HL Deb 24 March 1980 vol 407 cc447-534

2.49 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Change of nomenclature]:

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 1Z:

("Page 1, line 15, at end insert— (2A) It shall no longer be a requirement that the rules in accordance with which a secondary school is conducted under Section 3(b) be approved by the Minister ").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I apologise for the two manuscript Amendments Nos. 1Z and 1Y, which go with Amendment No. 1 on the Marshalled List. The extra amendments are to make the drafting correct, which apparently was not so in the first place. At the Committee stage, I moved an amendment which aimed to put the articles of government of primary and secondary schools on the same footing. My aim was that the articles of government of primary schools should go to the Minister to be approved, as do secondary school articles.

I think everybody agreed that primary education was equally important and there was a certain amount of sympathy in the Committee for the amendment. However, the Minister said that it would make too much work for the department. At first, she said that it would mean 23,000 articles of government going to the department, but I pointed out that each local authority would have only one, so it would be only 104. In the end this amendment was defeated.

I am now trying to do it the other way round and to say that neither need go to the department. This would save work in the department and would mean that both types of education were on the same footing. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, suggested that this might be done. I am going to quote from the Minister's reply, which I must admit I did not find altogether satisfactory. She said: The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked me whether we could not get some kind of parity of treatment between primary and secondary schools, and suggested that if we could not get any agreement on the powers of school governing bodies, the matter should be left for the local education authorities themselves to decide. If in fact that is the wish—and it is certainly not a matter which we as a Government have considered; I merely state it because our thinking would probably be in that direction, rather than in the other—it is precisely the reverse of what the amendment is asking for ".

Now this amendment is asking for it. The Minister went on: I have been asked in particular why the Secretary of State approves the articles of secondary schools, but not of primary schools. The answer is that there are model articles laid down, based upon the proposals written in 1945, but quite a large number of authorities and secondary schools vary very widely from what has been suggested, from the model rules; in fact, they do have to be looked at by the Secretary of State. One of the difficulties is that because there would be so many more primary schools they would have to be looked at, too ".—[Official Report, 10/3/80; cols. 563 and 564.]

I do not think that that does say why they have to be different. Both the Minister and Dr. Boyson during the Commons Committee stage objected to taking away power from the local authorities. Dr. Boyson said, To transfer the power to the Secretary of State would be totally against the philosophy we are forming of devolving power to the local authorities ".

So I am asking whether the power can be devolved to give parity of treatment to primary and secondary schools by saying that the articles of government of secondary schools need not go. I beg to move.


My Lords, I should like very strongly to support my noble friend. I do not think it matters very much whether the secondary school articles go to the Minister or whether the primary school articles go to him, so long as there is a common policy for both. Both are equally important stages of education. Some people would say that the primary is more important than the secondary stage because it lays the original foundations for what follows. Others will feel that the secondary is more important because there is probably greater variety at that stage. However, what I want to emphasise, and I think I said it during the Committee stage, is that the only distinction between primary and secondary education in this respect is a distinction of class and social status. We have lived with that since the 1870s—slightly, but not very much, before my time. It has been very deeply impressed upon me through all the Education Acts that we have had since, notably the famous Butler Act, that distinctions were made which had no educational significance but purely a social significance. On that ground I wish very strongly to support my noble friend.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, in answering these two paving amendments for the principal amendment that the noble Baroness, Lady David, is moving, I am very conscious that this is a most ingenious argument, based on what I said at the Committee stage of the Bill. Having re-read my remarks and, indeed, hers, I see why she is doing it.

Let me say at the outset that I cannot accept what the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, has said: that the Government feel that primary schools are of less importance. For the first time ever, we are legislating in this Bill for there to be governing bodies of primary schools. Although it is perfectly true that many authorities have primary schools with separate managing bodies, there are others which do not. Therefore, we think that to give primary schools governing bodies by statute for the first time marks a major advance. We do it because we believe in the importance of governing bodies and because we believe in the importance of primary schools. To suggest that any part of this legislation is somehow demoting primary schools and making them of less account would be quite wrong and quite unjustified.

Secondly, can I make it quite clear that when I made the remarks that I did during the concluding part of the debate at the Committee stage of this Bill—in which I said that I thought the Government were not prepared at this stage to alter the fact that they had decided that the articles of secondary schools should still be approved by the Secretary of State but not those of primary schools, and that if we were going to make an alteration we should do what the noble Baroness is asking for now—this was not meant to imply that we proposed at this stage of the Bill to make a major alteration of that kind. In the first plac it would be quite improper to agree to anything of this nature without discussing it with our partners in the education service, which clearly we have not had time to do. It would mean a major departure from what has been the agreed practice ever since 1944, and therefore certainly not one to be taken on an amendment moved at Report during the very last stages of the Bill.

I hope these reasons will satisfy the House that we have considered this matter very carefully; that in the first part of this Bill we are legislating to have governing bodies of primary and secondary schools; that we are laying down the minimum requirements about them; that we believe this to be a major advance; but that we are not prepared at this stage to alter what has been the practice now for very many years, indeed, since 1944, and certainly not without further consultation.

I regret that this is not an amendment that I can accept or that I can ask the House to accept at this stage. I believe that the dialogue which takes place between the department and the local authorities over the content of articles provides a very useful sounding board for both the authorities and the Secretary of State, and I would not want to do away with that at this stage of the Bill.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, I have listened with care to what the Minister has said. Although I cannot altogether accept her arguments, I do accept the argument that perhaps it would not be right to do this without first consulting the local authorities. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 1 Y not moved.]

[Amendment No. 1 not moved.]

Clause 2 [Requirements as to governing bodies]:

2.59 p.m.

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 2: Page 2, line 32, at end insert (" and this governor shall not serve longer than twelve months after any child of his has ceased to be a pupil at the school.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the Minister was kind enough to write me a long letter after the Committee stage about parent governors at voluntary aided schools. I was satisfied with the first half of her answer but I was not totally satisfied with the second. In her letter she said that the term of office of a foundation governor is normally limited to three or four years and that if in the interim his child—that is, the child of a parent foundation governor—left the school he would not be eligible for reappointment. Therefore, he would probably serve at the most only about 18 months after the child left.

I do not think the Minister has considered that possibly the foundation parent governor might be appointed only a year before the child left. Therefore, that parent governor might have three years left on the governing body after the child had gone. This is my reason for tabling this amendment again, because I believe it to be important that parent governors should actually have children in the school.


My Lords, when this matter was discussed in Committee it was explained that the amendment, as drafted, would not achieve the desired effect because the use of the words "any child" would mean that a parent with more than one child in the school would have to cease to be a governor not more than 12 months after the eldest child left school, notwithstanding that he had one or more other children at school. It was also explained that there was nothing between the two sides of the Committee in principle and my noble friend Lady Young undertook to write to the noble Baroness, Lady David, and indeed did write to her, explaining how the Government saw the provisions of the Bill working in practice in relation to parents on the governing bodies of voluntary aided schools.

Perhaps I should remind the House of the background against which the provisions of the Bill should be seen. The composition of the governing bodies of voluntary aided schools is determined by their instruments of government which, by virtue of Section 17(2) of the 1944 Act, are made by the Secretary of State. Clause 2 of the Bill requires the Secretary of State, when making such an instrument, to include provisions complying with subsections (4) and (5) of the Bill.

Subsection (4)(b) will require the instrument of government of an aided school to provide specifically that at least one of the foundation governors should be appointed by virtue of the fact that he was the parent of a registered pupil at the school at the time of his appointment. The term of office of such a governor will automatically be limited to the normal term of office of foundation governors—namely, three or four years, and if in the interim his child left the school he would not be eligible for reappointment in the same capacity at the end of the term of office. Therefore, the balance of the term of office outstanding when the child left school would in all probability in most cases be no more than a year to 18 months—not very different from the period proposed in this amendment. But if when we consult about these matters it seems sensible none the less to place a further restriction upon the term of office of such a governor, we should be able to do so either in the course of making the instrument of government or through the regulations which we make under Clause 4. We understand the concern expressed by the noble Baroness, but assure her that there will be a further opportunity if difficulties are experienced in practice. In those circumstances we are unable to accept the amendment.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, if the Government are prepared to re-examine the matter when they consult about the terms of office of governors, and I can be given that assurance, I would be prepared to withdraw the amendment.


My Lords, I gladly give that assurance.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.4 p.m.

Lord BEAUMONT of WHITLEY moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 2, line 45, at end insert— (" ( ) Local education authorities in appointing governors as laid down in subsections (2), (3) and (4) above shall have regard to the desirability of appointing persons:

  1. (a) with special knowledge of educational matters,
  2. (b) with personal links with the relevant school,
  3. (c) living in the immediate neighbourhood of the school.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, when we considered this question in Committee the matter for various reasons got slightly mixed up with an admirable amendment tabled by my noble friend Lady Seear on the subject of governors with experience of industry. This amendment relates to a separate series of qualifications which we believe should be taken into account when governors are appointed. I apologise to the House for the fact that the amendment was misdrafted. As was pointed out by the Minister at the time, subsections (3) and (4) are applicable only to subsection (2). If the House agrees to accept the amendment, those provisions can be deleted.

The Government have been adamant in their stand on the fact that we should not write into the Bill qualifications of one kind or another other than those which they themselves have already written in, some of which are extremely good. The stand taken by the Government does not appear to me to be all that logical. I do not see how they can take the view that only their views as to what should appear in the Bill are correct and that other matters should be excluded. I do not think a line can be absolutely drawn in the place in which the Government have drawn it. I am asking the Government to think again about the desirability of including these particular matters.

Noble Lords will remember that in Committee the noble Lord, Lord James, asked where one would obtain boards of governors which did not contain people who lived in the immediate neighbourhood of the school or with personal links with the relevant school. The answer is now as it was then, that one experiences that kind of situation in run-down, down-town areas. I think that it is important that we should try to achieve the ideas behind the amendment. We should think about the necessity of this kind of involvement with the school on the part of those who are to sit on these governing boards. I ask the Government to think again.


My Lords, what exactly does this amendment mean? Let us take the first provision: with special knowledge of educational matters". What on earth does that mean? I have special knowledge, since I was educated—or partly so. Does it mean anything? Then let us take the words: with personal links with the relevant school ". Does that apply to my grandfather in relation to a particular school? It seems to me to mean virtually nothing. Then there is the provision: living in the immediate neighbourhood of the school ". What is the "immediate neighbourhood"? Does it mean five miles, 10 miles, IS miles or 50 miles away from the school? I do not think the drafting of the amendment means anything at all.


My Lords, just as everybody who goes to church is not expected to be a Christian, I would point out that everybody who goes to school is not a scholar, nor is everybody who goes to school necessarily able to contribute to an important extent at a different level. It is clear that there are people with special knowledge of educational matters who have a special contribution to make and who should be recruited in a particular area. Although the original provisions in the Bill do not specifically exclude them, I believe that it is thought helpful in this amendment specifically to include them.


My Lords, I wish to express agreement with my noble friend Lord Derwent on the subject of educational qualifications. Would a person covered by the amendment be required to have attended university? That may be relevant in the view of some people. Possibly a knowledge of medical matters might be useful for a member of a board. I cannot see any point in this amendment. As for the phrase"the immediate neighbourhood ", does that refer to being in the same street, or within five miles, 12 miles, or what?


My Lords, I wish to express my complete agreement with the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod. This amendment, and indeed the following amendment, simply suggest that those who appoint governors should be sensible. It is surely incredible that such a requirement should have to be spelt out in the Bill. One can imagine all sorts of other desiderata which might be spelt out in a Bill, but surely one does not wish to inflict such minutiae as these in what will become an Act of Parliament.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Parry, I think said that everyone who goes to church is not necessarily a devotee. May I say that everyone, even in Her Majesty's Government, who speaks on education is not necessarily an expert on the subject! An expert, maybe not, but knowledgeable, one would hope, at least to some extent. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, raised this point in almost precisely the same way at Committee stage and he argued then that the House should agree to this amendment to give local authorities a push in the right direction when deciding whom to appoint to school governing bodies. I think everyone would share his intentions in our common wish to see appointed people who are concerned and who take a real interest in the affairs of the school. But as we have previously pointed out, and as the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and my noble friend Lady Macleod of Borve so rightly said, if we apply those criteria then we must apply others as well and a whole list could be drawn up. I think at Committee stage I referred to some nine or 10 different groups which one might say might be represented—higher and further education, industry, commerce, agriculture, community relations, non-teaching staff, pupils, trade unions, employers, universities. Really, the list is almost endless; and where would one start and where finish?

The Government's approach to these matters is quite clear. We have decided as a matter of principle that the Bill should contain the minimum of prescription about the composition of school governing bodies. Within the broad framework laid down by Clause 2, which ensures a minimum level of teacher and parent representation, we think it right to leave determination of the detailed composition and overall size of governing bodies for local education authorities themselves to decide, and I am sure that we should leave it to them to decide on what basis to make appointments that adequately and appropriately affect local circumstances and needs.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, I am afraid that I do not find the Minister's reply altogether satisfactory. I think at Committee stage he said the same thing about the minimum prescription but, if I may say so, there is no prescription in this clause. It may be a useless clause, but it is a clause to remind those who are appointing governing bodies of certain things that they should keep in mind. Of course there are many other things that one might remind them of, but my noble friend thought that these three were very important—and so do I. I cannot see that any harm is done by reminding local authorities of this. When the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, said that any sensible appointing authority would already do this, I fully agreed with him, but the fact is that one finds schools where the appointing body has not done this, and to give them that additional reminder seems to me to be worth doing.

It is on that basis that my noble friend tabled this amendment again, and I hope that the Government will think about it. It may be that it could be done in some other way but, although these things do not cover the whole picture, I am particularly keen about those who have personal links with the school. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, made some fun of this and suggested that it did not mean anything. I do not think it is necessary to interpret this clause with a legal eye; it is simply suggesting the sort of things that should be in people's minds, and I think that someone with personal links with a school can be a useful member of the governing body. During the Second Reading debate I suggested that the governing body should somehow be closer to the school than just a body of people who have a formal responsibility, and it was rather with that in mind that my noble friend tabled this amendment again. I hope that the Government will give some thought to it.


My Lords, I have been a governor of a grammar school and chairman of a primary school for a great many years and I have never known an occasion when these matters were not taken into account. Therefore I think the words suggested in the amendment are superfluous.


My Lords, by leave of the House I should like just to say that the sentiments expressed by my noble friend Lord Derwent in my opinion were fair and proper and apposite. Of course one would agree with the philosophy behind the amendment and would surely expect and hope that those who make such appointments would do so in the knowledge of all the qualities that the particular schools in question needed to have in their governors. In my own experience this has always been so. There really is no reason to suspect that it would not continue to be so, and in those circumstances the Government would have to ask the noble Lord whether he would be prepared to withdraw the amendment.


My Lords, I do not quite understand how one can agree with the philosophy of this if one also agrees with the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, who made a perfectly clear point that it means nothing. I should have thought that the philosophy ought to mean something, and these three things are only considered desirable and are not considered to be mandatory. It is desirable that one should have some general knowledge of education and, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, that does not mean that one was educated oneself. So was I and so was he—and with what results, in my case! It means that one has had some opportunity or attempt, however unsuccessful, to educate other people. I should have thought that "personal links with the relevant school" does not simply mean that I happen to have been at Charterhouse or Gutta Percha or Eton, or wherever it was; it might mean that one has an interest in the school' possibly through one's family. I have remote ancestors who founded a great many working men's schools at a time when they were not fashionable, and it might mean that such a man would take more interest in such a school than he would in other circumstances. That might be a bad reason, but it seems to me to be a possible one.

Lastly, referring to the point of "living in the immediate neighbourhood", I think it is carrying it a little far to say that there is no such thing as an "immediate neighbourhood". If one can get to the school at regular intervals without having to hire Concorde I should have thought that was one of the things that might be taken into account as being desirable; but as my noble friend on the Front Bench has said, this is only a question of three things which might be thought desirable. With great respect, I, too, think that they are desirable.


