HL Deb 18 October 1988 vol 500 cc1016-113

3.11 p.m.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sanderson of Bowden)

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

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Sanderson of Bowden.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Constitution of School Boards]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 8, at end insert— ("() The identification and monitoring of the additional expenditure reasonably required for the establishment and continuing support of School Boards will be the subject of separate and ongoing consultation with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment was referred to on Second Reading by myself and other noble Lords. It concerns the cost of setting up school boards. At that time the Minister was not able to give us any assistance regarding the Government's estimate of approximately £5 million compared with the well-documented CoSLA estimate of approximately £17 million.

I believe the Minister realised from the general feeling of the House on Second Reading and as he began to see his way through the Bill—as we all do as our minds are concentrated on it—that £5 million is obviously inadequate. The school boards will be extremely important bodies (we hope they will be) and we must not let them down because we are not giving sufficient financial aid in order to carry out their work.

I understand from discussions with outside bodies and with people in touch with the Minister's office that there has been some Government rethinking. Our Second Reading debate and discussions in another place have made the Government look seriously at their original figure. Therefore, I hope that the Minister has some good news for us today—and I understand that he may well have such news. Therefore, this amendment will have proved worthwhile if it has induced the Government into rethinking their original figure of £5 million. With t hat, I await the Minister's reply. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

We on these Benches support this amendment but we do not wish to delay any good news which may be forthcoming.

Lord Hughes

I support my noble friend and should like to go further. I am certain that we will hear something from the Minister because, reasonable man that he is, he could not possibly justify the figure of £5 million, which was the Government's first stab at it.

The Minister in another place singled out certain items for particular criticisms—the training costs, stationery and printing, and the computer costs. These three figures totalled £9.5 million so that even on that criticism it still left over £8 million to which apparently the Minister took little or no exception. Even if we take the figures attributed to those three items by the Minister, we still have a figure in excess of double the Government's original estimate.

The Minister took exception to the training costs of £2.4 million, stationery at £3.6 million and computer costs of £3.5 million. It would surprise me if those figures could be cut to less than half the figure which the local authorities put on them. Therefore, the reasonable minimum we could expect from the Government, logically arrived at, should be about £13 million. If it is less than that I will find the Minister's conciliation does not go far enough.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

The Convention of Scottish Local authorities was kind enough to tell me of its anxieties in relation to budgeting and to give me a detailed breakdown. It is natural that local authorities are concerned that the Government should continue to watch these costs year by year and that in normal consultations with CoSLA the costs of school boards will be discussed. I imagine that my noble friend will have no difficulty in agreeing to that because that usually happens on all aspects of the education budget.

As regards the argument about detailed figures, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, I hope that the Minister will not assume that every school will need a new micro-computer. In my experience there are virtually no schools which do not have one. Most primary schools have at least one and many schools have a large number of micro-computers. There is no reason why one should not be employed partly on the management side, at any rate at the outset when there is not enormous delegation to schools. Therefore, although I can understand the anxiety, it seems to me that the figure requested is high. However, I too await the Minister's reply.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

At the risk of delaying good news may I also say that I have seen the figure produced by the Government and that of £17 million estimated by the local authority organisations. I am delighted that the costings produced do not include an attendance allowance. That has been a plague of local government in Scotland. The people who will serve on the school boards will do so, in a sense, as a contribution to community welfare. Rightly. they will receive their travel costs, but I very much welcome the fact that no further fees will he payable for the service. I regard it as an important community service. I look forward to some sort of compromise costing which I hope will shortly be announced and which will solve this difficulty.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, does not specify who he wishes to see consult with CoSLA on the cost of school boards. I find it hard to believe that the noble Lord means the Government, because he of all people must know that arrangements already exist by which CoSLA consults with the Scottish Office on the matter of local authority spending and revenue support grant. The financing of school boards was certainly firmly on the agenda when these matters were discussed in coming to the current settlement.

During the numerous debates on implementation of the Bill, both within and without Parliament, we gave repeated undertakings that we were prepared to commit through the revenue support grant the resources necessary to ensure the successful implementation of school boards. We did not say that we would hand CoSLA a blank cheque; nor did we say that we had decided that the cost would be £X million and CoSLA could expect not a penny more regardless of the strength of their argument. Neither of those approaches would have been realistic. We published our own broad estimate of the cost of introducing the new system and said simply and clearly that we would judge on its merits any case CoSLA cared to put to us for resources over and above the original government estimate.

A wide variety of figures have been put forward by regional authorities, by CoSLA and others. In the context of the revenue support grant discussions, however, the case CoSLA put to us was that school boards would cost over £17 million per year in terms of additional burdens on authorities. Those figures were a little questionable. They included items such as computer hardware costing £3.5 million and stationery costing over £3.3 million. It is hard to imagine how boards with only basic powers and meeting six times per year are likely to need such sophisticated computer equipment and each consume £1,200 of stationery and telephone calls in one year.

Furthermore, CoSLA's estimate included £2.4 million for training, which seemed a little high given that the Government are undertaking to fund a major training initiative centrally. CoSLA's estimate is somewhat on the high side. CoSLA's estimate also included £1.8 million for staff replacement costs. We have, of course, already accounted for this item in the new staffing guidelines which provide for the equivalent of £2.6 million to reflect the demands which will fall on senior teachers when boards are introduced.

Noble Lords will see therefore that CoSLA's estimate of over £17 million is perhaps flawed. However, we have looked carefully at the basic elements of CoSLA's case. We have seriously considered the points made to us and we have moved our own estimate of £5 million upwards and are prepared to commit a further £5 million through the revenue support grant. Taking account of the effect of the staffing and the Government's commitment to training for board members, the total provision for school boards will be in the order of more than £13 million per year. I think that was the figure that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, mentioned. There can now be no argument that we have not listened to what others have had to say and that school boards will fail through a lack of resources.

Perhaps I may also add two further points. The first point is that on training, centrally we are considering a figure of somewhere between £1 million and £2 million. I hope that I have answered the point that the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, made at Second Reading that this Government would not nickel and dime it.

Lord Hughes

Before my noble friend replies, may I say that although I travelled in from Heathrow yesterday in the Minister's car, the fact that he and I had both arrived at a figure of £13 million was not because he gave me any prior indication.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I believe that we should be grateful to the Minister. The original argument on the question of resources for doing the job was a genuine one. During the discussions on the Bill in this House and in another place the Government were very suspicious of the figure of £17.9 million put forward by CoSLA. It was taking a stab at the figure and we were also very sceptical about the Government's figure of £5 million, even after throwing in the little which was to be saved on the schools' councils.

I believe that the Minister has come a long way but we shall not know how costs will go until the boards actually start because it is a very new situation. The fact that the Minister has been able to raise the figure and the fact that when I total it up it comes to more than £13 million when training is thrown in, unless there is some other way of making the calculation, and judging by the slight smile on the Minister's face—

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I thank the noble Lord for giving way. The figure of £1 million to £2 million is for training for a period of over three years.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

Even then the figure goes comfortably beyond the figure of £13 million which my noble friend Lord Hughes mentioned. Therefore, I am only too pleased to withdraw this amendment. I thank the Minister for his efforts on behalf of the Committee.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 2: Page 1, line 12, at end insert ("and it shall be the duty of every School Board, in exercising its functions, to do so in accordance with the requirements of adequate and efficient provision of school education at the school and in accordance with the duties placed upon the education authority by section 1 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is to ensure that the school boards are fully informed of their duties and of functions delegated by local authorities. In considering the powers of the school boards as set out in the Bill, we believe that at the very beginning it is necessary to establish that they are subject to the same overriding statutory provisions as the education authorities themselves. In particular I refer to the actions in respect of functions delegated by local authorities: those which they undertake as agents for an authority, besides those actions which confer liability on an authority because of the actions of the school board and which directly affect the provision of education. All these matters are tied up with education.

During the debate in another place the Minister made it clear that this would be the case in practice and that provision was already made in Clause 8(5); namely, that the school boards were to be made aware of their responsibilities under the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. However, since this is such a basic and fundamental issue to the whole of education in Scotland and since the Bill will be a prime source of reference for school boards throughout Scotland, we believe it is essential that the statutory position of education authorities vis-á-vis the school boards should be made clear right at the start of the Bill. The Minister may argue that this amendment is superfluous, but I believe that it would help everyone who is involved with school boards. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I think the Minister should accept this amendment because not only will it remind the boards as a whole of their essential duties, but it will also remind the parents of their duty under the law—to ensure that their children are properly educated. If the Minister agrees in principle and believes that the amendment is superfluous, it might still be very useful to have it in the Bill. I believe that he should consider including it.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

The Government considered very closely the statutory position of school boards in relation to their education authorities and the Bill makes careful provision in that respect. Clause 8(5) already makes a very similar provision and we believe that it makes this amendment unnecessary. Under the terms of Clause 8(5) a board must act in accordance with its education authority's statutory duties. Indeed Clause 8(5) goes further in requiring boards also to act in accordance with the authority's obligations under the common law.

Having established this general duty, the Bill makes specific reference to the duties of authorities and policies at appropriate points. For example, the Bill requires boards and head teachers to have regard to the education authority's policy on the curriculum when exercising their functions under Clause 9, and provides for boards to be directed with respect to the authority's policy on the out-of-hours use of school premises in Clause 14.

Therefore we believe we have already done what noble Lords wish; we are even going further than the noble Lord would have us go, and are requiring boards to look at the policies as well as the duties of their education authorities. Of course, I am very well aware of the duties of parents contained in Section 30 of the 1980 Act to which the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, referred. That is a very important part of the whole consideration. In view of that explanation I hope that the noble Lord will consider withdrawing his amendment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am slightly disappointed that the Minister does not agree with this amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, said, it seems to be helpful. Right from the beginning there is the statement that the duties placed upon a local authority by Section 1 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 shall be binding upon the boards as well as upon the local authorities. It makes the position very clear.

I accept that the Minister has covered the situation very well in Clause 8(5), which says: In the exercise of any functions given to them by or under this Act, a School Board shall ensure that any duty of their education authority under statute or any rule of law is duly complied with.". It is a little more obtuse than the actual statement which is clearly set out in this amendment.

This measure would do nothing other than reinforce the statements already made by the Minister. For his part there is nothing involved except perhaps three or four lines of type. It would not detract from anything. I am disappointed that he has not seen fit to accept the amendment. However, it is not something that we wish to push to a Division and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 24, at end insert— ("() This section shall not apply to a school where not more than 42 days before the date prescribed under section 2(3)(c) of this Act the Education Authority has carried out a ballot of all parents of pupils in attendance at the school and—

  1. (a) the parents have been invited to vote 'yes' or 'no' to the establishment of a School Board, and
  2. (b) a majority of the parents voting have voted 'no'. and such a ballot shall be conducted in accordance with Schedule 1 of this Act.
() Where, under subsection 6 above, a School Board has not been established for a school the Education Authority shall not more than 42 days before the date of any biennial election of parent members in its area carry out a ballot in accordance with that subsection and this section shall apply if a majority of the parents voting vote `yes'.").

The noble Lord said: We consider this amendment to be of very great importance, and the Minister will be familiar with it from the other place. It affords an opportunity for parents at the individual school to say whether or not they wish the establishment of a board.

As the Bill stands, education authorities, school councils, parents and staff will not know whether a hoard is to be established in respect of any one school until nominations have closed for the first election or subsequent by-elections. That could cause considerable uncertainty and have a generally adverse effect. It would affect the school councils, which, although they have not been as successful overall as we should have liked, in some cases are already very effective. Parents who are opposed in principle to the establishment of boards but who nevertheless would have an important contribution to make in the establishment of them might be tempted by the proposed arrangements to refrain from standing for election in the hope that an insufficiency of candidates would prevent boards from being set up. As we know from the school councils, there are frequently not enough people coming forward to establish a proper school council. The amendment seeks to have the question of whether or not a school board should be established decided before the electoral process begins.

The response to the Government's consultation paper showed that some 80 per cent. of the respondents, who included nearly 2,000 individual parents, over 800 parent-teacher associations and more than 300 school councils, were opposed to the Government's proposals. In respect of the proposals for the powers of school boards, the opposition among the respondents rose to 95 per cent. The Minister must be familiar with the situation that although many parents want a greater say in the running of schools they tend to shy away from the very great responsibility that school hoards could put upon them. They believe that it is basically a job for the professionals, that is to say the education authority and the people involved in the schools.

I hope the Minister will see the point that, should there be no decision as to whether a school board should be set up well before the period of the election, it could be possible that people would hold back in the belief that if no one were to go forward there would not be a school board established. A quite unrepresentative group of parents could then put their names forward and perhaps by default constitute the school board. I believe that that is a point to which it is worth giving deep thought. We take it very seriously and I hope that the Minister will respond with the same seriousness. I beg to move.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

When we asked for responses to our consultation paper on school management, the great majority of responses—and perhaps my interpretation was a little different from that of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael—showed the conviction that something had to be done to provide parents with a voice in the running of the school system. We take this matter extremely seriously. When we suggested in the consultation paper that smaller schools might be grouped together under a joint board, there were protests from parents and teachers in small communities who wanted a board for every school.

Clearly, there is overwhelming support for the idea that parents and members of the local community should be able to participate in the education system at the level of the individual school. Equally clearly, there is powerful demand for a board for each and every school. But what this amendment does is to try to prevent parents from getting the opportunity to use their voice at the appropriate level. It is a means of raising apathy, perhaps, by giving authorities a power to call for ballots against the establishment of boards.

Throughout the discussion on the Bill in another place, the Opposition stressed their commitment to parental involvement in education. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, shares that commitment. Let us look at the effect of this amendment more closely. The Bill provides for the abolition of school councils. With this amendment the Bill would also provide for some schools not to have a school board either. How would this possibly help to increase parental involvement? I have to say that the answer is obvious: it would not. It would seriously reduce the opportunities for parental involvement, putting some parents at a considerable disadvantage. This seems a strange way to go about increasing parental participation in education.

Everyone agrees that the school council system needs to be reformed. There is general agreement that something much better should take its place. We hope that by doing what we are doing, we are providing it. We are answering the widespread concern that parents should have an effective voice in the running of schools. What then would the effect of this amendment be? It would seek to replace our proposals not with the status quo and not with some other carefully thought-out system, but with precisely nothing.

We have provided in the Bill that where insufficient parents are elected, then no board shall be established (Clause 20(5)). We have included in our field-placing this "long-stop" to cater for those unlikely instances where parents genuinely do not want a board and anxieties where parents do not come forward for election.

It might be that the noble Lords' also centre on the possibility of unrepresentative boards emerging where parental interest is low. So far as we can we have built in safeguards against that possibility. The Bill deals with the need for boards to be accountable to parents by providing a duty to report to parents and to consider their views (Clause 12); a duty to respond to parents' questions and criticisms and open meetings (Clause 13); that half of parent members are subject to election at two-year intervals (Clause 3); and for the necessity of balloting parents on any proposal to take on delegated functions which is not agreed with the education authority (Schedule 3, paragraph 3).

These are specific safeguards to ensure responsiveness, accountability and representativeness. We believe that this is a much more satisfactory approach than that suggested by this amendment. I am afraid that I cannot accept the amendment. The effectiveness of the school board system depends critically on there being a board for each and every school. The amendment would threaten that basic feature. It could reduce opportunities for parents' participation in the education of their children.

It may be of interest to the Committee to hear a quotation from an article in today's Daily Express. One of the parents of children at a school which is participating in an experimental scheme in Dumfries and Galloway is quoted as saying: The new boards act as a feeder channel between the school and the parents, and they make the business of communication more informal than before". That is a testament to our aims. Having heard my reply, I hope that the noble Lord will consider withdrawing his amendment.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I have listened to the Minister's explanation and as usual he puts a good case but I do not see that it obviates the need for the amendment. We are not seeking to establish that once there has been a ballot there should be no school board for ever more. I see that the Minister is frowning as though he does not understand me but it appears to me to be quite logical that such a position might well arise from not wishing to have a school board.

It would be very unfortunate should a number of boards be established—and running through our opposition to parts of the Bill is our sense of this possibility—with unrepresentative groups of parents, which will lead to trouble with the teachers and other people involved in the education system. That is why this amendment appears to me to be quite logical. A demand for a referendum and for a simple "yes" or "no" surely is an appeal to democracy which is quite logical. I must say it appears to me that the amendment is quite a good one.

The Earl of Selkirk

I too should like to add my support to the argument of my noble friend. I think it would throw doubt on how far we were convinced that school boards were a good idea at all. We would be saying that we are uncertain whether it was a good idea. Frankly in voting there is no eternal wisdom in every majority. One cannot assume that it is a profound and deep judgment; it may be purely personal. The main issue here is that we are trying to put something in the Bill about which I think we all agree. It is worthwhile. Let us therefore not be halfhearted about the matter. Should such an amendment be carried, it would give completely the wrong impression.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

I was not present at Second Reading and therefore I do not know whether this subject was discussed at any length. However, I came here today duly briefed by various interested parties and I have listened to the arguments that have been put forward. I must say that I am convinced by the logic of the Minister's argument in this case. We are trying to establish a national scheme by way of the Bill which will be common to all areas with boards making an important contribution to parental involvement in the running of schools.

If the element is introduced that an area must vote either yes or no, and in some areas they do not have school boards while in others they do there will be the chance in two years' time to amend the situation, I presume (according to the amendment); but, nevertheless, that would be defeating the impact of what is a new scheme for parental involvement in Scottish education—and that is to be welcomed.

So I hope that the noble Lords, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove and Lord Mackie of Benshie, will reconsider the matter because people are not quite sure what a school board is since it has not been in existence before. It is therefore most difficult to vote yes or no; whereas we in Parliament, as the legislators, are putting a piece of legislation on the statute book which gives us a lead in a new area. To that extent I very much support the Minister's contribution to the debate.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Like the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, I too have been duly briefed on the subject by various interested parties. I have reflected upon that briefing and also upon my experience in such matters. For eight years I was a member of no fewer than three school councils, as well as being chairman of the education committee. Therefore I think that I can claim a certain amount of knowledge from what happened during that time.

I believe that the notion put forward in the amendment would not work because the advantages of a school board will only become apparent to people once it is established. In my view, once the boards are established they will benefit not only parents but also the staff.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

Is it not possible that the disadvantages might also become apparent to the parents?

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Of course it is possible. If I thought the proposal was a bad idea I would not want the boards at all. As I said, the advantages will become apparent once the board gets working. Moreover, it will become apparent to staff, as well as to parents, that it is a most satisfactory way of operating. It sounds democratic to have a decision by the parents as to whether they want a board.

In my view what would happen before such a vote was taken would be that the people who fear decentralisation to schools, for whatever reason—many people do—would probably mount a massive campaign against having a board in a particular school. Whatever the outcome of that vote, it would be very bad for the school. If the parents decided to have no board they would never discover how they could use it to the benefit of the school. On the other hand, if they decided to have a board, the "punch-ups" which would happen before the board was established would be the worst possible start for it.

I do not believe that there is anything for anyone to fear from such boards. Countless people on school councils have said that the only way to get good people to serve on the boards would be to give them plenty to decide about. I think the only way to get people concentrating on what is good and right for the school is to have such a board in each school.

There is no question of parents shying away from responsibility. Those already on the schools councils have been longing to have more to decide about, not less. I have never heard parents say that they wish to decide less. The only way to achieve proper parental involvement in Scottish education—it is high time that we did—is to make school boards mandatory. I think that it is a good idea and I hope that the amendment will be resisted.

3.45 p.m

Baroness Elliot of Harwood

I too should like to support the proposal for school boards. I was chairman of an education committee for something like eight or 10 years. I remember that the difficulty was always getting parents interested in how the children were progressing, how they enjoyed school life and what they were interested in. I think it is an excellent suggestion.

I have received, as no doubt many Members of the Committee have, a long memorandum from the Scottish Parent-Teacher Council in which the very first words are that they welcome very strongly the idea of having school boards for all schools, even the small ones. Such boards would bring together the teacher and the parent in the interests of the child. I support the concept most strongly.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am sure the Minister will be aware that his reply was rather disappointing. He said that because the idea of school councils had not really taken off there was a feeling that something ought to be done. I agree that something should be done but that does not mean just anything; it means that much thought must be given to the matter. I am not sure whether the Minister's argument on this amendment was good enough.

We on this side of the Committee, and the whole background of the Labour movement with which I am associated, have always been anxious for parental contribution. We have always wanted such contribution. I think that the Minister suggested that we would be whipping up apathy by trying to push forward the amendments which would require a vote as to whether there should be school boards. I do not like that suggestion.

The other way to look at the matter is that the very fact that there would be an election, with presumably every child taking home a little leaflet to the parents explaining what the school board would do and what powers it would have asking whether the parents wanted the board or not, would at least alert people to the fact that there would be elections for the school councils proper, or otherwise. It would therefore allow parents to make their decision on the matter.

The problem with school councils was that so few people were aware of their existence that apathy crept in. Therefore the councils are not, in most cases—especially in the cities—always the best example to put forward when deciding whether we should have school boards, or whether parents will respond to them.

I believe that the amendment would have gone some way towards alerting parents of what is involved—unless the Minister has some other way of informing parents long in advance, instead of merely getting Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Jones, and so on, to fill in a ballot paper, received from the child, which they then have to return to the school.

An awareness of the fact that there will be a school board or that there could be a school board (if the parents wanted it) would have been of great value. If parents had been informed, there could possibly have been some enthusiasm in Scotland in some of the areas. However, on taking the judgment of the Committee, and after considering the speeches which have been made in opposition to the amendment—although I do not think that they met the context of our amendment, because they seem to suggest that in some ways we were not in favour of parental paticipation—I hope that I have been able to disabuse that conception. I want the school boards scheme to work; but I want it to work properly for all children and not just for small groups which may hijack them.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

Before the noble Lord decides what he wants to do with the amendment, I should just like to answer one point concerning awareness. We shall do everything possible, once the Bill becomes enacted, to make parents aware of all the possibilities. However, that is a totally different point and one which we shall come to later when we deal with the timescale for balloting, and so on. However, I feel that the principle of the issue lies with the Government's case.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

The Minister has not been able to convince me. However, I imagine that he would be able to do so in the Lobbies because votes are much more important than mere exhortations. That is why I believe that a ballot of the parents would mean that they would contribute something. If they put across in a ballot whether they wanted school boards, they would actually be doing something. I think it would have been one of the best ways of making them aware of the possibilities in education. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Composition of Boards]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 4: Page 2, line 7, leave out ("shall be prescribed") and insert ("are in accordance with Schedule (Membership of School Boards) of this Act").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment it will be convenient to speak also to Amendments Nos. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 77, which I believe agree with the Minister's selection.

Parity on the boards of all the different groups—parent members, staff members and the co-opted members—is important. The Minister will be aware that in Amendment No. 77 we have made a minor technical adjustment. We have included another slot of schools with between 101 and 500 pupils to allow for much smaller schools. The substance of the amendments relates to the fact that Scotland is not familiar with school boards. They are a departure from our previous education organisation. There has been no preparation for them through school governing bodies as there has been for many years in England and Wales, although I hope our bodies will be more representative of parents than some of the English groups of which I am aware. Parental involvement in schools' councils has not provided an adequate model for the important powers being offered to parents in the Bill.

The extent to which the school board scenario will he experimental suggests that no one group (the professionals as well as the parents) should have an overall majority on the school board. The inexperienced parental approach to the new powers of the boards should be checked and balanced by the parents having to convince at least one other voting member of the board of the correctness of the point of view or proposal the parent members wish to have accepted. It is possible that parents could have one view about an issue which could be determined in advance by a caucus meeting of the parents.

It is significant that the Education Reform Act 1988, which applies to England and Wales and which we laid to rest some months ago, does not give English and Welsh parents overall voting powers on school governing bodies despite, as I said, the long experience of the working of governing bodies that there has been in England and Wales.

