HL Deb 29 October 1976 vol 376 cc801-72

1.21 p.m.

The MINISTER of STATE, DEPARTMENT of EDUCATION and SCIENCE (Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on report.—(Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge.)

Baroness D'ARCY DE KNAYTH moved Amendment No. 10: After Clause 3, insert the following new clause:

Duty to include special provisions for disabled persons in plans for school premises

. In section 13 of the Education Act 1944 after subsection (6) there shall be inserted— (6A) Any specifications and plans of school premises submitted to the Secretary of State under this section shall indicate what provision, in the means of access both to and within the premises, and in the parking facilities and sanitary conveniences to be available, is made for the needs of persons using the premises who are disabled; and the Secretary of State shall only approve any such specifications and plans where, in his opinion, adequate provision is made for the needs of such persons unless he is satisfied that to make such provision would in the circumstances be impracticable and unreasonable.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the purpose of the Amendment is similar to that of one which I moved at Committee stage. The intention is to try to close the loophole in Section 8 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act which relates to educational establishments, and to ensure that future schools will be built accessible to and convenient for the use of disabled people. The earlier Amendment sought to make this a matter for planning application procedure, which the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, felt was not the way to do it. There was at that time a suggestion that the answer might lie in an alteration to the building regulations. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for sending me a copy of her letter to the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, but it seems to indicate that that idea is not practicable for the present.

The noble Baroness said in Committee that it was right that the responsible providing body should consider the needs of disabled users alongside those of all the other users right from the outset in the planning and design of educational buildings. That is precisely what the Amendment aims to achieve. The responsible providing body must either make proper provision for the disabled or must satisfy the Secretary of State that it would be impracticable and unreasonable to do so.

The Amendment covers only primary and secondary schools. This has been done to ensure that it stays within the scope of the Bill. I have done my very best to take into account the points made by the noble Baroness and I believe till t this is the way to ensure that disabled children are given the same educational opportunities as their able-bodied contemporaries. I shall not bore your Lordships too much about the importance of integrated education because we went into that very thoroughly on two Amendments at Committee stage, but I should just like to reiterate that it is easier to integrate into an adult, able-bodied world if one has been integrated during childhood and that disabled children in ordinary schools are generally considered by educationists to be more socially mature than those educated in special schools. Also, there are often better educational opportunities in ordinary schools because there is under-expectation of a disabled child's performance in special schools.

There is a booklet which has been issued by the Department of Education and Science entitled, Integrating Handicapped Children. On page 6 it outlines the varying degrees of integration from full educational integration through special classes in ordinary schools to attendance at special schools with visits to ordinary schools for social activities. It continues, The possibility of such arrangements depends not only on the enterprise and determination of the staff of those schools but on proximity. New special schools should, wherever possible, be sited near to normal primary or secondary schools. That is sound common sense, but it will not do much good if the ordinary schools are not built to he accessible.

It is not only children who are affected by lack of access. The job opportunities of disabled teachers are affected; disabled adults wishing to attend evening classes are prohibited from doing so; disabled people wanting to participate in community events held in schools out of school hours are also affected. I believe that this point about community use of schools in out-of-school hours is undoubtedly important because it is something that is very much on the increase. Indeed, a couple of days ago I was talking to someone here who is very well informed in the educational field and he said that he saw the time coming when schools would be built with a view to fulltime use by the community outside school hours and during the holidays and that, for example, the school library might well double as the public library, and so on. If schools are built inaccessibly, disabled members of the community will effectively be debarred from many activities and facilities intended to he available to everyone in the locality.

With the inclusion of Clause 4—and this was the Amendment which was so expertly moved by my noble friend Lady Phillips in Committee—the balance was tilted in favour of disabled children attending ordinary schools so that it is now more important still that new schools should be accessible. I see that the Government want to remove Clause 4 and substitute an Amendment of their own. Again. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, for her letter and a copy of the Amendment. I am not quite clear on one or two points in the Amendment, but we shall doubtless come to this later on. However, I think that the balance will still be in favour of ordinary schools.

The Department of Education and Science booklet from which I quoted earlier quotes the Plowden Report in its introduction, referring to paragraph 845. The quotation, which appears on page 2, reads: The good primary school is not only right for the normal but right for the handicapped, for their fundamental educational needs are similar though there may be differences in the way that they are satisfied. However, turning to page 22, I came to a paragraph that alarmed me quite considerably. I am sorry to quote so much, but, if I may, I shall read this too: The placement of physically handicapped children in ordinary schools varies with the phase of education concerned. Placement may prove easier in nursery and infant schools on account of the nature of their premises and their organisation. Many junior schools are single-storey buildings with reasonable access and facilities, and a knowledgeable and understanding teacher in charge of a class can get to know the handicapped child and help him to make good progress. For many children the difficulties increase at secondary level where the buildings are often more difficult of access and where pupils are required to move from place to place according to the dictates of a specialist timetable. The assimilation of handicapped children into the ordinary school may therefore not be a once for all decision and may be dependent on continuing review and may be more appropriate at one phase rather than at another.

Can we really countenance this, my Lords? Can we really consider giving our disabled primary school children the same educational opportunities as their able-bodied contemporaries, encouraging them to learn together, to play together, to laugh and to fight together and to begin to grow up together and then, just as they are approaching maturity, separate them from their able-bodied friends and segregate them in special schools—and all this for to better reason than that the bricks and mortar are not right?

As the Amendment applies only to new buildings, very little extra cost would be involved. It would prevent vast subsequent expenditure on alterations. I hope that the noble Baroness looks kindly on this Amendment. I know that she is with us in spirit because at the Committee stage she said that she whole-heartedly agreed with the intention to see that the needs of the handicapped were fully taken into account in all kinds of buildings, not only schools. Alas!it can only be schools today because we are trying to keep within the scope of the Bill. We have bent over backwards to make the Amendment as acceptable as possible. I beg to move.


My Lords, I shall be brief because the argument has been put so succinctly, so logically and almost irrefutably, and I hope the Minister will accept what is proposed. I cannot in my own heart go into the Lobby in support of the Amendment, but I would not vote against it; I would abstain. Having had practical experience at various times in my career in schools, I see the necessity of what is sought here. In a well-informed Chamber like this it is not necessary for me to make an argument for about 30 minutes because I think it is almost axiomatic. Consequently, with those brief words of comfort and succour to the noble Baroness who has spoken so eloquently I will sit down, assuring her that I cannot go into the Lobby against her, but if it goes to the vote I will have to abstain.

1.31 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to support what the noble Baroness, Lady D'Arcy de Knayth, has said. One knows a certain amount about the problems not only of pupils who are physically disabled but also of teachers, and the noble Baroness has most adequately expressed the problems which exist. But I should like, very briefly, to highlight one or two of the difficulties. Children are not always kind to other children who are disabled. With the best will in the world teachers are not always completely understanding of those who are physically disabled. Therefore it is vitally important that new school buildings should be designed in such a way as to make it as easy as possible for those who arc physically disabled, not only teachers but children, to operate in those buildings.

For instance, the blind must have continuous rails right around the school building. The deaf must have ear plugs and visual aids. All doors must be wide enough for wheelchairs and there must be ramps provided. Children with crutches—and one knows so well how extremely important this is—must have non slip floors. I hate to say this, but some times the local education authorities are not as wise as perhaps they should be on the problems of the handicapped. I have had experience of this matter and I should like to say that I have full confidence at this time in the new Secretary of State. I know that she has a wide knowledge, she has great humanity; sometimes she will go against the advice that others might give her because she is a lady of great independence of thought and mind and character. I am hoping that she will take very much into consideration all that is said today on this Admendment, which I support.

1.33 p.m.


My Lords, we on this side of the House will strongly support the noble Baroness who has just spoken; the right honourable lady the Secretary of State is a woman of immense humanity and I am sure that she, and the noble Baroness who is to reply, will 'agree with us that all new schools must be accessible to and convenient for the use of all categories of disabled persons, including the wheelchair-bound. those who are ambulant disabled, the deaf people and those hard of hearing, the blind people and those with limited vision. Section 8 of the Chronically Sick and 'Disabled Persons Act 1970 imposes a duty on any person undertaking the provision of a school, university college, hall of residence, teacher training college or educational establishment to make proper provision for a disabled person, in so far as it is in the circumstances both practicable and reasonable … But in fact this proviso has allowed far too many buildings to be designed and built since 1970 without adequate provision for the disabled person. So the reason why the noble Baroness has moved the Amendment is to try to close this loophole with respect to school buildings.

We believe that the Amendment would make the implementation of Section 8 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 much more feasible. It is different from the Amendment moved in Committee, because we accept wholly the arguments which were argued by my noble friend the Minister in her reply—that it is quite wrong to use the planning permission procedures for this. But we are perfectly aware that the Department of the Environment encourages the local planning authorities to be aware of their obligations to the disabled when people are submitting planning applications. We also think that an Amendment which would be tied to the building regulations—which was suggested by a number of people—would be mistaken because this Bill is concerned only with education, and it is for this reason that we have tied this Amendment to education, to schools. We think that the obligation ought to be laid on the authorities who are proposing the building, of new schools and colleges to show why they cannot make the buildings accessible to disabled people.

The reason why we think that these schools and colleges should be made accessible to disabled people is very clear. Miss Margaret Jackson, a very distinguished Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the DES, has recently said that the Department's view has long been that no handicapped child should attend a special school if his needs can be met by an ordinary school. As the noble Baroness said in moving the Amendment, why on earth, if the school teachers and the psychologists and other experts think that a child should attend an ordinary school, should it be prevented from doing so because of bricks and mortar? It is no more expensive to build a ramp than it is to build steps and so on. Too many disabled children are forced to attend special schools merely because the physical structure of ordinary schools prevents their entering those schools and enjoying their education alongside their non-disabled friends who may live in the same street.

Surely nobody could want the bricks and mortar of a newly-built building to force disabled children to attend special schools and so suffer all the social and emotional handicaps of segregated education. We feel very much that this kind of Amendment is enormously important for the broader social purposes which I think are agreed by everybody on all sides of the House as being absolutely essential. We also feel that a casual inspection of the local schools in anybody's neighbourhood should convince anybody that even recently built schools lack adequate provisions for all categories of disabled people. I know, for example, that the noble Baroness is now taking A level mathematics at her local college of further education. She is too shy to say this. She has to go up in the goods lift there because, although the college is newly built, it has not adequate access for people in wheel-chairs. That is not acceptable these days.

It does not cost any more to construct buildings which are convenient. The National Theatre, for example, is perfectly accessible to people who are handicapped in all kinds of ways. Why on earth should school buildings not be built with this in mind? We believe very strongly that this country should follow very much the example of Sweden. A report on what the Swedes have done shows that the Swedish Board of Urban Planning has made regulations similar to those in the 1970 Act, and they have ensured that in each area of Sweden—the schools there are organised in areas—at least one school, if there is more than one storey, has a lift which is wide enough for wheel-chairs and has ramps, special toilets and doorways without thresholds. If the Swedes can do it, I really do not see why this country, which is a much more important and distinguished country, cannot do it.

It really is much cheaper to make all new buildings accessible to and convenient for the use of disabled people now rather than have to say at a later stage that all the buildings have to be converted. I know that the heart of the noble Baroness is absolutely with us in this matter, and I know that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education is a really remarkable woman and very loyal to all good causes, and so I am absolutely convinced that the Amendment will be acceptable to her, and I feel that we ought to hope for the best.


My Lords, I should like to support the noble Baroness, Lady D'Arcy de Knayth, in her Amendment which seeks to provide access for disabled where this is possible in any new school to be built in the future. Any school so built with ramps and everything essential to a physically disabled child also allows disabled teachers access to the schools. It would enable the disabled teacher to teach able-bodied children. Should any of these children be unfortunate enough to become disabled later in life they could then have an example before them of what can be achieved. Other disabled professional or administrative persons would also be able to obtain work in these schools. If the buildings are built with access for the disabled it would save money in the end, as it is cheaper to build schools with these facilities than to have to adapt them later.

My Lords, as we have Acts of Parliament to end discrimination of all kinds, surely it is time we ceased to discriminate against those physically less able to fend for themselves. I support this Amendment.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, in supporting this Amendment to the Bill, I should like to say a few words to your Lordships as I have been unable to speak on this most important subject until today. I have on several occasions visited schools for physically disabled children, and have found the most dedicated and wonderful staff doing their best in small schools catering for children from 5 to 17 years old. I have been dismayed to see what inadequate libraries these schools have, with short working hours. Because the schools are so small, the choice of subjects and the standard of work is very limited. I am sure that these schools benefit some children, but others are being deprived of a wide, comprehensive education which, if they had the opportunity, would better equip disabled children to take their place in the community.

I have had the pleasure of visiting Holt Park School in Leeds. This is a new comprehensive school with full access for children who use wheelchairs. There is a wonderful community library in the campus of the school, and disabled children from all over the city can benefit from this school. Leeds should be congratulated on this excellent achievement. Among others, St. Joseph's Secondary School at Laverstock, near Salisbury, have five disabled children who are helped by the other children to overcome the steps, as this school has three floors and no lift. Where there is a will, my Lords, there is a way, but some head teachers are not even ready to contemplate accepting a disabled child into their school, even if the facilities are adequate. I have personally been involved in a few cases, and I know this to be so. One wheelchair child had been to an ordinary primary school, and when the time came for her secondary education the authority concerned wanted to send her away to board. The parents refused, and she remained in the primary school for well over an extra year.