My Lords, perhaps I may be permitted to add one further point which I believe has not been adumbrated so far. It is this: at Committee stage I remember the Minister agreeing with me—at least I think he did—that it was desirable that there should not be automatic political appointments of governors. I think we said that at Committee stage, without any party feelings at all, because it is known on all sides that political parties in some areas are in the habit of inviting people who are members of the political parties to serve as governors if they would like to, or they put forward other nominations. In saying this I am not decrying the many worthy governors who are put forward by political parties, be they Conservative, Labour or Liberal. But all too often it is a question of: "We are expected to nominate three or four people to this school. Who can we think of and who is prepared to volunteer?"

One of the desirable factors of this amendment is that it shows that Parliament had in mind not the automatic appointment of political nominees, and that indeed local education authorities ought to look to the qualifications. If they happen to fall among political nominees, all well and good; but if they do not and there are not any suitable candidates, then they ought to be looking elsewhere for this sort of qualification. I remember at the previous stage the noble Baroness, Lady Young, saying that she thought one of the amendments I had the privilege of moving did not in fact achieve this aim, and I gathered from that that she was looking for other amendments that might. I suggest most respectfully to the Front Bench opposite that this is just such an amendment that may serve that very useful purpose.


My Lords, I do not think this amendment matters one way or the other. As to the effect it might have in preventing party political appointments to governing bodies, I would remind your Lordships that in the provision for co-opted members of education committees this provision relating to persons with knowledge of education has been in the statutes since 1944, and I can only assure you that it has had no such effect.


My Lords, I would thank all noble Lords who have spoken, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who I think put this in its context. I really am appalled at one or two of the replies we have had from the Government Benches. I think the tone was set by the courteously phrased remarks of the noble Lord diagonally opposite to me, who said that in the schools of which he had been a governor there had not been any doubt that this happened. I know this is so. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, seemed to think that the amendment meant nothing. Admittedly, it is not a prescriptive amendment, but it does mean something, because unknown to a lot of noble Lords on those Benches there are plenty of schools in this country where the governors do not include anyone who knows anything about educational matters, nor anyone who is even a vague relation of any child within that school, nor anyone who would be seen dead living in the immediate neighbourhood, which means the catchment area of that school, because the people who are appointed are not the people who live in those rundown areas and who send their children to those schools. That is absolutely true, and really it should be taken into consideration. But having said all that, it is quite clear that the Government are adamant, and I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.23 p.m.

Lord STEWART of FULHAM moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 3, line 28, at end insert— (" ( ) In the appointment of Governors consideration shall be given to persons with knowledge of further and higher education, industry, commerce, nad agriculture: and, where appropriate, of community relations.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it can be said of this amendment, as of the last one, that it does not so much prescribe as give advice to people who are appointing governors, or at any rate requires them to consider certain points. Where it differs from the previous amendment is that it looks outwards from the school to the world outside. When we were discussing the previous amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, objected to it on the ground that it was simply saying that the people who appoint governors ought to be sensible. In this amendment at any rate I think we are asking rather more of them than that; we are asking that they should be sufficiently imaginative to consider the needs which the school will have to serve. It is always important to remember that a school is not, as public school housemasters used to inform their boys, a world in miniature. It is only a preparation for the much wider life outside. It used to be the practice of worthy persons at prize-givings to inform the children that their school days were the happiest days of their lives. That must have been extrememly depressing news to the children always assuming—which we need not necessarily assume—that the children were listening. The point I am making is that a school in its nature is not something complete in itself. It is preparing young people for all aspects of life, for their duties and for their power of enjoyment of life. That is why it is important, when any group of people are considering appointing governors, not to think only of the immediate connection of such persons with schools but what knowledge of the outside world they can bring to the school. One of the most valuable things in the whole process of education is for young persons to see before them examples of an experienced, educated, civilised adult. In the process of education one always learns far more by example than by instruction.

That is why we have cast the net rather wider than in the previous amendment, and, I venture to suggest, drawn attention to some matters which those appointing governors might not necessarily have thought of. I think one must stress at the present stage of our development in this country the last phrase, "where appropriate, of community relations". I am not sure that at my age I can hope to live to see it, but I hope that there will come a time in this country where we simply need not bother to talk about community relations and need lay no more stress on the colour of people's skins than the colour of their hair. But we all know we are not yet at that situation, and the relationships between people of different races in this country is still a matter that requires special attention. In a neighbourhood where there is a community relations problem I think it is worth while underlining the fact that attention should be given to this in the appointment of governors. The point of what was saying earlier was this: We are still at the stage of our civilisation where we cannot take harmonisation of community relations entirely for granted. We need occasionally to underline the need, to spell it out in a statute. I hope, therefore, that the Government will give careful consideration to this amendment. My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, I should like cordially to support my noble friend in this amendment and to endorse the grounds on which he has introduced it, that it does bring knowledge of the outside world under consideration when governors are appointed. The only thing that troubles me a little is the phrase," where appropriate, of community relations". "Community relations" has conic to have a rather specialised meaning in this country. I should have thought that "community relations", as those words normally are understood in English, meant relations between all members of the community. But it has come to have this particular meaning of racial relations, and therefore the words, "where appropriate", are put in front of it, because it would not perhaps he particularly appropriate to put somebody with specialised knowledge of relations between ourselves and persons of Asian origin in an area where there were no such persons.

In a sense, it gives me a discriminatory feeling. I feel that if "agriculture" had been put in"where appropriate", it would be less discriminatory, because it may not be very sensible to ensure that governors of schools in Stepney have a wide knowledge of agriculture. I feel a little uneasy about this point. I would much prefer that "community relations" was left without these particular words to call attention to it. After all, persons appointing governors are only obligated to consider, and presumably if they considered whether they wanted persons versed in agriculture they would dismiss it very quickly in Stepney. As long as "community relations" has this peculiar meaning—and I agree with my noble friend; I hope it will soon lose it—they will consider whether community relations are strained or likely to be strained in their particular area. I hope perhaps my noble friend would agree, even at the ultimate stage, to reproduce this amendment without this curious discriminatory qualification.


My Lords, I believe that the last point which the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, raises almost makes the case, in that when you start to specify in great detail, when you start to lay open to analysis some of the categories proposed, you bring into question many aspects. Indeed, what was said in the discussion on the previous amendment is also not inapposite. The fact is that the more one seeks to lay down and to specify, the more difficulties one can run into. It seems to me that if we are saying to local education authorities —and I think that I am quoting correctly what the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, said—that they should appoint those who have knowledge of the outside world, then that is fine and I am sure that that is right. The noble Lord hoped that those appointing would appoint people who might not have been thought of. hence the need to specify them as in the amendment.

However, it seems to me that that is precisely what, in the main, local education authorities do. Again, I know of very many, but I do not know of any which are not so concerned to ensure that they appoint just those sort of people, perhaps not always with the results most desired. The whole matter turns, as do so many amendments to the early clauses of the Bill, on the extent to which one does or does not wish to leave matters to the good sense of the individual authorities. I believe that that is something we must do. Overall the record is not such a bad one as to indicate that we should try to be too specific.

I think that we said during our discussions in Committee that no one would quarrel with the sentiments behind the amendment. But the more one seeks to specify, the more one runs into difficulties, and that is why I fear that we should not accept the amendment and that we should be willing to leave it to the good sense of the authorities themselves.

Baroness BACON

My Lords, this is a rather mild amendment. It does not lay down that the local authorities must appoint certain people. It just says: In the appointment of Governors consideration shall be given to those persons. If the amendment were included in the Bill it would bring home to local authorities the desirability of considering the people who are named in the amendment. I think that is particularly so as regards the last part of the amendment where it says: where appropriate, of community relations". The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, knows certain areas of Leeds as well or perhaps better—I do not know—than I do. He knows that there are certain areas, for instance, Chapeltown, where it is most appropriate that somebody with knowledge of community relations should be appointed, or at least considered by the local authority to be appointed as a governor. I do not see any harm in putting this amendment into the Bill. It does not lay down that these people must be appointed; it merely jolts the local authorities into considering such people as mentioned in the amendment.

Baroness SEEAR

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, said that, in the main, this practice was carried out. It has been the burden over and over again of the argument against this amendment and the previous amendment that, in the main, most appointing bodies do these things. However, surely the point of a great deal of our law is that a minority do not do the things that they ought to do. That applies to the great mass of laws governing domestic relations. If one argues that, because most people behave in a sensible way, we should have a law to deter those who do not conform, then a great many of the laws of this country would never have been passed. Why do we apply that little argument to this particular amendment when it is accepted as regards the great mass of legislation that we legislate because there are a certain number of people who do not behave in a sensible way? There are some silly people around, and surely that is agreed in your Lordships' House?


My Lords, if the local authority is not going to do what it should do, then this amendment will not make it do it.


My Lords, many of your Lordships have debated many Education Bills, more often than I have done so. But, in every education debate in which I have taken part since becoming a Member of your Lordships' House, someone from either side of the House has made the point strongly—and I must say that noble Lords who are now on the opposite side of the House have made the point most strongly of all—that one of the weaknesses of the British education system is that it appears to be geared to the detriment of industry and the manufacturing side of our industry. We have had long debates in this House in which many noble Lords have urged that point. It seems to me that they are now in a position to prove that they mean it. Without giving way to any great degree on the philosophy of the Bill contained in this little clause to which there is tabled this amendment, they can now show that this Government, today's Government, recognise that it is essential that, in a period when our basic industry is in decline (and I have made that point before), there would be on the governing body of each of our schools someone who is able to contribute something by way of informing the school and helping the school to develop a direction towards interesting its pupils and its staff in industry. it is absolutely essential that we do that. If it were only for that reason alone, I would urge my own Front Bench to stand on this particular clause because it illustrates our concern about informing the education process, at all levels, of the importance of productive industry.


My Lords, I am sure that many noble Lords would entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Parry. However, I agree with the Minister, because we cannot specify all the different categories that there could be as regards members of governing bodies. To specify them in legislation and to include them in the Bill would, in my view, be absolutely wrong. I had it in mind to table an amendment specifying that an old girl or an old boy of the said school should be a member of the governing body. However, I felt that that was wrong because it would make the whole Bill too specific. If noble Lords are going to say that the people who appoint governors have no common sense, have no knowledge of what is right for their school, then I am sorry to say that they have no respect for the heads of those schools and I entirely agree with my noble friend the Minister.

The Lord Bishop of BLACKBURN

My Lords, is not the spirit of this amendment covered already in the Bill in Clause 2? If there is a minor authority, the minor authority shall appoint, and we have a parent governor. It would seem that the concern is that, as regards an agricultural area, somebody with a knowledge of agriculture should be on the board. If one is considering a school in an agricultural area, I should have thought that the chances are that one of the parents would be involved in that industry. If, on the other hand, one is in the middle of Preston, and living in an area where most of the children in the school may be of a different racial origin, then presumably one of the parents in that school would be living next door to such a person and would have knowledge of community relations immediately rather than professionally. Is not that what is wanted? Therefore, is not what is desired already covered?

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, I would venture to suggest that it is not. We are not specifying who is to be on the board. We are suggesting guidelines. I think it is quite obvious that many governing bodies do not include the sort of people they should include. I shall quote from one of my favourite chief education officers, Doctor Owens from North Yorkshire, who in an article this week wrote about how the Education Bill has dealt with Taylor. He says: Nothing is said in the Bill about Taylor's representatives of the community". Then comes the part that I want your Lordships to pay attention to: We all know of the limitations of a governing body consisting solely of nominees narrowly conceived from prescribed organisations. The aim should be to recognise the valuable part which governors from, e.g., industry, commerce and the trade unions can play, without seeking to prescribe in detail how local education authorities should achieve what is widely agreed to be required ". He is a chief education officer with very wide experience of governing bodies and he thinks that there is a need to have people from industry, commerce and so on, which is what this amendment attempts to do. I ask noble Lords, what harm can it do to include this in the Bill? —as my noble friend Lady Wootton asked at the Committee stage. It is an important amendment, particularly so in the parts about industry and commerce. I hope that noble Lords will support it.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, the indications seem to be that the Government will dig in their heels about this, though I hope that they will not. If that is what they intend to do, is there any possibility of the noble Lord or his colleagues saying that they will include some advice on these lines in a circular to local education authorities?


My Lords, I had hoped that we would have a more helpful reply from the Government on this. If I may refer for a moment to the words of the right reverend Prelate, he argued that what we are suggesting can, by implication, already be found in Clause 2 of the Bill. However, the difference is that Clause 2 sets out the kind of people the governors must be; it says that some must be drawn from one category and some from another. Part of the trouble is that in the process of making quite sure that they have a parent governor, so many from the local education authority, so many from the foundation, and so on, they may overlook the question: what kind of people are they personally? In Clause 2 we are imposing a good deal of statutory obligation—not just advice, but prescription—on them. In this amendment we are trying to remind them—and I do not think it is unreasonable —that apart from complying with the mere statutory obligations of Clause 2, they ought to take a rather wider view of the task of governors. It may be admirable to have parent governors, but it is even more important that the governors should have the kind of knowledge and experience which is referred to in this amendment.

The noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, said that she had thought of tabling an amendment saying that there ought to be an old boy or an old girl of the school on the board of governors. I was almost tempted to table an amendment saying that no old boy or old girl should be on the board of governors. There is always a danger of the dead hand of the past descending on the organisation of schools. However, I did not do that because had I moved such an amendment, or had the noble Baroness moved hers, they would both have been mandatory, which is exactly what we want to avoid here.

It is now generally understood that there are sections of our law today which are not mandatory in the sense of saying that one must do this, but which are hortatory in the sense of saying, "We want you to think of this". It has been established in our law for a considerable time now that Ministers are often required to have regard to this, that and the other before they make regulations. I do not think that it would be objected to on that ground. It seems to me that any objection on principle that it is wrong to have merely hortatory clauses such as this in an Act of Parliament, will not stand up; it is not in line with the practice of our law today.

If I may say so, I do not think very much of the argument that if one starts specifying some things, one can go on specifying for ever. So one can, but I think that we have made rather a good choice of what should be particularly specified in this amendment. As one of my noble friends pointed out, we hear a great deal about the unduly low opinion that is sometimes held of industry and commerce among those who conduct the educational process. This is the kind of matter which we are trying to put right. Here we are urging that some imagination should be used. I am afraid that we are not getting any response from the Government. Unless the Government can see their way—and they ought to see their way—to accepting this amendment, I would ask my noble friends to press it.


My Lords, by the leave of the House, perhaps I could touch on a few of the points that have been made, and, as usually happens, the last ones first. The noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, said that the basis of the amendment is that it calls for a wider view. I should have thought that it calls for exactly the opposite—a narrower view. The wider view is when you seek not to prescribe; the more you prescribe, the narrower you make the view. On the question whether or not an old boy or old girl is better or worse, I believe that that will always be a matter of opinion. Indeed, I think that my noble friend Lady Macleod made the case very well—not by seeking to specify that as a category of persons, but, by the very fact that when one seeks to specify any category of persons one makes the view narrower rather than wider.

The noble Lord, Lord Stewart, said that he thought the list was rather a good choice. I am sure he does; the amendment is in his name, and I should not expect him to think otherwise of his own choice. The noble Lord called for the Government to use their imagination. I think I may say that we use imagination from time to time, but I should have thought that in cases like this the less imagination used, the better—rather less imagination and rather more discretion was the theme.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, reminded me that in an area of Leeds—from where we both come —they have particular community relation problems; and, indeed, they do, although I am happy to say fewer problems than in many other like situations. But then the point is made, because those who make appointments to schools in that region do exactly as the noble Baroness hopes they will—they do, indeed, take this into account and make appointees accordingly. It is to their credit that they do. I would have expected nothing else, and I am sure that she would not; indeed, I hope that your Lordships would not.