The minimum requirement in the more difficult Scottish scene is that Scottish parents should not, at least at the beginning, be more dominant in school affairs than their English and Welsh counterparts. That requirement was asked for repeatedly in another place. I think that the point was mentioned on Second Reading. I hope that the Minister has given sufficient sympathetic thought to the matter to see that there is a point in it. The amendments are not an attempt to disrupt school councils. They are tabled in the hope that schools' councils will move forward a step at a time and will not take a big leap into the dark which may be disastrous. I beg to move.

Lord Somers

I support the amendment. It is time that we got rid of the myth that parents will be the most efficient members and will know the most about how a school is run. A few of them may do so, but a vast number of parents know what they would like for their own child but know nothing about how to provide it. A school board will have to deal with a great deal more than that.

We should therefore carefully consider whether we shall have on the boards those people who are expert in school management and know about education as a whole or whether we shall pander to the idea that parents are the ones who must be considered. Of course they will be considered, but I do not believe that they necessarily know how to run a school. Some of them may; some of them may not.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I speak to Amendment No. 5, which is in my name and that of my noble friend. I should like to put the practical point of view to the Minister, because those of us who have had experience in democratically run political parties—I cannot speak for the Conservative Party—know what a group of determined, fanatical people can do. As we have had trouble in getting parents to take an interest in school councils, it would be unwise immediately to give them a majority on the school board. It is a question of evolution. It might be possible at the end of the day, but I doubt whether it would be wise even then.

During my long experience in running voluntary bodies I have always found that if one employs professionals one must be professional with them, but that if one allows every member of an executive body to take an interest in every detail one will not get professionals to work with one. Teachers on the whole are dedicated. To subject them immediately to the strong possibility of manipulation by a body of parents devoted to an idea which is not professionally informed is highly dangerous. The minimum requirement should be equality between the staff and co-opted members and the parents. That would be a great step forward. I therefore support Amendment No. 5 tabled in my name.

Baroness Phillips

I support the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. I have been both a teacher and a chairman of governors. The parent governors are one of those bright ideas that are spreading across the land. Parents can intimidate teachers.

Noble Lords


Baroness Phillips

It is all very well to say no, but we all know that bosses with influence intimidate their workers. If the idea is so good, I wonder why the public schools have not adopted it. They do not have a governing body of parents. In denominational schools it seems that only one person will be nominated by the denomination or Church in whose interests the school is conducted.

I have been the chairman of governors of a Catholic school. It is noticeable that people want to get their children into many such voluntary schools because they like the system, the way children behave and the way that the results are often better than those in some of the county schools. We should think carefully before we have a parent majority on the boards.

Most parents, as my noble friend Lord Somers said and as I know from my experience as a teacher, are interested in their own children. I do not know that they are greatly interested in other people's children. As for trying to influence policy, if there was a large vociferous group it would certainly do that. We should think carefully about this proposal. Incidentally, I wonder why it is a school board in Scotland. We do not have boards in England and Wales. I have always believed that Scots education is first rate. The schools' councils can pat themselves on the back.

4 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

The noble Baroness is quite right in saying that Scottish education is great. There are parents, teachers and other people on the school councils, which are the existing bodies, as the noble Lady knows, and they relate to a group of schools, not just to a single school; but when those councils are consulted or when they discuss something, one of the problems has been not that parents have intimidated teachers but that it has been very difficult to get the parents to express their views. There is a great respect for the teaching profession, or there has been until recently. It may have deteriorated a little, but there is still a deep-down respect for the teaching profession and a feeling that they should know best on issues relating to the education of children. Parent representatives are inclined to keep their views to themselves or to express them to one another, and to wish that what is happening in a school could be otherwise, but not to express them through the school council.

This is a very Scottish move to get a parental majority on the school board. In Scotland we are accustomed to trusting ordinary people to make good decisions. If we have the confidence, we are perfectly prepared to tell our professionals what we are thinking. The school board will not be making all the decisions relating to the school. It will not be running the school; it will not be running the teachers; but if its powers are increased it will have very many subjects upon which to decide and to agree. If there is parental majority I believe this will wave a new flag to the people of Scotland, particularly to the parents.

There has been considerable discussion as to whether Scottish education is becoming too English. At the conference the weekend before last at Crieff, the president of the directors of education accused the Government of making education too English. That was the gist of what he said. Clearly, he was frightened of school boards and thought that they would go wrong. Other people are frightened of that. I do not believe that fear is justified when a group of people are discussing what is going on in a particular school for the benefit of particular children. As I said in a previous discussion, I believe that parents and teachers will both come to welcome that concept. It is very important that there should be a majority of parents because of what it demonstrates to people at large. I am sure that it will work very well and hope very much that my noble friend will insist on that.

Lord Addington

I should like to speak in support of Amendment No. 5. The essence of this amendment is to try to create a situation of partnership between the parents and those others involved in school boards—that is, the co-opted members and the teachers. The idea of the partnership is based on balance. Having one group or other dominating the board by having an overall majority would really go against the idea of balance. It has already been noted that there is a danger of a parental majority which has certain strong views gaining control of a school board and thus being in a position to put forward its own fads and fancies on various topics within education. That would be a danger even if it were not a group dominated by some sort of ideology, whether it be religious or political. In addition, teachers are trained in education, theory, knowledge and practice. Parents are not, and they may not know the up-to-date thinking on various educational matters.

There is also a case to be made for the fact that this could be construed by some as being a slap in the face for the teaching profession, as the trained professionals would be effectively outvoted by the amateurs. I feel that the amendment should be considered at least on the grounds that it is an act of support for and confidence in the teaching profession.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

It is a question of whether there should be a balance or whether there should be a majority of parental control. This is a Bill to involve parents more closely in the education system, and I should be happy if the Minister, in his reply, would try to allay some of the fears that have been expressed on this side of the Committee with regard to the powers of the school board.

The suggestion has been made that the school board would somehow or other overrule the teachers in their technical and professional capacity as teachers. That would be a very serious matter. It has also been suggested that some ideological group might capture the parents' majority and impose certain of its theories on the system. If this Bill is going to be on the statute book, I hope that the Minister will give some reassurance that these fears are exaggerated and that the appropriate definition of responsibilities will make clear that some of those fears would not be realised. I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply.

Lord Hughes

It may be that I am misunderstanding a part of the Bill but, even if the amendment were carried, if the provisions of the Bill otherwise remain the same the chairman would have a casting vote; so if the question of the co-option of members arises after the board is constituted and it takes a decision to co-opt members, I cannot envisage the possibility that that decision will not have been preceded by the election of a chairman. As the Bill specifically states that the chairman and vice-chairman may not be staff members, that guarantees that the first chairman and vice-chairman will be from the parent members. However, Clause 6 which refers to the election of a chairman does not say "from among the parent members" but "from among the members". Therefore, if a chairman is to be elected after the co-opted members are in, it would seem that the chairman could be one of the co-opted members.

My first understanding is that the Government's intention is that the chairman should be a parent member, but that is not clear from the two clauses. In dealing with the question of equality or otherwise, perhaps the Minister will be able to refer to this point. If it is the position that at least at the first stage the chairman must be a parent member, then by virtue of his casting vote the parent members will still control the board.

The Earl of Selkirk

I must confess to being totally unexcited by this amendment in any form whatsoever. It rather assumes that a committee of seven, eight or nine people will spend all the afternoon voting against one another, which means that they will never get anywhere. Unless there is a high degree of agreement on these committees they might as well be abolished. Above all, their object is to introduce the parents to the way the school is run. It seems sensible that there should be a majority of parents. First of all, some of them will not turn up. The meetings will probably take place at the school so the chances are that the schoolmaster will be there but the parents will be sick or at home looking after another child. My feeling is that there will not be much voting on the committees if they are good ones.

While I am not strongly in favour of one or the other, the important matter is not the numbers but the quality of the people who come forward, whether they be teachers or whether they be co-opted members. With great respect to the noble Lord, I do not feel that he has really made a convincing case for changing the situation. The present provision would meet the liability as nearly as possible. Unless there are more powerful arguments for amendment, I hesitate about the need for a change at all.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I thank all noble Lords who have had contributed to this amendment. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, sets great store by it and it is a crucial part of the approach to the Bill. The idea that school boards should have a majority of parent members is fundamental to our approach. It is written into the structure of the Bill, not only in the obvious sense that Clause 2(2) requires a parental majority, but also in the provisions of Clause 20(6) which state that where insufficient parents stand for election there will be no board. That is the measure of our commitment to this aspect of the proposals. If there are not sufficient parents willing or able to stand for election and to form the parental majority, no board will be established.

Why do we believe so strongly in this aspect of our proposals? Simply because we believe strongly in the need to give parents a voice in the educational process. We believe that the boards need professional advice and expertise to help them in their work. We also believe that the boards will need the direct participation of members from the wider community. But fundamentally, boards are there to give parents a guaranteed forum; a voice within the structure of educational management.

There has been much debate about the desirability of partnership in the running of our schools. I looked most closely at what the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said in the debate at Second Reading. It has been suggested that boards should have a balanced membership with no category of members outnumbering another. It has been suggested that parents could form the largest group on a board without having an overall majority. Let me say at once that I recognise the genuine purpose behind these suggestions. Let me say also that I agree with the principle that there needs to be a partnership in the planning and management of education. Indeed, that is what the Government are trying to secure by introducing boards with a parental majority. This may sound like a clever paradox. It is not.

My simple point is that the Government have looked at the overall structure of educational planning, management and delivery in drawing up their plans for school boards. In all the essential areas of strategic management, overall resource deployment and professional control of teaching content, method and assessment, the voices of the education authorities, the teachers' unions and the professional educators arc massively dominant. There can be no doubt about that. The proposals in our Bill are meant to provide a modest counterbalance of lay opinion—no more than that. We are not proposing that the decisions of the education authorities on matters of strategic management—I think that this is the point that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe was making—should be subject to review by parents on school boards. The boards may ask reasonable questions about their authorities' plans, and give their views, but that is quite a different thing. Nor are we proposing that parents on boards should be able to challenge the professional judgments of teachers and other educationists. Again, they can ask questions and seek explanations, which is quite different from challenging decisions.

So the authorities remain in place as the strategic managers of the education service for their areas. In all the areas where boards are given or could take on executive functions under the Bill, there are provisions for the authority to give directions to or set guidelines for their boards or else to put conditions on the exercise of delegated functions. We come to that later in Clause 15. In the last analysis, authorities can intervene to suspend and ultimately revoke delegation of functions. Equally the professional organisations and individual professionals remain independent of the boards. This is a most important point. Boards may not take on functions which would involve regulating the curriculum or methods of assessment. Head teachers are given an important degree of independence from their boards. Boards may not take on functions involving them acting as employers of school staff.

It is against that wider background that I claim it is absolutely necessary to have a majority of parents on the school boards in order to guarantee that parents have their voice in the overall system. The Government are seeking a proper degree of balance and partnership. But we have not looked at the boards in isolation, which perhaps is the case as regards some people. We have looked at them as part of the overall structure of the management and running of our school services. We have chosen to ensure the parental voice at the level of the individual school. We have chosen this level because we think it is the level of involvement wanted by parents themselves, and the level at which parents can make the most effective and appropriate contribution.

Without a clear voice for parents at the school level there would not be a clear focus for the parental voice anywhere in the system of management of the education service. Given the overall dominance of the authorities and the professionals in the management of the service as a whole, that would leave us with what we have at the moment: an unbalanced structure with the voice of parents, we believe, unfairly muted. That position seems to me to be both wrong in principle and bad for public education. Without a clear mechanism for focusing the consumer voice I cannot see how school education as a whole can be managed so as to provide a sound and responsive service at the individual school level.

I think that it is only by providing an overall majority for parent members within the boards that the voice of parents can be clearly heard at the level at which planning and delivery are carried on. That function of the boards is, of course, reinforced and emphasised by the provisions of the Bill which require boards to report to and consult with parents generally under Clause 12(2).

It has been suggested that boards would split up into blocks. By this it is clearly envisaged that the boards will comprise different interest groups, jockeying for position and advantage. I do not believe that boards will operate in this way. Our experiments so far have proved that to be the case. I doubt very much whether there will be many issues on which boards will come to a vote, a point which my noble friend Lord Selkirk has made. There will be room for very many different views to be expressed and reflected in the discussions they will have about the performance of their schools. There will be little room for blocks of parents to form against other members in making decisions about matters like the distribution of occasional holidays. If we had believed that boards would regularly conduct their business in that fashion, we would have adopted a frankly adversarial board structure. Models exist, such as that in France, where the different interested groups (for example, parents and teachers) have separate boards or councils in which they determine their own collective views before coming together in combined assemblies to battle out their joint conclusions.

Of course, on occasion there may be issues on which parental opinion is opposed by other members of the boards, but if the parental voice is going to overcome the other views, these issues will have to be very clear-cut and so important as to command the support of all the parent members. I must remind the Committee that the majority of parents over other members in any board will be only one.

As I said at the beginning of my remarks, we believe that the parental majority is a fundamental feature of the structure of the new boards. But the boards are not for parents alone. That is why we have also provided for members to be drawn from the staff of the school and from the wider community. We have also provided that the categories of membership should be mutually exclusive. In other words, it will not be possible for the co-opted membership of any board to be made up of "extra" parents, co-opted by their "friends" on the board. The purpose of providing for co-option is to allow the board to supplement its experience and expertise by bringing in members of different views and backgrounds to its deliberations.

Many have pointed out that the parental majority proved to be a controversial aspect of our proposals during consultation. I have to say that there is no doubt of that. But the responses to our consultation paper were not simple answers to a questionnaire. Our proposals were a complex whole and the responses we received were, in the main, serious and reasoned arguments about the whole set of proposals. They deserve to be read that way. The parental majority was not something to which respondents objected in isolation. These objections were in the context of a set of proposals in which boards could move to take on additional functions without direct consultation with parents as a whole. The objections also referred to concerns which respondents felt about the accountability of boards and the possibility that they could be dominated by unrepresentative groups.

Our approach, therefore, was to address these real concerns directly. We have provided in the Bill for boards to ballot parents before they can appeal to the Secretary of State on a contested request for delegation (Schedule 3). We have adjusted the electoral arrangements so that half the parental membership is subject to election every two years (Clause 3(2)). We have put boards under a duty to report to parents and to consult them; and have given parents rights to call boards to account whenever it seems necessary to do so.

There has been talk in the press recently about the word "anglicisation". On school boards we wish to see the role of the parent in relation to the day-to-day running of our schools enhanced. That is a fundamental point of this Bill. The time is long overdue for greater parental involvement in the management of our schools in Scotland. We believe that there is now widespread agreement that parents must have a real say in the education of their children.

Indeed, far from what the EIS has been saying, Scotland leads England in certain key respects. Scottish parents will have a majority on school boards, unlike England. Scottish school boards can develop their functions at their own pace with suitable training support available. The head teacher in Scotland is more clearly seen as a board's principal professional adviser. In talking of "anglicisation", it ill becomes senior officials of some of the teachers' unions to pedal that line. We intend to preserve all that is good within Scottish education and to build on its strengths.

Various points were made in the useful debate that we have just had. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, asked about the limits on delegation. We shall come to that later on in considering this question of the powers of delegation and what they mean. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, asked the important question of whether the chairman will be elected before co-option. The answer to that is no. Guidance for first boards will make the effect of the Bill clear. The chairman could be either a parent or a co-optee.

The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, asked about the term "board". That word has been used in Scottish education circles for many years. We feel that it is an appropriate word to use in this connection. I rest my case on the views that a headmaster mentioned in today's Daily Express. He said: For my part, I'm happy to be accountable to a local forum which will live with the consequences of its actions. After all, at the end of the day, they're looking after their own children. Under the circumstances, I must ask the noble Lord whether he wishes to withdraw his amendment because I must resist it.

Lord Somers

Does the Minister agree that two parents with a real knowledge of school management and of the business of education would probably be a great deal better influence than a majority of parents who did not have such knowledge?

Lord Galpern

I have listened very patiently the whole afternoon to the various amendments. I wish to ask the Minister one simple question. Having listened to the duties that will devolve upon the governors, the sub-committees and all the other co-opted members, I wish to ask when teaching will take place in the schools.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

In reply to that point, I must say that education is one thing but teaching is another. If I remember my Latin, educo means to lead out. That is part of the whole operation that teachers have to perform in the very difficult task that they have. However, teaching is of primary importance. That is why we are addressing the curriculum in Scotland, as the noble Lord knows.

As regards whether two members who understand teaching would be better than a majority on any school board, that is a matter of opinion. As has been stated many times, any organisation that is set up, whatever its purpose may be, is only as good as the people in it.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

The Minister will not be surprised that we are disappointed with his reply. This ground has been covered in another place and, to some extent, on Second Reading in this Chamber. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, to whom I always listen with great interest, because he brings not only knowledge but also common sense to most of our discussions, made a point with which I thoroughly agreed. He said that he hoped there would be very little voting on the boards and that if they were going to make a difference, little voting should take place. I hope that that will be the case.

However, it is all the more important that when a vote takes place it should be such that one group should not automatically be able to dominate. All we are suggesting in this group of amendments is that there should be parity. I return to the point I made earlier. If parent members are anxious to implement a certain provision, they must convince one other member of the board of the value of what they wish to do. I do not think that that is asking too much if the parents in question have a good case. I hope that the Chamber will give an opinion on this matter.

However, Amendment No. 5 standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, is probably the more appropriate amendment in this particular instance. Therefore, I happily withdraw Amendment No. 4 in order to let the noble Lord decide what he wishes to do with Amendment No. 5. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mackie of Benshie moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 2, line 8, leave out subsection (2) and insert— ("(2) The number of parent members shall not exceed the combined number of staff and co-opted members on the School Board.").

The noble Lord said: I listened to the Minister with great care and enormous respect. However, I must say that he has not convinced me. I think his logic is failing a little because he spent a great deal of time telling us that the real power would remain in the hands of the authority and the schoolmasters.

The Minister assured the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, that a majority on a board could not harm the essential functions of a school. But I do not think that that is entirely the case. If school boards are to he effective at all, they must have some effect on the running of a school. They must improve the running of a school. They must take decisions and indicate their actions. Those actions will affect staff.

There is a real fear that we may get determined groups of unrepresentative parents who make the professional staff feel that they are acting under an intolerable burden of prejudice. That is why we want a simple equality of representation. That, surely to goodness, will not interfere with the influence of parents, their interest in a school and the teachers' dedication to their jobs.

The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said that many parents would not be present. That may well be true. But if that is the case, the whole purpose will have failed. If the boards are treated in the same way as school councils are treated at the present time, their whole purpose will have failed. It is essential that one takes into account the feeling of the professionals—the teaching staff. Whatever we may y about bringing on parents, it is absolutely vital that the teaching staff are carried along with this new idea. The Minister has not convinced me. I wish to submit the amendment to the opinion of the Chamber.

4.27 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 5) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 91; Not-Contents, 131.

Addington, L. Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Airedale, L. Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. David, B.
Amherst, E. Davies of Penrhys, L.
Ardwick, L. Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Attlee, E. Dormand of Easington, L.
Aylestone, L. Elwyn-Jones, L.
Banks, L. Ennals, L.
Barnett, L. Ewart-Biggs, B.
Birk, B. Falkender, B.
Blackstone, B. Falkland, V.
Blease, L. Gallacher, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Galpern, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Gladwyn, L.
Bottomley, L. Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Bruce of Donington, L.
Buckmaster, V. Grey, E.
Campbell of Eskan, L. Hampton, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Hanworth, V.
Hart of South Lanark, B. Parry, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Peston, L.
Hayter, L. Phillips, B.
Hughes, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Prys-Davies, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. Raglan, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Jacques, L. Scanlon, L.
Jay, L. Seear, B.
Jeger, B. Sefton of Garston, L.
John-Mackie, L. Shepherd, L.
Kilbracken, L. Somers, L.
Kirkhill, L. Stallard, L.
Listowel, E. Stedman, B.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Lockwood, B. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Lovell-Davis, L. Strabolgi, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Taylor of Blackburn. L.
Mackie of Benshie, L. [Teller. ] Taylor of Gryfe, L.
McNair, L. Tordoff, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Mishcon, L. Walston, L.
Molloy, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Mulley, L. Willis, L.
Nicol, B. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Northfield, L.
Oram, L. Winterbottom, L.
Paget of Northampton, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Greenway, L.
Aldington, L. Gridley, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Allerton, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Alport, L.
Arran, E. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Ashbourne, L. Harrowby, E.
Balfour, E. Harvington, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Havers, L.
Beloff, L. Hesketh, L.
Belstead, L. Hives, L.
Bessborough, E. Hunter of Newington, L.
Birdwood, L. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Blyth, L. Kaberry of Adel, L.
Borthwick, L. Killearn, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Lauderdale, E.
Broadbridge, L. Long, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L Luke, L.
Bruce-Gardyne, L. McAlpine of West Green, L.
Butterworth, L. McFadzean, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Margadale, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Marley, L.
Carnock, L. Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.
Cathcart, E
Cawley, L. Merrivale, L.
Cayzer, L. Mersey, V.
Chelmer, L. Milverton, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Morris, L.
Cox, B. Mostyn, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Mottistone, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Mountgarret, V.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Dundee, E. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Eccles, V. Nelson, E.
Eden of Winton, L. Newall, L.
Elibank, L. Norrie, L.
Ellenborough, L. Northesk, E.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. O'Brien of Lothbury, L.
Erroll of Hale, L. Orkney, E.
Faithfull, B. Orr-Ewing, L.
Ferrers, E. Peel, E.
Fortescue, E. Pender, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Pennock, L.
Gainford, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Gibson-Watt, L. Prior, L.
Goold, L. Pym, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Renton, L.
Rodney, L. Swansea, L.
St. Aldwyn, E. Taylor of Hadfield, L.
St. Davids, V. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly. Thorneycroft, L.
Sanderson of Bowden, L. Tollemache, L.
Savile, L. Trafford, L.
Seebohm, L. Tranmire, L.
Selkirk, E. Trumpington, B.
Sempill, Ly. Ullswater, V.
Sharples, B. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Skelmersdale, L. Westbury, L.
Strathclyde, L. Whitelaw, V.
Strathcona and Mount Royal, L. Wise, L.
Wyatt of Weeford, L.
Strathspey, L. Young, B.
Sudeley, L. Young of Graffham, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.36 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 6 to 9 not moved.]

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 10: Page 2, line 34, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Lord said: It would be convenient if, in moving Amendment No. 10, I spoke also to Amendment No. 11. We believe that staff members with children at a school should be able to serve on the school board as parents in the same way as other parent members. This is a small amendment but we believe that it is an amendment of some importance because we can foresee difficulties if a staff member who has children at a school and would otherwise qualify to serve on the board is prohibited from doing so because he is a member of the staff.

Would that provision in the Bill also apply to co-opted members? Would it be impossible for parents who have children at the school to be co-opted members of the board? I believe the Minister suggested earlier that that would not be possible. It might therefore be more equitable if the only parent members were parents of children at the school who were neither staff members nor eligible for co-option.

I hope that the Minister will give this amendment serious thought. I do not expect him necessarily to agree with it at this point, but I hope that he will give it enough thought to help us make a decision before Report stage. I beg to move.

Lord Addington

I wish to speak to Amendment No. 11, standing in my name. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that a teacher who is also the parent of a child at the school at which he teaches will have the option of standing for election to the school board. The amendment is tabled on the grounds of fairness.

It seems illogical that a teacher who happens to teach at his children's school should be excluded from standing for election as a parent, provided he is not standing as a teacher or already serving on the school board. That is especially so when one takes into account the fact that the electorate of school boards—the parents—will be the people who make the decisions. On those grounds I submit that this is a reasonable suggestion.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

We have nothing against the generality of teachers and other professionals in education serving as parent board members. That is why the Bill places no general ban on them. Our only reservation is about the ability of someone who has a professional commitment to a particular school to overcome that close involvement sufficiently to represent the interests of the parents properly. I admit that it is a balanced judgment and the decision to make the provision of the Bill as it stands was not taken lightly.