At a holiday camp for disabled people, we used borstal boys as helpers. After living together for a week, one boy from borstal said to me, after the holiday was over: "I used to take 'the mickey' out of disabled people. I now understand them, and I will never do it again". If able bodied children do not associate with handicapped children, they grow up as segregated groups fearing each other. I know some of your Lordships this week saw the film on television about the Gateway School, and I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Wotton, like myself, was impressed. This Amendment can only help encourage more people to be aware that easy access benefits in so many ways. Children and parents, where possible, should have the opportunity of choice, and disabled teachers should have the opportunity to work. Knowing personally some of the humane associations which the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has worked for, because I have also worked for them, I cannot imagine that the noble Lord can do anything but accept this Amendment if he is truly genuine.


My Lords, I cannot imagine any Member of your Lordships' House who would be otherwise than in support of the Amendment's purpose and intention. I would ask the Minister whether in fact this is the appropriate way to deal with it. I am wondering merely whether this is something to be put in the Bill, as is suggested, or to be embodied in building regulations in very much more detail than the Amendment suggests. It seems to me that what is necessary here—and I cannot imagine any local authority opposing it—is a clear specification of what would be required. It really is not enough just to say, "Provide for handicapped children"; it has to be very much more specific. It has to make it quite clear what is necessary. By all means mention ramps for wheelchairs or lifts and rails for blind children, and so on, but they must be embodied in a set of regulations which would be complied I with by the local authorities. So I merely ask the Minister whether an Amendment is the right procedure or whether he can give an assurance that the necessary detailed provisions will be embodied in building regulations.

1.45 p.m.


My Lords, I was waiting hopefully for the Minister to intervene, bearing in mind that, as this is Report stage, we can speak only once, However, I shall have to resort to the favourite trick of, "Before the Minister sits down", or some other method. We have heard this morning about the generosity and compassion of the Ministers who sit on this Front Bench, and of the right honourable lady who is now dealing with education. I think it is reasonable to say (to use a horrible paraphrase) that if, perhaps, some people would put their pens where their hearts are we might get something done. It is not enough merely to sympathise; we have to take practical action.

I was very interested in the intervention of the noble Lord who has just spoken, because I feel sure that the argument which will be deployed by the Front Bench is that this Amendment should be tied either to another Act of Parliament or to a building regulation. One is tempted to ask why these building regulations are not already in being, bearing in mind that the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act was passed in 1970. Equally, I have been long enough on the Parliamentary scene to know that there is no great objection to having a particular principle embodied in more than one Act of Parliament. At least one is certain that it will be carried out. We have no certainty that we are to have any Bill concerned with the environment in the immediate future.

This little booklet, while excellent in its own way, is merely, so far as I can see, for the purpose of bringing about public discussion. That is very useful, but at this point of time we want action. I have had the privilege of being part of the Working Party for Integrating the Disabled, under the chairmanship of the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, which presented its magnificent report this week. Here is an opportunity to put into operation one of the many recommendations of this report. I know that it will be very slow in being finally implemented, but this is a golden opportunity. While we know that one local authority is actually doing this, we do not know how many other local authorities are doing it.

In taking part in the investigations of the Working Party, I have myself seen how reasonably a building can be adapted. It does not in any way inconvenience the able-bodied. If you have rails round the walls, this does not make any difference to those who do not need them, but it makes a great deal of difference to those who do. If you have ramps or lifts, these can be used equally by the able-bodied and the disabled. I therefore hope that we are not going to hear any more about the cost of this. The thing that came through to me loud and clear during the time I went round investigating public building and housing is that this need not be a costly operation, though we know that any operation can be made costly if you have not got the goodwill to put it into effect.

The Minister may also say that this is the wrong kind of Bill in which to include it. One has to anticipate all the arguments. Having had the privilege of sitting on the Front Bench, I have been both poacher and gamekeeper, and that does help in these situations. If we are going to hear advanced the argument that this is the wrong Bill in which to include this, may I suggest that it is possibly the wrong Bill in which to put a clause about school milk, which seems to be quite as irrelevant an argument, if you are going to use it, as that of the building. I therefore plead with the sympathetic, kind and compassionate Ministers for once to recognise that to sympathise is not enough.


My Lords, in support of the Amendment may I make a plea for the handicapped parents? Children who are not handicapped like their parents to come on speech days and open days and take part in that. Those parents also cannot come unless the schools are adapted.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, let me say at the outset that Her Majesty's Government fully share and support the intention of the Amendment that those persons who provide educational facilities should fully and effectively meet the responsibilities which are laid on them by Section 8 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. Many people spoke this morning, and I am sure that all Members of the House accept the need of what is the policy of the Department of Education and Science, that the able-bodied and the disabled should be integrated throughout the whole of their life and not just for a very short time.

From my own association with our local physically handicapped and able-bodied youth club, I can confirm what the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, has said about the advantage it is to the able-bodied people when they work with the disabled. I know the tremendous impression that helping the disabled has made on them. I am sure that all Members of the House will share and be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, in what she said about the support which we all hope we are going to get from our new Secretary of State.

The noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, referred to the problems of allying this Amendment with the Chronically Sick and Disabled Act and with the building regulations; and we had a lot of discussion on this at Committee stage. We have to remember that we must live at the moment with the buildings which we have. The pamphlet to which the noble Baroness, Lady D'Arcy de Knayth, referred encourages local education authorities to try to improve those facilities which they have and build them up to standard. The advice which is given in the booklet referred to by the noble Baroness indicates the care that the Department's officials and HMI give to the needs of handicapped children. They are encouraged and asked to give this care by the Department as part of our policy of education of children in ordinary schools and not separating them into special schools unless there is an absolute necessity that they have specialisation.

The right place to do it, as the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, said, is not in the way suggested to us today. The noble Lord queried whether this was the right way in which to try to do what we all want to do. The right place in legislation to deal with this is in the Standards for School Premises Regulations 1972 and the Further Education Regulations 1975 and the guidance which the Department sends out with those regulations.

I know that the noble Baroness feels strongly about this Amendment but I am prepared to give an undertaking that the Secretary of State will set in hand amendment of these regulations specifically to include reference to the provisions now embodied in the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970; that she will, in co-operation with the authorities, ensure that any specification and plans of educational premises that they submit for approval shall indicate what provision is being made for the needs of disabled persons using the premises; and that she will be prepared to issue design guidance on these matters. This would secure, as I understand it, the intention of both the first part of the noble Baroness's Amendment and, through the relationship of these regulations to the provisions of Section 10 of the Education Act, of the second part.

It would do so in a much more appropriate manner, relating this to other cognate aspects of design. It would provide a natural opportunity for consultation with the local authority, with teacher and with other interests who may be affected by this work. We feel that it would be less prejudicial to desirable longer-term developments in the relations between central and local government.


My Lords, why does one have to have one or the other? Why not have the clause in the Bill and also the action that is now being suggested?

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, in the Department we feel that the best way to do this is not by writing it into the Act but by regulations, by having advice between the local authorities and central Government, and by the education authorities through our HMIs when they submit their plans. We can then put a lot of pressure on them in the initial stages and give encouragement to them to alter existing buildings.


My Lords, would the noble Baroness permit me to ask this question. Does she think that what she proposes is likely to be more effective than the Amendment that we propose? If so, I think that that is very important. We should be grateful to her and to her right honourable friend the Secretary of State if she could spell it out for those of us who are not experienced in these matters.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, may I ask her what happens if another Government come in? They may not be quite so keen. Would it not be better to have it written in the Bill?

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, far be it from me to suggest that the present Government should be kept in Office for years and years! But I am sure that a Secretary of State for Education from either side of the House would have the needs of the disabled in mind. I cannot see any future Secretary of State suddenly dropping this practice, if it has been established. We are advised that this is a more effective way of achieving what the noble Baroness and the House want than the Amendment which is before us now.

I cannot promise that the guidance that the Secretary of State will give will preclude the possibility of an authority having to make some selective provision for access where it would be unreasonably costly or impracticable to do otherwise; but we should be prepared very quickly to notify the authorities of the Department's intentions and to develop with the interested parties a much more precise view of those design features which should be incorporated into all new educational buildings.

I hope that, since the Government are sympathetic and fully in accord with what the Amendment wants, that the noble Baroness will accept our advice that this is a much more effective way of doing it, will do it more quickly and will be able to keep a much closer eye on it. I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the Amendment.


My Lords, the noble Baroness says she is speaking of something which will be done quickly. In the copy sent me of the letter that she sent to the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, she said that this is not to say that the Department are unwilling to consider what use they should make of the regulation-making powers in the interests of disabled people but they cannot promise in present circumstances to be able to give it high priority. Is the noble Baroness now prepared to see that things will be speeded up a little since her letter?

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, we are prepared to advise the local authorities right away of what our intentions are, and we are prepared to go ahead with amending our regulations on Standards for School Premises (1972) and Further Education Regulations (1975). However, in the present financial situation we should not be able to support any suggestions that involved undue expense at this point of time.


My Lords, may we thank the noble Baroness warmly and her right honourable friend the Secretary of State. This is a tremendously important concession and we are grateful for it.


My Lords, may I draw attention to a very important point? What the noble Baroness has given us an assurance on goes beyond the Amendment, which relates only to schools. It is no less important in establishments of further education. It may be more important. As I understand it, both sets of regulations would he amended.


My Lords, if I may venture the opinion, I think that the noble Baroness, Lady D'Arcy de Knayth, ought to accept the undertaking which has been given. My impression from listening to what has been said is that she has won a triple victory. First, the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, has undertaken that immediate advice would be sent out. This means, to say the least, that the Government mean what they say in expressing sympathy with the point of view expressed in Committee and today.

Secondly, as the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, has pointed out, the undertaking given will go further than the noble Baroness's Amendment. The FE regulations will be amended in addition to the schools regulations. Thirdly, I am convinced—and I was advised of such before this stage of the Bill started by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, with all his experience—that the amendment of the Regulations will be a more thorough job than the writing of it into the Bill. The regulations, as printed in the Law of Education run to over 12 pages. They cover every conceivable sort of matter to do with school buildings. This is going to be a much more thorough job. For those reasons, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady D'Arcy de Knayth, will feel that it has been most worth while to put down the Amendment again in the different form that she has chosen and will be able to accept the undertaking that the Government have given.


My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her reply, and feel it has been worth while putting down the Amendment. I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords for their fantastic support and for the way they have taken this issue by the throat and threshed it out. As we have the promise of the noble Baroness that this is going to happen very soon and it will be mandatory, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

2 p.m.

Clause 4 [Amendment of Education Act 1944]:

Baroness STEDMAN: moved Amendment No. 11: Leave out Clause 4.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the Amendment which on behalf of my noble friend I now move on behalf of the Government stems from our proceedings in Committee on 7th October, when the Amendment then moved by the noble Baroness, Lady D'Arcy de Knayth, the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, was agreed to and included in the Bill as a new Clause 4.1 should also like to speak now to Amendment No. 19. The intention of Clause 4 is to reverse the preference, presently in Section 33(2) of the Education Act 1944, for special education to be provided in special schools rather than in ordinary primary and secondary schools.

For reasons I went into at some length in Committee, the Government would have preferred not to alter Section 33(2) at the present time, but to continue to encourage developments in the direction which they are in practice and with broad consent now taking. This would allow opportunity for a more thorough review of the pattern of future provision, in the light of the Warnock Committee's report, without in any way arresting further advance meantime.

The Government are however sensible of the strong feeling of noble Lords who supported the inclusion of Clause 4, and they acknowledge that the questions at issue are ones of logistics and timing, not of principle. For this reason they So not set themselves against a restatement of of Section 33(2) along the lines of Clause 4, provided that ways can be found of mitigating the practical and other difficulties to which I referred at Committee stage.

Accordingly, the Government propose the alternative Amendment No. 19, standing in the name of my noble friend in the form of a new clause after Clause 10; it embodies the intentions of Clause 4 while meeting the Government's reservations. I should also mention that Clause 4, as drafted, would not do duty in its present form, for reasons which I hope will be clear as I proceed.

Subsection (1) contains the proposed replacement of Section 33(2). The first part, paragraph (2), lays down the basic requirement that special educational treatment is to be provided in county and voluntary schools. The words "county and voluntary schools" are the appropriate legal description of what were described as "ordinary schools maintained by local education authorities" mentioned in Clause 4. Noble Lords will also notice that the basic requirement is stated more emphatically than in Clause 4 and avoids the awkward proposition that authorities' arrangements rather than the authorities themselves should have regard to the general principle.

