HL Deb 20 May 1986 vol 475 cc137-45

3.14 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 2 [Procedure in relation to making etc. of instruments and articles]:

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 1: Page 3, line 22, at end insert ("having regard, in particular, to the status of the school as a controlled, aided or (as the case may be) special agreement school").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, during Committee stage some of your Lordships may have been bored by my various references to a meeting between my right honourable friend and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Menevia. I am happy to be able to tell your Lordships that that meeting achieved a great deal and this amendment is one of the results.

The Churches were concerned at the possibility that LEAs, in making articles of government for voluntary schools, might try to allocate to themselves functions which had traditionally been the province of the governing body. The Government pointed to Clause 2 of the Bill, which allows local disputes over such matters to be referred to the Secretary of State for determination, but the Churches feared that some future Secretary of State might be less favourably disposed towards the distinctive characteristics of voluntary status.

This amendment thus provides a significant extra safeguard for voluntary schools by making explicit what was always intended; namely, that in determining any dispute between the LEA and a voluntary school governing body the Secretary of State will have to have particular regard to the status of the voluntary schools. By his being required to make his determination in the light of that status, it is quite clear that the traditions, values and autonomy appropriately attaching to voluntary schools will be protected. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 3 [Governing bodies for county, controlled and maintained special schools]:

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 2: Page 3, line 38, after ("shall") insert ("subject to section 6 of this Act").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, with the permission of the House, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 3, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17 and 18. These are all drafting amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Earl of Swinton moved Amendment No. 3: Page 3, line 39, after ("of") insert ("the following (and no others)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 4: Page 4, line 3, leave out ("one") and insert ("two").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the amendment standing in the name of my noble friend and myself.

At the Committee stage there was a very wide-ranging debate on the complex issue of the composition of governing bodies. I take full responsibility for the fact—since I was responsible for drafting the first amendment—that the debate covered a series of issues. Those were concerned with the representative of non-teaching staff, the position of pupil governors and other matters, rather than concentrating on what we believed to be the single most important issue which should be considered by your Lordships in reference to this Bill; that is, the proper distribution of places on governing bodies in our schools between the various interested parties in the management of our schools.

My noble friend Lord Taylor of Blackburn 10 years ago published the report which has been referred to in properly favourable terms on many occasions in the course of the debates on this Bill. But the fundamental principle behind theTaylor Report, and one which has been accepted and welcomed very widely in the 10 years since the report was originally published, was that there are four interest groups in the government of our schools: the local education authority, which is responsible for the money; the parents, who in this sense perhaps act as representatives for those who are the objects of education, the staff in the schools, both the head teacher and the teachers themselves; and a fourth co-opted group. This group may represent higher education in the area, community life in the area of the school, industry and commerce, and a number of interests that may be appropriate to that area but for which statutory provision is not required.

The fundamental position which the Taylor Committee adopted was that all those four interest groups should be represented equally on the governing body. It is a matter of sadness—not of indignation—that after a period of 10 years the Government should have failed to implement in this Bill that recommendation of the four equal parts. This recommendation is the single most important element in the Bill in terms of the wording involved in implementing it, in volume terms, and the content.

I should make it clear that I am speaking also to Amendments Nos. 5, 9, 10, 14, 15, 19 and 20. Amendment No. 4 seeks to provide that the recommendations of the Taylor Report should be implemented properly. It seeks to provide that the number of teachers on the governing body should be increased to equal the number of parents and local education authority representatives; and that the number of co-opted governors should be reduced in most cases by one in order to achieve the equality which the Taylor Committee considered to be right after very extensive consultation and debate. In other words, we are putting forward the simplest possible implementation of the intentions behind the Taylor Report. We are introducing no extra concerns and no matters such as the place of non-teaching staff or of pupil governors at this time, although those are matters about which some of us feel quite strongly.

We believe that the principle, which the Government themselves have indicated is an important element behind the Bill, that there should be no overriding control by any one group of the governing bodies of our schools, can best be achieved by the equal representation of those four groups on the governing bodies.