Our concern is that boards could become dominated by one group. We want boards to have a parental majority, but we do not want boards composed entirely of parents or entirely of teachers. By making each category of board member mutually exclusive we have safeguarded against that possibility.

Our purpose is not to deny teachers access to board membership; it is to preserve the balance of what are, after all, quite small bodies. The teacher who is also a parent at a school other than the one at which he or she teaches is not debarred from standing as a parent member to that school. Nor does the exclusion of teacher/parents from standing for election as parents debar them from voting in parental elections. Indeed, they gain a positive advantage in being able to vote both for staff and for parent members.

It is important that we get the balance right within boards. If we accepted this amendment we would put achievement of this balance at risk. I therefore hope that the noble Lord will consider withdrawing the amendment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

The Minister has clearly given considerable thought to the amendment. I can see that there are difficulties in that three parents may also be teachers in the school. This would result in a surfeit of teachers, who would have an overall majority on the school board.

The Minister's reply needs more thought than we can give it now. I should like to reserve the right to bring the amendment back on report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mackie of Benshie had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 11:

Page 2, line 34, leave out subsections (4) and (5) and insert— ("(4) A person who is eligible for election to a school board as both staff and parent member may opt to stand for election in either capacity.").

The noble Lord said: The Minister's explanation about upsetting the balance is rubbing salt in the wounds to some extent. If the amendment had been accepted, the balance would have been improved.

[Amendment No. 11 not moved.]

4.45 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie moved Amendment No. 12: Page 2, line 48, leave out ("one of the co-opted members shall be a person") and insert ("a member additional to the co-opted members shall be").

The noble Lord said: The purpose is again to improve the balance. In the case of a denominational school or a community school it seems reasonable that an extra member should be nominated automatically by the body or church to, be added to the number of co-opted members. I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply. I beg to move.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I hope to be able to provide the counterbalance in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie.

As it stands, the Bill provides that in the case of a denominational school one of the co-opted members is to be a person nominated by the denomination in whose interest the school is conducted. Under the existing provisions of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 certain schools are conducted in the interests of particular denominations which have a right to a say in the conduct and management of the schools concerned. The provision in this clause simply reflects those rights.

I appreciate that, by having one of the co-opted members nominated by the denomination in whose interest the school is conducted, the Bill as it stands might be said to reduce the scope for co-option to boards for denominational schools. However, that seems to me to be a small but necessary price to pay for this special provision for the denominational sector. The difficulty with the amendment is that it would—I am sure unwittingly—destroy or run counter to some of the basic provisions in the Bill. In so doing, it would set up boards for denominational schools that would be wholly different from boards for all other types of school. Let me explain.

First, the addition of a wholly new category of member over and above the co-opted membership would remove the parental majority from denominational schools. As we have debated, the parental majority is a very fundamental aspect of the provisions of the Bill, and I could not accept that it should be abolished in this way. Secondly, the amendment establishes this new category of membership but makes no attempt to work it into the structure of the Bill. At present the categories of parent, staff and co-opted members are carefully defined as mutually exclusive so that the general balance of composition is preserved. It is not at all clear how the proposed new category fits in.

The result of these technical deficiencies is that the amendment effectively proposes the creation of a wholly distinct kind of board for denominational schools. I am sure that that is not what the noble Lord intends. I am sure that he shares the Government's view that the existing special provision for denominational education within the general framework of the public school system in Scotland should be reflected in the school board provisions.

That is why I say that we saw a small restriction on the scope for co-option as a necessary price to pay for achieving this desirable end. I should point out, however, that this need not result in the boards having to turn their backs entirely on the advice and counsel of a potential co-optee. Should that person (or persons) have relevant advice or comment to give they could still be involved in the work of the boards through the provisions of Clauses 6(3) and 6(10), which allow boards to establish sub-committees with a proportion of non-board members and to invite non-board members to attend and speak at their meetings.

In the light of that explanation and that in regard to balance the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, is somewhat different from my own, I hope that he will consider withdrawing the amendment.

The Earl of Selkirk

Other than denominational schools, how do schools know that there is any such thing as religion at all? Is there any introduction to religion for those on the board who as nondenominational?

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

As I understand it, my noble friend is referring to the position of religious bodies other than those connected with denominational schools. Those are Roman Catholic in the main.

The Earl of Selkirk

The reference is to nondenominational schools in general.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

We have received representations on this point from the Church of Scotland, which have been considered carefully. There is no easy answer. My noble friend will know this if he goes to the Western Isles or some parts of northern Scotland where non-denominational schools and religious bodies are very disparate. There will have to be heavy reliance on the guidance given to school boards in order to ensure an input from those involved with religion. However, that would have to be on a straight co-option basis rather than by designating a place for the purpose.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I accept the Minister's argument, given his position, which is of course that there must be a parental majority. My position is that anything which erodes that is probably a good thing. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 2, line 49, at end insert— ("() Where a school is a designated Community School at least one of the co-opted members shall be a representative of those persons attending further education or community education activities related to the school").

The noble Lord said: The amendment is an important one. It may be convenient to take with it Amendment No. 62.

An increasing number of schools in Scotland are officially designated community schools or effectively operate as community schools. That means that there are organised community groups operating in the school during the normal school day as well as during the evenings, weekends and school holidays. For instance, within Dumfries and Galloway the community is involved in the management of community schools either through representations on a college council, which has oversight of both the school and community aspects of the community school, or on a separate community education management committee.

Against the background of this existing provision there are certain problems or deficiencies inherent in the Bill as it stands. For instance, it does not recognise the fact that a community school is different from the usual primary or secondary school. The present draft regulations provide only for parents, staff and co-opted members with no right of representation for those persons attending community education activities which may be closely related to the school. Therefore the maximum number of community education representatives that can be on the school board is limited to the total number of co-opted members.

In addition, the co-opted members are chosen by the parents and the staff members of the board. There is therefore no requirement that they have to choose representatives of any community education activity, no matter how closely associated it may be with the school. The Bill allows the board to set up a committee, but it limits external membership of that committee to not more than one-third, thus seriously limiting the contribution that can be made by people involved in community education even if the school board decided to set up a committee to oversee any community education activity in the school.

Certain modifications in the Bill could help to promote the development of community schools. By requiring that at least one of the co-opted members be a representative of those persons attending further education or a community education activity related to the school, the proposed amendment is one such modification which should be considered. These two amendments are extremely important. I hope that the Minister will accept the fact that we wish the schools to be used for much longer periods in the day. In many cases the facilities are being so used, but it is important that the school board should be kept informed of the activities of those taking part in the school outside what has been historically the ordinary school day. Therefore a provision that one of these members should be co-opted if there is a designated community school is a progressive step. I hope that the Minister will agree. I beg to move.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I very much support the spirit of the noble Lord's amendment. It is enormously important that the users of the school in the community, and the people involved in the ever-growing areas of community education across Scotland, should have a considerable input into the school boards.

I think that the noble Lord appreciates the problem on these amendments. Not all Scotland's education authorities designate schools as community schools. For example, it is not done in Tayside so far as I know. However, in those schools there is enormous community involvement. I do not think therefore that this amendment would do the trick.

There is another problem. Community education has many facets. So many people use the school in different ways that to have one person on the board would not do the trick. There would have to be more.

I have discussed how this problem might be met with one or two people because it concerns me very much. Under Clause 6(3) the boards are allowed to set up committees. It would seem possible to set up a committee which would include a considerable involvement of members of the community who use the school in different ways. Clause 6(3) states that: A School Board may establish committees of the Board which may include as up to one-third of their membership persons who are not members of the Board". That is a pity. I do not know whether it would be possible to have a committee with more people on it involved in community use of the school. That could make a very strong input into the board. As the Bill stands, the board can quite easily co-opt on to it a person from the community users of the school. To have a committee which would be concerned with the community aspect might be a very good solution. I do not know whether the noble Lord would like to consider that matter or whether my noble friend would like to respond.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

One of the useful things that we have seen in the last few years has been the greater use of school facilities for further education. Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, that we are not talking about people who use the schools for the Badminton Club but of those involved in education and who are using the schools for community education. With the increasing amount of leisure, the increased number of adults who, having left school a long time ago, are making more use of schools is very much part of the school's environment. They have an interest in the welfare of their schools. That is a good thing. I should have thought that it was sensible to provide for them in the amendment now before us.

Lord Hughes

I should like briefly to support my noble friend. The best solution would be for the Minister to make it possible for a representative to appear as a member of the board. However, as a fall-hack, the position referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, may be workable, but only if the board went to the length of setting up a community education committee. Otherwise the committee can handle only the matters referred to it by the board. Therefore if the board refers nothing under the community education to the committee, nothing would happen. It is possible that the board could set up a committee for this purpose. Perhaps the Minister can make such a provision. After consideration of the multifarious advice which will be given on setting up the boards, perhaps he can give an indication that such a committee may in certain circumstances be a desirable way of going about it or that it would—to use the phrase of the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, which was in less than her usual elegant language—do the trick.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I recognise the points that the noble Lord and my noble friend Lady Carnegy made about the interests which various community groups will have in the work of boards for community schools. My noble friend, with her experience, was quite right that the definition of "community school" varies from one part of Scotland to another. However, I cannot accept the amendment because it does not address the problem in a way which is acceptable.

In drawing up the Bill we were conscious that boards might want to have advice from and consultation with quite a variety of agencies and groups. That is why we provided for them to be able to form committees with a proportion of non-board membership (Clause 6(3)) and to invite non-board members to attend and speak at their meetings (Clause 6(10)). We believed that this was a far more flexible approach than the provision of obligatory board places for representatives of this or that group. I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, that those who are involved in local sports clubs might be just as keen to be included as others who are genuinely interested in teaching and education. Indeed, with the obvious and necessary exception of provision for denominational schools, there are no pre-empted places provided for in the Bill.

Not only is this a flexible approach—allowing boards to make decisions appropriate to their own circumstances—but it is also a practical approach. If, as the amendment proposes, there is a single co-opted member representing community users of a designated community school, we would face very difficult questions of identifying an appropriate person to represent a great variety of different kinds of groups and individuals, I am sure the Committee will understand that.

I therefore suggest that the opportunity for community school boards to seek the views of community users is best met in the way the Bill already provides. I am conscious that the current restriction on non-board membership of committees (no more than one-third of such membership) may cause some practical problems. I am therefore prepared to look at this question. I have it in mind to return to it at Report, if that is the wish of the Committee, to look at that one-third proportion and deal with it.

In conclusion, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is as aware as always and has pointed to an important point; that is, the setting up of a committee to deal with that subject. We are pleased that in one of the first trial experiments in Dumfries and Galloway two sub-committees were set up, one to deal with community education provision. Of course, as he rightly says, this will weigh in our guidance to those who are setting up the school boards.

5 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I thank the Minister for his thoughtful reply and the promise he made. There is undoubtedly a problem, as was shown from the short debate we had, in defining the phrase "community school". I can think of a community school that is the lifeblood of the area. On Barra there is a lovely, relatively new school in Castlebay. It is vital for everything.

I am also glad that the Minister reminded us, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, that badminton is a very important subject. Schools have certainly moved on since he and I were at school. Nowadays there are not just rather bare gymnasiums. There is great life going on in the average school, as I found when I was in another place and doing surgeries. The school was as busy at night as it was during the day. Whether that constitutes a community school I am not sure, but the Minister must be aware that one of our worries is that there may be parents who are concerned, with justification, only with the daytime activities of the school. They could make it slightly difficult, if they wished—this would only happen in crunch situations—for people wanting to play badminton or use the swimming pool or the library, which again is vital in a place such as Barra which contains a community library as well as a school library.

We place a great deal of importance on the fact that the school should be a building for the community. This has been spoken about for decades now. It should be specifically for the younger members of the community during the day, but for the rest of the time it should benefit the community as a whole. I am glad that the Minister will he giving this matter some thought, and in thanking him I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 14: Page 3, line 17, leave out ("teachers, instructors and auxiliaries involved in education") and insert ("registered teachers, and other persons employed by the education authority to give instruction in the school").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is being taken with Government Amendment No. 15. These amendments highlight another problem of definition. I believe that between us we have it right this time. I do not see much difference between the two amendments, except perhaps on one point. It would appear from the Minister's amendment that travelling or peripatetic teachers would be able to stand for more than one school board. In certain remote areas that may be fine if they are willing to give the time, but I believe that by and large it would be a bad thing to have a travelling teacher who theoretically could be on several school boards.

I wonder whether the Minister can give us a little guidance on that. If he cannot, I suggest, with modesty, that the amendment in my name is slightly more pertinent than his amendment, though no doubt if it came to the crunch his amendment would probably carry by reason of the forces behind him. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I hope that we shall adopt one of these amendments because there is little doubt that the present wording leaves the word "auxiliaries" in some doubt. Both amendments now clarify that position and we support them.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

In thanking the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, for moving the amendment I should like to speak to it and to my own Amendment, No. 15.

The noble Lord has brought forward an amendment which addresses an issue which my honourable friend the Minister for Education and Health undertook to consider during Committee debate in another place: the question of the definition of staff who would be eligible to stand or vote at board elections. I thank him for his attempt to find a solution to this problem of definition, which has proved troublesome. However I am pleased to confirm that we have tabled a similar amendment which, after my explanation, I hope the noble Lord will agree fully meets our needs.

The intention is that, broadly speaking, it should be educational staff who serve on boards and vote for staff members. The administrative and domestic staff may well have important contributions to make to some aspects of board business. These can be covered by the provisions in Clause 6(3) and 6(10) which allow the formation of sub-committees with non-board membership and the attendance of nonmembers at board meetings.

We have avoided the apparently simple course of restricting membership to teachers, because that term would be likely to be interpreted as meaning registered teachers in Scotland. Accordingly some classroom staff, such as instructors in some special schools and some music and other specialist instructors, might be excluded. We have also avoided the apparently simple alternative of using the term "school staff". The difficulty here is with the smaller schools. In large schools the involvement of administrative and domestic staff, cleaners, etc., might not be too difficult. But in the smaller schools the teachers could be heavily outnumbered by these other staff.

This amendment also makes it clear that teachers, whether part time or full time, will be eligible to vote and to stand in elections. This will mean that teachers employed part time in several schools will be eligible to be a candidate and to vote at each of the schools they are employed in at the time of the election. The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, was worried about that. We consulted on this matter and came to that conclusion. The task of serving on more than one school board might seem burdensome. However, there is no obligation on the person to serve if he or she does not wish to do so. We think that it is right, however, that a teacher with a professional interest in several schools should at least have the opportunity to vote in elections in each of those schools.

All in all, then, we hope that this time we have it right. The revised definition should prove less problematic and troublesome for authorities as regards interpretation. This is an important point. I do not wish to expand on it, but I shall look most closely at the noble Lord's amendment. I feel that our amendment makes interpretation easier for authorities.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

Will the Minister clarify one matter? I had the impression from what he said that the travelling teacher, or the one who attended more than one school to give instruction, could vote in various other schools. I was more concerned about whether teachers could be members of the school boards of several schools. This seems strange to me even after the Minister's explanation. Perhaps he can help me.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

The answer is yes, they can.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

We shall need to look at the matter carefully and take soundings on it. During the course of my remarks I said that there is such a disparity in Scotland that in some places it is reasonable to suppose that a teacher teaching in five different schools could become a power in the land of education. One is always a little worried when too much power is in anyone's hands. However, I thank the Minister for his explanation and we shall look at the matter carefully.

Lord Hughes

Can the Minister, even in thought, have been adding, "Yes, they can, but it is most unlikely that their colleagues will permit it"?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 15; Page 3, line 17, leave out (", instructors and auxiliaries involved in education") and insert ("and instructors, whether full-time or part-time, employed by the authority for the purpose of providing education at that school, whether or not they are also so employed at other schools").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 [Terms of office etc.]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 16: Page 3, line 28, leave out from ("Board") to end of line 29.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 16 which is small but of some importance from the organisational point of view. The Bill as it stands states: A member of a School Board may resign office at any time by giving notice in writing to the Clerk of the Board or to the education authority for the area".

We believe that dangers of confusion may arise because there are no recommendations as to the length of notice required. A member could have submitted a late resignation to the authority and it may not get to the board in time for it to decide whether there should be a by-election. We believe that an unnecessary meeting may be called and therefore there should be only one point at which a resignation can be tendered. That is to the clerk of the committee because, presumably, he will automatically attend every meeting of the board. If he is unable to do so because of illness or whatever, surely he will make a point of contacting the chairman or another responsible board member. In the course of the conversation he would say, "By the way, Mr. So-and-So has decided to resign from the committee". Therefore the machinery for the by-election can be put in motion immediately and everyone will be aware of the decision. There will not exist the possibility of the resignation being sent to the education authority and not being returned to the board for its meeting.

It is a small amendment but I believe that it is important. I hope that the Minister will accept it. No mischief is intended. It attempts to make smoother the lives of those on the board and that of the clerk.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I strongly support the amendment. It is simple but important. There is a strong case for resigning to both bodies but there is no case for resigning to only one or the other. That way lies confusion. If one had to resign to both bodies there would be no confusion and that way one would know where one stood. I strongly support the amendment and I am sure that the Minister is about to accept it.

The Earl of Dundee

At first sight the amendment appears to be sensible. Surely a board member should submit his or her resignation to the clerk of the board and not to the education authority. However, Members of the Committee will be glad to hear that in this case we have not drafted lightly. We gave consideration to the fact that the clerk of the board may not always be available to receive the resignation and that for one reason or another the post of clerk may be vacant.

More to the point is the fact that the clerk may be a member of the board. The effect of the amendment will be that he would be required to send notice of resignation to himself. Therefore it makes considerable sense to allow notice of resignation to be sent to either the clerk or to the education authority. I imagine that in normal circumstances resignations will often be sent to the clerk but the Bill as drafted merely makes that optional so that unusual cases can be accommodated.

Lord Somers

The Minister says that the clerk may not be available. He must remember that it is probable that any resignation of this kind will not take place until the beginning of the following term. Therefore there is plenty of time to wait until the clerk is available.

The Earl of Dundee

What the noble Lord says would obtain in many cases. However, he will probably agree with me that, with the drafting as we have it and with the option that he has given, if matters should not work out neatly in the manner he describes the situation is properly accounted for.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

It is always perplexing why a simple amendment can be built up into something as important as the noble Earl has made it. I understand part of what he has explained and I shall read it in the Official Report with great care. Perhaps I shall bring the matter back at the Report stage but at this point I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Dundee moved Amendment No. 17:

Page 3, line 41, leave out subsection (7) and insert— ("(7) Where a person ceases, for whatever reason, to be a parent member or staff member within 6 months before the expiry of his term of office, no by-election need be held under subsection (6) above.").

The noble Earl said: This amendment makes good a technical flaw in Clause 3(7).

As presently drafted, the clause provides that casual vacancies for staff and parent members are to be filled within three months of the vacancy arising. There is, however, an exception. A casual vacancy need not be filled if the seat in question would in any event come up for election in six months' time. The intention behind this exception is to ensure that, since members elected to fill casual vacancies serve for the remaining term of office, any person elected to fill a casual vacancy would be certain of serving at least three months. Without this guarantee, parents in particular might be reluctant to stand at by-elections.

The clause, however, refers to casual vacancies arising through resignation or removal. There are of course other possible causes of a casual vacancy—for example a member might die. As it stands, the clause might be taken to suggest that such vacancies should be filled regardless of the term of office remaining, whereas vacancies arising as a result of resignation or removal are to be treated differently. This is certainly not the intention and the amendment clarifies the point. I beg to move.

Lord Somers

I should like to clarify one point. When parents are mentioned does that imply parents whose child attends a particular school and not those whose child is at some other school?

The Earl of Dundee

Yes, that is the case.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 18 not moved.]

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Education authority observers and head teachers]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 19:

Page 4, line 20, leave out subsection (1) and insert— ("() An education authority may appoint a person to attend and speak at any meeting of a School Board in their area, but he shall not be a member of the Board").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 19. At the Report stage in another place a new subsection (2) was added to the clause which now provides that: The regional councillor for the electoral division in which a school is situated shall be entitled to attend and to speak at any meeting of any School Board". At the same time, subsection (1) was amended to the effect that: The Director of Education or an officer …nominated by him shall be entitled to attend and to speak at any meeting of a School Board". Previously the wording of subsection (1) was the same as the proposed amendment. In Committee in the other place the Convention of the Scottish Local Authorities proposed that an education authority should be able to appoint if necessary two persons—that is, an elected member and an officer—to attend and speak at school board meetings.

It was suggested that in such circumstances the policy making and policy implementation roles of the elected members and the directorates would be more effectively represented in the workings of the school board. That would not only be in the interests of the board but would also benefit the authority by ensuring that feedback from the board was being exercised at member and officer levels.

To an extent the amendments made on Report in another place take account of those points. As the Bill currently stands it is possible for both an official and an elected member—that is the regional councillor—to attend the meeting of the school board. However, that does not take into account the situation where a local regional councillor is not a member of the education committee of the authority. When an issue of education policy is being discussed at a particular meeting of a school board, it may well be more appropriate for an elected member of the education committee, who will obviously be familiar with all that has happened on the committee pertaining to the school, to be appointed by the education authority to attend the meeting rather than an official. That would mean that the regional representative would still have his place there to see what was happening, but the member of the education committee would also be there and would be primed and ready to advise on the policy of the board.

In such circumstances the authority rather than the director of education should have the discretion to nominate an elected member. The member would speak about the political policy of the education of the regional authority and of the decisions of the education committee which presumably will also be the decisions of the regional or island authority. I hope the Minister will give this considerable thought. It is not unimportant when one comes to the actual mechanics of the regional authority nominating someone to go and explain to the school board perhaps a quite difficult point which is not on a professional level but is on a political level. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I must say that I am rather against the amendment. I prefer the Bill as it stands in that if one has the regional member he is there because he is of the region and not because of his party. If it is policy that one wishes to talk about. surely the professionals will put over the policy which is the policy of the education committee, to the school board where they are entitled to speak but not to vote. As it stands, it appears to me that that is probably better than having a political input into the advisers of the school board. Therefore, on balance I am against it.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I should like to support what the noble Lord has just said. There is no reason why the local regional councillors should not explain the political policy of the region to the school board. Indeed, in Tayside, where we both live, school councils have had as the only regional councillor present, the local regional councillor. That has worked perfectly well. When local regional councillors who were not on the education committee wanted to put points to it there was nothing to stop them doing so. Therefore, I do not believe that that is an insurmountable problem.

I also believe that it is extremely important that the local authorities should not be able to appoint a politician rather than the director of education or his representative to go to help the school board because they want that professional advice and it is important that they receive it. Therefore, although I can understand that some local authorities might think this way, I believe that it would be mistaken to have that enshrined in legislation, and I believe the present arrangement is better.

Lord Kirkhill

I should like to support the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove as he sought to move his amendment before the Committee this afternoon. I do not really believe this, but I take it that the Government would argue that one of the principal purposes behind this particular piece of legislation is to increase the democratic purpose throughout the school system.

For many years I was a town councillor in the city of Aberdeen and for most of those many years I served on the education committee. My experience both of local authority work and of education authority work is that the professional adviser is too powerful. That is also something I felt when I was a government Minister. I believe that the Civil Service machine by its devious input, usually succeeds in overwhelming the Minister concerned; but that is another argument. However, at local authority level the professional tends to be too powerful and I am willing to bet that at school board level he will be all-powerful. Therefore, I should have thought anything that helped to diffuse that type of power, which is totally undemocratic anyway, would be of benefit.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, referred to the Bill's passage in another place in this connection. There was much debate about rights of attendance for the education authority and for the local regional councillor. There was particularly wide support for the principle that the local regional councillor should have a right of attendance at board meetings and a right to speak. My honourable friend the Minister for Health and Education listened very closely to the views expressed then and in response concluded that it was right and proper that both the education authority and the local regional councillor in whose area the school is situated should have the right to attend board meetings and to speak. The result of his conclusions appear before you as Clause 5, subsections (1) and (2).

