HL Deb 24 February 1992 vol 536 cc90-159

House again in Committee.

Clause 2 [Functions of the Chief Inspector for England]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 1, line 26, after ("(1)") insert: ("It shall be the principal duty of the Chief Inspector for England to give advice as he thinks fit to the Secretary of State on any matter concerning the provision of education by schools in England, including in particular (as regards maintained schools) advice concerning the curriculum mentioned in section 1(2) of the Education Reform Act 1988; and").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 20, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 50. The effect of the amendments would be to strengthen the independence of each chief inspector, giving an overarching power to give advice to the Secretary of State, whether welcome or not, whether solicited or not, and a statutory obligation towards the "balanced and broadly based curriculum" for maintained schools which is laid down in Section 1(2) of the Education Reform Act 1988. Section 1(2) of the 1988 Act states: The curriculum for a maintained school satisfies the requirements of this section if it is a balanced and broadly based curriculum which—

  1. (a) promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society; and
  2. (b) prepares such pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life".

The Minister of State, during the Committee stage in another place, did not reply to the proposition that the duties of Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors of Schools should be connected with the provision of a broad and balanced curriculum. The Minister of State's reply to the proposition that the chief inspectors should have a principal duty to give advice was close to being misleading since the provisions of Clause 2(5), which we have already debated, could—without being absolutely binding since it speaks of "having regard to"—serve considerably to constrain the chief inspectors. I hope that today the Minister will be able to give a more satisfactory reply than the one given in another place when a similar amendment was moved.

In speaking to the amendments, perhaps I may begin by saying, first, that the drafting of Clause 2 seems to us to lack a sense of strategic purpose. There is a danger that the office of HMI is to be reduced to a mainly administrative function giving remote control direction to registered inspectors. In our view, the role of giving advice towards the better achievement of the aims of the Education Reform Act, as set out in Section 1(2) of that Act, to which I have just referred, is the proper expression of a long-term strategic role or vision for the chief inspectors.

Secondly, there is an issue of confidence. Clause 2(1) provides a duty of keeping the Secretary of State informed, whereas surely there should be a principal duty to advise as the chief inspectors think fit. It is partly for the chief inspector to press for the achievement of higher standards and partly to reinforce the perceptions of the independent standing of the inspectorate, since it is likely that the effectiveness of the holder of that office, in working within the teaching profession, will be greater if teachers' perceptions of the inspectorate's independence can be reinforced. An effective inspectorate will need to be critical of teachers, at least in some instances, although one would hope not all the time. That criticism would most constructively be received from an authentically independent adviser.

It may be true in practice, as I have no doubt the Minister will say that it is, that in principle nothing in the provisions of the Bill prevent the chief inspectors from giving advice freely. However, there is an issue of confidence and a positive provision should be made on the face of the Bill.

This amendment uniquely raises the question of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector's relationship to the curriculum for schools and the purposes of each school's curriculum. The drafting of Clause 2(1) leaves undefined its most important terms. Clause 2(1) refers to: the quality of the education provided by schools … [and] the educational standards achieved in those schools". But how should the chief inspectors construe quality and standards? Will the chief inspectors be free to decide, or is there an implied reference for maintained schools to the duty of the Secretary of State, under Section 1(1) of the Education Reform Act, to secure that the curriculum for each school satisfies the test of that section? What scope is there for any interpretation of quality and standards by the Secretary of State to which he could give effect by directions under Clause 2(5), which we have already discussed?

The crux of the matter is whether Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors are bound to the aims of broad and balanced curricula for schools or whether their duties are to be guided by the Secretary of State's directions—for example, perhaps toward narrowly construed league tables, which in our view would damage the maintenance of a broad and balanced curriculum? I beg to move.

Lord Elton

The Committee will have seen that my amendment, Amendment No. 21, is grouped with Amendment No. 20 of the noble Baroness and is pointed in the same general direction. To that extent we are in a loose and unfamiliar confederation. However, I draw the Committee's attention to one peculiarity of her amendment, in case she should be minded to press it and not regard it, as I do, as a trial run before Report.

The noble Baroness's amendment would ensure that under Clause 2 it shall be the principal duty of the chief inspector to do what is contained in Amendment No. 20. After that it gives the Chief Inspector for England the general duty of keeping the Secretary of State informed about the matters listed. I wonder whether making one function the principal duty and the other function, as it were, a merely general duty is wise or indeed whether it puts them necessarily in the right order. I believe that the chief inspector ought to have a duty to keep the Secretary of State informed, as the Bill now requires, and that on occasion that duty may be at least as great as the duty of keeping him advised.

Nevertheless, having said that, an important function of Her Majesty's Inspectorate and of the chief inspector will be advising the Secretary of State and not merely acting as his reconnaissance force under the command of the general. The chief inspector should in fact be a professional advising the general.

I am always happier when such things are stated on the face of the Bill. It is possible that my noble friend will say that HMCI for England or HMCI for Wales will be empowered to make recommendations to his relevant Secretary of State if he so wishes. I would rather that he had a duty so to do. Apart from anything else, in order to defend the position of the new department of state in the financial arguments that it will have on its own behalf with the Treasury, as we said, the functions of the department of state must be clear to the Treasury.

I do not wish to extend the arguments. I have made clear what I wish to find out. At Report stage I may well be minded to refine the point and ask Her Majesty's Government to accept an amendment. However, I should like first to hear the reply.

8.15 p.m.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

Both the noble Baroness and my noble friend suggested ways in which I might answer which have some relevance. I recognise that they are both trying to be helpful in these amendments. My noble friend notes that there are dangers in suggesting that advice is the primary duty of HMCI. I do not believe that the amendments are appropriate. They are certainly not necessary to ensure that the Secretary of State receives advice from HMCI.

The amendments would give the chief inspector the additional duty to give advice to the Secretary of State in addition to the duty to keep the Secretary of State informed about quality and standards of education and about the use of resources by schools. HMCI is already under a duty to provide the Secretary of State with advice as requested and is entirely free to bring any other matters within his remit to the attention of the Secretary of State. HMCI will be free to comment and offer his views—as he or she wishes —on what he finds. If he does so in the form of a report to the Secretary of State, he may publish it.

HMCI certainly has an implicit power to add his own view and advice to anything that he sends to the Secretary of State. Indeed it would be impossible in practice to prevent, even if that were our intention.

But, by defining the duty as the provision of information, we ensure that the facts underpinning those views are always made available, while putting no restriction on what the chief inspector may add.

But the Bill does not give the chief inspector a duty—still less the principal duty—to offer advice, as distinct from information, on all matters within the scope of his powers. There is a danger with such a wide duty that we might appear to be setting up the chief inspector as an alternative source of educational policy. That is properly the responsibility of the Secretary of State and it is for the Secretary of State to determine the key areas in which he feels he might need HMI's advice to inform that policy, in the light very often of the chief inspector's own reports. That will be achieved through the ability to request advice in subsection 2(2).

It would be wrong to try to put any particular slant on the HMCIs' activities, as Amendments Nos. 20 and 50 would do. One important focus of their activities will be matters which fall within the scope of Section 1 of the Education Reform Act. The Secretary of State has a central responsibility under that section in respect of the school curriculum. The HMCIs will, by the very nature of their responsibilities, be particularly concerned to assess the operation of the curriculum, including whether it fulfils the requirements of Section 1(2) by being balanced, broadly based, promoting pupils' development and preparing them for adult life. But there are many other statutes—for example, the 1981 Act on special needs—which will require HMI effort and energy. Those should not be put in danger of relegation to second division status. We believe that the right thing to do is leave the HMCIs free to decide their priorities in the light of the needs of the Secretary of State of the day and their own professional judgment about areas where information and advice can most profitably be provided.

I hope that with those comments the noble Baroness and my noble friend will feel able to withdraw their amendments.

Baroness Seear

The noble Baroness has given her case away. She stated that it was implicit that the inspector could give advice. But we want it to be explicit. That is the whole point. There is a world of difference between giving information and giving advice, certainly if the advice is only implicit. We want the inspector, as the informed professional, to be able to say things to the Secretary of State that the Secretary of State does not wish to hear. That is the way in which the expert, professional knowledge of the inspector can be most readily available. I do not believe that, by saying that it is implicit, the noble Baroness has met the point which we seek to make.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

I am sorry if I did not make myself clear on the matter.

Baroness Seear

The noble Baroness made herself all too clear. She does not want what we want. That is the whole point. It is not that the noble Baroness did not make herself clear.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

Perhaps I may reiterate that there is nothing in the Bill which stops HMCI giving any advice which he or she may wish, as I am sure the person responsible in the situation would do.

Lord Elton

That was a useful clarification. It makes it much easier for me to follow on. That is the precise point that my amendment addresses. My amendment differs from those put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone. It does not give a primacy of duty to give advice but it gives an equality of duty.

If I were an intemperate Secretary of State—which I dare say that, after many years of dealing with education, I might well have become—and the inspectorate came to me and said, "It is time you did something about X", I would say, "I didn't ask you for that advice". Members of the inspectorate might say, "It is very important". I would reply, "Will you kindly look at the Act? You have duties under the Act. I am prepared to accept that you have duties. I should be glad if you restricted yourself to them. First, you have a general duty to keep me informed. You have done that last week. Secondly, you have a duty to give me advice when I ask for it. I haven't. Thirdly, you have a duty to do things about registered inspectors and this has nothing to do with that. I am a very busy man. Would you please leave me alone?" I would not be so brusque and tactless as that; I would wrap it all up. But the effect would be the same. I should be comforted by the wording of the Act in not placing any great weight on the advice I was given that I had not asked for.

I do not believe that that is the shape or balance that the Bill ought to have. My noble friend Lord Eccles referred to the professional knowledge and information brought back by Her Majesty's Inspectorate from all over the country. Its members will be the repositories of a vast amount of information which will make clear to them that certain things ought to be done. If the Secretary of State does not feel impelled at least to listen to them and to judge carefully what they say, then I believe that the Act will be the weaker.

My proposal adds no extra charges to public expense. It expands the duties and functions of the inspectorate not one millimetre beyond what my noble friend stated that they already should be. It does not threaten anyone's employment or policies. I hope that my noble friend will consider the matter again before Report stage and feel able to yield at least an inch.

Lord Dormand of Easington

I am confused by what appears to be a contradiction by the Minister. I had intended to raise the point but when the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, raised it I thought the matter had been clarified. At the beginning of the Minister's first speech, she stated that HMCI can give advice if requested. I wrote down the words "if requested". I believe that that simply means that if a request is not made information or advice (whatever one might call it) will not be given. That is where I am confused. If HMCI see something that is manifestly wrong in the educational service—I know that it happens from time to time—surely the initiative should lie with HMCI to advise the Secretary of State without having to be requested. I believe that there was a contradiction in the words that the Minister used. In view of what the last two speakers have said, the issue ought to be clarified. It is important.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

I stated that HMCI is already under a duty to provide the Secretary of State with advice as requested, and if requested, and is entirely free to bring any other matters within his remit to the attention of the Secretary of State. Should we have a scenario such as that envisaged by my noble friend featuring an intemperate Secretary of State, such a person could not stop HMCI exercising the power both to give the advice and, importantly, to publish that advice. The absence of a duty to do so is not the key issue.

Lord Elton

The point that I seek to make is this. Advice that is included on the face of the Bill under Clause 2(2) will be treated differently from advice that is not specifically referred to on the face of the Bill. Should not all advice be placed before the Secretary of State with a sufficient degree of recognition in law to enable the Secretary of State not to feel—as I would feel were I Secretary of State—that he could treat it differently? When I was a Minister of State I frequently looked at statutes and thus kept myself out of the High Court on more than one occasion. It is common practice to look at the law to see what one's powers, duties and conventions are. I hope that my noble friend will not feel that she could not spare a little time between now and Report stage to consider the matter again.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

I have heard the anxieties that have been expressed. I shall consider the issues further before Report stage.

Baroness Blackstone

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for agreeing to consider the matter further. I entirely agree with every word that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said.

There are two issues. The first relates to advice, as against informing. Clearly, to give the chief inspectors a duty to keep the Secretary of State informed is quite different from giving a duty to the chief inspectors to advise the Secretary of State. I repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said. Clause 2(2) makes it absolutely clear on the face of the Bill that the chief inspectors for England and Wales can only advise the Secretary of State when asked to do so. I can see nowhere in the Bill a statement which makes it perfectly clear that both chief inspectors are entirely free to give advice, as the noble Baroness has just claimed. The Bill states that they are not. The Bill states that they can do so when they are asked.

We must consider the matter again. It is a serious problem in the Bill. I was a little surprised to hear the noble Baroness say that to advise rather than to inform involved the chief inspectors becoming an alternative source of educational policy. We are returning to some of the issues that troubled us about the inclusion of Clause 2(5).

Perhaps I may briefly turn to the second issue raised in my amendment. It is important that the chief inspector should be able to give advice on a broad and balanced curriculum. That is a fundamental part of the Education Reform Act. What is taught to pupils in our schools, the content of education, is central. The people who are best placed to advise Ministers on what that content should be are the chief inspectors. But the noble Baroness stated that she did not believe that that ought to be on the face of the Bill because there are many other issues of high priority. Of course I agree. But it seems to me that there is no more fundamental issue of high priority than having a broad and balanced curriculum for all our pupils.

I have no intention of dividing on these matters today. However, we shall not hesitate to do so if there cannot be some satisfactory reply when we reach the next stage of the Bill with, I hope, some proposals from the Government for amendments. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

Before the noble Baroness sits down, I wish to point out that Clause 2 does not state "Only when asked to do so by the Secretary of State". It states: "When asked to do so". The alternatives are still open and I reiterate that government make policy.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Elton had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 21: Page 1, leave out line 27 and insert ("informing and advising the Secretary of State about—").

The noble Lord said: I shall not move my amendment on the basis that the Minister's undertaking to consider matters before Report applies to my amendment.

[Amendment No. 21 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 22 not moved.]

Lord Northbourne moved Amendment No. 23: Page 2, line 1, leave out ("and").

The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 26, 53, 55, 102, 106, 187 and 192. I apologise to the Committee for taking a few minutes to do so, but there are two groups of amendments. They relate to values in schools and to making public the ethos and values of schools. The second group of amendments, Nos. 187 and 192, relate to the prospectus of the school. They provide not only that each school should have a prospectus but that it should set out as clearly as possible the kind of school that it is and the ethos and values which it aims to promulgate both through the curriculum and outside it. The remaining six amendments relate to the inspectorate. They aim to provide that when schools are inspected, the inspectors are put under an obligation to report on the ethos and values of the school as well as on its academic achievement.

On Second Reading there was a substantial measure of agreement that those objectives are broadly desirable. I must stress to the Committee that the intention of the amendments is not in any sense to attempt to place any kind of restriction upon the values which are transmitted by the school. They are tabled simply and only to require that the public and the parents are informed about the values of the school.

On Second Reading the noble Baroness was sympathetic towards the objectives. However, she argued that my worries were already covered by existing legislation and by the Bill. I have taken a good deal of trouble to look into that argument. I regret to say that I am not convinced. I believe that it can be substantially sustained only by making special assumptions about the word "education" and/or about the word "curriculum" within the Act. Neither of those words are defined within the Bill or anywhere else on the statute book.

I wish to look first at Amendments Nos. 23, 26, 53, 55, 102 and 106, which deal with inspection. As the Bill stands, the inspectors are required to report on the quality of the education provided. However, the word "education" is not defined. It is possible to argue that education includes all the experiences, attitudes, values and knowledge transmitted by the school in and out of class. The question is whether the inspectors will take that view. There is no guarantee that they will.

On Second Reading the noble Baroness suggested that for a definition of "education" one should look at Section 1 of the 1988 Act. That section refers specifically to the curriculum which, as was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, is required to be balanced and broadly-based and to promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils. Parents also need to be informed about what is going on outside the curriculum.

It has been suggested that the word "curriculum" could be understood to mean everything which goes on in the school. I do not believe that that is a sustainable argument. I ask myself whether extracurricular activities are part of the curriculum. Are the attitudes and examples of the staff part of the curriculum? Is the attitude of the school towards the parents part of the curriculum? I do not believe that it can be argued that they are. In this case and on this important issue it is essential that there should be no possibility of misunderstanding. Therefore, I argue that there is a need for a clause in the Bill which clearly and unequivocally directs inspectors to report on the whole school, including the ethos and values in and out of the classroom.

For the purpose of the wording in the amendments, I have used the categories of development which are listed in the 1988 Act—spiritual, moral and cultural—and I have used those epithets to describe the values that we are talking about. That is not the only description that can be used. It is possible to use, for example, the words "ethos and values"; but in doing so, we introduce a totally new concept. Therefore, it may be better to stick to the words which are already on the face of the earlier Act.

There is another reason why it is important for inspectors to be required to inspect and to report on the spiritual, moral and cultural values of each school. The Government have opted for diversity. Without doubt, sooner or later, some ideological groups—they may be political, religious or something else—will gain sufficient control of some of our schools to influence the values which are transmitted to the pupils. Some of those values may not be what some parents want for their children. Some could be inimical to a pluralistic and liberal democracy; for example, values in relation to equal opportunities, to the role of women and girls in society and to racial issues. Inspectors visiting such schools could be under considerable pressure not to report on such issues unless they are clearly and unambiguously required to do so by law.

I wish to turn briefly to Amendments Nos. 187 and 192. They relate to the prospectus which is a rather complicated subject. The 1980 Act gives to the Secretary of State powers to lay down regulations on matters that schools must cover in their prospectus. There is a good deal of regulation in subsequent Acts. Some regulations have been made but they are patchy. Some subjects, such as sex education, are well covered; but other subjects are not. I take my information from the Heads' Legal Guide 1989 so it could possibly be out of date. By way of example, I point out that discipline and punishment are items which must he described under the regulations. However, discipline and punishment are the only elements referred to in relation to the behaviour of pupils, to the standards of behaviour expected by pupils and to the type of school community which the school represents. Again, there is no reference to the disclosure of the school's attitude to competition.

