Lords amendment: No. 7, in page 9, line 27, after first "schools" insert:
or to children who will not have attained the age of five years at the time of their proposed admission except that where the arrangements for the admission of pupils to a school maintained by a local education authority provide for the admission of children who will attain that age within six months after their admission those sections shall have effect in relation to the admission of such pupils to that school.
( ) None of the provisions of those sections other than subsections (5) and (6) of section 8 have effect in relation to".
§ Amendments to Lords amendment No. 7:
§ Leave out 'five' and insert 'three'.
§ Leave out from first 'admission' to the end.
Lords amendment No. 8, in clause 12, page 12, line 17, at end insert:
excluding pupils who will not have attained the age of five years within six months after their admission".
§ The following amendments thereto:
§ Leave out 'will not have' and insert 'have not'.
§ Leave out 'five' and insert 'four'.
'within six months after their admission'.
Lords amendment No. 9, in clause 15, page 15, line 11, at beginning insert
Subject to subsection (1A) below
Lords amendment No. 12, in page 15, line 17, at end insert—
(1A) Where the age group in question includes children who will not have attained the age of five years within six months after their admission, those children shall be disregarded both in determining the number of pupils who are to be admitted and the standard number applying under this section.
Lords amendment No. 21, in clause 26, page 26, line 5, at end insert—
(3) In the definition of 'pupil' in section 114(1) of the said Act of 1944 (which defines pupils as those for whom education is required to be provided under that Act) there shall be added at the end the words but includes a junior pupil who has not attained the age of five years.'.
§ The following amendment thereto: leave out 'five' and insert 'four'.
§ Mrs. Anne Taylor (Bolton, West)
As the Under-Secretary of State suggested, some parts of the debate will be controversial.
We consider this section of the Lords amendments and the amendments that we have tabled to them to be important and significant.
The amendments to the Lords amendments do two specific things. First, we have sought to reduce the age limit which is written into clause 9 so that the parents of children from the age of 3 should be entitled to information about school places and be able to appeal against the allocation or non-allocation of places by a local education authority.
The Minister may tell us that the parents of 3-year-old children may not wish to use the facilities that we are trying to write into the Bill. However, we feel that some parents of 3-year-olds will wish to have information about school places and may wish to appeal against the refusal by a local authority to provide nursery school places.
We also believe that many parents of 4-year-old children will want to take advantage of this kind of provision and will want information about nursery schools and classes and about the method of selection of pupils to go to nursery school classes. Certainly many parents of 4-year-olds will wish to be able to appeal if they are dissatisfied with the attitude of the local education authority on the allocation of places.
Our second amendment seeks to leave out part of clause 9, which exempts a 555 large number of local education authorities from this provision. Clause 9 as drafted means that only authorities which choose to admit rising fives to their primary schools will be covered by the appeals procedure. Under the Lords amendment, it may be that only schools where the local authority has decided that rising fives should be admitted will be covered by the appeals procedure. That is far too restrictive and should be amended.
The Government's attitude on this matter is extremely restrictive and is against the under-fives. This is a deliberate decision by the Government to discourage local education authorities from making provision for under-age pupils. It would have been extremely easy for the Government to encourage authorities to provide for rising fives and under-fives generally. If the Government had left the Bill as it was when it left the Commons, the under-fives would have had a much better deal than they will get from the amendments that the Government want us to approve.
Hon. Members who served on the Standing Committee on the Bill will realise that the orginal provision which gave appeal facilities to the under-fives seems almost to have been a mistake by the Government. We all recall, no doubt, when, on 18 December, the Under-Secretary was pressed to be explicit about these provisions covering appeals for the under-fives. He is indicating that he remembers it. We certainly do, because it was only thanks to some kindly intervention by Labour Members that the Minister was able rapidly to obtain some advice from his officials enabling him to confirm our interpretation of the clause—namely, that it applied to the rising fives and 4-yearolds seeking places in primary schools.
At the time, we welcomed the provision. We were surprised about it, but we thought it right that under-fives should be covered by clauses 6, 7 and 8. However, we should have known that it was too good to be true for the Government to be taking constructive action in the Bill. They are now backing down, changing their mind and withdrawing the provision. It is silly of them to take that attitude. All the items that are covered by the provision—parental preference rights, appeals procedure and information—do not mean that the auth- 556 orities have to provide places for all the 4-year-olds in their areas.