Subsection (1) provides that the director of education, or his nominee, would have the right to attend and speak at board meetings and subsection (2) provides an identical right for the local regional councillor.

Clause 5, subsection (1) is included because it is proper that the education authority should be able to oversee a board's activities. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, had that in mind when he supported the Government's point of view. This should normally be a matter for officials who would report to the authority's elected members as they do on all its business. Officials are accountable to the authority and are obliged to work within and express its policies. They are also better placed to answer the technical questions which a board is likely to ask and to provide the technical advice which a board is likely to need. Later on in the consideration of this Bill we come to very relevant matters in that connection.

As drafted, the amendment would allow the authority to nominate a person to represent it at board meetings. This might well be an official but it might be an elected member of the authority and indeed a person with no authority connections whatsoever. Clause 5, subsection (2), recognises the value of enabling the local regional councillor to scrutinise the work of the board. He or she is best placed to judge the feelings and wishes of the local electorate and to determine how closely the work of the board corresponds with those wishes. There is therefore no need to provide a seprate right for the authority to nominate another elected member. Should the board wish to hear the views of an elected member of the authority other than the local councillor, then under Clause 6(10)—this is where the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, although not agreeing with the Government may find some comfort—they can invite that person to attend the board and to speak.

As drafted, the Bill allows the authority to be formally represented by an official reporting back to the authority and the elected member's interests to be represented by the local regional councillor. I should have thought that in view of the consideration which I understand went on for some considerable time in another place, which debated this matter thoroughly, and of what has been said, the noble Lord would consider withdrawing his amendment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I feel that with both the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, ranged against me, and with only my noble friend Lord Kirkhill to support me—

Lord Kirkhill

There are not many supporters opposite.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

Yes, but they probably have reserves available somewhere.

It is an important point but not important enough to divide the Committee. I think the history of this matter in another place shows how difficult a point it is. It was certainly worth putting down the amendment, but having said that and having listened to the Minister I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.30 p.m.

The Earl of Dundee moved Amendment No. 20: Page 4, line 24, after ("regional") insert ("or islands").

The noble Earl said: With the leave of the Committee, in moving Amendment No. 20 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 63 and 64. When we provided regional councillors with a right to attend and speak at board meetings we omitted to provide a similar right for islands councillors. Islands councils are also education authorities and their councillors should therefore be included in the provision. These amendments make good that omission. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 21:

Page 4, line 34, leave out subsection (4) and insert— ("(4) An education authority shall have the right and, on receiving a request from a Board, a duty to give advice to a school board in their area on any matter within the Board's competence.").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment it would be appropriate to speak also to Amendment No. 22. The Minister may find it difficult to distinguish between Amendments Nos. 21 and 22, but he will be aware of the many arguments over the decades in this Chamber and in another place over the meaning of the words "shall" and "will". Therefore the two amendments should be examined by the Minister and he should give us his point of view.

It is a drafting amendment which seeks to make the purpose of the subsection clearer. As drafted, the subsection seems to imply that an education authority can only give advice when requested by a school board. That is clearly not the government's intention as made clear by the Under-Secretary of State for Education in another place during the Committee stage of the Bill. I quote from col. 364 of Hansard for 17th May. The Minister, Mr. Forsyth, said: the authority has a clear statutory position in relation to the overall management of the education system, and its right to advise the Board flows from that. What is required is to establish a duty on the authority to give advice when requested and the Bill provides that. That would deal with the possibility—although I am sure that it would never occur—of an authority not responding to a request for advice". I think that the wording in our amendment succinctly puts that point, which we believe is a minor but important weakness in the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, pointed out that boards will not be required to consider authority advice except where they have specifically requested it—Clause 5(4). That is true. It may be that a board will have business on which authority advice would be either unwelcome or irrelevant. For example, it would be wrong to force boards to have regard to advice about whom to choose as co-opted members or as office bearers. On the other hand, it would be proper for the authority to suggest what groups a board might consider seeking nominations from or to advise the board what considerations might be relevant in selecting a chairman.

Where an authority's advice is relevant I am in no doubt that boards will give the advice due consideration. Why do I say that? The Bill requires as much. Clause 8(5) requires boards to ensure that their authorities' statutory duties are complied with. Clause 8(3) limits board members' freedom from personal liability to acts done in good faith. A board which wilfully ignored sensible advice from its authority would find it difficult to argue that it was acting in good faith and difficult to explain how it was able to maintain its duties under Clause 8(5). There is therefore no need to require boards to consider authority advice. They already have to have careful regard to relevant guidance and advice.

In addition, I should point out that Clauses 9 and 14 of the Bill require boards to accept authority directions or consider advice in relation to boards' specific functions on capitation, occasional holidays and use of premises. Under Schedule 3, authorities may propose similar conditions on delegated functions. The Bill therefore already provides for boards to have regard to authority advice and guidance both in general terms and in relation to the discharge of specific functions.

I am aware that the Scottish Parent Teacher Council holds the view that authorities should have a general duty to advise boards without being asked. I think this is unnecessary. By virtue of Clause 5(3) a board can ask for advice and by virtue of Clause 10(1) can seek information on any matter to do with the board's functions, education in the area or the running of the school. To extend this by putting a wide general duty on authorities to give advice to boards could put authorities in a position where they could only satisfy the provision by swamping boards—and I mean swamping boards—with advice and information pretty well regardless of its usefulness or relevance.

I have explained fully the intention behind the clause and I have also put the point presented to us by the Scottish Parent Teacher Council. I hope that in this case the balance to which I refer is acceptable to the noble Lord and that he will therefore feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

Having heard the Minister's reply, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 22 not moved.]

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 23:

Page 4, line 43, at end insert— ("() In exercising his responsibilities in relation to the activities of the School Board the headteacher will remain accountable to the education authority in accordance with the terms of the relevant Contract of Employment").

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with the responsibility of the school board and the headmaster. It emphasises that the headmaster should remain accountable to the education authority in terms of the relevant contract of employment.

In schools with which I have been associated the head teacher—I think I may have said "headmaster" earlier; and I must not do that—is a key figure in the operational management of the school and in the relationship between the education authority, the local school and the community. He is an important, key figure in most areas. The success of the school board proposals will to a considerable extent depend on the role of the head teacher and the extent to which he or she can meet the legitimate wishes of the school board within the broad educational policies of the authority.

First and foremost, the head teacher is a senior member of the staff, engaged under contract and accountable through the director of education to the authority. While he exerts considerable delegated powers, nevertheless he is under a duty to observe the educational policies of the authority and has a clear line of managerial responsibility, through the directorate, to the elected members and ultimately to the electorate.

Any ambiguity or ambivalence as regards the management reporting line would impose on a head teacher conflicting loyalties and competing priorities. It would seriously undermine the management of the service. It is therefore important that the Bill should first of all confirm the accountability of the head teacher to the education authority. Secondly, it should avoid creating conflicting responsibilities which could jeopardise that arrangement and confuse the responsibility of the head teacher to the education authority.

The Bill says nothing about the first point and that is relevant to what I have been putting before the Committee. This amendment is designed to clarify the position. The Minister will be aware that the teachers scheme of conditions of service applies to head teachers as well. In the terms of the scheme the head teacher need not attend meetings outside contractual hours. Accordingly, in the case of a board meeting held outside contractual hours there could be a conflict between the provisions of the scheme and the duties of the head teacher under Clause 5(3) to give advice to the board, unless it were to be given in writing. We hope that this will never happen. We hope that this attitude will not develop between the board and the head teacher. One of our jobs here is to try to anticipate exceptional situations and to make allowances for them.

It is desirable that the contractual relationship between head teachers, the boards and education authorities should be clarified, as suggested in the amendment I have just moved. I hope the matter never reaches the point where head teachers adopt a dog-in-the-manger attitude where they will not give advice, where they are tardy with it or where they will give it in writing and not attend the meeting. I hope that there will be a very good relationship between the head teachers and the school boards. I believe that situation would be helped if the school boards were made aware of the line of command of the head teachers, which is through the local directorate, the regional council and ultimately the electorate. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I believe that the noble Lord has raised a very important point. I am not sure that this amendment is the right way to solve the problem. I shall listen to what the Minister says with great interest, as I always do. It is a very curious situation that the head teacher has a school board and his responsibilities are to the people who pay him and to his contract. He must act towards the school board with a certain amount of responsibility, otherwise there is no point in having a school board. It would merely be a source of friction.

I believe that the Government have a considerable difficulty. They have a duty to define exactly where the head teacher stands as regards his different obligations. I suppose that, first, he has an obligation to the children to see that they receive a good education. Certainly he has an obligation to his employers who pay him. Now he has the addition of a school board. The Government must define this properly so that responsible people do not feel that they are working in a maze and a muddle, with no direct straight line management.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I agree that it is very important for head teachers to be clear about this. They should know exactly where they stand as regards the school hoard. Head teachers frequently find themselves walking a tightrope. To an extent they are accountable to parents and to the children themselves, and they are also accountable to their employers. The implementation of the authority's policy in the school is a matter of great delicacy and one which teachers regard as part of their professional skill. That is what equips them to be head teachers.

I wondered whether this amendment was the right way to make the point clear. The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, suggested that with this amendment it might be possible for a head teacher to say, "I will come to the board only if it meets in school hours". The noble Lord shakes his head, but that seems to be the implication of what he said. The head teacher might be able to say, "My contract says that I do not have to come out of school hours and therefore I will not be at the board". Is that not what he said?

5.45 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I was trying to make another point. This amendment would clear up the issue because there would be a better relationship. There would be a direct request by the board to the head teacher as long as it was understood that the head teacher was ultimately responsible to the education authority. I was suggesting that if there was not that line of command and if he were so inclined, a head teacher could adopt a dog-in-the manger attitude. If he felt that the school board was trying to order him about he could easily respond by replying in writing instead of going along and being a part of the proceedings. That is how I read the amendment.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

The amendment says, in accordance with the terms of the relevant Contract of Employment". Presumably the head teacher is always working within the terms of his contract of employment whatever he is doing. If there is a conflict there will have to be a change in the contract of employment. I simply ask the Minister whether he can assure the Committee that the head teacher will he clear from the Bill as it stands exactly what is the nature of the tightrope that he has to walk so that he does not fall over it on one side in favour of the school board and upset the authority, or the other way round. If the Minister is satisfied, then we do not need the amendment, but if he is not, we need a somewhat different amendment.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

The basic duty of the head teacher to his employers is to implement the authority's policies and procedures for the discharge of its statutory duties. The Bill does not lessen the accountability of the head teacher to the education authority in this respect. In fact it goes further by clearly identifying the head teacher as the board's adviser rather than a board member. If the head teacher was a voting member of the hoard, he could become committed to board decisions which the authority would want to countermand or question. This would be an impossible position. Therefore the head teacher has been given a more independent role in relation to his board in order to avoid the suggestion that he could become the servant of two masters, which is a very real concern. The Bill does not seek to weaken the head teacher's contractual relationship with the authority and maintains a proper degree of independence from the board for the head teacher.

We intend the head teacher to occupy the role of the board's principal professional adviser. Of course he would have a duty to explain clearly the authority's policies and to help the board to evaluate any of its plans in the light of those policies. However, I believe that it would be quite contrary to the spirit of the Bill if a head teacher's contractual obligations were ever to reduce him to being simply a mouthpiece for his authority's specific directions in relation to his dealings with his board.

It is relevant to note that in the agreement from the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee for Teaching Staff in School Education there is a relevant passage that I should like to quote from Schedule A, Circular SE/61, dated 11th February 1988: The head teacher is required to carry out the duties of the post among which is the implementation within the school of such policies and procedures as the education authority may lay down for the implementation of its statutory duties". That has not changed.

A question was raised about the possibility of a refusal to give advice by a head teacher if the board meets outside his contracted hours. The Bill provides under Clause 5(3) that head teachers and school staff should be available to discharge duties in relation to the board as appropriate. This will allow authorities to make it clear that conditions of service should be taken into account by boards. With these remarks I hope that I have clarified the position for the noble Lord.

Baroness Seear

Perhaps I may say, if an Englishwoman dare intervene on such an occasion, that it seems to me to be an extremely important amendment which raises a very difficult point indeed. The Minister said that the headmaster was advisory to the board. It seems to me that it is the board that should be advisory to the headmaster, because if the headmaster is answerable to the local authority then at the end of the day the local authority is the body which he must obey. He cannot obey two masters. If the board does not agree with what the local authority wants, what does the headmaster do? The board gives its views and tells the headmaster; surely it advises the headmaster that these are matters that he should take into account. The headmaster cannot be responsible to both bodies. Those of us who have been involved in organisational questions know that one will be creating an absolute mare's nest for the headmaster. Surely the board advises him; it is not the other way round.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, to this discussion. I am pleased to hear what she has to say. Of course, as we have said in this debate, the role of the head teacher is one that requires much careful thought. He has a statutory duty to his authority and quite rightly he has to advise his school board of the important aspects of that duty which he has to perform. However, in addition there are other operations, which may or may not be delegated, on which the school board can express an opinion. In these matters we feel that it is right that the head teacher, knowing the local circumstances, should be able to advise his board—because he is only an adviser and not a member of the board—about what he thinks would be best for the school.

There are certain cases in which the local authority would not necessarily have a view on a particular point. Should it do so, I have no doubt that the head teacher will find out what it is. I am trying to say, in answer to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, that we feel that the balance we have struck under this clause is the right one in relation to the head teacher's advisory role.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I should like to make just one point in relation to the intervention by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy. I suggested that one of the effects of this amendment would be to avoid creating a situation of conflicting responsibilities which would jeopardise the smooth working between the head teacher and the school board.

The Minister has clarified the situation a little by pointing out other parts of the Bill where it is clearly laid down that the head teacher remains accountable to the education authority. I only wish that the Minister had grasped the nettle and taken on this very simple point rather than have such complicated hunting through the Bill looking for a route of responsibility. If he accepts the amendment it will be apparent to all members of the school board exactly where the head teacher's responsibility lies. I think that we should have started on that basis instead of the situation in which the head teacher comes along to the first meeting of the board and says, "Now I have to explain where we are". It would have been better than going through the motions that the Minister went through earlier, referring backwards and forwards to clauses and subsections.

I believe that in the interests of good government a simple amendment such as the one that I have tabled would have been much more acceptable. However, I do not think that the Minister is likely to accept it and at this point I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 [Proceedings]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 24: Page 5, line 3, at end insert ("except where the matter which is the subject of the vote relates to the co-option of a member of the Board or to the appointment of a member of the Board to any particular office or committee, in which cases the decision shall be by lot").

The noble Lord said: this is not an unimportant amendment although it may seem almost superficial. The amendment is derived from paragraph 5(2) of Schedule 7 to the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. Perhaps I may say that this may be a certain response to the Minister's wandering through this Bill, in that I have been wandering through the Scottish Local Government Act of 1973.

That paragraph provides the principle of determination by lot to avoid placing the appointment to office in the potential gift of the chairman at a meeting; that is to say, if there is a tie it should not be the chairman who makes the decision because he would be put in a difficult position. The same principle that applies in the local authority would appear to be desirable in the case of school boards, given their composition and the importance which must attach to their co-opted members. If matters are left as they are the chairman will have disproportionate power not only in the selection of committees or the appointment of committee representatives but, more importantly, in the co-option of members to the board itself. We are suggesting that should there be a tie in the appointment of a member to a board or to any particular office or committee, the decision should be by lot.

The Minister will be well aware of the recent local government elections in Scotland in which all were saved from embarassment by the drawing of cards. It is common knowledge that that happened in the East Kilbride and Stirling district councils. The Minister will be aware, because he knows that I am a reasonably fair person, that I am not agreeing with this method just because we drew a high card in each of those examples. It just so happened that my party drew the high card but we have lost on other occasions. There is no party political content in this matter. My illustration is merely to show that it is done in matters important enough for a local authority—and I think the Minister will agree that local authorities are much more important in constitutional terms than is a single school board. They find that the best way to avoid difficulties and embarrassment and he fair all round when there is an absolute tie is to draw lots. I hope that the Minister will accept this mild but very important amendment in this case. I beg to move.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Indeed it is probably Laid down in the standing orders of all the regional councils that if there is a tie it should be decided by lot in some way. In some instances it will be by drawing a straw and in others I believe a pack of cards is used. However, I do not think that central government have ever told local government what they had to do in that respect. I believe that local government decided for themselves and I am wondering whether boards should not decide this matter for themselves.

They should indeed be reminded that it is an issue, because inexperienced boards may not know that this situation is likely to crop up. Were my noble friend to say that the board should decide for itself—and I think that that would be a characteristic response—it ought to be stated in some guidance for the boards that this is an issue. It is something which many people only accept as a problem when it has occurred. That would be a pity. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, that the matter needs to be dealt with.

Lord Hughes

I am surprised that the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, should have made those remarks. My noble friend has quoted the law on the matter. It lays down that the question must be decided by lot. I can remember a long time back an amusing experience that occurred when I was a member of the council. The cause of the experience was not amusing because it was the regrettable death of the Lord Provost a year before his term of office expired. There were two nominations for the post at the succeeding meeting. One was a senior magistrate who by virtue of his position occupied the chair. There was equality in the voting and the senior magistrate voted himself into the Lord Provostship by use of a casting vote. He was 11 months through his 12-month period of office when it was discovered that he had broken the law. The choice should have been settled by lot. It was interesting that some time later the matter of equality of votes arose again in the appointment of the Lord Provost and the matter had to be settled by lot. I have a feeling that the man who was lucky enough to draw an eight was elected because his opponent chose a deuce.

So the procedure is a good one. I know of one occasion in Scotland, after the last election, where there was a refusal by one of the candidates to go into a second lot because his religious principles did not allow him to take part in gambles. He said that if he had to take part in a lot to achieve office then he would withdraw his nomination instead.

6 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I apologise to Members of the Committee and bow to the longstanding knowledge of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, on the subject. I was merely recollecting that when Tayside began both gentlemen concerned drew an ace the first time round. I thought we had decided that that would be the way it would be settled—that is, that the cards should be cut—but we were evidently keeping to the law and simply deciding that cards were the way to do it. Luckily, on the second draw, both men drew different numbers and the matter was settled.

The Earl of Dundee

Of course we all expect school boards to be serious bodies doing an important job. But we do not expect them to be unduly formal in their approach, nor do we expect them to adopt an adversarial style very often. In fact, I doubt whether many of the decisions will be taken by vote. I imagine that the amendment at which we are looking is gleaned from paragraph 5 of Schedule 7 to the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. Those are provisions which are all very well and sound in the context of local government, where the legislation envisages and provides for political decision-making with issues being regularly decided by votes. They are much less appropriate for the procedures of bodies such as school boards which are intended to be small, local bodies operating for the majority of their business without contention and the need for votes. Where there are votes on an issue, the simple and well-understood principle of the casting vote will apply.

When a similar amendment was debated in another place, the Opposition suggested that the use of lots in decisions about selection and appointment to committees might avoid embarrassment for the chairman. We have already heard about the satisfactory procedure which took place in East Kilbride and Stirling. Although there is something to be said for that point of view, we should not confuse what we are talking about here with local government practices. Nor do we need complicated requirements as envisaged here to achieve the best result.

Board chairmen are not obliged to use their casting vote: if they prefer not to cast a deciding vote in particular circumstances it would be quite in order for the board's own standing orders to provide for the decision to be made by lot. Indeed, in answer to my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour, we shall be taking trouble to spell that out in the guidance which will be given to boards. School boards do not need the complications proposed by the amendment. In view of that, I ask the noble Lord whether he can see fit to withdraw it?

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I must say that the Minister's arguments all seem to lead to drawing lots in the matter. He downgraded the decisions of the school board as against the local authority and then said that if the chairman, or vice-chairman, did not wish to cast his vote he could draw lots. In that case there seems to be nothing against accepting the amendment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, has put the argument extremely well. I do not think that there is anything wrong in a new body such as a school board learning from the experience of long-established local authorities in their longstanding local government practice.

I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, would agree that in examples such as the one about which she spoke, when lots are cast and both men draw an ace and, subsequently, one of them draws an eight and another a two, there was no rancour involved. There may have been disappointment, but there was no rancour. Whereas we could definitely get off on the wrong footing if the chairman used his casting vote on such important issues. The issue is the co-option of a member; we are not discussing each individual vote that the school board may have.

Like the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, I hope that there are very few votes in the committee and that it works smoothly. There are not that many votes considering the enormous amount of business that goes through in the minutes of local authorities. However, when a vote takes place it is usually quite important. I suggest that a vote for the co-option of a member to the board, given the balance of the board, could put enormous power in the hands of the chairman if there were an equal number of votes for each of the two people who had been proposed. Therefore it seems to me that deciding by lot is by far the best way, especially when the Minister suggested that if the chairman, the vice-chairman or deputy chairman of the board—you could almost say funks it—found that it was too embarrassing to make a decision and therefore decided to draw lots. That is exactly why it is done in local authorities—to stop rancour.

The Earl of Dundee

I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I largely take his point. However, the purport of my earlier remarks was to say to him that with the standing orders this can be done anyway. In other words, lots can be used instead of the chairman having a casting vote. We shall make that point most forcefully in the guidance that will be given to the boards. The line we are taking is that it is not a good idea to force boards on the issue. Nevertheless, I take the noble Lord's point that there is the element of embarrassment. We are talking about a small difference here, whether we proceed along one line or the other. However, I am prepared to look again at the matter; but without commitment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am most grateful to the Minister for what he has said. It is a small matter, until the time comes when the decision has to be made. We do not want any bad feeling—I am talking about on the board and not in this Committee, although I think we would probably come off better if we decided things by lot rather than by vote. However, I am grateful to the Minister for agreeing to give the issue further thought, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 25:

Page 5, line 10, at end insert— ("() (a) Where a School Board consider it expedient for the discharge of their functions they may institute defend or appear in any legal preoceedings;

  1. (b) Any legal proceedings against a School Board and any notice or other document shall be deemed to have been duly served on the Board if served on the Clerk of the Board;
  2. (c) A School Board may delegate to its Clerk the power to serve any notice or lodge any claim on behalf of the Board or to represent the Authority in any proceedings").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is of great importance. We have had representations along similar lines from the Law Society of Scotland which is concerned about possible legal proceedings and the position that school boards could be in should the situation arise where such proceedings were issued against them. The society is also worried about the position that a local authority, a regional authority or an education committee would be in if there were legal effects.

Clause 6(4) which is the part we are trying to amend, is an inadequate provision for the regulation of the ordinary business of a school board. It is desirable to afford specific powers to the board in respect of the pursuit and defence of its rights and to identify clearly the procedures available for that purpose. The amendment endeavours to summarise and apply to school boards the relative provisions made for local authorities in Part XI of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. Paragraph (a) in the amendment gives the school board specific powers to act in pursuit of the protection of its own interest in litigation. For example, it would be able to sue for, or defend, contractual or delictual claims in court, defend proceedings in an industrial tribunal or appear as a party in a public inquiry, such as a planning inquiry affecting the school.

Sub-paragraph (b) of the amendment provides a statutory method for the service on the board of writs, statutory and other notices and documents. By clearly stating the appropriate method of delivery of such documents—they should be addressed to the clerk—the risk of confusion and a possible loss of documents is reduced. Otherwise it is likely that writs, notices and documents intended for the school board, or a variety of recipients, including the chairman of the school board, the head teacher, the director of education and perhaps the education authority itself, may be lost.

Sub-paragraph (c) allows a school board to delegate to its clerk powers to take appropriate action on behalf of the board under the previous provisions. The use of that power could be administratively efficient, enabling the clerk to dispose of minor matters without encumbering the board or to take immediate protective steps without the necessity of first obtaining the board's approval. The latter aspect is especialy important in relation to time-limits on various matters; for instance, in litigation where notice of appearance must be lodged by a defendant within a specified time if the action is to be defended or is to come up at all.