The other points made were of interest. I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for believing, as the Government do, that the concerns that have been expressed are already covered. I believe that they are. As I said right at the beginning of this particular discussion, of course, one understands and one can still agree with the philosophy expressed, and it does not have to be written in in detail in this way. We would still prefer it to be left in the same broad sense as it is now, hearing in mind that one of the basic objectives in the Bill is to extend governors in the way we are; that there be a parent and a teacher; that there be a governing body for each school. I think that that indicates the Government's concern as to where they want to go. I repeat that the wider we can leave it to discretion and to good sense, the better it will be.

In those circumstances, we should have to resist the amendment.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, with the leave of the House, might I ask the noble Lord whether he can answer the suggestion I made as to whether the point could be included in a circular?


Again, by leave of the House, the point has been made. When circulars are issued, I would certainly ensure that this is considered by the Government. Clearly, the noble Viscount would not expect me here and now to give such an undertaking. The point is made, is taken, and will be considered.

3.48 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No.4) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 64; Not-Contents, 111.

Amherst, E. Gaitskell, B. Northfield, L.
Ardwick, L. Gladwyn, L. Parry, L.
Ashbourne, L. Gordon-Walker, L. Peart, L.
Aylestone, L. Gore-Booth, L. Richardson, L.
Bacon, B. Goronwy-Roberts, L. Sainsbury, L.
Balogh, L. Gosford, E. Seear, B.
Banks, L. Grey, E. Shinwell, L.
Barrington, V. Hale, L. Simon, V.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Hampton, L. Stedman, B.
Birk, B. Henderson, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Blyton, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Hughes, L. Stone, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Jacques, L. Strabolgi, L.
Byers, L. Janner, L. Strauss, L.
Collison, L. Kirkhill, L. Underhill, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Leatherland, L. Wallace of Coslany, L. [Teller.]
Darcy de Knayth, B. Llewelyn-Da vies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.] Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Darwen, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
David, B. Lovell-Davis, L. Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Masham of Ilton, B. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Evans of Claughton, L. Meston, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Mishcon, L.
Adeane, L. Buckinghamshire, E. Ellenborough, L.
Ailesbury, M. Caccia, L. Elliot of Harwood, B.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Campbell of Croy, L. Elton, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Cathcart, E. Enniskillen, E.
Alport, L. Clancarty, E. Exeter, M.
Amory, V. Clitheroe, L. Faithfull, B.
Ampthill, L. Clwyd, L. Ferrers, E.
Auckland, L. Cottesloe, L. Forester, L.
Avon, E. Cullen of Ashbourne. L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Daventry, V. Gage, V.
Barnby, L. Denham, L. [Teller.] Galloway, E.
Bellwin, L. Derwent, L. Gisborough, L.
Belstead, L. Drumalbyn, L. Glasgow, E.
Bessborough, E. Dundee, E. Glenkinglas, L.
Birdwood, L. Eccles, V. Gowrie, E.
Blackburn, Bp. Effingham, E. Gridley, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Mansfield, E. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Halsbury E. Marley, L. Sempill, Ly.
Hanworth, V. Merrivale, L. Sharples, B.
Harding of Petherton, L. Morris, L. Spens, L.
Harvington, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Stamp, L.
Hayter, L. Newall, L. Strathclyde, L.
Henley, L. Norfolk, D. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Hill of Luton, L. Nugent of Guildford, L. Strathspey, L.
Hylton, L. Orkney, E. Swinton, E.
Hylton-Foster, B. Porritt, L. Teviot, L.
Ilchester, E. Redmayne, L. Teynham, L.
James of Rusholme, L. Reigate, L. Thorneycroft, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Renton, L. Tranmire, L.
Lauderdale, E. Robbins, L. Trefgarne, L.
Long, V. Roberthall, L. Trenchard, V.
Loudoun, C. Rochdale, V. Trumpington, B.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Romney, E. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Lyell, L. St. Aldwyn, E. Vickers, B.
McFadzean, L. St. Davids, V. Vivian, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. St. Just, L. Wolverton, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Saint Oswald, L. Young, B.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 3 [Grouping of schools under single governing body]:

3.58 p.m.

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 5: Page 4, line 2, after (" schools ") insert (" catering for different age groups ")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am having another try at this amendment. I was told last time that it was not well drafted, so I have tried again. I do not know whether I have been any more successful. I am not entirely satisfied about the Government's intentions so far as having one governing body for every school is concerned. What I want to do in this amendment is to make sure that only a junior and an infants school can be linked with one governing body, but otherwise, if there were two primary schools, each primary school should have its own governing body. It seems to me sensible that with a junior school and an infants school, which are probably close together and the children from the infants will almost certainly go on to the juniors, that one governing body would suffice. I beg to move.


My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady David, pressed this amendment to a Division when we considered it in Committee because she thought that the clause as presently drafted provided a let-out for authorities who wished to continue with the practice of grouping. I should like to try to reassure her that it does not. At present, under the provisions of Section 20 of the 1944 Act, an authority may group as many schools as it wishes of any type without let or hindrance and without reference to anyone. What Clause 3 of this Bill provides is that this will no longer be possible. With one exception, which I shall mention in a moment, it will in future only be possible for authorities to group schools with the agreement of the Secretary of State. And by virtue of Clause 3(5), the Secretary of State will both be able to make his approval subject to any conditions he thinks appropriate, such as a limited duration before a full transition to individual governing bodies is accomplished, and to terminate any arrangement he has previously approved at any time.

The only exception to the need to obtain the Secretary of State's approval is provided in subsection (2): this allows an authority to group two primary schools, but not more than two, on their own initiative. The amendment seeks to restrict this even further so that only two primary schools providing for different age ranges can be grouped in this way, rather than any two primary schools. I do not think the amendment would, in fact, achieve this. But in any case, as I explained in Committee; while the most obvious case where it would be sensible to group two primary schools is where a junior and infants' school share the same site, there may be other circumstances where local authorities would wish to do this. In these circumstances we cannot accept the amendment.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, with some of those assurances—I hope they will be kept and that there will not be much grouping—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 [Governors' proceedings and tenure of office]:

The MINISTER of STATE, DEPARTMENT of EDUCATION and SCIENCE (Baroness Young) moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 5, line 15, at end insert— (" ( ) Regulations under subsection (1) above shall make provision for the election of a chairman by the governors of any such school.")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am moving this amendment in response to an amendment moved in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, when he asked that the chairman of the governing body should always be chosen by election by the governing body itself. Although the model instrument for county schools already provides for this, he argued that in the context of the new provisions of the Bill, it was desirable to enshrine this requirement in the statute. The amendment which I am proposing does that. I beg to move.


My Lords. I wish to say from these Benches and on behalf of my noble friend Lord Beaumont of Whitley, who moved the amendment in Committee on my behalf, how warmly we welcome and thank the noble Baroness for adding this provision. This matter has in my experience caused anomalies in the past in some areas where the governing body was not permitted for one reason or another to choose its own chairman. The position of the chairman is very important and he or she should have the support of the governing body, and I therefore very much welcome the amendment from these Benches.

4.2 p.m.

Lord MISHCON moved Amendment No. 7: After Clause 5, insert the following new clause—

("Duties of Governors

. The Secretary of State shall by regulation, (which shall not be made unless a draft has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament), set out the powers and duties of Governors. Such regulations shall set out:

  1. (a) the duties in relation to the appointment and dismissal of all teachers, and non-teaching staff in the school,
  2. (b) the duties in relation to the maintenance of the school buildings and grounds,
  3. (c) the duties in relation to the curriculum, timetables, and hours the school is open during the year,
  4. (d) the duties in relation to the supply of materials to the school,
  5. (e) the duties in relation to discipline within the school,
  6. (f) the duties in relation to school uniform, and any other requests the school may make to parents to pay for visits or materials.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, hope springs eternal in the breast of this Opposition and one of the hopes is that on Report members of the Government will seek an opportunity to repent of the position they took in Committee or, to put it another way, will exercise their obvious intellectual right to review some of the things they said at that stage. The amendment seeks to clarify for all governors what their powers and duties are and makes it incumbent on the Secretary of State to set out what those duties are in the matters in particular which are set out in the amendment.

We are anxious, as I understand it, to see that the powers and duties of governors are clear. I said in Committee that I thought it desirable to see that, so far as possible, they were uniform. It is not good, in my submission, that local education authorities should be in any doubt about the sort of powers and duties that should be set out in their articles, and we now know that the articles, certainly of primary schools, will not be submitted to the Secretary of State. I do not think it does any good, if one is trying to be persuasive in regard to an argument, to be repetitive, and the sole point I wish again to emphasise before your Lordships is that it is right and proper that the powers and duties shall be set out very clearly so that governors know exactly where they are and what their powers and duties are, particularly in relation to the matters set out here.

I shall make only one additional observation. The noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, said in Committee, and it may have influenced some of your Lordships' minds at that time, that he thought this was not a very sensible amendment by virtue of the fact—and he gave an example—that some schools did not administer their own grounds, that those grounds were sometimes administered by the local authority, be it the parks department or whatever, and that therefore it was not appropriate that governors should be looking after their own grounds as a duty imposed by the amendment.

I remind your Lordships that the answer to that objection was clearly given in the debate, namely that whoever is looking after and maintaining those grounds, or indeed whoever owns them, it is obviously part and parcel of the duties of governors to look at the maintenance of the grounds of the school and attached to the school to see that so far as possible any defects in that maintenance shall be attended to or, if appropriate, to administer praise to those who are maintaining those grounds so well. I hope therefore that your Lordships will not be deflected, however high he his reputation as an educationist, by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, in Committee. I beg to move.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, we considered this same amendment in Committee, and at that stage I explained there was no question of putting off a decision on what the powers of governing bodies should be. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has now argued that local education authorities should not be in any doubt about what the powers of governing bodies should be. Both my Government and the previous Labour Administration have considered the matter of the powers of governing bodies carefully and we have both come to the same conclusion; namely, that there should be no fundamental change in the existing provision, and we believe there is no need to write something into the Bill for the present position to be quite clear. All the matters listed in the amendment, from (a) to (f), are already covered in the model articles of government for secondary schools and it is precisely the function of articles to spell out the respective roles of the local education authority, the governors and the head teacher in the running of a school.

The present arrangements provide a framework within which desirable local variations are possible and occur. We on this side of the House do not believe in over-prescription, which is what the amendment would mean. There is indeed great danger that where you over-prescribe local authorities believe that is all they should do rather than putting into their articles anything more than what is required. Speaking on behalf of the last Government's measure in Committee in another place, this point was very well made by Miss Margaret Jackson when she said: I fear that the more we seek to set down and make more explicit the way in which we see the powers, the more we tie the hands of local authorities and run into the danger of providing that what is not specifically written down is not, therefore, within the governing bodies' remit. We would also be introducing an element of rigidity into a situation which at present retains a desirable flexibility ". That is a very important point, particularly at this stage when we are setting up so many new governing bodies, and although I understand the feeling and sincerity of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, over this matter, I hope that on reflection he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, may I ask the Minister a question? The Minister refers to articles of government setting out the duties of governors, but it has now been decided that the primary schools articles of government will not be looked at by the department, and so the Minister will not know what is to be included there. Is the department going to send out model articles of government?—because there are to be a great many new governing bodies for primary schools. I believe that quite a number of these schools do not have governing bodies or managing bodies at the moment, and there will be many new governors who will be wondering what they are supposed to be doing. So may I ask the Minister what guidance there is to be?

Baroness YOUNG

We have not yet considered in detail what guidance we shall be sending out. Obviously we shall be considering very carefully the whole question of a circular and what it should contain, once the Bill is on the statute book. However, I shall note the point that the noble Baroness has made, and clearly, if there is guidance that we feel we should give on the matter, we shall give it. The noble Baroness will know as well as I know that many education authorities have managing bodies for primary schools. They have had experience of this matter, and within their own authorities they have managed to devise very adequate and successful schemes of management or government. This is a new field into which we are moving, and I shall certainly note the points that the noble Baroness has made.


My Lords, having regard to what the noble Baroness the Minister has said, I bee leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 [Parental preferences]:

4.11 p.m.

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 8: Page 6, line 31, at end insert ("(having regard to the limits determined by the local education authority under the provisions of this Act.)'').

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in speaking to Amendment No. 8, I wish at the same time to speak to Amendment No. 11, as well as Amendments Nos. 20A and 20B, which are on the list of manuscript amendments. Perhaps I should read out to your Lordships Amendments Nos. 20A and 20B. Amendment No. 20A reads:

Page 8, line 19, at end insert ("and the limits upon admission numbers determined by the local education authority under the provisions of this Act").

Amendment No. 20B reads:

Page 8, line 37, leave out ("that it is intended" and insert ("the local education authority has determined").

All these amendments have to do with the local education authority having the right to impose a limit on the numbers entering a school in any year. I apologise for bringing this matter back to your Lordships, but I feel very strongly about it. I consider it very important for an LEA to be able to plan carefully and with foresight how to reduce the numbers in its schools, particularly in the situation of falling rolls. Clause 15, which we shall reach later, allows for a reduction in numbers—20 per cent. in a standard year. However, despite that procedure, it is perfectly possible for a parent to go to the appeals panel and say, "In spite of the decision that there shall be an entry of 108 this year, I want you to reconsider the policy and force the authority to go back on that process."

Your Lordships will no doubt remember that as the Bill now stands the decision of the appeals panel is binding on the authority, and I believe that the authority must have the right to decide upon the numbers going into its own schools, in the interests of providing good education for all the children in the area. I believe that in Committee the Minister said that if the limit were fixed, there would be no room at all for manoeuvre on appeal, but it seems to me that that difficulty could be got over quite easily by not filling every place at that first allocation; a few places could be kept back for claims at the appeal stage.

Clause 31, which deals with recoupment, gives a free choice to parents across boundaries, and this again makes it much more difficult for an authority to plan its schools and to make the best use of its resources. The Minister said at the Committee stage, as reported at columns 789–90 of the Official Report of 11th March, 1980: If an authority wishes to refuse a child's admission to a particular school, they must justify the refusal not just by reference to an arbitrary number but by reference to a great many things, which would include a point made by my noble friend Lord Belstead; that is the efficient use of resources and the efficient provision of education in their area. They must find something more than simply a question of numbers, so that children are not simply numbers on a list".

The words in Amendment No. 8: …having regard to the limits determined by the local education authority under the provisions of this Act

would come at the end of the sentence, so that the entire sentence would read: The duty imposed by subsection (2) above does not apply…if compliance with the preference would prejudice the provision of efficient education or the efficient use of resources having regard to the limits determined by the local education authority …".

So the other part of the matter would be taken into consideration. I believe that for the sake of good planning, for the proper use of resources, and for the proper provision of education in each school, we should give the authorities the right to set a limit during this particularly difficult period of reducing numbers. I beg to move.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I am not surprised that the noble Baroness, Lady David, has presented this amendment again because, as she rightly says, it illustrates a division between each side of the House on this matter. I understand that the former Labour Government's Bill of 1978 provided for the determining of admission limits which did not have to be based on any particular considerations, and which, once determined, were unchallengeable. As the noble Baroness, Lady David, has made clear, her group of amendments are in fact designed to establish within the Bill these planned admission limits. What is contained in Clause 6 of this Bill is not the same as that principle, and we have rejected that approach, which we believe was arbitrary and was contrary to parental interests. We believe that if an authority wishes to refuse a child admission, the authority must justify that refusal not merely by reference to a number, but by reference also to the criteria that we have set out in the Bill relating to the provision of efficient education, or the efficient use of resources. I accept that Amendment No. 8 would qualify that situation, yet there would still be set an arbitrary number against which the other matters would be measured.

We believe that as drafted the Bill achieves this advantage for parents, while the amendment before your Lordships does not, because in effect it allows a local education authority to determine in advance that these considerations are to be regarded as satisfied by the limit, rather than that the limit should satisfy the considerations. Both the Government and the local authority associations believe that the Bill will give local authorities the protection that they need to plan sensibly the provision for all the children in their area.

