§ 3.9 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Baroness Blatch)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Blatch.)
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, in the light of this Bill proceeding to Committee, and the fact that it will not be possible for us to complete it if there is a General Election on 9th April, does that mean that the Government have now decided that there will be no election on that date and that the earliest date for the election will be 7th May?
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, we proceed with the business of the House until we know there is to be a general election.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]
Clause 9 [Inspection of certain schools]:
§ The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)
I call Amendment No. 87. If this amendment is agreed to I cannot call amendments Nos. 88 to 99 inclusive, or Amendment No. 111A.
Baroness David moved Amendment No. 87:
Page 5, line 13, leave out from ("duty") to end of line 20 and insert:
§ The noble Baroness said: In speaking to this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 108B, which is consequential. I shall not speak to Amendment No. 115B which has been grouped with them because I was too late when I complained and said that I wished to speak.
§ This amendment stands as a statement of broad principle, intended to find out the Government's view of the role of local education authorities. This has produced very contradictory statements from Ministers during the progress of the Bill. The Bill as drafted seeks to remove the power of LEAs to inspect the schools they maintain. This amendment would, instead, insert a positive duty for LEAs to arrange for the inspection of all the maintained schools of their area, but under a scheme of inspection approved by the chief inspector.
The main points which this amendment seeks to address are: that all schools should be inspected at regular intervals within sound national arrangements, that is,
under a scheme of inspection approved by the Chief Inspector, at such intervals as may be prescribed".
Much of that is common ground. In particular, the LEA should have the leading role in arranging inspections of all maintained schools in its area. It is on that point that the Minister's response would be most helpful.
§ Mr. Eggar said in a meeting with the Association of Metropolitan Authorities on 18th December that it would be for the LEA to determine the order in which its schools could be inspected. Is that still the view of the Government? In slightly more detail, the amendment would thus have the schools being inspected by registered inspectors at regular intervals, the choice of registered inspector being the responsibility of the LEA; although that could perhaps be delegated to governing bodies under safeguards including those provided by the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, which were accepted a week ago. The inspection of every maintained school in an LEA's area would be conducted consistently under a local scheme of inspection approved by HMCI. Most importantly, this would permit some initiatives or policy concerns to be pursued by the LEAs, though subject always to HMCI's approval.577
§ The crucial point is whether the LEA is empowered to inspect aspects of educational provision in maintained schools other than those which are likely to be laid down by HMCI generally for all schools and other than those which the governing body of each school wish to have inspected. On that point, the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, appear to be inadequate, since HMCI's assessor, in helping the governing body to reach a sound decision, would not necessarily have the particular local knowledge and understanding possessed by the LEA. Furthermore, we believe it is proper for the LEA to be empowered to inspect educational matters that it judges to be particularly important for its local area, perhaps in connection with some additional resources that have been provided by the LEA.
§ One of the consequences most likely from the reduction of HMI numbers has appeared to be that HMCI would not be able to maintain the liaison with LEAs currently undertaken by HMI. That current system provides HMI with a measure of local knowledge and understanding. It might be that the Minister feels able to explain whether the increase in HMCI's staffing of perhaps a further 40 inspectors, announced in connection with the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, will also provide sufficient staff to maintain close working links with each LEA. Would the assessor be able to assist the governing body, in particular, by reflecting the local priorities and educational concerns of the LEA? Nevertheless, we believe that the LEAs themselves should be empowered to pursue, through school and inspection arrangements, their priorities and educational concerns.
§ A subsidiary point is the position of grant-maintained schools, which have received financial inducements to opt out, and which receive preferential financial treatment after opting out, at the expense of the local education authority's budget for other maintained schools. We believe that the new inspection arrangements should examine value for money so that published reports of neighbouring schools that are maintained in one way or another from the LEAs' budgets offer comparisons which are scrupulously fair.
§ A further subsidiary point is the inspection of independent schools under Clause 9, which this amendment proposes should be arranged by the appropriate chief inspector in place of the proprietor. This may appear controversial, but independent schools do have a great number of assisted places in their schools and these are paid for by the taxpayer. However, there is a particular technical point about the apparently limited scope that HMCI's assessor would have under the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, for providing constructive advice based on an understanding of the school's needs. Whereas the new provisions provide, sensibly, for attendance of the assessor at a meeting of a governing body, there is no parallel provision for a consultative meeting with a sole proprietor. Perhaps the Minister in her reply could say how HMCI's assessor could 578 otherwise be enabled to provide constructive advice, rather than a blunt veto, in the instance of an independent school. I beg to move.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
The noble Baroness has raised a number of interesting questions. However, I should like to point out the consequence, as I see it, of adopting Amendment No. 108B, which is grouped with this amendment, in which reference to the appropriate authority—that is, the board of governors of the school—is deleted. That would have serious consequences for other parts of Schedule 2, which deal with the consequences of the inspection procedure, because the appropriate authority—that is, the governors—has a number of other responsibilities in this respect.
Under paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 the governors have to organise a meeting and notify parents of that meeting, which is to be held in relation to the inspection. Under paragraph 9 they have the obligation of passing on the inspector's report to parents. Those requirements would still be there within Schedule 2 but the concept of appropriate authority would be seriously undermined by the removal of the definition of appropriate authority in the amendment under discussion. Then, of course, the appropriate authority has the responsibility for preparing action plans in consequence of the registered inspector's report. I see that there are other amendments in that respect so I shall not speak to the issue of action plans now because those will clearly be discussed under those amendments.
Under paragraphs 6 and 9 of Schedule 2 there are responsibilities of some significance assigned to appropriate authorities which would be considerably undermined if the concept of appropriate authority is abolished by the implementation of the amendment.
§ Baroness Seear
I support this amendment, which also has my name to it, and emphasise two points. First, in our view it is highly desirable that the local authorities should have the power to inspect, which they have always had in the past. That at least gives the authorities some continuing contact with the schools. They have the local knowledge and experience. One suspects that there is a good deal of animus against the local authorities which is leading to their exclusion. That should, in our view, be removed. The local authorities should still have powers to continue.
Secondly, we also support the idea that there should be inspections of independent schools; and not only where taxpayers' money is involved—after all, the country's children are attending those schools, whoever happens to be paying for them. While some independent schools are undoubtedly of an extremely high quality and well able to look after their own standards, we all know that there are others that are not. Therefore, inspection should be extended to independent schools in the interests of maintaining high quality education.
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
I welcome this amendment as well. It would bring a degree of 579 independence to the business of inspection which is very much needed. There is something fundamentally wrong about an establishment, through its governors or proprietor, choosing its own inspectors. I think it was the noble Baroness the Minister who at an earlier stage compared it to the diners choosing the inspectors of a restaurant. But it is really not like that. From my experience as an education officer at countless governors' meetings, I can testify that in both formal and emotional terms governors are much closer to being the managers of the outfit and as such they have a strong interest in a positive outcome.
The amendment put forward last Monday by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, goes some way to improving the position, but I find some difficulty in seeing how it would work on the ground without a lot of bureaucratic input on the part of HMI, whose expertise, I feel, could be better employed than in second-guessing governing bodies on criteria that will not be at all easy to formulate. But, when it is taken together with this amendment, HMI's monitoring role would of course remain, since that is what your Lordships' Committee has agreed. But it would be greatly facilitated—indeed streamlined—by dealing with LEAs rather than individual schools. I think that HMI would need a much lighter touch in such circumstances. For these reasons, and given that we are to have commercial inspections, this amendment offers a more satisfactory way of doing it, although I acknowledge the point of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, that there may be difficulties over the appropriate authority. I am not quite sure at this stage how we resolve that.
§ Lord Peston
I support the amendment although I have not risen for that reason. I have risen to deal with the technical point of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, which seems to me to be rather more serious than he himself may have realised. Subsection (5), to which the grouped amendment refers and which we wish to delete, states:In this section 'appropriate authority' means".It does not state, "throughout the Bill 'appropriate authority' means". It occurs to me, having listened rather carefully to what the noble said, that in that regard the Bill may be fundamentally flawed since it does not say that the "appropriate authority" applies anywhere else in the Bill. It may well be that it does and therefore that the matter can easily be dealt with technically. However, subsection (5) simply states "In this section".
§ Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
I thank the noble Lord for giving way. The term "appropriate authority" is also used in Part I of Schedule 2. Part I is headed "Inspections Under Section 9". Therefore, the definition of "appropriate authority" given in Section 9, unless deleted, applies to Part I of Schedule 2.
§ Lord Peston
The question I raised is precisely whether it does mean that. That is why I think it was useful for the noble Lord to raise it. Subsection (5) states "In this section". It does not state "In this section and the consequential schedule". Therefore we 580 need at the very least to be absolutely certain that the Bill is drafted correctly. The substantive point is the point that the amendment is all about—whether a school should be allowed to chose its own inspectors—but in raising his objection, which is nothing to do with the substance of the matter, the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, has raised an important point.
I intervene simply to ask the Minister to clarify the position so that we are absolutely certain that the Bill is drafted correctly. As I said, I do not think that it has anything to do with the substantive point, which is that, whatever the authorities are called and however they are defined, it is irrational to suggest that they ought to choose their own inspectors. That is what the amendment is about.
§ Baroness Blatch
Perhaps I may say at the outset that for a Bill that has a near record number of groups of amendments to be dealt with today it is extremely disruptive to have had not one change but two changes to the groupings, one of the changes coming as late as almost the point when I walked into the Chamber this afternoon. Perhaps I may also say, to clear up the point that has just been made—
§ Baroness David
Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Baroness. I do not know when there was a first change to the groupings. As I understand it, the three amendments were grouped together until I tried at about one o'clock to ungroup Amendment No. 115B. I did my best. I rang up the Government Whips' Office to say that but was told that the groupings had already been printed and could not be deleted. However, I left that message.
§ Baroness Blackstone
I wonder whether I may add to what my noble friend has just said. The rules of the House are that any Member of the House can ungroup a group of amendments at any time if he or she thinks that it would make more sense to do so. We of course always want to be helpful but I am rather puzzled by the Minister's remarks just now.
§ Baroness Blatch
The noble Baroness is absolutely right. I am not referring to rights or to what we can or cannot do. I am simply referring to the fact that the changes were so late that it has become very difficult to respond to what is a record number of amendments today. Until one o'clock today the grouping agreed by noble Lords opposite was Amendment No. 87 with Amendments Nos. 108B and 115B. It was only as I arrived in the Chamber today, and even as I picked up the groupings that had been agreed and had been printed by the Printed Paper Office, that I found that there had been another change and that this amendment was to be taken separately. I simply make the point that it makes life very difficult; and not only for those responding at the Dispatch Box but for those following the debate who have in writing now a grouping of amendments which is not consistent with those with which we are having to cope during the course of the debate. Perhaps I may also clear up the point about the definition of "appropriate authority". The answer to that is defined in Clause 18 for the purposes of the whole Bill.
581 Amendments Nos. 87 and 108B are quite simply wrecking amendments and ones which seek partially to substitute the Labour Party's policy, as set out in its policy document, for the policy of the Government. The amendments would retain the LEA monopoly of school inspection for the schools LEAs maintain. They would, it is true, require inspections to be carried out at intervals to be prescribed by the Secretary of State. They would require all inspectors to be registered by the chief inspectors. Both of those important provisions of our Bill, which the party opposite would retain, represent at least welcome improvements to the policy as set out in Labour's own document, but they are simply not enough to make that policy acceptable.
Whatever may be said, the amendments do not seem to me strong enough to establish national criteria for inspection. They would require Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors to approve schemes of inspection LEA by LEA and not, as under our plans, to establish a national scheme and national criteria which all inspectors will be obliged to use.
We have had considerable debate about the need for strong central criteria if national comparability and standards of inspection are to be guaranteed. We are agreed that the success of the Bill depends on the chief inspectors having the power, authority and, if I may say to the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, independence to set and monitor those standards. I do not think noble Lords will be impressed by amendments which would in fact seriously weaken the chief inspectors' role.
The power to approve a scheme—to haggle and negotiate with more than 100 authorities about the criteria and the methodology they each think suitable—is not good enough. Those authorities still fundamentally opposed to the need for rigorous external inspection of schools—and there are some—could well string out such negotiations for a very long time. Are there to be sanctions if the scheme of inspection is not approved? We are not told. What if the authority cannot offer candidates good enough for registration by the chief inspector? That is not clear.
Nor do I think that noble Lords will be impressed by a system which leaves the employment and direction of inspectors entirely in the hands of those authorities which have failed so evidently to use their existing powers in this area. I know that there are beacons of excellence in a few authorities. I keep referring to the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, but he has referred a number of times to one authority that ranks among the highest in the country for effective inspection. I do not want to belittle their considerable achievements, but I must remind the Committee that only nine authorities have what HMI regards as strong and effective systems. They will have no difficulty in playing a full part under our proposals. But under the Labour Party's proposals even the worst authorities will not just have a major role but a monopoly one.
In defence of the amendments it may be claimed that the chief inspectors' role will not be weakened. With a standard cycle of inspections, and the chief 582 inspectors' power to approve inspectors, there will not be that much room for manoeuvre. There will be quality control as tight as under the Bill as drafted.
In that case we have to ask ourselves what the purpose of the amendments really is. It goes well beyond the desire to keep the decision on who should do the inspection out of the hands of the governors. We discussed that question last week. Rather than take choice away from the governors, the Committee decided to strengthen the Bill, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Renfrew, to help governors to make a wise choice, and monitor their decisions. So the justification for these amendments must simply be the doctrinaire desire to see local authorities left unchallenged as providers of school inspection. That is directly contrary to the scheme of the Bill. That is why I repeat my view that these are wrecking amendments.
Local authorities will have the power to take part in the inspection system. They will have the power to monitor their schools as necessary—in later debates, we shall have a chance to set the record straight on that score—but they will no longer have a monopoly on inspection. Our Bill is designed to replace that with a more open system. I believe that the amendments must be rejected.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
Before the noble Baroness concludes, perhaps I may point out that on these Benches we have no interest whatever in promoting the policy of the Labour Party. I did not think that we were discussing that issue today; I thought that we were discussing the amendment. I implore Members of the Committee to concentrate on the amendment. The straying off into discussing party manifestos which have yet to be published is an irresponsible waste of time.
I said that I support the amendment. I do so because I want to keep a role for the local authorities, not because I want to give them a monopoly. I want them to have a role in the matter. I hope that we can forget about the manifestos of all parties—even ours, which I believe is coming out today.
§ Baroness Blatch
Perhaps I may respond to that point. The amendment is not about a role for local education authorities; it is about a central monopolising role for local education authorities. As that is part of a very specific pledge, we have seen it in that light.
§ Lord Glenamara
I listened with amazement to what the noble Baroness said. Perhaps I may remind Members of the Committee of what the amendment would do with regard to county schools. Clause 9 would read:It shall be the duty of every education authority as respects every maintained school in their area … to secure that the school is inspected under a scheme of inspection approved by the Chief Inspector".Would that not include who shall inspect it? Of course it would. The subsection would conclude with the words,at such intervals as may he prescribed, by an inspector registered under section 10(1)".583 How on earth can it be a wrecking amendment? It is strictly in line with what the Government propose. How can the noble Baroness argue that it is a wrecking amendment?
§ Baroness Blatch
We do so because it gives the local education authority the power to evoke the whole process.
§ Lord Dormand of Easington
I believe that we were given a new definition of the word "monopoly" by the Minister in her reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. She said that the amendment would provide a monopoly for the local education authority. Surely, monopoly in that context means that it would be the only organisation involved. There could be no other interpretation. But the amendment talks about the power of three different organisations: first, the local education authority; secondly, the chief inspector for England; and thirdly, the chief inspector for Wales. How on earth can that be a monopoly?
On a separate point, although we have seen many statements since 1979 in which the Government have stated what little faith they have in local government, surely an elected local authority has a role to play even though it is not a monopoly. Moreover, in local education—which, after all, is the most important function that local government has—surely a local authority must be given a statutory and proper role as defined in the amendment.
§ Baroness White
Can the Minister tell the Committee what attitude the Government have towards people standing for election to local authorities? How can she expect candidates of any worth to put themselves forward for election to local authorities when the Government are so determined here to deprive local authorities of any functions which are worth the while of any good citizen to maintain?
§ Baroness Blatch
The noble Baroness highlights a fundamental difference between Members of the Committee opposite and those on this side of the Chamber. For the purposes of the Bill, we consider the proper authority to be, in the main, the governors. I was a member of a local authority. During that time, I did as much as any authority member in the country to push operational autonomy down to school level. In the 1988 Act, we took that policy further. It is about devolving operational autonomy, not simply from government but from local education authorities down to the school where we believe it belongs; namely, with headteachers, staff and the governing bodies.