The second part of the proposed new Section 33(2) sets out, as exceptions to the basic requirement, the circumstances in which provision may be made in special schools or in schools not maintained by a local education authority. The three exceptional sets of circumstances are important and necessary. The sponsors of Clause 4 recognised that it will not always be practicable to accommodate handicapped children in county and voluntary schools. Obvious examples are when a child requires boarding education or where an ordinary school cannot provide appropriate specialist teaching. The reference to efficient instruction in the schools is designed to safeguard the educational interests of all the pupils in a school, both those who are handicapped and those who are not. Clearly, any arrangement that is made must be compatible with the well being of all children who attend the school. I have in mind particularly the problem of educating severely maladjusted children in ordinary schools without very special provision for their needs. The third exception is where integration could be achieved only at unreasonable cost, a qualification which has particular weight in the present financial position. I recommend these inbuilt safeguards to noble Lords as indispensible in the context of a general requirement to reverse the present statutory priorities. I would add that the Secretary of State's power in Section 33(2) to control the use of schools not maintained by a local education authority is retained. The new wording replaces the old wording in Schedule 1 to the Education Act 1953.

Finally, there is provision for the revised Section 33(2) to come into force on a day to be appointed by the Secretary of State. May I hasten to say that this is not a prescription for delay. It simply allows my right honourable friend time to consult the local education authorities and others upon whom the success of the new arrangement will depend. recommend the Amendment to noble Lords as substantially fulfilling the intentions of the present Clause 4 while meeting the Government's serious concern that its implementation should take an orderly course, following a proper process of consultation. I beg to move.

2.6 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness for moving this Amendment. The Amendments to which she has referred manifestly meet the wishes of your Lordships expressed at the Committee stage, and they have gone further than the Amendment accepted by the noble Baroness on that occasion. She has removed the one subsection that those with suspicious minds had doubts about, namely, subsection (3). This subsection will come into operation only on a day on which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State makes a Statutory Instrument. I have infinite faith in my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, but am terrified she may be moved on to an even higher office than she now occupies before she is able to make the Statutory Instrument.

From the assurance of my noble friend that this is purely for consultation with the local authority associations, clearly it is the intention of the Government to fulfil the wishes of your Lordships. I am perfectly clear that this is one of the Amendments moved in your Lordship's House which will be acceptable to the other place. That is a most important point. We think that this is a tremendously important day for education. This is a tremendously important day for the integration of the handicapped and able bodied children in our schools. It reverses the long tradition embodied in the 1944 Act which the Department has reversed, as it were, casually and by gradual process. It is now going to be on the Statute Book and it is a day for rejoicing. I am sure that my noble friends in this House wish me to thank the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, and also my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, for taking these arguments so seriously. I should be delighted to accept these Amendments.

2.8 p.m.


My Lords, I am very interested in the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey; I should hate him to think that I am not as starry-eyed as he is. While thanking the noble Baroness and everybody else concerned for doing this, I have one or two small points to raise, purely of procedure. It' we eliminate Clause 4 and then we do not get the following clause, we are left in a strange position: we have lost what we have and gained nothing else. Far be it from me to suggest that the Opposition would vote against the Government; this is something we would not except, particularly in a Bill of this character. But there is just a possibility that they might. It seems to me that we have no guarantees that if we remove what we already have we shall get Clause 10. I do not think even the noble Baroness can promise us that.


My Lords, may I just intervene to assure the noble Baroness that we shall not be voting against this. As it is a Friday and we are beginning to run short of time, I shall not go into the reasons.


My Lords, it is indeed a day of rejoicing; and perhaps it is our turn to prolong matters. There are several ways of playing this one. The noble Baroness seems to suggest that the original Clause 4 referred to the arrangements made by the local education authority and that this was not perhaps the best way to do it. Since we took the original Amendment out of the original Education Act, I assume the Department has now decided that the Act did not do the thing correctly and so there has to be an Amendment. I hope my assumption is correct.

I should like to comment also on Amendment No. 19. There we have the words: Where the education of the pupils in such schools … would involve unreasonable public expenditure. Why is this not in any other clause? Why does it not include the major change? Let us not balk at it: it is a major change when comprehensive education is introduced. Why do we not have this phrase put in there? We all know that a local authority wishing to drag its heels will call in aid that kind of wording. Who is to decide when public expenditure is too great? Undoubtedly I think it will be said at this moment that it would be wrong to undertake public expenditure; but in my lifetime education has always been the one thing that is cut first. Governments of all colours go first for education, I am sorry to say. I cannot remember a time when one could have stood up and said, "This is the right time to spend public money". There will always be a reason why it is the wrong time, and so I find this a very unfortunate clause in the new Amendment, and I should like to have an explanation of why it only appears here.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, the rest of the Bill is governed by the instructions that the plans and other things which are submitted to the Secretary of State concerning the principle of comprehensive education will be established as resources are available. So in that sense we have the same sort of provision that when the money is available we will do it. It is not written into the Bill, I agree; but that is the intention on the resources element. We are not going to say that on day X one month hence every school shall go comprehensive. We accept that there is a need to wait until the resources and the buildings are available. In the light of the fact that we are spending something like £6,000 million per year on education, I think that perhaps the noble Baroness is being a little unfair to say that it is as nothing. I share her worries, having had 28 years of membership of a local education authority, and I know that every time we had a stop-go policy and were in a "stop" period education was the first to go. However, I m sure the noble Baroness that this clause is intended to work and that the ultimate appeal would be to the local education authorities and the Secretary of State.

2.14 p.m.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 12: After Clause 4, insert the following new clause:

Provision of information by local education authorities about local schools

. The Secretary of State shall, within two years of the passing of this Act and after consulting such persons as he shall deem to be representative of the interests of local education authorities, of parents and of governors, make regulations specifying the information which local education authorities shall publish about the schools in their area and the means by which and the time within which such information shall be made available to the parents of children to whom places at such schools may be allocated and to such other persons as he may direct.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at the previous stage of this Bill on Amendment No. 56, we had a debate in which it was quite clear from the interventions of my noble friends that they believed that there is widespread public anxiety over the performance of our educational system at the present time. The idea of involvement of parents in the criticism of the direction of our educational system being obtained by the publication to them of specific information about what is going on met with considerable enthusiasm from the Front Bench, and it was at first almost disconcerting. But a great deal of water has flowed under Westminster Bridge and, more particularly, under Magdalen Bridge since then, and we can see now there their sentiments lie.

In that Amendment I suggested to your Lordships that the Bill should lay down detailed, numerous and specific particulars about each school. The Government were of the opinion that such specific legislation was out of date and that it should be more general. The new Amendment answers this criticism. At one stage the noble Lord on behalf of the Government was talking about the possibility of issuing a circular encouraging local education authorities to publish the minimum information about their schools. In the interim we have reflected upon this and upon the different views which our different Parties share about the force of circulars issued by the Department.

Your Lordships may recall that this Government set out on a course under Circular 4/74 which they later found had to be pursued by legislation. Although they eventually had to achieve this savage and ill-timed reform by other means, I am not sure that they yet accept that a circular does not have the force of law. That force emanates from this Chamber and from another place and is sanctioned by the Crown. It does not spring from the pen of any Secretary of State and therefore I am not convinced that a circular which can be evaded or ignored is quite up to the work we have in mind for it. What we want to do is to establish as universal practice by all local authorities what is now merely good practice by some authorities. We wish there to be clearly enumerated and readily available heads of information for every maintained school. We wish it to be put into the hands of those who ought to have it; that is, the parents involved. We wish it to be readily available also to those who may need it, including, as my noble friend Lady Vickers pointed out, expatriate parents and parents on long overseas postings of children of British nationality whose home is, and whose education ought to be, established in this country. We wish this information to be available in sufficient detail to ensure that it is effective in informing both original choice and continuing interest in the management of schools. We wish it to be available in sufficient quantity to make sure that it is always readily to hand to those who need it, and we wish it to be sufficiently current as to be always up to date.

We accept the point made at Committee stage by the Government that such a requirement can best be fulfilled after consultation with the local education authorities. Noble Lords opposite have already made it clear that consultation is a briefer process than we had supposed it to be. In fact they suggested that to reorganise an entire county on comprehensive lines need take no more than six to 12 months. It is therefore scarcely unreasonable to expect a decision on this infinitely smaller and less complex matter to be taken in two years. When it is taken it should have the force of law, and the Amendment empowers the Secretary of State to make regulations for the publication of information about schools by local education authorities within two years of the passing of the Act, and to use the intervening period to consult with local education authorities, parents and governors on what form the regulations can best take. It seems to me that what we have is a reasonable embodiment of what all of us on both sides of this House, in common with the Secretary of State, wish to see achieved—a statutory requirement, but not one spelled out in excessive detail or rushed through with excessive haste and without consultation. It has the added attraction that an Amendment differently drawn but with a similar intention failed only by a single vote in another place to reach the Bill. It is difficult to see how, in such circumstances and in the light of the Minister's known predisposition in favour of broadly similar proceedings, the noble Lord can resist this Amendment. I beg to move.


My Lords, a couple of times at Committee stage I voted with the Opposition because their Amendments were in line with the Labour Party's National Executive policy in 1976 concerning the greater interest taken by parents in the education of their children. Therefore it might seem on this particular Amendment that I should speak in his support. Quite frankly, I think that this Amendment, which purports to give greater information to parents, is too rigid.

It seems to me that the trend in the local authority world and in the teaching unions—which is far more important than what the local authorities insist upon, because it is the head teachers and others who are concerned—is very much towards giving more information about the way schools are run, and getting the active participation of parents in controlling and running them. If this were written into the Statute, it is very unlikely that the specific information required by the Secretary of State would necessarily accord with the detailed information required by individual parents. In other words, I believe that the right thing to do, in this instance, is to press local authorities and teachers to give even more information than the noble Lord suggested. Therefore, on mature reflection, I am opposed to this Amendment because, on the whole, it would in this respect have a restrictive rather than a liberating effect.


My Lords, I should like to say one word from a different point of view, and perhaps to highlight something that has not been raised before. It dates from the time when I was a vice-chairman of the education committee for West Sussex for six years, and I naturally came into very close contact with the teaching profession as well as with the parents of children. It always seemed to me very sad in those days—which was quite a long time ago, but I am not sure that the situation has altered so very much—that the position of a teacher is peculiar. Teachers are always looked upon by the general public just as teachers; as something peculiar and perhaps, in some ways, different. On the other hand, teachers have what I would almost call a chip on their shoulders, because they feel that they are unacceptable in some way. This worried me very much and it seems to me that this Amendment would help improve communications between teachers and parents, or the general public. They would get to know each other better, they would appreciate each other better and there would he a much easier social intercourse between the two parties. This is a very important matter, which would enormously help the general educational outlook, and that is why I support this Amendment very fully.


My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend Lord Elton. It is very important, for one reason more than others, for information to be given to the public and all those interested about all the schools in an area. If information on the standard is given to the public in a pamphlet, it is vitally necessary that that standard should be kept up. As we know so well, standards in schools have recently dropped and I feel that if information could be laid down by the local education authority, so that everybody could see the standard to which local schools adhered, it would be in the interests of everybody. I also feel, as regards the Amendment which we discussed earlier, that if a parent had a blind child the information given in such a pamphlet would for example tell the parent whether there were rails at that school. This Amendment is very important, and I support it.


My Lords, presumably the Citizens' Advice Bureaux would get all the information, because over the the years they have gained a very strong position in the community. Very often people may be a little apprehensive about discussing matters with local authorities, and they naturally go to the Citizens' Advice Bureaux because they have now become the friends of the people. Therefore, I think that they want to be given every opportunity to co-operate with local authorities, and all the necessary information should be in their hands.

2.26 p.m.


My Lords, I think there is no difference between us about ends, and there is simply some difference about means. In our last discussion, the noble Lord introduced an Amendment to insert into the Bill a detailed list of items of information which would statutorily be obliged to be listed by local education authorities. I suggested—and I think there was a good deal of similar f'eeling in the House—that such a detailed prescription would he out of place in an Act of Parliament. This really is the only difference between us. Education authorities must issue information about schools, and I think that the suggestion of the noble Baroness, Lady Ward, that this should always be done with the co-operation of the Citizens' Advice Bureaux is an extremely good one.

There is no hesitation on the part of my right honourable friend about the desirability of information being available. Her hesitation concerns whether this is a suitable instruction, in all its details, to be contained in an Act of Parliament. We think it would be equally out of place in Statutory regulations and, bearing in mind that different information will be wanted by different parents, about different schools, in different places, it is surely much better that local education authorities should be left with a broad measure of discretion within guidelines set by the Secretary of State. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, that the guidelines should include such things as rails for the blind. This is the kind of information which guidelines should include. But as I told the House last time I spoke on this subject in Committee, my right honourable friend intends to consider what guidance can best be given after consultation with all those concerned. Let us at least give that proposal a fair trial. If guidance given by way of circular, or whatever other means may be seen appropriate to the Secretary of State, turns out to be ineffective, then perhaps Statutory Regulations could he considered.

The Secretary of State already has power under Section 5(2) of the Local Government Act 1974 to make regulations in relation to such a matter; if necessary, she will consider using that power to make regulations requiring local education authorities to make available to parents specified information about their schools. But she would not wish to do this without first seeing what can be done on a much more flexible basis by non-statutory guidance. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will not find it necessary to press this Amendment. As I have indicated, it is unnecessary because it gives the Secretary of State no power that she does not already have, and it is inappropriate that legal regulations should be applied to a matter like this, unless all other means have failed. So I hope that the noble Lord can be persuaded not to press this Amendment.