While I am speaking I should like to draw attention to what we regard as two further objectionable features of Amendment No. 11. I explained these argu- ments in Committee, but it seems that it would be wise to repeat them. The limits for aided and special agreement schools would be determined by the local education authority; this would be a restriction on their freedom, which was rejected last year. Under the Bill voluntary aided schools and special agreement schools are able to fix their own admissions policy, and bearing in mind that this particular matter has been debated on a number of occasions during consideration of the Bill, I should point out that what is proposed would be one of the points which would upset the balance agreed between the voluntary schools and the Government under the 1944 arrangements. Under Amendment No. 11 limits would apply to primary schools as well as secondary schools—which I understand is an arrangement which both sides agreed to drop in the former Administration's Bill of 1978. On the basis of all those reasons, I must make it clear that there is here a major division between the two sides of the House regarding policy, and the Government could not accept these amendments.


My Lords, I think there is a general point at issue here which crops up not only in relation to this clause but in relation to others as well. It is this: Who are the parties when an appeal is made? At the outset, it looks as if there is the parent on one side and the local authority on the other, but we must remember that the local authority is really representing the interests of children in the neighbourhood as a whole. It is not a conflict between an individual parent with a right and what might be pictured as a soulless local authority. It is a question of the claim of one parent and the need for all parents to have provided for them the best education which the resources of the district allow. I think that has to be remembered in the whole argument about appeals.

On this question of limits, it is going to be the more important for us in the future because of falling rolls. One may have a situation where one school is growing in size and another is falling in numbers and finding it more and more difficult to provide good education, and yet the fall is not such as would justify the closure of the school. In that situation, I do not think we want developing one school which is what one might call fashionable and another which is what is sometimes brutally referred to as a "sink school" I think that is something we all want to avoid; and it helps a local authority to avoid it if it can establish limits. Whenever "limit" or "number" is mentioned, the adjective "arbitrary" is always put in front of it, but this is not a legitimate assumption. One may reasonably presume that in fixing limits the local authority would have regard to what was the best use of its buildings and its resources, and to the needs of the children; and Amendment No. 11 provides that the limit in respect of an aided school or special agreement school can be determined only following consultation with the governors of that school.

Really, I think that the difference between us is that on the other side of

the House it is assumed that one particular parent who has the pertinacity or the resources to use the machinery of appeal shall be almost certain to get his or her own way without regard to what happens to the education of the children as a whole, whereas what we are pressing is that the resources and buildings of a local authority should be so used as to give the best chance of the best education to all the children for whom it is responsible. I am sorry, therefore, that the Government cannot see their way to accepting this amendment.

4.24 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 8) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 56; Not-Contents, 129.

Ardwick, L. Goronwy-Roberts, L. Northfield, L.
Aylestone, L. Gosford, E. Oram, L.
Bacon, B. Hale, L. Parry, L.
Balogh, L. Hatch of Lusby, L. Peart, L.
Birk, B. Henderson, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Blyton, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Sainsbury, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Hughes, L. Shinwell, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Irving of Dartford, L. Stedman, B.
Bruce of Donington, L. Jacques, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Collison, L. Janner, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Kaldor, L. Stone, L.
Cudlipp, L. Kirkhill, L. Strabolgi, L.
Darwen, L. Leatherland, L. Strauss, L.
David, B. Listowel, E. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Underhill, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Lovell-Davis, L. Wallace of Coslany, L. [Teller.]
Fisher of Rednal, B. Milford, L. Wells-Pestell, L. [Teller.]
Gaitskell, B. Mishcon, L. Wootton of Abinger. B.
Gordon-Walker, L. Noel-Baker, L.
Adeane, L. Blackburn, Bp. Elliot of Harwood, B.
Ailesbury, M. Bolton, L. Elton, L.
Airedale, L. Byers, L. Enniskillen, E.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Caccia, L. Evans of Claughton, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Campbell of Croy, L. Exeter, M.
Alport, L. Cathcart, E. Faithfull, B.
Amherst, E. Clancarty, E. Ferrers, E.
Amory, V. Clitheroe, L. Forester, L.
Ampthill, L. Cottesloe, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Ashbourne, L. Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Gage, V.
Auckland, L. Davidson, V. Galloway, E.
Avebury, L. de Clifford, L. Gibson-Watt, L.
Avon, E. Denham, L. [Teller.] Gisborough, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Derwent, L. Gladwyn, L.
Banks, L. Drumalbyn, L. Glasgow, E.
Barnby, L. Dundee, E. Glenkinglas, L.
Barrington, V. Dundonald, E. Gore-Booth, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Ebbisham, L. Greenway, L.
Bellwin, L. Eccles, V. Grey, E.
Belstead, L. Effingham, E. Gridley, L.
Bessborough, E. Ellenborough, L. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Halsbury, E. Macleod of Borve, B. Sempill, Ly.
Hampton, L. McNair, L. Sharples, B.
Hanworth, V. Mansfield, E. Simon, V.
Harding of Petherton, L. Marley, L. Spens, L.
Harvington, L. Morris, L. Stamp, L.
Hayter, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Strathclyde, L.
Henley, L. Norfolk, D. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Hill of Luton, L. Nugent of Guildford, L. Strathspey, L.
Hylton, L. Onslow, E. Swansea, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Orkney, E. Swinton, E.
Ilchester, E. Redmayne, L. Teviot, L.
James of Rusholme, L. Reigate, L. Teynham, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Renton, L. Tranmire, L.
Kinnoull, E. Robbins, L. Trefgarne, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Roberthall, L. Trenchard, V.
Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Rochdale, V. Trumpington, B.
Long, V. St. Aldwyn, E. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Loudoun, C. St. Davids, V. Vickers, B.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. St. Just, L. Vivian, L.
Lyell, L. Saint Oswald, L. Westbury, L.
McFadzean, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.] Wolverton, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Seear, B. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.34 p.m.

Lord STEWART of FULHAM moved Amendment No. 9: Page 6, line 36, leave out from ("school") to end of line 41.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the effect of this amendment would be to leave out Clause 6(3)(c). That paragraph in the Bill makes it possible for a local authority to set aside parental choice on the grounds that the the local authority is operating a system of selection by what used to be known (and still is known) as the "11-plus". That, quite plainly, is what the argument is about. Is it right to put children through some kind of test when they are under the age of 11 and, as a result of that, decide what kind of secondary school they are to go to and. consequently, what opportunities in life shall be open to them thereafter? That is what the 11-plus means.

This Bill provides that a local authority can do that; and if it says that that is what it is doing, all the other considerations of parental choice can be set aside. It is important to stress that, because the Government have argued over the whole of the Bill that they are making a great thing of parental choice. Quite clearly, in this paragraph they are doing no such thing. They are setting above parental choice the belief that it is right to have this process not only of selection but of separation at 11-plus. Indeed, I have always felt that the word, separation", is the more correct one because in one sense, throughout the whole process of any child's education, there is some process of selection—what subjects would it be wisest for this child to study; at what rate can it make progress in those subjects? This is a matter of constant consideration. But the specific feature of the 11-plus is that, as the result of a test given when a child is about the age of 10½, you put the children into different kinds of schools, schools which have (and are intended to have) different opportunities. This was never the intention of the 1944 Act.

I stress that only because in quarters that ought to know better—as in articles in The Times newspaper—it has sometimes been argued that separation on the basis of the 11-plus examination was enshrined in the 1944 Act. As noble Lords know, that is not so. There is no mention of different kinds of secondary school in the 1944 Act. The 11-plus really occurred because before the 1944 Act, apart from a few technical schools, secondary education was mainly grammar school education; and the easiest way, although not the best way, for local authorities to deal with the 1944 Act requirement that there should be secondary education for all, was simply to re-name their old senior elementary schools as secondary schools of some kind.

It is significant that they chose the name "secondary modern". It is a completely nonsensical piece of nomenclature. There was a time when a grammar school meant a school where the curriculum was based on a knowledge of Latin. The "grammar" in question was Latin grammar. If that were still true, if grammar schools were still of that kind, there would be some point in talking about secondary modern. But today the grammar school is not that sort of thing at all, at least not exclusively. It is considered to be one which gives the kind of education which can lead on to further and higher education at university, and, in any case, is likely to equip the recipient for the better-paid kind of job—and that would be true whether the pupil studies classics, science, modern languages or whatever. To call non-grammar schools secondary moderns was an admission that no one quite knew what kind of schools they were or what function they ought to pursue, except that they would not be grammar schools. They would be the schools to which children would go who had not passed a classifying test as to whether they were fit to go to grammar schools or not. As I think I said when we were arguing this matter earlier, they have always been regarded as the school that somebody else's child will go to.

In the long argument over comprehensive secondary education, I have been faced often by indignant people with banners proclaiming, "Save our grammar schools". Never did one find a campaign: "Save our secondary modern schools"—the schools to which 80 per cent. of the population went. If one were to hold an opinion poll in a local authority on whether they believed in separation at 11 or not, the only honest way to hold it would be by putting on the ballot paper these words: "A secondary modern school is for less bright children. It is unlikely if your child goes to a secondary modern school that it will proceed to further or higher education or to a university. Do you wish your child to go to a secondary modern school?". If 80 percent. of the population answer, "Yes", to that question, you can fairly say that the people of the locality have voted in favour of the 11-plus, but not otherwise.

The extraordinary thing here is that we are inscribing the 11-plus examination firmly into the law. We are giving it a priority over parental choice at a time when the weight of informed opinion against it has been growing and growing for years. It is remarkable the way in which comprehensive schools have spread over the country. They were represented to begin with as a fad of the Labour Party. But, one after another, local authorities of different complexions adopted them.

The idea of comprehensive secondary education never received any particularly favourable treatment from the Press. Some newspapers were massively opposed; a few were luke-warmly in favour. The same is true of the other media. The movement for comprehensive secondary education grew because it was increasingly apparent that that was what the majority of parents wanted, and because the comprehensive schools were winning the argument. It was argued against them to begin with that they were bound to be too large, regardless of the fact that those of us in the Labour Party who advocated them pointed out that there are many different ways of arranging the comprehensive principle, and the large school was by no means the only way.

It was argued that the brightest children would be discouraged. The fullest and most recent report on the progress of children in comprehensive schools plainly gives the lie to that. It is simply not true. It is sometimes argued that it would be very depressing for the less bright children to be in the same kind of school as the more bright; but that again has recently been disproved. One of the things several reports have shown is that undoubtedly the less bright children at the age of 11 benefit from being in a school with children who are more gifted at that age. The noble Lord, Lord Morris, told us when we last debated this matter that this was not true of is his brother. I am sorry about that. I assure him that it appears to be generally true.

It is extraordinary, in view of the absence of any powerful friends, that the movement for comprehensive secondary education has grown steadily and has been justified. It seems therefore in these circumstances totally wrong to give selection a new lease of respectibility, a new legal status, and to assert it against the right of parental choice to which the Government claim they are so greatly devoted. I beg to move.

4.43 p.m.


My Lords, I do not wish to spend a long time discussing the merits or demerits of selective as against non-selective and comprehensive education. My party have shown themselves committed to the concept of non-selective education. A matter that concerned me is that in Committee the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said that by passing this amendment we would effectively be abolishing all selective education. It seems to me that this is not absolutely clear. In the education authority area where I live, because we are partly an area which was a county borough and had comprehensive schools and partly the old Cheshire County, which had selective education, we have three different kinds of secondary education in one local education area.

We have one type of comprehensive education in what was formerly Wallasty; another type in what was formerly Birkenhead; and a selective system with secondary modern and grammar schools in what was formerly Cheshire County Council. I imagine that this kind of variable system occurs in other local education authority areas. As things stand at the moment, if a child lives in an area which was formerly Cheshire, or within Cheshire, the area which was Bebington, which adds another complication to a system of already Byzantine complexity, he or she will take an examination within the catchment area which was formerly that particular district of the old county. If he or she lives in what was formerly the county borough, he or she—even though the parents might have wished passionately for the child to have had the benefits or otherwise of selective education—is not allowed to take an examination, but, has to go to the comprehensive school.

It seems as though the legislation in Clause 6 requires that every local education authority which has a mixed system, such as the Wirral, should allow pupils who live in whatever part of that local education authority area to sit an examination for the selective schools. For example, a child living in Birkenhead could sit an examination for a place in Calday Grange Grammar School, West Kirby. However, if it does not mean that, if it means that the same system will obtain as before, this amendment will be pointless.

It worries me that we may be voting—if we come to vote on this amendment—in the belief that we are voting to abolish a selective system, whereas we might be voting to create an impossible situation. If in a part of a local authority area a child has to sit a selective examination whether he likes it or not, then the whole question of parental choice becomes very limited, in the same way as if the child is not allowed to sit a selective examination in another part of a local authority area. The question of whether or not to exclude the right to choose to go to a selective school at the parents' behest does not apply. Before I can make up my mind which way I shall vote on this amendment, may I have clarification as to what the Government's intentions are in this field? I hope I can be reassured about this: the position is very complex and muddled regarding local education authorities which have partly comprehensive and partly selective systems.

4.47 p.m.

Baroness BACON

My Lords, this is muddled. I am afraid this Bill makes the position even more muddled. This subsection legalises a practice which has been in operation for many years. This is the first time that it has actually been made a part of the law. Everybody knows that in the past some parents have fought, as my noble friend Lord Stewart said, to save our grammar schools in the belief that their particular child would be one of the 20 per cent. who were going to go to a grammar school, and not one of the 80 per cent. for whom a grammar school was not available.

We were told by the Government when this Bill was published that there was going to be a choice for parents. But we have seen that it is not an absolute choice. One of the things that this Bill says is that if we live in an area or adjacent to an area where there is an 11-plus examination or 11-plus selection, it is no use a parent saying, "I wish my child to go to the grammar school and to the selective school ". It is laid down that no choice exists for parents in that situation. In other words, this has been a bit of a "con" trick. We have been told that parents are going to have a choice; but we see that they can only express a preference. If that preference is for their child to go to a selective school (where they think their child ought to go), there can be no choice at all because they can only go to a non-selective school.

The noble Lord who has just spoken has instanced a local authority where there are three types of education for secondary school children. But this Bill makes it possible for parents to opt for the children to go to a neighbouring authority. I wondered on Second Reading what would happen where there were two local authorities, one in which there was selection, and another in which there was no selection. Would the parents have the right to say, "I want my child to go into a neighbouring authority"? This Bill makes it clear that they can do so. However, it is apparently saying, "Not if there is selection in that neighbouring authority". Then they will have no choice at all. It is complicated, but I think this Bill is making it more complicated. What we are saying is that we should take out paragraph (3)(c): otherwise it is just a hollow promise to say that parents are going to have a choice. It is quite clear that the vast majority of parents are going to have no choice whatsoever.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I am sure the whole House listened with great interest to the lecture by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, on grammar schools, secondary modern schools and the 1944 Education Act. If I took a correct note of his remarks, he said that we are inscribing the eleven-plus into the law. I think the House at this stage needs to look at this clause and at what it is trying to achieve. We need to address ourselves to the real problems that are involved. We had very long debates in this Chamber on our first Education Act and we believe, as a consequence of that, that it should be possible for local education authorities to decide for themselves what sort of education provision they wish to make within their areas. That is why we put through our first Education Bill. If parents in particular areas wish to continue sending their children to selective schools, we on this side of the House believe that they should be able to do so and we will safeguard their ability to do so. In fact, as my noble friend Lord Belstead said on a similar amendment at Committee stage, the effect of this amendment, if it were passed, would be to do away with selective schools altogether.

Although we are clearly divided on the issue as to whether or not there should ever be selective education—and there are clear divisions of policy between ourselves and noble Lords opposite, and I accept that they have a perfect right to use this amendment to ventilate these differences—I think they must consider very carefully whether they really think that this amendment should be made to the Bill.

Even their 1978 Bill acknowledged that where grammar schools continue to exist they must be able to continue to operate their slection procedures. If they did not do so, clearly they would not be grammar schools; and they could not operate their selection procedures if any parent could just put down a preference for a certain school without the child in question passing the examination, and being able to do so. So the grammar schools impose selection by ability and clearly a parent can only exercise his preference for a grammar school if his child is selected in the process of selection used for admission to that school. The selection process, of course, must be fair and objective and the Bill will allow it to be challenged before an appeal committee. Not every Member of the House will agree with the existence of grammar schools, but it seems to me very important that, while they exist, we should not interfere with their ability to conduct their affairs in an appropriate and sensible manner by passing this Amendment.