§ Lord Glenamara
I should like to press the Minister on one point. If a local authority thinks that one of its county schools needs inspecting, why should it not be able to initiate the process? It may not carry out the inspection; that is for the chief inspector to decide under the scheme. But if it decides that a school needs inspection, why on earth should it not be allowed to initiate the process?
§ Baroness Blatch
If the local education authority has good reason to believe that a school needs inspecting, it has every right to do so under the provisions of the Bill.
§ Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
There is perhaps some confusion about various aspects of the amendment. So far as I can see, it would place in the hands of the local authority the responsibility for organising the inspections. The inspections would still be carried out in accordance with Clause 10(1) so, no doubt, there would still be periodic inspections—a four-year period or whatever—but if we are also discussing Amendment No. 115B—
§ Baroness David
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I said at the beginning of my remarks that I had removed that amendment from the group. I did so at 1 p.m. Unfortunately, it was not reported by the Whips' Office to the Minister. However, I made mention of the fact when I rose to speak.
§ Lord Dormand of Easington
The Minister did not comment at all on her definition of the word "monopoly". I believe that that is very germane to the amendment. Will she comment on it now?
§ Baroness Blatch
Yes, indeed. The amendment would take away the obligation for local governors to exercise their requirement for an inspection under the provisions of the Bill and put it in the hands of the local education authority.
§ Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
I apologise to Members of the Committee for rising to speak again. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady David, for informing us that paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 would remain in the Bill under this raft of amendments. But the paragraph says:Before entering into any arrangement for an inspection, the appropriate authority for the school concerned shall invite tenders".The term "appropriate authority" is proposed to be deleted by Amendment No. 108B. Therefore, I am somewhat confused because, on the one hand, the noble Baroness proposes to delete the term under the latter amendment—to which I understand we are speaking—but when we come to the section which it was the original intention to delete but which is now to remain in the Bill according to the noble Baroness, we find that it contains the term, "appropriate authority". How then am I to interpret the terminology "appropriate authority" in paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 if the noble Baroness has deleted the definition of it from Clause 9? I shall be grateful if the noble Baroness can explain that to me.
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
I should just like to refer to an earlier point made by the Minister in order to clarify that a number of us have no problems. I certainly have no problem with devolving powers to 585 schools. I think that that is right. It is simply our case that this particular power is one that it is not right to devolve to schools.
§ Lord Glenamara
I must press the noble Baroness further. In reply to my first intervention she said that it was a wrecking amendment because it allowed local authorities to take the initiative. I believe she said exactly that. However, in reply to my second intervention she said that of course local authorities can take the initiative. Well, if they can take the initiative, what is she objecting to? How can it be a wrecking amendment? Surely local authorities know their schools and know when they need to be inspected. They are the people to initiate the process in county schools.
§ Baroness Blatch
The noble Lord misunderstands me. We have put the obligation on the "appropriate authority" which, in the main, means the local governors. We believe that that is right. The amendment would take that obligation away from governors and put it in the hands of the local education authority. There is a fallback power—indeed, an overall longstop power—for local authorities to have an obligation to see that education is effective under the 1988 Act. Once the inspections, which are required by the appropriate authority, have taken place, if a local authority is still concerned that there may be a problem in a school, it has the right of access to enter that school and to invoke some mechanism for ensuring that it is called to account.
§ Lord Glenamara
Perhaps the Minister can tell me where in the Bill a local authority is empowered to do that.
The Earl of Selkirk
Is it intended that there should he a Chief Inspector for Scotland? If so, who would be responsible for his appointment?
§ Baroness Blatch
There is to be an inspector for Scotland. Although I cannot give the precise terms for the appointment, I shall write to my noble friend on that point.
§ Lord Peston
Although I am sure that it was not done on purpose, the Minister has left me rather confused. Assuming that this provision is still in the Bill, "the appropriate authority" has no voice about whether to have the school inspected; it is obliged to have the school inspected. Therefore, that is not the issue before us. The appropriate authority must have the school inspected at the prescribed intervals. The only question is, "Who chooses the inspectors?"
Whatever else one says about that—and let us not in any sense deny the fact that we totally disagree on this point—I cannot see why this would be a wrecking amendment. There is no choice about the inspection; the school must be inspected. If the regulations refer to a specific number of years, that specific number of years must apply. If the appropriate authority has to 586 choose from a list that is approved by the chief inspector, then it must choose from the list that is approved by the chief inspector. The only difference is that the local education authority does not choose from the list; someone else chooses from the list. I can see that that is the difference and that we profoundly disagree, but I cannot see that this is a wrecking amendment. It is simply a disagreement, as we often have when considering Bills in your Lordships' House.
§ Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
Perhaps I may interpose again. That might have been the effect if Amendment No. 115B had been added but if that amendment is not added Schedule 2(2) holds and,Before entering into any agreement for an inspection, the appropriate authority for the school concernedshall invite tenders for various things. I am afraid that the amendment leaves us with an anomaly.
§ Baroness David
I do not think that I have ever heard so much misrepresentation as has come from the Minister on this occasion. This is not a wrecking amendment. As has been pointed out, no monopoly is being set up. The Minister did not answer my question about Mr. Eggar, the Minister, who said in a meeting with the AMA on 18th December that it would be for the LEAs to determine the order in which schools would be inspected. The Minister did not answer that point. Is that still the Government's view? If so, it seems to take away a lot of the sting about what the Minister said in reply to the amendment.
§ Baroness Blatch
It will be necessary to determine which 6,000-odd schools are to be inspected each year and for local education authorities to fund the specific schools that will be inspected in any one academic year. Therefore, it is important that the LEAs fund the specific schools that are designated for inspection.
§ Baroness David
I understood from Mr. Eggar's statement on that occasion that it would be for the LEAs to decide which schools would he inspected that year. The whole point about which the LEAs are worried is that if they know that something is going wrong in a school they want to be able to put in an inspector fairly quickly to try to get things put right. That will take a long time if they have to wait four years for the four-yearly inspection. The authorities are worried about things going wrong and about what to do if, say, a young teacher needs help. There are all sorts of occasions on which, at the moment, the LEAs can send assistance into schools. They want a little flexibility. The amendment tries to give that flexibility, but it has been grossly misrepresented. It is not a wrecking amendment.
As I said, Ministers have made many contradictory statements. On 30th January, during the Report stage in another place, the Secretary of State said that an LEA had a right to send in people and to inspect a school. However, that is not the same as what was said earlier by Mr. Fallon. I have just given the Secretary of State's latest statement on Report, but there is still a lack of clarity.
The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, has repeatedly made his point about "the appropriate authority". When one tables an amendment in Committee in this 587 place it often needs to be tidied up afterwards. Therefore, while denying everything that the Minister said about "monopoly" and "wrecking", perhaps the best thing for the moment would be for me to take the amendment away and tidy it up so that when it returns it will, I hope, give satisfaction to the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
Before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may pose a straight question, which may throw some light on some of the answers that have been given. Am I wrong in understanding that the role that is given to the governors, which is central to the Bill as proposed, would be invalidated by the amendment? In other words, are the requirements to secure an inspection and to select from at least two tenders still allowed under the amendment? That is not my reading of it. Indeed, if that is the case, it wholly invalidates the provisions that are central to the Bill. I refer to the role of the governing bodies as the appropriate authority.
§ Baroness David
I think that the Minister is wrong. Under the amendment the governors can still initiate an inspection. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 87A:
Page 5, line 15, after ("inspected") insert ("having regard to any information published in relation to "value added" at the school and").
§ The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 190, 194, 195, 203 and 203F. I shall focus on Amendment No. 203 in particular and shall leave my noble friends and others to speak to Amendments Nos. 190, 194 and 195. I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I speak at some length on this group of important amendments. This is the crucial debate on Clause 16.
§ Perhaps I may begin by saying that we on these Benches are committed to the publication of more information about schools and how they are performing. There are a number of reasons for that. First, parents deserve to have that information both when deciding to which school to send their children and so that, while their children are attending a particular school, they can be informed of just how effectively that school is performing. Secondly, head teachers and teachers should have such information as a guide to their own school's performance in relation to different age groups and different ability bands. Only when they have high quality information of that kind can they take well-informed decisions on how to improve the standards in the schools in which they are teaching. Thirdly, head teachers and their governing bodies must be accountable to the wider community for the standards achieved in their schools. High quality information on pupils' achievements helps to make that possible. Fourthly, local education authorities, which I know the Government dismiss and regard as being of no importance, need such information when monitoring standards and intervening where there are problems.588
§ Therefore, we support the collection and publication of data about the performance of pupils school by school. I say all this because I want to pre-empt the Minister getting up to ask what the Labour Party's policy is or casting aspersions on the Labour Party's policy instead of dealing with the amendment, as happened in Committee last week and as began to happen when we discussed the previous amendment.
§ For further clarification, the Labour Party is not saying that the raw data about schools' performances should not be published. We are saying that it must be published, but along with further information, showing not only the crude results of testing and examinations but also the progress that has been made by pupils. In other words, we are concerned about the value that the school adds, taking into account pupils' academic achievements on entering the school. That is the purpose of this group of amendments.
§ Amendment No. 203, upon which I wish to focus especially, is couched in a moderate, tentative way. All it requires is that the Secretary of State should obtain advice from HMCI on the appropriate method of providing parents with objectively assessed evidence showing the value added by schools. It therefore places on the face of the Bill an obligation to pursue the matter, which does not exist as the Bill is currently drafted.
There is considerable surprise and disappointment that Ministers still appear to be committed to requiring the publication of raw examination and assessment results only. Raw data give little, if any, information about the quality of education provided by schools. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary stated the Government's view in another place when he said:
Our view is that parents have the common sense to judge the [raw] data provided".
§ I believe that I have a reasonable amount of common sense. Some may disagree. My children think that I am terribly lacking in that department, because I cannot set my video. However, I could not judge the quality of a school just by looking at raw data; nor could I tell whether it was especially successful at obtaining good results from clever children, from children of average ability or from the less able. That is the kind of information that common sense tells me parents want. The Government must come up with a better argument than that if they want to convince people that what they propose is acceptable.
§ A consensus has now emerged that we must provide a genuine measure of quality, not merely a measure of the quality of the intake of the school, which is all that the raw data will provide. Just doing that will, I regret to say, seriously mislead and therefore be totally irresponsible. Let me make it clear that those who hold those views go right across the political spectrum. I am not talking merely about criticism from the Labour Party. They include Conservative as well as Labour-controlled local authorities, the independent Audit Commission, the teachers' unions, the National Commission on Education, academic researchers who have expertise and work in the field, organisations representing head teachers of state schools, and all the organisations representing the independent schools.589
I should like to quote one or two representatives of that last group, the organisations that represent the independent schools. I shall begin with Averil Burgess, the past president of the Girls' Schools' Association, who said:
I do not favour league tables which are brutal and over-simplified".
Mr. David Woodhead, the director of the Independent Schools Information Service, said:
It is disappointing that Mr. Clarke is content with raw results rather than a presentation which allows intelligent comparisons to be made between schools with different intakes. He should think again and concede that the quality of information is just as important as the quantity of information in helping parents decide their children's future".
I refer next to Mr. David Jewell, the headmaster of Haileybury, last year's chairman of the Headmasters' Conference, who made the following comment on a league table of A-level results:
It is totally valueless. It tells you nothing at all except the degree of the selectivity of the schools in question. I hope that parents are not foolish enough to take it on board".
Finally, I quote Mr. Peter Owen, chairman of the Independent Schools Association Incorporated, who said:
I am all in favour of publication, provided it is clearly understood that comparison can only be made if there is an equal comparison of the entry requirements and intakes of particular schools. A non-selective school or special school may have less good percentages than a selective school but may have done a much better job in educational terms".
§ In the light of those comments from right across the political spectrum, will the Government now concede that the Bill must make some provision for taking into account intakes through the measurement of value added? Will they concede that some schools full of clever pupils may not be doing a good job for those pupils, and other schools, with far fewer such pupils, may be doing a much better job, but that raw data will not reveal that?
§ As I said on Second Reading, the danger of raw results is that they lead to complacency. We must not let our teachers get away with that. Schools with an intake of high achievers can cover up poor performance because they have "good" examination results. On the other hand, schools with poor examination results may justify poor performance because they have an intake of lower achievers. Those schools doing well with a large intake of low achievers in a disadvantaged area will not be given the credit that they deserve and will become demoralised. Only by assessing the value added by the school, using statistical analysis, can school effectiveness be measured properly. The overwhelming consensus now is that multi-level modelling is the best means of providing such information. That is why the Association of Metropolitan Authorities has recently set up a major study which focuses upon that approach on the reporting of examination and assessment results. It is being conducted across the country by Conservative and Labour-controlled authorities and is supported by LEAs in a variety of areas.
§ The work is being carried out by leading academics in the field. The first report of the study has been published. I am sure that the Government must have been sent a copy. That is not the only study of value 590 added that has been or is being carried out. The Audit Commission is making similar studies of post-16 examinations and recently published its first report on schools' and colleges' A-level performance. This month the National Commission on Education published its first briefing paper on measuring added value in schools.
§ All those studies confirm earlier work by academics such as Professor Peter Mortimer and Professor Harvey Goldstein of the Institute of Education; Professor Tomlinson at Swansea University; and Professor Gray at Sheffield University, showing that with the use of modern methods of computing data analysis, it is now relatively easy—I do not say as easy as publishing raw results—to go beyond those crude measures. Until recently, however, the Government appear to have shown little, if any, interest in the provision of information which indicates value added.
§ However, we saw a little chink of light on this matter in July of last year in a debate in this place initiated by my noble friend Lady David which focused upon the importance of multi-level modelling as a means of ensuring that tables of examination and test results are truly comparable. In a letter to my noble friend following that debate, the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish, said that the Government had not rejected the multi-level modelling technique of the statistical analysis of examination results and noted that it was a research tool that now had widespread acceptance and was of value in helping to discuss factors that underlay the observed results.
More recently, in a speech at the North of England conference in January of this year, when setting out his proposals for changes in teacher training, the Secretary of State said that in selecting partner schools for the schemes,
I believe that value added indicators could well be applied to exam results … because it will be important for student teachers to experience schools that are successful in difficult circumstances".
I was delighted at the time to hear that the Secretary of State at last appeared to be coming round, having realised that those new and sophisticated methods of statistical analysis make it possible to get at the real performance of schools. On Report of the Further and Higher Education Bill in this place the Government moved an amendment, further amended on Third Reading to widen its effect, relating to the information that the Secretary of State may require the governing body of any institution within the FE sector to publish. In moving the amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish, said that its purpose was,
to give the Secretary of State the power to require the publication of information showing the value added—in terms of student qualifications—by the institution".—[Official Report, 16/1/92; col. 434.]
§ If it is appropriate for such information to be provided within the FE sector, why should schools not be expected to provide equivalent data? If such a provision can be written into the Further and Higher Education Bill, why can it not be included in the Education (Schools) Bill?
§ The amendment would write on to the face of the Bill a similar requirement for schools to that in the Further and Higher Education Bill for FE colleges. This is a golden opportunity to ensure not only that 591 parents have good information rather than misleading information but also that schools, local authorities, registered inspectors and Her Majesty's inspectors have information that will help us monitor the work of schools properly. That is something we all want to do. It will help us to intervene to bring the average and below average schools, including those with good intakes, up to the standards of the best. It is our responsibility to do this so that we can raise standards. There are now revolutionary new techniques which allow us to achieve that. To reject them would be the height of irresponsibility. I beg to move.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
I wish to add a word from these Benches in support of the amendment. If my remarks depart a little from what the Committee expects, I hope noble Lords will bear with me and realise that they have relevance. One must bear in mind when considering anything of this kind that no statistics can possibly tell us the most important attributes of a school. As the noble Baroness said, good results may just reflect a good intake or they may reflect the fact that the school has concentrated rather narrow attention on the national curriculum and nothing else.
What the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, said during our previous debates in Committee is true and to the point. I do not remember her exact words but she spoke about the approach of most parents to the problem of where to send their children. They were less concerned with exam results than with the atmosphere of the school, the happiness of the children, the discipline to which they were subjected, the absence of bullying and such other matters which are immeasurable. The trouble with exam statistics is that there is an implicit suggestion that they are the most important characteristics of the school. They are not.
A further point is that a good atmosphere in the school, the happiness of the children and the absence of bullying, as well as the moral and ethical atmosphere which we discussed during a previous Committee stage debate, produce results in exams. Good exam results depend on the good atmosphere of a school. If a child is happy, it will produce results which could never be produced in any other way. That is why I believe that concentration on bare statistics is dangerous. I fully support the amendment. More sophisticated information must be offered to parents, bearing in mind that statistics cannot tell the whole story.
§ Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
I heard the noble Baroness's speech with great interest and she made a number of valid and important points. It would be nice if there were a means of effectively evaluating in an agreed way what a school succeeds in doing for its pupils. However, I doubt very much whether we have yet reached that stage. That is what Amendment No. 87A proposes. It requires the insertion of:having regard to any information published in relation to `value added' at the school".I am cautious of the slightly glib term "value added". 592 We know what it means when we talk of a tax. We can add 17.5 per cent., and what we are adding it to is readily qualified because it is a sale price measured in pounds. Thus we can calculate what 17.5 per cent. value added will be.
However, it is much less clear what it would be in terms of received educational benefit. So far as I am aware, social scientists have not yet adequately quantified this somewhat nebulous concept. The noble Baroness referred to multi-level modelling, but I was impressed—as she was—at the howls of alarm that went up on many sides when tables of A-level results were published. At least there was not much doubt that those results were the A-level results. It is true that for them to be properly interpreted we need the explanatory background. But, my word, imagine the howls of dismay that would go up if it were not the A-level results that were published but some massaged set of figures according to principles that had not been universally agreed.
The strength of the present provisions is that the Bill will require information that would include public examination results, national curriculum test results, truancy rates, the destination of school-leavers and other raw data. These are all readily ascertainable. Whatever the imperfections —and I have no doubt that it is difficult to measure truancy rates when there is unreported illness—they are results that can be determined in a fairly reproducible way.
However, I am doubtful that the noble Baroness can justify the concept of "objectively assessed evidence"—sthat is the terminology in Amendment No. 203—in relation to value added. For one thing, she referred to the comparable concept in the higher education sphere, but there at least we have examination results on admission to university and examination results on leaving university. Thus there are two sets of data which we can play with in the multi-level modelling.
What are the results, however, on admission to the school? Admittedly, on leaving the school there are various tests in the national curriculum, GCSE and so on. But on a child's admission to school at the age of five, what are the comparable data and the objectively assessed evidence? That is why I am sceptical.
"Objectivity" is a key word. It is a term beloved by those who call the nebulous or complex discipline sociology a social science. Yet I am not sure that we can use the word "science" in this way if we are talking about mensuration and metrication. These are difficult to measure, though I take the noble Baroness's point that studies have been undertaken on how they might be measured.
The problem is that, before we make it part of the nationally applied system, we must have universal confidence that the measures are valid and in a sense objective. I fear very much that if we came down to discussing exactly how the value added would be assessed, there would be every measure of disagreement, not only on both sides of the Committee but between the different parts of the different sides of the Committee. For that reason, I believe that it is 593 premature to introduce a requirement for the notion of value added until we agree what it means. I do not believe that we have yet reached that position.
§ Lord Dormand of Easington
In supporting my noble friend Lady Blackstone, I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 190, 194 and 195 in my name in this group. I wish to refer briefly to what the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, has just said. Frankly, I am astonished that, if I understand him correctly, he does not realise that if we are talking about raw data, exam results are governed by the very factors to which he referred. I see that he agrees. I should have thought that that was relevant to what he said. I shall deal with it in a little more detail later.
It seems to me that on the more material matters which many of us on this side of the Committee have talked about since 1979 such as the state of school buildings and shortages of teachers, either generally or in specific subjects, all these factors are relevant to the proposition which we are dealing with today.
Amendment No. 194 was put down by the Opposition on Report in another place. It was selected by the Speaker but was not debated because of the guillotine. I shall not complain too much about guillotines as I have been a member of a government which also used guillotines. Certainly over the past 13 years the present administration have used the guillotine on some pretty fundamental matters, not least educational matters. That must be said in the context of today's debate.
§ Baroness Blatch
Will the noble Lord elaborate on the point he is making about the guillotine as it applies to this Bill?
§ Lord Dormand of Easington
I was not speaking about the guillotine with reference to this Bill, although it has reference to the amendments we are debating at the moment.
§ Lord Dormand of Easington
The noble Baroness disagrees with me. I have merely stated a fact. In another place the guillotine was operated on this issue. I am saying that this is a major issue. We contend that the matter is fundamental to one of the main purposes of the Bill.
I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, that the term "value added" came from the Audit Commission. I am the first to say that the Audit Commission would think in terms of accountancy as distinct from the ethos of a school. However, I believe that value added is a good shorthand term for denoting that a school can contribute a number of factors to a pupil's development during the pupil's stay in the school.
The Government plan to compel governing bodies and LEAs to publish raw data, sometimes in league table form, which do not distinguish between what a school has done for its pupils—that is the so-called value added provision—and non-school factors such as pupils' abilities and social and economic background, so that the data really cannot be said to show the performance of the school as it purports to 594 do. That is misleading for parents and the public. It allows governing bodies to present false colours where the data exaggerate the so-called performance of the school and handicaps the governing body in its work where the data understate that performance. My amendment obliges the Secretary of State to explain in a statement, which can be published alongside the raw data, what the difficulties of interpreting the data are. I believe that to be a fundamental provision.
It is irresponsible for Ministers to claim that it can be left to the good sense of parents to draw sensible conclusions from the raw data when such conclusions are impossible, or at least very difficult, to draw without detailed knowledge which even the experts may not have on some occasions. The responsible course is to alert parents to the difficulties. The right person to do so is the Secretary of State who has decided that particular data should be published in a particular raw form.
Without such an explanation by the Secretary of State, LEAs and governing bodies are left to make their own statements. Where the performance of a school has been exaggerated, governors are unlikely to issue a statement casting doubt on the raw data. That seems fairly obvious. Where the performance of a school has been understated, governors may have difficulty providing an authoritative explanation on a matter of great technical difficulty.
On this matter, the Bill, unbelievably, ignores some of the most important aspects of school life. I feel compelled to repeat what I have said on previous occasions when speaking on education legislation. Who on earth do the Government listen to when they prepare Bills? The cultural aspects of school life—the building of character, courtesy, thoughtfulness, self-discipline, respect for others, responsibility, and a host of other matters which those of us who have spent some time in education realise form a large part of a full and rounded education—are not necessarily shown, at least not directly, in examination results.
Earlier I mentioned non-school factors. The social and economic background of pupils affect their ability and performance. Hundreds of books and hundreds of pamphlets and research documents have been published on the issue. Surely no one can now doubt the general findings. To publish and rely on raw data would be one of the most fundamental errors ever perpetrated in educational practice. These amendments will go some way to mitigating the error. I hope that the Government will recognise the folly of what they propose to do. It is a matter of the utmost importance.
§ 4.15 p.m.
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
This issue of league tables, raw data and value added is disturbing, not just for itself but for what it symbolises. This Government are out to demystify a profession whose practices they do not much like. I sympathise with that aim; I have the same feelings about other professions. But in trying to make things simple there is always the danger of being simplistic. I believe that the Bill crosses this boundary in a number of places. When that happens, some much-needed professional skills and expertise 595 get lost. I was alarmed, for example, when the noble Baroness the Minister last Monday accepted an amendment which deleted the words "good practice." On the surface the arguments looked good, robust common sense, but I felt that on closer scrutiny it was another nail in the coffin of legitimate professionalism which was no more acceptable in the educational field than it would have been in the medical or architectural.
The matter of interpreting and presenting data which are designed to lead people to a correct judgment is a field par excellence where some expert help is needed. I understand the point of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, but I do not think the wording we have put down here is hostile to it. Let me give two examples. Not long ago there was a medical trial of a certain treatment for cancer. It transpired that nearly three times as many patients died on treatment A as on treatment B. Those were the raw figures. But close examination showed that treatment A patients were sicker when they entered the trial, their age range was different, and there were other factors. When these were taken into account it emerged that it was treatment B that was nearly three times more dangerous. I wonder how many Members of the Committee would have liked to be a patient given access to the raw data only in this case.
My second example is the ILEA. The arguments for its abolition were wholly spurious in so far as they were based on examination results. The authority was far down the league table, but its disadvantages were such that its real worth should have placed it about half way up. It was able to add quite a lot of value to the material it started with. The trouble was a political unwillingness to recognise that.
None of this is "muddying the waters"—the phrase used by one noble Baroness at Second Reading—still less "cooking the books." It is a correct use of professional technique, applicable across the range of research data everywhere. When the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, gave the example, also at Second Reading, of two A-level institutions with intakes of 50 students, one producing one grade A and the other producing 10, he asked,am I being completely irrational in believing that the second institution has a better chance of getting my son a grade A at A-level?" [Official Report, 11/2/92; col. 651.]The answer, I am afraid, is yes—or, if not completely irrational, then largely so. Until you have evidence that the second institution is not sitting on its laurels, and that the first is not excellent at teaching clever pupils but seldom gets any in its local area, you are safer to draw no conclusions from such raw data.
This is the kind of evidence I want as a parent. It is the kind of evidence that, by implication, Sir Graham Day's School Teachers' Review Body says we should have. I quote from paragraph 67 of the First Report:We are also conscious that performance indicators of this sort—that is, raw data—tell us little about what has been achieved by a school".It is also what HMI in a review of indicators in educational monitoring in the USA says we should have. It is also what the National Commission on 596 Education is saying we should have. We have heard another list of experts say likewise. How can it be otherwise when we know, and have known for years, that some two-thirds of the differences in educational achievement are due to factors outside the school?
But as a parent I want the raw data as well: there is no argument about that. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, I would not, however, consider myself competent to judge how well a school might do for my child—and I speak as someone who has worked a bit on performance indicators—without a lot more information. That is why I support this amendment.
§ Baroness Young
To a large extent I welcome the cross-party support for the publication of information about schools. The remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, about demystification are valuable. For far too long parents have known too little about what goes on in schools. There is a tacit assumption, which underlies some of the debate this afternoon, that every school can provide an equally good education for every child—a kind of homogenised education system. The fundamental fact is that that is not the case.
Having said that, I do not think that the example of the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, of medical research was a valid analogy. As we all know, medical research is an extremely difficult matter from which to draw conclusions, whereas in this case what is required for publication is facts about examinations, tests, truancy rates and where pupils go after leaving school.
The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, thought that my noble friend Lady Faithfull had said that parents were not worried about examination results. That is not my recollection of what she said, but she will speak for herself. Many parents mind very much. They want their children to do well at school. Why not? It will help them in higher education and for the rest of their lives. Even if they do not articulate their wish very clearly, parents want their children to be able to get a job. It is therefore of value to know where children go after leaving school and the proportion who go into training, to further education, or to a job and what proportion, tragically, end up unemployed or in a dead end job. That information is very valuable.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, is right to say that the issue has given rise to a great deal of anxiety. I recognise that. The problem which has confronted my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is that when one considers the alternative measures, which the noble Baroness enunciated very clearly and to which my noble friend Lord Renfrew responded very well, so much of educational explanation is unintelligible. It is unintelligible to those of us who try to follow the issues, let alone to anyone else. That has caused a great deal of doubt to be cast on the value of reports of one kind or another. I regret to say that some of the inspectors' reports are so convoluted that at the end of the day it is not at all clear what is being said.
To answer that point, the information will be published, but in addition the school can also publish information which it believes to be in its interest. That would answer the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, who spoke of the character and 597 culture of a school. Of course, that is part of the school. As I understand it, there is nothing to stop the school publishing information about itself, its character and its culture and what it regards as its good features. It is quite proper that the school should set those out. It would no doubt set them out as part of its aims, but certainly it can publish all of those matters.
It seems to me that the existing provision would cover the kind of explanation which is needed. There would be the raw data on which someone can make a judgement on various grounds, but if the school chose to do so that would be qualified by what the school wished to say. I therefore think that the amendments are unnecessary.
§ Baroness Faithfull
I refer to Amendment No. 203, to which I have put my name, and which is intended to elicit information from my noble friend the Minister. I wish to refer particularly to the 1981 Act and the position regarding statemented children. The principle behind the report of the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, and the subsequent Act was that children should be allowed to stay at home and to go to schools in their locality, particularly in the case of statemented children. A number of statemented children do not aim at high academic achievements because they may be backward, but not mentally handicapped, children. I should be grateful for clarification from my noble friend the Minister on two points.
If a parent wants her statemented child to go to a nearby school, and to a school which is a happy school where her child would be able to make progress, but the child is not able to go to university or to reach a high intellectual level, how is the parent to know which school the child should attend? Will the tariff show a school that will help children with certain difficulties? Secondly, will the school be prepared to accept that child knowing that it will reduce the standard because he or she does not have high academic ability?
I refer to two specific cases involving dyslexia. I am dealing with one boy who attends a school that does not have high academic levels but nevertheless uses up-to-date methods with dyslexic children which involve using a word processor. That boy achieved 14 GCEs in spite of being dyslexic. Another boy I am dealing with went to a school which has reasonably high academic standards but because the school did not give him the proper help his work has deteriorated.
The purpose of Amendment No. 203 is to clarify how one measures what a child achieves from a given starting point. He may not go very far, but for that child the progress made represents an achievement. Another child may start from the same point and go a long way. The situation is very confusing and the Bill does not make the position clear for parents of statemented children.
I should like to make it clear that I am referring not to children in primary schools but to older children who have been statemented and whose parents want to work within the 1981 Act.
§ Baroness Perry of Southwark
The amendments address themselves to Clauses 9 and 16. We are all agreed that those are two of the most important clauses in the Bill. I have total sympathy with the concept of value added in education. It is extremely important that when one looks at data covering examination results, and so on, one should know something of the nature of the schools which have achieved those results.
It is important to remind ourselves that the two clauses are equally important parts of the Bill. Not only will parents have the key data of raw examination results, truancy rates and the information which will undoubtedly be added to the list as our information becomes more exact, they will also have a full inspection report every four years. The kind of information for which Members of this Committee have asked in the last half hour is precisely what an inspection report will provide.
My noble friend Lady Young has already commented that some inspection reports may be too complex and difficult to understand. Nevertheless, their very complexity will commend them to those who have anxieties about the raw nature of some of the data. HMI reports—and the practice will be carried over into registered inspector's reports—explain the nature of a school, the nature of its intake, what is done and how well it is done in terms of children with special needs, and so on. Interpretation of the data over each four-year period will involve the reading of the raw data against the inspection findings and inspection descriptions. We should not forget that the value of the Bill is that it provides that totality of information for parents about schools in their area.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, mentioned the disgraceful proposal to use crude data. None of us is in favour of anything which is crude and misleading. But she also quoted someone else who said that all such data—the data of output, if I may call it that—will tell you is the nature of the input. That, as the discussion since has made abundantly clear, is simply not so. One of the most worrying features of our education system is the fact that there is enormous variation in output data. There is tremendous variation in the success achieved by the children, even where the population of schools or classes is identical. Variation occurs from class to class within schools, particularly in primary schools, and from school to school in both primary and secondary schools.
That means that there is a great difference in the amount of value added that the different schools offer. So the end results will still indicate something extremely important when parents compare like with like. When they compare two similar schools, they will still discover that the output data, the raw data, the crude data, are very different. The inspection reports and the parents' own knowledge of the locality will enable them to make very good use of the raw data. If it is known that of two schools with similar catchment areas, both of which are within an area in which parents might wish to send their child, one achieves very good SAT, GCSE and A-level results and the other does not, one has very clear reasons for choosing the school which has good results. Moreover, the 599 school which is under-achieving and has poor results with a similar population of children will have maximum motivation to improve its raw data statistics.
For that reason, therefore, and because of the assurance that the flexibility in Clause 16 will allow more sophisticated data to be required by Secretaries of State as more sophisticated techniques become available, I would reject the amendment.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Viscount Eccles
I shall not keep the Committee for very long. Things have changed greatly in the past 20 to 30 years. There is now a national curriculum. The duty of the Minister and Parliament is to do all they can to ensure that it is a success. A good flow of information is essential and it is much better than we ever had before.
Why did the old HMI inspections fade away? They did so because they were such a difficult business. They took so long and did not produce much result. A system is wanted whereby the best information can be made available as often as possible. Parents do not want to wait for four years for such information. Moreover, it will be much longer than four years between full inspections. Members of this Chamber always want to make the inspections more complicated and the inspectors will not be able to comply. That is not the way to use our expert people, the people who are troubleshooters and can obtain the information that we want.
One should not ask highly educated academics in the social services and so on for the kind of information that is required. One should ask parents, employers and the ordinary people. One should ask them: what do we need to know that we do not know? They will not say they want very complicated details. They will say that they want simple things on which to judge a school. They want information which will enable them to judge whether the national curriculum is being successful. That is the main point.
There has been an enormous reform in our education system. We must now erect the right administrative sections and recruit the right people to put that reform into practice. Such very complicated, general inspections will do practically nothing.
§ Lord Young of Dartington
I should like to speak in support of this amendment. I refer in particular to the remarks that we have just heard from the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. He asked: what do parents want? I ask: are we sure we know what parents—all parents—want?