Unless appropriate arrangements for delegation are made, school boards will be faced with the inconvenience of calling emergency meetings to authorise action in such urgent cases. There would be a risk that the matter would not be disposed of in time and the action might go by default. Finally, the subparagraph contains power to authorise the clerk to represent the school board in any proceedings. Whether that power would be used would depend upon the circumstances and upon the clerk's qualifications. However, the provision affords the school board, in appropriate circumstances, the internal capacity to arrange representation, whether by written submission or personal appearance, at proceedings such as meetings, tribunals, inquiries or courts.

The amendment is important. I know that the Minister will have given it serious thought. I hope he will give us some hope that the clerk will be given those powers for the protection of the board either through the amendment or whatever alternative words he may put down. We believe that the Bill is weak on this point, and we feel that the amendment would help. I beg to move.

Lord Kirkhill

I merely wish to put one question to the Minister. I am referring to Clause 6(4). Does he not believe that this provision is inadequate for the regulation of the school board? It seems to me to be entirely that.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I recognise the words of Sections 189 and 190 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act in the amendment. I can understand the feeling that if those provisions are right for a local authority they must be right for school boards. In fact, we feel that the amendment is unnecessary and in practice would go much further than noble Lords opposite intend.

Perhaps I may deal first with the proposed new sub-paragraphs (b) and (c). The Bill already provides in Clause 6(4) for a board to delegate functions to any of its members or to the clerk. The wording of that part of the clause includes the functions proposed by sub-paragraph (b) of the amendment. The Bill does not provide specifically for service of notices on the board clerk, but it does not need to do so. It is a recognised legal principle that service of a document on an officer or an office holder of a statutory body counts as satisfactory service of that document on the body concerned.

A specific provision of the kind suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, would in any case be inappropriate for a body such as a school board which will not have a fixed office or place of business in the way that an education authority has.

Perhaps I may now look at sub-paragraph (a), which would give boards specific power to instigate or take part in legal proceedings. Such powers are already granted to boards in a general sense in Clause 8(1), which allows boards to act in pursuit of their function and powers. In that sense, the amendment is unnecessary, but there are some more important points.

As the amendment is drafted, it would appear to give boards the unfettered right to take legal action. That is not true of the Bill as it stands. Under Clause 8(1) the board's general powers to act are constrained by the other terms of the Bill. That would allow, for example, an authority to include conditions of delegation requiring a board to refer to the authority before becoming involved in legal proceedings in which large amounts of public money could be at stake. The Bill as drafted also constrains boards in a relationship of principal (the authority) and agent (the board) in dealing with third parties. That is a further ground upon which an authority might become involved in a decision as to whether a board should take legal action.

The board might wish to pursue a particular action when the cooler and wiser counsels of the authority prefer a settlement between the parties. I therefore suggest that the Bill already covers the points of concern of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, and, I hope, the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, and does so in a way that meets some of their other anxieties about the relationship between boards and authorities in a direct way. I trust that explains the situation in respect of legal proceedings and I hope that the noble Lord will consider withdrawing the amendment.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. He dealt fairly with the points, especially sub-paragraph (a). I readily accept that the point is covered in Clause 8(1). He also make the important point that under the amendment the board would be allowed to institute legal proceedings. I can see that there may be problems there. While I am grateful to the Minister—

Lord Kirkhill

Before my noble friend withdraws the amendment, perhaps the Minister would say why it is undesirable to give the boards specific' powers. The Minister has not replied to that question which I put to him directly.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I thought that I had answered the point with regard to this area of the Bill. As it stands, the amendment does not seem to me to address the points which have already been addressed in other parts of the Bill. There are three categories of amendment. One of them is where we feel the amendment to be unnecessary, and we feel this amendment to be unnecessary.

Lord Kirkhill

I am bound to say that I regard that reply as totally unsatisfactory. It is the classic Ministerial non-reply.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My noble friend sat over there for a long time, and his is obviously the voice of authority. I am glad that I stopped short of showing enthusiasm for the Minister's reply, which was complicated and dealt with an important point. I shall consider it in time for Report, and in order to do that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 26: Page 5, line 12, at end insert ("and shall adopt the Standing Orders made for that purpose by the Education Authority").

The noble Lord said: The amendment relates to the standing orders of a school board. The point was mentioned earlier by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee. While there is no statutory provision requiring a local authority to make standing orders it is invariably the practice so to do, for only thus can an authority's proceedings be properly administered.

The practice derived from the experience of members and officers and the administrative and professional resources available. School boards are not likely to have that wealth of experience. There is a risk that regulation of a board's proceedings may be carried out in the most informal way. The matter is too important to permit of the possibility of such informality, especially as the board will not have its own professional resources upon which to call.

In those circumstances, it is better to require formal regulation of the proceedings. The amendment requires the authority to prepare standing orders suitable for the use of a board in its area and which the board will be bound to apply. The consistency of such arrangements will be of undoubted assistance to clerks of boards and will enhance the efficient operation of board business. Although I am sure the Minister will explain why standing orders will be produced, it would be helpful if we could have it put as succinctly as I believe this amendment puts it. I beg to move.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

It may be helpful if I explain how we see Clause 6(5) working. The clause gives boards power to regulate their proceedings, subject to any overriding requirements of the Bill. They would have to comply with the requirements on keeping minutes, for example. To exercise that power effectively boards must be able to set and to vary their own standing orders. That is what we intend should happen.

Of course the very first members will require some advice and assistance in drawing up the first set of standing orders. We shall certainly be taking account of that need in devising guidance and training material for boards—about which we talked when discussing the first amendment which the noble Lord promoted. However, we should not want to prevent other organisations offering their advice to boards of which I understand there are many. Certainly, with their experience of running school councils, education authorities would be a valuable source of such advice to their boards. But we would not want, as the amendment provides, authorities to be able to impose a set of standing orders on their boards.

I hope that with that explanation of how we see this matter being taken forward the noble Lord will consider what I have said and perhaps withdraw his amendment.

Lord Hughes

Is the Minister implying that the boards will be specifically told by the department that they must draw up standing orders to regulate the proceedings, so that they will not be in a position where they can either have standing orders or do without standing orders?

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

As I understand it, that is so. It is important that the various boards draw up standing orders. That is what we shall be asking them to do. Of course we shall also go further than that and give them some guidance as to how they should draw up those standing orders, as will local authorities concerned, parent-teacher councils and others.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I was going to ask exactly the same question as my noble friend Lord Hughes. Must the boards have standing orders? If they must, although the Minister has suggested that guidelines will be given, at the end of the day would local authorities decide whether the standing orders were acceptable or not, even with variations? I think that this could become quite dangerous if there were not at least a helping hand to try to have some sort of standard within the standing orders. I do not want any suggestion of "Big Brother" but I should like to be able to feel that the way a school board—

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I think "a helping hand" is a good expression. It is certainly very different from direction by education authorities, which we would wish to avoid.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I wonder whether the Minister could give us his experience of standing orders. Standing orders laid down are often very much better than standing orders produced by bodies when they are left on their own. I have seen some extraordinary standing orders which give an absolute incitement to people to cause trouble. With all our combined experience, I should have thought the Minister would have been delighted to put this in the Bill.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I think that many of us would agree with the noble Lord that standing orders can be used in many ways. Local authorities have been in existence for a long time. They have standing orders and they have a lot of experience. I am told that London Transport, for instance, has sold its mistakes all over the world. It has had so much experience that it knows much of what has happened in its field. The same applies with local authorities. if the Minister really means what he was implying earlier, that standing orders could vary greatly from one part of the country to another, I do not think that would be helpful at all. I would hope that one could move from one part of Scotland to another and understand that the school board was by and large operating on the same basic standing orders.

In order to avoid difficulties, I would hope that the Minister would reconsider this to the extent of at least saying that the education authorities would issue guidelines on standing orders and request—if no more than that, because one hopes that the relationship would be good enough—that they be allowed to see the proposed standing orders before they went to the board itself for final approval in each case. Thus some of the obvious pitfalls could be avoided. Any good town clerk, who would have had a great deal of experience in such matters, could point out, "it would be unwise to do it this way" or "It would be better to do it this way", before it went for ratification to the full board. I do not know what would be the reaction of education authorities to standing orders approved by the board if the authorities had not finally approved them, but if the Minister has something else to say I should be very happy to—

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I have very little else to say, other than that of course we have to allow the school boards to set their own standing orders. What they should do, and what I have no doubt they will do, is to take the advice of education authorities up and down Scotland and also take advice from other bodies as well as consider the guidance which we shall give them on setting up. I hope that finally the standing orders that are produced across Scotland will he similar, as the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, has indicated. However, I have to point out to him that sometimes variety can be the spice of life.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I accept that. The Minister is edging closer to the fact that there may be model standing orders issued, however they may be termed. Therefore, with that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 27:

Page 5, line 17, leave out subsection (7) and insert— ("(7) (a) Minutes of the proceedings of the meeting of a School Board or a Committee of a School Board shall be drawn up and shall be signed at the same or next following meeting of the School Board or Committee by the person presiding thereat, and any Minute purporting to be so signed shall be received in evidence without further proof. (b) The names of members present at a meeting of a School Board shall be recorded. (c) The Minutes of the proceedings of a School Board shall he made available for inspection by the education authority on request and the education authority shall have the right to require delivery of copies of the Minutes").

The noble Lord said: It would perhaps be convenient for the Committee to consider with this amendment Amendment No. 28.

The proposed amendment is in line with the requirement of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 that it is important to establish by statute the requirements for authentication and for recording those present. Again it is desirable to give the minutes evidential value after they have been approved, for otherwise the proceedings could very easily be open to challenge.

The authority should also be able to inspect the minutes when the need arises. Moreover, it is important to establish the right of the authorities to receive and retain copies of the minutes, for otherwise the authorities could have no formal record of proceedings affecting the schools. I think the point made by the Minister earlier about the serving of notices was that the boards would not have any actual premises, so unless the clerk were to carry everything around in his attachécase—I do not know how voluminous the work may be—it would seem that some sort of archive kept by the education authority would be a relief to everyone. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will consider this.

Amendment No. 28 is really an alternative and is in line with the provision of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 that it is important to establish by statute the requirements for authentication and to give the minutes evidential value.

Amendment No. 27 is rather more full, and I hope that the Minister will be willing at least to take it away and look at it, if not to accept it as it is now. I beg to move.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I think this is sensible. I hope that the Minister will look at it because it simply ensures that no sloppy school board will take decisions without them being recorded and known. I am sure that this is desirable.

Lord Kirkhill

I wish to add that if the Minister is willing to accept this amendment, it is written into the Bill, there would be evidential value if, after they had been approved, the minutes were challenged. Given that we do not know yet how some of these school boards will operate in practice, I should have thought this would be a very reasonable safeguard to write into the Bill.

The Earl of Dundee

The Bill already allows education authorities to request sight of board minutes at any reasonable time. I certainly have no fundamental objection to that part of the amendment which would require boards to send copies of all their minutes to their authorities if the authorities so required. However, I am not so sure that the authorities would be pleased with the effects of this provision in the longer term. I expect that much of the boards' business will be of little direct interest to their authorities. The authorities will have a right of attendance and speech at board meetings through the director of education. However, why compound all this by insisting on the regular flow of minutes from the board to the authority? There is enough wasted paper travelling pointlessly about the country as it is.

I cannot accept the other aspects of the amendments, which seem to me to import too much technical detail into the Bill. The standing orders of boards should rightly cover these provisions and we expect that authorities will give guidance to their boards on this kind of subject. We shall also be offering both guidance and training material to boards which will cover technical matters of this kind.

The Earl of Selkirk

There is one aspect worrying me. If a member of the board is the secretary, he does not receive any money. I do not know whether school boards will spread minutes all round the place to the education authority and goodness knows who. There must be a competent secretary. This will be vital for the whole of the work of the board. The board would be very lucky to have a member who is a competent secretary. Competent secretaries are rare and important people and in order to get a good one the board must pay. To expect someone to do it for nothing I think is outrageous.

The Earl of Dundee

I am grateful to the noble Earl for the point he makes. If he will bide with us, we shall come later to an amendment which addresses the type of remuneration for the secretary and the clerk.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I was aware that it had been decided that there would be remuneration. I certainly take the point of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, on the importance of the clerk. It sounds as though we are being very wordy and bureaucratic but the point about good clerking and good bureaucratic work is that they help to avoid problems later on.

We suggest that if there were no proper minutes it would be possible for anyone at an AGM or general parents' meeting to claim that something had happened at a board meeting. Or, if the board were to do something that could lead to litigation and there were no proper minutes, it could cause havoc. Good minutes are not difficult to keep if, as the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, suggests, the clerk has a skilled mind. It would save an enormous amount of time and trouble later on.

I am anti-bureaucratic in the old and accepted sense but I am very conscious of how important a good clerk is to any organisation. I hope that the Minister will take this back and give it more thought. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 28 not moved.]

The Earl of Dundee moved Amendments Nos. 29 and 30: Page 5, line 21, after ("Boards") insert ("and any committee established by them"). Page 5, line 25, after ("Board") insert ("and of any such committee").

The noble Earl said: I beg to move Amendments Nos. 29 and 30. Clause 6(3) of the Bill provides that boards may establish committees which may include non-board members. Clause 6(8) provides that the Secretary of State can make regulations governing public access to board meetings and papers. Draft regulations on these and other matters have been published for comment.

It is not the intention that board committees should be free from the provisions regulating public access but we feel that, as presently drafted, Clause 6(8) might be read in such a way as to suggest this. These amendments therefore put beyond doubt that the regulation-making power on public access applies equally to boards and board committees. I have been addressing Amendments Nos. 29 and 30. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 31: Page 5, leave out line 28 and insert ("who shall be a person approved by the education authority and who shall for the duration of his appointment be employed in that capacity by the education authority and remunerated in accordance with the appropriate salary scales.").

The noble Lord said: This again is dealing with the role of the clerk to the board. It should be: 'a person approved by the education authority and who shall for the duration of his appointment be employed in that capacity by the education authority and remunerated in accordance with the appropriate salary scales.'". I think the last amendment from this side of the Committee made it quite clear that we believe that the role of the clerk to the board will be onerous, involving administration, ordering and recording and implementation of the board's business. The clerk will be responsible for ensuring that the board acts within its powers and that it is at all times aware of the scope of its duties. There can be no short cuts in providing this sort of service to the board. If the boards are to function in the way we hope and as efficiently as we hope, they must have proper and professional administrative support.

The best way of securing the adequate servicing of the boards is to establish within the area of each education authority a body of properly qualified staff fully competent to carry out these important duties. The school boards would be quite at liberty to appoint whomsoever they pleased from within the ranks of that professional body but it would be the education authority, with its great experience of the administrative requirements involved, which would determine the suitability of the individual.

In addition, the appropriate standards can only be guaranteed by the appointment of professional staff. The job is too important to be trusted to amateurism, however skilful that amateurism may be. The board member concerned might be required to work in the school for only a relatively short period. For instance, if a member of the board were appointed to act as clerk because he had previous experience of the job or because he was a skilled and professional clerk, he would be on the board only because he had been co-opted—and I hope he would not be co-opted just for that purpose—or because he was a parent of a pupil at the school. When the pupil left the school that member would automatically be disenfranchised and therefore there would be a break.

I think it is important to have a professional body to do the job, without each clerk being specifically allocated to a single school board, since he or she could encompass quite a number of boards. Almost certainly it would not otherwise be viable, since there might be a fairly large number of boards. Having established the need for professional staff, I think the question then is who is to employ them? It is submitted that the employment of individual members of staff would be too onerous a responsibility and a distraction for a school board, especially staff who were dividing their time between working two-fifths of a month for one board and three-fifths for another.

Therefore the best results can be achieved by placing clerks in the employment of an education authority, which has the full resources available to handle staffing matters. The clerk will be a key element in the success of school boards. I hope that the Minister will carefully consider this matter and give his approval, at least to the principle. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I certainly approve of the employment of people who are professional and competent as clerks. However, I do not know whether a clerk should be a kind of multiple clerk employed by an education authority who goes to Tarves on Monday, Methlick on Tuesday and who knows its Thursday because he must be in Oldmeldrum. I am not sure that such a clerk could fit all that in very well. But I know that there are a lot of competent people, some of whom are amateurs. If they are amateur and they are paid, their suitability can be determined. But I have no doubt that they should be paid by an authority. There is nothing worse than a committee with an incompetent secretary.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

CoSLA was kind enough to inform me of its anxieties in this area. I can understand them. But at the same time the Scottish Parent-Teacher Council says that it would not like the present arrangement to continue as the quality of clerk that a local authority is able to supply varies very much. Some are much more successful than others. We need flexibility in this matter.

During the discussions on a number of amendments during the past hour or two, I got the feeling that we were being a little paternalistic in saying that we could not see a local authority letting go. We are saying that we find it difficult to believe that a local authority will trust boards to make proper arrangements. It is essential of course that there are good clerks. It may be very difficult to get a good clerk who is not paid. But to say that clerks must be employed by an authority is going much too far. Having talked to a number of people about this, I would prefer to leave the Bill as it is. However, I think that help for the boards in the guidance is essential as regards obtaining quality from a clerk and about the advantages and disadvantages of paying that person. But this matter should be left to authorities.

Lord Kirkhill

It is not to insult future members of boards, whomsoever they turn out to be, to say that they will essentially he amateur folk, rather like ourselves perhaps. We know how much we rely upon the efficient professional service accorded to us. I am not trying to draw a parallel too directly, but I should have thought that even if a paid clerk were the kind who went from Tarves to Oldmeldrum and then on to Clinterty all in one day, provided he were paid by a local education authority and had professional backup, he would surely be to a board's eventual betterment.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

Like other Members of the Committee who have listened to the debate this afternoon, I sometimes pinch myself and ask whether we are not getting into too much detail in laying down the rules and regulations of this very interesting experiment. But when I come to this matter I recall the dispute in the Jordanhill school in Glasgow, where a headmaster has been dismissed and there are threats of legal action for all kinds of reasons: for and against the governors, on behalf of the parents, on behalf of the headmaster and so on. Minutes have been demanded and public meetings have been held. It appears to me therefore, that a competent clerk is a rather important element in the set-up.

The necessity for such a person will vary a great deal according to whether a school is small, large, remote or in a city. The passing of this amendment does not inhibit us in any way from the flexibility that will be necessary. It does not mean that any local authority will have a man or a woman who will act exclusively as a clerk for all its schools. Authorities will vary the arrangements as it suits them. But it appears to me, particularly when agreement is being given to annual reports being submitted to the parents at large, that a proper recording is important. It is important in the whole area of conveying to parents who elect board members in very clear language just what those members have been up to during their period of office.

This is not a nit-picking amendment. Some of the other amendments have been a little too demanding and too specific, but I hope that the Minister will see the wisdom of this amendment and accept it.

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

As an English person I enter into this debate on Scottish education with some trepidation. I make a plea for the rejection of this amendment and I ask that the Chamber accept the Bill as it is set out because it provides the necessary flexibility. This matter has been referred to once or twice as an experiment, but it must be said that the equivalent of school boards—governing bodies—have been going for a very long time in England with very many more powers than are set out in this Bill.

In my authority there is a patchwork of arrangements for clerks to governing bodies. Every governing body must have a clerk and proper minutes must be kept. Those minutes are not only available to a local education authority, but in England they are available to the wider public and of course to parents within that wider public.

The arrangements for remunerating a clerk vary from no remuneration at all, when it is an entirely voluntary job which is often done very well, to a clerk being paid as an extension of the school secretary. There are many variations in between that, when people can be paid simply out-of-pocket expenses or whatever. The wording in the Bill states: A School Board shall appoint a person to be Clerk to the Board who may, unless he is a member of the Board, be paid for his services". That wording leaves flexibility in the arrangement.

It is also possible for an education authority itself to take the view that clerks to boards should be paid. But the wording of the Bill as set out allows that flexibility. It would be quite wrong to start out with an arrangement that is wholly professional and calls upon only professionals to do the job. The voluntary element is a very important part of this work. If there is truly to be an interface between the professional, the authority and the school, an element of voluntary work is also an important part of a clerk's duty.

Lord Kirkhill

I hope that the noble Baroness can enlighten me, because I did not quite follow the latter part of her remarks. Was she saying to the Committee that she did not want a professional service to be offered at this point because it was more important to have a voluntary service?

Baroness Blatch

No, I did not say that. I think it is important that a proper job is done by the clerk to the board. However, someone performing this job in a voluntary capacity does not necessarily give a less professional service than someone who is paid. Indeed, I can think of people who are paid who do not do such a good job as some people who do a job in an entirely voluntary capacity. The job that needs to be done must conform and be consistent with all the requirements of the legislation.

Lord Kirkhill

Therefore the noble Baroness would not object to voluntary school teachers, voluntary doctors and so on.

Baroness Blatch

I think the noble Lord is exaggerating what I mean.

The Earl of Dundee

The Government's purpose is to provide flexibility and choice for boards. The Bill would not prevent a board from choosing to appoint an authority employee as its clerk, if that was what it wanted. The noble Lord's amendment would negate that choice. It would also give the authority the right to veto a board's appointments. Are we, on the one hand, to give boards real responsibility for the management of schools and on the other not trust them with the responsibility of appointing the clerk?

The noble Lord's amendment would make the board clerk subject to local authority approval and he would be employed under its terms and conditions. The Bill as drafted provides the board with the authority to choose the clerk it wants. It may very well choose to accept the local authority's offer of a clerk's services. That would be its choice, and rightly so. It is also right that a board should he able to appoint as a clerk a person who is prepared to carry out that function without recompense if it wishes. Such people exist and such public service should not be denigrated just because it might be voluntary and unpaid. That point accords with the remarks of my noble friend Lady Blatch.

I do not see the existence of non-authority clerks as a hindrance to the effective working of boards. Indeed, if there was any risk to a board's successful functioning, whether because of the clerk or for any other reason, it would be incumbent on the authority to point this out to the board and to try to rectify the matter. It would also be open to an authority to say that the provision of appropriate support for the board was an essential condition of delegation of substantial management functions.

I should explain that giving a board power to appoint its own clerk does not require the board to become embroiled in difficulties about employment. It is quite possible for the board to enter into a contract for services with its clerk—that is, paying him or her a fee for work done—without entering into a formal contract of employment. The distinction is that between, for example, the education authority which employs a music teacher full time and the individual who pays a teacher for a series of one-hour piano lessons. There is no sense in which the individual is an employer.

In connection with an earlier amendment my noble friend Lord Selkirk inquired about arrangements for the payment of a clerk who is a member of a board. It would be improper for a board to pay one of its own members. Therefore in Clause 6(9) the Bill prevents boards from paying the clerk if he is a member. If such an individual were both the clerk and a member of the board he would be entitled to reimbursement of his expenses. Equally, if he were not a member of the board he could be paid.

The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, suggested that it was up to the clerk to regulate board business and ensure that the board stays within its duties. The authority has a right to attend and speak at board meetings through the director of education and the local councillor. There is no absolute need for the clerk to represent the authority in guiding the board as to its duties. The noble Lord expressed reservations concerning the provisions as set out in the Bill. It is entirely up to the board, if it so wishes, to choose a professional or semi-professional as its clerk. That is a matter for the board.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, referred to the case of Jordanhill school. I do not wish to say anything about the circumstances of that case. I believe that it would be improper for me to comment since the matter is sub judice. It is, moreover, a matter for the managers of that school.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

Will the noble Earl permit me to interrupt? I did not wish to discuss the issue. My point was that what impressed me about that case was the need for a proper recording of events because of the possibility of litigation, to which the noble Earl has referred.

The Earl of Dundee

I take the noble Lord's point but I shall not comment further.

The effect of the amendment would be to reduce choice and freedom for boards to make sensible local decisions. As my noble friend Lady Carnegy has already mentioned, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council very much approves of what we have in mind in the Bill. In view of my comments I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, will see fit to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I think that the impression has been created—largely by Members on the other side of the chamber; in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and to a lesser extent the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy—that with the last few amendments we have been trying to build up a huge superstructure. Believe me, I see the role of the clerk and of the standing orders and other matters which we have discussed solely as a means of getting rid of these things so that the boards can do their own job, confident that they are satisfying the requirements of the Government, their local authority, the education authority and the council.