May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton—who asked: "What happens in an authority in which there are different types of education?"—clearly not everyone can be satisfied after expressing a preference for a school, because it is not only necessary to express that preference but, of course, to be selected for it. But that is not to say it is not possible to express a preference for other schools, and I think it would be quite unfair to say that because you cannot express a preference for a grammar school you have no right to express a preference at all. You can express a preference for the other schools, and to that extent this clause gives a preference where none existed before.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, said that choice is not an absolute choice. I think we would all agree with that statement. In life there is very seldom, if ever, total freedom of choice. All we are saying in this Bill is that we want to give parents an opportunity to express a preference. That opportunity is qualified by the three paragraphs of subsection (3) of Clause 6. The first meets the requirements about the local education authority. Clearly, the second one is concerned with voluntary-aided schools; and the third one is concerned with schools that admit by selection. These seem to be three minimal qualifications for the expression of parental preference. We still believe that, with these qualifications, this whole Clause 6 is art important advance for parental preferences and parental rights, and I am afraid I could not accept this amendment.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, would not the Minister agree that the choice which does remain in fact is a cloice between comprehensive and secondary modern schools, and that is it?

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, by leave of the House, as we have already noted many times in education debates, there are more comprehensive schools than other types of schools. That being the case, there is still a very large opportunity for parents to express a preference.


My Lords, I shall make no apology for delivering what the noble Baroness called a lecture on the matter. In view of the widespread ignorance of all the issues involved by the opponents of comprehensive and secondary education and the frequent deliberate falsification of history by the advocates of grammar schools, it

is increasingly necessary to spell it out. The facts, as the noble Baroness knows very well, are as I stated them. I am glad that she clearly confirmed what the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said: that the passage of this amendment—I think this will be a help to the noble Lord, Lord Evans—means the end of separatism in our education. That is exactly why we are moving it.

I cannot follow the argument that, whether or not we agree with grammar schools, we must all agree that if they exist they must be allowed to go on existing: that is really what the noble Baroness was saying. I do not believe that grammar schools, in the sense in which she is using the term, ought to continue to exist. Of course, I believe that there ought to be schools giving the kind of education which is now given in grammar schools. What I do not believe is that they should restrict themselves to that and restrict themselves to one kind of pupil arbitrarily selected at the age of ten and a half. That is the real point at issue; and so I would commend to the noble Lord, Lord Evans, and his colleagues that what is in issue here is whether we believe in comprehensive or in separatist secondary education. The issue is an important one. It is one on which, I think, overwhelmingly on the evidence we have the right of the matter, and I trust my noble friends will want to press this amendment.

4.58 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 9) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 58; Not-Contents, 116.

Ardwick, L. Gosford, E. Oram, L.
Aylestone, L. Hale, L. Parry, L.
Bacon, B. Hatch of Lusby, L. Peart, L.
Balogh, L. Henderson, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Birk, B. Hughes, L. Sainsbury, L.
Blyton, L. Jacques, L. Shinwell, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Janner, L. Stedman, B.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Jeger, B. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Bruce of Donington, L. Kaldor, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Kirkhill, L. Stone, L.
Collison, L. Leatherland, L. Strabolgi, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Listowel, E. Strauss, L.
Cudlipp, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
David, B. [Teller.] Lovell-Davis, L. Underhill, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Maybray-King, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Milford, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Mishcon, L. Wells-Pestell, L. [Teller.]
Gaitskell, B. Noel-Baker, L. Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
Gordon-Walker, L. Northfield, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Goronwy-Roberts, L.
Abercorn, D. Gage, V. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Ailesbury, M. Galloway, E. Norfolk, D.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Gisborough, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Alexander of Potterhill, L. Glasgow, E. Onslow, E.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Glendevon, L. Orkney, E.
Alport, L. Glenkinglas, L. Pender, L.
Auckland, L. Gowrie, E. Redmayne, L.
Avon, E. Greenway, L. Reigate, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Gridley, L. Renton, L.
Bellwin, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Rochdale, V.
Belstead, L. Halsbury, E. Romney, E.
Bessborough, E. Hanworth, V. St. Aldwyn, E.
Blackburn, Bp. Harvington, L. St. Just, L.
Bolton, L. Hayter, L. Saint Oswald, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Henley, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Campbell of Croy, L. Hill of Luton, L. Sempill, Ly.
Cathcart, E. Hornsby-Smith, B. Sharpies, B.
Clitheroe, L. Hunter of Newington, L. Spens, L.
Clwyd, L. Hylton, L. Stamp, L.
Cottesloe, L. Hylton-Foster, B. Strathclyde, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Ilchester, E. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Darwen, L. James of Rushholme, L. Strathspey, L.
Daventry, V. Kinloss, Ly. Stuart of Findhorn, V.
Davidson, V. Kinnoull, E. Swansea, L.
de Clifford, L. Lauderdale, E. Swinfen, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Swinton, E.
Drumalbyn, L. Long, V. Teviot, L.
Dundonald, E. Loudoun, C. Teynham, L.
Eccles, V. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Tranmire, L.
Ellenborough, L. Lyell, L. Trefgarne, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. McFadzean, L. Trenchard, V.
Elton, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L. Trumpington, B.
Enniskillen, E. Macleod of Borve, B. Vaux of Garrowden, L.
Exeter, M. Mansfield, E. Vickers, B.
Faithfull, B. Margadale, L. Vivian, L.
Ferrers, E. Marley, L. Westbury, L.
Forester, L. Merrivale, L. Wolverton, L.
Fortescue, E. Monson, L. Young, B.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Morris, L.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

5.6 p.m.

Lord STEWART of FULHAM moved Amendment No. 10: Page 7, line 6, leave out subsection (5).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment deals with a rather specialised point. It proposes to leave subsection (5) out of Clause 6. Subsection (2) of Clause 6 imposes a duty on local education authorities to give effect, subject to a number of conditions, to parental choice; and subsection (5) says that the duty shall apply also in relation to paragraphs (a) and (b). Paragraph (b) reads, any application made as mentioned in section 10(3) or 11(1) below".

Both Clause 10(3) and Clause 11(1) refer to a choice, or a preference, by a parent to send a child to a school not maintained by a local education authority. It would appear, then, that the effect of subsection (5) of Clause 6 is to require local authori- ties to make arrangements that will enable a parent, if that is the parental preference, to send the child to a school not maintained by a local education authority.

There are similar references in other parts of the Bill, but it is not at all clear to me why it should be the duty of a local education authority to arrange education outside the system for which it is responsible, unless of course, as is sometimes the case, it can clearly be shown that they cannot provide the proper facilities themselves. I hope, therefore, that the Minister can explain to us why this subsection is considered necessary. I beg to move.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I hope that I can answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, quite briefly. We believe that parents should be able to express a preference for a school in the area of a neighbouring authority. There are many children for whom the school across the boundary is the one to which they should logically go, because it is the closest to them, because it is easiest to get to by bus, because it is a denominational school serving the parish in which the parents live, because it offers choice of subjects which the parents find more attractive, or for any other reason that the parents may consider important in expressing a preference for a school outside the area of the authority in which they live.

Parents will be able to express a preference for a school outside the area of their authority, either to their own authority where that authority makes, or is prepared to make, arrangements for children to go outside the area, or direct to the authority maintaining the school at which the parent is seeking to place a child, if the child's home authority does not in the normal course make such arrangements. If the child obtains a place, then Clause 31 provides for automatic recoupment of the cost from the home authority. We believe that this is an entirely appropriate policy, and one which, we hope, will help to overcome the sense of frustration which many parents feel when they are prevented from getting a school of their choice for their child because there is an arbitrary line on a map drawn between one local education authority and another. That is one group which would be denied this freedom if this subsection were not in the Bill. The other one would be the right for parents whose children were the subject of school attendance orders to express a preference for the school they wish their child to attend. If the application were successful, this would be the school to be named in the attendance order.

There are two kinds of attendance orders. There are attendance orders against parents who are, for one reason or another, educating their children at home, and there are attendance orders against parents who are deliberately keeping their children at home in order that they may, as the parents hope, be able to get into the school of their choice. The second group will be prevented from using this particular loophole by other provisions in the Bill. We feel that in these circumstances it would be right for parents to be able to express a choice, and either group would be excluded if this amendment were put into the Bill. That is the reason for it, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, will feel that this is an adequate explanation.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Baroness. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 11 not moved.]

5.12 p.m.

Baroness BACON moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 7, line 15, at end insert— ("(6) In pursuance of its duties in subsection (1) and (2) above and sections 8 and 11 of the Act of 1944, each local education authority shall draw up a code of practice relating to admissions to schools which shall include reference to—

  1. (a) the need to give preference to pupils residing in the proximity of any school;
  2. (b) the need to maintain a variety of educational provisions at any school;
  3. (c) the need to maintain, or otherwise, sibling or similar relationships;
  4. (d) the need to consider the health disability, or other characteristics or needs of particular pupils;
  5. (e) the need to consider safety and ease of transport in journeys to or from school.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, perhaps we could take with this amendment Amendment No. 20, which is dependent upon Amendment No. 12. It is clear from the previous amendments that expressing a preference is not the same thing as having a choice. It is quite clear, too, that if all parents are asked to express a preference, in some areas some schools will be over-subscribed while others will be under-subscribed. It is quite obvious that local authorities are not going to allow some schools to be bursting at the seams while other remain half empty, so some local authorities will have to make decisions about their allocations in very much the same way as they have to do today.

I think it would be much less trouble and cause much less disappointment if parents knew on what basis the decisions are made. It may be said by the noble Baroness the Minister that this is made clear in Clause 6(3), but if we look at Clause 6(3)(a) we see that it says that the choice does not apply if compliance with the preference would prejudice the provision of efficient education or the efficient use of resources. That might be clear to the Department of Education and Science and to some local authorities, but I do not think that it will be very clear to parents who have expressed a preference and who then find that that preference cannot be met. So we should prefer this to be spelled out.

The local education authority should draw up a code of practice, which would be made available and which would be well known to parents, which sets out the terms upon which they can make their choice. We think that this code of practice ought to include the need to give preference to pupils residing near the school and also the need to maintain a variety of educational provision at any school so that there is proper use of teacher man or woman power. Also, where possible, and when the parents desire it, children of one family should go to the same school. There is also the need to consider any health disability of children, and the ease of transport and safety on the way to school.

If local authorities were to adopt some such code of practice, we feel that it would be much better understood by parents when they find that their first preference cannot be met. I think, too, that it might prevent many references to the appeals committee. Therefore, although I do not agree with the way in which this choice is being made, I move this amendment in the belief that it will help and make things run much more smoothly.


My Lords, I have just exercised my choice to vote against my party. I should like to support this amendment very strongly indeed. It is extremely well phrased; every part of it carries weight. I hope that the Government will give it their very serious consideration and include it in the Bill.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, may I say a word about paragraph (b) of the amendment: the need to maintain a variety of educational provisions at any school. As I said earlier, because of falling numbers I think that authorities are going to have difficulties. It is very important that in a comprehensive school there should be a wide range of subjects. For instance, there should be two modern languages and two or three sciences, and the arts, crafts, metalwork and so on should be represented. If school numbers are too small, it is going to be very difficult to justify the provision of these subjects because it will probably mean a very high staffing ratio. Therefore, when parents are told what the choices are and what the schools provide, I think it should be made clear to them that when pupils are being allocated this must be a very high consideration.

5.18 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I listened with great care to what the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, said in moving this amendment. Nobody could argue that the points she has put down in this amendment—the five different needs which a local authority should consider in its allocations to schools—are not ones which are very important. But the fact is that different local authorities may perfectly reasonably give different weight to different items and might not accept that some needs are overriding.

We can all think of examples. Some authorities would wish to give priority to children living nearest to the school. Others would do so only to those who had listed the school as their first preference. Or, again, priority to those living nearest the school might be incompatible with an authority's wish to avoid an overlong journey for sonic children by denying access to others who live nearer. There are all sorts of arguments. To attempt to draw up a comprehensive list of factors which would command general agreement would be difficult, if not impossible. To attempt to give them some kind of rank order of priority would, I believe, be virtually impossible. The local authority associations and individual local education authorities would almost certainly strongly oppose any proposal to write this kind of prescription into the Bill. There seems to be no good reason why this should not be left to local discretion, in the light of local circumstances.

In their published admission arrangements, local education authorities will or course indicate what priority they give to these and to other factors. That is the answer both to the noble Baroness, Lady David, who made this point about the curriculum and the courses offered, and also to the noble Lord, Lord Darwen: that Clause 6 must be read in relation to Clause 8, because the object of Clause 8 is to provide the information in order that parents can make an informed choice. Therefore, the detail that is asked for, which would apply generally to all schools, could well be included by individual schools when they publish information about themselves or in the published admission arrangements of local authorities under Clause 8. Nobody is arguing that these matters are not important for consideration, but I hope that they will be included in other provisions of the Bill.

Baroness BACON

My Lords, may I make one point clear. The matters in the list were not in order of merit. Will the Minister be sending out advice to local authorities and, if so, will she ask them to include in their list the five items which I have set out, since she seems to agree that they are most important?

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, the noble Baroness will remember that on an earlier amendment local authorities were asked to indicate the type of person who should be chosen as school governor. On this amendment I take note of the noble Baroness's comments; there is general agreement about the importance of the various points. However, I do not wish to leave with the House the impression that I thought the five points which she made are the most important or are in any kind of rank order. I hope that I have left her with the statement that they are important but that there are other matters which are also important. Should we send out a circular, or if we seek to advise local authorities, we shall take into account the statements made in this House and the importance which the House attaches to provisions of this kind. However, I do not believe it would be appropriate to write them into the Bill—certainly not without consultation with local authorities, who would resent them if they were included in the Bill at this stage.

Baroness BACON

My Lords, with that assurance—and perhaps the Minister could at some future time let us know what has happened about this matter—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 [Appeals against admission decisions]:

5.22 p.m.

Lord STEWART of FULHAM moved Amendment No. 13: Page 7, line 36, leave out subsection (5).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Subsection 5 says that the decision of an appeal committee shall be binding on the local authority or the governors of a school, as the case may be, but it does not say whether it is binding on the parents. I raise this matter for these reasons. First, we have been given to understand that after an appeal committee has reached its decision it will be possible for the matter to be put before the local government ombudsman on the grounds that there has been some form of maladministration in the way in which the committee reached its decision. Presumably the parents could then take the question of the validity of the appeal committee's decision to the local government ombudsman, but does the phrase in this subsection to the effect that the decision of the committee shall be binding on the local authority preclude them from taking the matter to the ombudsman?

Furthermore, we have been told that the Council on Tribunals will have some say in this matter. There is provision for the council to be represented at the hearing of the appeal. Presumably, therefore, it would be open to the parents if the appeal went the way that parent did not like to invoke the Council on Tribunals to consider whether the appeal had been properly conducted. If that right is open to the parent, is it also open to the local authority? That is one consideration—namely, does the right to invoke the local government ombudsman or the Council on Tribunals which presumably belongs to the parent also belong to the local authority?

The other question is as follows: If the appeal is decided in the way that the parent does not like, what is the position if the parent then does not send the child to the school which it has been decided is the right school for that child? Presumably, an attendance order will then be made, but presumably this can result in proceedings in court. Does the fact that the appeal committee has given a decision one way settle the matter in regard to the court? I think that it ought to settle the matter. If the appeal is to be binding on the local authority, it should be equally binding on the parent, and, if after the appeal has gone against the parent, the parent keeps the child back from the school, there should be no doubt about the result of any subsequent legal proceedings. I hope that the Minister will make the matter clear because it is not clear from the Bill as it stands that the result of the appeal is as binding on the parent as it is on the local authority or the governors.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I hope that I can give the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, an assurance on the point he has made. In the first place the decision of the appeal committee is binding on the parent as it is on the authority. If the parent is displeased, that parent can try another school. But that is a very different proposition from saying that the original decision on that school is not binding.