My Lords, I think that the House would be well advised to accept the concessions given by the Minister. It seems to me that we are progressing quite a lot faster and more amicably, possibly because the Secretary of State herself has now had time to become seized of the Bill, and we are moving quite a long way in the right direction. I do not think I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, when he says that this is more a matter for the teachers; I believe that this is definitely one of those areas where it is very much for the local education authority to give details of all the options open in the area for which it is responsible. What the Minister has said about what the Secretary of State is prepared to do in this situation is perfectly fair and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will feel that he does not have to press the Amendment.


My Lords, at the outset of this brief debate the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, categorised the procedure laid down in the Amendment as too rigid, although it sets down nothing but a time limit. His argument was that the trend among teachers is already towards closer co-operation with parents and one is very glad to be assured that it is, although one is less assured by Press reports of "sink" schools which from time to time come to the surface and which will be one of the targets of this particular and small reform. The noble Lord said that the information might not be that which the parents required and I would point out both to him and to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, that there is nothing restrictive in the requirements or the regulations: they can be as flexible or detailed as necessary. But they do not say what shall not be published; they say only what shall be published. That is the requirement which is laid on the Secretary of State.

My noble friend Lady Emmet of Amberley, with considerable experience, has pointed out that where teachers are in favour of closer communication there is much to be said for formalising this and therefore giving them an excuse, which one often wants, for doing what they already want to do. As my noble friend Lady Macleod of Borve has said, there is much to be said for schools publicly undertaking to do something in print and then within 12 months being subject to the scrutiny of the general public and the parents as to whether or not they have succeeded in doing it. Again I say to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, that there is no ground for supposing that the regulations will be too detailed or, indeed, not detailed enough. That lies in the hands of the Minister. I suspect that the only difference between us is that the noble Lord thinks that a power is sufficient whereas we feel that a duty is necessary, and we are strengthened in this view by the considerable support that the idea received in another place.

Since he spoke last to the Amendment, may I draw the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, who has reservations about the Bill in view of the amicable climate which now happily prevails in this Chamber, to the fact that he has mentioned, as has the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, the parents and the teachers.

But what about the governors of the school who are in the last resort responsible for the school? They also just have a hand in saying what should be publicised and also in seeing that the targets set are met. Therefore, without any wish to dispel the balmy and agreeable atmosphere of this Chamber, in which we should always conduct our exchanges, I commend the Amendment to your Lordships.

2.33 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 12) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 61; Not-Contents, 49.

Ampthill, L. Faithfull, B, Monk Bretton, L.
Belstead, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Mottistone, L.
Boothby, L. Gainford, L. Munster, E.
Boyd of Merton, V. Glasgow, E. Newall, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Greenway, L. Northchurch, B.
Caithness, E. Hacking, L. Onslow, E.
Campbell of Croy, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Redesdale, L.
Cathcart, E. Hanworth, V. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Cork and Orrery, E. Hawke, L. Sackville, L.
Cottesloe, L. Hylton-Foster, B. St. Just, L.
Cromartie, E. Inchyra, L. Sandford, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Lauderdale, E. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
De Freyne, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Lyell, L. Stamp, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Macleod of Borve, B. Strathcona and Mount Royal
Eccles, V. Masham of Ilton, B. Suffield, L.
Effingham, E. Melville, V. Trefgarne, L.
Elles, B. Merrivale, L. Vivian, L.
Elton, L. Molson, L. Ward of North Tyneside, B.
Emmet of Amberley, B. Monck, V. Wolverton, L.
Enniskillen, E.
Airedale, L. Foot, L. Pannell, L.
Amherst, E. Goodman, L. Peddie, L.
Ardwick, L. Gordon-Walker, L. Phillips, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Hale, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Beswick, L. Hampton, L. Platt, L.
Birk, B. Henderson, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Bowden, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. St. Davids, V.
Brimelow, L. Hunt, L. Shepherd, L.
Brockway, L. Jacques, L. [Teller.] Stedman, B.
Champion, L. Janner, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Collison, L. Kirkhill, L. Stone, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Vaizey, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Lyons of Brighton, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Murray of Gravesend, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Noel-Buxton, L. Wigoder, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.) Oram, L. Winterbottom, L. [Teller]
Evans of Hungershall, L.
Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

2.41 p.m.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 13: After Clause 4, insert the following new clause:

Committee of Inquiry

.—(1) The Secretary of State shall appoint an independent Committee of Inquiry into the operation and results of secondary schools having particular regard to—

  1. (a) the experience so far gained of the effect of the size of schools upon the quality of education, the turnover of staff and the discipline within them; and
  2. (b) the effect of classes of mixed ability on the quality of education.

(2) The said Committee of Inquiry shall lay the report of its findings before both Houses of Parliament within two years of the passing of this Act.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is designed to secure that an independent inquiry shall be mounted into some of the aspects of secondary teaching and organisation which give the most grounds for concern to the widest section of those interested. This is a slight advance on the Amendment tabled by my noble friend and myself at Committee stage. The principal difference is not apparent in the drafting but arises from an offer which I made to noble Lords opposite and which they seemed anxious to accept. This consisted of the separation of the predecessor of this Amendment, which made the implementation of the whole of the Act conditional upon the results of such an inquiry having first been debated in both Houses of Parliament. Noble Lords opposite regarded this as a delaying tactic of no merit. The principal Amendment was itself very similar to this one. The difference between them is this: the earlier Amendment stipulated an inqury into nonselective schools only and it was represented to us that something wider was needed. We have accordingly extended it to embrace all secondary schools. Once the original Amendment had been separated from the delaying Amendment the noble Lord opposite became almost enthusiastic about the idea and, if I may quote him, he said: I would have absolutely no objection, and would certainly recommend to my Secretary of State that we bring in something in the form of your first Amendment. I see no objection to it at all. There may be difficulties; I do not know what they are. If you leave it to me to put this up to my Secretary of State and come back to you, irrespective of the other Amendment, I will be happy to do so."—[Official Report, 7/10/76; col.1614.]

My Lords, this is the occasion of that return. It is gratifying when the views that we express are accepted by those opposite and I think it would be churlish of me to say that I have been publicly voicing many of the opinions which I included in my speech at the earlier stage, in General Election campaigns since 1966. I shall therefore curtail and spare the noble Lord the discomfort of my self-congratulation.

At an earlier stage I spoke at length about the adverse effect of size upon the quality of education, upon the turnover of staff and upon the discipline in the schools. It is an effect which is subjectively apparent very soon after entering a school that has much over 1,000 children and which is increasingly apparent outside it from the results it has upon the pupils subject to it. But it is high time that the size factor was itself the subject of an inquiry and it was made abundantly plain at the Committee stage within this very Chamber that that inquiry must be—and be seen to be—independent. That is to say it cannot he mounted by something which is generally seen as being parti pris, as is the Government on this matter. The public would regard this as not giving them confidence in the result.

Provided the two essential areas of size and mixed-ability were included, the terms of the Amendment would be satisfied although the Government might wish to include other factors in their inquiry, as indeed I believe they should. Your Lordships will see that the inquiry is to be into the operation and results of secondary schools having particular regard to these two matters, but it does not preclude their having regard to others. I trust that this Amendment will commend itself to your Lordships in the terms upon which this acceptance was argued at an earlier stage. I think it should do so in the present financial climate, because we are aware that the campaign of reorganisation which this contentious little Bill advocates, and will precipitate, is going to be the cause of very considerable expenditure, however it is dressed up in the accounts. Her Majesty's Government have so far failed to quantify this amount and have said merely that it will be subsumed into other programmes. None the less whatever the programme, the money will be spent and we know there is precious little of it. In the speech at Oxford—which I shall not tire of referring the noble Lord to—by his Prime Minister, the latter pointed out that the resources for educational expansion, and by inference of reorganisation, were not available and would not he for some time.

Your Lordships will see that we have been joined in our very reasonable demands by noble Lords who sit on the Liberal Benches. We had Cross-Bench support at the Report stage and something approaching support even from the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, himself in the passage I have quoted. I am greatly tempted to argue the principal advantages of what we advocate once more, if not in as much detail then at least with as much force as was done at the Committee stage and it may in fact become apparent to me that I ought so to do. I have the right of reply in which I can do it, but 1 sense that it is your Lordships' wish no less than my own that we should proceed to discover what is the Government's attitude to the fairly narrow question which actually determines your Lordships' decision at an early stage. Therefore I will now merely say that I beg to move.


My Lords, I have listened with interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has said and perhaps I might here quote back to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, from what he said in Committee on this Bill. He said: I think that education is a most mysterious subject and my own view is that very few people know anything about it at all."—[Official Report, 7/10/76; col.1611.] This seems to me to be a somewhat sweeping statement and not a good basis on which to argue—if that is indeed what he is proposing to do—against the setting up of an independent committee of inquiry. On Tuesday of this week my noble friend Lord Beaumont of Whitley put forward an Amendment that was happily accepted, as he said, on all four sides of the House. I should he very happy if, on this Amendment, there could again be general accord.

In strong contrast to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, I speak partly inhibited by the considerable experience of so many Members of your Lordships' House in the various fields of education. I speak to this Amendment, as I see it, as a matter of common sense.1 understand there is uncertainty even in the Government's own views as to what size is the best for comprehensive schools, even allowing some scope for variation. I believe that, remarkably enough, they are even prepared to admit that mistakes may have been made. It is surely therefore not unreasonable to ask for this independent inquiry and I do not see why men and women of integrity in all Parties or no Party cannot agree to this.

Again there is considerable doubt and uncertainty about the value or otherwise of teaching mixed-ability classes. My noble friend Lord Beaumont earlier in the Report stage made the interesting suggestion that we need to know more about mixed ability teaching for older students. I really do ask the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and his right honourable friend the Secretary of State to have the courage not to run away at the mere suggestion that something may be wrong.

A case could be made out that this Bill should in no way be enacted before a satisfactory report had been received from such a committee of inquiry as is here proposed. That would be highly controversial and for better or for worse is not here called for. What is here asked is, I suggest, outside Party politics. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, will bear with me if I "Hansardise" him once more. At Second Reading col. 1602 he said: Education is an art, not a science so no proofs present themselves. The noble Lord continued: We have to make up our minds on a survey of the facts as impartial as we can manage."—[Official Report, 29/7/76]. I humbly submit that that is just what this Amendment is about. It seeks to help all those who sincerely wish to promote in this country the best education for all.

This is not the place to argue tilt case for electoral reform but if we are, as has been said, to continue the present yo-yo of Party politics at least let us see that Labour, Conservative or Liberals an not lacking the courage to find out and then to face the facts free as far as possible from prejudice and preconceived ideas.

2.51 p.m.


My Lords, during Committee stage I undertook, among the other things I seem to have said, to discuss the substance of the noble Lord's Amendment with my Secretary of State. I said that I was quite sure regular monitoring with outside help was something of which she would approve and she has endorsed this whole-heartedly. In fact, a great deal is being done already. My further discussions with her also enable me to tell your Lordships of the new initiatives which she will be taking and I hope that these initiatives and the present studies which I shall be describing will meet the points which your Lordships have in mind in tabling this Amendment.

My Lords, the need for a Committee of Inquiry with somewhat different terms of reference, has been debated at length here and in the other place. The Government have argued against all such proposals as such and despite the changed terms of reference, noble Lords opposite have made in this latest Amendment to encompass all secondary schools, we shall again oppose the proposition as it stands.

It is not the case that we are opposed to inquiries into aspects of the education service nor that we do not wish for wide-ranging debate. Indeed we welcome it provided it is not based on blind prejudice or a nostalgic and often mistaken view of past practice. As I told your Lordships during Committee stage my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is very concerned about the quality of education, including the questions which noble Lords have in particular raised, size of schools, academic standards, staffing, turnover of staff, discipline and internal organisation. We recognise public concern about the new informal methods of teaching, employers' complaints about new recruits from schools being less well-equipped for the world of work than they expect. May I add also that we understand teachers' resentment at the uninformed attacks on their professional interest and judgment of educational needs.

I can do no better than repeat what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said—and I do not see why the noble Lord, Lord Elton, should be the only one to quote him—only last week in Oxford, that "where there is legitimate public concern it will be to the advantage of all involved in the education field if these concerns are aired and shortcomings righted or fears put at rest.…We must carry the teaching profession with us [but they] must satisfy the parents and industry that what [they] are doing meets their requirements and the needs of our children". There are a number of things we need to do and have already in hand. Now as to some of the details.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate, a highly competent cadre of professionals within central Government, are intensifying their efforts to ensure that wide advantage is taken of good practice wherever it is developed. They are also engaged on qualitative surveys of the primary and of the secondary schools. With the former is associated some objective testing of standards on a limited front by the National Foundation for Education and Research; but the scale of application of testing will be very much enhanced, and the quality of the testing improved, as a result of the work of the Assessment and Performance Unit—to which we are giving the fullest backing. Another activity which contributes to the assessment of school performance is, of course, external examining: this is an important part of our educational system, and the Government has considered very carefully the proposals for change recently submitted by the Schools Council.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State accepts what noble Lords on all sides have said about the need to appraise the development of comprehensive schools. But it is not possible to make an objective comparison of comprehensive and selective systems because the two systems are not self-contained. Much of the work that we have in hand has been designed not to draw comparisons between selective and non-selective schools, but to investigate how comprehensive schools work and to help them to work better. I am gratified to see from the revised terms of reference for the Committee of Inquiry proposed by noble Lords opposite that they seem to have accepted the validity of these points and to see as we do comprehensive schools and their work as part of total provision for secondary education, and to recognise their concern with the development of the whole child and not exclusively with academic achievement.