Those of us who were on the Standing Committee know that there is a great escape clause in respect of appeals and parental preference. Clause 6 provides that parental preference will not apply if it is detrimental to the efficient use of resources. That means that local authorities can get out of many obligations if they wish. It would have been right for the Government to try to emphasise to the local authorities that they should continue to provide for the under-fives and that that was the kind of direction they should be following.
It is strange that the Secretary of State and other Ministers have taken this course of action. On many occasions over the last few months while he has been Secretary of State, the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues in the Department have stated, both in speeches and in parliamentary answers, that they believe that there should be more provision for rising fives. The Under-Secretary of State has said that it is Government policy to encourage provision for the under-fives and to admit under-fives to primary schools wherever possible.
If the Minister is serious about wanting to encourage local authorities to admit rising fives to primary schools, he should have left this provision in the Bill to bring pressure on local authorities such as Oxfordshire, which has no provision for rising fives, and Ealing, which has decided that it wants to stop all provision for rising fives. If Ministers are serious in what they say, they would not have introduced the amendment in another place and asked us to confirm it tonight. They would not be stating in press releases, as the Government did recently on their plans for expenditure cuts in education, that they anticipated a reduction in the number of places for under-fives in primary schools.
We believe that the Government are not concerned about the situation for under-fives. They are not concerned about using the spare capacity that exists. They are concerned only about education cuts. That is the reason for the amendment which is before the House.
The Government are getting themselves into a lot of difficulties. They are saying that there is no need to worry about cuts in nursery education and closure 557 of nursery schools and nursery classes. The Government say that instead of developing nursery education they intend to take more under-age pupils into primary schools, which is made possible by falling roles and spare capacity. At the same time, the Government are actively refusing to take advantage of a clause in the Bill that would allow parents and everyone involved in education to put pressure on local authorities to take advantage of the spare capacity and to make provision for the under-fives through that process.
The Minister should be willing to tell the House why he thinks that it would be disastrous to keep the clause in the Bill. If he believes that something should be done for the rising fives, he must realise that the proposals that he puts forward are damaging to the interests of the under-fives and, therefore, damaging to many children's future education prospects as a whole.
§ Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)
I have also put my name to these amendments to the Lords amendments. It is important for the House to take the amendments seriously. I am prepared, if any of my hon. Friends or any Conservative Member would join me, to press the amendments to a Division. The Bill contains a new system of parental preference, appeals and information. Much of this was contained in the Labour Government's Bill. It could be said to be agreed legislation between the two sides of the House.
However, the Government, in their amendments, are to apply this system of information and appeals, which ought to stretch right across the age range of children at school, to only part of that age range, and, in certain local authorities, only to children aged five and over. It is no excuse for the Government to say that the rules about nursery education have been changed and that, although there was some doubt in the past, there is now no doubt that there is no duty on local authorities to provide nursery education for children.
There is no duty on local authorities to provide education for children over the age of 16 if they do not wish to do so. But because that is education which, on the whole, tends to he afforded to the 558 privileged rather than the under-privileged, it is generally provided by local authorities. Education between the ages of 16 and 19 is subject to parental preference, information procedures and everything else in the Bill.
Anyone who served on the Standing Committee will know the nature of the panic the Government got themselves into over nursery schools when it was realised that there was a problem. That is an example of the danger inherent in rushed legislation. In this case it would have the effect of excluding some youngsters and their parents from the system, and it is not good enough that the Government should do that because they got into a panic.
It is particularly dangerous for the Government to do that, because the school a child attends at 3 or 4 years of age determines the school it will attend at the age of 18. Conservative Members constantly regale us with stories of parents moving into particular districts so that they can pick particular primary schools and so be in a position to select the secondary school to which their children will go.
If that is so, the system of parental preference, of provision of information and of final appeal should be as available to the parents of children of nursery school age—the rising fives—as it is available to every other parent in the school system.
But it is worse than that. The Bill differentiates between local education authorities. The amendment states:Where the arrangements for the admission of pupils to a school maintained by a local education authority provide for the admission of children who will attain that age within six months after their admission…We are meant to have a national system of preference, information and appeal, but we are legislating for two classes of local education authority. The first class comprises those authorities which have decided to be mean about nursery schools—such as Oxfordshire and Ealing—and I am sure there will be other examples as this year goes on. The second class comprises those authorities which have decided to try to maintain their responsibilities for nursery education.