The parent can take the case to the local government ombudsman, but he is only concerned with matters of administration and is not concerned with the decision that has been taken. Clearly, the local authority does not go to the ombudsman because the ombudsman makes a reference to the local authority rather than the other way round. The ombudsman is concerned with maladministration, be he the parliamentary commissioner in regard to central Government, or the local government commissioner in regard to local government. I think that matter is quite clear and therefore binding.

The second question related to the role of the Council on Tribunals. That council has no role at all in individual cases. As I understand the role of the council, it is an advisory body which operates under the terms of the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1971 and consists of between 10 and 15 members appointed by the Lord Chancellor and, in addition, the parliamentary ombudsman is a member by virtue of his office.

The Council has three principal functions, of which the first is relevant to appeal committees, and that is: to keep under review the constitution and working of tribunals specified in Schedule 1 to this Act"— and that is the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1971(being the tribunals constituted under or for the purposes of the statutory provisions specified in that Schedule) and, from time to time, to report on their constitution and working". The council at present exercises its functions in respect of a wide range of committees and tribunals in all fields of activity. Therefore, I understand that its aim is not to discusss in any way the details of the case, but to make quite sure that the appeal committee, as other tribunals, is working in the way it should do. The last point put to me by the noble Lord related to an attendance order. I wish to confirm that an attendance order only goes to court in the case of the nonattendance of a child at the named school. The court in such a case has no power to vary the school named. I hope that clears up the three points that were put to me, and I hope it satisfies the noble Lord.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, if the decision of the appeal committee is binding also on the parent—and we were not at all clear on that point—would it not be a good idea to put it into the Bill so that it will be clear to everybody? Is the Minister willing to table an amendment of that sort on Third Reading?

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I am reluctant to say that I will bring any amendments to the Bill at Third Reading, for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the parliamentary timetable. What I will say to the noble Baroness is that the point has been noted; I can see that there appears to be confusion on this matter and I will certainly think about it but I could not give a promise. This, again, might well be something that one should consider in the course of a circular, or something like that.


My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 2 [School admission appeals]:

5.31 p.m.

Lord STEWART of FULHAM moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 36, line 20, at end insert ("; and (c) a parent of a child attending a maintained school,")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, here is an amendment which will surpass the Government's ingenuity to find a reason for not accepting. It requires merely that at any rate one of the members of an appeal committee should be the parent of a child attending a maintained school. It does not require any addition to the number of members of an appeal committee. The kind of people who have to be members of an appeal committee is laid down in the schedule. All it requires is that whatever other qualifications they shall possess, and for whatever other reasons they shall be appointed, one should make sure when finally drawing up the lists of people on the appeal committee that one of them at least, no matter what other qualifications they may have, has the qualification of being a parent of a child attending a maintained school. I think it would be agreed that, when an appeal committee is judging the matter of whether a parent has a right to send a child to a particular school, it would be unreasonable that that should be considered by an appeal committee not one of whose members was the parent of a child attending a maintained school. It would not be at all difficult to comply with this. It does not add to the size of the appeal committee and, in itself, it is an entirely reasonable requirement. Therefore, I earnestly hope that at long last the Government will say that they are willing to accept this amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, as the noble Lord has paid me the compliment—and I take it as a compliment—of being very ingenious about arguments, may I say that this is a matter that we have looked at, but we believe that at the end of the day it is unrealistic to require authorities to nominate a parent to each individual appeal committee. After all, we are going to consider the occasions on which we are going to ask for parents to be involved in the education system. We are going to require two parents on every governing body and we believe that in many areas it will be quite difficult to find enough parents to fill the role on appeal committees. Only a limited number of parents will have sufficient interest in education, in the area going beyond the particular school which their own child attends, to be prepared to take on the more objective role as a member of an appeal committee, hearing appeals in relation to other children in other schools.

We believe that the Bill goes some way in the direction which the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, and his noble friends would like, in that it provides for parents to be among the independent persons to be appointed by the local education authority and it is very likely that a good many of those appointed in other capacities will themselves be parents. We have considered carefully the arguments advanced for changes in the present provisions in the Bill, but we have concluded on balance that they are not practicable, nor do we feel justified in writing this specific requirement into the Bill. If this part of Schedule 2 is looked at as a whole, it will be seen that we are trying to get a balanced appeal committee, of which in all of the qualifications of the people serving on the committee that we are considering, we would include that of being a parent. I think that is the right way of putting it, rather than to prescribe a parent in every case.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, I should like to add just one comment. When I was a member of an appeal committee, of which I have spoken before at Second Reading, we did not have people from outside the authority as members of it, but we did insist on having a parent of a child attending a maintained school, and we managed to find that parent from among the local authority members. I should have thought that was also a possibility and that this amendment would have allowed for that as well.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, if I may speak again by leave of the House, what the noble Baroness suggests is not precluded by Schedule 2. Indeed, if I may say so, the noble Baroness herself was a very good example; no doubt being a member of the appeal committee and also a parent, at the same time. That is all possible under what we are allowing, but it is not prescribed under Schedule 2. If they so wish, local authorities can always have a parent on the appeal committee.

5.36 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 14) shall be agreed to?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Baroness Wootton of Abinger)

My Lords, Tellers for the Contents have not been appointed pursuant to Standing Order No. 50. A Division therefore cannot take place, and I declare the Not-Contents have it.

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 15: Page 37, line 35, leave out ("or to be represented")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I intend it to be a probing amendment. I want to know exactly what, "or to be represented", means. In my view, it means legal representation, and, if so, I am very strongly against it. I think the way the appeal committee is going to be set up, and its procedure, is much too elaborate and cumbersome. As the House will know, I moved for Schedule 2 to be left out of the Bill. If we are really going to say that lawyers can go along with parents, I am very strongly against that. I think it would become much too formal, would go on much too long, and would not be at all the sort of thing we want to have. So may I ask the Minister what is intended by those words?

The Earl of SWINTON

My Lords, may I support what has been said from the opposite Bench? This also frightens me, because I assume that if an appellant has a legal representative, then the county council or whatever it is, the education committee, will have to have one, as well. I understand these appeals take place somewhere near the schools, not near the education offices, so it probably means a whole day of travel, which is going to put a great deal on the rates. With all respect to Members of your Lordships' House who are lawyers, we know how they do go on at each other. I see the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, glaring at me across the Chamber. It tends to drag out the proceedings. If this amendment were pressed to a Division, and if these words do mean legal representation, I would have been tempted to follow the noble Baroness into the Division Lobby. I feel rather less enthusiastic after the nonsense that was made of the last Division.


My Lords, I must declare an interest as a solicitor. I must say with deep emotion how bitterly I oppose this amendment, not for the reason that I am looking for additional work for solicitors. It would be the kind of work that would be very unremunerative. Would a parent who was a legally qualified person be excluded from appealing? But, more seriously, the concept that noble Lords seem to have in their minds, that the presence of lawyers would make the appeal more complex and more difficult is not so, in my experience, and I am sure a great many other peoples'. The worst complexity comes when people appear at tribunals who are not legally qualified, the long and interminable debates among people who do not understand the procedures and the simplest and most straightforward way of putting the case. I would suggest that a parent, to whom this is a very important matter, should have the right if he wishes to be represented by the person best able to speak for him, whether it be a solicitor or the welfare officer or the vicar or whatever.

Secondly, being represented by a solicitor or barrister I would think would mean that the proceedings would be much shortened. I recall my own personal experience of appearing before an appeal committee of this kind, not a committee of this precise nature but on a very serious matter where it was proposed to expel a boy from the school. If he had not had legal representation that boy's career, which was subsequently a very distinguished one, would have been completely destroyed, if he had not had a solicitor there to make the case clearly for him. It helps in clarifying the case and expressing a parent's view in a way which will make the decision of the tribunal easier to come to, and I would have thought that was in the interest of everyone. One final point. I do not believe for one second, from my experience in local government, that an appeals tribunal, even if the parent was not legally represented, would do without the luxury and privilege of having one of the many local government lawyers present in any event. Therefore, I oppose in the strongest terms the amendment as moved.


My Lords, may I at once take up the points which were so courteously made by the noble Lord opposite, and let your Lordships immediately witness one lawyer differing at great length from another lawyer. I would have thought your Lordships would have had one point in mind when considering this appeal procedure, that it should be as homely as possible, as simple as possible, and that everything should be done to make the parents of the child feel at home. With the greatest affection for my profession, that is not the atmosphere that we usually create. We try to, and if members of my profession all had the kindly face of my colleague who has just spoken maybe it would be easier. But it is not the case.

When one hears that the local education authority would most likely be represented in some way or other by a member of the legal department, that may well be true, but I think what your Lordships have to envisage is not merely a representative being there, but somebody actually representing the local authority and cross-examining the parents. There would be absolutely no point, and indeed it would be contrary to normal legal practice, if the parent's lawyer could cross-examine and the local authority's representative could not. I think all of us want to see the parents made to feel at home so that they can put their points very quietly, very firmly, and without any atmosphere which may inhibit them. I therefore hope, having declared my interest, that your Lordships will see that my observations are completely disinterested, because I would not wish to see legal representations before these tribunals.


My Lords, your Lordships have just seen an example of the advantages of legal representation in the admirable way in which a thoroughly bad case was argued by a distinguished member of that profession. I would only like to say this in reply to the noble Baroness on the Front Bench. Not every parent is capable of bringing out the merits of the case he may have. Not every parent is capable of giving a coherent statement or a statement that can be sufficiently succinct to command the attention of a committee. I think to deny them, as the amendment would, the right to be represented would be a mistake, which in certain circumstances could cause injustice.

As I read the schedule—I am subject to correction by the noble Baroness—to be "represented" is not confined to legal representation. It would presumably cover representation by an officer of a trade union, and officers of trade unions very frequently appear before all sorts of bodies. Many of them are well trained in advocacy and do give great assistance to people who are unable to make their own case. Or there may simply be a parent who is quite incoherent, or has language difficulties; with our considerable immigrant population there are quite a number who may well be in this situation, who could be helped by a friend to put the case, not as well as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, but a little better than the parent himself. If one looks at it from the point of view of the people who sit on these committees, someone who can put the case clearly and succinctly is a great advantage, perhaps disposes the committee in favour of the parent, and saves a lot of time. I hope my noble friend will reject this amendment.


My Lords, if your Lordships would not find it insupportable to hear the opinion of a fourth lawyer in succession, may I say that I am sure that the members of our profession would not wish to claim any kind of monopoly of representation before these appeals committees. But at the same time, as has been pointed out by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter and by other noble Lords, there may well be occasions when it would be to the advantage of all concerned for a lawyer to be there. Therefore, I hope that we may regard the words "to be represented" in the broadest sense and without any restriction.


My Lords, could the noble Baroness tell me what the words "or to be represented"actually mean? Does it mean legally represented? From my experience, it has never been any great help to have lawyers there. I remember in Scottish Grand Committees inviting the presence of the Lord Advocate, and as soon as we got him there we told him to go away, because he did not always clarify the position. It is wrong to suggest that they are apt to be very speedy and concise at all times—it depends very much on the lawyer.

It is surely a question of the atmosphere that we want to create at these proceedings. We want them to be as informal as possible for people to be prepared to appeal. Once we include legal representation, the parents might feel that they must have legal representation. They may not be prepared to pay for it and I do not suppose that the lawyer in such a case will give his time for nothing. That being so, the provision might stop people appealing, which would be wrong.

We want to retain the informality and let people feel that they are being listened to by the appeal committee and that the appeal committee can see a fair case when it is fair, and not have the case argued from a legal point of view. It is very difficult for us to judge at this stage because we have been denied any definite information about what arrangements are to be made and what is to be published. It is left pretty vague. I do not know whether there is scope for legal hassles, but I sincerely hope that there is not.

If this appeal procedure is to get off on the right foot, do not let us have this representation. It says "a friend": it does not say that that friend may not be a lawyer. However, a friend in this case will generally mean someone going along to assist a probably nervous parent or one who may be a little inarticulate. It does not presume that he will be somebody who is paid to be there. Indeed, I have never known of a trade union officer going to a tribunal and being paid. We want to retain that type of atmosphere rather than get into a position of formality with lawyers being present and lawyers being paid. Goodness knows where we shall end up with that sort of thing.


My Lords, in the very short time that I have been in this House—and I am certainly not referring to anyone present today—I have learnt that it is not only lawyers who are slightly long-winded. I should like to support my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. Speaking as a magistrate —and I know that the noble Baroness, Lady David, is also magistrate—I should like to point out the number of times one has thought of giving a severer sentence to somebody who has defended himself. The number of times one has changed one's mind when someone has had legal representation, or the representation of somebody in authority who has presented his case properly, makes me feel quite sure that it is right to include the words as already set out in the Bill.


My Lords, I should have been happier if the clause had had slightly different wording and had read: "to be accompanied by or represented by a friend". The fact that the friend accompanies and that the representation is separate may well encourage a more official and authoritiative situation than I think should be the right atmosphere here. However, we cannot do that. Otherwise, I support the amendment.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady David, my noble friend Lord Swinton and the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, all asked me the meaning of "or to be represented". That term does not just narrowly mean "to be represented by a lawyer". A parent who lodged an appeal might well be represented by his or her spouse—if one reads the provisions on procedure one will see that the apeal must be in writing, setting out the grounds on which it is made—or by a friend, by his local councillor or by anyone else who knew about the particular case.

Our expectation is that appeal committees will exercise their right to allow someone to be represented very sparingly, and normally only in circumstances where it was clearly appropriate—for example, where the parent was handicapped, or inarticulate and as a result unable to present his own case, or where the parent could not attend the committee in person because of work or domestic circumstances. As I think my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter pointed out very well indeed, there are cases where it is better for somebody to be represented by someone else, for many reasons, not least of which would be language difficulties, where that was thought appropriate.

I entirely accept the point that has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and others, that we want as informal an atmosphere as possible. The last thing that we want appeal committees to become is a lawyer's paradise, although it is always enormously interesting to listen to lawyers disagreeing about something. However, that is not the purpose of appeal committees. I have every reason to think that appeal committees will be built on the best practice that exists at present, where there is an informal atmosphere and where a parent can put his case. However, when legislating in this way it seems to us right to make provision that, when somebody wishes to go to an appeal committee, he or she has the right to be accompanied by a friend or to be represented. That is all that this part of the schedule means—no more and no less. It is not in any way to be interpreted as meaning that we expect everybody to be looking on this as a court of law.

As I indicated in Committee, we believe that the normal informal procedures that operate within local education authorities at present, whereby parents discuss with officials of the education department, with their councillors, with the heads of the schools and with all sorts of people, the school to which they wish their child to go, will continue as before, and we believe that the appeal committee would be a last resort and not a first resort. Moreover, when it is a last resort we hope that it will have an informal atmosphere. That is how we hope it will continue and we have no reason for believing that the present practice of local authorities which already operate an appeal system will not, where it operates effectively and well, be continued in the future under these new arrangements.


My Lords, I do not want to enter into an argument about the real meaning of the schedule or the amendment. However, I should like an interpretation of page 37, line 35. It reads: An appeal committee shall afford the appellant an opportunity of appearing and making oral representations"— that is all clear enough. It goes on: and may allow the appellant to be accompanied by a friend". What is the object of having a friend? Is it mainly to hold the appellant's hand, to give him comfort in a trying atmosphere or is that friend to be allowed to make oral representations—that is to say, to address the tribunal?

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should have thought that the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, would have appreciated from the comments made by other noble Lords earlier, that there are occasions on which a parent might like to be accompanied by a friend. It may be that it is a one-parent family, someone who is rather nervous and who perhaps feels that he would not put the case very well. After all, there are few of us who have not had the experience of feeling rather nervous on an occasion and who would genuinely like to have the company of someone we know, even if that person does not say anything at all. It is a type of moral support. That seems to me to be perfectly reasonable. It would be possible for the friend to say something—that would be for the chairman of the appeal committee to decide—or for the person to be represented, because I believe that in such a case the friend would quite frequently be the local councillor, who would therefore say something. The arrangements are designed to be flexible, reasonable and informal.