The example of Jordanhill school referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, is interesting, but I do not wish to go into detail. However, it provides an example. The situation in that case would have been very much easier if clear records had been kept of the proceedings of the school board. There should be simple records. We are not asking for anything to be bound in calf or carved in stone; we just want accurate records of how votes went and very roughly how the discussion went. All of us who have been involved in local authorities or any form of politics, churches or what-have-you, must be aware that records are always made. In this case it is perhaps rather more important because the powers of the school boards could be fairly strong.

I want the boards to have freedom. I want them to be able to experiment and to be a little daring. I do not want them all to be the same. I think that we have learnt a great deal in Scottish education from experiments in different parts of the country, and the whole of education in Scotland has benefited over the years.

In the meantime, although I am not greatly impressed by the hotch-potch which the Government are suggesting in this section of the Bill, I realise there is little else for it but to withdraw the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Exercise of functions of Boards]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 32. Page 6, line 15, at end insert ("but a School Board in exercising its powers, shall comply with the financial regulations of their education authority and shall he subject to the internal and external audit arrangements operated by that authority").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 32 is concerned with board's financial obligations and regulation. As the Bill stands at present there are no provisions for the proper control of a board's financial and contractual powers. The amendment seeks to achieve the proper financial regulation of the exercise of the board's contractual powers and at the same time to ensure that the board does not commit the education authority to expenditure without its agreement or knowledge.

It has to be recognised that school boards will, in relation to most of their activities, be operating within the framework of local authority financing. Accordingly the allocation of funds from the education authority will be subject, of necessity, to the various controls, constraints and adjustments which are normal and unavoidable features of local authority financial operations. Additionally boards must be subject to audit requirements in the interests of public accountability. It is therefore important that boards' financial activities should be subject, first, to the financial procedures and regulations of the local authority, and, secondly, the authority's internal and external audit process.

If I were serving on a school board, and particularly if I were chairman of the board, and the board was involved in the control of money, I should want very much to have proper internal and external audits. I have seen too many organisations in which there was some laxity in that area. Through no fault of any individual, someone got into trouble because there was not a proper audit. I hope that the Minister will accept the spirit of the amendment if not the actual wording. I beg to move.

7 p.m.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I think I can quickly reassure the Committee about scrutiny of boards' stewardship of funds. First, we envisage boards operating within the education authorities' financial management systems. It is not intended to require authorities to hand over cash or to open a separate bank account for funds allocated to each board. The allocation of funds to boards and their expenditure would be conducted within the education authority's accounting and financial management systems. The authority's audit arrangements would thus apply directly and the amendment is unnecessary on that score.

Secondly, Clause 15 empowers education authorities to attach to a delegation order any condition that they consider appropriate. The authorities, if they so wished, could make financial regulation and specific audit arrangements a condition of delegation in possible future cases where direct management of funds was involved. The amendment is unnecessary on this score also.

Thirdly, I point to subsection (5) of Clause 8, which places a general duty on boards. Boards must ensure that in the exercise of the functions given to them under the Bill the duties placed on their education authority by statute or under common law are complied with. This therefore would require boards to act in accordance with the authority's duty to maintain proper financial accounts and to have them audited. This is a further reason for regarding the amendment as unnecessary. I appreciate the concern that boards' stewardship of funds should be seen to be beyond question. We share that concern and have incorporated the necessary mechanisms in the Bill.

The Earl of Selkirk

Is the cheque signed by the education authority or by a member of the board?

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

Before delegation, it is of course signed by the education authority. When one comes to delegation of powers, that is when we can go further than the local authority. As I indicated, under Clause 15 there are powers for the education authority in any delegation order to consider what financial regulations should be put in place.

Lord Kirkhill

Is the Minister satisfied with his reply?

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I know that the noble Lord was not satisfied with an earlier reply that I gave. I am absolutely satisfied with the reply.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am happy with the Minister's reply to the extent that, on every occasion that he speaks in consideration of the Bill, I learn more about how it will work and I suspect that he is in the same position because what appeared to be a simple Bill is in fact a rather complicated affair. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 33: Page 6, line 16, leave out subsection (2) and insert— ("(2) A School Board exercising any function delegated to them under section 15 of this Act shall be deemed to be, as regards contractual relations with third parties. the agent of their education authority, provided that the exercise is in compliance with this Act and with any conditions imposed under this Act but where in consequence of this subsection an education authority incurs liability to a third party that authority shall have a right of relief against the School Board concerned.").

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee to consider with this amendment Amendment No. 34.

Clause 8(2) as presently drafted affords an unrestricted guarantee by the education authority of the actings, whether lawful or unlawful, of the school board notwithstanding that the education authority has no control or limited control over the actings of the board. The proposal is quite at odds with the law of agency. It is unreasonable that the education authority should be liable to third parties for the statutory functions of the board. The liability to which the education authority would be thus exposed could include substantial damages for breach of contract or reparation in a delictual claim. In effect a third party claimant would have the ultimate protection of the borrowing powers of the local authority secured against the rates. This is at odds with the restriction on borrowing placed on the school boards. It is inequitable that the local authority should be burdened in this way by the actings of a body over which it has no control.

It is essential to the proper administration of the schools that the school boards act responsibly within the restraints of statute and good financial management, and the boards should not overreach themselves contractually and should make appropriate arrangements to indemnify themselves against delictual claims.

The proposal as it stands provides the wrong framework for the development of the appropriate atmosphere of responsibility. The amendments to Clause 18 would clarify the position that would arise where a board ceases to exist. In that case alone the liability would transfer to the successor body, and third parties would thus be protected. In other cases, the board would have responsibility to keep within its means and to indemnify itself properly.

The amendments deal with the only case in which it is reasonable to treat the boards as agents of the education authority. That is where the authority has delegated specific powers to the boards. In such cases the boards will be obliged to act within the conditions and limits of their delegation and they are discharging functions which are essentially by statute those of the education authority. However, it must be recognised that once the function has been delegated the education authority does not have control over the exercise of power.

For those reasons, while it may be reasonable that the authority should be liable to a third party, the authority should be able to recover the amount of any claim that it has-settled from the board that occasioned the claim. It is trite to argue that a right of relief amounts to the authority claiming money from itself. The allocation of funds to the board places those funds under the control of the board. In the event of the authority becoming liable for the board's debts it is right that the authority should be able to recover those debts from the board's allocation.

In fact, the provision offers a double protection. First, it gives the authority a claim against the board where the authority has been rendered liable for the board's delictual, as ultra vires, actions. Secondly, where the authority has made payment as principal in a contract entered into by the board as agent, the authority will be able to recover that payment from its allocation to the board.

I apologise for the complication that arises. It is largely inspired by the advice of the Law Society, and the matter had to be set out with some care. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

The amendments should appeal to the Tory heart—personal responsibility, poll tax; indeed, all their philosophy has been in this direction. Here they are putting up people to spend money—and education can spend more money than practically anything else—yet they are relieving those elected persons of any responsibility for the money spent. It is extraordinary. It is most unlike the Minister not to comply reasonably with the longterm aims of the party—thank goodness that he does not! In this case, I am sure that he will agree it is only logical that, if people are to be responsible, they should be responsible for any wrong spending that they make. Therefore, I am sure that the Minister cannot resist the amendments.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I welcome the conciliatory tone with which the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, addresses this section of the Bill.

If school boards are to mean anything at all, boards must be given a degree of freedom in which to operate. However, let me emphasise that overall they will remain within an authority-managed system. To borrow a phrase that neatly sums up the position of school boards, they will be "relatively autonomous"—that is, they will have a certain amount of freedom of action while remaining constrained within the ambit of the education authority system itself.

The provisions of subsection (2) make a school board the agent of its authority for the purpose of relations with third parties. This is to ensure that third parties such as contractors will be willing to enter agreements with boards which could, under the terms of Clause 20, be disestablished. In effect the contractor would be safeguarded. This amendment would restrict the protection for contractors, inevitably making it difficult for boards to take on delegated functions. This, I am sure, is the underlying purpose of the amendment.

I wonder if the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, realises a further effect of the amendment. First, if a board had taken delegated responsibility for school maintenance and a visitor had injured himself when tripping in a hole in the playground, that person would have no redress if the board went out of existence or had no funds to meet his claim. Secondly, a contractor would have to be sure that his agreement with the board fell within the terms of the relevant delegation order between the authority and the board. That is plainly unfair. Third parties should be able safely to assume that a board is acting legitimately.

It is unreasonable that authorities should have a right of relief against boards when liability is incurred, because this would allow an authority to claim money given to a board by parents specifically "for the benefit of the school" under Clause 18. All that remains, therefore, is the budget of the board, which would mean in effect that the authority would he making a claim against itself. The sensible course in such circumstances would be for the authority to suspend or revoke a delegated function under the provisions of Clause 16 and Schedule 3. Concomitant to suspension and revocation is the power to adjust the board's budget as is appropriate. The clauses I have mentioned provide for this.

I can understand the spirit of the proposals behind the second amendment. It looks equitable to apply the same controls to board members as to councillors. But that is, we believe, a cumbersome and bureaucratic approach.

What is appropriate for local authorities is not necessarily appropriate for school boards. We said that earlier today. They are very different kinds of organisation. The fact is that most boards will not spend most of their time dealing with financial issues and to apply mainly financial procedures to them as guarantees of the propriety of their conduct, we believe to be inappropriate. Nor is it necessary.

Clause 17 provides that the sums allocated to a board stay within its authority's financial machinery. There is no question of a board receiving a cheque for £x at the beginning of the financial year and then having a free hand to spend it as it wishes. What will happen is that the authority will allocate a proportion of its own budget to each of its boards. A board will therefore have an account with the authority. If a board has to use part of its allocation, it will propose as such to the authority, which will physically make the payment on the board's behalf and then debit the board's account. This point was raised on the last amendment. Most authority allocations to boards will, therefore, stay within authority financial machinery and audit procedures. If an authority and a board agree that the board should handle a sum of money physically apart from the authority machinery, it is open to the authority to require that particular financial and audit procedures should be followed as a condition of delegation.

In any event, there is no question that an authority's duties in relation to financial propriety can be evaded by the boards. Under the terms of Clause 8(5), boards are required to ensure that authorities' statutory and other legal duties are complied with.

Perhaps I may also suggest that this amendment actually limits the liability of board members by comparison with the provisions of the Bill as they stand. By restricting the question of liability mainly to financial procedures and proprieties, the amendment appears to overlook the other functions of the boards. For instance a board member could maliciously exercise a function in relation, say, to senior appointments at the school and incur no liability under this amendment. Under the terms of the Bill as it stands, he would have to act in good faith to enjoy protection. I therefore ask the noble Lord whether he would consider what I say and perhaps at this stage withdraw his amendment.

I know that at Second Reading—and I believe that it is right that I should spell this out—my noble friend Lord Selkirk asked what was the legal status of school boards. This matter has to be addressed and I should like to answer it here.

A school board is an unincorporated statutory body composed of elected and co-opted members. A board has a statutory power (Clause 8(1)) to do anything calculated to facilitate the exercise of its functions, including power to enter into contracts, other than any relating to land, and to invest money. Members of the board incur no personal liability where they act in good faith in the exercise, or purported exercise, of any of their functions under Clause 8(3). The boards themselves are to be treated as regards the relations with third parties as the agent of their education authority. This is to be the case whether or not the exercise of any function given to them by or under the Act complies with the Act or any conditions imposed by it.

I wished to spell that out because it is important. This is a very important part of the Bill. I hope that when the noble Lord has considered what I have said he may agree with the Government's approach.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Kirkhill

Subsection (2) is clearly at odds with the law of agency. Will the Minister let us have his observations, please?

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I should like to consider the point that the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, is making. If he will allow me, I shall consider the matter, reflect on it and write to him.

Lord Kirkhill

I very willingly accept that the Minister should reflect upon my most recent observation, because that key point is absolutely essential in the sense that we surely cannot continue to consider subsection (2) if it is clearly at odds with the law of agency, as I believe it to be. Therefore I believe that the Minister needs to consider this further.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

Perhaps I may put a point to the Minister. It is obvious that the third parties are protected by the Bill as it stands, because the school board is acting as the agent of the authority. Therefore, whether the school board is "bust" or not, the third parties are protected, in that they are acting as agents. However, the Minister has brushed over the question of responsibility of the board. He is talking in terms of future delegation. Suppose that in the future much larger spending powers are given to the board and the board acts in good faith but extremely foolishly or extravagantly, there would be no come back on it if this provision of no personal liability remains. Surely this needs to be considered.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

In answer to the point about future delegation, I have explained that any agreement has to have the support of the local authority for the delegations proposed and in particular the financial concerns relating thereto. It is in the power of the education authority to limit that financial discretion.

The Earl of Selkirk

I may be being foolish, but I was not clear whether the boards had a legal personality or not. I had the impression that they had not, in which case I do not know how they make a contract. No doubt the Minister can explain it.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

In answer to my noble friend, I spelt out to him that the school board is an unincorporated statutory body.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

In its memorandum, the Law Society states: As far as we can determine, the education authority would be responsible for all acts of a School Board, whether or not these fell within the vires of the Board, or indeed of the education authority itself". I am not sure whether or not the Minister has confirmed in his replies that that is true.

Can he tell me whether he agrees with the Law Society about that? Is the education authority responsible for all acts of the school board, whether or not these fall within the vires of the board or indeed within those of the education authority itself?

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

As I understand it, yes.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

As the Minister is aware, this is a very important part of the Bill. I should like to look very closely at the answer he gave to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, on the legal status of a school board. It seems ridiculous when we have been considering this matter for so long, but we now have it down to a fine definition.

It is obviously a complicated amendment that we have put down. As one would expect, we received a complicated and very full answer from the Minister. It is obvious that the answer will take some studying and will necessitate the seeking of considerable advice. Until that happens I thank the Minister for the time he has taken and the trouble he has gone to. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 35: Page 6, line 24, leave out ("have regard, where any of the land or equipment of a school is used for the purposes of further education, to") and insert ("act, where any of the land or equipment of a school is used for the purposes of further education, in accordance with.").

The noble Lord said: This is perhaps a much more understandable amendment. The expression "shall have regard" seems insufficient to protect other user groups. This is where we return to the difficulties that can arise in a community school. People on a school board—if they are only concerned with the day school or ordinary pupil, or what until now we have considered as the norm, though I hope that will change—may make it very awkward for those seeking further education, such as mature students, to use the premises for they only have to pay regard. We believe that the amendment makes this rather stronger and I hope that the Minister will accept it. I beg to move.

The Earl of Dundee

What we have provided in the Bill is for boards to take account in the exercise of their functions of further education use of shared facilities. We have established that boards have to consult, where appropriate, the education authority, the college council and the person in charge of the further education institution. This is the mechanism that will ensure co-ordination of use and also coexistence which is mutually beneficial.

The amendment would require boards to act in accordance with the needs of further education. Who is to determine those needs, and how? I suspect that the practical effect of the Bill with the amendment would be precisely the same as it is now, but there would then require to be a great deal of interpretation and inference as to what the clause meant. I give the noble Lord an assurance that the spirit of his amendment is already encompassed, but in this case I ask him to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am interested to know whether the Minister can show me where in the Bill all these allowances are made. It is not just a case of "shall have regard". Where is it more fully stated so that those in further education or some facet of our community schools will have rights, as well as merely the right to say "We would like"? I presume that in that case, without any reason the chairman of a school board would have the power to say "No, you cannot use the swimming pool, the science labs or anything else". I should like to know, perhaps not now but at a later stage. I thought the Minister gave it rather more—

The Earl of Dundee

I believe that I can give the noble Lord the answer he seeks. The references are to be found in Clause 8(4).

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I thank the Minister. I shall examine the clause. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Books, materials, etc.]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 36: Page 6, line 43, at end insert ("If during the course of the financial year an education authority requires to initiate an overall reduction in level of its expenditure to accommodate—

  1. (a) selective action by the Secretary of State: or
  2. (b) exceptional expenditure not otherwise planned,
then it may reduce the amount of funds previously allocated under this section to a School Board.").

The noble Lord said: I believe the Minister will agree that it is convenient to discuss also Amendment No. 52. As the Secretary of State is to retain the power to take selective action and to impose a reduction in the planned expenditure of an authority, it is essential that authorities retain the freedom to reduce all budgets including those allocated to school boards where that is considered most appropriate. A local authority may also have to incur exceptional expenditure that has not been budgeted for due to unforeseen circumstances, such as a bad winter which can cause all sorts of problems in terms of frozen diesel tanks, burst pipes and items such as that.

To be able to cover the expenditure, it would be necessary for other budgets within the authority to be reduced. If the authority does not have the power to reduce the amounts allocated to school boards, then other services may be disproportionately penalised against the best interests of the authority's clients and the community charge payers. I believe the Minister will get my drift, though the words may not be appropriate. I hope he will give sympathetic thought to the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

These amendments cover three separate areas. First, the amendment to Clause 9 affects the sums which authorities are required to make available to a head teacher for expenditure on books and materials—so-called capitation. The amendment refers to these sums being allocated to a school board, which is not how the Bill proposes it should be done. Secondly, the amendment to Clause 17 covers the administrative and other expenses of a board. Thirdly, the amendment to Clause 17 also covers the funds made available to carry out any delegated functions a board may have.

It is important to look carefully at what the Bill requires. In the case of capitation, Clause 9(1) requires the authority to make available …such funds as they think necessary for the purchase of books and equipment. Clause 17(1) and 17(2) require the authority, after consultation with the board, to decide on the level of and then make available such monies …as appear to the education authority …to be reasonably required". These are very specific terms. An authority, having decided that certain sums are necessary for the purchase of books and other equipment or are reasonably required for the discharge of a board's functions, should have no grounds, all things being equal, for reducing the level of those sums. The existence of selective action or unplanned expenditure elsewhere is immaterial. I said "all things being equal", because there is one set of circumstances in which an authority might reasonably seek to reduce the sums made available. This is the case of a board whose delegated functions have been suspended or revoked. The Committee will already have noted that Clause 16(3) allows a board's budget to be appropriately adjusted in such circumstances.

The amendment refers to two other circumstances which noble Lords opposite clearly regard as having an impact on the board's budgets. The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, referred to that. These are the effects of selective action and what might be described as emergencies—two separate points. As the Committee will appreciate, the existence of the need for selective action is a matter of great regret to the Government. It has, however, been a necessary tool for dealing with some authorities which we know only too well. But we are now introducing the community charge, which will bring with it much greater local accountability for the raising and use of local revenue. The need for selective action should be greatly reduced. As for emergencies, these are matters which prudent authorities should handle through the use of contingency funds.

We feel that the amendment is misconceived. Given the terms of the Bill there is no case for authorities to seek to reduce the budgets covered by these two clauses except in the case of a material change in a board's functions; and that is already provided for. I have already mentioned that. It comes under Clause 16(3).

Lord Kirkhill

The Minister has just been saying that that which is reasonably required is specific in content. Can he explain further on that point to the Committee?

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I should have thought that the noble Lord, with his vast experience of local authority work and being involved in the local education authority in Aberdeen, would understand that local authorities take into account what is necessary. We are talking here of capitation in particular for (shall we say?) the supply of books and materials to any particular school. When they set down what are the necessary funds for that, I should have thought that a budget would be taken out for each and every school. The Government expect the local authority to do that and I am sure that it does. We believe that to be what is reasonably required and necessary for a school to operate.

Lord Kirkhill

I thank the noble Lord for what he says is his explanation, and I must accept that that is what he thinks. However, it is not what my noble friend Lord Carmichael is saying. He is saying that this must not be sacrosanct for the reasons he has annunciated. I believe that one needs more comprehension in reply from the Minister.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

We on this side of the Committee comprehend the situation exactly. The only area where there is reasonable ground for division of opinion is in talking about selective action. I had thought that my explanation was clear in that respect. While we deplore wreckless authorities which overspend, they must meet the consequences of their actions.

Lord Kirkhill

It seems to me that this is yet another example of the present Government belabouring local authorities in the name of the Tory political credo. Frankly it is an absolute political disgrace.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Surely when the revenue support grant is fixed it will allow for that which is necessary for each school in a particular local authority area. Overspending would arise from spending money on that which is not absolutely essential but which is extra. Therefore it would be perfectly reasonable for a local authority, unless it is trying to play political games of some kind with the government of the day or the school boards, to budget for what the school needs and to have a contingency fund for anything extra which is required. I believe that to punish the school boards for what the councillors have decided would be quite wrong. I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, is suggesting that that may be legitimate.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I do not believe that at this late hour we wish to become involved in that issue. However, it appears that when we speak in terms of organising the working of the committee in a functional sense we are accused of trying to become too bureaucratic. Yet according to what the Minister said, the number of controls on the expenditure of the boards will be such that they will be even more controlled. The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, said that they would be allocated so much and there would be a small contingency fund. That appears to be leaving little room for imagination. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Dundee

Members of the Committee may feel that we have reached a suitable moment to adjourn. We shall return to business in one hour's time, at 8.30 p.m.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.33 to 8.30 p.m.]

[Amendment No. 37 not moved.]

8.30 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 38:

Page 7, line 2, at end insert— ("provided that in the event of disagreement between the Headteacher and the Board, the education authority, to secure the efficient provision of education in the school, may take such steps as it considers necessary including expenditure of the funds made available for the purposes of this section.").

The noble Lord said: Clause 9 of the Bill requires the headmaster to obtain the approval of the school board for proposals to apply relevant funds made available by the education authority for books and equipment. No mention is made of the means by which any disagreement between the two parties would be resolved, nor is there a recognition of the problem which could arise should a school board wish to expend those funds in a manner which departed from the curricular policies of the authority. For example, it has been suggested that one could have a high pressure publishing salesman pushing rather expensive textbooks and the school board could be induced into buying them. It is expected that allocation will normally be by mutual agreement, but where that cannot be achieved it is necessary to recognise that the education authority has an obligation to intervene in order that it may provide adequate and sufficient education for the pupils.

The Government's response to this argument has been that in such circumstances the matter would eventually be resolved either by direct action by the education authority in the interests of the curriculum of the school or by court action. Although that may resolve the issue, it would jeopardise the education of those pupils immediately concerned while the board and the authority pursued their respective cases and it would incur avoidable public expenditure. Therefore, the education authority must have direct powers of intervention to utilise all or part of the funds allocated to a school board for the purchase of books and equipment in order to prevent any unnecessary deterioration in the quality of the education provision.

We may deal later with the situation where the education authority has to go to the courts. I believe that the delay would be intolerable. I hope that the Minister will accept that there could be a fairly swift appeal to the Secretary of State in order to resolve this problem. The idea that the education authority could merely put the money into buying books and equipment, doubling up on something which had already been bought and found to be unsuitable for the curriculum, is bad enough. It would be a waste of public money, as would be the cost of having to take the matter to court in order to decide whether the education authority or the school board was correct. I hope that the Minister will agree that it is worth saving a lot of money and avoiding legal action—although I hope that that would happen only on very rare occasions—and that there should be an appeal to the Secretary of State. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

This is an enormously important amendment. I pay tribute to the Minister and the Scottish Office for the way in which they have approached the whole problem of stepping up local responsibility. They have approached it with caution and without regard to doctrinaire attitudes. For that we are all extremely grateful. However, we have touched on this earlier. The clause states that the headmaster shall make proposals, and then goes on to state that he: shall not spend funds on any proposal unless it is approved by the Board". Legislation is not necessarily designed to account for normal civilised behaviour between people but to account for uncivilised conflict. In this case I believe that there is little doubt that the correct solution is that the education authority should resolve a conflict immediately; otherwise there is going to be the most appalling trouble, and the cause of parent cooperation in our education system will not be advanced.