I am privileged to be a governor of a school in the independent sector which has an extremely high success rate in examination passes and university entrance. It is a competitive and meritocratic school, and I am proud of it. However, I should not recommend it for a pupil who might be traumatised or who might find difficulty in keeping pace. The point that I am making is, as in horses for courses, the parents need to know what kind of school it is.

There is no reference in the regulations to the school's attitude to parents. Some parents want to leave it to the professionals. Others wish to be partners in their children's education. Again, I suggest that parents need to know.

Finally, I have picked out three issues almost at random. I could have picked out more. The general point is that if parents are to have the right to choose their child's school, they need to have as full a picture as possible of the kind of school it is; that is, its ethos and values as well as its academic success. These amendments would lay an obligation on the governors or the other authorities responsible for the school to provide that information. I beg to move.

Baroness Strange

I support the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 26, 53, 55, 102, 106 and 187, which are all grouped together.

One of the Government's main aims in bringing forward this education Bill is to ensure the greatest possible choice for parents. It seems to me that that is a very basic right and freedom. All parents wish to do the best possible for their children and, of course, all parents have different ideas as to how their children should be brought up. When considering the school, there is the consideration of access, how easy it is to get to a particular school, whether it is within walking distance or within convenient reach of the school bus. There is the question of the state of the school buildings, safety regulations and the quality of school meals. All those are physical requirements which naturally concern parents.

However, a school is there to teach and to impart knowledge. For that, parents must see that the school follows the national curriculum. That is the level of the mind. Human beings also have another dimension: they have a dimension of spirit. Parents may be Christian, Jewish, Moslems or have no faith at all. However, they will wish their children to be educated in the same way. Whatever their views, it is the right of parents to know what are the spiritual, moral and cultural values of the school so that they can choose a school which approximates best to what they wish for their own children.

It could be argued that the Bill already caters for that and it is not necessary to spell it out in such detail. However, I believe it is necessary and that that will help to resolve differences of spiritual values because the school will state clearly where it stands.

Bus stops have their destinations marked on them. Medicine bottles are marked for sore throats, headaches or whatever they aim to cure. Restaurants have a bill of fare displayed outside. Surely for something so vital as the spiritual, moral and cultural values for our children, there should be clear and specific statements of what those are in each and every school. I support the amendments.

8.45 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford

I support this group of amendments to which my name is attached. I approach them from perhaps a slightly different angle. As the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, said, these amendments provide for the inspectorate to comment, in particular, on the spiritual, moral and cultural aspect not just of the curriculum but of the whole ethos of the school.

I welcome that. However, inevitably, we need to see that in relation to the provisions for the inspection of religious education, or, as it is called in the Bill, denominational education. It may be that people would fear that those two impinge on one another.

Clause 14 makes it quite clear that denominational education is to be inspected separately under rather separate provisions. That is right. It would not be acceptable to those who sponsor and provide the voluntary schools if they were not at liberty to inspect the religious education and to judge whether that is in accordance with the precepts of the particular providing body, whether Christian, Jewish or any other faith.

We must recognise that if religious education is a feature of a voluntary school, it will affect the whole of the perception of the curriculum. I hope that it will not dominate it, but it will have an effect because our philosophical or religious understanding is bound to have an effect on how we appreciate, for example, history or literature.

I have no objection to people teaching religious education with conviction and with enthusiasm. Indeed, any teacher needs to have those attitudes, whatever subject is being taught. However, in religious education in particular we must ensure that young people are given the space to form their own judgments about what they are being taught and to make their own evaluations. There is no case for indoctrination, which means requiring people to come to certain views and conclusions. There is an extremely vital distinction between indoctrination and education. As R. M. Hare said, the educator tries to turn children into adults; the indoctrinator seeks to make them perpetual children.

I want to see religious education inspected vigorously and fearlessly. If the Bill becomes law, roughly speaking, in its present terms, I should wish to encourage, at any rate, Church of England schools to try to find inspectorate teams which have an understanding of the religious dimension as the Church of England understands it. Moreover, they could arrange that the inspection of the curriculum under the normal provisions and the inspection of religious education take place simultaneously and by the same group of people because I believe that there is an integrity right across the board in the way that we understand the education.

However, we must recognise also that in respect of the content of the religious education and also the whole ethos and the way in which it is all handled across the curriculum, the secular inspectorate—if I may use these terms—should be able and free to comment that the religious element appears to be verging on the indoctrination rather than the straight education. As one of those concerned with voluntary schools, I should welcome any such criticism from the inspectorate if it was well founded because religious education providers would need to take that on board.

Therefore, I see this group of amendments as being complementary to the religious education provisions in Clause 14 and to be a strengthening of our whole perception of the spiritual, moral and cultural dimension. For those reasons I support the amendments.

Lord Beloff

I should like to be able to support the sponsors of the amendment. The difficulty seems to me that they have not taken into account fully the central feature of the Bill; namely, that inspections and who inspects will be determined as a result of competitive tender. What kind of tenders will be put forward to say that a particular team is more spiritually or culturally suitable than any other team? Will its members have to show special cultural or ethical characteristics?

It used to be said that the reason why the Clarendon Press in Oxford produced error-free texts was that there was always a number of unfrocked clergymen who could be employed as proof readers. I do not know if that class exists in our more liberal and ecumenical society, but does anything correspond to the class of unfrocked priests who may be recruited by the inspection teams?

We may have the highest ideals for the curriculum for moral and spiritual development. However, at the heart of the Bill we have a mere commercial transaction, those matters are likely to bear very dead fruit.

Lord Rochester

Unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, I am not a devotee of the concept of parental choice in school selection, if only because that choice is denied to so many parents; nor am I at all happy about the way the Government are proposing to reorganise the arrangements for school inspection. But with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, for whose views I have considerable respect, we must accept that the arrangements for inspection are at the heart of this Bill, and what we now have to do is to make the best use of them that we can.

The Bill is rightly concerned with the academic performance of schools but it has nothing to say about the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical values that schools are obliged to promote under the 1988 Act. I am diffident in speaking about some of these values because I am all too conscious of my own shortcomings in upholding some of them. Nevertheless, I think that parents are entitled to know how schools are fulfilling this statutory duty.

As the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, acknowledged, there is a problem as to how the required values are to be defined. At Second Reading he gave some examples of how it might be done. To judge from the way in which schools in Cheshire (where I live) have already managed to meet the requirements of the 1988 Act in this respect, I believe that what might well be regarded as best practice could now be built upon nationally by means of amendments of the kind proposed. In Cheshire it is commonplace for a school to produce for internal use a development plan in which the school states what it conceives its core purposes to be. This often includes values of the kind referred to in these amendments. Similarly, its prospectus will include a statement of what the school stands for, and that information is thus made available to parents.

For example, a school in my locality quotes in its prospectus the view expressed in the Warnock Report—and I am glad to see the noble Baroness in her place—that one of the long-term aims in the education of all children should be to enlarge the child's knowledge, experience, imagination and understanding and thus his awareness of moral values and capacity for enjoyment. Similarly, Cheshire's education authority—which I believe is generally acknowledged to be one of the best in the land—states one of its aims to be, to nurture the spiritual, social and moral development of young people by encouraging active consideration of human behaviour and relationships with others". The practice of declaring basic organisational objectives is followed by many well run businesses for the benefit of their shareholders, employees and customers. For instance, the company for which I used to work stated in its last annual report: ICI seeks to ensure that all its activities are acceptable to the communities of which it is part and that the environmental impact of its operations is kept to a practicable minimum". That company set out specific objectives which it had formulated to improve its environmental performance. For my part, I see every reason why schools should adhere to the same practice in declaring the values for which they stand and the means by which those values are to be promoted. That is clearly the purpose of Amendment No. 187 which I should particularly like to support.

Of course problems may arise, for example in the case of an inner city school which has to cope with a population of mixed races or even ethnic tensions. It may well be that the wording of these amendments will need to be altered to deal adequately with those difficulties. However, today we are debating the principle underlying the amendments, and I join other noble Lords in urging the Government to respond to them sympathetically.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

I too should like to support these amendments. Indeed, the only reason I did not put my name to them was that I was beaten to the draw by my noble friend Lady Strange. I then hoped that some noble Lord or noble Baroness from the Benches opposite might add his or her support and I did not want to take up the last remaining slot on the Marshalled List. I say this also because it is clear that the amendments are in no sense party political, nor do they attempt to favour any particular religion or branch of religion. Indeed, they can even be said not to favour the religious at the expense of the secular. For instance, Amendments Nos. 26 and 55 merely require the new chief inspector to keep the Secretary of State informed about the spiritual, moral and cultural values of schools, whatever those values may be.

With the greatest respect to my noble friend the Minister, at Second Reading she made one error in her otherwise sustained and brilliant summing up of the debate. She said the Government did not think that amendments along these lines were necessary because their scope was already covered by Section 1 of the 1988 Education Reform Act and therefore that Clauses 2 and 9 of the Bill would require inspectors to report not only on the mental and physical development of pupils but also on their spiritual, moral and cultural development. The trouble is that Clauses 2 and 9 of the Bill do not seem to mention Section 1 of the 1988 Education Reform Act, although I accept that that is the Act, with its attendant national curriculum, which forms the background to the Bill.

So I am afraid I am not entirely convinced that my noble friend was right when she said that Clauses 2 and 9 of the Bill do definitely require inspectors to address these aspects of the curriculum as well as the other more academic subjects. Indeed, my noble friend went on to say at Second Reading that the new inspectors would not be limited to looking only at the formal curriculum and they would also be able to report on the so-called hidden curriculum, which includes the values covered by these amendments. I am afraid that that is all beginning to sound rather optional.

I was confirmed in this doubt by something my noble friend said this afternoon. I say that because I suppose it can be claimed that the chief inspector is directed to report on the matters covered by this amendment by Clauses 2(5) and 6(5) because the 1988 Act is part of government policy. When my noble friend was debating the effect of Clause 2(5) and Clause 6(5) she was at pains to emphasise that chief inspectors only had to have regard to such aspects of government policy as the Secretary of State might direct. That does not sound as though these values will necessarily be covered. As I understood it, it was an important part of the Government's explanation of Clause 2(5) and Clause 6(5) that they were not prescriptive.

It seems that these amendments would remove any doubt as to whether inspectors will have to report on the spiritual, cultural and moral ethos of schools. I would go further and say I am afraid that if this amendment is not on the face of the Bill and if there is any gap left at all, the required reporting may not take place. That would be a great disadvantage to everyone—to those of all religious persuasions and to secular humanists alike. After all, the 1988 Education Reform Act rightly seems to put the spiritual, moral and cultural development of pupils before their mental and physical development. Most of the debate on this area of the Bill will understandably be concerned about their mental development. It will be about league tables, and the academic curriculum; it will be about socio-economic backgrounds, raw data and so on. But all those things have to be set against the background of the deeper values which parents hold and which they wish their children to develop. Above all, parents must be told what the deeper values of a school are or they will never know whether they want their children to go there. That is why I support the amendments.

9 p.m.

Baroness Warnock

I support some of the amendments but not all and I hope that they will not necessarily be considered together. There is an enormous difference between, on the one hand, asking a school to explain its plans for the spiritual development of children and, on the other, asking the inspectors to report on what they think the school's provision is for the imaginative and moral development of the children in that school. I fear that most schools, if asked to produce an outline of what they hope to offer their children, will say much the same, except that some may say it within the context of the Jewish, Roman Catholic or Moslem faith. When it comes to plans for children's development, all schools tend to say something about the "development of the full potential of the-child". I have yet to see any school not say something rather meaningless like that.

However, if teams of inspectors are not able to report on the bad when they see it—and of course on the good, but it is much easier to identify the bad in this context—and they are not entitled to be listened to when they make their reports, then their powers will be unduly limited. For my part, I am not interested in whether parents are informed about a school's plans for their children. As I say, all schools probably say much the same. I am interested in parents having access to inspectors' reports which may comment unfavourably on some aspects of the school; for instance, a proneness to bullying, an indifference within the school to people from other ethnic backgrounds or the predominance of a specific ethnic background in the school. That is important and should fall within the powers of the inspectors. The Secretary of State should be obliged to listen to those reports.

I should therefore prefer to separate the amendments which refer to the last part of the Bill, which is a matter of no importance, from those which refer to the first part which concerns the powers of the inspectorate. On that I strongly support the amendment.

Lord Elton: Any prospectus of a school which is silent on matters of its moral and spiritual standards is deficient in a crucial and important area. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, that it is more than likely most schools will put honeyed words in such a prospectus. However, the first thing is to get them there and the second is for the inspectors to see whether they add up to more than honey.

It is worth saying at this stage that, even if there are provisions that mean in some tortuous way that the requirements to provide that information and to enforce inspectors' reports on it exist, the time is ripe for it to be said again by the Government of this country, of whichever party. It is not only the process of senescence which makes me feel that things are not as they used to be in the spiritual and moral tone of the country. One only needs to look at the mores relating to marriage or financial probity to see that standards have considerably declined. Those are the standards imposed by people who were once school children and who gained many of their life views in the classroom.

My second point in regard to the group of amendments is that, like the right reverend Prelate, I see that they abut on the question of the teaching of denominational religions as described in the Bill. However, it is not improper to consider the two separately. I hope to return today week with a couple of amendments relating to the relevant part of the Bill—Clause 14 and Part II of Schedule 1. It is nevertheless possible, without any power of entry into any lesson taught by any teacher who is taking a period of religious instruction—denominational or otherwise—to obtain a clear idea of what the spiritual and moral standards of the school are. Some emanate from the classroom but most emanate from the staff as a whole and are not necessarily even consciously taught by them.

Educationists refer to something called "affective curriculum". The affective curriculum, in layman's language, means things that are taught by mistake or unconsciously. A great deal is taught in schools by mistake or unconsciously and is much more readily perceived by people on the outside than by those who have been inside the school for a long time. Schools can develop their own inward culture which becomes more and more divorced from that of the country at large.

I hope that the Minister will look kindly on the amendments, which may not be perfect. They are right in intent and almost right in drafting. I hope that the Minister will agree that a matter of this importance should be included on the face of the Bill and not be left to the operation of existing but forgotten machinery.

Baroness Faithfull

Perhaps I may make a short, practical, down to earth contribution to the debate. I support the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, in his amendment.

Some years ago I worked as a care committee worker for the then London County Council in Bermondsey and Islington. As such, parents would often tell me that they wanted a special kind of school for their child. They wanted to know which school had the qualities they had in mind. I would ask what they required and time and again they would say, "My son is not clever. I do not want him to go to a clever school. I want him to go to a school where he is happy and will not get into trouble. Where is that?". I would suggest the school around the corner but they would say, "No, those children are too clever. They abscond every day and still manage to reach the top of the class. I do not want my son to be out of school. I want him to be in school. I want him to be happy and I do not mind whether he is clever or not".

Somehow or other we must put into the prospectus in a practical way help that parents can understand.

Lord Peston

We are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, and the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Guildford for tabling these amendments.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, in agreeing largely with what he had to say, that the only reason that my name is not attached to the amendments is that I was hoping the Government would find it possible to accept them or agree to come back to them. In that regard I did not believe that it would be helpful to add my name. That does not mean that I am not very much in support of what has been said here.

I entirely accept the philosophical disjunction which the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, has put before us; namely, that on the one hand it seems very odd that we are asked to consider spiritual, moral and cultural values, and on the other we are asked to go in for competition in the area of inspection. He knows better than I that when one is dealing with a Bill one does the best one can in the circumstances. What one is trying to do is improve matters relative to what they would be otherwise.

I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. Although I would prefer words such as "ethos" and "philosophy", it is more sensible to stick to language which is already in legislation, assuming that it means precisely the ethos and philosophy of the school. I hope that we are all reasonably pluralistic. I believe that was the point that the right reverend Prelate made—that is to say, that we do not want to lay down only this set of cultural values. We are interested in the idea that the school should have some knowledge of cultural values of almost any kind as long as it has grasped the point. I believe that is what we are being directed towards.

I very much support what is being said here. That is connected with the remarks made by my noble friend Lady Blackstone concerning a balanced curriculum. We should not be talked out of the argument that there is no need to put the provision on the face of the Bill. After all, the efficient management of financial resources appears as a specific duty in the Bill. If that is so, then we should not be talked out of including spiritual, moral and cultural values. It is not a question of either the noble Lord, Lord Elton, or myself becoming prematurely senescent. It is simply that if we believe something is tremendously important, especially within this Chamber, I do not believe that we should persuade ourselves that it is inappropriate to include it in an Act of Parliament.

I know all the clever arguments about why not do this or that. However, occasionally we should say that a particular matter is important to us and we would like to see it on the face of the Bill. We believe that the Government might indulge us to some extent. I like the words suggested, but if the Government prefer to produce their own I am willing to wait to the Report stage to hear them. This is an area where Members of the Committee have a moral duty to intervene and say that we would like this provision as one of the duties of the inspectorate.

Baroness Seear

I have great difficulty over these amendments. Nobody is going to disagree with the idea that in theory one should support them. The problem is this: how on earth are the inspectors going to make a proper assessment? How can one avoid individual bias being introduced to an evaluation of these qualities in the schools? It is not like financial matters or a subject which is being examined. I sat here trying to imagine what I would look at if I were trying to carry out an inspection myself. How can one find out about these matters? How can one be sure that, with one's own set of values—which one cannot pretend not to have—one would not be picking out certain things which are particularly relevant to oneself? It is the objectivity of dealing with these matters which bothers me and not that we should not be trying to make such an inspection. Would it be a really objective inspection? It is not of the same order as inspecting the other aspects of the curriculum. I may be wrong, but I find this matter very difficult.