My Lords, my question was a very simple one: is the friend to have the right to address the tribunal?


My Lords, we are on Report and the noble Lord must address the House with the leave of the House, should he wish to do so. However, it is not customary on Report to speak twice.


My Lords, in that case by leave of the House—although I do not believe that I have spoken twice—it seems to me that the powerful case made by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, is unanswerable in this particular context. But it also presupposes two other things. In the first place it presupposes that someone who is inarticulate and, therefore, unable to present a case would also find the access to a lawyer formidable and difficult. For example, many of us find the noble and learned Lords who are lawyers formidable, though not difficult. In this context could it also he possible for someone to be represented by a friend at such an appeal only to find that the authority is represented by a QC? As has been the case in certain tribunals that have taken place in other contexts, quite often an authority—not an educational one—has been represented by top legal talent when the person appealing has been represented only by a friend.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, I am absolutely appalled that everyone who has spoken seems to be looking on this as a court of law where people might be fined or sent to jail. This is simply a case of deciding to which school a child should go. I still think that it would be appalling if lawyers were involved. I am all for a friend being allowed to attend, and a friend can take various shapes or forms; presumably, the friend might even be the husband or wife of the parent who is speaking most of the time. As I have tabled another amendment relating to this matter a little later on, I am happy to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.2 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 16: Page 37, line 44, leave out ("simple majority vote") and insert ("a simple majority of the votes cast and in the case of an equality of votes the chairman of the committee shall have a second or casting vote").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move this amendment. In recent discussions, the local authority associations have suggested that paragraph 8 of Schedule 2 leaves it unclear whether a majority of the appeal committee would be required for an appeal to be successful or, if for any reason some members did not cast a vote, simply a majority of those voting. This amendment clarifies that what was intended was that an appeal should be decided according to the votes cast, and at the same time makes explicit provision for the chairman to have a second casting vote in the event of there being no majority either way. I beg to move.

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 17: Page 38, line 10, leave out from ("private") to end of line 17.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment aims to put a full stop after the word "private" in paragraph 10 on page 38 of the Bill. From what I have already said, I am sure noble Lords will realise that I want these appeal committees to be as private and as quiet and informal as possible. Many confidential matters will be being brought forward and it is extremely embarrassing for the parents to have other people present.

The rest of this paragraph says that a member of the Council on Tribunals may attend as an observer and, equally, that a councillor can attend as an observer. That is very different from a councillor attending as, perhaps, a friend. It is appalling to have people in the room listening in. I should have thought that there would be nothing worse for inhibiting a parent wishing to say something about, perhaps, an illness or other problems. Therefore, I very much hope that this amendment will be accepted.


My Lords, one has some sympathy with this amendment, subject to what my noble friend the Minister of State may say. I must confess that a fear which I have is that if these appeals are not heard in private, they will become the subject of wrangle in the local Press, which I think would be regrettable.

The Earl of SWINTON

My Lords, I, too, should like to support what the noble Baroness. Lady David, said on this amendment. I find myself very much in sympathy with her on this Schedule. I remember one occasion when I was sitting on an appeal committee and, believe it or not, a parent was appealing against a choice of school because it was the school to which the sibling, in this case the older child, was going. The parents did not want the younger child to go there because the older child had some very nasty personal habits, which we were all told about in full detail. I am quite sure that that influenced us greatly and we granted the appeal. I am quite certain that if the public or the Press were sitting in, we should never have been told those rather nasty basic details. It might have spared our blushes, but I cannot believe that a parent who wants to bring out such matters would be very pleased to do so, as it were, in open court.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, it is only right to say immediately that as the Bill stands it provides that all appeal committee hearings are to be held in private unless the responsible local education authority or governors direct otherwise. If carried, the amendment would remove not only the possibility of their ever directing otherwise, but also the rights of local councillors to attend hearings or, indeed, of members of the Council on Tribunals to attend meetings.

The provisions enabling councillors to attend hearings is primarily intended to allow an appellant's local councillor to attend the hearing, of his case even if he does not do so in the capacity of "friend." But it would in any case seem unusual to restrict the usual rights of elected councillors to attend the meetings of a committee of their authority—just as Members of Parliament are able to attend the meetings of any committee of their House, whether held in public or private.

As far as the members of the Council on Tribunals are concerned, to which the noble Baroness, Lady David, alluded in her opening remarks. I think that the times they will attend will be very infrequent indeed. As I understand it, there are only 10–15 members of the Council on Tribunals. As it is, it has to look at many other tribunals and has under its general supervision bodies with adjudicatory functions in agriculture, aircraft and shipbuilding, children's voluntary homes, forestry, immigration. industry, mental health, the National Health Service, patients, pensions, rates, rents, taxation

and wireless telegraphy. Therefore, by the time it has done all that, the number of times any one of its members will appear at an appeal committee will be very limited indeed.

I think that in practice we shall find that almost all the hearings are held in private, for the reasons that have been well advanced both by the noble Baroness, Lady David, and by my noble friend Lord Swinton. However, in saying that, we are making provision that where a local councillor would like to attend, he or she can do so. I do not think that this is an unreasonable provision in this case.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, I think that the parents have the strongest right here. I am not at all impressed by what the Minister has said. The tribunal people may not turn up often, but it seems to me that it will be extremely bad for those parents who happen to be there when they do. I feel strongly about this. The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and I have actually sat on these appeal committees, so I hope that noble Lords might pay attention to what we have said. I intend to press this amendment.

6.8 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 17) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 61; Not-Contents, 109.

Alexander of Potterhill, L. Glenkinglas, L. Parry, L.
Ardwick, L. Hale, L. Peart, L.
Aylestone, L. Halsbury, E. Plant, L.
Bacon B. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Balogh, L. Hughes, L. St. Just, L.
Birk, B. Jacques, L. Shinwell, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Janner, L. Spens, L.
Brimelow, L. Jeger, B. Stamp, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Kaldor, L. Stedman, B.
Bruce of Donington, L. Kirkhill, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Leatherland, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Collison, L. Listowel, E. Stone, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Swinfen, L.
Darwen, L. Lovell-Davis, L. Swinton, E.
David, B. McCarthy, L. Underhill, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Masham of Ilton, B. Wallace of Coslany, L. [Teller.]
Denington B. Merrivale, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Mishcon, L. Wells-Pestell, L. [Teller.]
Fisher of Rednal, B. Northfield, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Gaitskell, B. Oram, L. Wynne-Jones L.
Glenamara, L.
Abercorn, D. Fortescue, E. Mancroft, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Mansfield, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Gainford, L. Margadale, L.
Amherst, E. Galloway, E. Marley, L.
Amory, V. Gibson-Watt, L. Morris, L.
Ampthill, L. Gisborough, L. Mottistone, L.
Auckland, L. Gladwyn, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Avebury, L. Glasgow, E. Norfolk, D.
Avon, E. Glendevon, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Balerno, L. Gowrie, E. Ogmore, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Grey, E. Onslow, E.
Banks, L. Gridley, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Belstead, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Pender, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Redmayne, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Reigate, L.
Cathcart, E. Hampton, L. Rochdale, V.
Clitheroe, L. Hanworth, V. Romney, E.
Cockfield, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Cottesloe, L. Harvington, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Henley, L. Sempill, Ly.
Daventry, V. Hill of Luton, L. Sharpies, B.
Davidson, V. Hornsby-Smith, B. Simon, V.
de Clifford, L. Hylton, L. Strathclyde, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Hylton-Foster, B. Strathspey, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Killearn, L. Stuart of Findhorn, V.
Dundonald, E. Kimberley, E. Teynham, L.
Ebbisham, L. Kinloss, Ly. Tranmire, L.
Eccles, V. Kinnoull, E. Trefgarne, L.
Ellenborough, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Trenchard, V.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Lloyd of Kilgerrnn, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Elton, L. Long, V. Vickers, B.
Enniskillcn, E. Loudoun, C. Vivian, L.
Evans of Claughton, L. Lyell, L. Westbury, L.
Exeter, M. McFadzean, L. Wigoder, L.
Faithfull, B. Mackay of Clashfern, L. Wolverton, L.
Ferrers, E. Macleod of Borve, B. Young, B.
Forester, L. McNair, L.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 18 not moved.]

6 17 p.m.

Page 38, line 25, at end insert— (" 12. Appeals shall be heard at a time when the parent of the child would not normally be working.")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I move the amendment that: Appeals shall be heard at a time when the parent of the child would not normally be working.

Most Members of this House would agree that choice of school is of vital importance to parents concerned, as the great majority are, for their children's success and happiness in life. It is essential, therefore, that parents should have not only the right of appeal when the school allocated is not of their choice, but that they should believe that the systems of selection and appeal are fair from the parents' point of view. This clearly necessitates recognition of the fact that the great majority of the fathers of school children are in full-time employment and that a significant number of the pupils' mothers are in part-time if not full-time work.

The times of hearing the appeal should, therefore, be flexible and should, so far as possible, enable the parents concerned to attend without loss of time at work. My experience as a school governess suggests that if this condition were fulfilled the appeals committee would normally meet in the evening between 5.30 and 9, but the working hours of parents vary greatly, and in some areas afternoon or indeed morning sittings might be held. May I say, in conclusion, that, although only one parent is referred to in this amendment, I am assuming that both parents would be concerned for their child's educational future, and would wish to put their case jointly before the appeals committee. I beg to move.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I understand the intentions of the noble Baroness, Lady Stewart of Alvechurch, in moving the amendment, but I think there would be very real problems of definition of what constituted work and what could be regarded as"normal working"in these circumstances, and I hope we shall be able to leave the Bill as it now stands and to leave the decision on a matter like this to the good sense of local authorities, who will determine the matter in the light of local and individual circumstances. I am sure they will pay particular regard to the position of single parent families in making their arrangements, and the Bill provides in paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 for an appeal committee to listen to oral representations from someone speaking on behalf of an appellant where they consider that to be appropriate.

Indeed, natural justice would require that the time fixed for a hearing was such that the appellant could reasonably be expected to attend. If the appellant informed the committee that he or she could not attend at a particular time, the committee would have to take reasonable steps to arrange a time at which the appellant could attend. It is unlikely, however, that a committee would be required to make special arrangements solely on the grounds that unless they did so the appellant would have to lose money by taking time off work. If one considers the variety of circumstances that would be covered by the amendment, I suggest it is better to leave it to the normal workings of the local authority, and I hope that with that explanation the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.


My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 [Information as to schools and admission arrangements]:

[Amendment No. 20 not moved.]

[Manuscript Amendments Nos. 20A and 20B not moved.]

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 21:

Page 9, line 3, at end insert— ("(e) the arrangements for maintaining continuity of education for pupils transferring from primary schools to secondary schools and, where appropriate, from secondary schools to Sixth Form Colleges or other similar educational establishments.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this must be a totally uncontentious amendment. In the information which is published it seems important that parents should know what happens all the way through their children's education. If you have an 11 to 16 school, it is important that parents should know what comes after—where the children would go, for instance to a sixth-form college, a tertiary college or, if they want, to the sixth form of an 11 to 18 school. This information is very important because if there are both 11 to 16 and 11 to 18 schools, that may affect parents' choice. They want to know what will be available at a sixth-form college or at tertiary colleges—the amendment does not fill in every possibility—and this proposal is designed to enable parents to know what possibilities will be open to them at the next stage of their children's education.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, if we are concerned with the arrangements relating to the content of education and the curriculum, this is not the right place to try to deal with the matter. Information of that kind will be published under the terms of subsection (5). It remains to be settled how much of such information should be specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State and how much left to the discretion of local authorities and governors. But I am sure that it would be inappropriate to specify that now. In saying that, I recognise—as indeed does anybody who is familiar with the education system—it is important that information about schools should be passed to parents and that information should be passed from one school to another about what the child has done in order that the full records of the child and the education authority may be kept up to date, but I hope the noble Baroness will agree that the way we are proposing to meet this is better than prescribing it in the Bill in the way she proposes.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, in the light of what the noble Baroness said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.25 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 22:

Page 9, leave out lines 11 to 13 and insert— ("( ) Every local education authority shall, as respects each school maintained by them other than an aided or special agreement school, and the governors of every aided or special agreement school shall, as respects that school publish—").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I wish to speak at the same time to the linked amendments, which are Nos. 24, 26 and 31.


My Lords, would it be in order during this discussion, for I feel it might save time, to refer to Amendment No. 29 to Clause 9, which covers the same point?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (The Earl of Listowel)

My Lords, noble Lords may refer to any amendments they wish to refer to.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, I have an amendment to the Government amendment, but I presume I move that after the Minister has spoken?


That is so, my Lords.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, it might be for the convenience of the House if we discussed all my amendments, the amendment to which the noble Lord, Lord Renton, referred, and of course the one which the noble Baroness, Lady David, mentioned. They must, of course, be moved separately afterwards, but it may be for the convenience of the House to debate all these matters together.

We had a very long discussion about the whole question of the exclusion of special schools from the provisions of Clauses 6 to 8 in Committee andl promised on that occasion to re-examine the extent to which the provisions of Clause 8 could be applied to special schools. I have taken the opportunity since Committee not only of re-reading the debate on that occasion but of considering yet again how far we can go in the Bill in meeting the feeling that was expressed in all parts of the Committee on that occasion on this matter. I think it would be helpful if I referred the House once again to the statement I made on our proposals on the Warnock Report and to re-affirm that it is our intention to publish a White Paper soon, and I hope we shall be able to introduce legislation shortly; and I would like anything I say on this matter to be seen, as it were, in relation to that and the undertakings that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and I have given on this matter.

The amendments, and particularly No. 31, which is the principal amendment, honour the undertaking I gave during the Committee stage to re-examine the extent to which the provisions of Clause 8 can be applied to special schools. The amendment has the effect of requiring local education authorities to publish information about their maintained special schools and their policy and arrangements relating to special educational treatment. The content of the information and the manner of publication will be prescribed in statutory regulations made by the Secretary of State. The reference to policy and arrangements means that the information to be given under this heading is not confined to maintained special schools but includes an authority's use of non-maintained special schools and independent schools, arrangements for home tuition and any other forms of special help available.

I hope that what I have mentioned goes a very long way towards meeting the concern that was expressed, and I hope, too, that the House will realise that by drawing the terms of the matter as widely as we can we are doing all possible to meet this anxiety. In short, the information could provide a guide to all the educational services available for the ascertained handicapped child, and I very much hope that I shall have the support of the House in these amendments.

On looking again at the provisions of Clause 8(5) and (6), in the light of Amendment No. 31 (to Clause 9), it now seems inappropriate to require by statute that the publication of information under Clause 8(5) should necessarily take place at the same time as the publication of particulars under Clause 8(l) and (2). What is proposed by Amendments Nos. 22, 24, and 26, taken together, is that publication not only of the information required by regulations made under Clause 8(5), but also of particulars required under Clause 8(1) and (2), should take place at such time or times as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State in regulations made under Clause 8(6). What those times should be. and whether or not different times should be specified as regards different information, will be the subject of consultation with the local authority associations and other interested bodies. We believe that these latter provisions will lead to more flexible arrangements.

I hope that following my explanation of my amendment those noble Lords who are particularly interested in this matter will realise that they will now have information on the whole framework within which provision is made for handicapped children, which will include assessment procedures and arrangements for consultation, as well as information about the schools themselves. I hope that in the light of this explanation noble Lords will feel that we have gone as far as we can in the Bill towards meeting their requests. I beg to move.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (The Earl of Listowel)

My Lords, I shall now call manuscript Amendment No. 22A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 22.

6.33 p.m.