Because of the importance of a child's first school, because of the undesirability 559 of creating two classes of local education authority by legislation, because of the need, when we legislate, for a national system which is available as much as to one parent as to another, thus avoiding discrimination, and, beyond that, because of the need to re-emphasise in this House something on which we might be broadly in agreement, pre-school education is a more crucial stage in the system than primary or secondary education. All the evidence from the National Children's Bureau states that the great differences in ability among youngsters appear not between the ages of 5 and 16 or between 5 and 18 but before the age of 5.
I do not wish to make too much of this amendment. It is not central to the fabric of the system. However, it is an important erosion of the principle of having a national system. It arises not from mature consideration by the Government but from panic reaction to a reactionary local education authority—Oxfordshire—that could have been taken to court by the citizens of the county. The Government felt that they had to leap in and use the House to protect their political friends in Oxfordshire from being taken to court.
Some Ministers feel that Lords amendments are an opportunity to be generous. I appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment and thereby achieve a national system.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) stretched the point a little when he said that a nursery school attended by a child of 3 or 4 years of age could determine what happened to that child when he was 18. However, I do not contradict his opinion that nursery schools have a deep and lasting value. I cannot agree with him about his comparison with tertiary education. I should like to restate my conviction that nursery education is valuable to all children who are ready for it. But not all children are ready at that age, and this fact must be remembered in all discussion on this sector. I am an educationist, and I know that that is so.
Nursery education is especially valuable because it comes when children first begin to establish relationships with adults and other children. The earlier that they begin that process, the better. They also learn to handle materials, and 560 deprived children experience an environment which is brighter than that which they have at home. That is valuable.
There is no substitute for a child's relationship with its mother and, as the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) reminded me on Report, with its father. For some children that is almost enough until they are 5 years of age. However, many children are ready for school well before they are that age. Society should recognise that.
I support the concept of nursery education. It is valuable in itself. I would give priority to deprived children—the children who live in an unacceptable and unhappy and a socially unstructured environment. All such children should attend nursery school. There is nowhere else for them at that age.
Additionally, some nursery education should be provided in areas where there is none at present. In principle, education should be available to all children who can profit from it at the beginning of the term in which they reach their fifth birthday. That cannot be made compulsory. We do not want more compulsion in education; it can be damaging. From there we might grow downwards chronologically towards the age of 3 and bring aid to children when they are little able to help themselves and when parents in particular and society in general have an extra duty towards them. This is an age when children are at their most robust and when they are most ready to learn. They are also at their most vulnerable, and we must always remember that vulnerability is of concern to us all and when children are involved it is of special concern.
§ The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Mark Carlisle)
I realise the great sincerity with which my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) speaks when he makes clear his belief in the importance of nursery education for the rising fives. I am sure that those he represents will take note of what he has said.
In replying to the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor), I shall deal with the whole group of Lords amendments that are being taken together. Although the amendments have rightly, in the judg- 561 ment of Mr. Speaker, been taken together as a group, I do not know whether the House realises that they deal with four totally different points. However, from the way in which the amendments are worded it is clear why they have been grouped as they have.
First, Lords amendment No. 7 deals in part—this is what the amendment of the hon. Member for Bolton, West was about—with the application of clauses 6, 7 and 8 to the rising fives but not those below the age of rising fives. Secondly, Lords amendment No. 7, in its second part, deals with the important point about the publication of information on special schools, which I think will be welcomed by all hon. Members. Thirdly, Lords amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 12 state that the clause 15 procedure shall not apply to education at an age below that of rising fives. Finally, Lords amendment No. 21 is a technical amendment dealing with the definition of a pupil under the 1944 Act arising out of the decisions that the House took on nursery education.
Before I turn to the effect of these various amendments, I should like to say one thing to the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price). He made the same point as was made by many Opposition Members when I moved previous amendments on nursery education. I was attacked on that evening by many hon. Members who said that I was moving the clauses merely to allow my political friends in Oxfordshire to get off the hook. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West repeated that today. The hon. Member is always very fair in debate and I am sure he will agree that that was not the way my political friends in Oxfordshire apparently saw it. In fact, on the following day they announced that, in view of the Government's decision not to allow the closing of nursery schools, they had withdrawn their proposals to close nursery schools in Oxfordshire. Therefore, what I said in my speech in introducing the purpose of those clauses and attempting to get a balance was proved more right than some of the comments made by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West and some of his hon. Friends on that occasion about my motivation.