Lord Peston

Perhaps I may rise a second time and speak again. For once I disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. I do not visit schools as often as I used to. It does not take very much to discover that a school has no objectives other than getting some children through examinations without thinking too much about them. There is no ethos, culture or philosophy present at all. I honestly do not believe that this is a very difficult problem. I should have thought that assessing financial management was a good deal harder. I have been in schools which seem to be cultural and, more importantly, philosophical deserts, yet they achieve quite good examination results. I do not believe the problem is as difficult as the noble Baroness says.

That is why I originally liked the word "ethos". It does not take very much to establish the ethos of a school. I do not believe that the average inspector would find it that hard to say that a school is all right; it has the right ethos. On the other hand, it would not be difficult for him to ascertain that a particular school seems to be doing other things and it simply does not feel right. That is the point at issue here. I am not worried about prejudice and I speak as someone whose views on a number of these matters are different from those which I have heard from other Members of the Committee. I am not worried. I believe that one can tell what is going on in a school. Perhaps we can debate this subject on another occasion.

9.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

I am in the happy position of treasuring the moments spent in listening to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, waxing lyrical about spiritual and moral dimensions to education. I have some interesting memories of the discussions about the 1988 Act. I should like to deal with the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and his desire to add what he deems are new purposes to the work of the inspectorate and registered inspectors reporting on spiritual, moral and cultural values.

Despite what my noble friend Lord Pearson has said, I am advised that it is not necessary to introduce a specific requirement to report on schools' values in this way. These are already covered under the duty of the inspectors to report on educational quality. Educational quality is a broad concept which completely embraces the 1988 Act's requirements for the curriculum, which these amendments reflect—that it should be balanced and broadly based, promoting spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development in preparing pupils for adult life.

I am sure noble Lords who have read HMI reports will be aware that these aspects of the school's life—to use a shorthand term, the "ethos" of the school—are now fully dealt with in HMI reports, which lay considerable importance on the way in which schools work as communities and the values they demonstrate. I am confident a new chief inspector will build such requirements into his guidance to all registered inspectors. I have to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I believe that one can comment in a very objective way about the ethos of a school in this way.

I have been impressed with the points made by all noble Lords from all sides of the Committee. Indeed, all noble Lords will know from what I said at Second Reading and what I am about to say now that I am sympathetic to the objectives behind these amendments. I should like to think more about the matter and about these amendments before Report stage and possibly to consider bringing back amendments in a similar vein.

I should like to make two points in doing that. We might be better advised to stick to the 1988 Act formulation and ask inspectors to report on the spiritual, moral and cultural development of pupils. They will in doing so report on the values of the school; but I think the 1988 Act formulation sits more happily with the notion of inspectors basing their reports on evidence drawn from observation of pupils' progress, rather than what they are told about the school's value system.

I should also like to consider whether we should extend this section to include the social development of pupils—also reflected in Section 1 of the Education Reform Act. That might be the way of tackling some of the worries of my noble friend Lord Elton to ensure that behavioural and other aspects of the school are fully covered in reports. I would be happy to discuss that thought with him if he would find it helpful. I hope in the light of that assurance the amendments to Clauses 2 and 9 will not be pressed this evening.

I turn now to the noble Lord's desire to see that information is published covering the values adopted by schools. I imagine that the noble Lord would intend the information which would be required under Amendment No. 187 to be published in a school's prospectus, as information specific to a particular school. No extra power to require this information is necessary—the Secretary of State can already make regulations under the 1980 Act covering the content of prospectuses.

Schools are already required to publish a statement of their curriculum aims, and to summarise that in their prospectus—in most cases that already sets out the school's values very clearly. I have to say to noble Lords, with a note of scepticism, that putting that in aims and objectives is one thing, but actually being objectively measured against those aims and objectives is very much another matter. That is one of the thrusts behind these amendments. But we are certainly prepared to consider extending that duty to cover values more explicitly, along the lines of the noble Lord's earlier amendment. The mechanism for doing that would be by regulations. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord will not press his amendment at this stage.

I have more difficulty with Amendment No. 192 which relates to the information which may be required to be collected and published under Clause 16. Clause 16 is intended to allow for the publication of comparative summary tables. I cannot at present imagine how the complex nature of each school's values can be summarised in a way suitable for inclusion in such tables. That was a point touched on by my noble friend Lord Beloff. I am sure that the right place for this information, as for the other contextual information about the school, will remain the prospectus. Therefore I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, will think again about that amendment.

In response to a point made by the right reverend Prelate about combined inspections, it is worth again recording that the Bill was amended in another place to allow more readily for the kind of combined inspections which the right reverend Prelate favours. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, was anxious about the 1988 Act and the requirements of that Act for schools to provide for the spiritual, moral and cultural development of pupils. Before schools were required to state aims and objectives, there was a difficulty. Now, once those aims and objectives have been stated one can go in in the first instance to see whether a school measures up to their own aims and objectives. But more than that, the 1988 Act is quite specific about the moral, cultural and spiritual development of pupils. It is possible for an HMI, through the registered inspectors, to make an objective comment in that way. My anxiety still remains for providing that kind of comment in league tables, comparing one school with another on a yardstick. That might be more difficult. On the basis that between now and Report stage I am certainly prepared to be industrious on these matters, I hope that the amendments will not be pressed.

Lord Northbourne

I am much encouraged by what the noble Baroness has said, particularly by her acknowledgment of the fact that, although, arguably, counsel may have given the opinion that the provision is not necessary, nonetheless it might still be better to write it down. That is what I hope we shall be able to do at the next stage of the Bill.

The noble Baroness made one point to which I should like to refer. I acknowledge that current HMI reports normally treat these issues, but we are now into a new ball game both in terms of schools opting out and of the restructuring of HMI. There again is the reason why I should like to see the provision on the face of the Bill. With those remarks, and reserving the right to bring the matter back if necessary, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Dormand of Easington moved Amendment No. 24: Page 2, line 2, at end insert ("and the staff employed to work in those schools").

The noble Lord said: This amendment will improve the balance of Her Majesty's chief inspectors' functions. At present, Clause 2 refers only to the quality of education, educational standards and the efficient management of financial resources. I say "only" but I do not say that those matters are not of great importance. The words "employed to work" will cover both teaching and non-teaching staff.

When a similar amendment was moved in another place the Minister, Mr. Eggar, said that there was no intention to encourage HMCI not to comment on these matters, though he described those matters as "important". That was his word. He justified that view by saying that it was impossible to list all the matters that HMCI might wish to cover. Of course it is impossible to cover every aspect, but this amendment stresses that financial and human resources must be managed efficiently and that it is most important—fundamentally important—that it should be in the Bill.

We are questioning whether, without an explicit duty, the office of HMCI will have the appropriate expertise to inspect the quality of school management. Why should financial resources be singled out when this other aspect is equally important? The management of financial resources is obviously very important, but this amendment focuses on human resources—teaching and non-teaching staff—being efficiently managed.

Staff management is such a well established practice these days that it is astonishing that the Government do not give it its proper place in such an important measure as the Bill. Concern about the quality and efficiency of management in schools has been expressed for some time. The latest report of Her Majesty's senior chief inspector for England for 1990–91 has commented strongly on it. It should be remembered that HMI's main strength lies in classroom observation of teaching and learning. It is highly likely that the new duty of HMCI to ensure the efficient use of financial resources will require additional staff with new expertise.

We believe, similarly, that significant expertise in other management areas should also be brought into the office of HMCI. The first report of the School Teachers' Review Body has also drawn attention to the importance of management's role in obtaining maximum benefit from the performance of all school staffs. Therefore, everyone seems to be in step on the matter except the Government. It is difficult to see how the Bill's aim, among other aims, about the efficient management of financial resources can be detached from the efficient management of human resources. That being so, it is surely sensible—and, indeed, necessary—to spell it out. That is the purpose of the amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Young

I am sure that we all listened very closely to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington. However, on reading Clause 2, is it not clear that there are other qualities about which the chief inspector will have a general duty to keep the Secretary of State informed; namely, the quality of the education … educational standards … and financial resources"? If he is looking at all those matters, the chief inspector will inevitably be looking at the staff in schools. I am sure that the noble Lord will be the first to acknowledge that the quality of education provided in a school will be largely measured by the staff, both teaching and non-teaching. That is what keeps it going. The same would apply to the educational standards.

As regards the financial resources, I should have thought that the major expenditure of any school would be on the staff. That must be right. Therefore, although it is not explicit on the face of the Bill, it must surely be implicit in these three paragraphs in Clause 2(1). Although I take the point that has been made, I think that the amendment is probably unnecessary. However, I shall listen to what my noble friend the Minister has to say on the matter.

Lord Elton

In replying to my noble friend, I hope that my noble friend the Minister will bear in mind that the management of staff does, as my noble friend suggested, have a close bearing on the quality of the education delivered. It is not only a question of seeing that the right staff are in the right room for the right length of time, and that the right length of time is taken for preparation, and so on; it is also the question of the much more delicate, difficult and important aspect of management involved in building a staff which feels that it has a stake in the management of the school and in the policies and standards which the school is evolving and enforcing. Very different results can be obtained from the same staff under different leadership, according to whether the leadership is entirely dictatorial or laissez-faire, or whether it involves getting the staff as a whole to develop a policy and indeed to support each other in enforcing that policy.

I only interject that point because I hope that my noble friend is taking advice and will carry a message back to the department that that is an aspect of school management which is now seen to be of very great importance though it has not, I believe, traditionally been seen as being so important in the past.

Baroness Blatch

The amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, which was supported, and spoken to, by the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, would require the chief inspectors to report on how well staff are managed. The Bill requires them to keep the Secretary of State informed about the quality, standards and efficiency of school education. Many factors will affect those aspects of education—for example, the way in which staff are managed, the availability of resources, the quality of the teaching staff and the state of the buildings. We really cannot spell out each of those aspects on the face of the Bill.

It is absolutely inconceivable that one could make judgments about the quality of education without including the aspects mentioned in the amendment. I must assure the noble Baroness that HMI will be able to report on any and every factor which contributes to the performance that it observes, including the nature and quality, as well as the efficiency, of staff management.

Certainly, we would expect the chief inspector, as HMI now does, to keep under close scrutiny how the staff, both teaching and non-teaching, are being used. That point was well made by my noble friend Lady Young. The quality of teachers and how they are managed within a school, and the leadership provided by the head, have been shown consistently to be crucial factors in determining the success of schools. I think that we can rely on the chief inspector to keep my right honourable friend well informed on all those matters.

Of course we hold teachers in high esteem. We are not implying otherwise by not accepting the amendment. Our reforms have demonstrated our concern to raise standards in various ways. We have given schools clear goals to work towards in the national curriculum and greater independence to manage, to which teachers have responded well. It is only this Government who have been prepared to make teachers' pay and conditions the subject of independent review and we have shown in this latest award that we are prepared to stand by what that review says. It has taken time to repair the damage which irresponsible leadership inflicted on teachers' standing with the public, but there is now greater acceptance than ever before of the need to raise the standards of our children's education and of the vital role teachers play in that.

I assure my noble friend Lord Elton that I shall continue to give thought to the point that he has raised. But, in the meantime, I believe that that is such a statement of the obvious that it would be impossible for the chief inspector or the inspectorate to carry out their duties without being concerned not only about the efficiency and effectiveness of teachers but about how they are managed within the schools. I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.

9.30 p.m.

Baroness Seear

I take the point that the Minister has made, but the fact remains that the amendment is an attempt to emphasise the need to look at staff other than teaching staff and, as the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, said, to consider staff management and the organisation of staff.

I do not think that many people would disagree that in the past many, many schools have been rendered much less efficient than they need be because of the inadequacy of their administrative arrangements, administrative back-up and all the other things that are associated with the efficient running of an organisation. We all know that teachers can be expensive filing clerks and that they have totally inadequate support for the kind of work that goes on in any large organisation. We desire people employed in all grades and dealing with all aspects of school work to work together to make the school efficient as a whole. We do not seek to concentrate solely on the academic side. That is the point behind the amendment. From what the Minister said, I think that she is probably in agreement with that, but in the past this has often not been the case, despite the inspections. Emphasis has been placed only on the academic side, not on all the support services or administrative and managerial arrangements that make for an efficient school.

Baroness Blatch

Although I appreciate the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, does she not agree that the system that we are putting in place goes about as far down the road as we possibly can towards having whole-school inspections that incorporate all the aspects of school life to which she referred? If we started to single out one aspect of that requirement for the inspection, we would end up with a detailed, prescriptive provision on the face of the Bill to cover all aspects of an inspection. The points that the noble Baroness has made are not lost. They are provided for in the Bill. The difference between us is whether to single out one aspect of school management on the face of the Bill.

Baroness Seear

This is not an amendment that I wish vigorously to pursue, but this is an opportunity to refer to the overall administration and management of schools, which have often been seriously defective.

Lord Dormand of Easington

Both the Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, referred to the difficulty of making these provisions explicit on the face of the Bill. I realise that that argument is used frequently by the Government, and I perfectly understand it. However, those of us who support the amendment are saying that these days management is sufficiently important to be on the face of the Bill. That is the point that we are trying to make.

I draw a strong distinction between professionalism in teaching and professionalism in what we now choose to call "management". Those of us who know something about schools know of teachers who are simply brilliant in the classroom but who are perhaps not quite so brilliant outside it, with a certain lack of organisational ability. That is something that we should consider. I do not have the slightest doubt that management is one of a range of factors that has to be taken into consideration—I am pleased to see the Minister agreeing with that. That is especially the case nowadays when we have schools that some people may consider to be too large. I am thinking of comprehensive schools that have perhaps 1,000 or 2,000 pupils. Management is an essential ingredient if such institutions are to achieve their maximum educational effect.

On a number of occasions in wide-ranging debates when I have asked the Government to provide additional resources, arguing that this is the only way to improve whatever the issue was, I have been reminded from that Front Bench, "This is not the only ingredient. The other thing is good management". That is one of the reasons why I am enthusiastic about this amendment. We ought to be considering it in that light. I hope that I have at least sown a seed—the noble Baroness has nodded several times —so that something might come out of it at a later stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 25: Page 2, line 3, after ("efficiently") insert ("and effectively").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 25 I am speaking also to Amendments Nos. 28, 54 and 56. Definitions of economy, efficiency and effectiveness are given in the statutory code of audit practice for local authorities which is prepared by the Audit Commission in accordance with Section 14 of the Local Government Finance Act 1982. At the risk of being a bit didactic, perhaps I may say what they are.

"Economy" may be defined as the terms under which the authority acquires human and material resources and for economical operation acquires those resources in the appropriate quality and quantity at the lowest costs. "Efficiency" may be defined as the relationship between goods or services produced and resources used to produce them. An efficient operation produces the maximum output for any given set of resource inputs or it has minimum inputs for any given quantity and quality of service provided. "Effectiveness" may be defined as how well a programme or activity is achieving its established goals or other intended effects.

It is a matter of particular concern that the Bill makes no reference to effectiveness and only to efficiency. Amendments Nos. 25 and 54 are designed specifically to rectify this. While it is important to use financial resources efficiently—and we on this side of the Committee endorse such a goal—it is even more important that they should be used effectively. So, for example, if quite inappropriate methods are being used to teach children of a particular age group—methods which are either suitable for a much younger age group or perhaps for a much older age group— pupils will not learn effectively. It should surely be a general duty of the chief inspectors to look at effectiveness as well as efficiency.

Amendments Nos. 28 and 56 relate to the specific duties of the chief inspectors. A central part of their responsibilities ought to be to promote economy, efficiency and effectiveness in schools. The schools should be both helped and advised to secure value for money and to be efficient in matters such as the use of equipment and of accommodation and in the deployment of staff. But again it is also important that they operate effectively in all these respects.

I hope that in reply the Minister will not say that these amendments are not necessary. They are necessary. Without them too much of Her Majesty's Inspectorate's work will be taken up with keeping registers of inspectors, monitoring privatised inspection systems, reviewing them, making sure the inspections lead to adequate reports and, worst of all, encouraging competition, and not nearly enough time will be spent by the chief inspectors and their staffs monitoring standards in the schools themselves. I beg to move.

Baroness Perry of Southwark

I find this amendment a little puzzling. It is certainly refreshing to find someone emphasising the importance of effectiveness as well as efficiency, but I cannot imagine how the chief inspector and Her Majesty's inspectors could report on the educational standards that are achieved and the quality of educational provision without indicating how effectively the resources are being used. It would be strange if an HMI report were to emerge which said that the financial resources were managed efficiently, the educational standards achieved were high, the quality of education provided was excellent, but we were unable to draw the conclusion from that that effective use was being made of the resources.

If the Bill were to require the HMCI to speak about efficiency only, of course the amendment would be necessary. If the Bill were merely requiring HMCI to report on educational standards and outcomes, the amendment would be necessary; but as all three elements are in place, I am puzzled to know why there is a need for an additional definition of "effectiveness". Surely "effectiveness" is covered by the first two requirements.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Perry for speaking from her tremendous experience of these matters and for replying succinctly to the amendment. As my noble friend pointed out, it would hardly be possible to report on educational quality and standards without also illustrating the effectiveness with which resources are used in the general sense of showing what effect they are having on the educational progress of the pupils within the school. I must therefore resist the amendment as it makes no useful addition to the Bill's general wording.

Amendments Nos. 28 and 56 reflect the aim of the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, to promote economy, efficiency and effectiveness in schools. The amendments apply only to England. I am sure that was an oversight on her part. The noble Baroness shakes her head, and I have to assume from that that she did not intend the amendment to apply to Wales.

Baroness Blackstone

I moved Amendment No. 25 and spoke to Amendments Nos. 28, 54 and 56. I believe that the Minister will find that Amendment No. 56 applies to Wales.