Noble Lords should know that we have decided very recently to finance an inquiry by the National Children's Bureau into the possibility of extending educational areas which they are investigating in a study, supported by the Department and by the DHSS, of various aspects of development of 16,000 children born in one week in 1958. This extension would include an analysis of the academic development of these children between the ages of 11 and 16 by reference to the kind of school they attended. We believe that using a longitudinal survey—by which I mean a study of the same group of children at successive stages in their development—will have a great advantage over any alternative method of comparing selective and non-selective schools, and will enable us to gain information beyond that of academic achievement, as suggested by examination results, including adjustment to and attitudes to school, career aspirations and expectations, A I level intentions and proposed further education studies. The National Children's Bureau project is potentially of great importance because it is a unique opportunity to consider the development of a nationwide sample of children which is as nearly perfect as it was possible to get, and to consider the children in it in some depth. The noble Viscount will be relieved to hear that, though paid for by the Department, it will be conducted independently of it. The studies to which I have referred are under-taken as part of the normal administrative process of monitoring educational policy.

Over and above this my right honourable friend has asked Her Majesty's Inspectors to conduct a thorough and objective review of the accumulated experience of comprehensive schools. This will cover not only size, organisation and so on, but also standards of all kinds, to which she attaches great importance throughout the educational system. With the same end in mind, she also intends to arrange next year a conference of all those interested in comprehensive schools. They would have the opportunity to discuss and assess all the evidence by then available: the proceedings would be published and action would be taken to follow up the conclusions.

Noble Lords in their Amendment asked that particular regard should be paid to the size of schools, mixed ability classes and the question of staff turnover.

I hope that I have said enough to show that these matters are being considered most carefully and in detail and that therefore noble Lords opposite will he able to withdraw their Amendment on the grounds that, in a different form what they are asking for, it is in fact being done.

3 p.m.

Viscount ECCLES

My Lords, we are very interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has told us of the National Children's Bureau, and especially in the investigation into all the children born in one week. But it still does not cover the need to satisfy the public that it is not the Department only that is finding out all these facts, and that only an independent inquiry will really be satisfactory. I support the Amendment for the same reason as the noble Lord, Lord Hampton; namely, that it is a matter of common sense. It is something which would commend itself to any prudent manager of a great business.

Supposing there was a textile firm which owned a large number of weaving sheds in which there were several types of loom, and along comes the managing director and recommends to the board that all types should be scrapped except one. What would the board do? I. would call for a most searching examination into the performance of the one type that it was recommended should be installed in all their sheds. This is our position. The Government now insist that all LEAs should standardise on the comprehensive model; but they have not collected, appraised, and published the evidence to date on the performance of this model. It has been in service for almost 20 years. By now we ought to know how it is received by the work force; do they like that type of model; what is its actual output compared to the maximum capacity that they were told it could achieve, and also what modifications should be made in the light of the lessons already learned.

On these Benches we have always held that variety in schools was a good guaran- tee that success would be observed and copied, mistakes shown up and eliminated, and parents given the greatest width of choice. Now that goes. There is to be no variety in the organisation. We are to have only one model, non-selective, for all schools and sixth form colleges. If genuine variety and experiments are not to disappear they must be recreated within the comprehensive system. I believe that this is the objective of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and his Secretary of State. How are they going to achieve that if they do not know the true facts about the non-selective schools to date?

I must observe first that if all comprehensive schools are to be neighbourhood schools, the variety they will get will be socially divisive, educationally very un-even, and often unfair. Secondly, no one knows enough about the effects of size and non-selection on the quality of the schools that we have already. No one knows, therefore, how to make a good job of the vast exercise in planning because no independent inquiry has been laid on to find out the facts.

Our Amendment refers to the problems of size, and that is only one aspect which requires investigation, but it is a good illustration of why we cannot leave this to the Department. We must have an independent inquiry. The evidence we have amply demonstrates that very large schools are more difficult to manage than medium sized schools. That is now accepted as a truism in all institutions where human relations are of paramount importance. But we do not know the extent to which this human factor is at work as a result of the large size and non-selective intake of the comprehensives, where the whole range of ability must be dealt with under one roof by one head teacher. Is it the same in all parts of the country? Is a large comprehensive viable on the outskirts of a city but not in the centre? In areas where there are many immigrant children should there be schools even smaller? What about the effect of size on the stability and work of the staff?

When in my time teachers had no reason, as they have today, to fear unemployment, HMIs used to tell us that turnover of staff increased with the size of the school, so the large school, where getting to know all the children is by definition harder than in a smaller school suffered the most. Is that still the case today? We do not know. What are the current rates of turnover in relation to size? We do not know. What effect has size on the standards of behaviour among the children? The permissive society has made the teachers' task much harder. The gap has widened between what many children are told is all right at home and what they are told, or used to be told, is all wrong at school. It is understandable that some teachers give in, and adopt do-as-you-please methods.

But surely the size of the school has a big influence in this battle for order, discipline and hard work. We do not have the facts on which to assess these problems, but we do know that a large number of LEAs have been converted to the view that non-selective schools larger than five or six form entry throw up too many administrative problems to be viable. In a large number of areas this is inevitable.

But then what happens? The smaller comprehensive schools, unless in a very exceptional neighbourhood, cannot develop a strong sixth form. What is gained in better management is lost in weaker education. This is a dilemma, and it has forced local education authorities to think of such devices as sixth form colleges. The public, who are getting anxious about all these things, want to know why so many schools appear to be teaching in the wrong way and why the discipline is often so unsatisfactory. They suspect that it has something to do with size and the total range of ability, and we owe it to the parents, ratepayers and taxpayers to examine this question independently.

It has been said time and again that it would be unfair to take a cool, hard, independent look at comprehensives because they have had no chance to show their paces when the bright children were creamed off by the grammar schools. That argument sounded plausible when the alternative to creaming off was a comprehensive school large enough to contain within it a fully-fledged grammar school. That size of comprehensive school was, on paper, a good educational project; but that size of comprehensive school is now out, so the argument can no longer be advanced as a reason for not making an inquiry into the comprehensives we have. The bright children will still be creamed off, this time into sixth-form colleges and similar institutions.

We must, therefore, examine this system on its present merits and given its future limitations. Not only the schools but the sixth form colleges, which come within the ambit of the Amendment because they are counted as schools, must be looked at, and what do we know about them? I give your Lordships one case and ask you to consider whether it is typical. Maybe some noble Lords have heard or have known of the old Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School which was a good school. Two or three years ago it began to be converted into a non-selective sixth-form college. What has happened? Many of the good teachers have left, gone to teach in independent schools or taken up other careers, and the standards of the sixth form have fallen seriously. I know parents who have taken their boys away and, if they could afford the fees, sent them to independent schools for their sixth form work. Is that typical? We do not know because the Department has never dared give us the results of an inquiry into sixth form colleges.

I come to what the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, said about inquiries already in hand. Apart from the Children's Bureau inquiry, which will not tell us about the organisation of schools, which is what we really want to know about, all of these inquiries are internal; the Government are detective sergeant, jury and judge and that is not satisfactory to the public. The main inquiry, as the noble Lord said, is that by the HMIs into secondary education. Fortunately I have with me a copy of the memorandum which the Department sent out describing what is entitled "National Survey of Secondary Education". It is a very revealing document. How wide will this survey be? One in 10—that is 400 out of 4,000—secondary schools will be looked at, and of course there are some very good ones, as the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilion, said about the comprehensive at Leeds, which we all know is very good.

As I say, it will be one in ten. Who will select that modest sample? The Department of course, through the HMIs. When these schools are chosen, who will select what will be looked at inside them? The HMIs, of course, after warning the schools that they arc coming. No schools will be looked at outside the maintained system and there can be no comparison with direct grant or independent schools.

The document goes further and says that no school, authority or teacher will be mentioned in their report and no comparisons made between ore school and another. There is a curious passage in paragraph 5 which I draw to the attention of your Lordships. It says: It will seldom be possible to attempt total curricula coverage or to meet all classes and teachers. In all except perhaps very small schools, it will be possible to see only a sample of lessons and classes from the two years concerned. Whilst the composition of the sample will be the responsibility of the panels of inspectors, advice from schools will be welcome on subjects or activities which are thought to he milking particularly valuable contributions. That is all very well and it is good reading for the teachers, but shall we really find out what we want to know if they are warned beforehand that what the Inspectorate want to look at is what they can do well? They are very lucky to get off so lightly.

What is needed, therefore, is a double inquiry into both the size and structure and into the quality of the teaching and an assessment of how the size and organisation of the school react on the teaching. It does not appear to me and my noble friends that the Government realise how fraught with danger the Bill is now that the sixth forms in the grammar schools cannot be recreated in the size of comprehensives dictated by non-educational reasons. We are dealing with the education of millions of children over the next 25 years. We cannot alter the system of secondary education every time the complexion of government changes. Therefore, we owe it to these young people to provide them and their children after them with a non-selective system that has the best possible chance to work, and to provide for all the ranges of ability according to their need. That we cannot do without much more knowledge than we have at present, so I personally cannot be satisfied with a departmental inquiry. I do not think that they should be both investigators and judges of a system to which they are politically committed. We are all politically committed in some way or another but, unless we can get politics out of the school system—and they were not in it at the time when I was Minister—we shall do great damage to a very large number of British boys and girls.

3.16 p.m.


My Lords, I find myself in support of the Amendment, largely for the reasons which the noble Viscount has given, though with a somewhat different approach. However, towards the end of his remarks, the noble Viscount came very close to what I wish to say. I believe that there is a danger of the Government feeling that an inquiry of this kind is designed to condemn the comprehensive principle. That I hope is not the intention of the Amendment. As I have said, I accept the consensus in favour of the comprehensive principle. However, I greatly fear that, unless it is carried out carefully and after very careful consideration of all the possibilities so that we find the best way of doing it, it will fail, as it has in other countries. I do not believe that I know of a country that has gone comprehensive that has not shown a subsequent trend to retreat to a basis of selection. There are more than 500 specialist schools in mathematics in Russia, for instance.

I do not believe that we have given this enough thought. I said earlier that the trends that are emerging support the view that sixth forms in all comprehensive schools are probably neither educationally nor economically viable. That creates a new problem. I share the noble Viscount's concern to check whether the organisation of a sixth-form college—or, as I prefer to call it, a tertiary college—with a wider range of opportunity can achieve the right level of success. I believe that it is vitally important to check on the organisation within a comprehensive school to see whether the full range of opportunity for the whole range of ability with which the school is coping is being adequately provided.

Personally, I have the gravest doubts about all-ability grouping. These are based on fairly long experience and a good deal of research work. This is something that needs to be examined. Certainly, the teaching profession would argue that with all-ability grouping the staffing ratio needs to be about 50 per cent. more favourable than with homogeneous grouping. So we are also involved in an economic problem of a very major order.

Those of us who have experience of teaching know that it is a very different proposition to face a group of children ranging in ability over the entire range to dealing with a group with a relatively narrow range of ability. It is for that reason that I found teaching infants almost impossible but university students relatively easy. Therefore, we are all agreed that there should be an inquiry, not designed to condemn but rather designed to ascertain the best way to organise on the comprehensive principle to secure full opportunity for children of all levels of ability. We are all agreed on our purpose: we want every child to have his talents developed fully. The question is how best to do that with the maximum cost effectiveness and with the maximum educational effectiveness.

The suggestion that the Department can do it falls down on the basis with which the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, started: he did not mind an inquiry, so long as it was not prejudiced. Can a Departmental inquiry, under a Secretary of State committed to a given educational policy, not be judged by the public to have some prejudice? I am not suggesting that it does have prejudice: I am saying that it would be so judged. Therefore it seems to me that the case for an independent inquiry, looking at these problems over a reasonable period of time, not doing other than seeking to help the Government, to help the Department and to help local authorities to organise their schools to the best advantage, would be very desirable.


My Lords, I should like to intervene for just one minute. I am rather hurt by the suggestion from both the noble Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, that an inquiry carried out by Her Majesty's Inspectors would be prejudiced. I absolutely refute that. My experience with Her Majesty's Inspectors is very small—much less than that of many of your Lordships—but I do not think that they are tools of any particular theory. I think that they are objective people who will do their best to find out the truth. That is all I want to say.


My Lords, with great respect to the noble Lord, I did not suggest that they would be prejudiced; I suggested that public opinion would not necessarily accept their judgment as fully independent. This is a different thing. We are seeking here to reassure the public that this is being done with the maximum degree of thoroughness. I would not suggest that any inspectorate, or any person professionally engaged in education, would seek to be other than objective in such an assessment. But here we are dealing with a major issue over which public opinion is gravely concerned. I have had, I think, over a hundred letters from parents from one area in the past three or four weeks; they are greatly concerned. Therefore to reassure the public I should have thought that an independent inquiry would carry very much greater weight than an internal inquiry.

3.23 p.m.