I shall not say any more except that I hope that the Minister will look at this with extreme care. It is an example of the sort of conflict between the authority and the local school board of which my noble friend Lady Seear spoke. In the meantime, until we know how the school boards will work it must be resolved in favour of the education authority.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I accept that there are serious questions about the relationship between boards and head teachers in the disposition of money for books and materials in the school—capitation expenditure. But first let us look at what the Bill provides. It provides that for the first time education authorities will be required to make money available to head teachers for expenditure on books and materials. Furthermore the authorities will have to provide an amount which they think necessary for the purpose—and be prepared to justify their judgments in those terms.

Once he has received the capitation money, the head teacher is required to make proposals for expenditure and submit them to his board. He cannot spend the money without its approval of his proposals. That is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, says. Equally, the board has no right to take the initiative and put its proposals for expenditure to the head. The head is not obliged to undertake piecemeal expenditure simply because his board has approved only part of his proposals. He can, in response, make wholly new proposals if he wishes.

I recognise that there is a connection between the expenditure of capitation money and the school curriculum; and the Bill expressly provides that the board is not to have the final say in determining what the curriculum should contain. We do not want to go as far as the Danes. Under their system parents must approve all the textbooks purchased or borrowed for use in the school. But equally we could not pretend that, because choice of books and materials reflects choices about the curriculum followed in the school, the question of capitation expenditure is a holy mystery from which the lay people must be excluded.

It is a gross oversimplification to pretend that there is always only one way to deliver the curriculum; that there can never be a range of different books to select from. I am sure that, for example, the same curricular objective could be achieved by a variety of English novels. Therefore, the provisions of the Bill are a necessary compromise. The initiative lies with the professional staff of the school, led by the head teacher. The head has responsibility for making expenditure proposals to the board. The board has power to approve his proposals, and that necessarily includes power to withhold approval.

In almost all cases, of course, the process will proceed by agreement. The decisions of the head teacher should be supported and approved by the board. The head and the board will probably have been talking about the issues of curricular provision and choice for some time before the head brings his proposals forward. There will be a beneficial exchange of views and development of understanding. But there may be cases where the head teacher and the board cannot come to an agreed position. What happens then? It would be very easy to set up a "tie breaker" as this amendment would provide. I know that CoSLA have suggested that all disagreements should be referred to the education authority. I think its motto must be, "when in doubt, delegate upwards". But we think the proper way to proceed is to ensure that head teachers and boards are fully aware that, if they disagree to the point of deadlock, that disagreement will become fully apparent to parents locally. The parents will not be pleased to know that—as it may be—the intransigence of the board is standing in the way of the provision of needed books and materials for their children.

That is not to say that the provisions of the Bill would encourage complete chaos in these circumstances. The education authority would want to intervene to ensure that its statutory duty to provide "efficient and adequate education" was discharged. The Bill provides that boards must ensure the discharge of their authorities' statutory and other legal duties. It also provides that the Secretary of State can take default action against a board as he can against an education authority (under Section 70 of the 1980 Act); so there will be a means of breaking deadlock in the final analysis. The point of our provisions, however, is that it should never come to that, save on a matter of the most serious principle.

Perhaps a more pertinent point about the capitation provisions is the question of time. Will it be possible for a head to consult and get the approval of his board for capitation expenditure in the time authorities actually allow for decisions to be taken? We think there are two main points here. First, we do not understand why authorities require heads to take these important decisions in, so to speak, a Gadarene rush. In future, authorities will have to take account of these provisions in setting their timetables. If there are good reasons of principle for the indecent haste forced on heads, and not just spurious arguments of administrative convenience, we expect to hear about them. Secondly, we are not sure that the consultation and approval process will always take a long time. A head will know when his board is meeting and can plan ahead to put his proposals to them at a suitable time. He will have prepared the way beforehand and will, we are confident, have no difficulty in securing board support for his proposals.

These provisions seek to strike a balance between the appropriate involvement of the board and the professional aspects of capitation as a contributory element in forming the school curriculum. The initiative for proposals is properly left with the head teacher, with the board having the power to confirm or withhold confirmation of his proposals. This was the position we reached after careful consideration of the points made in responses to our consultation paper. We made it clear that we did not want to go as far as they do in Denmark, where parents can forbid purchase or use of books and materials. I have to say, however, that teachers in Denmark told my honourable friend the Minister that they did not find anything difficult or professionally objectionable in that.

I have noted the points which the noble Lords opposite have made about the hypothetical deadlock between a head teacher and a board. When agreement is not reached, there will be mechanisms for resolving disputes in the very last analysis, but we do not want to allow those involved—the board and the head teacher—o shirk their responsibilities by, so to speak, "referring the problem upstairs"; getting the education authority or some other party to resolve their differences. If a board or a head teacher is being unreasonable on a matter as important as this, we think it is right and proper that the local parents should know. As I have already pointed out, the boards' power of approval extends only to the capitation budget. If there was a genuine deadlock there would be nothing to prevent the education authority from funding directly the expenditure which had been proposed by the head teacher. The monies already allocated in the current year would be frozen and would have to be set off against further expenditure in the following year.

I hope that that explanation answers the genuine and difficult point made by the noble Lords, Lord Carmichael and Lord Mackie of Benshie. I shall look carefully at what they both said but I am not persuaded at this stage of the need to alter our plans.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am grateful to the Minister for his honesty—although that is not unusual. He must be aware, and was probably as shocked as I was, that the concept of lobbying was brought into the matter. It is a long way before that happens.

I have one or two reservations. We could all fantasise about the curricula, about the books and apparatus required, and query whether the selection of, say, the English or German teachers is correct. There may well be personalities on the board who think they know better than the teachers, and they may be right, but to intervene in that way could be dangerous. Some of the teachers may have stilted ideas, or they may have good ideas, about the choice of books or apparatus for the school.

The Minister cleared up an important point. He said that the education authority and the board could, at the end of the day, go to the Secretary of State. That is what we are seeking. From that point of view, therefore, we are happy with the Minister's response. A slightly less hopeful point is the proposal that the local parents should be informed. Of course parents should know and that is a great way to get things done but it could be three weeks or more into a term before the parents are sufficiently roused to take action. Incidentally, I do not know whether there is anything other than the biennial elections provided for in the Bill by means of which a totally unsatisfactory board can be dismissed. That is a matter to take up later.

Certainly the Minister has reassured me that he is aware of the points made. It is my intention not to press the amendment but perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, will turn a blazing light on the subject and change my point of view.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I think that is unlikely. I am satisfied that the Minister regards the matter with extreme seriousness. However, I should like him to confirm that the education authority has the power to step in and purchase necessary equipment, which might not be only books but computers and other modern educational devices. I stress this important point. An educationist—if I may use the term—a head teacher may have a passion for some section of literature or mathematics which he regards as important and if there are literate parents on the school board they may or may not share the same interest. It is an area where conflict may rear its ugly head, if that is the correct metaphor.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I am grateful to the noble Lord for asking me to repeat my reply concerning a genuine deadlock. There will be nothing to prevent the education authority from funding directly the expenditure proposed by the head teacher. Money already allocated in the current year would be frozen—that is the important point—and would have to be set off against further expenditure in the following year. Moreover, the point made by the noble Lord confirms my view that perhaps the Government were not entirely wrong in having parent representation as a majority.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I think we all agree that the Minister has done extremely well. He has given us as much as he can at this stage and there is hope for the future. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Information and reports]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 39:

Page 7, line 27, leave out paragraph (a) and insert— ("(a) an annual report comprising statements on curriculum policy and pupil progress in the full range of learning experiences offered within the school.").

The noble Lord said: It is appropriate that head teachers should be required to prepare a report for school boards which details school objectives in relation to the curriculum and which provides information on the progress made towards achieving these objectives. I believe it is considered that the term "pupil attainment" should be replaced with the phrase "pupil progress" in the full range of learning experience. It sounds jargon, but I think we all know what it means.

Since pupil attainment may be interpreted far too narrowly, the restriction that it could cause in reporting results in formal class desk or school examinations would be unfortunate. It is commonly accepted nowadays that the curriculum and often schools should provide opportunities for pupils to experience a range of activities which will contribute as much to their social, emotional and physical wellbeing as to their intellectual development. Furthermore, since the learning experience on offer is inextricably bound up with the curriculum on offer, it is necessary that pupil progress should be considered within the wider context of the curriculum provided in the schools.

I believe that this amendment and the statement it makes that the annual report should comprise more than purely academic achievement is well worth while in what we hope is the new era of Scottish parent involvement in education. I beg to move.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

The amendment would require head teachers to provide an annual report on curriculum policy and pupil progress. But the Bill in Clause 10(2) already provides that head teachers will have to give boards information and reports in a number of areas, including a statement of the policy applied in the school on curriculum, and thereafter to advise the board of any change to that policy. That part of the amendment which relates to curriculum policy is therefore unnecessary. In any event, nothing in the Bill would stop the head teacher's annual report including a statement on curriculum policy. Other than for a report on the level of attainment of the pupils in the school, it will he for the board and the head teacher to agree what information the annual report should contain.

The requirement to include in the annual report a report on the level of attainment of the pupils in the school is not intended to require the head teacher to give the board details of individual pupil's performance so that elected busybodies can compare the attainment of friends' children. The Bill cannot intend such a requirement for the very good reason that it is against the law—in this case Regulation 10(3) of the Schools (General) Scotland Regulations 1975—for a head teacher to disclose to any unauthorised person information from the record of an individual pupil, which includes records of the pupil's educational progress.

The purpose of the Bill's provisions is to oblige the head teacher to give thought to the achievements of the school overall in what is, after all, its principal function of educating children. The level of attainment of the pupils could be seen as a performance measure for the school as a whole. Taken over a number of years, there should be an opportunity for the board and the head teacher to draw together a picture of the school's performance. That will be a valuable management tool for the head, as well as a sound discipline for him or her.

The term "attainment" is not narrowly defined by the Bill. Heads and boards together will be able to develop the information set that they think will be most useful as a measure of school performance within this framework. The Government do not want schools to be judged simply by a league table of exam results, as has been suggested elsewhere. Some hold the view that academic success at a school is somehow irrelevant or even embarrassing. I certainly do not believe that and I do not think most parents believe it either.

Some believe—a narrow belief—that publication of academic success will encourage blinkered reactions from parents. I do not believe that either. Parents do not take simple, narrow decisions about what is best for their children. The proof of that is that publication of academic success is already a legal requirement under the Education (School and Placing Information) (Scotland) Regulations 1982, and research into parental decisions on placing requests shows that this information is not narrowly used. Placing requests are not always made for academic reasons. Discipline and the school ethos are also important factors for parents.

Attainment goes far wider than academic attainment. It includes attainment in social, cultural and physical skills. It means showing that pupils were encouraged to achieve the best they could in a whole range of fields. It means demonstrating that all pupils were encouraged to attain goals appropriate to their personal abilities. In other words, the term "attainment" already covers the full range of learning experiences offered within the school.

I took the trouble to look at the dictionary as regards the word "attainment". I found that it means "to reach; to attain or to accomplish". I believe that very well illustrates the word "education" which I described earlier as "leading out"; namely, the word adducofrom the Latin. I believe that covers the whole question of attainment in its broadest sense.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, may feel that he is satisfied with that reply. If I may say so, I felt that it was an admirable statement of the assessment that would be made of the attainment of the school. It would not be an individual assessment and attainment would cover the whole field. Do not let us underestimate academic attainment in the schools as a measure of the progress.

I used to be familiar with a school called Hutchison Grammar School. It used to take great pride in winning the first 10 places in the entrance examination for Glasgow University and elsewhere. I believe it was slightly overdone, if I may say so as a parent of children attending that school. That was the measure of attainment. I hope that the academic achievements will not be underestimated in making the general overall assessment which the Minister has indicated as being the function of the schools' council in assessing progress. In these circumstances I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, will feel that his case has been made and met.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I wish to make one point. Regardless of what the generally accurate and intellectual Shorter Oxford English Dictionary says, to the general public attainment normally means some form of success which is measurable. I believe the Minister should look at the point made: that progress and attainment, in the general view, are not quite synonymous.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

The Minister's reply was very helpful. I believe that the amendment gave him the opportunity to make certain points which were of value. The amendment merely asks that the report has statements on curriculum policy and pupil progress in the full range of learning experience offered within the school. I believe that the Minister tried to answer that. I was particularly pleased at the reassurance he gave as regards the confidentiality of reports. That was causing a certain amount of trouble and that reassurance is well worth while.

There will always be argument whether academic achievement is the only matter or whether a person with a rounded education is better. It is a question of horses for courses. It is much better being a total academic if one is studying certain subjects. For example, if one is studying pure physics it is much better to be an academic, but if one is studying other subjects it is better to have a well-rounded education. All such persons are of value to society and I do not see why one should be put above the other.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, put a very important point when he spoke about a certain school with a high reputation as regards entrance examinations. There is always a danger of hot-housing. I believe that Hamilton Academy has one of the best records in the whole of Scotland. However, when studies were done at Glasgow University there was a tailing off and in many cases a peaking. There were some people who just wafted through because they were so good, but others were hot-house products who got so far.

There has to be a balance. Sometimes one can have great academic success but miss out on other things. As I said, that was something that certainly happened in many cases. Generally speaking, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, that the Minister's answer has been very helpful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 40: Page 7, line 33, leave out ("education authority and to the headteacher") and insert ("headteacher and, through the headteacher, to the education authority.").

The noble Lord said: Subsection (4) of this clause states that: The School Board may make representations with regard to information …to the education authority and to the headteacher who shall take account of those representations and shall reply to them". There is thus a prospect of long-running debates on whatever issues the board might choose to raise. There is also a false distinction drawn between the education authority and the head teacher. If he has not already done so, this is a point to which the Minister should give some thought. I beg to move.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

It seems to me that there is a weakness in this amendment although I see what it is trying to achieve. If it finds it necessary to do so it should be possible for the board to communicate directly with the authority without going through the head teacher. It would be unfortunate if a situation arose in which that was found necessary, but it could happen. It seems to me that if the Bill contains any reference to this point, it should state that the board should inform the head teacher of what it has said to the authority rather than the board having to go to the authority through the head teacher.

I am quite happy with the Bill but I think that if it is to be changed that is the way in which it should be done, because a head teacher could block a communication if he were really being cussed about it and was up against the school board, and that would be very unfortunate.

The Earl of Dundee

One of the essential considerations in drafting this Bill was to ensure that school boards had adequate access to information. Initially theirs will be a learning process; one that will need to be serviced with sufficient information on all aspects of school and education authority practice. Throughout the Bill, therefore, we have built-in provisions whereby boards can make representations where appropriate to the education authority and to the head teacher. For example, Clause 12(3) provides that boards may make representations to the head teacher about the school's arrangements for consultation between parents and teachers (parents' meetings and the like). Clause 17(5) enables a board to make representations to its education authority about financial statements that the education authority is to make to boards.

The effect of the amendment that is before us would be to channel board representations on information, statements and reports to the education authority through the head teacher even where the information that is the subject of the representations was provided direct to the board by the education authority. The amendment runs contrary to our avowed belief in opening up channels of communication between board, education authority and head teacher.

At this point I should like to say that I agree wholeheartedly with the remarks made by my noble friend Lady Carnegy. While I am well aware that the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, is a constructive one, I feel that if we were to adopt it the effect of this amendment would be narrow and restrictive.

The provisions of Clause 10 provide for the head teacher and the education authority to give information, reports and statements to boards. The information from the education authority rightly does not have to be routed through the head teacher and I see no reason why board representations to the education authority should have to be so routed. The Bill establishes the framework for relationships between board, education authority and head teacher. There is no hierarchical structure within these relationships. As I mentioned previously, boards have been given a right to make representations directly to the education authority elsewhere in the Bill (in Clause 17(5) for example). The effect of this amendment would be to deny boards the right to make direct representations in the crucial area of information, statements and reports in Clause 10, while retaining this mechanism in Clause 17. This amendment would not even have the merit of achieving consistency.

The right of the board to make direct representation to the education authority remains fundamental to our purpose and I therefore ask the noble Lord to consider withdrawing this amendment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I intend to withdraw the amendment. We were trying to point out that there could be the prospect of considerable disagreement over issues raised by the board which might have been resolved quite easily had they first been raised with the headmaster. Perhaps it was wrong of me to suggest that a false distinction had been drawn between the education authority and the headmaster. However, there could be a quite genuine difference between the education authority and the headmaster where the relationship to a specific school board is concerned. I am quite happy to withdraw the amendment and beg leave to do so.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mackie of Benshie moved Amendment No. 41:

Page 7, line 34, at end insert— ("(5) Every headteacher shall consult and secure the approval of the School Board as to the content, presentation and distribution of school information for parents under the regulations conferred by section 28b (1)(a) (2) and (3) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980.").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I am aware that in a manner it cuts across Clause 12 However, although I did think that I might simply. say to the Committee, "I beg to move", and the Minister would understand my intention perfectly, I remembered that once before I had moved an amendment in those short terms. My Chief Whip came round the next day and read out to me the passage in Hansard and I must admit that while it was totally clear to the Minister and myself, neither my comments nor his reply were comprehensible to anyone else. In this case, therefore, I shall say that this amendment seeks to give the board an absolutely proper function; namely, to secure from the headmaster the kind of information that in general parents want about about the progress of pupils in the school.

That appears to me to be a proper function of the board and one which does not cut across the headmaster's responsibility for education but rather directs him and secures for parents the kind of information that a school board should have. Being in large part parents themselves—in fact the majority are parents—they should know what is required. This therefore appears to me to be a very sensible proposal. Whether it should be mentioned in this clause or another I do not know but, I should be very interested to hear what the Minister has to say. I beg to move.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, will be surprised to know that I have no quarrel with the underlying intention behind the amendment, which is to involve the school board in the content, format and distribution of the information contained in school handbooks. An element of co-responsibility in the school handbook will go a long way towards improving it. Advice from users and potential users about how to present the information required will be invaluable in improving the handbooks, and especially in making the information in them more accessible for the users.

However, we do not need any additional provision on the face of the Bill in order to guarantee boards a role in the compilation of the handbooks. Subsection (1) of Clause 10 empowers a board to call for a copy of the school handbook. Subsection (4) entitles them o make representations about the content or form of that document. It is our intention that guidance will be given to authorities; and training and support material, which will go to all schools, will emphasise the valuable advisory role which boards could play in this area.

Therefore in essence the idea of school board involvement in the compilation of school board handbooks is an excellent one. However, we believe that it is far better guaranteed through the provisions of the Bill as drafted and through guidance which will be issued than through the amendment. Nonetheless, I have noted what the noble Lord has said and I shall be interested to hear whether what I have said to him satisfies his genuine desire—and our desire—that this particular matter should be treated most seriously.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

In answering the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, I do not think that my noble friend quite met a request made by the Scottish Parent-Teacher Council, which said: The Bill makes no mention of consulting the School Board about any change in policy and we consider this to be a serious omission. It seems important that the amendment should apply not just to the standing information, so to speak, of the arrangements in the school, but it is also important that when a change is made the parents are informed about it. Can my noble friend say whether it is envisaged that that aspect will also be incorporated?

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

We touched upon that point regarding change of policy during the discussion on the previous amendment, if I recall my own words on the matter correctly. If there is a change in policy then it is up to the head teacher to discuss the matter with the school board, and it should be publicised. One of the duties which we shall come to later is that it is imperative that the school board informs its constituency—that is, the parents—of any major changes. That aspect comes into that area.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

Despite the fact that the Minister has rejected my good advice, it is clear that he has good intentions. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Relations between Boards and parents]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 42: Page 7, line 41, after ("shall") insert ("at least once a session").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak also to Amendments Nos. 43 and 44. In our view this is an important amendment. It seeks to introduce provision in the Bill to keep parents informed about the activities of the school board. We believe that the Bill does not go far enough to ensure that boards are representative of, and accountable to, their electorate. For example, it is considered to be essential that each school board reports to parents annually and not simply as often as it appears to the board to be necessary.

Clause 13 deals with parents' meetings. After some safeguards against school boards losing touch with parents an annual reporting process would provide an important focal point around which to review the boards' activities and functions. Clause 12 as it stands is open to variable interpretation by school boards according to how committed they are to communicating with parents and seeking their views. When such an amendment to introduce annual reporting was debated in another place on 19th May the Minister in charge (Mr. Michael Forsyth) said at col. 469 of Hansard: The Bill does not provide for annual reporting because—dare I say it?—we have observed the operation of this requirement in England with boards of governors …If there is no important issue or topic of great substance to be discussed, an annual set-piece reporting process can become an annual grind which is not supported by parents and which does not create the necessary conditions for Boards to thrive, prosper and command support". I think that that is an utterly unbelievable statement: that the boards do nothing and that they do not report. Well, if they are not doing anything interesting and they do not report, I wonder why we bother with this Bill and stay up until this time of night worrying about it. In the circumstances where a school board has done nothing of great substance, then it is all the more important to give parents an opportunity to make their views known.

Parents may be unhappy with the board's work, and they may come forward at the following election to oppose it. The idea that an annual report is made only if something has been done negates the whole point of a board. I want boards to be much more vibrant. Our modest request that there should be a report at least once a session is not out of line. I hope that the Minister will give the proposal serious consideration. I beg to move.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

I hope that the Minister will be receptive towards the amendment. The proposal is not revolutionary, but it lies at the heart of the matter. The whole purpose of the Bill is to ensure parent involvement. It is not designed merely to set up boards to run the business and allow them to decide when to report back. The purpose of the Bill is to make the parent community feel that it is part of the process. To that extent it is important that the board should not be the sole judge of when it appears right for it to report. The board may think that it does not appear to it to be the right moment to report, but it is a two-way business. What do the electors think of its stewardship? The board may think that matters are going smoothly and that it does not need a meeting, but how do we test that? We test it against the electors as parliamentary candidates do. People have elected the boards and they will make their presence felt.

I hope that the Bill will stimulate a great change in people's attitude towards the local school, and that they will feel that it is part of them, that they have some voice in running it and that they can be critical and helpful. I should have thought that in the circumstances annual reporting would be an important instrument of communication as to how the school is doing. A report back to the consumers (the parents) is essential.

9.15 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I agree with that point. We should not be too easily put off by what is happening in England. I have heard from chairmen of governors that the annual meetings they have in order to report to parents have not been well attended in some schools and that there are problems. However, those meetings are early in their development. It will take time, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, has said, for the culture to change and for parents to realise that they should be involved in the school.

I am not sure that one should prescribe precisely what should happen. To let school boards off with meeting parents only when there is something to meet about is inadequate, because if there is nothing to meet about that means that the board is inactive. Boards should be encouraged to be rather more active. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will think about this issue in order to see whether anything more should be done.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I know that there is some concern that boards could evade the responsibility to report to parents because the Bill leaves it up to the board itself to decide how often it is necessary to make reports. I understand that anxiety.

We have had the benefit of being able to observe the experience in England and Wales where, as my noble friend has said, governing bodies are under a duty to make annual reports to parents and hold annual open meetings. The problem with such statutory annual reports is that they can come up for issue when there is no real matter of interest or importance to report. Perhaps six months previously something very important happened—but that was not "annual report time". The unfortunate result is that parents may not be informed about issue as they arise. Instead they get a fairly empty report some time later. The consequence can be a loss of interest among parents generally. I am also suspicious of statutory minimum requirements. The trouble is that performance tends to gravitate towards those minimum requirements. "That is what the law says we must do", being the quotation.

We therefore took a different tack. We have put boards under a general duty to promote contact between the school, parents and the community in Clause 12(1). That forms a context for the specific duty of the board under Clause 12(2) to report on its own activites. In order to discharge these duties we expect boards to communicate with parents very frequently and certainly as often as issues of substance and local interest arise. We do not, however, wish them to get into a stultifying timetabled sequence of reporting.

Our objections to a statutory obligation to hold an annual meeting with parents are similar. The idea of regular meetings with parents is a good one in principle. We shall certainly be ensuring that boards take account of the value of such meetings and their importance in discharging their duty to communicate with parents. However, we do not want to reduce this to a sterile exercise in arranging a single set piece meeting once a year. Just like an annual report, an annual meeting can come up at a quite inapproprite time, with the parents accordingly staying away in large numbers. It is much better to have meetings to discuss specific issues as they arise.