562 Having said that, I turn to the amendments now before us. I shall deal first with the part which I describe as wholly non-contentious, which is the effect of the second paragraph of Lords amendment No. 7. It will require local education authorities to publish information about their policy and arrangements relating to special educational treatment. That resulted from an undertaking, which I gave to the House on Report, that we would look at this matter before the Bill reached the other place. I said that we would see whether we could at least do something about the information clauses in the other place and that we could look at the other points beforehand.
The House will know that early in March I made a statement indicating the Government's proposals with regard to Warnock. Also, we moved the amendment in the other place the effect of which is to provide that the information parts of clauses 6, 7 and 8 apply to children at special schools. For technical reasons, I believe that that was as far as we could go in this Bill. I think that we are right to deal with the other matters, as I said we would, in the Warnock legislation.
§ Mrs. Ann Taylor
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has in part answered the point that I wanted to raise. However, I think he will accept that when he spoke on Report the indications which he gave were slightly stronger than the undertakings which he has fulfilled. They applied not only to the provision of information but to a degree of parental preference in regard to children in special schools, as well as to the appeals system. Some of us would take some convincing that the technical difficulties were so great that those points could not be encompassed in this Bill rather than in future legislation.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I did not want to get into a controversial frame of mind, because that is not the mood that I am in tonight. However, I cannot accept what the hon. Lady has said. What I said was:I still believe that the Warnock report should be considered generally. If my hon. Friends think that it will help, I give the undertaking to reconsider the information clause and to do anything else that is possible before the Bill goes to another place".—[Official Report, 12 February 1980; Vol. 978, c. 1427.]563 I also made an announcement on Warnock on 3 March, in which I said:The legislation will also define and protect the rights of parents to adequate information and consultation about the education offered for their children, taking account of the relevant recommendations of the report and in the spirit of the provisions about information and parental preference embodied in the Education (No. 2) Bill":—[Official Report, 3 March 1980; Vol. 980, c. 42–3.]In fact I went further, because I discovered that we could meet the limited information point in the other place. With the greatest respect, I think that carries out in its totality the undertaking which I gave:to reconsider the information clause and to do anything else that is possible before the Bill goes to another place".I believe that I have succeeded in doing that.
§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)
I am in a controversial frame of mind, as ever, but not a churlish one. The right hon. and learned Gentleman's statement on the Warnock proposals was made on 3 March. It is now 2 April. Given that he could coin important amendments to section 8 of the 1944 Act in respect of the statutory definitions on the provision of nursery education, and given the right hon. and learned Gentleman's modest aims to make statutory changes with regard to the rights of parents and other matters—such as the needs of the disabled or children in need of special education—why has it not been possible for him to bring forward amendments which would have provided such parents with those rights 18 months in advance of the time when they can now look forward to them?
§ Mr. Carlisle
For the reasons which I gave the hon. Gentleman when I made my statement on the Warnock report. In practice, I believe that the hon. Gentleman will find that there is no time gap between the implementation of that part of the Bill and our hopeful implementation of Warnock legislation. Of course, I cannot assume what will come in the next Loyal Address, and I do not attempt to do so. That is not my decision; it is for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.
I stick to the view that we have held throughout. In fact, the appeal provisions as laid out in the Bill do not apply suitably to parents of children 564 with special educational needs. That matter will be better dealt with under the provisions of our proposed Warnock legislation. However, in the other place I was able to meet the point with regard to the information clauses. The hon. Lady's second amendment to Lords amendment No. 7 would remove that totally.
The first part of Lords amendment No. 7 is to apply clauses 6 to 8 to the admission of pupils below compulsory school age, but only if they are what is known as rising fives—that is, within six months of their fifth birthday. I realise that the hon. Lady's amendment would wish us to go further and apply clauses 6 to 8 to any child over the age of three. I do not believe that it is realistic to do so. Had we left the Bill as it was, there would have been confusion. In principle, I agree that where local authorities have normal arrangements for accepting rising fives, the provisions of clauses 6, 7 and 8 should apply to them. Equally, I must make it clear that it is not Government policy that the clauses should be used as a method of appeal in areas where the local authorities have chosen not to make such provision.
It was argued that although there was no provision for the education of children under five in a particular area, and although there is no compulsion on local authorities to make such provision, nevertheless parents might attempt to use an appeal under clause 8, claiming that they had been refused an application to a school when the local authority made no such provision. To make it clearer, we have said specifically that where arrangements are made for the education of rising fives parents should have the same rights as parents of children above compulsory school age.