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 22A as an amendment to Amendment No. 22: Line 2, leave out (" other than an ") an insert ("and each").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 22A, may I also speak to Amendment No. 22B, so that the sentence referred to will make sense when I eventually read it out. Amendment No. 22A refers to line 2 of the Minister's amendment, and reads: leave out ('other than an') and insert ('and each')".

Amendment No. 22B refers to line 3 of the earlier amendment, and reads: leave out ('and') and insert 'having consulted') ".

So the subsection would then begin: Every local education authority shall, as respects each school maintained by them and each aided or special agreement school, having consulted the governors of every aided or special agreement school shall, as respects that school publish …".

The aim here is that all the information about both the county schools and the aided schools should be published together, so that a parent can have all the information at one time: but the governors of the aided schools will be consulted about what that information should be. In Committee the point was stressed that it would be helpful for parents to have only one document about the schools from which they had to choose, rather than for them to have to collect a number of documents. I beg to move.


My Lords, if the noble Baroness, Lady David, will forgive me, I shall not speak to her amendment because it deals with a point that is separate from the points raised in the amendments of my noble friend in relation to special schools and children in need of special educational treatment—handicapped children. In this respect I mention in particular Amendment No. 31 because, as my noble friend rightly pointed out, it is the one amendment that mentions the special schools and the handicapped, though of course the operative amendments are really Amendments Nos. 22, 24 and 26.

In particular, Clause 8(5) would be very considerably altered by the amendments proposed by my noble friend. If your Lordships will be so patient as to bear with me, I shall read out how Clause 8(5) would read if my noble friend's amendments were accepted, because I believe it is important that we should understand the very complicated position that would be reached. The subsection would read as follows: Every local education authority shall, as respects each school maintained by them other than an aided or special agreement school, and the governors of every aided or special agreement school shall, as respects that school publish

  1. (a) such information as may be required by regulations made by the Secretary of State; and
  2. (b) such other information, if any, as the authority or governors think fit,"
and every local education authority shall also publish such information as may be so required with respect to their policy and arrangements in respect of any matter relating to primary or secondary education". If we were simply to take the provisions of subsection (5) as they stand, it would be an act of faith on our part to accept them, because the outcome would depend upon the contents of the regulations which, my noble friend has pointed out, the Secretary of State will have power to make, and upon such decision as the authority or the governors may think fit to make with regard to the giving of information. So that would require a good deal of trust on our part. However, my noble friend has pointed out what the Secretary of State intends to do in the exercise of his power. She has pointed out that there will be assessment procedures mentioned for the assessment of the handicapped; that there will be consultation; and that information will be given as to the educational facilities available. Therefore it seems to me that we have to trust the Secretary of State in that respect. But if there had been no amendment of Clause 9(2), of the kind that has been proposed in Amendment No. 31, I should not have had the faith which I am now trying to express.

Having said that we must at least be thankful for those small mercies, may I ask my noble friend to consider, if only from the drafting point of view, what a tremendously complicated outcome there will be in regard to the contents of Clause 8. When on Committee my noble friend said that she would see that information would be given to the parents of handicapped children, I very much hoped that Clause 8(1), (2), (3) and (4) would be applied, apart of course from subsection (1)(e) and subsection (2)(b) which refer to appeals, and which would no longer be appropriate. But by virtue of the way in which Clause 8(5) is to be amended, the parents of such children will be deprived of the advantages which they might have had had the first four subsections of Clause 8 been applied to the giving of information to them. I do not see any reason why they should be deprived. I wish to suggest to my noble friend that when further considering Clause 8 between now and Third Reading, it might be possible for her to ensure that these four subsections are added to the power to be taken in subsection (5), so that then indeed we would have the fullest opportunity that we could possibly seek with regard to the giving of information concerning the education of the handicapped.

My Lords, I wonder whether I may refer to Amendment No. 29. I think that the noble Lord the Deputy Speaker might well have been informed by the Officers of the House that, owing to a fault in transcribing, there is a small omission there. In the fifth line, instead of "subsection (1) paragraph (b)", it should read "paragraph (c) ", and be followed by "subsection (2)(b)". If that plan had been followed, then the whole of the provisions of Clause 8 would have been made available so far as the handicapped are concerned. I think, then, that my noble friend's rather complicated amendments would not have been necessary; and, although the last thing I would ask your Lordships to do is to reject the amendments proposed by my noble friend —and, personally, I would be glad to support them—I still ask her to consider between now and Third Reading whether it might not be better to have Clause 8 redrafted and simplified, and something on the lines of Amendment No. 29 done to Clause 9. But, having said that—I am sorry it is so complicated, and I have no doubt added to the confusion—I should like to express my gratitude to my noble friend for what she has done, even though she has not been able to go all the way, that some of us would have liked.


My Lords, this is a highly technical matter and I venture into it with very great trepidation. However, I should like to follow on from what my noble friend Lord Renton has said, and no doubt my noble friend the Minister will be expressing a view later as to whether his method has some advantages over her method. Having said that, may I thank her for what she said about the giving of information to the parents of handicapped children? I think this was most helpful, after the Government had succeeded, by a small margin, in defeating the previous amendment at Committee stage.

What I should like to add today concerns the two questions of parents' preferences and appeals in respect of handicapped children. Would it be possible for the benefits of this Bill to be brought in by regulation in these two cases, rather than having to rely on subsequent legislation for this purpose? If that were possible, it would give the Secretary of State ample time for all the necessary consultations and for the setting of a date that would be suitable to everybody. This, I feel, would be preferable to having to wait for a completely separate piece of legislation, with all the attendant risks that go with that.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for all the work she has done on this; and I should also like to support what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has said. This really is a highly complicated matter, and I feel that, as it will appear in the Bill if the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is agreed to, it will be very complicated for local authorities to work out, and might mean the taking on of extra staff. Since the Committee stage, I have been telephoned and written to by a governor of a special school to say that his special school is probably going to close down, and that the children will then be put in a section of a comprehensive school. Therefore, as things are now those children will not come under this Bill, or will come under only a very small part of it, but if they get moved to the comprehensive school then they will come wholly under all the sections of this Bill. That is just to illustrate how very complicated the whole thing is.

I think it is the right of parents who have children who are handicapped that they should have clear information. Being a parent of non-handicapped children, I would want information about the school to which I was going to send them; but I would want it even more if I had a handicapped child, because one would probably worry more about such a child. Also, the movement of a child from one school to another is not very good for a child, because it is disruptive. Therefore, no parents want to send their child to a special school if that school is going to close down in a year or two. I therefore implore the noble Baroness—and I know she has been so helpful—to try to get this clearer and simpler, so that everybody can understand it.


My Lords, I agree that this is complicated. I think it is probably true that to apply the whole of Section 8 to special schools would in fact do less for special schools than the 1944 Act already provides, because under the 1944 Act certain special provisions are made. As I understand it, what is being sought—and I would strongly support it—is that the parents of children should have information relating to special schools, just as other parents have information relating to ordinary schools. That is the fundamental issue which I think is being pressed, and I hope the Minister will be able to give us an asssurance that this will be so.

Baroness DARCY de KNAYTH

My Lords, perhaps I may add my thanks to those expressed by other noble Lords to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who has put in so much work on this; and also back up what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has said about the complication of this clause. I had hoped for very much more. I had hoped for an inclusion in Clauses 6 and 7, and also at least in the whole of Clause 8, whereas now we have only this slightly emasculated subsection (5). As the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has said, we have just got to have faith and trust. We do not know what we will be given; but I should like to thank the noble Baroness. I think that, at least, it represents a glimmer of hope for the parents of handicapped children that one day they may achieve parity with the parents of non-handicapped children.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I am very grateful to those noble Lords who have welcomed these amendments that the Government are putting forward. I recognise that it does not go (and, indeed, I have never pretended to them or to the House that it does go) as far as those who take this great interest in the handicapped would like it to go, and that is why I prefaced my remarks by saying that these amendments are, as it were, a first instalment, and I recognise that what is required is a new Bill. I have said enough on that matter at this stage, I hope, to assure the House that I, certainly, and the Government, will work for this.

My Lords, I have now been told that this is a complex piece of drafting, and that it makes the clause a rather complicated one. If I may say so, one of the reasons for this, of course, is that we are in fact grafting on to this Bill something which the Bill was not originally intended to do; and, not surprisingly, it comes out in a rather complicated way. That is not in any way to say that I would go back on what we are doing, because I think it is right that we should do it; but I think that is the reason why it reads in this particular way, and I can assure the House that there is no sinister motive behind it at all.

My noble friend Lord Renton has said he has to take a great deal on trust. I accept, as I said at the beginning, that in fact this does not go so far as he and his noble friends would like, but it is a start. I should like to assure him that we shall be consulting widely on this. We shall be consulting not only the local education authorities but voluntary bodies who are concerned with special schools and with the health authorities, so that I hope that he will feel that over this procedure we shall consult as widely as we can to get a measure of agreement. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked about regulations. They will be made under Clause 8 of the Bill and therefore they will come into effect more quickly than our proposals on any future Bill.

The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, asked about what happens when a special school is closed and children go on to a special section of a comprehensive school. I think the answer is that those children would still be subject to the law under the 1944 Education Act. They would not come under Clauses 6 and 7 in this case. If that is not correct, then I will write to let her know. I believe, as the Act applies to handicapped children, that the provisions which state that handicapped children have to be assessed and put into categories to go to certain schools would still apply. It would mean that the provisions on Clause 8 that I am suggesting would apply to that section of the comprehensive school, and not that parents will have all the other benefits that parents would have if their children were going to ordinary schools and the parents had the ordinary choice of schools. This was also the point that the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, was making.

It may be helpful to state again that I cannot at this stage itemise the contents of future regulations but I would expect them to be widely drawn and I would expect information to include details of the authority's arrangements for special educational treatment for children in different categories of handicap in maintained county, voluntary and special (including hospitals) schools; of its arrangements with the non-maintained special schools and the independent schools; of its facilities for boarding education and of its arrangements for special educational treatment otherwise than in schools. The information would also include the authority's procedures for the assessment of children with disabilities of mind or body and for involving parents in decisions affecting their handicapped children; it would indicate to parents the help available to them where they suspect that their child has a handicap and they may not know where the child should go. This is drawing the regulations under Clause 8 as widely as we can.

I have been asked why we have not included Clause 8(1) to (4) in these proposals. I should like to say, as I indicated privately, that I expect that the spirit of subsections (1) to (4) would be carried over into the Warnock Bill; but the treatment would be different. Perhaps it is worth clarifying the situation and looking carefully at what Clause 8(1) to (4) mean. Subsection (1) is concerned with arrangements for admissions, and we believe that it would not be helpful for local education authorities to state that in certain cases, for example, educationally-subnormal children are admitted to an educationally-subnormal school. There would be a difficulty about writing this in in this particular way. Subsection (2) is concerned with the aided and special-agreement schools. There are no special schools which fall under this category. Subsection (3) is concerned with the numbers of pupils and age ranges and, in fact, special schools are inherently flexible in their admission arrangements in order to meet individual needs, and so the particular matters in subsection (3) do not generally apply. Subsection (4) is concerned with the criteria for offering places in schools not maintained by the local authority.

As far as special education is concerned, the circumstances are highly individualised and local education authorities would find it difficult to set out their criteria. It would not always be helpful for the local education authority to state publicly that maladjusted children with, for example, unstable home backgrounds are offered residential places in non-maintained or independent schools because the local education authority had no such residential provision of its own. As one considers the details of this, I think noble Lords will agree that it would be difficult for local education authorities to set out in the context of this Bill requirements which the Bill is not designed to meet. That is why I think it is better in the circumstances —and I had not intended to explain this as fully as I have; but I think it right to have done so—to leave this matter to another Bill and to include the spirit of what we are trying to do in this Bill in the Warnock Bill rather than to bring it in in this case.

With that explanation and with the assurances that I have given, I hope that noble Lords will feel that the Government have made a real effort to apply Clause 8, where appropriate, to special schools and that they will accept these amendments.


My Lords, if I may speak again, I think I understood my noble friend the Minister to be saying that it was a policy decision that the matters of parents' preferences and of appeals regarding handicapped children should come in a subsequent Bill. Am I right on this?

Baroness YOUNG

Yes, my Lords. When we discussed this at Committee, I explained that we could not apply Clauses 6 and 7 to special education because it would put on to local education authorities two contradictory requirements. It therefore requires new legislation in order to apply the kind of provisions we have in Clauses 6 and 7 to parents of children in special schools. I said that I would bring forward amendments to Clause 8, and that is what I am doing; but the amendments do not apply to Clauses 6 and 7 for the reasons which I gave earlier.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, has the Minister anything to say to me about my amendment?

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I apologise. I thought that the noble Baroness would move it again later. The point that she was making is a rather separate one from that of special schools. It deals with voluntary-aided schools. It was because I knew it was a separate point that I did not answer it. We discussed a similar amendment on the Committee stage and I think it right to say that we on this side believe that governors of aided schools should retain their responsibility for running their own affairs. This amendment would have the effect that governors of such voluntary-aided schools were responsible for publishing particulars of admissions and appeal arrangements but no other information—including examination results specified in regulations made under Clause 8(5). It is because we believe in the importance of voluntary-aided schools having their own rights over their admission arrangements and publication that I feel we cannot accept this amendment. I hope that the noble Baroness will agree with me that there is a difference between the role of the voluntary-aided schools and that of the county schools in this connection.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, I do not agree entirely. I am not altogether happy with the answer; but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment to the amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Manuscript Amendment No. 22B not moved.]

7 p.m.

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 23: Page 9, leave out lines 14 and 15.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I said when I withdrew a similar amendment to this one at the Committee stage that I wanted to think again and possibly come back at Report. Having thought again, I am not satisfied with the answer of the Minister. At column 891 of Hansard for 11th March, the noble Baroness said: What we are seeking in this clause is that information will be given to parents as a basis for their choice of schools in which their children will have to be educated, and this should not be left entirely to the discretion of LEAs or governors in the case of voluntary schools. At the present time, this is in fact the situation. The situation is not entirely satisfactory".

Here we have the situation that LEAs are not trusted. Then she went on (at col. 892), having said there will be consultation—and I had asked whether there would be a draft regulation before Report, and was told, "No": We have to go through these consultations and we clearly could not do so in the next two or three weeks. We propose to use the Department's Circular 15/77, which the noble Baroness quoted, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred to. The circular lists some 20 points ranging from the simplest factual information about schools, like the address and how many pupils it has, to matters of fundamental importance such as details of special facilities offered, examinations prepared for…pastoral arrangements, and so on. This is likely to form the basis of the proposals which we shall put forward in the consultative process, but in preparing these proposals clearly we would consider any points that will come up in the debate today. The difference is the point that the noble Baroness, Lady David, has herself mentioned, that we have a requirement about examination results. The Government's intention is to require the publication of results by regulation under the provisions of Clause 8, again after the necessary consultations have taken place with all those concerned".

Of course, the Bill has rather been rushed through and the consultations did not take place before so therefore we do not know exactly what is going to happen. The circular is admirable—I have now managed to get a copy of it. The Notes on Clauses about this do say that the publication of examination results not asked for in the circular will be required. I am not at all happy about this, particularly as the noble Baroness said we have a requirement about examination results. I am in entire agreement that it is good for the local education authority to know details of a school's results and policy on entering pupils for GCE and CSE, as it can then take appropriate action if something seems wrong and unsatisfactory with any particular school. I am strongly against league tables and schools individually being able to publish in the local Press or in an individual brochure. These results need much interpretation and explanation, and are open to much misrepresentation. Could we please have an assurance that results will be published by the local education authority and not individual schools?

If I may quote what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said in the debate on the same amendment, at column 893 he said: If I may say in passing, it seems a little peculiar to me that at this stage the Government have such definite ideas about the publication of examination results when, as the noble Baroness has told us, she has not yet even started on the process of consultation".

I would endorse that. Could we have that assurance about who will publish results from the Minister?

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I wonder whether it would be for the convenience of the House if we break off this stage for dinner now. I see it is just after 7 o'clock. We could then continue this stage in about an hour's time. I beg to move that further consideration on Report of this Bill be now adjourned.