I apologise for the complication as regards the number of amendments involved. That is simply because in successive subsections the Government have set out a composition of governing bodies for schools of different sizes. However, the fundamental issue behind this amendment is absolutely simple and straightforward. It says that teachers shall be equally represented with parents, the local education authority and co-opted governors. I believe that this is the rational conclusion of a debate which has been going on for more than 10 years. I believe that it would be a handsome gesture on the part of the Government to recognise that the nine years or more of debate which led to the publication of Better Schools last year could properly be crowned by the acceptance of the principles put forward in the Taylor Report. I beg to move.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I find myself in sympathy with the theme behind the noble Lord's amendments, but not with the detail. Therefore I cannot agree with the actual amendments as they stand. It seems to me that the rigour of these numbers which are allocated perhaps leaves not enough flexibility, and it is the co-opted governors who presumably provide the flexibility. There is no doubt that in my part of the world the sort of governorship which has been working very well for a long time would be imbalanced by the figures that are listed in the Bill and would be further imbalanced by the figures listed in the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh.

I know that this is the Report stage and I was unable to speak to this matter at an earlier stage, but if there is to be any change at all here I believe that it must be for more flexibility rather than for more tightness. Therefore I cannot support this amendment because it is going in the wrong direction.

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, I should like to support what the noble Lord has just said, but from a slightly different angle. I too would not question what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said about the recommendations in the Taylor Report, but I do not think that we can implement them simply by increasing numbers in this way. From our point of view it has a serious consequence.

The controlled schools are an integral part of the maintained system, and the foundation governors of a controlled school have a very important role to play. If this proposal and the others attached to it were implemented, the proportion of foundation governors as a whole would be reduced.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, if the right reverend Prelate will permit me, there is no amendment to the number of foundation governors. In each subsection the amendment proposed is to the number of co-opted governors in cases other than the cases of foundation governors in controlled schools. Perhaps I may refer the right reverend Prelate specifically to the first one concerned, which is Amendment No. 5, which refers to reducing the three co-opted governors to two rather than to changing the number of foundation governors.

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. My point was not that the noble Lord was making any proposal about the actual number of foundation governors, but that in proportion to the overall number of governors they would be reduced well below the figure in previous Education Acts, which was regarded as the minimum desirable. Although I have a certain sympathy with some of the noble Lord's arguments which spring from the Taylor Report, I would urge your Lordships to resist this amendment and the others attached to it.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, I should like to say a few words in support of the amendment on the ground that it is the teachers who are the professionals and who know about education. The other members of the proposed governing bodies are, when all is said and done, laymen and, what is more, they may be tinged with political feelings, However, teachers are primarily concerned with the question of teaching.

For example, when it comes to the discussion of the curriculum, to my mind the teachers are the only people who are really qualified to discuss it in any detail. Owing to their training and experience they will be able to say what subjects may be taught and what subjects may not be taught with any ease or difficulty, and it is the professional knowledge which they can bring to meetings which seems to me to be most important. Therefore I think that their number should certainly be in proportion to the others.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

My Lords, I want to deal not with the numbers but with the proportion. The thinking behind the idea was the four equal proportions, which we thought would be beneficial to the community. I am so sad that the right reverend Prelate has taken that particular view. The Taylor Report was not for the Church schools but for the state sector. Our terms of reference forbade us from going into the Church schools. We realised and recognised that there were difficulties within the Church sector, where there are foundation governors, but we were not looking at it from that point of view. We were not trying to introduce a tight, rigid scheme, but we wanted to make certain that the four bodies were there as a partnership. That was most important, because if we got the foundation right and if we got the structure right, the other matters in the Bill would follow. Therefore it is important that we should look at this most carefully.

Lord Somers

My Lords, I was very glad indeed to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, said about teachers being professionals. It is quite certain that they are. However, there is a slight danger here. Any teacher is devoted to his own particular subject, and there would of course be a temptation for every teacher to try to push his subject in the curriculum at the expense of others. From experience I have known that to happen. That is certainly an aspect about which one would want to be very careful.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, these amendments seek to put elected teacher governors on governing bodies in equal numbers to parent governors and LEA representatives. In order to limit the consequent increase in size of governing bodies, they also reduce the number of co-opted governors at county and maintained special schools by one in all cases.