The district I think of when I ask that question is Bethnal Green in East London, which is the part of London that I know best. The schools there are in great difficulties, partly because such a large proportion of the population comes from overseas—from Bangladesh, Somalia, Turkey, Vietnam and other places. As a result, a high proportion of children start off when they first come to this country knowing hardly any English at all. Partly as a consequence of that, the schools have rather poor performance 600 figures. Certainly when the children are tested at the ages of seven and nine their results—the raw results about which we constantly hear—are naturally inferior since many of the children hardly speak English at all.
Do the parents of those children want to be told year after year—or every four years, which is the period under discussion—that their schools are at the bottom of the league for London or on the same level as other places which have a high proportion of people from ethnic minorities? I submit that they do not. That is not what they want to hear. Nor do the teachers in those schools want to hear that they are at the bottom of the league table. Nor do the children want to hear it. Very often they are making a very great effort to overcome the handicap that they have to bear. I submit that parents want to hear about the progress that their children are making at school. They want to know the kind of job the teachers are doing for their children against all the difficulties that the teachers, children and parents suffer.
That is the situation. It applies not just to Bethnal Green but to the inner areas of all our great cities. They suffer under the same kinds of difficulties. The fear of many Members who would support this amendment if they were in the Chamber is that those parents will feel prejudiced and disheartened. The teachers will be disheartened unless full allowance is made for the difficulties of their task.
The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, who is not now in his place, earlier made a powerful statement about the difficulties of adding to raw results something that would be useful and understood by parents. If he were here I would ask him to think back some years, to the time when an extremely similar issue was being discussed very widely. In the 1960s I was a member of the Plowden Committee on primary schools. With various colleagues, I put forward the proposal that some schools in the country should be named educational priority area schools. Because of the disadvantages under which they laboured, we argued that they should get extra resources from local authorities in order to add to what they could give to children who were in any case severely disadvantaged in many cases.
There was a substantial debate on that issue. It was said that in fact one could not produce an educational priority area index that would give local education authorities the guidance they needed about which schools suffered such disadvantage that they ought to have extra resources. It was a fierce debate but there was a consensus in the end in Conservative and Labour authorities and indeed all local education authorities in the country. They agreed that the educational priority index worked and stood up to criticism. Throughout the country resources were allocated by local education authorities over 15 years or more in accordance with that index. The whole system disappeared a very short time ago when ILEA was abolished. But the general idea that there are certain parts of the country that need additional resources because of their disadvantages continues in the form of many priority areas which are particularly 601 favoured by the person who at present holds the office of Secretary of State for the Environment. There is a principle there and a means to make it work.
The same kinds of consideration—the social and economic disadvantages of particular schools being set out for the parents whose children attend those schools—could well apply in this case. There would have to be some variation but not such substantial variation as to undermine the whole case for doing something apart from producing figures which will be misleading. Of course we accept that there are absolute standards about examinations and tests. However, what is misleading is the conclusion which people are so ready to draw from such figures; that a school which according to performance criteria is low on the list is in some ways inferior to others. It is inferior only in certain respects. We want to point out the areas in which it is not inferior and in which the teachers are doing an excellent job—perhaps better than those in nice, leafy suburban areas. There, the job of a teacher is a great deal easier than in a place such as Bethnal Green.
§ Baroness Warnock
There is a certain amount of humbug in the talk about what parents will make of the raw figures when they are published. Many parents, certainly not all, know perfectly well that good A-level results and good tests results throughout go with the kind of social advantage that they wish their children to have. Therefore, many parents will choose a school which is at the top of the league table not because they are particularly academic parents or value high grade A-level results but because they believe that the school will have what in my day was called "a nice type of child". I believe that parents are absolutely capable of drawing that social connection between social class, or comfortable suburban surrounding and background, and good examination results.
Therefore, the publication of raw figures will inevitably lead to the kind of competition between schools about which we have heard. There will be a league table. However, to include other schools in it, showing the value added and all the other good work that the teachers in those schools have done, will not affect the reaction of parents to the original league table.
I believe in the demystification of education but I also believe that mystification may be another name for the existence of an educational policy over a whole area rather than simply and blindly trying to persuade parents to decide to which schools their children will go. If parents are left to choose the schools which come at the top of the league there is no doubt that there will emerge non-academic schools which fall into the trap which the old secondary modern schools fell into. They will be regarded as inferior schools to which children go whose parents do not care about education or who cannot be bothered to read the league tables. We all know that whatever information was given about secondary modern schools the concept of parity of esteem remained totally mythological and never got off the ground. Comprehensive schools were introduced mainly to try 602 to bring together the needs of all children whether they came from inner cities, were handicapped physically or mentally, or were the most brilliant children.
While the league table in whatever form is published—and I continue to call it that because that is how it will be regarded—I see little hope for an equal opportunity for education for children of varying social backgrounds, varying ability in the English language and varying physical and mental abilities which may be congenital.
I believe that the only remedy for what I consider to be an absolutely disastrous Bill is to ensure that there is full access through the inspectorate to all the other kinds of information that people will want about a school if they have the intelligence to realise that their children will not necessarily be in the high-flying academic league. I support entirely what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, about the need of such parents to be able to find out what the good schools can do for their children, even if they cannot get them A grades at A-level.
I should have more confidence that that were possible if I had more confidence in the inspectorate in its new form. The two bad aspects about what I believe is a bad Bill come together at this point. If one cannot trust the inspectorate to understand about the needs of children—not necessarily the disabled but those who are unable ever to perform at a high academic level—one cannot trust the inspectorate's report. But that is another issue to which we shall doubtless come later.
For the time being I do not believe that it is worth arguing about whether to include such information in what is published. After all, as was suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, if schools include their own information the document will become another prospectus; it will be a plug for the school. Of course, schools will give the good news but one wants information that is objective, dispassionate and comes from outside the school. If that is demystification all well and good. I believe that we are lacking an educational policy that is fair to all children. No parent can, and no parent should be expected, to give rise to educational policy.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
I support the amendment but as I listen to the debate I wonder whether we are on the wrong track in this section of the Bill. In assessing and reporting on schools we are trying to do two different things and I doubt that we ought to be trying to do them in the same way. One is to give parents the right kind of information that they need in order to choose a school. That must be right, but I have more doubt than the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, about the parents who need the information most making good use of it. We in this Chamber are a rather middle-class lot and the parents who we know are accustomed to diving into such data. However, when I think of some of the people who are not represented here I find it unlikely that they will go through value added data, or any other data; though that is another issue. But parents need information. How it should be presented—and I suspect that it should be presented in many different ways—is another matter.
603 We also need to know how well the schools are doing and we need information from the schools. Obviously the teachers are anxious about how they will be judged professionally from the data that are made available. I do not believe that both tasks can be carried out in the same way. I do not believe that one should try to meet the parents' need for information and at the same time give the kind of detailed information that will enable the department, the inspectors and the governors to know whether the teachers are doing a good job. That is really what it is all about. I do not believe that one can satisfy the teachers that the information about them that is made available is fair and appropriate and is a proper part of judging their professional competence. I suspect that we should be carrying out the two different tasks in two different ways, although it is probably too late to do so now.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
Members of the Committee must know that there is nothing hypothetical about league tables in Scotland. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is no longer in his seat. On Friday last week such information was published in Scotland. It was not published in tables but alphabetically. The newspapers set out information about all the secondary schools in Scotland, listing the pupils who had attained three or more A-levels in their examinations. It was devastating and has done great harm to Scottish education.
I was surprised that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for whom I have great respect, said that after publication of the league tables, the school could publish other information to demonstrate to parents the other achievements of the school. How can schools compete with league table lists published in the tabloids in such a sensational way?
The national press in Scotland took the matter very much to heart: practically all newspapers condemned the system. The newspapers publish lists which show the "good" schools—that is, those which are high on the lists. The experience of Glasgow is that house prices in the areas of the good schools shoot up because parents wish to get their children into those schools. That will be perpetuated as upwardly motivated parents try to get their children into those schools.
I prefer the attitude of a fine old headmaster whose school was in one of the most deprived areas of Glasgow. He told me, "If I can get only one child from my school into higher education"—none of the children in his school had even a parent or relative who had been in higher education—"that will break the dam. The school will be able to build on that." Of course, in such schools it is harder work for the teachers than it is in schools where the pupils are eager and anxious to learn. That headmaster did get pupils into higher education, and slowly the school built up its reputation. It was a constant struggle because the school was in an extremely deprived area of Glasgow and the headmaster was fighting a cycle of deprivation. However, such schools are beginning to come through.
604 I believe that it was a great disservice to Scottish education to publish tables with no comment whatever. If anything was doctrinaire on the part of the Minister of State for the Scottish Office, that was it. He has done great damage. I hope that we can find a way of giving more self respect to the schools which have lost a great deal as a result of that action.
§ Lord Beloff
Having listened carefully to this long debate, I am obliged to say that it is rather like a heavyweight match in which both contestants are now on the ropes.
The arguments against the utility of raw data without any background explanation are overwhelming. They have been made for Bethnal Green and can be made for any set of circumstances affecting the intake to a particular school. Clearly, there is no way of judging schools effectively merely by saying that such and such a school has done better.
On the other hand, it is extremely difficult to see how that situation can be remedied statistically. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, talked about multi-level modelling. I do not have a clue what that means and I doubt whether one parent in 100,000 would know. It sounds to me like something that primary school children do with clay. However, I take it that it is more sophisticated than that.
One can feed information into computers. That is probably what has got our economy into such a mess. But that does not help. It is human understanding which helps. We need to find a way in which the human element, the professional element—the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, spoke effectively about that—can be put alongside those results.
As I see it, the danger is that people will accept part of that argument and say, "Let us think of something simple to show what 'value added' has been." We shall then have something which is as absurd as the Audit Commission deciding that one can test "value added" by reckoning whether people had improved at A-level compared with their GCSE grades. However, everyone knows that the performance at GCSE level is a fairly good pointer to the same child's performance at A-level, although there are obvious exceptions. Therefore, one must not go for simple solutions.
In the end, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, that the solution cannot be achieved statistically and that our hope must be with the inspectorate. Unless we can get the inspectorate and inspections right, all statistical discussion is beside the point.
§ Lord Elton
It seems to me that we are discussing this matter as though we are all academics discussing an academic question. In fact, we are legislators discussing a practical question. To assume that parents everywhere will look at vast masses of raw data published by local education authorities and repose on that their confidence in choosing schools for their children is ridiculous. They will do a great deal more than that to find out information and will be assisted by looking at their local newspapers. All local papers write about their local schools on a regular basis. For example, in a town like Loughborough the 605 local community newspaper will have reports of speech days and performances together with special articles on the various schools in the town. From those articles parents can discover aspects of educational information for which we should not legislate and which will not appear in the tables.
The tables deal with academic factors with the exception of truancy, which is an important indicator which everybody understands. Parents will then have recourse to reading what papers have to say about schools and what parents of other children say about them. In many cases parents do not have the choice which many of your Lordships have of sending their children to schools in the South West or North East or a foreign country. Most parents have a choice of three schools within the distance of a bus ride. Making that comparison is a simple choice which will not be made on these statistics.
§ The Marquess of Salisbury
The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, mentioned backward children. I suggest that as regards backward children, the main aim is to ensure that their disability is recognised at an early age and that they are given additional help at primary stage and not later. Many of them never have a chance to catch up and the rest of their education is wasted.
Secondly, I should like to follow up what the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said about inspectors. Dealing with schools over a great many years, I have only once had the advantage of an inspection by HMI. I found that most useful because it was possible to discuss privately any shortcomings. For example, if a teacher needed help with a particular subject, it was possible to suggest privately to the teacher that he should take an appropriate course. It seems to me that the weakness of the past is that there have not been nearly enough inspections. That is one of the causes of the problems which we face.
Thirdly, as regards choice, I am not sure how valid it is to give choice. I have two examples which I wish to relate to the Committee. The first example was that of a new school. Parents were invited to send their children to that school but did not wish to do so because they wished to send them to an established school. But that was not possible. Of course, in due course, the school established itself and was then in considerable demand.
The other example I wish to give is of three schools in a row. Inevitably, comparisons arose. The more successful school in the view of the parents was the one which was oversubscribed. The third school found itself short of numbers. There was not a great deal to choose between them. The parents followed like sheep and I am not sure that their judgment was satisfactory.
§ Lord Peston
I contribute to the debate in a mood of complete despair. I should not feel able to comment on the subjects of, for example, the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, or the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, with quite the degree of ignorance with which they feel able to contribute to the discussion on areas which my noble friend and I research. I say that because Members of the Committee know how acerbic I can be on these matters.
606 The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, will have been briefed by her officials. There is nothing outré about these discussions. Her officials will have drawn to her attention the vast amount of serious research which has been carried out into this matter. There is nothing original or particularly 1992 about "value added". That kind of research has been engaged in in the United States and in this country for many years. We know what we are talking about and the noble Baroness will have been briefed on the matter. The DES knows as much about the subject as I do. There is nothing peculiar or odd about it. I emphasise that as my first point. Whatever one feels about the matter, it cannot be about whether this is a sensible way to do it. All researchers in the field believe that it is. It cannot be about whether we can do it, because we know how to do it.
We may as well get the concept straight in its origins. "Value added" is a term in economics. It has nothing to do with taxation. It is to do with the correct way of measuring productivity. To my certain knowledge it goes back some 55 years and is simply concerned with asking any organisation, in measuring its productivity, how well it deals with the material at its disposal. If one is asking a firm how efficient it is, one looks at what it takes in and compares that with the value it adds in order to judge what comes out. It is a commonplace idea. I hope that my explanation has been helpful to noble Lords. It may improve their contributions to the debate. That is another of my acerbic remarks and I have not yet finished.
We know what we are talking about. We know how to do the work and that the concept is well defined. By "we" I certainly include the DES. That is that side of the matter.
Perhaps I may now refer to the important contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry. She put her finger on the point. One's suspicion is that a great number of schools are not doing as well as they ought, even measured by simple output figures like examination results. But we cannot answer that question—the noble Baroness understands that as well as I—unless there is some way of judging what the schools ought to do. That is what "value added" is about. We must know what the start line is in order to know how far the schools have gone beyond it. That is why the issue is so important and why those on this side will not let it go. Obscurantism, all kinds of ad hoc anecdotes about what people think or claim parents want, cannot get round the simple fact that for once we know what we are talking about and how to do it.
Finally, I refer to the incentives and efficiency side of the matter. I do not mean simply the parental choice side, although I do not deny that. The reason one measures value added in industry is that one wants to provide the appropriate incentives to management to achieve the ends one is hoping to achieve. That is why value added is important and why it is not simply a question of what one produces. It is a question of what one produces with what one has available.
The important point in regard to teachers, emphasised by several noble Lords, is that we want to give them the right incentives. We want them to 607 believe that it is a race they can win. We want them to believe that they can achieve something. If they ask what they can achieve, we answer that they can achieve value added. That is why value added is so central. I am not arguing that other matters are not important. At no point does my noble friend say that other information should be suppressed. Both she and other noble Lords argued that the central concept is not only an option but is also value added. There is no other way of judging efficiency for anybody who has ever looked at organisations.
I must press that point home to the Committee and emphasise how much I resent, from my academic background—I never use that word to mean anything bad; I always use it to mean something good, but that may not surprise people—what was said. People have done a great deal of research into the matter. For those who do not care for the sociologists of our country I can cite an army of Right-wing sociologists in the United States who in many ways would be supporters of this Government. They say that value added is the only right way to do it. No other way is correct.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
The noble Lord, Lord Peston, was so overcome by indignation that he failed to follow my argument. I was not suggesting that he and his professional friends cannot work out to the nth degree the value added to a specific pupil. I was suggesting that that mathematical or statistical material is not something which can be imparted to an ordinary member of the public like myself.
§ Baroness Blatch
It was unfortunate that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, chose to say that a number of noble Lords who have spoken spoke from positions of ignorance. Since my arrival in this Chamber I have respected viewpoints from every corner. I believe that what is said are legitimate viewpoints. It has never been my belief that such things are said from ignorance. I certainly rise to the defence of my noble friends Lord Beloff and Lord Renfrew, both of whom made valid points which are just as important as those made by any other person who has spoken in the debate.
§ Baroness Blatch
Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to continue. We have already taken 18 minutes and I have a lengthy response to what has been an important debate.
§ Lord Peston
The noble Baroness seems to do this all the time. Our normal procedure in this Chamber is that noble Lords courteously allow other noble Lords to intervene. Several times I half rose and then sat down in order to allow the Minister's noble friends to speak. The point I was trying to make, and the noble Baroness can make it also, is that those noble Lords insulted my noble friend, myself and many of my colleagues. No one on the opposite side offered a word 608 of apology. I do not withdraw my remarks regarding the two noble Lords. They are free to speak but their speech was based on ignorance.