We feel the same way about the proposal to include certain elements of information as a statutory minimum in an annual report. It is all too easy for performance to gravitate to that minimum. Indeed, the Scottish Consumer Council has in the past commented adversely on the quality of school handbooks, pointing out that they tend by and large to contain only the minimum information required by regulations.

Of course we did not wish to allow school boards the opportunity of ignoring parents despite all our intended advice. Accordingly, we have provided a mechanism in Clause 13 for parents to be able to call the board to account at an open meeting. We do not expect that meetings will take place only when parents call for them. As I have explained, we shall be seeking to ensure that boards takes the proper initiatives. But Clause 13 provides an essential safety net in our approach.

In emphasising the relationship of Clause 13 with Clause 12, I would bring to the Committee's attention the importance of looking at the Bill as a whole so that the framework of consultation we have constructed is highlighted. In other words, the provisions of Clause 12 should not be looked at in isolation.

It is our intention to ensure that boards understand the significance of the provisions already in the Bill in the way that I have outlined, and guidance and training material will make this very clear. We shall certainly be taking account of the helpful suggestions made in these amendments and in the discussion on them in preparing that material.

I think it is best that these points should be presented in the form of advice, guidance, example and encouragement rather than legal requirement. Our debate has been about the best way to achieve the result of full and clear communication between boards and parents.

Having said that, I have listened to what has been said on this issue. I know that it is one which affects all parts of this Committee and which figured large in the debate on Second Reading when this genuine point of concern was raised, and I appreciate what has been said.

With the Committee's permission, I should like to look again at the relevant clause, without any commitment but with a desire to try to accommodate your Lordships' wishes. I hope to come forward at Report stage with an amendment which might meet, at least in some way, some of the concerns expressed.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am again grateful to the Minister. We must have dinner more often before we come to amendments, as we seem to have reached a nice point.

I appreciate that there can be very dull reports—I have had to read many of them—but annual reports can also help to raise the level of parental awareness of the work of the school in areas where parents meetings have not perhaps been common in the past. Sometimes it does not matter whether there is a six-month interval. There is no harm in looking back occasionally and saying "This is what we have done in the past year".

One must remember that, because pupils leave and the turnover of people in an area can be quite high, there are very few parents who are likely to be eligible for a school board for more than about five years, and part of their job should be to lay the basis for their successors to be interested and to come along.

I am very glad that the Minister has taken the view that he has. We all know from our political life that there is nothing quite as sharp in bringing people's minds to bear on a subject as a single issue which affects them. School closures really get parents going, but there are many other matters as well.

If school boards really want to work, I am sure that they will, and I am grateful to the Minister for the promise he has made. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 43 and 44 not moved.]

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Use of premises and occasional holidays]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 45: Page 9, line 6, at end insert ("Any fees or charges that are generated from the said usage shall be remitted to the Education Authority and incorporated into the Authority's books of account under the appropriate budgetary heading.").

The noble Lord said: The education authority has a duty to ensure that all moneys are properly recorded within its books of accounts. In no circumstances should school boards be permitted to retain such incomes, which would subsequently be set off against the amount that the education authority had allocated for the administration of the school board. If that were permitted, every school board would require detailed accounting records to be retained for all transactions which would be subject to an annual internal or external audit. That would be a complex and unnecessary procedure which would require considerable additional resources to monitor it. I beg to move.

The Earl of Dundee

I understand the intention behind this amendment. The amendment would require a board to remit to its education authority any money it raised by charging for the use of school premises outwith school hours. However, the amendment is unnecessary because a board's control over the use of premises outwith school hours, including the fixing of fees and charges, is subject to directions by the authority. It would therefore be entirely open to an authority to direct its school boards to remit such moneys to the authority.

However, not only on that ground is the amendment unnecessary. I also believe it imports an undesirable degree of rigidity into the Bill. As it stands, the Bill would allow collection of charges to be delegated at some future time, perhaps with a board having the use of the revenue to offset the costs of keeping the school open. That possibility would be closed for ever if the Bill were amended as the noble Lord proposes.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

Can the noble Earl tell me whether the Bill at present provides that the school board may use the moneys raised, if the school is successful in letting the school premises, in order to buy equipment in addition to the allocation? For example, could the moneys be used for computers for educational purposes?

The Earl of Dundee

Yes. The boards could do that within reason.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

This is just one of the problems. I can understand the point the Minister is making, but we tend to have schools—and we all know of them—which are popular geographically or which happen to have facilities which attract, for instance, the local rugby club dances or similar events. Then because of the fees people would tend to make that a mecca, perhaps to the detriment of other areas or other schools.

I can only take on trust that the safeguards in the Bill mentioned by the noble Earl will do the job he believes they will. Perhaps this is another matter which the noble Earl can examine and bring back later. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 46:

Page 9, line 7, leave out subsection (2) and insert— ("(2) Every School Board may make representations with regard to the fixing of occasional holidays during the school terms to the Education Authority who shall take account of those representations and shall reply to them.").

The noble Lord said: Experience indicates that difficulties have arisen in certain areas where selection of occasional holidays has been delegated to school councils. Recognition or non-recognition of local holidays can meet with diversification in an area, and possibly even different holiday dates within a town or locality. The clause would make that much worse by enabling divergence even between a secondary school and its feeder primaries. Such differences would not be in the interests of pupils, parents or staff affected by them.

It is necessary for an education authority to retain responsibility for fixing occasional holidays because of the detailed arrangements required in respect of pupil transport, crossing patrols, school meals and other matters, including training arrangements for staff, both teaching and non-teaching. Furthermore, the need for rationalisation and improved efficiency in the regulation of non-teaching staff has imposed restrictions on authorities in determining school terms and occasional holidays. All these factors indicate that a rational, co-ordinated approach is necessary if occasional holidays are to be fixed with efficiency while affording the maximum convenience to pupils and parents.

The proposed amendment will, I believe, achieve that and at the same time will require authorities to take serious account of the demand for local holidays and allow variations in occasional holidays in different localities within their areas.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, are perhaps familiar with the special needs in their parts of the world for certain holidays. But at least the needs would be the same within their parts of the world. It would not be a case of individual schools in one town all having different holidays. This amendment seeks to allow school boards to ask for certain holidays. I hope that the Minister will accept it. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I must admit that I consider the original subsection has greater attractions. It states, I believe, that a school board can fix an occasional day's holiday for a school for local reasons. But I must also admit that the amendment makes sense because of the provision of services to schools such as school meals.

I should like to hear the Minister's comments on what this provision may mean. Certainly as regards the greater county of Angus, or the region of Tayside—I am not sure which it is—the fixing of the potato holidays is very important to the whole of the agricultural community. Does this provision mean that school boards could fix a fortnight's holiday or does it simply mean that they could fix an occasional day's holiday?

The Earl of Dundee

During debate in Committee in another place there was general agreement that the current arrangement, where the education authority alone decides the fixing of occasional holidays, was unsatisfactory. What emerged quite clearly from the debate was that the fixing of occasional holidays was a particularly good example of the benefits which could be gained from local involvement in decisions which have a local effect. School boards will provide precisely that local input and we are convinced that boards will show themselves to be considerably more responsive to local wishes than the regional bureaucracies have been.

A measure of co-ordination will of course be sensible. The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, was absolutely right to refer to that. That is self-evident and the Bill provides for satisfactory practical arrangements to be made by requiring boards to consult their authorities. If there is a genuine and widespread desire for standardisation, then demand from their constituents will doubtless lead boards in that direction.

The education authority's place is adequately recognised by the duty on boards to consult it and in Clause 8(5) there is an overall obligation on boards to ensure compliance with statutory duties of their authorities. This would ensure, for example, that authorities could insist on a degree of co-ordination on occasional closures if the authorities themselves were obliged to organise in-service training for teachers to meet national requirements.

The amendment would remove the powers of boards to fix occasional holidays. It would allow education authorities for reasons of pure administrative convenience to override the wishes of the local community. This runs contrary to our belief that arrangements should be made locally and that parents should have a substantial voice in the decision-making.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, asked whether school boards could fix just the occasional days' holiday. The occasional days are holidays that are available after an authority has set term dates and any mid-term holiday. It would be most unlikely for a board to set a week's holiday.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

Many years ago when I was somewhat younger and slightly more revolutionary, I moved in the education committee of Glasgow Corporation that there should be an annual holiday on 1st May each year, as that was a day of great Labour significance. I was advised that the Department of Education laid down a certain number of attendance days every year for schools thoughout Scotland. If one took an extra day's holiday for May Day or for any other purpose one was required to replace it in order to ensure the maximum number of days' attendance. I wonder whether that is still the case and whether a local board making use of this facility for local holidays for "tattie howkin'", the Queen's visit or some other purpose would have to sacrifice some other holiday. Is that the case?

The Earl of Dundee

The position will be that, while boards will have the ability to choose occasional holidays, they will not be able to increase the total. It is just that they will be able to decide for themselves on a local basis when they would prefer to hold their holidays. In my own case I was hoping that my children's "tattie" holiday would coincide with the few days when Parliament is prorogued. Unfortunately there is no chance of that.

Lord Kirkhill

The Minister in his reply must refer to the phrase "tattie howkin'".

The Earl of Dundee

I stand corrected.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

There is a serious point here. It is a very useful power for a board to be able to fix an occasional holiday. However, I hope that it would never be of the order of a week or a fortnight, because that would lead to chaos in the administration of a local authority. I hope that it is not envisaged that that would be so. I picture the occasional holiday with the odd days which can be alternated while still meeting the minimum school attendance required by law to which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, referred.

It seems to me that this is a case where "Big Brother" should hold back from deciding about occasional holidays. Schools will come to see that parents who have children at both secondary and primary schools or at two different primary schools do not want holidays on different days. They may make the mistake once but they will not make it again because they will get into trouble with the parents. They will also come to see that a teacher who is a parent with children in another school does not want to be on holiday on a different day from her children.

Those are matters which the schools should be allowed to find out for themselves, provided the power relates to only occasional holidays. The general pattern must be fixed by the authority, one would hope in consultation with the school boards.

The Earl of Dundee

Perhaps I may reassure my noble friend Lady Carnegy that there would be no risk of that. There will be only the occasional holiday. The only instance where the holiday might be for more than one day would arise if the education authority needed to carry out in-service training. It might need to use a school for several days for that purpose.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I cut short my remarks earlier to allow the debate to develop. However I could have mentioned the difficulties involved in in-service training. We want teachers to be continually brought up to date. yet considerable chaos could result if that training coincided either with teachers' days off in another part of the area or if teachers arranged to go to school and the school board decided without a great deal of notice that there was to be a holiday on a particular day.

I think that the issue hinges on the distinction between local wishes and regional bureaucracy. Regional bureaucracy did not just evolve. It is not an accident that Edinburgh has holidays on different days from Glasgow and that Glasgow is different from Paisley. A long time ago the merchants realised that people would not come to Edinburgh from Glasgow or vice-versa and they arranged holidays accordingly. It worked very well. That is where the bureaucracy came in. We should not decry pure administrative convenience. Many hidden costs might be involved if school boards were able to make decisions on the curtailment of school dinners, transport, crossing patrols and so on.

I am in favour of the maximum freedom, but with a certain amount of responsibility. If there is to be some flexibility in schools and a board decides that it does not want a specific day, perhaps an agreement could be reached to cover, say, 10 primary schools in a recognisable local area. However, this will take longer because a certain Scottishness may creep in and people may ask, "Why don't you come in with us instead of us coming in with you?".

It is not a simple problem. At the time of the one-day teachers strike there was considerable objection to one day here and another day there. This could be more chaotic. I ask the Minister to consider it further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 [Delegation of functions to Boards]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 47: Page 9, line 12, at end insert ("Such delegation orders should not come into effect until three years after the formation of the School Boards unless by agreement between the education authority and the School Board.").

The noble Lord said: The delegation provisions contained in Clauses 15 and 16 and Schedule 3 have major implications for all local authorities. Approached on a positive basis, they provide the opportunity for progressive delegation of appropriate functions by the education authority. They open up the possibility of an agreed process for the development of individual school boards at their own pace. This I consider the ideal. I want boards to have as much autonomy as possible. It must be recognised that the process would be likely to operate on a selective basis dependent on the capability and desire of individual boards to undertake additional devolved responsibility and on the ability of the education authority to justify, sustain and resource the potentially complex administrative arrangements that may well be involved.

I do not oppose the principle of delegation orders or the provision for school boards to take independent initiatives to seek delegated functions from authorities. These provisions should be introduced not with immediate effect but to follow the settling-in period required for the effective implementation of the school board machinery. The work incurred by education authorities in setting up the necessary administrative, financial and detailed operational arrangements, coupled with the need for school board members to familiarise themselves with their responsibilities and to establish themselves, will be such that any question of random requests for additional powers would be premature and counterproductive in the running-in period.

In accordance with the advice that we have received, in particular from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, we urge that the delegation order procedure should not come into effect until three years after formation of the school board unless it is with full agreement of the education authority. This would provide an opportunity for the authorities and boards to consider jointly the best way forward in the light of practical experience. It would permit concentration of efforts on the immediate task of establishing the boards upon a sound footing.

This may sound an over-cautious line. However, this is a situation in which caution may be the best way to make progress, in particular when allowance is made in the amendment that by agreement between the education authority and the school board delegated powers can be sought earlier. I beg to move.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

This amendment is enormously important, while being extremely cautious about how we handle our education system, which has served, and is still serving, us well in Scotland. The amendment suffers a little from drafting. It states, unless by agreement between the education authority and the School Board". I presume that the education authority could not foist a delegation upon the school board unless it wanted it. Nevertheless, I think that the Government should be cautious here. They may find that the school board in a certain area has performed well and consists of very able people. Perhaps within a year and a half or something like that they may wish to delegate powers and to see how this works.

The purpose of school boards must be eventually to produce some individuality and local initiative in education. While three years might be too long, some cautious progress is extremely necessary. Throughout Scotland we have a reasonable working system. We certainly do not want to destroy the idea by rushing delegation forward to a board which is not ready for it. There is no question that experience is necessary before a board can be really effective, with delegated powers of a much larger nature than fixing an occasional holiday and determining the money that can be spent on equipment for teaching.

The amendment appears to raise a major point. I hope that the Minister will consider it with great care and that in tackling the seriousness of the problem, he will give us his views.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I know that CoSLA is worried about this. It feels that inexperienced boards will not be able to cope. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, that three years may be a very long time for some boards. I think that CoSLA is perhaps underestimating the potential ability of the people on the new boards. Some will get going quickly. It is also very easy to underestimate their desire to do more. As I said in an earlier discussion, in order to attract and hold good people on these boards, it is important to give them plenty to do. It would be a great pity to say in the Bill that no school board could do anything more for three years. I am quite sure that some will be capable of undertaking more and will want to do so more quickly; others will not. The Bill should allow for that. Some boards should be able to take on much more delegation fairly rapidly. I do not think that any of them will want to in the first year, but they should be able to do so after that.

I think that CoSLA is a little over-anxious on this account and underestimates the potential of the boards.

The Earl of Dundee

I agree with my noble friend Lady Carnegy that CoSLA is being a little overanxious. I understand the balance of intention behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael. While he makes the point that he is not against the principle of delegation, his amendment suggests that boards should have a running-in period before seeking delegated powers. That is essentially what he is after.

As drafted the amendment would still not postpone the principle of delegation. It would still permit delegation orders to be made immediately. It is only that their effect would be delayed. Proponents of the running-in period argue that the successful establishment of boards will require the application of considerable effort both by board members and education authorities. I do not doubt that boards and authorities will have to apply themselves quite considerably in order to be successful. That is why we hold the view that training for boards will be of immense importance and why we are funding a considerable training programme.

We recognise that most boards will need to gain experience, perhaps for some years, before they will be ready to take up the complex functions, but there will be a number of lesser but still significant functions which many boards will feel able to consider relatively soon. Authorities themselves may be keen to delegate to boards more or less immediately some of the functions which they already delegate to school councils. For example, they might consider attendance procedures, a function which is commonly delegated to school councils at present; or in a rural school there might be clear scope for a board to play a greater role in the management of the use of school premises out of hours than is provided for in the basic terms of the Bill. We must also provide for education authorities to be able to respond to boards which have the good fortune to have members whose ability and experience means that they will be able to take over some substantial functions relatively quickly. This was a point made by my noble friend Lady Carnegy.

I should like to refer to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, who quite rightly draws our attention to the need for caution in general, not least as we have a very good education system as it is. He half inquired whether delegation could be foisted on to boards if they did not want it. The position here, as I understand it, is that that could not happen. It is the statutory duty of education authorities to carry out their functions.

However the Secretary of State can always turn down a delegation in the last resort. Another matter that should be borne in mind is that it is entirely up to the education authority to impose conditions. The education authority, if it so wishes, can say that delegation will occur for only a trial period. Apart from that, particular conditions, which may not be so specific for a trial period, may equally be imposed. Within that context and as a result of what I have said, I resist the noble Lord's amendment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I do not think that the Minister or the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, paid sufficient attention to the fact that the school boards and the education authority could reach agreement to take delegation powers earlier. It may be good if school boards were able to tell local education authorities that they were ready for the work within the three-year period and were willing to talk it over. I am assuming that the Bill is accepted in good faith by both groups: the education authorities and the school boards. They are both out to do the best they can within the limits of the Bill for Scottish education. However, in this instance until I have read what the Minister has said, I beg to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 48:

Page 9, line 27, at end insert— ("(h) any other function relating to professional areas or to the management functions which extended beyond the interests of an individual school.").

The noble Lord said: Clause 15(2) determines the functions of an education authority which cannot be delegated to a school board. According to the Notes on Clauses which the Minister kindly issued to us, these relate to professional areas such as the curriculum or to management functions which extend beyond the interests of an individual school. Given that the Bill lacks a prime source of reference for all school boards, we suggest that the addition of this to the list of functions which cannot be delegated would improve the clarity of this subsection. I beg to move.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

The principle of delegation is that boards should be able to take on additional functions and responsibilities from education authorities when they feel able to do so. The power to enter into contracts or agreements is vital to that. The noble Lord's amendment runs contrary to the principle of delegation which is to devolve further responsibilities on to boards. What is the point of giving a board an area of delegated responsibility while at the same time withholding a major part of the responsibility for carrying out this delegated function? You cannot truly have a delegated function if every time there is the most trivial of agreements to be made this involves bringing in your authority.

We have provided safeguards to ensure that delegation is properly regulated and controlled. Clause 16 empowers authorities to suspend and revoke delegation of functions when boards have acted in breach of conditions or otherwise behave improperly. Clause 15, which we are presently debating, empowers education authorities to attach to a delegation order any condition that they consider appropriate. Conditions on delegation could be used to require all contracts over a certain value to be referred to the authority. That was mentioned earlier in connection with financial considerations. But the amendment as it stands would require all contracts and agreements to be referred for approval. The results could be ridiculous and might swamp authorities with demands for approval for the most trivial agreements and contracts.

Our basic intention with delegation is to give boards responsibility for aspects of school management. What we are encouraging is in effect local decision-making. We cannot accept an amendment which would put a straitjacket on local decision-making. I must resist the amendment.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am sorry that the Minister has taken that view of the amendment. I thought that it had more potential. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 49:

Page 9, line 27, at end insert— ("() A School Board shall not enter into any contract or agreement relating to a matter delegated under this section without the prior approval of their education authority.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 49 which imposes contractual restraint relating to matters delegated to the board by the authority.

It may be perceived that a major exercise of contractual powers will be undertaken in this area. While the authority may be able to impose conditions on the level of delegation, the general powers contained in Clause 8 are very wide and a board could be in a position to commit substantial amounts of the authority's funds contrary to its budgetary policies unless restraint is imposed. Such contracts could relate to specific services including cleaning, school meals, transport of pupils, and property maintenance.

On the other hand, the contracts could relate to the purchase of educational equipment including expensive computers. Clearly both areas of policy have financial implications for the authority and it would be quite inappropriate if the authority had no control over the boards in this respect.

I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure the Committee that there will be a control which we have missed in the Bill, as he did in relation to an earlier series of amendments. We believe that these matters are most important and hope that they are matters about which we are becoming unnecessarily worried.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

With great regret I must disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, regarding the amendment. There is no point in delegating a matter and then saying that one must have a prior approval.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. I think that he should come over here and help me with the Bill.

We have worked hard to ensure that Clause 15(2) is both as clear and as comprehensive as needs be. If there is any way to improve the provisions I would be prepared to consider it. But I cannot accept the amendment.

Let us look at the terms of the amendment. It states: any other function relating to professional areas or to the management functions which extended beyond the interests of an individual school. I am not sure whether this amendment is intended to be wrecking or is simply not very well drafted, because it would appear to prevent the delegation of anything at all.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I wonder whether the Minister is on Amendment No. 49.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

Yes, he is. I am coming to the point. For example, anything done in a secondary school could be said to extend to the interests of its feeder primaries. Moreover, this amendment would appear to prevent the kind of cooperative working between boards which the Opposition quite properly regarded as a matter of some importance in the discussion in another place.

I believe that I recognise the wording of this amendment, which is taken from our Notes on Clauses. The phrase there refers to the overall effect of the existing subsection of Clause 15(2). In so far as the noble Lord wished to ensure that this result is achieved, he can be satisfied that the Bill already excludes from delegation a series of specific areas which amount to the overall management responsibility we think a board should never have. My view, and I put this to the noble Lord, is similar to that of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. This amendment is very wide and rather vague in its terms and I am afraid that we cannot accept it. We talked about delegating powers, the powers the local authority has in putting some financial restraints on any delegation order. I believe that that should cover some of the concerns which the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, may have on this matter.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I lost the beginning of the Minister's statement because I believed he was on the wrong amendment, so perhaps he will allow me to withdraw the amendment now, read what he said and think of what steps to take in preparation for Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Powers of education authority to ensure due exercise of delegated functions]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 50: Page 9, line 44, leave out ("seriously or persistently").

The noble Lord said: It may be convenient also to speak to Amendment No. 51. I am concerned to get a definition here. The power is granted to the education authority to ensure due exercise of delegated functions. The terms used in subsection (2) relating to "serious or persistent failure" and in subsection (4) to "gross mismanagement" present examples of lax standards, and consideration should be given to the redrafting of this clause.

In this connection provisions might appropriately be included similar to those of Section 70 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. At the very least the Government should give further clarification to the meaning of those terms. I have the section of the 1980 Act, which I am sure the Minister will now have, and it is possibly a better way of putting the matter than the words used in the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

The provision for school boards to have additional functions delegated to them from education authorities is a mainstay of the Bill. The intention is that boards, when they feel ready to do so, should be able to take on extra responsibilities for running their schools. Extra responsibility will not be taken on lightly.

The presumption, rightly, should be in favour of delegation and, when a power has been delegated, of continued delegation. The qualifications which these amendments seek to remove from Clause 16 were not included without careful thought. To allow the possibility of suspension of delegation for minor errors and failures would he to undermine the principle of delegation itself.

We have provided for education authorities to be able to suspend a delegation order if the conditions of that delegation are not complied with. However, before the order is suspended the failure must be "serious or persistent". In other words, the failure must be more than trivial or it must be repeated and, therefore, clearly not accidental. This seems to be the kind of approach any sensible authority would want to pursue.

We have also provided that mismanagement should be a ground for suspension of delegation on immediate notice. However, before immediate suspension is possible, we have said that the mismanagement should be gross; that is, deliberate. substantial or serious. This seems to be a sensible and balanced view.

Obviously I will look closely at what the noble Lord said concerning the wording in the earlier Act but I hope that what I said will reassure him as to the meaning behind these words.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I am grateful to the Minister for promising to look again at Section 69 of the 1980 Act. In turn, I will certainly examine his words with care. I am grateful for his explanation and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 51 not moved.]

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Financing of Boards and financial information]:

[Amendments Nos. 52, 53 and 54 not moved.]

Clause 17 agreed to.

The Earl of Dundee

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.