As the noble Lords, Lord McIntosh and Lord Taylor of Blackburn, have pointed out, these changes are very much in line with the recommendations of the committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. However, as we made clear during the Committee stage debate, despite our appreciation of the work of that committee in opening up these matters for discussion—and I know how very much that committee meant to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and how much the noble Lord meant to the committee and, since then, to the debate on education—the Government do not accept its recommendations in this respect. I should emphasise, however, that the Government's resistance to the Taylor recommendation of equal shares and to this amendment is in no sense a criticism of teachers or of teacher governors.

A school has to be run as a partnership between the LEA, the governing body and the teachers. The governing body should reflect that partnership but should not match it exactly since the partnership can work at its best only if each of the partners has a distinctive voice. In the same way as the Government believe that LEAs should no longer dominate their schools' governing bodies, we see it as equally inappropriate for governing bodies to be dominated by the teachers. There is, of course, nothing in this amendment which would give the teachers a majority, but if, as seems appropriate, the head teacher is also taken into account, the amendment would make teachers the single largest block of governors. My Lords, that does not seem to be right.

3.30 p.m.

The formulation proposed by the Government takes appropriate account of the fact that the staff of a school has manifold opportunities through the exercise of its professional duties—and here I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee—to have a great influence on the life and work of the school. But I would put the other side of the coin to the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, and that is that its influence must in that respect already be greater than, for example, that of parents or other members of the local community.

While we accept that it is entirely right that they should be represented on the governing body, it therefore seems to us somewhat disproportionate to give teachers at the school, even an equal voice on the governing body with parents and the LEA, who may have fewer opportunities to make their views known on matters affecting an individual school. The Government's formulation also recognises the essentially lay nature of the governing body between the professionals in the LEA and the teaching force.

I was grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London for pointing out that the noble Lord's amendment would give controlled schools a different size of governing body from those of similar sized county and maintained special schools. I suspect that the noble Lord may have retained unchanged the number of foundation and co-opted governors at these schools in order to maintain the minimum one-fifth representation guaranteed by the 1980 Act. However, I have to point out that he has failed to do so in the case of the largest category of school, where his proposals would put the number of governors at a controlled school up to 22, with only four of these being foundation representatives.

Indeed, in all but the smallest category of county and maintained special schools the noble Lords' amendment would increase the size of the governing body as would his subsequent amendments, adding two pupil governors in all cases. The Government believe that it is important to keep governing bodies to such a size that the economical and effective transaction of business is not impeded.

The composition proposed by the Government in Clause 3 is very carefully balanced and intended to ensure appropriate representation of the interests most concerned with the work of the school without creating over-large governing bodies. Nothing that the noble Lord has said has persuaded me that his composition is preferable to ours, and I would ask your Lordships to reject this amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, having made such an attempt to simplify the issues before the House in comparison with the wide-ranging debate we had in Committee, I find it somewhat galling to hear noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, now expressing a preference for the flexibility which was our first choice at Committee stage. It was, after all, an amendment to allow flexibility and to permit local circumstances to have an influence on the size and composition of governing bodies that we took to a Division at Committee stage. The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, voted against us in the Division Lobby on that occasion, as did the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to intervene? At that stage I was not taking part in the debate.

The Earl of Swinton

Order, my Lords; this is Report stage.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I think it is proper for me to permit an interruption to my speech even at Report stage, particularly when it is not a response which is worthy of the noble Lord. Whether or not the noble Lord takes part in the debate, he has an opportunity to consider the issues, and I hope that his views have not changed since that time.

Of course, we would have preferred flexibility, but the Committee, in its wisdom, decided that the issues were too complex to permit of a flexible structure. Under those circumstance we have tried to simplify and clarify the issues, and to give the House an opportunity to express an opinion on this one issue at the one time.

I am also disappointed at the reaction of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. It is strictly true that in one category of school the increase in the number of teachers brings the number of foundation governors down to just below 20 per cent. But in the context of a debate in which we are all united on the need for no domination by one single party in the management of our schools, and in which we believe in co-operation between the different bodies represented on the governing body, surely the fact that in one case alone the number of foundation governors falls below is not seriously going to influence their important role in our controlled schools.