Baroness Blatch

I am referring to Amendments Nos. 28 and 56. The Government have of course been in the forefront of the drive towards greater economy—I understand from an aside that there is a misprint in the Marshalled List—efficiency and effectiveness in all sectors. The amendments are inappropriate. They would give the chief inspector a duty to promote economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the education provided by schools—in effect, a policy-making role. Such a role should be for my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State, not for the chief inspectors.

The distinction is an important one. The chief inspectors are there to observe what the system is doing, on the basis of much more detailed evidence than has been available before; to draw conclusions as to how schools are performing; the reasons for that performance; and to report to government. Of course in reporting to my right honourable friends, the chief inspectors would look to see how the schools met the objectives of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. They will be free to suggest to my right honourable friends how greater economy, efficiency and effectiveness could be achieved, and to offer those views to a wider public. Deciding on the policies needed to promote those matters is properly the province of the Secretary of State. Again, I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.

Baroness Blackstone

I am grateful to the Minister for her reply. It is a little odd to pick out the need for efficiency but not effectiveness. That is why we felt that there was a need for amendments. The noble Baroness, Lady Perry, seemed to be saying that we do not need Clause 2(1) (c) because the matter is all wrapped up in Clause 2(1) (b) in relation to the educational standards achieved in schools. I listened carefully to what the Minister said. I should like to think about it, and perhaps come back on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 26 not moved.]

Lord Dormand of Easington moved Amendment No. 27:

Page 2, line 3, at end insert: ("(d) the overall level of funding of the maintained system of education, the morale of teachers and the effects of the introduction of new legislation;").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 27 I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 55A. I move Amendment No. 27 because the functions, as identified for HMCI, are too narrow and are in part designed to serve the political interests of the Government. Clause 2 gives the general duties of HMCI. Collectively, they reduce the remit of HMCI to that of a body that could only report on what goes on in schools and how schools individually conduct themselves, but not on the overall health of the maintained system of education. It is essential surely that HMCI has an overall brief. This amendment seeks to give HMCI that remit.

Three areas are defined in this amendment: the funding of the education system; the morale of teachers and the effects of new legislation. Those three areas have been subject to major public and professional concern during recent years. If HMCI is to be able to obtain a balanced view of the whole education system, those areas must be included in a chief inspector's remit.

Ministers may argue that Clause 2(1) (a) and Clause 2(2) cover the three specific areas in the amendment. However, comparison of the chief inspector's 1991 report entitled Standards in Education 1989–90 with his successor's 1992 report entitled Education in England 1990–91 shows that the present discursive approach restricts the scope for year-on-year comparison.

The 1991 report, for example, said much more about morale whereas the 1992 report said more about the effects of legislation. That position is simply inadequate and should be corrected. The three matters referred to in the amendment are fundamentally important, having regard to the form and structure of education in this country. They have all given rise to widespread debate and, in the opinion of some people, to considerable dissatisfaction.

I find the Government's repeated assertion that teachers' morale is high to be so far removed from reality that I wonder who they talk to. The amendment refers to new legislation. The biggest single concern among teachers—I believe this is also the biggest concern among many parents —is the number of directives and policies which shower down on schools. However, the Government seem blissfully unaware of that. Even the most dedicated teachers do not seem to know the direction in which they have to go. I suggest to the Committee that this matter is the biggest single cause of teacher resignation at the present time. There is a great need for an extension of the remit and this amendment seeks to achieve that. I beg to move.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

I wish to associate Members on these Benches with the proposed amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Dormand, has covered everything that I wish to say. The amendment refers to the funding of the maintained system of education; to the morale of teachers and to the effects of new legislation. Those three areas sum up the malaise of our education service over the past few years.

At one time teachers were subjected to sustained attack. I know that they themselves did not behave well in certain pockets of unfortunate areas. Nevertheless the great majority of teachers have worked conscientiously for the benefit of their pupils and they have been crushed by the bad opinion of the public. That bad opinion has largely been caused by the press and, to some degree in the early stages, by the Government. Those attacks are still continuing. Not long ago an article in a Sunday newspaper attacked poor achievements in the three R's at the primary stage of education. Those poor achievements were attributed to the teachers. A research project recently carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research has disproved that theory. It attributes the slight decline in the three R's at a certain age—I believe that it has been noticed since 1987—to the effects of children being raised in one-parent families and to the effects of unemployment. It does not mention teaching methods, good or bad.

The amendment sums up the three elements in our education service with which we should be most concerned. It would be no bad thing if the new inspectorate were empowered to discuss such matters and was not confined in its remit.

Baroness Blatch

I am surprised by the interpretation of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, of the NFER report as indicating that the decline in reading standards since 1987 was due to one-parent families and unemployment. That certainly was not my reading of the NFER report. The report said that there was no one single reason and there were many contributory factors. It was quite wrong for the noble Lord to say that. It would be an insult to young children to say that because they come from one-parent families therefore their chance of achieving a good reading standard is somehow diminished. The competence of teachers, the way children are taught in school, the whole ethos of a school and the atmosphere as regards learning which is created in a school must be constituent elements affecting the ability of young people to learn, whatever their background. We must get away from the tendency to slot young people into compartments and blame all ills and lack of learning on their background.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

Perhaps I may correct the noble Baroness. I said that the report did not blame any particular method of teaching. There may be many other reasons for the decline but it was not the result of any new methods of teaching reading.

Baroness Blatch

I commented on what I heard the noble Lord say. He said that the NFER report was of the view that the reasons for poor reading standards were one-parent families and unemployment. I read the report and I read it very differently.

I should like to put on record the fact that from this Dispatch Box I have never joined in the attack on teachers. I can claim to be guilty of having joined in the attack on what I believe was poor leadership of teachers which prevailed for a long time. Teachers were ill-served by that leadership. I agree with the noble Lord that the majority of teachers are very hard-working and highly professional and we should be proud of the work they do in our schools.

The noble Lords wish the chief inspectors to report on schools' level of funding, teacher morale and the effects of new legislation. Those are important matters. They do, indeed, affect the quality, standards and efficiency of our education service. It will be essential that the Secretary of State is kept informed about them, but they are not the only matters of such importance and it would be inappropriate to add them to the Bill in this way.

We have not added to the Bill the competence of teachers and other staff because, as I argued in relation to Amendment No. 24, once we single out any one factor which is to be inspected by the inspectorate then we exclude others. It seems to me that we either go down the road of very detailed prescription or we leave it to the professionalism of the inspectorate to inspect a whole school and to take all those aspects into account.

As we have made clear in earlier debates, Clause 2 offers a general statement about HMCI's national duties. While I can appreciate that noble Lords wish to add to the general duties their own particular interests and concerns, they must recognise that the Bill cannot and should not attempt to determine a detailed job description or action plan. That would not be the right way to preserve HMI's independence and to recognise HMI's professionalism. The chief inspector will he free to look at and to report on any factors affecting quality, standards and efficiency, including those mentioned in the amendments. That is as it should be. I must resist the amendment accordingly.

Lord Dormand of Easington

From the first part of the Minister's speech I thought that she supported the amendment. Indeed, she did; it was only in the latter part of her speech that we heard the Government's apparently final view on the matter. The noble Baroness said that we could discuss individual aspects of the education structure. Perhaps I may remind her that only a short while ago we had a long debate on the spiritual, moral and cultural values of schools. That is an important aspect; I would not disagree with her. The amendment proposes that the three matters mentioned are of great importance. Without them we are talking about a two-legged stool.

I do not see how HMIs and the Secretary of State can produce the high standard or what most would consider the necessary standard of education without these matters being reported upon. It is an extremely disappointing reply. Had it not been for the late hour, the amendment might have been pressed to a Division. But in the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 28 to 31 not moved.]

Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 32: Page 2, line 13, at end insert ("appointing the inspector from the register who will inspect any individual school").

The noble Lord said: I shall speak briefly to this amendment. The disquiet felt by the education world, much of the public and many parents about the proposed plan by the Government can be summed up briefly. But first let me say that this amendment might be acceptable to the Government because it retains the idea of private inspectorates with a commercial basis, which is the main thrust of the Bill.

The fears and anxieties about the scheme are, first, the threat of amateurishness and the consequent lack of authority on the part of the inspector teams. Secondly, there is the inappropriateness of having a commercial basis for school inspections. There is the fear that schools will choose the cheap option and teams will tailor their reports to suit the schools, so getting the business another day. Educationists are also concerned about the lack of nationwide consistency that existed under HMI. Indeed, its inspections have been far less frequent than one could have wished, but it produced annual surveys—which have recently been published, thanks to the work of the present Government—giving a nationwide view of the state of education. I do not see how that will happen so effectively with the new scheme.

There is likely to be a lack of continuity. As I understand the matter, the governing body of a school may choose a different inspector team every time the school is inspected, in which case there will be a new set of inspectors arriving every time. They will not be able to pick up the earlier threads but will have an entirely new approach and will say different things. It seems to me that a school will find that most confusing.

There may be a lack of continuing support, advice and development. For instance, in my county of East Sussex schools are very dependent on continuing contact with the local authority, which has paid repeated visits and given advice and continuing support. I do not see how that can take place under the new scheme.

There is also the danger of educational bias. One inspector team may be more interested in one aspect of education—shall we say, the arts—and another team may be more interested in another aspect, perhaps the sciences. There may even be racial or political bias of one kind or another, which could be very dangerous in inner city areas, for example. I do not know how the inspector teams will look into particular aspects of school work as HMI has done over the years. For example, it made a survey of teaching mathematics to primary school children. How will such things be achieved?

It seems to me that all those aspects of school inspection are covered or are on the way to being covered by the present system. As I have said several times this evening, all that needs to be done is to build on the present system rather than destroying it and setting up an entirely new scheme which will take at least five years to begin to become effective.

Control by HMCI as suggested in this amendment would at least help to reduce the risk of damage by removing the direct link between schools and inspector teams. We fear most the cosiness and collusion that may build up. The suggested scheme whereby schools are inspected via the authority of HMCI removes the inspector teams to arm's length from the schools. I believe that that is most important. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

The amendment is the first of a series of amendments that address the problem which many on all sides of the Chamber have recognised. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, used the term "cosiness". There is a widely felt anxiety that if the governors of a school are simply free to appoint their own registered inspector from the list of registered inspectors, sometimes a cosiness will develop and the breath of fresh air which the system is intended to offer in producing an unbiased report on the school may not develop. Many of us agree with the point at which the noble Lord begins.

I draw attention to this circumstance. There is a series of amendments which address the same issue. Amendment No. 32 solves the problem by providing that the chief inspector simply appoints the registered inspector who will then conduct the inspection in the school. Amendment No. 38 adopts broadly a similar response. No doubt later we shall discuss my amendment, Amendment No. 40, and those grouped with it. It adopts a different approach. It allows the governors to get on with the appointment but provides a monitoring role for the chief inspector who can send in an assessor and, where necessary, veto the matter. Amendment No. 116—it will be moved on another day by the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington—produces a different scheme in which the chief inspector would nominate the short list and leave the school governors to choose whichever they consider appropriate from the short list.

No doubt we shall have a long discussion about the amendments in sequence since they are not grouped together. I hope that it is not inappropriate for me to point out now that, although we speak to the amendments separately and no doubt will vote on them separately, one precludes the other. If we adopted Amendment No. 32 it might not be appropriate to adopt Amendments Nos. 38, 40 or 116. It is perhaps relevant to mention that.

Amendment No. 32 has a technical defect. It leaves Schedule 2 floating. It amends the Bill in one place but leaves the provisions for tendering and so on unmodified in Schedule 2. In order to work, Amendment No. 32 would need to be followed by appropriate amendments to Schedule 2 which have not been laid down. It is a technical point which no doubt can be remedied.

The more general consideration is the best way to proceed. If one goes to the trouble of providing a system of registered inspectors with the hope that there will be some independent insights into the school inspection process so that one has a range of variety, there is the serious risk that, if the chief inspector first registers the registered inspectors (he has his hand on the matter there) and proceeds to appoint the registered inspector who shall inspect the school, the matter is so much under the control of the chief inspector that the elements of variety and fresh insights which the system might have the capacity to offer will be denied. In a more general sense that is why the amendment may not provide the ideal solution, although many of us agree that the noble Lord has put his finger on a central problem.

Lord Peston

My name appears on this and at least one other subsequent amendment referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew. I agree that there are several ways of trying to solve a problem which we believe gives rise to a fatal flaw in the Bill. The fatal flaw is that the schools should be able to choose their inspectors. That proposal is ridiculous and it has appeared to us to be ridiculous from the first time that we saw it in the Bill. It remains ridiculous.

Perhaps I may take as an example—not one which I wish to go into in detail—the opted-out school in East London and the troubles that it is currently having. The suggestion that that school should choose its own inspectors seems to be so far-fetched as clearly to indicate why the Bill is fatally flawed. This Bill will enable that school to appoint its own inspectors and that is exactly what it does not need.

Having said that the Bill is flawed, our problem is how to get into it to improve it. I believe that the amendment represents at least one way. I do not wish to press it at this time, nor shall I press Amendment No. 38, because I wish to hear the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, in respect of his amendment. There will be other days on which we can consider these matters, depending on what we hear from the noble Lord and from the Government.

The amendment appears to me to provide a way worth considering. After all, inspectors do inspect at present and therefore it is not entirely out of the question that Her Majesty's Chief Inspector can select inspectors and say, "These are the ones who will do the inspections". It is not an impossible state of affairs, although I understand the criticism made by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew. The reason for tabling the amendment at this stage is that I should like to hear the Government's argument about why they do not believe that it is the right way into the Bill. In other words, I am trying to persuade the Government to put forward an argument as to why schools should choose their own inspectors.

That is the provision that I do not understand and have not understood it from the beginning. It makes no sense and it is completely incompatible with the notion of independent inspection. "Independent inspection" means that someone else inspects a school. I was enormously impressed by the noble Baroness's winding-up speech on Second Reading, in which she endeavoured to justify choosing one's own inspectors. However, the argument simply does not wash. If I want to know whether a school has been properly inspected I want someone else to choose the inspectors. The one body which I do not wish to choose them is the school. That is the most obvious and logical point and with that I support the amendment.

Baroness Blatch

My noble friend Lord Renfrew has spotted the fact that on its own the amendment is wholly defective and will require a number of consequential amendments to make sense of what the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, wishes to achieve. It is a variant on those which we shall be discussing later. To some extent we are speaking in a vacuum because we do not have before us for consideration the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Renfrew.

The noble Lords, Lord Ritchie and Lord Peston, are pressing what I believe are in effect wrecking amendments. They are seeking to substitute a centralised regime for that which we are establishing under the Bill. They would require HMCI to appoint a registered inspector for every individual inspection —more than 6,000 every year. It would appear that the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, would prefer an Audit Commission system with contracts placed centrally. However, the Audit Commission does not deal with anything like 6,000 contracts a year—a few hundred are dealt with at the most. If school inspection on the scale now planned were to be managed centrally we should be setting up an enormous bureaucracy. It would be an office filled not by HMIs but by administrators.

Of course we could have a random allocation of inspectors to schools in order to save money but that would be wasteful. Why go to such lengths to set up a negotiated but centralised system with registered inspectors acting in effect as HMIs' agents when the same results can be had from the model set out in our Bill? The answer is as we heard on Second Reading; it hinges on the need to avoid collusion and soft reporting. I agree with all that has been said about that and I identify with the anxieties expressed. However, I believe that there are more constructive ways of addressing that particular point.

On Second Reading we heard a rather more positive suggestion for dealing with that anxiety from my noble friend Lord Renfrew, who has now tabled amendments which will allow a chief inspector to guide and monitor the process by which governors choose inspectors. That may require more inspectors. We would much rather have that than an army of bureaucrats. That would offer professional help to governors as well as keeping an eye on how they use their discretion. It keeps governors at the centre of the process. I hope that Members of the Committee will support my noble friend's amendment in due course.

The issues which divide us on these amendments are fundamental. They relate to the new role of governors and our confidence on this side of the Committee that the right place for key decisions to be taken is in the individual schools. Members of the Committee opposite pay lip service to that proposition. They want the LEA (or if not the LEA, the HMI) to make decisions about inspections. I note what the noble Lord, Lord Peston, said about one school governing body which is having difficulties at present. That difficulty must be addressed, but it is no reason for saying that we cannot trust governing bodies to be involved centrally in the process of determining who shall inspect their schools as long as the chief inspector properly determines a registration system, qualifications for registration and, indeed, a register and puts into the public domain criteria by which schools are inspected.

There is no doubt in my mind that the right people to commission an inspection report on a school or, for example, to commission a management consultant's report on a business, are those responsible for acting on the report. I entirely accept that the public nature of the inspection process adds a tension which requires additional safeguards. A number are already built into the Bill: HMI's registration and monitoring, governor accountability and greater openness. When we consider the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Renfrew, we may add further safeguards to allow the chief inspector to oversee the selection of inspectors. However, the need for safeguards does not detract from the central argument that if inspection is to be a positive force and is to feed into the cycle of planning for progress, it is best arranged at school level. Only in that way shall we gain the maximum benefit from the greatly increased inspection activity which we propose to secure the highest standards which we all agree are so necessary.

As regards the point which the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, made about the LEAs and what will be their future role the local education authorities will retain £65 million—about half of their current spending—to spend on inspectors and advisers who will offer their schools advice. They also employ an additional 3,000 advisory teachers. All those aspects can continue under the Bill. Indeed, published inspection reports will give schools a greater incentive to seek and follow good advice and will enable local authorities to properly target their efforts on the basis of the information obtained from the inspection reports. They will be able to make much more effective use of their local advisory service. I hope that the noble Lord will not press the amendment.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

I have taken on board what the Minister said. I moved this amendment because I thought it was interesting and might be one way of solving the problem with which we are all faced. As I say, I have taken on board the Minister's objections to the amendment. I shall read what she said and think about it.

