". suspect that he is probably chewing his nails at this moment. We have given him a jolly difficult time. But, with great temerity and not a little courage. I said a long time ago that I would fight counsel if I could and with the support of Members of this House. I have done it and we have won on many occasions. But I 1383 suspect that I shall have some bridges to mend between now and meeting him face to face, when I shall be able to thank him personally.
I thank the Chief Whip, the Leader of the House, the doorkeepers, who have been enormously courteous and patient and, of course, the staff of the House. There are also many other noble Lords whom I have not mentioned specifically who all added greatly to our debates and I do include them in my thanks.
I shall end by quoting my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in his final comment to the White Paper. He said:The education system of the 2Ist century will be neither divisive nor based on some lowest common denominator. Diversity, choice and excellence will be its hallmarks, with 1384 each child having an opportunity to realise his or her potential, liberating and developing his or her talents. That is the Government's vision for education in this country"—and of course I include Wales—This White Paper is another important step towards its realisation".This Bill takes us a further step on that road. I commend the Bill to the House.
On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.