My Lords, what the noble Lord. Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, had to say about the various things which were being done was all very well; at least much of it was all very well, and we were glad to know that much of it is happening. I do not think that all of it was very well. I must say that I shrink at the idea of a conference to discuss the comprehensive schools. Over the past few years we have had ad nauseam people's opinions one way or another about the comprehensive schools, although this has not happened so much in your Lordships' House where your Lordships have kept very much to the points. I should have thought that the Government would do better, and it would be rather cheaper, if they were to buy up The Times Educational Supplements for the last year and send them to everyone, rather than have another conference on this matter.

What we need is an inquiry. It will not be an easy inquiry; we accept that from the Government. I think that the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, would possibly admit that his analogy with the loom was a little simplistic. It will be a very difficult thing to do, to come to some definite conclusions. But I believe that it can be done. It cannot be done just by comparing the present with the past. A certain degree of international comparison would have to enter into A as well. I was very impressed with a remark which I quoted to your Lordships on the Second Reading of the Bill. It was made to me by a senior official in the educational side of OECD. He said: It is not a crisis of the comprehensive schools; it is a crisis of the secondary schools", and that was from experience of all the developing countries.

It will not he at all easy, but we must do it. We must do it because we need a great deal more information. We must do it because I believe that the public at large want to see it done. I, at least, will be absolved by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge. of wishing to do this in any way to harm the comprehensive system. He knows, and I think accepts, that I am whole-heartedly behind it, and unlike the suspicions he has about the moderates sitting on the Conservative Front Bench, I have no hordes of reactionaries behind me—although, contrary to the comment just made, I have quite a lot of votes behind me.

I believe that this inquiry wilt in fact show that, with lots of teething troubles, lots of individual faults and lots of things that need to be done, the comprehensive system at the very least improves the education of some while harming the education of none. I think it may well show much better than that, but I believe it will show that. But if it does not show that, then we must look again at all the problems, and we must look at how best we take advantage of the knowledge which we shall have gained to devise a better education system, because (and, again, I think we in this House are all agreed on this) we are not engaged in an exercise of social engineering. In spite of the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, keeps on saying that this is a fairly recent change of thinking, it is not as recent as al that; it is for quite a long time that most of the people in favour of comprehensives have been saying it. But we are not involved in social engineering; we are involved in trying to find the best form of education for our children and for our children's children.1 think this inquiry has a great deal to be said for it and really nothing at all to be said against it. I hope we carry this Amendment, and I hope we have the inquiry.

3.27 p.m.


My Lords, may I be permitted to make a remark which I am sure will be universally thought to be unhelpful? I think I accept whole-heartedly the very profound analysis of the problem which we have heard from the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, who speaks with especial authority as having been, surely, one of the great Ministers of Education of our time. I accept entirely the case which he and others have made for independent investigation of these extremely difficult problems. The thing that sticks in my gullet is simply subsection (2), which demands: The said Committee of Inquiry shall lay the report of its findings before both Houses of Parliament within two years of the passing of this Act". I have some brief experience of educational inquiry of a statistical kind, and I would say with a fair degree of confidence that an inquiry of the subtlety and amplitude of the kind which the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, has made me, at any rate, desire, is not an inquiry which can be carried out within two years, still less put together and laid before the House of Commons in two years. If that part of the clause were omitted I personally would be wholeheartedly in favour of the Amendment.


My Lords, may I start at the end of the exchanges we have had and say to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, that it really is not possible under the circumstances to put no term on the report, because then too much may have been done before a report is made. May I say to him that the James Report—admittedly not a statistical one, but one of crucial importance—was submitted within one year. May I say to noble Lords opposite that they have in fact themselves, by the pressure to legislate and to act on this, put us in this position of needing to take precautionary steps in what they may feel, and in what some other noble Lords may feel, is undue haste. May I finally say that there is nothing in the Amendment which says that a report, when submitted, may not be adjudged to be an interim report.

May I secondly, as briefly as I can (because I feel that my case has been argued, as I hoped it would be, better than I could argue it myself) take up a few points. One of crucial importance was the revelation of the terms of reference for the inquiry, to which the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, referred. There may be no question of the impartiality of the individuals to whose defence he predictably and properly sprang. In this we sympathise. But when the terms of reference suggest that particular weight is to be given to activities and subjects which make the most valuable contributions, it suggests they are to accept evidence which is predisposed to influence them towards one conclusion.

Then, of course, I welcome the reflection—I think, from what the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingshridge, said, that it is no more than that—upon the possibility of extending the national children's bureaux' fascinating and valuable researches which is only, with respect, one limited methodological approach to the problem: and it is entirely retrospective. My noble friend Lord Eccles said we live in a permissive era, and if we can think of society as it was even when this particular sample of children entered secondary education seven years ago and compare it with the present day we must see that significant changes have taken place. I would say, in passing, that there is no reason why anything turned up by these people should not be material for the committee of inquiry to complete the large and important jigsaw puzzle of evidence that they will have to consider.

May I reiterate that it is not our intention by this means to set up a committee to condemn the comprehensive system. Our intention is to let the comprehensive system stand on its own two feet and to give it sufficient information so that its feet will be planted foursquare on the ground so that it shall not fall flat on its face and injure the children riding upon its shoulders.

I should have thought that the consideration which must have most force with noble Lords opposite—and I am surprised that it has not overborne them already— is how damaging to them it must seem politically in the public forum if they are to refuse to undergo an independent inquiry, which is all we ask for—an independent assessment of what is going on. Anybody who declines to submit themselves to an impartial judgment on what they are doing forfeits a good deal of sympathy of those in doubt. I should have thought that those grounds and what

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

Clause 5 [Duty to implement approved proposals as to maintenance or change in character of school]:

3.41 p.m.

Lord BELSTEAD moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 4, line 43, at end insert— ("Provided that the necessary resources for

has been said already are sufficient for me to ask your Lordships to support this Amendment.

3.33 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 13) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 67; Not-Contents, 37.

Alexander of Potterhill, L. Elles, B. Morris of Borth-y-Gest, L.
Ampthill, L. Elton, L. Mottistone, L.
Avebury, L. Emmet of Amberley, B. Munster, E.
Barrington, V. Energlyn, L. Newall, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Enniskillen, E. Northchurch, B.
Belstead, L. Faithfull, B. Onslow, E.
Boothby, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Redesdale, L.
Boyd of Merton, V. Glasgow, E. Robbins, L.
Broadbridge, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Sackville, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. St. Davids, V.
Caithness, E. Hampton, L. St. Just, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Hawke, L. Sandford, L.
Cathcart, E. Hunt, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Colyton, L. Hylton-Foster, B. Selkirk, E.
Cottesloe, L. Inchyra, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Craigmyle, L. Lauderdale, E. Strathcona and Moun Royal, L
Cromartie, E. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Suffield, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Lyell, L. Trefgarne, L.
de Clifford, L. Macleod of Borve, B. Vivian, L.
De Freyne, L. Melville, V. Ward of North Tyneside, B.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Merrivale, L. Wigoder, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Molson, L. Wolverton, L.
Eccles, V. Monck, V.
Ardwick, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Phillips, B.
Birk, B. Jacques, L. [Teller.] Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Brimelow, L. Janner, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Brockway, L. Kirkhill, L. Shepherd, L.
Champion, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Stedman, B.
Collison, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Lyons of Brighton, L. Stone, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Murray of Gravesend, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.) Oram, L. Wells-Pestell, L. [Teller.]
Fisher of Camden, L. Pannell, L. Wigg, L.
Gordon-Walker, L. Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal.) Winterbottom, L.
Hale, L. Peddie, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Henderson, L.

building and equipment have been made available to give full effect to the Secretary of State's approval of the proposals.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 14 and to take with it, if I may, Amendment No. 15. These are a redraft of two Amendments which were discussed in Committee. Their effect is to try to ensure that the necessary resources are provided for proposals approved under Section 13 which have been forced on authorities under the provisions of this Bill.

I shall not repeat the arguments I made during the last stage, pointing out the very difficult economic situation we are in and the year-by-year basis only in which the school building programme now finds itself. But, If I may, I should like to address myself to a point which has not been covered regarding these Amendments and it was contained in a letter which the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, was kind enough to write to me following the last stage. The problem, as I see it, is that the Government, in the drafting of Clause 5, have disregarded the economic problems. The only advice which the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, was able to give during the Committee stage, at column 1599 of the Official Report on 7th October, was when he simply said: Carry on"— Those were his words— get the plans agreed and see what happens. Then the noble Lord was so good as to write to me on the 14th October, and in that letter he added this advice: In a stuation where a local education authority school building allocation was too small to carry out approved proposals, it would be reasonable for the Secretary of State to use the discretion granted in Section 99 and not force a local education authority to implement approved proposals. The noble Lord was referring to Section 99 of the Education Act 1944, which provides that if the Secretary of State is satisfied that any local education authority, any county or voluntary school has failed to discharge any duties imposed on them by or for the purposes of the Act, the Secretary of State may make an order declaring the authority or governors to be in default of that duty and giving such directions for enforcing the execution of that duty as appeared to the Minister to he expedient.

My conclusion from that is that Section 99 confers power on the Secretary of State to enforce a duty and not to absolve an authority or school from fulfilling a duty. Therefore I do not believe that Section 99 covers the case which my Amendments attempt to cover. However, even if Section 99 were to be called in aid here, I still believe these Amendments are necessary. Surely a statutory duty should be subject to a statutory proviso if there is a chance that financial considerations might prevent that duty being fulfilled.

I should like to add just one thing more. At the last stage of the Bill and at this stage I have really been speaking entirely about school buildings, but there is also the question of school equipment and recurrent expenditure. In Committee my noble friend Lord Howe, speaking with personal experience as a former chairman of his education authority, said that Buckinghamshire was facing serious financial problems and that he wondered how a huge school-building programme for comprehensive reorganisation could also be financed so far as equipment and further recurrent expenditure was concerned. The situation is exactly the same in my own authority of Suffolk. We have there centres of population like Mildenhall, Haverhill, Sudbury and the environs of Ipswich, and I know that the authority is having to axe some school building projects because of the lack of resources. There is simply not the money to go round at the moment, and it is for that reason that I have redrafted and now move these two Amendments. My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, I should very much like to support the Amendments so ably moved by my noble friend Lord Belstead. I do so because I am very worried that there will not be the resources available to carry out all these new programmes. There are not enough resources available for existing programmes. I served for nine years on a county council, and for approximately seven years was a governor of a fairly big secondary modern school in Newmarket. I should like to give your Lordships one or two figures from my own county of Suffolk, now that the two Suffolks have been amalgamated. The county council have asked for a programme of school building for next year 1977–78 amounting to £2,800,000, and they have been told that they can have £1,500,000, which is a cut of 50 per cent.

The Member of Parliament has written a strong letter of protest to the Secretary of State for Education about the Mildenhall area. That is an expanding area under the New Towns Act, and it is finding it extremely difficult to finance the programme. There are two primary schools which are bulging; they have built one new high school, and have some what enlarged the secondary modern school, which is now the middle school.

If there is not sufficient money for the present education programme—and there never was during the nine years I served on the county council; we had to do the best we could and put up a lot of rather undesirable temporary buildings—should we embark on a very large extra programme, especially in view of the economic condition of this country? I do not know what this reorganisation will cost, but I have heard that it will cost something like £70 million to implement it fully. So I strongly support my noble friend. I am sure that many other counties are in the same position as Suffolk. I am not saying that we should not cut capital expenditure on all works in these very difficult economic times, but I feel that it is wrong to embark on the further capital expenditure of this reorganisation if we cannot properly finance the present works.

I should have said that Suffolk went over to the comprehensive system some five years ago, organised on primary, middle and upper schools. But it had to be a rather hotchpotch system in many areas, sometimes using two schools to form upper or middle schools and then gradually trying to improve them. I am extremely worried about these primary schools because, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, said the other day, the problem starts in the primary schools and unless they are properly equipped and not too overcrowded there will not be good teaching there. Furthermore, the Prime Minister said at Oxford that we have to get better education in the three Rs. We have discussed mathematics at length, and 1 do not see how there can be proper teaching unless there are proper facilities and a roof over children's heads. Therefore, I strongly support this Amendment.


My Lords, if the Minister is not able to accept this Amendment, I hope that he will at least be able to give very strong assurances that local authorities will not be compelled to organise their schools on the comprehensive principle, when the resources are not there to enable them to do it with competence and to make it a success. I am bound to say that I have no reasonable doubt that the very principle of comprehensive education is endangered. when authorities go comprehensive and do it badly because they haw: not the resources to do it properly. I fear that there are several areas where this may have happened. I believe also that those authorities which are most resistant to the principle of comprehensive education will certainly honour the Bill if it becomes law. Public authorities are responsible bodies. However, I think that they would be greatly encouraged to do so if they had an assurance that the resources would be made available to enable them t do it in a reasonably competent fashion and that they would not be required to do it until these resources were made available. Therefore I hope very much that the Minister can at least express his sympathy with the Amendment, whether or not he is able to accept it.

Viscount ECCLES

I support what the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, has said. I am not quite sure whether it is generally realised that if a grammar school is to become a mini-comprehensive and to admit boys of all types of ability it will probably have to have craft workshops, that if it is a girls' school it will have to have a domestic science block and that if it is a mixed school it will have to have both. Furthermore, since it is the policy of many local education authorities and, I believe, of the Government to do away with single-sex schools, there will be a very large plumbing bill when that is part of the plan for going comprehensive. This is no light matter. The alteration of lavatories, washing places and changing rooms in order to accommodate girls in boys' schools or boys in girls' schools is very expensive. There are well-known cases of this. I am sure the Minister knows that a scheme in Croydon for amalgamating three schools into one comprehensive had to be given up because the money was not available to make the necessary alterations. We want an assurance that where the money is not available to make the elementary alterations so that the equipment of the school measures up to a non-selective intake, the plans will be put into the frigidaire.

