HL Deb 05 December 1967 vol 287 cc547-53

3.50 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Phillips.)

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD JESSEL in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Government and conduct of colleges of education and other institutions providing further education

1.—(1) For every institution maintained by a local education authority, being either—

  1. (a) a college for the training of teachers (in this section referred to as a college of education); or
  2. (b) an institution, other than a college of education, providing full-time education pursuant to a scheme of further education approved under section 42 of the Education Act 1944,
there shall be an instrument (to be known as an instrument of government) providing for the constitution of a body of governors of the institution.

(2) The instrument of government for any such institution shall be made by order of the local education authority, and the body of governors to be constituted there under shall consist of such number of persons, appointed in such manner, as that authority may determine.

LORD ABERDARE moved, in subsection (1), to leave out the third "the" and insert "each separate". The noble Lord said: This is a simple Amendment. I presume that the intention in subsection (1) of Clause 1 is that there should be a separate board of governors for each of the institutions covered by the Bill, but it did not seem to me clear that this was so. It might well have been the case under the Bill that one governing body would be sufficient for more than one institution. Therefore, the idea of this Amendment was to make it quite clear that each institution should have its own board of governors. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 15, leave out ("the") and insert ("each separate").—(Lord Aberdare.)


It was rather assumed that the purpose of the noble Lord's Amendment was exactly as he has already told the Committee; namely, to ensure that each institution has a separate board of governors. The Bill does not give the local education authorities the power to group two or more colleges of education under a single governing body, so in fact no Amendment is required to ensure this. It is the Secretary of State's intention that, as the Bill now provides, each college of education should have its own separate governing body. I should, however, tell noble Lords that it has been represented to my right honourable friend that the power to group two or more schools under one management conferred by Section 20 of the Education Act 1944 should be applied to special schools, and that an analogous power should be applied to the grouping of purely local further education establishments performing a similar function for different parts of an authority's area, where the authority consider such grouping expedient and the Secretary of State approves it.

My right honourable friend is giving sympathetic consideration to these suggestions with a view to the possibility of moving appropriate Amendments at a later stage. He wishes me, however, to make it clear that the Government have no intention of conferring a power to group colleges of education, and that there is no suggestion that the power to group further education establishments should be wider than what is needed to meet the circumstances of purely local colleges, and then only on the initiative of the local education authority and with the approval of the Secretary of State.

I have given a somewhat longer explanation to the noble Lord than he might have considered necessary, in order that it should be recorded, and I hope that he will feel that he can withdraw the Amendment.


I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving that extremely lucid answer at some length. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD ABERDARE moved to add to subsection (2): Provided that in a college of education these persons shall include the principal and representative members of the academic staff together with university representatives, members of the teaching profession and other persons with a concern for the training of teachers as full voting members.

The noble Lord said: This Amendment follows on what I said on the Second Reading of the Bill. If I may summarise what I then said, it was that the institutions of higher education covered by the Bill would not enjoy any real internal independence unless their boards of governors were fully representative in the sort of way envisaged by the Weaver Report, and unless they had freedom to choose their own clerks. The question of the clerk I leave aside, because I have no doubt that this comes within the articles of government, and the articles, under subsection (3), are already subject to the approval of the Secretary of State. What I am concerned about is the board of governors which forms part of the instrument which, under subsection (2), is the responsibility of the local education authority alone.

Your Lordships will remember that I put forward a tentative suggestion on Second Reading that the instrument might also be subject to the Secretary of State's approval, and the noble Baroness said that this would not in her opinion be appropriate. That is a view with which I have some sympathy. But I am still concerned about the colleges of education. It was recommended by the Robbins Committee that these colleges should be of full university status, and indeed their students are already working for Bachelor of Education degrees. But when it was decided by the Government that they should not enjoy full university status, it was at the same time said that they should enjoy the maximum amount of internal self-government, and it was to that end that the Weaver Committee was established. It is specifically to guarantee them what was promised to them, or what was recommended for them by the Weaver Report, that I have put down this Amendment.