I believe that something on these lines must be the answer to the problem which is worrying us all. We are all waiting to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, says in moving his amendments. In the circumstances, I shall not press the amendment, and I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 33: Page 2, line 14, at beginning insert ("establishing the standard criteria for judging work in the school and").

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 relate to different questions in England, and Amendments Nos. 59 and 61 relate to similar issues in Wales. I shall speak to them together.

The first amendment of each pair is brought forward by the desire to have an explanation from the Government as to how the inspectorate will carry out its overall function relating to the whole country. Hitherto we have had a slightly larger inspectorate dealing with England and Wales. This amendment provides for slightly smaller inspectorates dealing separately with the Kingdom and the Principality. They are nonetheless large areas in which there may be large variations of quality and even objectives of education.

We have now agreed that it is the function of the inspectorate to inform the Secretary of State what education may be like in each area—what its objectives and qualities are—and even to offer him advice thereon. But at the moment it is not clear to me how Her Majesty's Chief Inspector through his inspectorate will ensure that registered inspectors, who may well be peculiar to the West Country, the North East or Dyfed, accept certain basic norms everywhere. If we do not ensure that, there will be unacceptable variations. Variations upwards are acceptable but variations downwards are not. Therefore, the first amendment—which is a probing amendment—is to insert a provision on page 2 at line 14 so that the Chief Inspector for England shall in addition have the specific duty of establishing the standard criteria for judging work in the school". I believe that wording has its origin with the National Association of Head Teachers.

I do not press the amendment but I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to tell me, first, how the criteria are to be established countrywide. Secondly, if that answer is not particularly convincing or satisfactory I would ask the Government to consider whether in subsection (3) (b) the inspector should be empowered to give directions rather than guidance so that at least he has the power to establish uniformity of standards throughout the multiple-registered inspectorates up and down the country.

10.15 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

I speak to Amendments Nos. 35 and 61 in this group. There seem to be two important issues here. First, inspectors should know in writing what is expected of them when a school is inspected. Secondly, schools should also know what to expect. The Bill places a duty on Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors to give guidance to registered inspectors. As that guidance is likely to be crucial to the effect that an inspector has on a school, and also the basis on which inspectors are removed from the registers, there should be formal consultation on the advice.

It is unfortunate that Her Majesty's inspectors have not published their inspection procedures for HMI reports. This could lead to suspicions that some Inspections—and I can give the example of Culloden school in Tower Hamlets earlier this year—have been done for partisan political reasons and not in accordance with established criteria. Another example is that HMI frequently reports statistical information in its reports which is not gained from the schools themselves but from data previously reported to the Department of Education and Science. It is sometimes rather difficult to follow precisely how the inspectorate obtained the data.

These amendments would require a code of practice to be published by Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors after public consultation. The code of practice can then be seen as a protection to inspectors against political interference either from chief inspectors or from anyone else, and also as a protection to schools from perhaps over-zealous inspectors.

In Committee in another place the Minister of State argued against a statutory code so as to give maximum flexibility to Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors. Yet he acknowledged that there should be a "national system with national standards". It is rather surprising that something central to the whole business of inspection and of standards expected of registered inspectors— the code—should be left for the chief inspectors to devise and perhaps amend at will, apparently in the interests of flexibility.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

I appreciate the thinking behind my noble friend's amendments, and his concern that HMCI should have sufficient power to ensure that registered inspectors meet the necessary high standards of inspection and reporting, and use common criteria in assessing schools. Indeed our reforms would be worthless without such an assurance—we might as well stick with LEAs establishing their own criteria and reporting (or not) as they see fit.

I do not think my noble friend need be concerned that the Bill as drafted is deficient in that respect. It is true that subsection (3) (b) of Clause 2 refers to the giving of guidance to registered inspectors and others. But the provisions which give teeth to this guidance are to be found in Clauses 10 and 11—the power to set conditions of registration and to remove any inspector who breaches them.

I imagine that HMCI will want to set quite detailed criteria for the inspection process. Indeed, if the mass of evidence to be collected centrally is to be of value, common forms as well as standards of reporting will be essential. For the first time such criteria will be publicly known. It is not only LEAs who have failed to make their criteria as explicit as they should be, as the noble Baroness pointed out HMI still has some way to go in telling schools about the standards against which they are to be judged and the way in which that will be done. The Bill will require a new openness; that is its major strength.

I imagine that complying with the guidance and criteria will be one of the standard conditions of registration, so that HMCI will have the degree of control he or she needs to remove an inspector who fails to meet the necessary standards.

I appreciate that my reassurances in this respect must sound tentative because, in the absence of a chief inspector, we cannot say with certainty how he or she will choose to operate. But I hope that I have said enough to reassure my noble friend that criteria can be established and effectively imposed on registered inspectors through the Bill as drafted.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said that inspectors and schools should know the standards. However, she suggested a rather burdensome procedure which is not only interested in ensuring that the HMCIs have the power they need; but also tries to tell them how to do their job. I am sure that we all want HMCI's guidance, which may take a variety of forms, to be widely promulgated and open to informed discussion. I am sure that the chief inspector will want that also. Indeed it is difficult to see how the chief inspector could operate otherwise.

Where I must differ from the noble Baroness is in her desire to set the guidance out in a single "code" which is to be presented to Parliament. That is a cumbersome procedure. It implies that whenever the chief inspector wishes to amend in any detail the guidance offered, the "code" has to be rewritten and represented to Parliament. And, under the amendment, any such change would trigger the need to consult on the new document.

Parliament should have no role in approving the code—that would be quite inappropriate. And we do not accept the implication that the code is a proper matter for Parliament to comment on in any detail. I hope that my noble friend does not press the amendment.

Lord Elton

Either I have misunderstood my noble friend's reply or she has misunderstood my amendment. My anxiety was not about every inspector being of equal quality with every other inspector, which is what her reply was addressed to, as I understand it. My anxiety was addressed to the question of the same standards of excellence as regards mathematics, geography, hockey or whatever. The same yardsticks or comparators should be used around the country. That has nothing to do with the fitness of inspectors at all.

Perhaps I may elaborate that by drawing the attention of my noble friend to Clause 10, which is concerned with the kind of person who is registered, whether he is a fit and proper person, whether he will be capable of conducting inspections as required and, if conditions are imposed on him, whether he will be capable of conducting inspections subject to those conditions. As I read the Bill, the conditions relate to the capacity, characteristics and qualifications of the inspector. They are not conditions placed on how he will inspect or what standards he will use when he gets into a school. I am concerned that these doubtless equally excellent people inspecting in Yorkshire and Cornwall shall have the same view of what is a satisfactory standard of behaviour, level of learning and management in each of the schools they visit.

If one has a different registered inspector, or group of inspectors, competing within the North-East from those competing in the South-West—which is more than probable —I do not see any means of imposing some national standard of acceptability other than the following: either criteria should be published by the chief inspector, as suggested in the first of each of my pairs of amendments, or the chief inspector should have the power to direct, as suggested in the second of each of my pairs of amendments. Therefore, my noble friend has not satisfied me at all because she has not answered my anxieties.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

I am sorry that I have been unable to satisfy my noble friend with my initial reply. I said that an inspector will be registered as a result of complying with the guidance and criteria which the HMCI will set up. The control is in that stage.

Lord Elton

Will my noble friend forgive me? Where in the Bill are the guidance and criteria to which she is referring? If she is referring to Clause 11, then I do not believe those provisions do what she suggests they do. If they are somewhere else I have not noticed them and I apologise.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

The guidance is in Clause 2(3) (b). It is the registration of inspectors to meet that guidance which will provide the control of standards.

Lord Elton

I am sure that someone else will have something to say. The long pause is even longer than that of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, when looking for her first pair of amendments, which set a precedent earlier on. I am deeply grateful to her for that relief which she has given me. It is guidance, but it has nothing to do with Clause 10. I believe my noble friend to be saying—I shall be much more persuaded by it—that if an inspector either scandalously or frequently ignores guidance under Clause 2(3) (b), then when he comes to re-registration under Clause 10, his chances of being re-registered are minimal. He will remember that when he is considering ignoring the guidance that he has been given. If those are the teeth, they are somewhat soft, but at least they are teeth. I shall think very carefully about what my noble friend has said. I do not find it enormously compelling but it may be sufficient to persuade me at a later stage.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

I hope that my noble friend will see in due course that the teeth are quite solid.

Lord Elton

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 34 and 35 not moved.]

10.30 p.m.

Lord Skidelsky moved Amendment No. 35A: Page 2, line 15, leave out ("on matters of good practice").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 61 A. There are two thoughts behind this amendment which apply to any form which Clause 2(3) (b) finally takes. The first thought is that the phrase, on matters of good practice", is redundant. It is hardly necessary to enjoin the chief inspector to give good guidance or directions, whichever is preferred, pertaining to inspection. Provided the standards of inspection are clearly specified, that is all that is needed. "Good guidance" is a redundant phrase.

Secondly, I find the phrase "good practice" objectionable in itself. It is nearly always used in the sense of best practice. It easily degenerates into "best practice". In fact it was used by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, precisely in this sense. That suggests that there is a unique, privileged practice which is accessible to experts and no one else and which is based on scientific principles of one kind or another. I am afraid that as applied to education it is simply not true, though it is a common delusion that it is.

Those of us who took part in the great education debate will know only too well that much of what is called good practice is simply current educational fashion masquerading as scientific authority which is largely spurious. Indeed some of the so-called good practice of recent years has been directly responsible for the decline in reading standards in primary education, a fact which is now well documented.

The analogy which is often made between teachers and doctors is simply not right. Most of us would agree that there is good and bad practice in surgery, but we all know also that there are as many effective practices in teaching as there are teachers. I should be much happier if inspectors inspected inputs and outputs rather than being asked to pass judgments on the competence of teachers and the effectiveness of teaching methods. I know how easily that can become a dogma of good practice which becomes a strait-jacket and actually stops further development.

I am sure that the chief inspector will give excellent advice or indeed instruction on these matters, whichever he is called upon to do. But I urge the Minister not to give greater currency to a phrase which is philosophically suspect and has for many of us very unfortunate connotations. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

I am attracted to the points that have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, and also by what he said in favour of his amendment. It would remove from the face of the Bill the specific suggestion that the chief inspectors must give guidance on matters of good practice in relation to the carrying out of school inspections and the writing of inspection reports. I take his point about subjective judgments of what is or what is not good practice. What we want are objective reports about what is going on in schools and some judgment about the quality of performance of what is going on in our schools.

I hope the noble Lord will be pleased to hear that I am persuaded that the amendments would benefit the Bill. They are in keeping with the independent role we are giving the chief inspector under the Bill. They give further emphasis to the fact that it will be entirely the chief inspector's responsibility to decide on the nature of the guidance he gives. I thank the noble Lord for his thoughtfulness and I hope that the Committee will join me in accepting the amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 36 not moved.]

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 37:

Page 2, line 17, at end insert: ("(bb) providing the inspectors with a model specification for inspection which he shall prepare following consultation with persons representative of local education authorities").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 62A. A standard of inspections should be established for all inspections within the same area. It therefore makes sense—indeed it is appropriate —that Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors should prepare a model specification after consulting with local education authorities in different parts of the country. The noble Baroness said that she thought that my previous amendment was too cumbersome and that Parliament should not be involved in agreeing a code of practice. I hope she will agree that this amendment is rather simpler. It certainly does not involve Parliament.

The amendment tries to ensure that common standards of inspection can be arrived at across the country through Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors preparing a model specification for inspection. However, the chief inspectors will need to consult LEAs in order to ensure that the model specification reflects local needs. I know the Government cannot bear the thought that LEAs should ever be consulted on anything, but perhaps I can persuade the Minister that in this matter they have something to give in terms of their local knowledge and understanding.

The amendment would enable schools to be inspected to a common standard in a given area. The inspection could reflect the local education authority's curriculum priorities as set out in the statement that it must make under Section 17 of the Education (No.2) Act 1986 which provides that local education authorities must state a policy.

Without an amendment of this kind there will be no consistency of standards expected between schools. In those circumstances, how can parents or indeed teachers in any way assess the meaning of an inspection report? Indeed I would argue that they could be seriously misled by the outcome of different school inspections around the country because there was no consistency. They might even be misled within the same area. Even though the previous amendment, which dealt with similar matters, was not acceptable, I hope that the Minister will be able to accept this one. It seeks to ensure that we have consistency. I beg to move.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

I should like to associate those on these Benches with the amendment. The noble Baroness has said all that is to be said on the subject and so I shall save the Committee's time by saying no more.

Baroness Blatch

I am afraid that we have yet another attempt to tie down the chief inspector—on this occasion to preparing a model specification for inspection. He may well want to do so as part of the guidance which is to be given to registered inspectors. But do we really need primary legislation to tell him his job?

If the notion is to set up more than 100 standards reflecting different local education authority policies, we certainly cannot accept the sentiment, let alone the drafting. I find bizarre the notion that the HMCI should be required to consult LEA representatives—and no one else —before drawing up any model specification. HMI has been in the business of conducting inspections successfully for rather a long time now, unlike many authorities. I am quite happy for the chief inspector to decide how and when to consult on and publish his guidance. The Bill gives him the freedom and the flexibility he needs. I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.

Baroness Blackstone

I find that reply completely unacceptable. It is typical of this Government's utterly dismissive and unfair view of local education authorities that they do not consider that LEAs should be consulted on what kind of standards should be set for the schools for which they are responsible.

The Minister suggests that it is wrong to pick out local education authorities. I could not disagree with her more. Local education authorities have a responsibility for running schools. Indeed they ought also to be responsible for maintaining standards. They have a great deal of local knowledge and are therefore in a strong position to advise on what a model specification might look like. It is also utterly absurd to suggest that this will lead to 100 difference models. It will lead to a very small number of models—indeed perhaps one model—in which there may be a small number of variations. Those could be associated with particular needs in rural areas or areas in Wales where the Welsh language is spoken.

However, I have no intention of dividing the Committee at this time of night. I shall think again and return to the matter on Report. What worries me is that the Government do not seem to care a jot that parents will find it very difficult to interpret what an inspection report means because there will be no consistency of standards around the country. There is no intention here to tie down inspectors; it is a fundamental matter which ought to be on the statute books.

Baroness Blatch

Before the noble Baroness concludes, I have two points to raise. First, she said that LEAs run schools. LEAs do not run schools. The days have gone when they ran them. Schools are now run by the heads and the staff and are overseen by the governors who have such responsibility. LEAs have a responsibility to see that there is effective education in the areas for which they are responsible. Moreover, if they are worried, they have powers under the Bill to go into schools to fulfil that responsibility.

Secondly, I should point out to the noble Baroness that we are arguing for consistency. The chief inspector will set the criteria for the whole country. We are entirely happy that that information is in the public domain and is understood by schools so that they know the criteria by which they are being judged. The avenue down which the noble Baroness suggests we should travel would, I am afraid, give way to inconsistency and a variable across the country. We are trying to get away from that; we want a constant standard. We rely upon the professionalism of the chief inspector to set that standard and to pass on, through HMI, the guidance for inspecting schools to the registered inspectors.

Baroness Blackstone

If the Minister is so anxious about consistency, there is a very strong case for putting something on the face of the Bill to ensure that that will happen. It is possible that the amendment before the Committee may not be perfect and that it may not be the best amendment that one can find to ensure consistency. I am afraid that I remain utterly convinced that the proposals in the Bill for privatised firms of inspectors to carry out inspections all over the country, without any clear statutory requirement for Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors to set standards, will lead to inconsistency and to parents being misled. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 not moved.]

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn moved Amendment No. 40:

Page 2, line 21, at end insert: ("(cc) monitoring, assessing and giving advice in connection with, the procedures followed by appropriate authorities in selecting registered inspectors to conduct inspections of schools in England under section 9;").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 65 and 118. Concern was expressed this evening and on Second Reading by Members on all sides of the Chamber about the status of registered inspectors, especially their mode of appointment. The amendments deal with what was identified by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, as the central flaw of the Bill; namely, that one can easily imagine a situation arising where the governors of a school choose to appoint a registered inspector to undertake the inspection whom they are confident will put forward a report that will give them satisfaction. It need not be a matter of collusion, certainly not one of corruption. We are not making such suggestions; indeed, there are provisions in Schedule 2 to overcome the risk of corruption.

But let us imagine a school which is very traditional in its teaching methods but which, in the views of many, could do with a breath of fresh air. However, the governors of such a school might be inclined to appoint a registered inspector who was a traditional person so that he would produce a report which would support them, when in fact what the school really needs is a shot in the arm and some advice that there are other teaching methods which it could better apply. Various schemes have been put forward this evening for overcoming that difficulty. I hope that the Committee will find the scheme that I propose appropriate. My noble friend the Minister said on Second Reading that she thought that these proposals worked with the grain of the Bill, as I believe that they do.

Amendment No. 40 seeks to establish that the chief inspector shall have the role of "monitoring, assessing"—I should like to emphasise the word "assessing" and giving advice in connection with, the procedures followed by appropriate authorities in selecting registered inspectors".

That simply assigns a general responsibility to the chief inspector in that respect.

The nub of the group of amendments to which I am speaking comes in Amendment No. 118, which is an amendment to Schedule 2, in which the provisions for tendering are set out in more detail. In considering the amendment, it is perhaps appropriate to consider three eventualities. One is where the governors of the school, the "appropriate authority", are alert to their responsibilities and are looking to an inspection by a registered inspector who will bring something new to the school and publish an appropriate report on it. In such circumstances, there is probably very little difficulty and very little that needs to be done, but we cannot be confident that that will be the case. In such circumstances, however, the amendment simply provides for a watching brief for HMI. If all is going well, there will be no need for HMI intervention.

Secondly, however, there may be more difficult cases, where the chief inspector is not at all confident that the governors will choose a registered inspector who will bring the appropriate inspection to bear. They may well choose someone who is much too close to their own philosophy and personal experience. In such cases, the chief inspector can send in an assessor who will be a member of the inspectorate and who will be present during all the tendering, appointing and interviewing procedures, if such there be, when the registered inspector is appointed.