§ Mrs. Ann Taylor
Will the Secretary of State comment on the areas which do not make any provision at all for the rising fives? Is his Department quite content to sit back and let the clause apply only to local authorities which choose to have it apply to them? If that is so, local authorities could say that they did not want to be bothered by appeals and, therefore, they would have no provision at all. Is that really satisfactory?
§ Mr. Carlisle
The hon. Lady is probably more correct this time than she was earlier. It is true that these clauses will not apply to children under the age of five in an area where there is not normally an arrangement for accepting rising fives. It will still apply to the schools for children of compulsory school age. If we are talking about nursery provision, it is a question of whether it is there or not. It is not a question of which nursery school one wishes one's children to attend. While we are anxious to make it clear that the clauses apply to children under five, it is not right for us to leave a confused situation in which it might be argued that these clauses provide a right of appeal for parents for education of children under compulsory school age in an area where a local authority had made no such provision.
§ Mrs. Ann Taylor
In the remarks that the Secretary of State has just made, he referred to nursery education. We are talking about rising fives who are admitted to primary schools. Surely that situation is different.
§ Mr. Carlisle
If arrangements are made—this touches on Lords amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 12 as well—for the acceptance of rising fives, these clauses will apply. Had we left it at compulsory school age, the advantages of these provisions would not have applied to the parents of children who had begun school under 5 years of age.
Where authorities do not make provision for rising fives—
§ Mr. Carlisle
I shall answer the hon. Lady's question. Where no provision has been made for those under the age, of 5, these clauses cannot bite, because it is an appeal against the school to which one's child has been allocated. If there is no such provision, those children will not have been allocated to a school. There is a degree of confusion. Indeed, I am sure that there is now that I have attempted to explain the law. However, we put down our amendment to alleviate that confusion.
§ Mr. Beith
The situation is very confusing. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is trying hard to explain it. 566 He is doing so in a clear manner. However, the situation remains confusing. He speaks as if a clear-cut distinction can be made between the situation when rising fives are admitted to school and when they are not. He assumes that any area will find it readily apparent whether the clause bites in such cases.
Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman will apply his mind to the position that he and other hon. Members have sought to encourage. The issue is very flexible. In one year, a school may say that it has extra space and that it will consider applications from rising fives. However, the situation may change the following year and the school may find that it has too many children of compulsory school age. Within a small town, one school may admit rising fives and another may not.
A parent might exercise the system by pointing out that in the previous year a school had admitted a child who was only 4 years and 7 months old. He might point out that the school had refused to accept his child the following year. The position is often more fluid than the Secretary of State has described. Parents may say that at another time or place a child had been allocated to a school in comparable circumstances and that the case for pressing his own child's case could therefore be made.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I do not dispute the hon. Gentleman's remarks. The situation is fluid. It is not entirely black and white. However, a limit must be set to the application of these clauses. Our amendments seek to make clear that the clauses apply to schools—whose arrangements on admission procedure will now have to be published—which claim to admit rising fives. They will not apply to children under the age of 5 in areas where local authorities do not make arrangements for them.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I must now turn to the other amendments. I do not wish to mislead the House. Lords amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 12 specifically exclude the effects of clause 15 from rising fives. The reduction in the numbers of rising fives—even if over 20 per cent. in a standard year—would not require the publication of proposals in an area.
567 We believe that we have given protection by implementing and introducing nursery schools for the first time, under the old clause 13 procedure. From tomorrow, that clause will become section 12. They cannot be closed without application to the Secretary of State. If the removal of nursery classes were to make a significant alteration to the type of school, that would be a matter for clause 13. Tomorrow that clause will become section 12. We have made adequate provision for nursery education.
We are right to say that clauses 6, 7 and 8 should apply to rising fives but not to those below that age. The provisions contained in clause 15 about limiting the size of a class should not include those below compulsory school age.
§ Mr. Kinnock
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, especially for his last point. Is he aware that in Committee, when the rights of parents to be exercised under clauses 6, 7 and 8 arose, the Under-Secretary of State, without any intention to mislead, gave the strong impression that the right of appeal would exist throughout England and Wales? It was not limited to the local education authorities which on a previous occasion, without notice, warning or anticipation of the change in the law that the right hon. and learned Gentleman proposes, had adopted a policy of accepting rising fives in their schools or making nursery provision for them. We responded on that basis. Had we been aware that the criterion of whether the writ of the law would run on the exercise of parental rights was limited to LEAs which already had arrangements for the admission of rising fives, our attitude would have been very different. Our amendments would have been different in substance and intensity.