3.53 p.m.


My Lords, the concern of noble Lords opposite is very narrow and I think that we should keep it narrow. The general question of the shortage of money is something from which we are all suffering and from which we shall go on suffering during the next Government and the one after that. A great deal of what has been said regarding this Amendment simply means that there will not he enough money for everybody to do everything at once. This has been admitted from the word "go". It was admitted by the previous Secretary of State, by my right honourable friend now and by myself on more than one occasion.

The point at issue in this Amendment is whether a local authority which considers that although a plan has been accepted and that it has an obligation to carry it out, but cannot provide the resources to do it properly, can be forced unreasonably by the Secretary of State to do so. Any proposals submitted under the provisions of Clause 2 of the Education Bill and subsequently approved under Section 13(4) of the Education Act 1944 will place a duty to implement on local education authorities or upon the governors of voluntary schools, but the power to enforce such a duty rests solely with the Secretary of State under the provisions of Section 99 of the 1944 Act to which the noble Lord referred.

Section 99 states that where the Secretary of State is satisfied that a local education authority or the governors of a voluntary school have failed to discharge any duty imposed by the Act she may make an order to enforce the duty. In other words, the Secretary of State's powers are discretionary. When proposals are being approved, that are to be implemented five years ahead, assumptions obviously have to be made about resources: about the probable size of school building programmes and about the possibility of raising capital by off-programme sales of surplus buildings and sites. Such assumptions can be substantially wrong, with the result that the actual financial position that obtains when the proposals are due to be implemented is quite different from the one that was forecast when the proposals were approved. In such a situation it would be reasonable for the Secretary of State to use the discretion granted in Section 99 and not force a local education authority to implement approved proposals. Indeed—here I hope noble Lords will note what I am saying—it would be unreasonable for her not to do so. I can assure the House that she would not do so.

Just to tie up this matter, if the Secretary of State decided—which I think is not something that is likely to happen—to enforce a duty she would need to use Section 99 and this would give the authority a chance to contest the Secretary of State's decision in the High Court. In other words, if the decision was unreasonable the local authority has the normal Common Law recourse to the High Court, who can lay down what is reasonable.

So although I understand what noble Lords are getting at in this Amendment and I do not think it is in any sense what I sometimes have to say, a wrecking Amendment, it is unnecessary. The law takes care of the situation as it is; I have given an assurance of the kind asked for by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, and I hope that will leave noble Lords happy in regard to this particular point even although what I have said has no effect upon the amount of money that will be available, which of course is the really important thing.


My Lords, I should like to look very carefully at what the noble Lord has said about Section 99 before I decide what to do about this Amendment. So perhaps I may make it clear to noble Lords who are still kindly attending the House that I do not intend to press this Amendment at the moment but I most certainly reserve the right to bring it back at the final stage of this Bill because I believe that this is one of the most important Amendments, and I believe it for this reason: when we get someone like the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, who has spent his entire life in education and who understands local authority finance in a way very few other people do, saying that it really is important that finance should be provided for the reorganisation of secondary schools. I think that is advice which should be taken very seriously indeed.

The difficulty to which these two Amendments address themselves is, first, the worry that in the appalling economic climate that we have at the moment there may be suddenly an economic blizzard between the time when proposals are approved by the Secretary of State under Section 13 and the time when they may be implemented, as long as up to five years later, and this is something which might well have happened to proposals which might have been approved in, let us say, 1975 for implementation in 1978. I do not think it would be unreasonable for me to claim that the present economic blizzard might well have bowled an authority out, however willing that authority might be in putting its reorganisation proposals into effect.

The second problem to which these two Amendments are directed is quite simply—and I must be blunt about this—to prevent some authorities from putting up "botched-up" schemes—if I may use that expression-and this is the point to which my noble friend Lord Eccles and also the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, have also addressed themselves. I think anyone who is connected with education at all knows what misery there can be for members of staff and what terrible educational disadvantages there can be for the pupils in schools if authorities say to themselves "we are going to reorganise and we are going to do it whether or not we have the resources."

I should like to add one last point. A very great deal of water has gone under a lot of bridges in the last year and yet as long ago as the 3rd September 1975 the Department of the Environment in their Circular 88.75 laid down—and I quote: There is no scope for increased expenditure in total in real terms in local authority current expenditure in 1976/77. That Circular went on to say: There will thus be no scope for improvement of standards for the education service at any level and only by strict economy and careful planning will it be possible to obviate the need for reductions of standards. Since then there have been reductions of standards in all sorts of different things—school meals, staff, and all the extras like transport and equipment. It is because we are in the gravest economic situation that the Education Service has had to face for many years, and yet at the same time are dealing with a clause in the Bill which lays an absolute duty on authorities to implement what can be very expensive proposals that I reserve the right to bring this Amendment back at the Third Reading stage of the Bill when I have had the chance to read what the noble Lord said about the Secretary of State's power under Section 99. With those words, I now withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.1 p.m.

Lord BELSTEAD moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 5, line 7, at end insert— ("( ) Any proposals approved under section 13 of the Education Act 1944 which are not wholly or partly carried into effect within five years from the date on which the proposals were submitted or transmitted to the Secretary of State, shall be deemed to have lapsed.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the effect of Amendment No. 16 is to ensure that local education authorities which have not been able to put into effect within the five-year period proposals which have been approved under Section 13 of the Education Act 1944 shall have those proposals deemed to be lapsed. As a word of explanation may I say that my memory is that the Department has always reckoned that after a period of five years the Secretary of State would take the view that new proposals would be needed from a local education authority for the reorganisation of schools. Although this has been nothing more than a view which the Department took it has never been written into legislation.

The new factor which Clause 5 is introducing into all this is the absolute duty which Clause 5 is laying upon authorities to implement approved proposals. I take the view that unless an Amendment is made this could mean that proposals many years old could be under a duty to be implemented even though it might be that the authority and the people of the locality might want a revised scheme. I should be most interested to hear what the Government have to say on this Amendment. I have again moved it not in any way with an intention of wrecking but with the genuine belief that there is an administrative difficulty here and I should like to know what the Government think about that. My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, we see very little wrong in principle in this Amendment. It would provide that where more than five years had elapsed since the proposals had been put to the Secretary of State, they should lapse unless they had been put either partly or wholly into effect. There are some obvious difficulties—for example, to establish when a proposal had been put "partly" into effect. A start on building would obviously fall within the definition, but would the appointment of teachers, or the start of a programme of in-service training? There are problems here.

Secondly, the date chosen from which the five years is to be measured is that on which the proposals were submitted or transmitted to the Secretary of State. As noble Lords will appreciate, a considerable time sometimes elapses between the receipt of the proposal and its approval and there may be doubt about when a proposal was transmitted or submitted. A more appropriate date could be that on which the proposals were approved.

However, the problem with this Amendment is the one that afflicts all Amendments that attempt to introduce rigid times and schedules into the administrative process. The Secretary of State does not normally approve proposals that cannot be carried into effect within five years; that is because conditions may change. In five years the bulk of parents will certainly have done so. The purpose of public notices is to inform those concerned, including the parents of children attending schools that are to be changed in some important way.

The point is however that the five-year rule should not be so rigidly applied that it would produce unnecessary expense and effort. While I appreciate the desire of noble Lords to limit the discretionary power of the Executive, there really are some things that are best left on a flexible footing. I suggest that one of these is the length of time that approved proposals may be considered to be live. To kill them automatically at the end of five years would introduce a degree of inflexibility, where common sense rather than rigid rules should be applied. There is really no difference of principle between us and the noble Lord, who has already said that it is customary to write proposals off after five years if they are not in fact carried out, but we would deplore writing this into the Bill for the reasons I have given.1 hope that the noble Lord will not find it necessary to press his Amendment.

4.6 p.m.


My Lords, I have chosen the five-year period because it is the period which is written into the Bill by the Government themselves. Clause 3 says that where any of the proposals submitted or transmitted to the Secretary of State are proposals to be wholly or partly carried into effect within five years, those proposals shall or may be selected by the Secretary of State to go through the Section 13 procedure, and finally he may approve them. That is why I chose the five-year period. I perhaps misled the noble Lord when I reminisced and said that my memory was that the Department looked on the five-year period also as being a reasonable period at the end of which the proposals shall be said to be lapsed. I would have done better in moving the Amendment if I had confined myself to the factual reasons why I chose the five-year period.

Secondly, I wish again that in moving this Amendment I had spelled out the reasons for the Amendment in rather more detail. During a five-year period school populations may shift and change considerably, and in these debates previously we have quoted the extraordinary projection for the child population over the next 12 years. I could hardly believe, in June when I read the Press notice from the Department of Education and Science, that there was this projected fall of 1½ to 2 million pupils over a period of 12 years. I could not believe that it was going to be over a period of 12 years. In a town, area, or county, where any of your Lordships may live, imagine what effect that may have on the child population? In addition to that, during the five-year period a whole generation goes through the schools, and a whole lot of different parents who would want to express a view. That is the second general area I should have liked to cover in speaking again to this Amendment.

The noble Lord said to me that he would have liked to leave it on a flexible basis, and coming from the noble Lord that is a wholly reasonable thing to say. But I must put it to him, I hope as courteously as possible, that whereas I am one of those who have the greatest confidence in the present Secretary of State for Education and Science, Secretaries of State come and go. There have been three in the last two years—and that is more than there should be. We hope that the right honourable lady will be there for many more years than that, unless of course the electorate take a different point of view.

For this reason we are dealing not with proposals which have been put up voluntarily by authorities under Section 13, but with proposals which a Secretary of State has forced local authorities to produce. For this same reason, if you have an authority which has been forced by the Secretary of State to produce proposals to reorganise its schools under Section 13 and if, at the end of five years, it is clear that those proposals cannot be implemented, probably because of lack of funds, I think it would be wholly reasonable at the end of that time that an authority, probably already reluctant, should be allowed at least to produce some fresh proposals. I should like to look again at what the noble Lord has said, and leave myself free to produce this Amendment again, or something like it on the final stage of the Bill if I think that it is necessary to do so. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 [Awards for higher diploma courses]:

4.10 p.m.

Baroness FAITHFULL moved Amendment No. 17: Page 5, line 23, at end insert ("the certificate of qualification in social work.").

The noble Baroness said: I realise that the hour is late, that your Lordships must he tired and that I am moving to an entirely different aspect of the Bill. In Committee I moved, and then withdrew, an Amendment to insert at the end of Clause 7 the words: … the certificate of qualification in social work and the certificate in social services. The Amendment I move today carries only the certificate of qualification in social work. In this revised Amendment I ask for field social work students to be able to be considered by their local education authorities for a grant for training on a mandatory basis. This qualification is achieved after full-time two-yea: training. There are 127 courses, 58 in universities and—this is an important figure—69 in polytechnics and other colleges. There are inevitable constraints against expansion; lack of tutors, lack of practical experience placements and lack of accommodation in universities and polytechnics. In this country we have 13 per cent. untrained probation and aftercare officers and 60 per cent. untrained field social workers who cover work in the fields of mental health, the elderly, the handicapped, the hospital social work service and who work with families and children, which of course includes delinquency and deprivation. Education welfare officers are now entitled to apply for training in social work which accords to them the certificate of qualification in social work, and already many of them have done that.

In Committee on 8th October, in answer to a question by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, said that the Bill was not the place in which to raise the matter of the procedure of funding social work students. She further stated that Clause 7 was not intended to extend the field of mandatory awards, which covered degrees and comparable courses in teacher training leading to the higher diploma of higher education and the higher national diplomas. She admitted, however, that provision was made for a marginal increase in the number of such courses. She went on to say that Clause 7 arose solely out of the decision to replace the present courses for the higher national diplomas by similar courses. She further stated that students attending those courses should continue to receive mandatory awards.

As I said, I seek by this Amendment to clarify and simplify the present complicated procedure of funding social work students through their LEAs. The present position is that there are no less than four methods by which social work students may be funded, leading to the two year full-time course which gains them the certificate of qualification in social work. First, probation and after-care trainees are seconded from probation departments and funded by the Home Office. Secondly, graduates applying to do the course are funded from the Department of Health and Social Security. It is important to note this. Thirdly, social service departments take on trainee social workers. After some time, and if such trainees are suitable, they are seconded for training on a salary to a course, and the salary could be in the realm of £2,300 a year. There should be a replacement while they are away.

There are in this country trainee social workers who have been taken on by departments with the expectation of being seconded and who now find, with the inevitable cut back in local authority social services expenditure, that social services departments cannot now afford to send them for training. If they do, they must cut down services to the elderly, to the handicapped and to families with children. The effect of this is that the trainee cannot have the benefit of training and, secondly, that he or she cannot, as an untrained worker, whatever his or her age or experience, rise beyond a certain point in the salary scale. This is laid down by NALGO.