The anomalies caused to the composition of governing bodies by the choice that the head teacher has of deciding whether or not he will be a member of the governing body of course exist, as the noble Earl says, but they are anomalies which are forced on the House, forced into the Bill, by the rigid structure that is being imposed by the Government in this case. There is no single amendment which will resolve all these anomalies unless governing bodies, parents, teachers, and local education authorities are to be treated as adults and allowed to make suitable changes to fit their own circumstances and the circumstances in which their schools exist.

Under the circumstances in which we have only this method open to us of making a change we believe to be important and to be in line with educational thinking over a number of years now, it is necessary that we seek the opinion of the House on this amendment.

3.36 p.m.

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

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 89; Not-Contents, 143.

Ardwick, L. Listowel, E.
Aylestone, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Banks, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Blease, L. Lockwood, B.
Bottomley, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Briginshaw, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. McNair, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Mais, L.
Caradon, L. Mayhew, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Mishcon, L.
Chitnis, L. Molloy, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Nicol, B.
David, B. [Teller.] Oram, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Parry, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Denington, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Raglan, L.
Ennals, L. Rathcreedan, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Rhodes, L.
Ezra, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Gallacher, L. Roberthall, L.
Galpern, L. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Gladwyn, L. Rochester, L.
Glenamara, L. Sainsbury, L.
Gormley, L. Scrota, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Shepherd, L.
Grey, E. Stallard, L.
Grimond, L. Stedman, B.
Hampton, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Hanworth, V. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Strabolgi, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Hirshfield, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Hooson, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Tordoff, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Underbill, L.
Jacques, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Jeger, B. Walston, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Kaldor, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Kilbracken, L. Wilson of Langside, L.
Kilmarnock, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Leatherland, L. Winstanley, L.
Abercorn, D. Davidson, V.
Abinger, L. De Freyne, L.
Alexander of Potterhill, L. Denning, L.
Alport, L. Donegall, M.
Ampthill, L. Drumalbyn, L.
Annan, L. Ebbisham, L.
Astor, V. Ellenborough, L.
Bauer, L. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Elton, L.
Bellwin, L. Faithfull, B.
Beloff, L. Fanshawe of Richmond, L.
Belstead, L. Fortescue, E.
Bessborough, E. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Gainford, L.
Brookeborough, V. Glanusk, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Glenarthur, L.
Broxbourne, L. Granville of Eye, L.
Butterworth, L. Gray, L.
Caithness, E. Gray of Contin, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Gridley, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Grimthorpe, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L. Haig, E.
Chelwood, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Halsbury, E.
Cottesloe, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Cox, B. Harvington, L.
Cranbrook, E. Hayter, L.
Cromartie, E. Henderson of Brompton, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Hives, L.
Hood, V. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Hooper, B. Porritt, L.
Hunter of Newington, L. Portland, D.
Hylton-Foster, B. Rankeillour, L.
Inglewood, L. Reigate, L.
Kearton, L. Rochdale, V.
Kimball, L. Rodney, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Romney, E.
Kinnaird, L. St. Davids, V.
Lane-Fox, B. Salisbury, M.
Layton, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
London, Bp. Sandford, L.
Long, V. [Teller.] Sandys, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Seebohm, L.
Lurgan, L. Sempill, Ly.
McFadzean, L. Sharpies, B.
MacLehose of Beoch, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Sheffield, Bp.
Macpherson of Drumochter, L. Skelmersdale, L. [Teller.]
Somers, L.
Mancroft, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Manton, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Margadale, L. Strathcarron, L.
Marsh, L. Sudeley, L.
Masham of Ilton, B. Swinton, E.
Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L. Terrington, L.
Teviot, L.
Maybray-King, L. Thomeycroft, L.
Merrivale, L. Thurlow, L.
Mersey, V. Tranmire, L.
Molson, L. Trefgarne, L.
Monk Bretton, L. Trumpington, B.
Moran, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Mottistone, L. Vivian, L.
Mountevans, L. Waldegrave, E.
Mountgarret, V. Ward of Witley, V.
Moyne, L. Westbury, L.
Munster, E. Whitelaw, V.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Wise, L.
O'Brien of Lothbury, L. Wolfson, L.
Onslow, E. Wynford, L.
Orr-Ewing, L. Young, B.
Pender, L. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.