Thirdly, if the chief inspector or the assessor who will be present feels that an altogether unacceptable choice is being made, the amendment has teeth because the choice has to be approved in writing by the chief inspector and there is therefore a power of veto. Subsection (2) states precisely that: that the chief inspector would have a power of veto and that the registered inspector must be approved in writing by the chief inspector. Naturally, the chief inspector normally acts through a member of the inspectorate. There will be 6,000 such appointments per year and some inspectors will therefore spend much of their time acting as assessors. However, I am not suggesting that it will be necessary for an assessor to be present at every selection procedure, although that may well be the case at a good many.

Subsection (3) states: The Secretary of State may make regulations with a view to facilitating the discharge by the Chief Inspector of his functions".

That is deliberately vague so that we are not over-precise about the matter, but subsection (4) states what those regulations may do. It is not some kind of Henry VIII clause - or I very much hope that it is not. It states: The regulations may, in particular— (a) require appropriate authorities to give the Chief Inspector such information as may be prescribed".

We now come to the nub of it because under paragraph (b) the regulations give the chief inspector or any member of his staff—I have in mind the assessor—the right to attend any meeting of the authority at which tendering or the selection of a registered inspector is under discussion. That would make it difficult for the appropriate authority —the school governors—simply to go it alone and to flout the views of the chief inspector in the matter. The noble Lord, Lord Peston, quite reasonably referred a moment ago to Stratford school. Under this head anyway, there would not be a problem with that or with any comparable institution. That is an important point.

There are the teeth there but one hopes that in general in most schools matters will he much more harmonious, and in such a case it means that the governors can look around seriously at inspectors, can interview registered inspectors if they wish and choose a registered inspector whom they feel will he appropriate. So that in favourable cases one does not have the monolithic orthodoxy that there might be if the inspectorate were always simply to send in the registered inspector whom they chose. That is where this amendment differs from the amendment we discussed earlier. I hope that it will recommend itself to noble Lords opposite and in particular to my noble friend the Minister. I beg to move.

10.45 p.m.

Baroness Young

I put my name down to this amendment, and I hope that it is one that my noble friend the Minister will feel able to accept. Not for the first time my noble friend Lord Renfrew has been positive and helpful on an issue which has exercised noble Lords from all parts of the Committee. Looking again at what was said at Second Reading, there was no doubt that there was considerable concern about this aspect, quite specifically over the role of governors and whether they would be in a position to make a wise choice of inspectors. I did not share all the doubts and anxieties that were expressed on that occasion but I recognise the concerns. It seems to me that this is a positive way of meeting those concerns, helping the governors where there might be a difficulty and getting us over this difficult proposition that governors might be tempted to choose inspectors who would simply come up with the inspection that they wanted to hear. Included in this is finally a power of veto, so it has teeth.

At this time of night I do not want to take up more time of the Committee and repeat the arguments so well set out by my noble friend. I hope that it is an amendment that will commend itself to all parts of the Committee. Having listened to the discussions on preceding amendments that also addressed the same point, I hope that it will be regarded as a positive contribution. It makes this a better Bill, and it will be of reassurance to a number of people who have had anxieties about this part of the Bill.

Lord Beloff

Everybody would like to be reassured, but in order to be reassured we have to understand what is being offered to us. I find it difficult to follow what the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, has in mind. I did not understand the language he was using when he said "inspector". He said that the chief inspector can be represented at a meeting of the governors by an inspector or, it says in the amendment, by "any member of his staff". "Inspector" is used in two senses. There will be the surviving HMIs and there will be these registered inspectors. If it is the former, we were told earlier that there will not be a great many of them and they will have many and responsible duties. You cannot say to them "You have to go off to a meeting of governors at Cockermouth" or somewhere else they may find difficult. If it is to be a registered inspector, the new class, then they will be competitors.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

Perhaps I may clarify that point. There is no intention that the inspector who would attend the meeting on behalf of the chief inspector when the tenders were considered would be a registered inspector. I did not say that, nor did I intend it. There is a complication when we use the word "inspector" sometimes as a registered inspector and sometimes as an HMI; but the answer is that it would be an HMI.

The noble Lord has put his finger on a point to which I should have referred. There is no doubt that there is an implication in my amendment that there would be a need that Her Majesty's Inspectorate should have within its number a greater number of HMIs than would otherwise be the case. I am not sure whether it is 30, 50 or 60. I shall be interested to know whether my noble friend the Minister can offer an observation there. My noble friend Lord Beloff is correct. There will be a commitment by HMI with regard to this function which would mean that there would need to be more inspectors than would otherwise be the case. That is correct.

Lord Peston

We agree upon what the problem is. I should like to believe that the amendments solve it. We should examine them to see whether they do. Amendment No. 40 and the Welsh counterpart, Amendment No. 65, are about principles: what the chief inspector shall have among his or her duties. The amendments provide an additional duty relating to the procedures in connection with the conduct of inspections. That will be at the general level.

Amendments Nos. 40 and 65 are sensible amendments, whatever else we may say. Whether or not they solve the problem we have in mind, they make a valuable contribution in terms of what the chief inspector's duties should include.

We then come to Amendment No. 118. I believe it does the job intended. I have to ask one or two questions relating to what the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, said and what the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, said in reply. In Amendment No. 32 I was essentially suggesting that the chief inspector would choose from the list of possible inspectors who would do the inspection. The Minister said that that would be too bureaucratic and involve too much. Why is not this amendment equally bureaucratic? Why does it not involve the same amount of surveillance of what goes on? My amendment said that the inspector would be chosen by the chief inspector or his staff. Amendment No. 118 provides that an inspector will not be chosen unless the chief inspector agrees to the choice. I do not see much difference in the degree of bureaucracy. The chief inspector will have to do much the same work. I do not say that against the amendment. I am happy for the Government to accept an amendment from their own side rather than from my side. Amour proper is important to people. It does not bother me. I merely want to know what there was about my argument that does not apply in this case. That is one of my questions.

My second question relates to a point which always bothers me in this place because I can never remember what the words mean. Why does the amendment provide that the Secretary of State "may" make regulations" instead of "shall"? Why does the amendment not say, "the regulations shall, in particular"? Why is it "may"? I seem to remember asking this question in relation to another matter a year or two ago, but I cannot remember the answer. All my instincts tell me that the word should be "shall". I cannot see the point of using "may". Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, will tell us why the word "may" is used and not "shall".

To summarise, I hope that Amendments Nos. 40 and 65 will be acceptable in their own right. The crux of the matter is Amendment No. 118. I want to be told why Amendment No. 118 is less bureaucratic than Amendment No. 32. How many people would be involved? That is the point about which the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, was asked. In the two important phrases "The Secretary of State may" and "The regulations may" I should prefer the word "shall" to be used. It was once explained to me that in this place "may" means "shall", but I cannot believe that the English language changes just within these four walls. But that is by the way. The amendment would be a great deal better with the word "shall".

Lord Skidelsky

I wish to make some constructive comments upon the amendment. It is a genuine attempt to meet the worries about the tendering process as now outlined in the Bill. However, I fear that the noble Lord's attempt does not go far enough in ensuring objectivity in tendering which is the key to ensuring the integrity of the inspections themselves. It is the danger of collusion which has most worried the Committee. To avoid that danger we need to secure two things.

First, we need to ensure that the specifications used by governing bodies in inviting tenders conform to a standard code of practice laid down by the chief inspector. We need this to ensure comparability of inspection reports and to prevent governing bodies from varying the criteria to be used by inspection teams. This requirement needs to be clearly understood in advance before we need to call in the assessor procedure, suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, in doubtful cases. I agree with the comment that that adds a layer of bureaucracy to the whole procedure and I think much of that could be avoided by clarity in the specification tenders themselves.

As the Bill now stands, it seems to me there is a problem of consistency between specifications issued by schools for tender and specifications to inspectors issued by the chief inspector. After all, who employs the inspection teams? The governing body invites tenders on the basis of specifications. Unless those specifications are consistent with specifications issued to inspectors by the chief inspector, there will be a conflict. I do not think the Bill, as it now stands, completely avoids that possibility. I do not think that the noble Lord's amendment avoids that possibility either.

Secondly, the standardised criteria for inspection should be completely transparent. By that I mean that they should relate to objective inputs and outputs. I refer the Committee to the paper written by John Burchall which forms the basis of the present inspection proposals. I think that the Government essentially adopted the scheme from that paper. Burchall wrote that inspection should be based on objective information, relating the ability and attainment of pupils on entry to their achievements as measured by assessment and examination". The idea is that the criteria for inspection should be as objective as possible and should use as much objective information as possible. In supporting the two requirements that I have just described, I do not mean that there should be no room for more subjective judgments of school effectiveness based on less tangible factors; I mean that the objective non-discretionary elements in any report should be clearly separable from the subjective elements. That is secured by means of transparent criteria.

The amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, does not in my view really secure the two requirements of standardised and objective criteria for tendering. I ask the noble Lord and the Minister to consider a more robust form of words, perhaps using "shall" rather than "may", that meets those two requirements.

11 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, will be able to help me when he speaks further about this amendment. I want to be able to support it because it does seem to me that it tries to meet a concern that has been expressed on all sides of the Committee. But the more I look at the amendment, the more difficulty I have in envisaging how it will work in practice. The first part of it indicates that the governors of a school cannot engage finally with the inspectors without the permission of the chief inspector. They will, presumably, have been through the process of tendering.

At the end of that process the inspector may be put in a position of saying, "Though you have obtained tenders from at least two, perhaps more inspectorate teams, and although those are all headed by inspectors whom I have registered, I shall not let you go to the one you have chosen". That seems to place the chief inspector in an almost impossible position, having to deny the appropriateness of the people he has authorised. It is that process which leaves me in some difficulty.

The other aspect of the issue is that the more I consider the idea that the chief inspector may have to authorise every such inspection the more it appears that he may have to send one of his inspectors to any school which considers tendering. The bureaucratic load which worried us in relation to the earlier amendment seems to have become greater. It is almost unmanageable. I am beginning to wonder whether we cannot deal with the matter the other way round and think again about the possibility not of the chief inspector allocating one inspector to every school but of his offering a number of teams of inspectors from whom the school can choose one. That is not what is set out in the amendment but we are all struggling to find a way of adapting what the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, has helpfully put forward and I still find it difficult to support his amendment as it stands.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

Would it be helpful if I attempted to answer the right reverend Prelate now, or should I wait until my noble friend the Minister has made her observations? Which would my noble friend prefer?

Baroness Blatch

Perhaps my noble friend will accept my response to the amendment because he will then be able to pick up my points and others which have been raised in the course of the debate. I may also comment on one or two matters which have been raised during the course of the debate.

I shall take the right reverend Prelate's point first. He said that a school governing body might go through all the processes and, having secured the services of a qualified registered inspectorate of a minimum of two inspectors, someone might then criticise that process. We have said from the start that the Bill allows for that to happen. It allows local governing bodies to select from at least two qualified registered inspectors. It was because anxiety was expressed from all sides of the Chamber about that process, not excepting that they would necessarily be qualified registered inspectors—because they have to be qualified registered inspectors for this work—and because of the suspicion that something might go wrong with the process or that a particular inspectorate might be favoured for the wrong reasons, that my noble friend Lord Renfrew has worked industriously with my noble friend Lady Young to include a mechanism not only to allow schools to choose inspectors but also to witness that the process was followed properly and that the choice was made objectively.

My noble friends Lord Renfrew and Lady Young are to be congratulated on having put forward the amendments. They tackle the causes of the unease which some noble Lords felt about the very considerable burdens we were placing on school governors. Comments to that effect were made at Second Reading.

The amendments build helpfully on the Bill's provisions. I do not accept the view that they in any way cast doubt on the wisdom of the governor-centred approach we have adopted or the quality of the inspectors whom the chief inspector will register. We have always said that the chief inspector will need to monitor the system. However carefully he forms his initial judgment about inspectors he will need to see that his view is borne out in practice.

The role for the chief inspector which my noble friends envisage will in effect bring his monitoring to bear at an earlier stage of the inspection process. That partly answers the right reverend Prelate's comments about HMI coming in at the end of the process. He will, of course, play a part in the process much earlier when tenders are being requested and considered, rather than as inspections are being carried out. That will be a time when governors may be in need of help and guidance as much as outside scrutiny. The amendments proposed seem to allow for that in empowering the chief inspector to offer advice on the way arrangements are to be made. They will also allow the chief inspector to see all the papers connected with the tendering process, as well as send his representative to meetings if that seems desirable. So he will be able to make sure that a fair and open choice is made, as well as a wise one.

I am glad that the route of regulations has been suggested, as I am sure that we must leave a good deal of flexibility in this process for the chief inspector. In the early stages he may well want to have his inspectors sitting in on most relevant governors' meetings. I expect that many governors would want that. As the system beds down that may be less essential and paper scutiny might suffice in more cases.

But whatever method is used, the chief inspector will have real power to back up his monitoring. He must approve every arrangement made. If he is not satisfied with the process followed or the choice made, he will be able to veto an appointment and the governors will have to start again. We believe that that will be very rare in any case. Nevertheless, it is a safeguard in the system in response to concerns of noble Lords.

I believe that this power effectively sweeps up the power which my noble friend Lord Beloff would have added to Schedule 2 to the Bill by Amendment No. 133, which will be moved at a later stage. The chief inspector will have the papers giving details of the inspection team, and may meet the team when it talks about its tender to governing bodies. He will certainly withhold his approval if he is not satisfied of its competence.

I recognise that the amendments of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness are not without a cost. Perhaps I may address that point now. If the chief inspector has these new duties, he will need the staff to discharge them, and I imagine that most of them will be Her Majesty's inspectors. So we are talking about the addition of maybe a further 40 inspectors—a doubling of the "monitoring" figure that we have been using for planning purposes. I have to say that our willingness to contemplate such an addition gives the lie to those who have always maintained that the real purpose of these reforms was to cut HMI numbers. We have always said that HMI must have the numbers needed to do the job required under the new arrangements. If the Committee agree to this addition to HMI's role, we shall ensure that the necessary staff are available.

The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, raised an important point and one to which I certainly would want to give more thought. I shall leave my noble friend to respond. Commenting on the point that he made, the duty on the appropriate authority would be to arrange an inspection which met the terms of the Bill. The registered inspector must carry that out as required by the chief inspector's guidelines - or guidance, which is stronger. That would mean that each specification drawn up by the governors must have a common core, but it need not be exactly the same in every particular.

Under Amendment No. 40 the HMI would have a duty to give advice in connection with the procedures to be followed by appropriate authorities in selecting inspectors. That could well cover advice on a model core specification, coupled with the chief inspector's powers of veto under Amendment No. 118. We can be fairly sure that all specifications meet the necessary standard. That is my initial comment on what the noble Lord, Lord Skildelsky, said. No doubt my noble friend will also give his response.

The noble Lord, Lord Peston, referred to the bureaucracy and also asked what was the difference between central control, central selection and what we have in the Bill. I believe that my noble friend has found an ingenious way of retaining local choice. In other words, for each school inspectorate the process of choice must be gone through by each school. It will be a choice but it will be overseen, simply as a safeguard, by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector. So the choice and placing of the contract will remain with the governors. The amendment allows Her Majesty's Inspectorate to oversee that process, not to take it over.

My noble friend Lord Beloff was concerned about whether these people were registered inspectors or HMI, but the only staff that a chief inspector will have will be Her Majesty's inspectors. So the additional staff involved will be directly answerable and accountable to Her Majesty's Inspectorate. They will in fact be HMI staff.

The system that will be put in place will be for each registered inspectorate to meet the qualifications. They will have to conform to the criteria determined by the chief inspector. They will have to be subjected to the possibility of deregistration if they do not conform, if they do not come up to the standards that will be set out by the chief inspector. I believe that the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, provide the safeguards against possible collusion or improper selection of registered inspectors.

I had to speak strongly against an earlier attempt to change the Bill to give the chief inspector total control over the choice of inspectors. On the other hand, Amendments Nos. 40, 65 and 118 give the chief inspector rather stronger powers at an earlier stage of the inspection process, while leaving the general scheme of the Bill entirely as we intended it. The amendments do not take from the governors; they help and support them. They are clearly designed to build most helpfully on to our proposals and I shall be happy to accept them in that spirit.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

I am grateful to the Minister for receiving the proposed amendments so constructively and in particular for outlining the cost which would accompany the proposals. It is a significant cost—the equivalent of some 40 HMIs who would be required to make the system work. I am also grateful to my noble friend Lady Young who supported me in the proposed amendment.

I shall seek to answer the questions raised. The Minister has dealt with many of them. First, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, I am not sure that it is bureaucracy or cost which militates against the proposal that the chief inspector would himself directly appoint the registered inspector. That was the form of the original amendment. The Minister has addressed directly the point that there is indeed a cost to the amendment that I propose. It is not bureaucracy in the sense of administration. One must consider the intention of the Bill and how it should work. If one has all the registered inspectors appointed by the chief inspector, one has a centralised administration which does not allow any variety of use. It begins to bring about that orthodoxy in educational doctrine which the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, criticised when referring to the terminology of good practice.

If the chief inspector appoints all the registered inspectors from his own list he will impose a particular philosophy willy-nilly on all schools without the opportunity of variety and without any ranges of views which is one of the merits of opening out the system. That is the intention of the Bill.

I do not have as much experience of the Chamber as the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I am not sure that I can make any firm ruling on the matter. However, it seems to me clear that the chief inspector will make regulations because quite clearly there are matters to be regulated. I do not doubt that, although I do not believe that I am the person to offer definitive rulings on the distinction between "may" and "shall" as a matter of parliamentary drafting.

I believe that I have answered the question of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff.