§ Baroness Blatch
I do not believe that they insulted anybody. They made good points to support the viewpoint that they were pressing at the time. I fully appreciate the arguments of those on all sides of the Chamber who would like to see information published about the "value added" by schools in terms of the measurable progress made by their pupils between one age or stage and another.
Having listened to the debate, I believe that a great deal of what has been said was said almost in isolation from the raft of information that is and will be under the provisions of the Bill available not only to the Secretary of State but also to parents. It ignored the fact that there would be systematic and comprehensive inspections of schools each four years, measuring not only the achievements of those schools but also providing commentary on the ethos of a school, in particular on the social, spiritual, moral and cultural dimensions.
The debate also ignored the fact that examination results would be published annually, with commentary from both local authority and individual schools, and that annual reports would be made to parents which would set out the aims and objectives of schools and supply all the information that would help and enhance the information available to parents upon which they could make choices. We also disregarded the important amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and supported by Members throughout the Chamber regarding the dimensions of social, spiritual, moral and cultural education, and my promise that we would do something in that regard before Report stage.
We must not underestimate parents' ability to make choices about schools. However, I must say to the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, that he belongs to a profession of educational administrators who have drawn back year after year from advising parents what is a good school to attend. They will not say because they do not believe in making a statement that may favour one school over another. In that vacuum parents have been left to make their own judgments on schools. Many amendments on the Marshalled List will allow the noble Earl to come back—
The Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
Perhaps the noble Baroness will permit me to say that I stopped being an LEA man around four years ago.
§ Baroness Blatch
I said "belonged".
It is our reforms which for the first time have opened up the possibility of tracking pupil progress in a nationally comparable way. When the national curriculum assessment arrangements come on stream, with pupils assessed at seven, 11, 14 and 16 on a consistent 10-level scale against the same national targets, it will be possible to calculate securely for the first time the value added by schools as between one key stage and the next.
I am sure that as more results are put into the public domain through this Bill and earlier Acts, work will 609 continue on devising and developing ways of measuring educational value added. There will be a range of possible ways of calculating and presenting the information, and it is important for all the issues to be fully explored. The recent Audit Commission report on value added between GCSE and A—levels, mentioned by my noble friend Lord Beloff, recognised that the science of value added calculation is still in its infancy.
We expect the Department of Education to have a role to play in all this in due course. My right honourable friend is keen at this stage not to try to steer this experimental work in any specific direction. We are confident that it will continue and build upon the new information. This debate has told me more than anything that there is no consensus in regard to the nature of value added. But when in due course a consensus begins to emerge on the best way of calculating and presenting value added information, that will be the time to consider putting the requirement to publish into regulations.
We certainly support the publication of value added data when these become available in usable and reliable form. But we must resist those who try to tell us that until those data are available we should not publish any information; that those are the only legitimate measures of schools' performance. We have had to manage without them up to now, and will have to manage for a good few years longer before they can be calculated for all schools. It would be quite wrong to wait any longer before putting the raw data into the public domain. Indeed if we did so, the necessary work on value added could not be taken forward, as it is on such raw data that it depends I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, who is not in his place, in publishing his national commission's paper on value added, was quite clear that he fully supported the publication of raw data and would not wish to see it kept from parents. Parents recognise, as Members of the Committee do, that schools take pupils from varying catchments and of varying ability. They will form their judgments in that knowledge, and will see the information in comparative tables as useful background to their further reading of prospectuses and visits to schools. As we were reminded in last Monday's debates, parents want a school at which their child will be happy and fulfilled. Information on examinations, attendance and leavers' destinations will certainly not be the only factor affecting their decision.
I refer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, when I believe he was fairly critical of what my honourable friend the Minister of State for Scotland had done in producing data. Perhaps I may also say that the noble Lord was wrong. My honourable friend the Minister of State's covering letter to Mr. Tony Worthington was released to the press in full. It explained that examination results did not give the full picture. I now quote from that letter:The information concerned will not of course be restricted to examination results, but will include information about leaver destinations, truancy rates and school finance. Nor will this information be intended to give a full picture of 610 a school's performance. Rather it will provide a starting point for parents who may then wish to seek further and more detailed information about individual schools through the school handbook or discussion with the head teacher".The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, wishes special mention to be made of the need for the published information to cover the provision being made for pupils with special educational needs. That is in his amendment, but he did not speak to it. He is concerned lest publication of raw data may work against the interests of the least able. But I cannot accept that this will happen. Unless they are grammar schools, schools simply cannot turn down any pupil on grounds of his or her ability. My noble friend Lady Faithfull was concerned about that. They must apply their published admission criteria fairly, and are open to challenge if they do not. They are unlikely to know of the pupil's ability when a decision is made. And of course for the large majority of schools, the local authority is the admission authority, and the school does not have the final say.
So I believe that the argument about admissions is a red herring. There is certainly no evidence that I am aware of that the publication of examination results since 1981 has made it more difficult for less able pupils to get into the schools of their choice. But we do have consistent evidence of low expectations limiting the horizons and achievements of less able pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. I remind the Committee that we shall require publication of results in a way which will show how the least able as well as the most able are doing in every school. We shall be exposing under-achievement and allowing parents to press for a better deal for their children. That under-achievement will apply just as much to a school serving a very good catchment area where the children are expected to achieve rather better results. If they are not, it will of course show up in those reports.
My noble friend Lady Faithfull was concerned about special needs children. I accept that there are particular arguments in respect of schools which take pupils with statements of special education needs. We shall have an opportunity to debate these points at a later stage. It might help if I were to say at this point—here I speak also for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland—that we agree that comparative tables would be improved by the addition of information about the number of pupils in each school with a statement of special educational needs, and perhaps whether or not there is a special unit at the school. I believe that that will satisfy some anxieties and is far preferable to leaving such pupils out of the tables, which would run the risk of perpetuating low expectations.
We shall not attempt to set national rules in this tricky area before all the issues are fully understood and much more experimental work has been done. But we shall act, when and if appropriate, to establish consistency and to ensure ease of access by parents and others. That is the right role of government.
Amendment No. 87A would require registered inspectors to look at relevant published information about a school they inspect. It really is quite inconceivable that such material would he ignored. 611 The amendment had, I suspect, a much more practical purpose of securing an early debate on this important topic. I am sure that, having served its purpose, the amendment will not be pressed.
Amendment No. 203, which we have already seen in another place, would require the Secretary of State, in discharging his functions in respect of comparative tables, to seek HMI's advice on ways of measuring value added. As I have explained, we hope and expect that very wide public debate and experiment will continue, and we shall consider carefully all that emerges.
But, with all due respect to HMI, I do not think we should give them a monopoly or even a primacy in respect of advice on this topic. There are many others who will have much to offer. We know already of the Audit Commission work. Some university departments have done very useful preliminary work on examination data. The expertise needed to take forward work on the emerging mass of national curriculum information will be found as much among statisticians and information scientists as educationists. Of course HMI will have an important role to play in advising on the educational considerations which should underpin this work. But they will be part of a much larger team tackling these big issues.
It is clear that HMI will be able to give their views on value added to the Secretary of State alongside all the other information and advice they will be offering publicly or privately as they see fit. Amendment No. 203 is not needed for that. It would not be a useful addition to this Bill, and I hope it too will not be pressed.
The noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, has tabled several amendments on this topic. His Amendment No. 190 would remove the power to publish information about educational standards, and so would prevent the publication of information giving unadjusted scores and results. I do not believe that I need say more about why that is unacceptable. Amendment No. 194, identical to one tabled in another place, would require the Secretary of State to publish a statement whenever information is published saying how far a school's achievements are due to the governors and teachers and how far to other factors. I do not understand how he expects the Secretary of State to do this. It would be a mammoth task. Registered inspectors will be making this sort of professional judgment and setting it out in detailed reports about each school every four years.
The noble Lord seems to have in mind that all publications should be embellished by a general statement from the Secretary of State about the effects of non-school—mainly, from what he socioeconomic—factors on performance. As I have already said, there is no general agreement on the extent to which adverse socio-economic factors actually cause low performance. They are, I accept, linked in overall statistics. But those statistics reflect a number of things, including the low expectations which have been rife in our schools and which have particularly affected those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
612 I do not think we shall do schools or parents a service if we reinforce such low expectations by publishing frequent statements to the effect that being from a low income family is linked with doing badly at school. That will not help to motivate and encourage the bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds for whom schools can do so much.
Schools must include in their prospectuses a range of information about the work of the school and must include any changes in that information in their annual report. They may choose to mention the nature of their catchment area, although, with the new powers of parental choice which we have put in place, that term has a rather outdated ring. Schools are taking pupils from much wider areas and are keen to do so. They do not want to give the impression that they serve only one area or indeed one socio-economic group.
The noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, is also concerned in Amendment No. 195 to see that the information should be presented fairly and accurately and so as to enhance schools' effectiveness. I can reassure him that the clause as drafted will secure all those ends. Without a sound and comparable basis the performance tables would lack credibility and would therefore be worthless. A glance at the documents on which we have just been consulting will show the noble Lord the care with which we are trying to ensure accuracy and fairness. Indeed, part of our objective in making these provisions is to counter the use of partial and unauthenticated information by the press to produce so-called league tables which are anything but accurate or fair.
As to enhancing schools' effectiveness, I am sure that the publication of the tables will encourage effectiveness by giving parents and the wider community the information they need to press for action to remedy apparent deficiencies. It is very hard to prove a case for action without hard information. Through the tables and the published regular inspection reports we shall be supplying that information.
My noble friend Lady Young referred to all the other information which is in the public arena. She also made a very important point about the ability of local education authorities and local individual schools to publish a commentary on the reports that are published by HMI. As I have said, it will include comment about ethos, about spiritual, moral, social, cultural, academic, physical and all other dimensions of the life of a child in school.
The noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, referred to a school in a part of London where deprivation is a very real factor and the problems of the schools where the background of the children make particular demands on the teachers. Again, it does not argue against measuring performance; it does not argue against using the information both to build on the strengths and address the weaknesses. Those parents will have some very positive information about all the different dimensions of the school. It is possible that if that school is doing a very good job for the children in those circumstances the report will pick up all of that. The report can be just 613 as glowing, albeit the achievements of that school may not measure up to the achievements of some other schools.
Reference was made to educational priority areas. Personally, I am very sceptical about labelling areas as being of educational priority. I believe that the problem about EPAs is that they lead to reinforcing low expectations of pupils in those areas. It somehow gives the impression that EPA schools are incapable of achieving much. In terms of resources, ways can be made of applying resources where they are most needed. I believe that we should do nothing that reinforces low expectations.
I think I have answered most of the individual points that have been made in this debate. We have heard some arguments against the idea that parents, with the help that will be in the public arena, may be able to make judgments and preferences of one school over another. That is healthy. Parents have been waiting for that for a very long time. I hope that these amendments will he rejected.
§ Baroness Blackstone
I have been saddened rather than angered by much of this debate. I first take issue with what the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, said about the social sciences, and I speak as a social scientist. I must agree with my noble friend Lord Peston; I thought that some of the remarks made were insulting and some a little silly.
Much of the work that has been referred to in this debate—I accept that many Members of the Committee will not have read it, but none of us can be specialists on everything so why should they?—has been done not by sociologists, as the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, suggested, but by educational statisticians and by some people who are concerned with educational policy but who may come from a quite different background and will not necessarily have studied that discipline.
I was also a little saddened by what I thought, if I may say so, were the unnecessarily disagreeable remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. He referred in a somewhat scathing way to the use of the term "multi-level modelling". I am perfectly happy to give a brief explanation of what that is about. It is a new statistical technique which I believe will enhance human understanding, not befuddle it. It is very backward looking to suggest that new work of this kind, carried out by people doing research, either in higher education institutions or in specialist institutions such as the National Foundation for Educational Research, is not concerned to enhance human understanding. It is. It is merely a more refined version of a very standard and well-proven method of statistical analysis; namely, multiple regression. But because one refers to a particular methodology it does not mean to say that by eventually publishing material that has used that methodology we shall expect every lay person to understand the basis of it; of course not. However, what one wants is to produce information that is fair, that measures quality in education and that helps us to enhance standards. That is what this is all about.
I do not dispute what the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, said about the necessity of also having good 614 inspections, but one important clause of this Bill is about the publication of information on our schools. All that these amendments do is to make sure that that information is of the highest quality possible. I regret that some of the debate was scathing about attempts to do that. That was wrong and quite unjustified.
There are a couple of other points made by speakers on the Government side of the Committee which need picking up. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, suggested that a school can qualify its results by any methods it prefers. That is true. A school can produce all kinds of defensive and misleading reasons to excuse its poor performance. The noble Baroness referred to discussions about the area, the community and the culture. It is in order to avoid low expectations, to which the Minister referred, that we should not allow schools to make those kinds of excuses. Instead we should make use of these new techniques so that we can look at which schools are really performing well, taking into account their intake, and which schools are not doing their best, given that intake.
I was extremely puzzled by the logic of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry. It seems to me that the fact that intakes can differ in similar catchment areas—and from all her experience she will surely accept this—means that there can be adjacent schools with quite different intakes. Therefore, we should endeavour to let parents know that the performance of those schools should not be judged only on the purely crude data.
I want to reassert that we are not suggesting that the raw data should not be published. We are suggesting that there is now a technique available that will allow us to publish data which have been qualified by taking intakes into account. The Minister implied that we should be holding up the publication of raw data if these amendments were accepted; we would not. All that would happen is that we would move forward with the work that is required to look at value added at the same time as publishing the raw data. That is surely what the Government wish.
I thought that the Minister, in replying to the debate, was much more open-minded about what is required than some of the noble Lords sitting behind her. She suggested that it was important that the DES should have a role in this kind of work. Again, that is what these amendments propose. One of the amendments argues that the Secretary of State should be required to seek the advice of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector on how to move forward. That would involve the DES.
The Minister suggested that the nature of the methodology was complicated and that the very fact that there was disagreement around the Committee demonstrated that it would be impossible to agree on it. But we have not discussed the methodology at all. All we have done is to have a series of speeches, some of them better informed than others, but none of which addressed the issue of whether the methodology could be used. We could provide a long reading list which would demonstrate fairly clearly that that could be done.
615 I regret to say that, because of the very widespread concern not simply, as I said when opening the debate, among people in state schools or those who support the Opposition but among many, many representatives of the independent schools sector and because I feel that we have not had a satisfactory response from the Minister, I have no alternative but to divide the Committee.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 87A) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 83; Not-Contents, 135.616
|Division No. 1|
|Acton, L.||Jay, L.|
|Addington, L.||Jeger, B.|
|Airedale, L.||Jenkins of Hillhead, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Judd, L.|
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||Kilbracken, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Kinloss, Ly.|
|Birk, B.||Listowel, E.|
|Blackstone, B.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Bottomley, L.||Longford, E.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Macaulay of Bragar, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||McFarlane of Llandaff, B.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Mackie of Benshie, L.|
|Carter, L.||McNair, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|David, B.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Desai, L.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Donoughue, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Peston, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Faithfull, B.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Rea, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Richard, L.|
|Galpern, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L. [Teller.]|
|Gladwyn, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Glenamara, L.||Russell of Liverpool, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]||Seear, B.|
|Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Grey, E.||Serota, B.|
|Hampton, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Hamwee, B.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Hayter, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Henderson of Brompton, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Hilton of Eggardon, B.||Tordoff, L.|
|Hollis of Heigham, B.||Underhill, L.|
|Hooson, L.||Warnock, B.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||White, B.|
|Hughes, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Hunt, L.||Young of Dartington, L.|
|Aldington, L.||Borthwick, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Boyd-Carpenter, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Brabazon of Tara, L.|
|Annaly, L.||Brigstocke, B.|
|Arran, E.||Brougham and Vaux, L.|
|Astor, V.||Butterworth, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Campbell of Croy, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Carnegy of Lour, B.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Carnock, L.|
|Beloff, L.||Cavendish of Furness, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Clanwilliam, E.|
|Birdwood, L.||Colnbrook, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Constantine of Stanmore, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Craigmyle, L.|
|Boardman, L.||Cross, V.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Milverton, L.|
|Dacre of Glanton, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Denham, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Denton of Wakefield, B.||Moyne, L.|
|Dunrossil, V.||Munster, E.|
|Eccles, V.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Eccles of Moulton, B.||Nelson, E.|
|Elibank, L.||Northbourne, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Oppenheim-Barnes, B.|
|Elton, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Fanshawe of Richmond, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Oxfuird, V.|
|Fraser of Carmyllie, L.||Park of Monmouth, B.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Pearson of Rannoch, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Pender, L.|
|Geddes, L.||Pennock, L.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Perry of Southwark, B.|
|Gridley, L.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Quinton, L.|
|Hardinge of Penshurst, L.||Reay, L.|
|Harmsworth, L.||Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Rennell, L.|
|Henley, L.||Renwick, L.|
|Hertford, M.||Rippon of Hexham, L.|
|Hesketh, L. [Teller.]||Rodney, L.|
|Holderness, L.||Romney, E.|
|HolmPatrick, L.||Salisbury, M.|
|Hood, V.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Hooper, B.||Seccombe, B.|
|Howe, E.||Selkirk, E.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Jeffreys, L.||Strange, B.|
|Jellicoe, E.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Johnston of Rockport, L.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E. [Teller.]|
|Knollys, V.||Sudeley, L.|
|Lane of Horsell, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Swinton, E.|
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Teviot, L.|
|Long, V.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Tollemache, L.|
|Lyell, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Mackay of Clashfern, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Macleod of Borve, B.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Waddington, L.|
|Mancroft, L.||Wade of Chorlton, L.|
|Margadale, L.||Wise, L.|
|Marlesford, L.||Wyatt of Weeford, L.|
|Marsh, L.||Young, B.|
|Merrivale, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disgreed to accordingly.5.38 pm
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne)
The next amendment is Amendment No. 88. If the amendment were to be agreed to, I should not be able to call Amendment No. 89.