The Weaver Report was a unanimous Report, and it was the Report of a Study Group on which were included all the relevant parties—the Department of Education and Science, the local education authorities and those who were teaching in the colleges of education. I am going no further than suggesting that in the case of colleges of education the constitution of the board of governors recommended in that unanimous Report should be put into the Bill. I think it is essential that these colleges should have the same independence in this way as, for example, the polytechnics have. In the case of the polytechnics there is no question. The Secretary of State, in his Notes for Guidance, asks authorities to include drafts of the proposed instrument and articles of government, so that he will have power to approve both the constitution of the board of governors and the articles. What I want to ensure is that the colleges of education are no worse off than that.

I have therefore put down in my Amendment the words taken straight from the Report of the Weaver Committee, dealing with the constitution of the governing body. I have added the last four words "as full voting members", because I feel sure that this was the intention of the Weaver Committee, although I do not think it was specifically expressed in the Report. But I believe that if those words were not included, it would be possible for a local education authority to establish a governing body on which the principal and representatives of the staff were included, but without full voting powers. That is the reason for adding those words at the end. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able either to accept this Amendment, or to give me some fairly definite assurance that the position of the colleges of education will be safeguarded. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 20, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Aberdare.)


I wish very briefly to support this Amendment. If I may speak from experience of voluntary colleges of education, I would say that this aspect has already been gone into very carefully in our negotiations with the Department over articles of government, and the principle, so far as they are concerned—certainly in the colleges I know—has been fully established. They have not always shown the same freedom from rigidity for which the noble Lord has pleaded in other cases, and which I hope they will still consider. But they have shown great understanding of this point, and very much to the profit of the colleges.

I should like very much to support what the noble Lord has said, not so much about the mere status of these colleges of education—this near-university status—but about the whole nature of life within them, which is very much of the same calibre. The size of these colleges to-day, the freedom of the students, the academic responsibility which is expected of them—this is something which I think can be properly achieved only within institutions which are themselves manifestly academic bodies, with great academic freedom in them. While the relationship of the universities and the university representatives certainly speaks for itself, I should also like to endorse the other points which the noble Lord has made about members of the teaching profession and others outside, since their relationship with the students is so very important. I hope very much that this Amendment can be either accepted now or included in some other form.

4.6 p.m.


I should like, first of all, to assure the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, that my right honourable friend is very concerned about the status of the colleges of education. Indeed, I think that on Second Reading I indicated that this was one of the reasons for the introduction of this Bill.

In setting up the Study Group on the Government of Colleges of Education, to which the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has referred, my right honourable friend the then Secretary of State for Education and Science charged them with the task of striking the correct balance between the freedom which institutions of higher education should enjoy, and the social control which democratically elected representative bodies were required to exercise. I think noble Lords indicated, by their warm reception of the Bill at its Second Reading, their general approval of the unanimous recommendations at which, after long and friendly discussion, the Study Group arrived. These recommendations were designed to distribute responsibility between the different parties, and to give as much freedom to governing bodies and academic boards as was consistent with the inescapable duties of the local education authorities.

My right honourable friend the present Secretary of State does not think it necessary or desirable to alter the nice balance that was achieved by the Study Group, and to which this Bill is designed to give effect. This does not mean, as I explained on Second Reading, that he is not concerned to see that the several partners in this enterprise, including, of course, the local education authorities, between them bring it about that the colleges are governed in accordance not only with the letter of the Study Group's Report, but also with its spirit which they did their best to communicate in its last chapter, and by what the Secretary of State commended as "its general tenor and liberal attitudes". The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, referred to this.

To lay down in the Bill the composition of the governing body of a college, or to make the instrument of government subject to the Secretary of State's formal approval, would not in his view improve the balance of interests that was achieved. I hope that, in the light of this explanation and of the fact that the authorities may be expected to act on the unanimous recommendation of the Study Group that the principal of the college of education and members of the academic staff should be members of the governing body, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, will not wish to press an Amendment which the Government would feel bound to reject.


I certainly do not wish to press the Amendment. I am, however, still rather disturbed. It seemed to me that this particular balance, or this particular requirement, within the board of governors was a direct recommendation of the Weaver Report and that it would not really be upsetting any balance to put it into the Bill. But I appreciate what the noble Baroness has said. I should like time to study the matter further, and if we have to come back to it we will. But for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.