Lord Peston

I had hoped that the Minister would deal with that point. "May" implies "may not". It is up to the Minister. If he chooses "may not" he makes all the amendments a nullity. I was hoping that the Minister would say that "may" must mean "shall", otherwise I cannot see the point of the amendment. It has to mean "shall".

Baroness Blatch

It may be helpful if I intervene at this stage. I am sorry if I missed that point. I shall do doughty fighting with my colleagues in the back room because the noble Lord is right. If the regulations will be made I have no objection to the word "shall", but I am bound to take advice on it and shall do so before the next stage of the Bill.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

That is most helpful. I hope that the amendment may go forward as worded, and that there will be opportunity at Report stage for an amendment proposing "for 'may' read 'shall"' to which I should have no objection. I make that perfectly clear.

The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, made some interesting observations. There are problems of standardisation in tendering. Indeed, I had some sympathy with some of the points in relation to standardisation which the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, made earlier. As the Minister said, the problem is to avoid being over-prescriptive. The points that the noble Lord made would be worth exploring further. I hope that the appropriate procedure might be to accept the amendment today. Then, perhaps, I may discuss the issue with the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky. More relevantly he can discuss the matter with the Minister, who is clearly sympathetic to the point being made, to see whether some further phrase can be added—or whatever necessary modification—to bring in the notion of some degree of standardisation. I agree that it is the intention of the Bill that the report made about one school should be comparable in a useful way with the report made about another school. There is a notion of publishing data which will compare one school with another. Therefore, there is a clear need that reports should be comparable.

The right reverend Prelate asked how the system works. I hope that my noble friend Lady Blatch made that clear in her observations. As I see it, the notion of the assessor is the key concept. The assessor will be a member of the inspectorate but there need not be an assessor in every case. Perhaps we may start with the notion that there may be an assessor where that seems desirable to the chief inspector. If after the initial discussion—that is, the telephoning, the correspondence and questions of who will tender—the chief inspector is entirely satisfied that the matter is going well he may not need to send in an assessor. However, no doubt there will be a nominated member of the inspectorate to oversee this particular appointing procedure. In many cases, as my noble friend said, the governing body may well desire that there should be an assessor who will offer observations and in a constructive way help to make the appointing procedure successful. That is where the proposal has merit; it provides the opportunity of assisting the governors in their enterprise. In addition there is a power of veto. I hope that answers the point which the right reverend Prelate was making.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 41 not moved.]

11.15 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe)

If Amendment No. 42 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 43 because of pre-emption.

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 42: Page 2, leave out paragraph (e).

The noble Lord said: I had hoped that the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, would move his amendment first. My only reason for not wishing to speak first is that I believe I have had more than my fair share of the Committee's time. Since the argument can be put just as well by the noble Lord as by me, I was hoping that he would do so.

As regards this area, not others, some of us are puzzled about the point of encouraging competition. I believe that in most areas of economic activity competition is the way to achieve the desired ends and that monopoly is the way not to achieve them. My understanding of economics is that there are certain areas, usually those to do with quality and where quality itself is problematic, in which competition is precisely the way to achieve the worst outcome and not the best.

The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, earlier objected to the suggestion that there was an ideological basis for some aspects of the Bill—at least he was claiming that was not true of himself. I had taken it for granted that subsection (3) (e) of the clause was included in the Bill merely for ideological purposes; that this Government could not put forward a Bill if it did not contain ideological gobbledegook, and this is it. I cannot see remotely how the encouraging of competition can in this case be compatible with the provision of quality. Indeed, I believe that almost the whole economic analysis of this matter will guarantee that competition will achieve the lowest rather than the highest standard. That is my objection to it.

My solution to the problem is to leave out paragraph (e), but in a way I defer to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. I am quite happy with the concept of promoting efficiency in the conduct and reporting of inspections. But that is not achieved by encouraging competition; the reverse is the case. I look forward to hearing what the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, says.

Lord Beloff

Perhaps a proposal to delete competition comes more appropriately from a member of a party which in general favours competition. However, there are limits to that. On reflection, it seems to me that competition is very like nudity. In certain circumstances nudity is desirable and perhaps even essential. In other circumstances it is inappropriate and sometimes offensive.

This use of competition falls into the latter category because it suggests the application of something which our debates have already revealed is inappropriate for what we are doing. My noble friends Lord Renfrew and Lady Young come to the rescue of the Government, as they so often do, like the United States cavalry in an old Western. They do so because the Government need rescuing. Why do they need rescuing? They need rescuing because, as I said on Second Reading and I repeat now, at the heart of the Bill is a totally inappropriate use of competition.

I regret that the Minister has still not explained the purpose or the rationale behind this provision. The Government insist that at some point there must be competition between at least two teams of registered inspectors. My noble friend Lord Renfrew has tried—I do not object to his amendment because it is a gallant attempt —to rescue the Government. But why that method was chosen still remains a mystery. However, the Committee should be aware that there is a very widespread opinion across the Committee that it is an inappropriate matter to have at the centre of the Bill and that all the objectives of the Bill, which we share—namely, the raising of standards in part through the machinery of inspection—could have been achieved without that element. Since my amendment is pre-empted, I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Peston.

Baroness Seear

I support the amendment. I do not understand who is competing for what and why. Is there to be competition to carry out the best possible inspection and, if so, how do we know? I should like to ask who is competing for what and why.

Baroness Blatch

I am sorry that Members of the Committee are so strongly opposed to the notion of competition. It is worth reminding ourselves that this Bill will replace a system of LEA monopoly that has resulted in the present haphazard system of school inspection, in great variations in standards and practice and in a system which those on both sides of this Committee agree is in urgent need of improvement and reform. We have chosen to replace that system with one under which professional competence and standards are centrally assured but governors rather than LEAs can choose inspectors.

I believe that choice as a principle has served us well in many areas and that with the checks and balances secured under the Bill and provided by my noble friends Lord Renfrew and Lady Young will serve us equally as well in this respect. It is fundamental to the Bill that governors have a choice among inspectors—that they are not simply required to contract with those hired by their LEA or by anyone else or simply imposed from above. The chief inspector in overseeing the new system will want to make sure that choice and competition are a reality, and it is in Clause 2 that we have given him the statutory underpinning for any actions he needs to take in that respect.

I have been asked how I see the inspectorate acting to encourage competition and whether that will be an important part of their role. We are confident that a thriving open market will develop but the chief inspector will have a duty to watch over that market and make sure that governors have a real choice. That may entail encouraging new teams to start up in areas that are not well served or acting to thwart those who would seek to operate a cartel. In either case we do not expect that the duty will be much needed but it has to be there.

I do not share the view of my noble friend that it is a silly idea to use market principles in the inspection of schools. What we had before was in effect a monopoly for LEAs that led to inadequate systems, or even none at all, in too many authorities. Of course there is room for differences between registered inspectors. But I make it quite plain that we would not expect there to be wide divergencies between tenders. All inspectors will have to follow chief inspectors' guidelines to ensure consistency of standards, but there will be scope for different registered inspectors and their teams to respond in different ways to the priorities established for the school by the governing body; for example, to offer particular expertise or detailed investigation in addition to that required by the chief inspector.

We have to recognise that there are differences between schools and it is only right for those differences to be reflected by governing bodies in their specifications. We would not expect cost to be an unduly significant factor in the decision of a governing body. Nonetheless, it may well be the case that, of two good tenders, one offered better value for money than the other because one registered inspector was more efficient than the other in his preparatory work and in the writing of his report. The chief inspector's guidelines would ensure that corners were not cut in the inspection itself.

To sum up, we do not share the noble Lord's rejection of the idea of an element of competition in the inspection of schools, nor do we share the devotion of noble Lords opposite to the monopoly previously exercised by LEAs to the detriment of many of our schools. We believe we have provided for the inclusion of sensible notions of market forces while recognising that consistency of standards has to be achieved.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, asked who was tendering for this business. The answer is that a raft of qualified inspectors will have applied to the HMI and fulfilled all the appropriate qualifications for being registered as inspectors. They will be available to respond to the specifications determined by the governing body of each school. It is very important to keep at least some downward pressure on cost. There would be no limit on costs if inspectorates were just there for LEAs to use. Costs would have to be controlled centrally or by the chief inspector, the local education authority or perhaps somebody else. We believe this keeps a healthy downward pressure on inspectorates, all of whom would be qualified, but there would be some preferences declared by governing bodies. We believe that that choice is a healthy one.

Baroness Seear

In that case, is the noble Baroness telling us that it is a question of who among those who are qualified can put out the cheapest tender? One gets the tender down to the cheapest possible price so one can get the job.

Baroness Blatch

That was not what I said. I said there would be people out there with standard qualifications to inspect schools. Nobody who is not competent to do the job can be hired by a school. I have been a governor myself. I would expect governing bodies to make a number of judgments about which registered inspectors to employ. I would want to know how they would set about the inspection, which skills they would bring to bear and whether they could provide an inspection that was consistent with the specification for my school. One of the considerations in addition to all of those would be cost. If there were comparable people out there and one inspector could do it at a lesser cost than another, that would be a consideration. I would not be bound by the lowest tender but it would be important that a choice was made from at least two qualified registered inspectors. I do not believe that that is an unhealthy thing to ask. It would act as some control on keeping some measure of pressure on the costs.

Lord Peston

Members of the Committee will not be surprised to know that I find the answer of the noble Baroness completely unconvincing. It indicates that the Department of Education and Science does not understand the economics of competition at all. Competition works in two ways. First, it works in meeting the demands of the demander—in this case the governors who want a good report—and, secondly, by cutting price. Essentially, that is what competition is about—"Do I get the product I want? Do I get it as cheaply as I want?"

I can say to the noble Baroness that I was working in the area of competition before she could even spell the word "economics". Therefore if there is one subject about which I know, it is competition, and I advocated competition in many areas long before this Government ever thought of it.

This is one area where competition is precisely the wrong method to be used. It is an ideological method. There is no rational argument for it either, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear argues. One is simply trying to save money. I do not blame the governors for trying to save money. They are short of money and there are other things on which they can spend it apart from inspections. That is perfectly clear, and exactly what we fear.

Further, the governors are not looking for adverse critical inspections which tell them what they are doing wrong. They want cheap inspections which tell them that what they are doing is right. It is all very well for the Government to go in for this competition model; it does not apply in the area of schools. There is no way that I shall convince the Government of that; they simply do not understand the subject or, rather, they are so ideologically committed that they do not want to understand the subject.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I want to refute most strongly what the noble Lord said. It will not be possible for a school to buy the kind of report that it wants. It will certainly not be possible to buy a subjective report because there would then be grounds for assuming that the HMI has not done its job properly in making sure that the correct selection was made by a school. Equally, it would certainly entail a breach of the standards laid down by the chief inspector. We have at least some confidence in the chief inspector and the HMI to keep professional standards high.

Lord Peston

We must not prolong this debate, but if that were the case then we may as well go along with the system as run by the chief inspectors. We do not need the competitive model if they are going to ensure that standards are met. That is precisely our point. One can obtain the desired result from the chief inspectors monitoring a system corresponding to and built on the existing system. The Government are simply introducing this for ideological reasons.

The noble Baroness argued earlier, and I accept it, that at this stage we should not be going through Second Reading arguments on this matter. I simply wish to demonstrate the Government's mistake. It is my view that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, is better than my own. I shall therefore seek to withdraw my amendment with a view to hearing what he intends to do with his. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Beloff moved Amendment No. 43: Page 2, line 28, leave out from ("England") to end of line 29.

The noble Lord said: We have not discussed or voted on competition. It is late. I hate being up at this hour of night listening to a nightmare of a Bill. Nevertheless, I wish to seek the opinion of the House.

11.39 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 43) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 11; Not-Contents, 24.

Division No. 3
Beloff, L. Lichfield, Bp.
Blackstone, B. Peston, L.
Chichester, Bp. Ritchie of Dundee, L. [Teller.]
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Russell, E.
Dormand of Easington, L. Seear, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Annaly, L. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Astor, V. Long, V.
Balfour, E. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Blatch, B. Marlesford, L.
Borthwick, L. Perry of Southwark, B.
Brigstocke, B. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Rennell, L.
Craigmyle, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B. Skidelsky of Tilton, L.
Elton, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.[Teller.]
Hesketh, L. [Teller.]
Hooper, B. Ullswater, V.
Howe, E.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

11.45 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington moved Amendment No. 43A:

Page 2, line 29 at end insert: ("( ) In exercising his functions in connection with the system of inspecting schools under section 9 (so far as it relates to Wales, the Chief Inspector for England shall, in particular, have regard to the desirability of an equal standard being achieved in performing such inspections and in reporting such inspections so as to facilitate fair comparisons—

  1. (a) between different schools providing education for pupils of similar ages in each locality; and
  2. (b) between different local education authorities (as regards the schools maintained by them).").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 68A. But I have to point out an error in Amendment No. 68A in that it should relate to Wales and not England, as stated in the text. The amendment states principles that should govern the HMCI's activities in supervising a competitive system of school inspections by registered inspectors. Clause 2(3) (b) requires the HMCI to give guidance to registered inspectors, and such other persons as he considers appropriate".

That category may include the governing bodies selecting registered inspectors. The amendment would influence the content of that guidance to governors and would emphasise that each governing body's right to choose its registered inspector should take place within arrangements to ensure that inspection reports for neighbouring schools were of equal standard. That is the nub of the amendment. This could then most easily be achieved by HMCI providing a shortlist of nominated inspectors for each locality. Indeed, there would be considerable advantages if inspection contracts were to be agreed covering groups of schools or even whole local education authorities.

It seems to me that the desirability of achieving an equal standard in inspection is self-evident. Apart from anything else, differing standards could give rise to considerable anxiety among teachers and parents and call into question the whole integrity of inspections. The amendment has considerable flexibility. It does not state that this should be done. It states only that the chief inspector, shall … have regard to the desirability".

I find it difficult to believe that anyone could be opposed to that objective, however it is achieved. I hope the Minister will accept that the amendment has been tabled as a constructive suggestion and trust that the Government will find it acceptable. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

The noble Lord is particularly anxious to ensure that inspectors take into account the different circumstances of schools and LEAs in terms of the socio-economic background of their pupils and their levels of attainment on entry so that comparisons between schools and local education authorities can have regard to those factors. I can assure the Committee that HMI has always taken those factors into account in compiling its inspection reports and that the chief inspector's guidance on the conduct of inspections will ensure that registered inspectors do likewise. The frequently repeated conclusion reached in both individual school reports and the senior chief inspector's annual reports that some schools are failing to ensure that their pupils develop their full potential is based on what HMI has observed in the best schools catering for similar intakes. That is one important piece of evidence that schools can and should do better.

As and when an acceptable methodology is developed for calculating the value added by schools in terms of the progress made by pupils in their level of attainment between entering the school and leaving it, we can be sure that HMI will take account of it in its guidance. In the meantime, inspectors will continue to use such imperfect measures as are available in order to judge how well schools are serving pupils' needs. But as my honourable friends the Minister of State and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education made clear during discussion of the Bill in another place, it will take time before data on value added become available.

The first cohort of seven year-olds assessed under the national curriculum arrangements last summer will not be assessed as 11 year-olds until 1995. That year will also be the first year in which we shall be able to calculate value added between the ages of 14 and 16. We have to wait until 1997 for the first cohort of pupils assessed as 11 year-olds in 1994 to be assessed as 14 year-olds, and until 1999 before the same cohort reaches age 16. If we were to wait to publish reports on how schools were doing until comprehensive value added data were available, we should have to wait until most of today's school pupils had left. I hope that the Committee will not accept the amendment.

Lord Dormand of Easington

With regard to the first part of her remarks, I wish that I was as sanguine as the Minister. I shall look carefully at what she said. I doubt whether I shall be convinced, but in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 44: Page 2, line 32, after ("schools") insert ("in schools, at teacher training colleges, colleges of further education and non-university colleges").

The noble Lord said: This is a probing amendment and I shall speak to it only briefly. Your Lordships have been assured on two separate occasions—at Second Reading and during discussion of an earlier amendment—that the inspectors will have the power to inspect the training of teachers. However, nowhere in the Bill do I see where these powers are; what controls are to be exercised over them; how they are to be implemented or overseen; or what resources will be devoted to them. I am glad to have had the assurance that these crucially important processes will be overseen because, as I said earlier on, until we get the training of teachers right, we shall not get the schools right. While I subscribe to all that my noble friend has said from the Front Bench about the Government's regard for the profession, it must be a matter of concern that there is no apparent provision in the Bill for seeing to it that the supply of teachers for the future will at least be up to the standard of the supply of teachers at present. That is the purpose of the amendment. It asks the Government where these provisions are and what they are. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

I have noted the concern which my noble friend Lord Elton has expressed in respect of the inspection of establishments which provide training for school teachers. He makes an important point. He raised the matter during Second Reading, and I sought to assure him then that under the new office of HMCI the inspection of all initial teacher training establishments would continue. The Secretary of State has a duty to approve courses of initial teacher training leading to qualified teacher status and relies on HMI's advice in doing so. HMI has therefore long been concerned with inspecting all establishments which provide such courses. This will continue to be the case. The chief inspector will be able therefore to play a full part in giving advice to the Secretary of State as necessary based on a sound knowledge of the work of these establishments.

Clause 2(4) states: The Chief Inspector for England shall have such other functions in connection with schools in England, including functions with respect to the training of teachers for such schools, as may be assigned to him by the Secretary of State". Given that all establishments which train teachers for teaching in schools come under the Secretary of State, my noble friend's concerns are met.

Lord Elton

There is a peculiar difficulty about this on which I do not want to spend much time this evening. The Long Title of the Bill states: An Act to make provision with respect to the inspection of schools and with respect to information about schools and their pupils". It says nothing about institutions in which teachers are trained. This subsection deals with the training of teachers which I take it is not conducted in such schools and therefore would seem to be outwith the Long Title of the Bill. If I am wrong in that, I am right in thinking that the Bill could make provision for the inspection of the training of teachers not in schools; if I am wrong in that, it seems that this phrase ought not to be in the Bill as drafted.