§ [Amendment No. 88 not moved.]
Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 89:
Page 5, line 15, after ("may") insert ("by order").
§ The noble Lord said: This amendment is grouped with Amendments Nos. 127, 152 and 153. My comments will concentrate on Amendment No. 89 and the similar amendment but I am intrigued by Amendment No. 152 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and I look forward to hearing what he has to say.617
I am seeking clarification. The word "prescribed" appears at line 15 on page 5, at line 3 on page 20 and in various other places in the Bill. On page 14, at line 14 the word "prescribed" is defined as meaning,
prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State".
That is what we are supposed to understand. Does it mean that the Secretary of State will be laying an order before Parliament? Is that what "regulations" means? If the answer is yes, will that be an affirmative or negative order? I am asking for some clarification of what "prescribed" means and, since we are offered a definition of "prescribed" which I do not understand, of what the definition of "prescribed" means. I beg to move.
§ Lord Elton
I was merely seeking an illustration of who will be doing the prescribing and how. I regret to say that 1 have nothing with which to enlighten the noble Lord on the issue.
§ Baroness Denton of Wakefield
I hope that I can give the noble Lord, Lord Peston, some clarification. I am sure that he tabled the amendments in good faith. However, I must make clear that they would have no effect. Clause 18 of the Bill sets out the definition of "prescribed" and that definition cannot be, and does not need to be, qualified. As the noble Lord will see, in the Bill the word "prescribed" means,prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State".It is an entirely normal provision. The addition of the words "by order" would be futile. The Bill enables the making of regulations. There is no significant difference between regulations and orders. I hope that the noble Lord will appreciate those points and not press the amendments.
I turn now to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Elton with regard to giving a stronger role to the chief inspectors. That is in welcome contrast to most of the amendments tabled by Members opposite. I believe that he probably appreciates that his amendment is defective in that it clashes with the definition in Clause 18. But I shall not dwell on the technical points but rather on the underlying issue.
My noble friend wishes to give the chief inspectors the power to determine the period within which an inspection has to be carried out; that is, not the frequency of inspection but the period—as later paragraphs in Schedule 2 make clear—allowed for the preparation and publication of the inspection report and of the governors' action plan. I cannot accept that it would be right to allow the chief inspectors the power to determine how long should be allowed for the whole process. It is a matter of policy for government to decide upon and then put to Parliament, as Clause 18 allows.
However, where I do agree with my noble friend is in believing that the chief inspector is the right person to determine how long the process of inspection ought to take—that is, from the first preliminary visit to the presentation of report. I imagine that that will be one key element of HMCI's guidance. Of course the Secretary of State will take that into account in setting the period within which inspection and related activities must occur.
618 It is the need to cater for related activities which makes this properly a matter for the Secretary of State, alongside his other regulation-making powers in Schedule 2. I hope that my noble friend will accept my explanation and not press the amendment.
§ Lord Peston
I thank the noble Baroness for that response. I am especially grateful for her answer, emphasising what I did as regards the definition of the word "prescribed" in Clause 18. Indeed, I congratulate the noble Baroness even further because she answered at least one question that I meant to ask but forgot to do so. Therefore, I am doubly grateful to her.
However, I am still a little lost. This may perhaps reveal my ignorance, but does the reference to "regulations" mean regulations laid before Parliament? I also asked whether there was anything in the Bill to tell us whether such regulations were affirmative or negative. In other words, to someone who understands such matters, is it obvious that the wording means negative or affirmative? I should like those questions to be answered.
§ Baroness Denton of Wakefield
The noble Lord places great confidence in me. Clause 19 makes clear that the regulations are subject to negative resolution.
§ Lord Elton
I am grateful to my noble friend not only for answering all the questions but also for repelling an imagined threat. I was not seeking to give the chief inspector more powers but merely, as I said in my letter to my noble friend, to elucidate the information that she has now given.
§ Lord Peston
I apologise to the Committee. In my haste to allow the noble Lord, Lord Elton, to speak I omitted to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.45 p.m.
Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 90:
Page 5, line 15, after ("prescribed") insert ("and having regard to any information published in accordance with section 16(1) below concerning pupil-teacher ratios, class sizes and pupil costs").
§ The noble Lord said: The amendment relates to the information that parents have a right to expect before deciding to send their child to a particular school. I am not speaking here about the kind of information which we have been discussing for the past few hours; but in this case I am speaking about such things as the pupil-teacher ratio, the class size and the money spent on a child's education.
§ The Government propose that information about a school—what one might call a school's output—should be published in a comparative table; for example, the exam and test results, the truancy rate and so on. But I believe that it is equally important that parents should be informed of the matters specified in the amendment. We have spent a certain amount of time this afternoon talking about why parents choose particular schools. I am sure that one reason is class size. Some parents who are confident in their child's ability will automatically choose the school which produces the best exam results. But 619 others who are less confident and whose child is of only average ability or below average ability will be anxious to know about class sizes in a school.
§ As the Committee will know, many parents who can afford to do so choose an independent education for their child because he or she will be taught in small classes. Therefore, it seems to me that class size and the number of teachers available for a given number of pupils is of vital importance to parents when choosing a school.
§ I believe that many parents with children of average ability are apprehensive about how their child will progress in what they think may be a school with high achievements. They will be most anxious about that aspect of the matter. Therefore, such information as is suggested in the amendment should be part of the information given by schools to prospective parents. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Denton of Wakefield
We believe that Amendment No. 90 is unnecessary. The inspectors will be bound to report on the quality of education provided in a school, the standards achieved by its pupils and the efficiency with which its resources are managed. They will have to comment on anything which affects those matters. The way in which resources are used —for example, the relationship between pupil-teacher ratios and class sizes, which show the relative priority the school gives to what is termed "non-contact" time—will be relevant and will, I am sure, feature in reports. I expect that key input indicators will also be quoted in reports, as they are now in HMI reports. The information in question is certainly readily available within each school and so can be taken into account by inspectors when they consider how far quality and standards might be improved by the better use of resources, including staff, in the context of the school that they are inspecting.
Amendment No. 186 is equally unnecessary. It is open to the Secretary of State under Clause 16 as presently drafted to require the publication of this information so long as it is judged to be of assistance in the ways set out under subsection (3) of the clause. But we have no intention of requiring such publication at present, since, as Members of the Committee will be aware and as HMI confirmed in recent evidence to the Teachers' Pay Review Body, no clear-cut connection has been established between class size, pupil-teacher ratios or level of resources generally and the quality of teaching or levels of attainment in a school. Therefore, it would be wrong to give the impression that such a connection did exist by requiring the information to be published alongside public examination and national curriculum assessment results.
The corollary of the fact that no clear connection has been established is that different schools and LEAs take different views of what is necessary and desirable in these respects; for example, in deciding how to weight formula funding allocations for different age groups. This means that, in considering the position in different schools, one would not be comparing like with like, in the sense of money and resources having been allocated in the light of 620 generally agreed criteria. So one would be misleading rather than helping parents and others to compare schools' performance.
We are aiming to establish a national standard that will be understandable to parents. The amendment would not help in that and I hope therefore that the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, will agree not to press it.
§ Lord Peston
I understand what the Minister has been saying, but bits of it puzzle me. I suppose that the more important of the two amendments is the latter because that is the one which attempts to put on the face of the Bill the information that the Secretary of State shall require by regulations. I accept that some of the research evidence is a bit obscure, but other parts of it—those parts relating to class size and pupil-teacher ratios—are not. If small class sizes and low pupil-teacher ratios are not a good thing, why do the independent schools go to such trouble to emphasise their small class sizes and the personal nature of their teaching? They clearly think that that is a good thing, so I should have thought that there might be something in it.
I want to probe the Minister on the fact that she is not saying that the Secretary of State has set his heart against publishing some information. I understand her to be saying that his view at the moment is that he is doubtful about whether he wants to include it in regulations. Will the Minister confirm that she did not say categorically that it is the view of the DES that such information should not be included in regulations; it is simply that the department has not decided to do so?
§ Baroness Denton of Wakefield
In response to the first point, there are perceptions of class size being important, to which the independent schools market themselves, but there is no evidence on that. Indeed, there is much to indicate that the quality of the teacher is by far the most important factor. However, there is no uniformity on that.
That leads me to the second point raised by the noble Lord, which is that it is possible for the Secretary of State to require publication of the information, but it is the Government's intention to stick to information that is readily measurable across the whole of the nation and does not have the variables that I discussed in my first answer.
§ Baroness Seear
I do not think that the Minister has quite answered the point that my noble friend was making. Although she said that smaller classes and lower pupil-teacher ratios do not necessarily mean better results, common sense suggests that they do. I am interested, however, that research into that matter is now being given great attention by the Government because they have scoffed at research into other matters, but that is by the way.
Some parents look for a gentler, less crowded environment for a shy and gentle child. It is not only a question of whether one might or might not get better teaching in a certain school, but also of the fact that the atmosphere of a particular school and its smaller classes might be more suitable for some children. I recall my old headmistress telling some 621 parents that their daughters might do better in a place containing rather less tough people, fewer numbers and smaller groups. That was not because those children were bad or stupid, but because although the environment was all right for elderly people such as me, who were good at dealing with tough situations, it was not particularly good for nicer, gentler people.
§ Baroness Denton of Wakefield
The noble Baroness makes an interesting point about the value of parental choice in education. The Bill will establish a report on the quality of education. As was rightly said earlier, for most parents the choice is between free schools, in which parents can easily establish the class size, if that is what they feel is important for their child, but that does not necessitate publishing such information on a national basis.
§ Lord Glenamara
I am sorry, but I almost find myself on the Government's side on this one. The amendment gives the impression that the three major criteria in judging schools are pupil-teacher ratios, class sizes and pupil costs, and I do not think that that is so. There is a great deal more to a good school than those three things. One of my complaints against the Government is that they try to quantify everything and believe that a school can be judged on the tests that they have instituted. However, good manners, courtesy and other such qualities must be taken into account. It is the whole ethos of the school that is important. I object to the amendment on the grounds that it looks as though those three things are the most important criteria when judging a school and I do not believe that they are.
§ Lord Elton
I want to seize this most unusual opportunity to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara. I invite him to support my Amendment No. 105 later. I hope that it will also satisfy the Minister as a means of setting out, not in national statistics, but in reports, the things that many of us feel are among the most important in schools, such as the way in which the school is managed and the children's response to it.
§ Baroness Denton of Wakefield
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, for his comments and my noble friend Lord Elton for his endorsement. Although the quality of teaching and leadership are not directly the subject of the amendment, this debate has shown their importance.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
I should like to make only three quick points. The Minister said that there was a perception on the part of parents that class size was of great importance but that that was not supported by evidence. That seems a somewhat suspect argument. Usually, the Government are on the other side, saying that whatever the perception of parents, it is of paramount importance. However, in this case, that is put second. Secondly, I am always extremely suspicious of any statement that begins, "There is no evidence that", because it often seems that the whole world knows something, but that there is no evidence to show it. In this case, I feel that the public's perception is likely to be right. As I have said 622 "Secondly", I must now say, "Thirdly", I am a little worried that the Minister said that parents could always find such information in the inspectors' reports. Many parents will not read those reports. They will not delve into them to discover a thing like that. All that they want to know is the class size straight out. Of course, some parents will read the reports, but by no means all—and I doubt whether the majority will.
The Minister also said that such information could be misleading and that, when parents were told that a certain school had small class sizes, they might he misled into thinking that it was a better school than it was. That is what I understood her to say. That would be a hard fact. I think that it is bound to mean that, on the whole, the lessons or the teaching in that school is likely to be more effective. However, I do not feel that I can press the point now. I must accept what the Minister says and hope that it will work out satisfactorily. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Baroness David moved Amendment No. 91:
Page 5, line 15, after ("inspector") insert ("and inspection team").
§ The noble Baroness said: In speaking to Amendment No. 91, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 120, in my name, and to Amendment No. 183, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, which has been grouped with it.
§ Amendment No. 91 asks that members of the inspection team, as well as the leader of the team, should be registered under Section 10(1) on a register kept by the chief inspector. Similarly, Amendment No. 120 to Schedule 2 asks that the members of the team, as well as the inspector, should be registered by the chief inspector in order to carry out an inspection of a school. Those suggestions seem eminently reasonable if there is to be confidence in the team that goes into the school to perform that serious and important work. We want to know more about what sort of people are to perform that task. All that we are told in the Bill is what they are not to be. The governors and the parents will want to know about the people in the teams.
§ We learned last Thursday that the big educational consultants, Coopers & Lybrand Deloitte, who are the market leaders in the educational consultancy world, have decided that they do not want to be involved in that inspection work. What about the other big consultancy firms? Are they also pulling out? Were the Government proposing to use many of the education consultants from those firms in inspection teams? Are LEA inspectors to be on the list? We do not want inexperienced, unqualified people making up the inspection team. I beg to move.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
As Amendment No. 183 is in my name, perhaps I may briefly say that it fortifies what the noble Baroness said. After hearing my noble friend the Minister again today, it seems that the Government are relying heavily upon the confidence of parents—actual or prospective—in the inspectors' reports. That is the key to the Bill. These amendments, 623 and others which I may move later, are designed to ensure that all the members of the inspection team, not just the heads of the team, are persons whose identity has been established by being on a register of persons qualified for such a task so that no one can say, "We do not know who these people are. How did they come to be here? What qualifications have they to put forward a tender?" and so forth. So far from being a wrecking amendment, the amendment is entirely in keeping with the spirit and intentions of the Bill. I hope that my noble friend will accept it.
§ Baroness Blatch
We have given careful consideration to the most effective means of securing quality control of the new inspection system. We could indeed have required the central registration of all team members as well as leaders, but formal registration would carry with it the duty to renew and review registration, and to monitor every individual's work. That is, quite rightly, how HMI will proceed in respect of the 600 or so registered inspectors; but it would be cumbersome and bureaucratic to require that for every inspector. That is why we chose instead the more flexible and, in our view, more effective method set out in the Bill: a two-tier system of quality control under which the registered inspector is given primary responsibility for the suitability and standard of his team members.
The registered inspector is responsible for the quality of the inspections he or she conducts. It is right, therefore, that he should be responsible for the quality of his team members. He will be in the best position to judge their strengths and weaknesses on a daily basis. He will have a strong incentive to ensure that they meet the necessary standards. Any failure by the team to inspect and report as required by the chief inspectors will put the team leader's continued registration, and hence his livelihood, at risk. He will not want to use incompetent or ineffective staff; nor will governors want to employ a team which cannot demonstrate appropriate expertise in relevant areas. The governors are free to ascertain that information. There is an obligation upon the registered inspector, in responding to a tender, to tell the governors not just how they will carry out the inspection but the competences and skills that will be used to do so.
Inspectors will all have to be trained. We shall come later to amendments which seek to strengthen the chief inspectors' role in deciding whether that training has been effectively completed. I shall listen to the arguments on that point with great care; but it is certainly not the same as creating and maintaining a full register of all team members.
The Bill gives HMCI close control over the registered inspector and how he does his work. It requires his team to have the necessary training and competence to carry out the task in each case. I believe that that offers an effective route to high inspection standards.
The competence of the teams will be of interest to the chief inspector. He will have all the discretion he needs to set the conditions he wants. The Bill does not 624 fetter him in any way. The Bill secures that the team members should be trained and should meet the test of impartiality.