In her reply on 8th October, the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, said that if students could not now get secondment they could apply for grant to the local education authority. But those already in departments do apply and they are referred back by the education department to the social services department with the advice that they should get secondment. Therefore, such student trainees already working in social services departments fall between two stools, and neither the education department nor the social services department accepts responsibility although they are within the same authority.

The fourth group concerned consists of older people with experience of life who apply to their local education authority for a discretionary grant. They may or may not have had training in their youth. Fewer and fewer grants are being made to such applicants by their local education authority. I should have wished to pursue the advantages of training. It is not possible to quantify the asset of the trained social worker nor to assess his or her cost effectiveness. However, long experience first as a children's officer and then as a Director of Social Services has taught me that the trained worker is more secure, has standing with his or her colleagues in the fields of education and health, knows what work to do and what not to do, knows how to use volunteers and has information and skill in various areas at his or her fingertips. I refer particularly to court work, adoption work and to decisions as to whether or not to remove a person from his home.

Social workers work in co-operation and partnership with teachers, doctors and, for instance, with members of the Supplementary Benefits Commission, and all the information which obtains to other departments they must know. The present financial situation for funding the two-year courses for social workers under the latest Command Paper No. 6393 on local government expenditure poses difficulties. For instance, the Association of County Councils has agreed to keep within the levels of recommended expenditure and has accepted the ceiling laid down in the Command Paper. I can see that acceptance of this Amendment giving local education authorities mandatory powers to fund social work students would be asking them not to cut back on expenditure. I am not asking for extra social workers or for extra courses; I am asking for this only in respect of those who are already working—that is, for the 60 per cent. of untrained workers to have the opportunity of training.

The noble Baroness in her reply agreed the importance of trained workers. Already both graduates and probation officers are funded from the DHSS and Home Office respectively. Why could not students be selected by their education authorities, given a mandatory grant by their education authority, but for the local education authority to receive a grant funded from the Department of Health and Social Security as is already done for the graduate students?

I want to draw your Lordships' attention to the Health Services Bill during consideration of which the noble Lord. Lord Wells-Pestell, said: Your Lordships are too skilled in the art of politics not to know that no time is ever the right time."—[Official Report, 21/10176: col.1579.] He went on to say that in 1945 the Government had not a penny and yet they implemented the National Health Service. The implementation of the Health Services Bill will cost the country £3 million, rising to £20 million. I suggest that the infusion of money—at least it is not an infusion because it is what has been taken away from training—should now he reinserted and that it should be possible for social workers to receive a mandatory training through their local education authorities. I beg to move.

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, however sympathetic I might be to the desirability of securing the training of social workers—and I am completely sympathetic—I very much hope that the House will not accept this Amendment. The certificate in social work, excellent as it is, does not comply with the requirements for mandatory awards and cannot be brought under Section 1 of the Education Act 1962 without raising very wide issues indeed. It is one qualification of which there are hundreds—I hope I do not exaggerate; certainly a very great many—which fall in the area of discretionary awards. I fully accept that, in these days, the moneys available for discretionary awards are limited. This is true and it is creating very real difficulties. But I am quite sure that the acceptance of the Amendment would create even greater difficulties. Therefore I very much hope that the House will not accept it. It would create very great difficulties for local education authorities.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, I acknowledge, as I am sure do all Members of your Lordships' House, the very wide experience of the noble Baroness, Baroness Faithfull, in all matters concerning social services, and again I say that we have considerable sympathy with the aim behind the Amendment and with the need for having a really adequately staffed Social Services Department in every part of the country. But I regret that I have very little, if anything, to add to what I said at the Committee stage when I explained that Clause 7, as it stands, is not intended to extend the field of mandatory awards, which covers degree and comparable courses, initial courses of teacher training and courses leading to the Diploma of Higher Education and the Higher National Diploma. The need for this clause arises solely out of the decision to replace courses for the Higher National Diploma by similar courses run by the new Technician and Business Education Councils. Ii is designed to ensure that students attending these courses receive mandatory awards just as they do at present when they attend courses which lead to the Higher National Diploma.

The noble Baroness has reminded us that the professional qualification for the social worker is the Certificate of Qualification in Social Work and that this can be obtained as a post-graduate qualification end-on to a degree course; there are also, I understand, a few four-year degrees which integrate the academic and the professional qualifications, and a two-year non-graduate qualification. In the latter case the student is outside the mandatory award field, and therefore has to rely on the local education authority discretionary award.

But, as I said in Committee, it has been common practice for many students to be taken on as trainee social workers, and seconded on salary, in order to get their professional qualification, by the local authority social services department. We in the Department are hoping that the local education authorities will be able to keep up their level of discretionary awards, in spite of our current difficulties, and we shall be watching how it develops and shall be keeping it under constant review, particularly when the final decisions have been taken about the 1977/78 fees. But we could not accept the proposed Amendment because the effect of h would be to extend the scope of mandatory awards to cover a new field of courses.

It is difficult, as Lord Alexander of Potterhill reminded us, to see how all this can be justified without including other courses of professional training, without doing much more for the accountancy people, the town planning: people, librarians, and so on. There will be hundreds of courses involved—and, perhaps all the courses even of advanced further education. This would involve us in substantial additional expenditure which the Government could not accept in the present economic climate.

4.25 p.m.


My Lords, nay say a word in support of my noble friend? Listening to the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, and to the noble Baroness, I accept that it might appear to follow from this Amendment that the whole question of eligibility for discretionary awards could be said to be opened up by the Amendment. But I think that a word ought to he said in support of my noble friend Lady Faithfull that this is not quite so straightforward as it may seem. I pin my belief in this on the figures which my noble friend gave in Committee and has given again today showing the very strong need for more training in social work. When my noble friend quotes 60 per cent. untrained social workers in the field, I do not think one needs to say very much more in support of the Amendment and the case she is making today. I wonder whether a case of that sort could be made in support of many of the other mandatory award courses quoted to us by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, towards the end of her speech.

With her close knowledge of this subject my noble friend knows that more training is, in itself, going to be cost effective—and this is an important point. Then, let us not forget that she showed in her speech in Committee that there is very little extra cost in cash terms for the mandatory grant is cheaper than the cost of secondment. For those reasons I find it hard to accept absolutely, although I do so in part, the advice which the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, have given us today.

My noble friend will be wanting to decide what she is going to do with this Amendment. If I may venture to give my noble friend some advice, I think that perhaps we should all be wise to read what has been said during this short debate. There is one more stage of the Bill still to go. In particular, I think that my noble friend who has moved the Amendment, with her knowledge of local government finance, would want particularly to read what the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, has said in giving assurances about the future and keeping a close eye on what is going to happen. We all know it is not going to be long before local government expenditure comes under close scrutiny again. The Government cannot help this. In the light of those considerations, my noble friend might use the weekend to decide what she would like to do with the Amendment before coming to the final stage of this Bill.


My Lords, may I follow my noble friend on one point which he said should be borne in mind while my noble friend and others are considering what is to be done. It is the question of the percentage of untrained field workers. That is a matter which has been brought to our notice—on occasion by my own instrumentality—on every occasion where a case of non-accidental injury to children has arisen. There was a whole succession of cases, starting with Maria Colwell, and going on with Lisa Godwin; and there is a whole tragic catalogue which I shall not repeat. I urge your Lordships to remember that considerable issues are at stake which may not be apparent from the dry matter of the Amendment, and above all, when there is a shortage of funds, what we must consider in allocating those funds is a priority. Although there may be an embarrassment of expenditure in one field since it entails curtailment in another, there are occasions when that change of emphasis in resources ought to be made. I hope that noble Lords who address themselves to this matter in the intervening days will bear that in mind.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, may I make one point? It is that the qualifications to get on to one of the social work certificate courses at the moment is below the present standard required for the mandatory award courses. It would also represent a change of policy in respect of the academic standards covering the courses. This would take the issue wider than just this Bill or this particular point.


My Lords, as one coming from Oxford to the noble Baroness from Cambridge, I have to say that I would want to reconsider her last point and wonder whether those in training in social work would agree. But it is late. I would greatly enjoy a debate, but I think it would be right for me to follow the suggestion from the Front Benches. I shall think of what has been said, pursue the last comment by the noble Baroness, and reserve the right to put down this Amendment at Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 [Married persons of compulsory school age]:

4.31 p.m.

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 18: Leave out Clause to.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is to leave out Clause 10 from the Bill. The ground was covered at Committee stage by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross, who regrets that he is unable to be here. If noble Lords envy him perhaps it should not be quite so plain on their countenances. In his speeches on the subject, he led us into some fascinating implications implicit in the drafting of this clause. They depended on such matters as Moslem marriages, girls married at the age of 16 or married children at 15-plus arriving in Rolls-Royces at school. There was an agreeable illustration of absurdity in the case of the wife of an itinerant, or peripatetic musician. These minutiae could be elaborated, but it should be done by somebody like the late A. P. Herbert, and this is not the occasion to do it. It is worth noting that, in almost every case one can imagine, by the time the administrative and legal processes envisaged by this clause had come to effect the child in question would no longer be a child and would no longer be subject to the Bill. That seems, if not an A. P. Herbert situation, at least a Gilbertian situation.

We should not put ourselves into the position where it may be said of the law by somebody like Mr. Bumble: "If the law says such a thing then the law is an ass". We may think such is the case or we may not. The very important point that we should hear in mind is that we do not know what the Commons thinks because it has not considered the matter. We have made complaint before—I will not make much of it now—of the way in which legislation of a controversial nature is handled. It is fair to make the point—this is not a Party point—that the result here has been that the other place were not able to consider the material before it came here. It is patently obvious in something so technical, complicated and with such odd implications that it should be. The obvious solution to this dilemma is for the other place to have the opportunity to consider what they have not considered. I hope they will not remonstrate with us for doing this. I beg to move.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, may I say at the outset that we are accepting the Amendment. As the node Lord said, the Commons had no or opportunity to discuss this on the Floor of the House. It was inserted by Standing Committee against the Government's advice. The vote was nine in favour and sever against. All the Conservative Members and two Labour Members who were present voted for the clause and then, because of the time-table Motion, it was not discussed in the House of Commons on Report. In Committee here, we tried our best to put down some Amendments to remove some of the technical defects in the drafting of the Bill as it arrived in our House. I do not think I need say much about the purpose of the clause, which is really to transfer the responsibility for school attendance from the parents of a married 16 year old, to the girl or boy in question. In the Government's view, as the former Minister of State said in another place, it is hardly necessary or even desirable.

There is no Party issue here. The clause is in no way related to the main purpose of the Bill that we are discussing. Therefore, I hope that the House will accept the joint advice of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and myself, and let us agree to delete this clause here; let it return to another place for them to consider with such other Amendments as we have made so that there is then an opportunity for the whole of the Commons to discuss the matter for the first time and make up their minds on it.


My Lords, as has been said, there is something of a dog's breakfast in this clause. To get the whole thing right, one or two things are needed. One is withdrawal of the whole clause. I am delighted that the Government have accepted the Amendment. My honourable friend in the other place Mr. Clement Freud voted against this clause. That is not the complete answer; Dr. Marshall had a very real point. It is an absolute nonsense that the parents should be responsible for a married person going to school. It is equally a nonsense to pass a long and highly involved clause lice this to put the matter right.

I suspect that we ought to face up to the fact that there is no point in trying to keep a married child of 16 at school if he or she does not want to attend. My Party have for the past couple of years or so been saying that the whole matter of school-leaving age should be made more flexible than it is. This is one of the cases where it should be. It is therefore my intention to follow up the good work being done by deleting this Clause 10 by putting down an Amendment for Third Reading which will remove compulsory school attendance from any married child of 16. I can see some arguments against it, just as I can see some strong arguments for it. This is not the moment to debate it. I thought it was worth while saying that that was my intention. I think that these two fit together.


There is little for me to say except to thank the noble Baroness for her shared view and also for drawing to your Lordships' attention that we are on this occasion on this side of the House operating in a contrary sense to the votes of our friends in another place, which she may think is of some note. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, for giving notice of his intention of tabling what may be seen as a solution to the problem or an inducement to marry rather earlier than usual by some reluctant pupils.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

The CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (The Earl of Listowel)

I call Amendment No. 19.


Not moved.




I apologise. It has been spoken to already by my noble friend.

Lord DONALDSON of KINGSBRIDGE moved Amendment No. 19: After Clause 10, insert the following new clause—

Pupils requiring special educational treatment

.—(1) For section 33(2) of the Education Act 1944 there shall be substituted— (2) The arrangements made by a local education authority for the special educational treatment of pupils of any such category shall, subject to subsection (2A) of this section, provide for the education of the pupils in county or voluntary schools. (2A) Where the education of the pupils in such schools as aforesaid—

  1. (a) is impracticable or incompatible with the provision of efficient instruction in the schools; or
  2. (b) would involve unreasonable public expenditure,
the arrangements may provide for the education of the pupils in special schools appropriate to the category to which the pupils belong or in schools not maintained by a local education authority and for the time being notified by the Secretary of State to the authority as in his opinion suitable for the purpose.

(2) The entry relating to the said section 33(2) in Schedule I to the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953 is hereby repealed.

(3) This section shall not come into force until such day as may be appointed by the Secretary of State by order made by statutory instrument.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I thought that the evil thing I had been worried about earlier on had come to pass!