Baroness Blatch

I think that the difference in understanding between us is that the power in the Bill—I understand that such power exists in the Bill—is for the inspection of, the training of teachers for such schools". Indeed, some of those training establishments will, for example, be within universities so that the inspection will not be of the university as such; it will be on the quality of the training of teachers in those establishments for the purpose of teaching in schools.

Lord Elton

One of us has the other on a Morton's Fork, though I am not sure which one of us it is. Either it is possible to make legislation within the Bill to cover the standard of that training—which I would welcome; but it is not here and we are only told that provisions may be made for it—or it is not possible. In that case, we should not be told that provisions may be made for it because they cannot be made within the terms of the Long Title. I am sure that the Clerks at the Table would have spotted the difficulty before now. Indeed, if there is such a difficulty, it will be discovered before the next stage. Perhaps, therefore, I should rest content for the moment.

I am in some difficulty here because I believe that there ought to be substantial reinforcement of such inspection. I therefore give formal notice that, although I cannot say where it may strike in the Bill, I may be minded to table an amendment on Report when I have been advised as to where it applies.

Lord Peston

Before the noble Lord withdraws the amendment, I must stress that I am a little puzzled. I assumed that the noble Baroness was about to say—indeed, I half thought that she said it—that what the noble Lord wishes to achieve by way of his amendment is what is meant by the phrase at line 32 of subsection (4) as regards the training of teachers for schools. I thought that that was what the Minister said; in other words, I thought that she said that matters were okay in respect of the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and that therefore there was no problem.

However, the noble Lord has now raised the issue of the wording contained in the Long Title and that is a different matter. But, assuming that what is written down in the Bill is in English—which I take to be the case—I understood, if I dare say so, that the Minister's answer was correct. But I am now a little worried because I had assumed that the chief inspector could do exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, wishes. If I am led to believe that that is wrong, I shall, as I said, be a little worried.

Lord Elton

The difference between the noble Lord, Lord Peston, and myself—and it is an odd one—is the fact that I was rather anxious that the chief inspector should be told rather more about how this task should be done, while the noble Lord, who wants him to be told absolutely everything else in regard to the rest of the Bill, including how to tie his shoe laces, does not mind at all how he sets about his task in the training colleges and other departments of education. However, I do not think that we should delay the proceedings with the issue. We had better discover what, if any, procedural difficulty there is. I shall return to the matter at a later stage.

Baroness Blatch

I am slightly unnerved to find myself being supported by the noble Lord, Lord Peston. It is important to note that teacher training will be inspected and that there is no plan to change the number of inspectors engaged in that work. The Secretary of State has a duty to approve the courses of initial teacher training leading to qualified teacher status. His only way of doing that is to rely on HMI. The wording in Clause 2(4) states that the Chief Inspector of England, shall have such other functions in connection with schools". It then continues to specify, the training of teachers for such schools". There are two issues. First, can the chief inspector properly become involved in judging the quality of training for teachers? The answer is very definitely, yes. The second issue about institutions is not at all relevant.

Lord Elton

In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 45: Page 2, line 32, after ("schools") insert ("and the physical condition of school buildings").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 70. The Bill gives Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors the responsibility to keep the Secretary of State informed about the quality of education provided by schools, educational standards and the efficiency of financial management in those schools. Clause 2(4) indicates that the chief inspectors may have other functions, including those in respect of the training of teachers for schools about which we have just been speaking.

The Bill makes no mention of the need to monitor the physical conditions of school buildings. At present, HMI has a responsibility to consider the physical conditions of schools. The inspectors' annual report on the effects of local authorities' expenditure policies on educational provision in England currently includes quite a lot of comment on accommodation. The monitoring of educational standards and the quality of educational provision cannot be separated from monitoring the physical conditions in which pupils work.

The under-funding of the capital programme for school buildings is currently estimated to be around £4 billion. Regrettably, that means that a good deal of education takes place in schools that are physically unsatisfactory. It is essential that consideration of that part of education should be within the remit of the chief inspector. In Committee in another place, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State claimed that the powers of Clause 2(2) enabled the Secretary of State to request reports on such matters as the state of buildings. The Minister of State suggested that it would be wrong to identify separately any particular aspect of schooling as all schools come within HMI's remit. With respect, however, I believe that that is contradicted by Clause 2(1)(c), which separately identifies financial resources for schools. I hope that Ministers will accept that monitoring the physical conditions of schools is a very important aspect of the work of HMI and should be on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.


Baroness Blatch

In her amendments, the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, wishes to make it clear that the chief inspector may concern himself with the physical condition of school buildings. Let me assure the Committee that that is not in doubt. The chief inspector will be entirely free to report on all matters that affect educational standards and quality and, where the conditions of buildings are material evidence to that end, they will of course form a constituent part of the report.

More than that, the chief inspector is able and free to comment on school buildings even if they do not impact on the standard and quality of education. Where the state of school buildings has an effect on the quality and standard of education, the chief inspector will be under a duty to report that effect under Clause 2(1) (a) and (b). I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blackstone

I am grateful to the Minister, and I am pleased to hear that it is the Government's intention that the chief inspector will be able to report on the physical condition of school buildings. That is very important. I should, however, have preferred to see that specified on the face of the Bill in order to ensure that it happens—and in the longer term. I have no intention of dividing the Committee on a matter of this kind at this time of night. Therefore I shall take away what the Minister has said and consider whether I wish to pursue it at a later stage. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 46 to 49 not moved.]

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 [Functions of the Chief Inspector for Wales]:

[Amendments Nos. 50 to 61 not moved.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 61A: Page 4, line 12, leave out ("on matters of good practice").

Baroness Blatch

The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, is not here but I said that I would accept the amendment, and so on his behalf I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 62 to 64 not moved.]

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn moved Amendment No. 65:

Page 4, line 18, at end insert: ("(cc) monitoring, assessing and giving advice in connection with, the procedures followed by appropriate authorities in selecting registered inspectors to conduct inspections of schools in Wales under section 9;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 66 to 68A not moved.]

Lord Elton had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 69: Page 4, line 29, after ("schools") insert ("in schools, at teacher training colleges, colleges of further education and non-university colleges").

The noble Lord said: This was my last amendment to Clause 6. It is worth putting on the record for the puzzled Welsh that the reason we are not discussing any of the amendments in their clause is that we have discussed identical issues in the English clause and have always addressed the Welsh issues at the same time. Having said that, I do not move this amendment.

[Amendment No. 69 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 70 to 74 not moved.]

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 [Power of Chief Inspector for England to arrange for inspections]:

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 75:

Page 2, line 39, at end insert: ("( ) The Chief Inspector for England shall each year arrange for at least one inspection conducted by each registered inspector under section 9 to be monitored by one or more of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools in England.").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 82. The purpose of this amendment is to establish how it is intended that the inspectorate shall maintain a close overview of the quality of work of registered inspectors. We have already addressed the question of the uniformity of standards on a national scale in a number of contexts. This proposal, which I should be glad if the Minister would comment on, is that in order to ensure that there is a proper level of supervision each of the inspectors registered under Clause 9 should themselves be monitored by HMCI and his inspectors on a cycle. I suggest each year, but the noble Baroness might think each four years is more appropriate as she has thought it is for schools. But it seems to me that it might well be prudent that the Government should get inside these inspections every now and again to make sure that they are being operated in the way in which the paperwork suggests. I beg to move.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

I have again to repeat that some matters are best left to the discretion of HMCI. There is no need to spell out in detail on the face of the Bill how he or she will exercise the quality control function which it clearly establishes. We have said that—on the senior chief inspector's best estimate—the equivalent of some 40 HMIs will be needed to operate the registration system and monitor the work of registered inspectors—excluding the additional inspectors who will be needed to act as assessors under the amendments already agreed earlier this evening. If we assume some 600 registered inspectors—and there may not be that many—then each HMI would be overseeing 15 such inspectors, and would be well able, as the amendment suggests, to look in on one inspection each year.

But HMI will wish to have the flexibility to monitor the system sensibly. Some registered inspectors will he more experienced than others. HMI may receive complaints about some inspections, or be concerned itself about the reports it has seen on others. It will wish in a given year to plan its monitoring visits to take account of such factors, and not to be tied to a rigid programme. That does not mean that all registered inspectors will not be monitored on a regular basis, but the nature and frequency of that regular monitoring is properly for HMCI to decide.

I remind the Committee that we have, in adding the amendments moved by my noble friend Lord Renfrew to the Bill, strengthened considerably the HMCI's monitoring role. We have given him the right to see tender papers and attend meetings at which tenders are discussed, so that HMI will see all the proposals put forward by all registered inspectors to all schools. It will therefore be keeping a very close eye on all stages of the inspection process. That initial involvement will be an important source of background information, and may well be used to plan the frequency and nature of further monitoring.

I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will not press the amendment.

Lord Elton

That is a good enough answer for this time of night. I shall not press the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 76 not moved.]

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 77: Page 2, line 45, after ("to") insert ("all parts of").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of the amendment is obvious: to obtain an assurance that the Bill, as drafted, is sufficient to enable inspectors to go into all parts of the school, including those parts of the rare school where the rare head teacher will not want them to penetrate because a class is not in a position to give the best impression of what is going on in the school generally. I hope that is clear enough to enable my noble friend to reply. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

I understand my noble friend's concern to ensure that inspectors have access to all parts of a school's premises, and cannot be barred from those parts which the governing body or teachers might not wish them to see, for whatever reason. The right of entry to school premises given to HMI under Clauses 3 and 7, and to registered inspectors and members of inspection teams under Schedule 2, covers all parts of a school's premises, including everything from classrooms to cupboards. I am assured that it even includes detached playing fields. I can give my noble friend the assurances he seeks, and I hope that he will not press the amendment.

Lord Elton

That being so, I should mention Amendments Nos. 78 and 80, which relate to HMI in England, Amendments Nos. 83 and 84 which relate to Wales, and Amendments Nos. 149 and 151 which relate to registered inspectors in both countries. In begging leave to withdraw the amendment, I announce that I shall not be moving those amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 78 not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

I call Amendment No. 79, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Peston.

Lord Peston

It is always paradoxical—

Lord Elton had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 78: Page 2, line 45, leave out ("and").

The noble Lord said: I made an error in what I said a moment ago. The noble Lord the Deputy Chairman picked it up more quickly than I spotted it. Amendment No. 78 is a paving amendment for Amendment No. 80.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

Amendment No. 78, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Elton.

Lord Elton

I repent of my intervention. It is much better that we do not deal with the amendment tonight. I shall not move it.

[Amendment No. 78 not moved.]

12.15 a.m.

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 79: Page 3, line 4, at end insert ("provided that an Inspector shall not have the right t by virtue of this subsection to inspect nor take copies of the appraisal record of any teacher or any part of any document relating solely to an individual, unless authorised to do so by the Chief Education Officer or, in the case of a grant-maintained school, the chairman of the governing body.").

The noble Lord said: I was about to say that in many ways I intended to echo the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, but it is extremely important to discuss this amendment thoroughly. Amendment No. 79 is grouped with Amendments Nos. 85 and 155.

The problem as I see it is as follows. Obviously, if we are to have an inspection, inspectors must obtain all the relevant material; otherwise, they cannot do their jobs properly. However, some of that material may well be personal to the teachers concerned, particularly their appraisal records. This matter concerns the serious issue of civil liberties—especially if one favours appraisal, as I certainly do—as regard saccess to such material by what are essentially commercial private enterprises. That is, after all, what the Government seek to introduce into the inspection process. On civil liberties grounds but also on grounds of teacher co-operation, I believe there must be some way of protecting those documents.

Further, if the inspecting team says the problem it is considering necessitates it seeing such material, there should be at least some requirement for authorisation. The amendments standing in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, suggest that either the chief education officer or a local authority or the chairman of a school governing body would have to give permission before such documents could be looked at.

A more extreme provision would require that those documents could never be looked at. I must admit that I have toyed with that idea. However, I am aware that that could make inspection and the ability to get at the real problem much more difficult. That is the problem that is before us. There is a need for the inspecting team to obtain information and a need to protect the rights of the individual. Amendments Nos. 79 and 85 go some way to dealing with that problem. I cannot see anything else in the Bill that does.

Amendment No. 155 relates to the logical consequence of this matter; that is, that the inspection reports will be published. Again we shall have to take into consideration whether any personal matters in connection with individual teachers—especially those contained in documents which teachers had thought could not be looked at—should be included in the publications. The inspection team would have to take into account the general laws regarding defamation, but apart from that one is concerned more generally that material that should be private could get into the published document. Amendment No. 155 endeavours to offer some protection in that regard.

I can appreciate that there is a problem as regards how one offers the protection I have referred to and yet allows access to relevant information. That is a classic problem in open government anyway. That is the problem as I see it. I want to establish what the Government have to offer by way of reassurance to the teachers involved in this matter, who quite rightly feel they might be exposed to public scrutiny, as it were, in a way that would not be acceptable on almost any grounds of protection of the individual. I apologise for putting such a serious matter before the Committee at a quarter past midnight, but we just happen to have reached it at this time of night. I beg to move.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

I have added my name to this amendment as this is a serious matter. I remember having a conversation with a member of HMI not long ago. I asked him whether occasionally his reports contained confidential material. He replied that there was none. That was when Her Majesty's Inspectorate was inspecting schools. The situation will be different in the future and this matter deserves the attention of the Government. I should like to associate these Benches with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Peston.

Baroness Blatch

I agree that this is a sensitive and very important issue. I too am not apologetic that we are still here discussing it at this hour.

The noble Lord explained that he wishes to ensure that neither HMI nor registered inspectors have an automatic right of access to records of any kind held on individual members of staff or pupils and that registered inspectors need the permission of the appropriate authority to publish any part of such records in their reports. I shall not take up the Committee's time arguing on a technical point that the amendments would not in fact achieve what the noble Lords opposite want but I shall instead address the principle involved because I am sure that that is what they would wish.

The issue of inspectors' access to personal records was debated at length in another place, and my honourable friend the Minister of State gave an assurance that when the chief inspector was appointed the points raised would be drawn to his or her attention and the extreme sensitivity of the whole subject would be emphasised. I am happy to take this opportunity to repeat his assurance. We are very much aware of the concern and anxiety which teachers and others feel about the need to safeguard the confidentiality of personal records held in schools. But there is no intention under this Bill to open such records to wider scrutiny than that to which they have been subject up to now. I cannot envisage a situation in which any inspector would ever consider publishing material from personal records in an inspection report.

It is clear that HMI and registered inspectors need to have access to academic and personal records kept on pupils in order to assess the school's effectiveness in meeting its statutory duties and providing discipline and pastoral care. They may also have reason to look at teachers' personal records to establish their qualifications and length and type of experience in order to obtain an accurate picture in respect of the whole teaching staff of a school.

However, the position in respect of appraisal records is different, since the information recorded is a judgment about the teacher's capabilities. It is the inspector's job to make that judgment on the basis of observation, not of second-hand evidence; it would detract from the confidential nature of the appraisal process if inspectors were to have access to those papers. HMI has never looked at appraisal records, and we would expect HMCI's guidance to make those points. Therefore registered inspectors would not be able to claim that such records were ones they required for the purposes of their inspections. That should ensure confidentiality.

Given the position I have described and the assurance given by my honourable friend, which I have repeated, I hope that noble Lords will agree that it is unnecessary to impose further conditions on inspectors' right of access to a school's records.

My honourable friend the Minister of State's undertaking to draw our debates—now including this one—to the chief inspector's attention should suffice to ensure that HMI's own actions and its guidance to registered inspectors take full account of our policies of confidentiality. If there were any evidence to the contrary those policies could be the subject of a direction under Clause 2 to make sure that they were given full consideration by the chief inspectors.

I hope that with that explanation the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Peston

I thank the noble Baroness for her reply, which I find reassuring. Unfortunately, I am not one of those who needs to be reassured since I am not a teacher who would be affected. I was particularly reassured by her last remarks regarding directions. If the noble Baroness will bear with me I should like to read in Hansard what she said and what her honourable friend said, and hope that that will convince the teachers, who are the people concerned. But if they say that they would like something more specific on the face of the Bill I may have to return to the matter. However, for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 80 not moved.]

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 81:

Page 3, line 4, at end insert: ("(3A) Any Inspector inspecting a school under this section may request the appropriate authority for that school to arrange a meeting in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed, including provisions as to confidentiality, between himself or an additional inspector authorised by him for the purpose, and those parents of registered pupils at the school who wish to attend.").

The noble Lord said: I should like to have a brief word on this amendment from my noble friend. It simply seeks to attract to the chief inspector and his inspectors that assistance which registered inspectors are under the Bill already entitled to have with regard to meeting with parents. I have to say that I have included one little phrase which is not in the Bill already as it relates to registered inspectors. At a later stage I shall seek to import that phrase into that part of the Bill. The words: including provisions as to confidentiality are in fact an importation. Why is it that the chief inspector is not entitled to have this facility granted to him when a registered inspector is so entitled? I beg to move.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

Perhaps I may first say that I applaud my noble friend's intention in seeking to ensure the maximum possible parental involvement in the children's school and, in particular, to allow that when HMI conduct an inspection in school a meeting with parents may be arranged. When HMI conducts a full inspection in the same way as the registered inspectors would be doing—i.e., when they substitute in that stage —it has such powers. If it is just making an inspection of some particular point, that is not covered.

Lord Elton

Is my noble friend saying that that provision is in the Bill somewhere? If so, I shall search for it between now and Report stage. That is what I was seeking. Perhaps she will drop me a note to say where I shall find it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Power of Chief Inspector for Wales to arrange for inspections]:

[Amendments Nos. 82 to 86 not moved.]

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.