It is true that we do not expect registered inspectors to work constantly with the same team. They will have to choose their team according to the particular inspection task in hand, and those qualified to inspect in some subjects—ancient Greek, for example—are likely to be working far more intermittently than those dealing with, say, French, but that does not invalidate our argument that the registered inspector is best placed to judge the competence of a team member. If the chief inspector finds someone's work unsatisfactory, even on the basis of one inspection, he is likely to be wary of using that person again. And that inspector will not find it easy to get further work without a reference from his previous team leader. I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.
§ Baroness David
I am afraid that I do not consider that a satisfactory reply. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, for saying what he did. This is an important job. The Minister said that if team members had to register there would be a duty to review the registration and that that would be cumbersome and bureaucratic. But this matter is important. These people will be doing an important job; it is necessary to have the confidence of the public, governors and parents. I shall not waste time arguing. It is an important matter, and I wish to test the opinion of the House.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 91) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 75; Not-Contents, 112.625
|Division No. 2|
|Acton, L.||Hilton of Eggardon, B.|
|Addington, L.||Hollis of Heigham, B.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Hooson, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Howie of Troon, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Jay, L.|
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||Jeger, B.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Jenkins of Hillhead, L.|
|Beloff, L.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Birk, B.||Judd, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||Kilbracken, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Listowel, E.|
|Carter, L. [Teller.]||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Longford, E.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Macaulay of Bragar, L.|
|David, B.||McFarlane of Llandaff, B.|
|Desai, L.||Mackie of Benshie, L.|
|Donoughue, L.||McNair, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Mason of Barnsley, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Galpern, L.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Glenamara, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L [Teller.]||Peston, L.|
|Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Grey, E.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Rea, L.|
|Hamwee, B.||Richard, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Seear, B.|
|Hayter, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|serota, B.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Stedman, B.||Underhill, L.|
|Stoddart of Swindon, L.||Warnock, B.|
|Taylor of Blackburn, L.||White, B.|
|Taylor of Gryfe, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Tordoff, L.||Young of Dartington, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Jellicoe, E.|
|Annaly, L.||Johnston of Rockport, L.|
|Arran, E.||Kinnoull, E.|
|Astor, V.||Lane of Horsell, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Balfour, E.||Long, V.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Lyell, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Boardman, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Margadale, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Marlesford, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Brigstocke, B.||Mersey, V.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Carlisle of Bucklow, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Munster, E.|
|Carnock, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Cavendish of Furness, L.||Nelson, E.|
|Colnbrook, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Colwyn, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||Oxfuird, V.|
|Craigavon, V.||Park of Monmouth, B.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Pearson of Rannoch, L.|
|Cross, V.||Pender, L.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Dacre of Glanton, L.||Perry of Southwark, B.|
|Denham, L.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Denton of Wakefield, B.||Quinton, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Eden of Winton, L.||Reay, L.|
|Elibank, L.||Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Rennell, L.|
|Elton, L.||Renwick, L.|
|Fanshawe of Richmond, L.||Rippon of Hexham, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Salisbury, M.|
|Fraser of Carmyllie, L.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Seccombe, B.|
|Greenway, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Gridley, L.||Strange, B.|
|Guildford, Bp.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.[Teller]|
|Hardinge of Penshurst, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Harmsworth, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Harrowby, E.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Henley, L.||Tollemache, L.|
|Hesketh, L.[Teller]||Trumpington, B.|
|Holderness, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|HolmPatrick, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Hooper, B.||Waddington, L.|
|Howe, E.||Wade of Chorlton, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Wise, L.|
|Jeffreys, L.||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 6.14 p.m.
Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 92:
Page 5, line 16, at end insert ("having regard to the funds available to them for inspection").
§ The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 92, I also wish to speak to Amendment No. 167 which is grouped with it. In this amendment we are 626 modifying the wording of the Bill at the end of line 16 to find out how much inspections will cost and from where the funds will come.
§ If the Minister will bear with me, I wish to ask a broad question on whether the Government have any more to say about the global sum available for inspection following the argument which I thought I put forward fairly cogently on Second Reading. I endeavoured to argue that the sum available, converted into an average cost per inspection, would not make a worthwhile inspection a viable economic activity. That was the position I took then and I did not feel that it was rebutted at the time. From what I read in the newspapers at the end of last week, several reputable firms of consultants which might have gone into the inspection business accepted my view that they could not do the job properly with the funds available. That is my broad, probing question to the noble Baroness.
§ I have a long list of questions and I shall not read them all out. But I wish to know whether I am right that what will be called a proper inspection will be defined and set out in precise terms by Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors. Will they do it by providing a pro forma, a standard specification stating, "When the school puts the inspection out to tender, it must be done in the following way"?
§ Related to that, the DES must have thought this through to some degree, but I am not clear whether there will be a standard figure for the cost per inspection, I assume sub-divided by the type of school, or will there be flexibility? If there is a standard cost and the school asks for a better inspection, would it be able to use some of its devolved funds and say, "We would like you to spend more time with us", or "We would like you to look at this, which we know may cost a good deal more"? I am trying to obtain a vision of what will happen as a practical matter.
§ Since we are discussing tendering, the alternative may be to do it the other way round. It may happen that the school puts up a notice—I am not sure where, nor to whom one would apply—saying, "Would you please tender to inspect our school along the following lines?" At the bottom, apart from stating what the inspector will do, as with builders, the notice will state, "Our tender price is the following".
§ My question then becomes: supposing the two tender prices are beyond the means of the school, how will it work? Will the school have the right to go to the LEA and say, "That's the lowest tender. We agree that it looks a lot of money and more than the DES implied when the Bill was discussed in their Lordships' House, but that is our best tender. You have told us that we must have an inspection. May we have the money?"
§ That is what lies behind the amendments. I assure the noble Baroness that they are probing amendments. I am genuinely interested in how it will happen. It may be that this is all covered in some DES document which the department must have prepared in considering the legislation. It would not put the proposals before us unless it had the answers to all these questions. In that case, rather than spending a long time worrying the Committee with everything I have asked about model contracts, standard contracts 627 and so on, perhaps I may be given brief answers and then look at the appropriate DES document. That may be a better way of doing it.
§ It seems to me that since we are dealing with the Bill—and from what the noble Baroness said earlier, we must take it seriously and assume that it will be an Act of Parliament—we have a duty to find out how it will work in practice. I have that duty because I assured noble Lords on Second Reading that I was convinced that the Bill could not possibly work in practice. I must ask further questions in order to see whether I can be persuaded to change my mind. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Blatch
The duty in Clause 9(1) to arrange an inspection by a registered inspector is an absolute one. I am sure the governors will have regard to the funds they have available when they carry out their duty for it would be irresponsible to do otherwise. But the duty is not in any way modified by the addition of the words of the amendment.
As for HMCI's reserve power, we want that left as open as possible. There may be a range of exceptional reasons why the governors cannot arrange an inspection. In fact the most likely (though still very rare) will be the case of a particular type of special school which no registered inspector is competent to inspect. Funding would not be a relevant factor in that case. To add these words to paragraph 22 of Schedule 2 might be taken to imply that the chief inspectors can act only if finance is an issue. I am sure on reflection the noble Lord would not want to limit the chief inspectors' powers in that way.
Our reforms involve making better use of existing funds for local inspection and advice. Some £135 million is spent by local authorities each year on inspectors and advisers. We estimate that just over half that total—some £70 million—will be needed to meet the costs of inspection for the quarter of schools that must be inspected each year. I have written at length to the noble Lord about the effect of VAT on such payments.
Those estimates cannot of course be finalised until the chief inspectors' guidance is known, and we are still some way off the first inspections in September 1993. But they are based on a range of costs from £6,000 for a small primary school to £30,000 for a large secondary which reflect current HMI practice in terms of the length of a full inspection leading to a published report. I expect the chief inspectors' guidance will leave some flexibility for more or less efficient inspectors to modify the precise number of days used, although it will be essential that time spent observing teaching and learning is the same in schools of similar sizes.
The noble Lord asked about flexibility for governing bodies if they wished to add more money to the money that has been allocated for inspection. That flexibility will be allowed to governing bodies. We have used a central estimate of around £350 for the daily cost of an inspector, but I expect there would also be some variation about that figure depending on the area concerned and on the overheads of different inspectors. I have already written to the noble Lord explaining about VAT, as I have said. I have explained 628 that VAT need not be included in these net figures because where it is payable it is reclaimable and it must be returned to schools. We should beware of helping those who may be in the market for inspection work to talk up the figures so as to increase their profits. I am talking now about outside companies that have been vocal in these matters.
If the Committee believes the funding will be tight, it should welcome the pressure that will be put on private firms as well as LEAs to operate as efficiently as possible. I have said that the level of overheads will be a critical factor. I understand that Coopers & Lybrand believes there needs to be a mark-up of around 300 per cent. on the salary costs of its inspectors. I am not sure all firms and LEAs would share that view. But it is hardly surprising that some firms are suggesting that more money is needed. It is in their interest to push costs up, as much as it is in the public interest to contain them. But the department has already had many expressions of serious interest from those already working in education in a range of capacities as well as from consultants in related fields. We are confident that there will be no shortage of competent inspectors applying for registration both within and outside local authorities. If Coopers wants to remain in the education market, I suspect it will join in before too long. It will have to accept healthy competition in the process. We are talking of a central figure of £350 net of VAT. That is rather over £400 a day if (as I believe Mr. Thompson of Coopers did) one includes VAT. That is not as far as has been suggested from the £500 to £600 he has mentioned.
It is also important to remember how little of all this is firmly fixed. We do not object to speculation. We have had to speculate ourselves for the purpose of giving some indication to Parliament of our plans. But we must remember that speculation is what it is. Until the chief inspector has issued his guidance and we know what the length of inspections will be, until we have then consulted LEAs on the right formula for allocating funds and until we have adjusted LMS schemes for the first secondary inspections in September 1993, no one can be certain about the exact figures.
I apologise that I have not been able to provide concise answers to the questions put by the noble Lord. The Bill stands silent on how schools are to receive their funds. However, I am happy to explain what we have in mind. We propose that schools should be in receipt of funds in the year of inspection. There is no question of their having to save up over the four years, or even of the first schools having to get into debt to meet their commitment.
The money will flow to schools through LMS schemes. The variations will ensure that each school to be inspected has sufficient money to buy an inspection which will meet HMCI's guidelines. No central rate for an inspection will be set centrally; the precise cost will be subject to market forces in each area. If schools can make modest savings they will be able to deploy them elsewhere. But the scope for this will be limited by the central guidance to inspectors. If schools wish to top up the money available, that also will be a matter for the appropriate authority.
629 We have yet to take decisions on the precise method by which LMS schemes will be varied. Our plans will be subject to consultation with local authorities and they will of course have to consult their schools before making variations. The variations will certainly need to take into account the fact that different sizes and types of school will require different levels of funding for the purposes of inspection. We will ensure that all schools get what they require to enable a proper inspection to be carried out. I hope with that explanation the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
§ Baroness Seear
I have also added my name to this amendment. I believe we are near to one of the points which concerns many of us. Inspection is of the greatest possible importance. So far as I am aware, nowhere in the Bill are we told what the minimum qualifications and standards of the inspectors will be. We are told that the chief inspector will settle that. The Minister said something that gave me cause for some alarm. She said that if a school could save money on an inspection it could use that money elsewhere. The money is not ring-fenced. The temptation to get inspections on the cheap will be considerable because money will be tight. If we drop the standards of inspections, there is a danger that we shall obtain cut-price inspections. After all, people will compete for the job on price. That is an important element. The last thing we want is cut-price inspections. That will do no good in terms of raising quality in schools. Will the noble Baroness give us some idea of what the minimum standards will be as opposed to what the chief inspector has said?
§ Baroness Blatch
The noble Baroness makes an important point. She is absolutely right to say that this provision will be central to the way the whole inspection system works and to its effectiveness. However, we have taken the view that the chief inspector is to be free to set standards and to set the qualification standards for entry to the register. He will of course have powers to deregister if inspectors do not come up to the qualification standards. The chief inspector may set conditions. In other words, when a registered inspector performs his activities he will have to conform to conditions. One of those conditions could relate to the previous amendment which concerns using competent skills held by members of the inspection team to inspect a school. That is a fundamental difference. We are relying on the professionalism of the inspector.
The information about qualifications and standards will be in the public domain. That information will be seen and understood by the schools and by the public at large. That is an important provision. The choices made by the appropriate authorities—in most cases, the governing bodies—will, we hope, be made on the basis of quality and price. But given the fact that anyone who is a registered inspector will have gone through a quality threshold, he will have the expertise to meet the professional standards and also the needs of the school.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
I have one simple question for the noble Baroness. Let us suppose that a school decided to spend rather more on an inspection than it needed to or more than other schools spend on inspections. What will the school receive in exchange for having spent more money? If I go to Fortnum and Mason as opposed to McDonald's, I know what I shall receive. But under this scheme what will a school receive for paying more money?
§ Baroness Blatch
If a school pays more than it needs to, parents, and certainly governors, would have to be called to account for having done so. The governors will describe the school and the nature of the inspection to be carried out to conform with all the requirements of the Bill. If they choose to pay over the odds, that governing body will be accountable to the parents and, at some stage, to the Secretary of State.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
The school may not be extravagant. It may simply want to buy what it considers is best. What more would it receive that it would not receive if it did not pay that sum?
§ Baroness Blatch
In terms of competence and quality of inspection a school cannot buy more. For the purposes of the inspection the school will employ a competent, fully registered inspection team. If the school chooses to pay a high price for that inspection, it will have to be accountable to the parents and explain why an expensive option was chosen when cheaper options were available under which the job could have been done as competently.
§ Viscount Eccles
The Government estimated the cost at £70 million before we started work on the Bill. As the Bill proceeds it is obvious that the cost of inspections is increasing because we keep adding to the tasks which the teams must carry out. I am anxious that all the money which is available should not be spent on inspections without consideration being given to whether that is the only way to obtain the information which the public want for the money which is available. Can I have an assurance that the inspectors will not merely carry out inspections and certainly would never be able to carry out, for example, 6,000 inspections a year which is quite beyond administrative possibilities? It is more important to consider how to obtain the information which parents and employers want.
§ Baroness Blatch
That is another important point. However, I pointed out in relation to an amendment moved in Committee that approximately three-quarters of HMI's time will be spent doing the very important work to which my noble friend Lord Eccles referred. That is what I refer to as "dipsticking" into the system—in other words, looking at the system on a random basis. We now have a system of inspection which will help HMI to identify the pressure points where inspections are most needed and to provide that information to schools and local education authorities.
§ Baroness Faithfull
What would be the position in the case of a small but very good school which is a charity, providing a special service for special children, which does not have the money for inspections?
§ Baroness Blatch
That would be a wholly independent school which is a charity. I shall take advice on that matter but my understanding is that the school would not be in receipt of fees from the Government for inspection. I shall have to take advice on the extent to which it would be required to undergo inspections.
§ Lord Peston
I do not think that such schools fall within the ambit of the Bill, but I am not entirely sure of that. I apologise for not thanking the noble Baroness earlier for her letter of 18th February. I have tried manfully to understand it. I think that it amounts to the fact that all the sums under consideration are net of VAT.
I do not want to prolong the discussion since the matter is rather technical, but I am still a little puzzled. If the Bill becomes law it will be a statutory duty on the part of the appropriate authorities to have an inspection. I am not sure what happens if they cannot achieve that at the price which is quoted. In other words, money may be set aside but the authority may not be able to obtain an inspection for that sum. We are talking of business enterprises which may not quote prices which the authorities can afford. That is one matter which puzzles me. I do not want to prolong the matter now but perhaps the noble Baroness will obtain advice as to what would happen if authorities could not afford that statutory duty. That is my main question. However, having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Young of Dartington moved Amendment No. 93:
Page 5, line 16, at end insert ("who has completed a course of training in respect of which he has received a certificate issued under paragraph 5A of Schedule 2 below.").
§ The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 93 is grouped with Amendments Nos. 131 and 133 to 140. Amendment No. 131 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, is particularly important in my view, as is Amendment No. 135 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Elton.
§ What I say in relation to Amendment No. 93 also applies in particular to Amendment No. 140. I should like to apologise for not having been able to be present last Monday. That may mean that I have missed some important nuances in debate; if so, I shall stand to be corrected later.
§ The underlying concern of most of the speakers in the debates on the Bill relates to the capacity of the new inspectors to do the job which is intended. The question is whether they will be competent. Last week the Government accepted an important amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young. That went some way to allaying anxieties on the issue. The functions of the chief inspector were enlarged.632
§ It will now doubtless be said that that amendment makes unnecessary the amendments which we are now to deal with. For my part I infer exactly the opposite. I argue that the amendments go in the same direction and complement last week's amendment. My proposition is that if one accepts the Renfrew/Young amendment of last week, then one should logically accept these amendments today—Young supports Young.