May I raise two further small points? The right hon. and learned Gentleman talked of the appeal being against allocation. That is correct, but it omits the powers that a parent has under section 6 to express a preference. Presumably that preference can be expressed in favour of securing education at a particular age for a child, and not only in terms of securing allocation to a particular school.
568 I wonder how the principle of recoupment between local authorities works in relation to a policy that says that the right of a parent to secure admission of his rising five child to a school will be denied in an area that does not already have provision, yet in another part of the Bill there is provision for children to be moved across borders, with recoupment and rights for the LEA written in. Does the same consideration apply to rising fives as to rising elevens, fifteens or sixteens?
§ Mr. Carlisle
With great respect, the hon. Gentleman must realise that it is totally illogical to use clauses 6, 7 and 8 where there is no compulsory schooling below the age of five.
To take the hon. Gentleman's example that the parent of a child under 5 in an area which has no provision for children under 5 should be able nevertheless to express a preference for a school, I would point out that, the preference having been stated and the local authority having refused to take the child because it was not making provision for educating children under 5, the parent could not appeal, because there was no school in the area at which a child under 5 could be educated.
The only logical, sensible answer is to say that these clauses do not apply to children other than of compulsory school age, except—this is a concession that we made to meet the points made by the Opposition—that where a local authority has arrangements for taking rising fives—and under clause 8 authorities will have to publish their arrangements for admission—these clauses shall apply.
§ Mr. Christopher Price
I know that the Secretary of State is trying to be helpful, but he sometimes uses the word "authority" and sometimes "area". When he uses the word "area", does he mean coterminous with the whole authority?
The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) was right. Very few local authorities are totally against rising fives. The whole point of the Bill, emphasised by the Under-Secretary of State in Committee, is that it is allowing far more free places than before. Did the Secretary of State mean "authority" when he said "area"? What does he mean by "area"?
§ Mr. Carlisle
On reflection, I am probably wrong to use either word. The requirement of the Bill is that the local education authority—I should not have used the word "area"—is required to state the arrangements for admission to its schools. Therefore, the admission arrangements to its schools in part of its area may be different from those in other parts. Clauses 6, 7 and 8 will apply to schools that admit rising fives. A parent will be able to express a preference and will be able to appeal. It would be illogical to continue and extend these clauses to schools where no provision is made for rising fives.
I do not hesitate in taking time over these amendments. Among other things. I find them extremely complicated, even if they do not appear so to the rest of the House. Taken with these amendments is Lords amendment No. 21. It is a technical amendment which changes the definition of "pupil".
If we did not change the definition, a pupil would be defined only as a child beyond the age of 5. The provisions in the Bill, which impose certain statutory responsibilities on local authorities with regard to children at school, would not apply to any child under the age of 5. We are amending it to say that "pupil" shall mean not only a child of compulsory school age but shall includea junior pupil who has not attained the age of five years.The effect of the Opposition's amendment would be contrary to what they intended. It would mean that a pupil was a child under 4 or over 5 but that between 4 and 5 he would not be a pupil.
§ Mr. Beith
I had not intended to intervene, but we have stumbled upon a difficulty and a complication. As I understand the clause, it appears to apply to a specific school. As the Minister conceded, the concept of an area, whether a local authority or a district area, is not what we are discussing. Therefore, if a parent specifies that he wishes his child to be admitted to Holly Road infants school, which is admitting children at the age of 4½, the parent can appeal against a refusal. He can say that he wishes his child to be allocated to that school because it admits rising fives.
The local education authority may have a perfectly good reason on which to 570 win the appeal, for example, by arguing that there is no room at that school because it is full of children of compulsory school age. I am anxious that that matter should be made clear. If that is not the case, I anticipate that we shall have a nasty side-kick from the clause. If it were the case that the whole area was affected, the authority could say "We have only one or two schools admitting rising fives, but if we stop that altogether we will free ourselves from any reference to rising fives under the clause." Some hard-pressed education officer may say that it is better to scrap all the rising five provision than to become involved in such a problem. I am sure that that is not what the Minister intends, but he should realise the side effects.
The interpretation that we appear to have arrived at through discussion is that we are referring to individual schools and that the right of appeal will apply.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Lords amendments Nos. 8 and 9 agreed to.