§ Amendment No. 93 in particular is designed to strengthen the chief inspector's powers in another respect—in relation to the training of the ordinary inspectors. That is a matter on which the Bill stands silent—to use the attractive words of the noble Baroness a few moments ago. My contention is that on that important matter of training the Bill should not stand silent but should speak.
§ Training is clearly a very important matter. No one in this Chamber would deny that. It is important in any profession and it is important in the new profession which is projected in the Bill. If the training is inadequate, the whole new system could be weakened. It is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to suggest that it could be weakened to such an extent that the whole new system might become a farce. That is all the more important in my submission because at present there is no requirement in the Bill for previous qualifications of any kind for the new inspectors who will form the inspection team.
§ The registered inspectors are to be accredited but the ordinary inspectors and inspection teams are not, or at least there is no provision as yet for such accreditation. No doubt, as we have been told many times before, ordinary inspectors will ordinarily have previous experience which is relevant. They will have been teachers, and many will have been local authority inspectors. However, it is not necessary for that to be the case. Even if it were the case it does not follow that anyone who has been a teacher is qualified to be an inspector. A nursery school teacher may not be the best person to inspect science in a secondary school. In any case, there is bound to be a worry, which I am sure is not confined to me, that there could be a minority of people who do not have relevant previous experience and who manage to be appointed to the new inspection force.
§ One of the great banes but also great beauties of education is that almost anyone can hold an opinion about it. Very often the firmness of people's opinions varies inversely with the extent of their knowledge of the subject. We know from our own sometimes bitter experience that people can become extremely cranky about education. They can be cranky about anything of course but it seems that education offers a great field or dominion for cranks to occupy. We can all surely imagine people who see in this Bill the creation of a whole new profession, with thousands of new posts being set up and a certain amount of new money being made available. There will be people who believe that the great opportunity has now come for them at last to get their views across in such a way that it will influence what happens in the schools; and what better 633 way can it be achieved than by becoming a member of the new inspection teams? There will also be a certain amount of money in it for them.
§ There are people who believe against the evidence—sometimes with the evidence—that they in particular have the nostrum which will save education from what would otherwise be a terrible fate. If many of those people—retired this or retired that with strong opinions—want to undertake the course of training, they can do so. It is the only requirement laid down in the Bill for the new ordinary inspectors. Unless those people were very dull indeed, they could complete it without having absorbed very much of what they were taught.
§ I can certainly imagine that, once it is announced that there will be thousands of jobs available for people who complete the course of training, some shadier commercial correspondence colleges (which unfortunately still exist in this country despite some improvement) will turn their eyes to the syllabus for the course of training set out by the chief inspector. They will soon offer courses to run alongside the chief inspector's course and coach people in how to complete it. Whether or not that turns out to be the case, the chief inspector will not have any obvious way, as the Bill stands at the moment, to stop unsuitable people from completing the course, unless he is given specific powers to do so. An unsuitable minority could complete the course and some of the cranky butchers, bakers and candlestick makers who we all know exist could get through the course. They could achieve notoriety, making an absurd mess of what they do and issuing public statements, and could go far to bring the whole new system into disrepute.
§ I argue that the chief inspector should be able to exclude from courses people who are not fit and proper persons to take the course, just as he can exclude people on that ground once they have taken the course. We may hope that he does not often have to exercise that option but he should have the power to do so if it proves necessary.
§ In my view the most important point raised by these amendments concerns certification. On this side of the Chamber we believe that the Government have gone much too far in testing children in relation to the national curriculum. Testing has gone to the Government's head. However, in this Bill all that seems to have been thrown aside. There is no mention of testing or examination to find out whether those who have taken the chief inspector's course have understood or benefited from it. They are to complete the course—I underline the word "complete"—but that does not mean that they will have done anything more than go through the motions. That does not guarantee that they have learnt anything from the course or know much about the way in which schools work or the arts of constructive inspection. A course may be completed without that completion being in the least satisfactory. On that point the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, fully hits the nail on the head.
§ In my opinion it is vital that the chief inspector should have the power and the duty to award certificates to those who complete the course 634 satisfactorily. The schools and the public would then know that those who inspect the schools have undertaken a course of training, have benefited from it in a positive way and have passed muster with the chief inspector as being people who have the right kind of training for the job. Without that provision any training could be worse than useless. I hope that my arguments can in general be accepted. The amendment is very much in line with the one accepted by the Government last week and I hope that they will feel able to accept it. I beg to move.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Perry of Southwark
The noble Lord paints a very gloomy picture which causes great alarm. If such cranky people with views on education which have been derived from nothing but the experience of their own childhood were to become registered inspectors, it would be very bad for the education service and for the reputation of the inspectors. However, I do not share his gloom.
I see nothing in the way that these arrangements for training are described which is different from the current position with HMI. The training course and period of training which HM inspectors undergo is taken after appointment and after they have been selected as fit and proper people to undertake inspection. The selection is based on their experience, background and academic qualifications, where appropriate. They will then be given the course of training which makes them fit to conduct the inspections. I hope that more than that will be done. As with HMI at the present time, I hope that they will be given suitable mentoring arrangements which will enable them to learn on the job in a structured and proper way.
I should like to reassure the noble Lord that at the present time there is no requirement for specific sets of qualifications for existing HMIs. It has not resulted in any more disastrous errors and mistakes than is the normal average among human beings. In the current inspectorate there are people inspecting schools who have never taught in a school but who for other good reasons are the appropriate and right people to inspect schools. There are certainly people who are not graduates in the current HMI.
§ Lord Young of Dartington
I hope that the noble Baroness will accept that there is an important difference between the present HMIs and the new inspectors that are suggested in the Bill. Many of the people who might be suitable HMIs are known from personal knowledge. They might be known from what they have already done in education and be appointed because of what is known about them. But the Bill suggests something quite different. Anyone in the country is a potential inspector. No one in the HMI service or anywhere else will know anything about them before they start on the job.
§ Baroness Perry of Southwark
I do not see the distinction. In theory at the present time anyone can apply. The jobs of HMI are advertised. At times many thousands of applications are received—certainly many hundreds on each occasion that they are 635 advertised. The applications come from a variety of people. They are sifted and sorted, as I assume will be the case under the new arrangements, until an appropriate short list of people is drawn up. They are then interviewed for their suitability.
I do not share the noble Lord's gloomy view of any drastic changes in the arrangements. I see absolutely no reason why the arrangements for inspection as proposed in the Bill should not be as good or better than those which currently exist.
§ Lord Beloff
We return to the central problem in dealing with the Bill; it is that it is difficult to seize on the actual intentions of the Government. The news that important firms of consultants do not wish to participate is important. It was not made clear on the face of the Bill that it was expected that existing firms would do so. Unless the newspapers are wholly wrong, we now know that some firms have been approached. Before we come to the important points of selection, training and registration we need to know what is the Government's thinking not only as regards the first crop but as regards those in the future. Presumably if one puts legislation on the statute book one intends it to last.
I am afraid that I am irresistibly reminded of the Education (Student Loans) Bill. When it was before this Chamber the Government said that the loans would be administered by existing joint stock banks. Some of us pointed out that it was highly improbable that student loans was a business that would suit them but we were brushed aside. Nevertheless we were right; the Government were wrong. They had to set up a money lending instrument of their own. I do not say that action was wrong but it was not where the Bill started.
We are now asked to accept a system of tendering for the inspection teams. We are told that we must not ask that the people who take part in the teams shall be registered, because that is bureaucratic. That was what the noble Baroness said in reply to an earlier amendment of mine. Doubts are expressed about whether any formal provisions are needed for their training. We should be told about the kind of people who are expected to tender and what is to be the incentive for them. The financial point was raised by my delightful colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Peston, at an earlier stage. We do not know the full financial provisions, and so forth, which are all in the air. Therefore, how can we be asked to legislate for the future of an important part of our educational system unless we are told precisely by the Government that they expect inspectors to come from the Royal Marines or wherever and that they expect them to make a reasonable profit amounting to so such and such?
All those issues could be made precise. Why are they not being made precise? Is it because for some reason which is obscure to Members on all sides of the Committee there is a desperate hurry to get the Bill through? If it had been brought before Parliament in the next Session there would have been time to explain in detail to the educational world what is intended. I 636 do wish that my noble friends on the Front Bench would explain these matters to me. I should find it much easier to vote with them if they did.
§ Lord Elton
I wish to speak to Amendment No. 135, standing in my name. I can do so without adducing the great principles that have excited other speakers in the debate. Provision already exists in the Bill to enable HMCI to exercise control over the quality of inspectors. However, we are now examining the quality control of other registered inspectors. I am worried about one aspect. The provision which already exists is in paragraph 4 of Schedule 2. It states:No person shall conduct an inspection of a school in England, or act as a member of an inspection team for such a school, unless he has completed a course of training".The noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, would like the chief inspector to stop people getting on to the course, to get them booted off the course if they are not going to succeed and to pass a test at the end of which they will be certificated as having completed the course successfully. I believe that only the latter requirement is necessary. Most of the wordage produced by the noble Lord and by my noble friend is unnecessary.
I wish to be assured that people who are trained have not merely completed courses but have completed them successfully. I am sure that that will also be the wish of the chief inspector. Having tried to dismiss a registered inspector for being unqualified I should not like the chief inspector brought up before the court to be told that he was qualified because he had completed a course in the way in which one can claim to have a failed BA as a qualification.
Mine is a simple request. I do not believe that a great deal of administrative expense is involved other than that which one would expect in a prudent arrangement already existing. I hope that the Government will be a little more friendly towards my friendly approach than doubtless they will be towards the others.
§ Baroness Denton of Wakefield
Members of the Committee have raised many points and I shall try to reassure them. The noble Lord, Lord Young, in Amendments Nos. 93 and 140, my noble friend Lord Beloff in Amendments Nos. 134 and 137 and my noble friend Lord Elton in Amendment No. 135 are all interested in tightening up the process of training of team members. They variously wish to ensure that no one is admitted to a course unless judged suitable for inspection work, which is right, that they should be required to reach a certain standard in order to complete it and that they should be offered a certificate if they do so successfully. In addition, in Amendments Nos. 136 and 139 my noble friend Lord Beloff wishes to remove the ability of HMCI to waive the training requirement where he thinks it appropriate to do so.
Perhaps I may first deal with that latter more narrow point. We consider that flexibility to waive the training requirement should be retained for what we expect to be a few cases in which it may be justified. For example, a future HMI well versed in the new inspection system—perhaps himself or herself running training courses for inspectors—might wish to leave the national inspectorate to become a registered 637 inspector. That is probably an ideal career-break path. I would not like to see HMCI forced to require that individual to attend his or her own course to learn what he or she had been teaching to others!
§ Lord Elton
I believe that my noble friend is misunderstanding my request. I was not asking whether people are competent in their subject. I was asking that they should have passed a course which would make them competent in the inspection of their subject. That is rather different.
§ Baroness Denton of Wakefield
I am replying initially to the narrower point in the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Beloff relating to the simple opportunity of HMCI to waive training if necessary. We expect that in the early days all inspectors will need training in what will be a very new system—but we are legislating for a longer timescale. I hope that the trust in the HMCI will allow the amendment to be withdrawn.
Turning to the need for closer control over the training process, my honourable friends in another place have made clear that the HMCIs can be expected to look carefully at applicants for training. It seems to us that the fulfilment of his duty to keep standards under review will ensure that HMCI will want to take particular care to secure that inspectors are suitable and appropriately trained. His ability to carry out his job depends on that. We do not consider it necessary to hedge the HMCIs round with conditions. A competent HMCI, keen to secure a successful national system, will I am sure not accept those who are clearly unsuitable or lack the appropriate qualifications and experience for the task. I believe therefore that I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Young, that is unlikely that HMCI will accept nursery teachers to inspect science. The noble Lord expressed doubts, but a competent HMCI will have arrangements in place so that anyone who showed himself during the course to be unable to cope with the training would not be allowed to complete the course.
As regards certification, some written evidence of completion of training will be required by inspectors which can be produced on request when work is sought. That evidence is likely to take the form of either a letter or a certificate validated by HMCI who will have a register of those people. Therefore, I believe that the Bill's provisions taken together already secure the sort of assurances which Members of the Committee seek.
As regards Amendments Nos. 131 and 133, it seems that my noble friend Lord Beloff is trying to reopen the debate which we had on the amendments moved by my noble friend Lord Renfrew, which were accepted by the Committee. Perhaps I can refresh the memory of my noble friend by saying that those amendments provided for the chief inspector to be able to offer advice to governing bodies on the tenders received and, indeed, to exercise a power of veto if necessary. When we discussed those amendments we said that we thought they swept up the power which my noble friend Lord Beloff sought to introduce to Schedule 2 through those amendments. I still think that.
638 Perhaps I may draw my noble friend's attention to the changing flexibility of employment which those rolls of registered inspection teams will sweep up. I stress that there is a vast difference between the student loan requirement from the private sector and that required from individuals to make up the teams. I must disagree with my noble friend when he suggests that there has not been sufficient time for discussion of the Bill and that it has been hurried through.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Lord Dormand of Easington
With great respect, the Bill was guillotined in another place. Therefore, it cannot have had enough time.
§ Baroness Denton of Wakefield
It was guillotined after a Committee stage when all the time allowed to it was not used. There was adequate time for discussion. On the day of the guillotine most of the discussion was on political rather than educational matters.
Under the Bill we are establishing a two-tier system of quality control—a system which will be tight but flexible. No one will be employed as a team member unless he or she has successfully completed a course of training provided or approved by the chief inspector.
§ Lord Elton
Did the Minister use the word "successfully" advisedly? Is she saying that what I have asked for is in the Bill? She said that no one would be accepted as an inspector unless he or she had successfully completed a course. That word does not appear in the Bill.
§ Baroness Denton of Wakefield
Such a person would not be on the register without training, as I said earlier.
§ Baroness Blackstone
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness but I am still rather perplexed, as I suspect is the noble Lord, Lord Elton. A person may undertake the training without successfully completing it. He may have failed to meet the kind of requirements which HMCI believes to be appropriate. What happens in those circumstances?
§ Baroness Denton of Wakefield
I shall repeat for the noble Baroness and for my noble friend what I said earlier. As regards certification, some written evidence of completion of training will be required by inspectors which can be produced on request when work is sought. That evidence is likely to take the form of a letter or a certificate.
I return to the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Beloff. The registered inspector must be satisfied, in the light of the guidance from the chief inspector about the composition of teams, that a person is suitable and competent for the task in hand. Furthermore, the governing body commissioning the inspection will wish to be satisfied as to the qualifications of the members of the team to be used by each registered inspector tendering for the inspection. That is a further strand of quality assurance. Yet another strand has been built in through the acceptance last week of the amendments moved by my noble friend Lord Renfrew. Those 639 amendments mean that assessors appointed by HMCI will help governors to examine the credentials of the whole team.
I assure my noble friend that the Government have not approached any firms of management consultants. They approached us, as have a wide range of education consultants. The important piece of news is not that Coopers & Lybrand will only participate if there is more money on the table but that there are plenty of others who will tender. I hope that my noble friend Lord Beloff will rest content with the considerable safeguards that I have listed and will, if necessary, be able to vote with us.
§ Lord Young of Dartington
I thank the Minister for that winding-up speech. I was surprised when the Minister expressed her view that a certificate or some form of written evidence of completion would be required. If that is so, I should have thought that the obvious course to pursue is to accept the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, so that it is quite clear that certification will be required. I am only sorry that the Minister was not able to go that far.
However, let us always hope that, the intention having been stated—and stated clearly—it will at a later stage it will be put on the face of the Bill. That would reassure many people who may have doubts. However, it is now seven minutes past seven—
§ Lord Elton
Before the noble Lord invites us to have dinner, which I believe he is about to do, perhaps he will allow me an opportunity to speak because the convention is that one does not speak to an amendment which has already been spoken to. Therefore, I shall not again have the opportunity to address Amendment No. 35.
I shall read carefully what my noble friend said. I was rather beset by the idiosyncrasies of the grouping which I tried to sort out while she was replying to the amendment. I hope that the Minister gave a firm indication that the Government intend that a criterion of success will be embodied in practice when it comes to seeing who has and who has not satisfied the requirements of training for that function. If I do not find such an assurance in Hansard, I shall return to this matter.
§ Baroness Denton of Wakefield
I assure my noble friend that we are sympathetic to the spirit of his request. I should like to explain to the Committee that I may have inadvertently mentioned registered inspection teams. I apologise for that. The team leaders are the registered inspectors and the team members will be given recognition for successfully completing training. I am sorry for the confusion I caused.
§ Lord Young of Dartington
It is now eight minutes past seven. If we obey the dictates of the clock, I believe that in the longer run time will definitely be on our side. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Baroness Denton of Wakefield
I beg to move that the House do now resume. I suggest that the Committee stage begins again at 10 minutes past eight.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.