HL Deb 10 March 1992 vol 536 cc1224-314

3.16 p.m.

Report received.

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

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Baroness Blatch) moved Amendment No. 1: Page 2, line 4, leave out ("and").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we have to thank the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, for bringing to the attention of the House the case for his amendments on spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. He was concerned that under the Bill as drafted it might be possible for inspectors to neglect the important issue of how far schools are providing for pupils' development in these key areas.

Section 1 of the Education Reform Act makes it clear that the school curriculum must promote pupils' spiritual, moral and cultural development. HMI already has regard to all those aspects in its inspections. However, it is true that the current drafting of Clauses 2, 6 and 9 does not mention those topics. We have been impressed by the case which has been made for giving them greater prominence in this legislation. Therefore we propose these amendments. Their effect is to place on the face of the Bill a requirement for the chief inspectors to have, as part of their general duty, a duty to keep the Secretary of State informed on these matters and for registered inspectors to report on them when carrying out their inspections under the Bill. That means that parents will be given an objective assessment of the values espoused by their child's school and their impact on the pupils.

We have added the word "social" to ensure that matters of discipline and behaviour, and relationships between pupils and staff, are fully covered. The public at large will, through the chief inspector's annual report, have an oversight of how all the nation's schools are performing in this respect in each year. I hope that the way in which the amendments are worded will set at rest any fears that the inspectors are being asked to judge the values which underpin the life of each school. It is for the governors to determine a school's values and a school's ethos. However, the inspectors will have to report on what those values are and how they affect the development of pupils at the school. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who was concerned about this issue at an earlier stage, will accept that this is a proper part of an inspector's job. I trust that these amendments are acceptable to the House. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, unfortunately appears not to be present, someone ought to say how welcome this movement by Her Majesty's Government is. It addresses a concern that is close to the hearts of a great many people involved in our education system and whose children are involved in our education system. It is entirely to be welcomed.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford

My Lords, I only wish to reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has said. As one whose name was associated with the amendments which were moved originally by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, I wish to express my gratitude to the Government for ensuring that this matter is placed on the face of the Bill. That can only be to the advantage of the whole system of inspection and information about schools which we need. I am grateful to the Government for the action they have taken.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness for commenting on the point which I raised. I am very relieved to hear that the emphasis will be on the information being purely informative and in no sense judgmental. Any judgmental comments could lead to considerable abuse.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am grateful for those comments from noble Lords on all sides of the House.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, this is a purely drafting point. Will the new words be added to paragraph (c), or will they form a new paragraph (d)? The Marshalled List shows brackets but nothing inside them. Will that be paragraph (d)?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, it is my understanding that that is the case, but if I am wrong I shall come back to the noble Lord. Certainly those words will be added to the Bill and I can confirm that the information will be commentary and will not be judgmental.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 2: Page 2, line 6, after ("efficiently") insert ("and ( ) the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at those schools.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 3: Page 2, line 6, at end insert ("and (d) the adequacy of financial resources available to appropriate authorities (including the Chief Inspector) and to local education authorities for the purposes of inspections under this Act.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, a minor technical point arises in respect of Amendment No. 3, and therefore also Amendment No. 10, as a result of the intervention of my noble friend Lord Glenamara. The amendment sets out a new paragraph (d). If the amendment of the noble Baroness turns out to be paragraph (d), then my amendment will be paragraph (e), but that is not a fundamental point.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and I have put down the amendment in order to elicit a further response from the Government on the question of adequacy of financial resources for inspections. On a number of occasions we have expressed our fears that overall the sums being set aside for inspections will not be sufficient to make sure that inspections will be of high quality.

I was worried by my initial calculation in which I was able to demonstrate clearly that there was no profit to be made in the inspection business. I was also concerned by the fact that one or two consultancy firms which might have been expected to enter the inspection business had made the same calculation and come to the same conclusion. Such inspection bodies will have to receive a return on the capital invested and therefore the business must be profitable. I hope that the Government may be able to tell us more about that.

Equally, I raised the question of how resources will be managed and I do not feel that I have received a satisfactory answer. Will there be a fixed inspection scale so that schools will have to have inspections undertaken for that sum or will there be room for manoeuvre? That possibility worries me because, whatever the scale, it would have to be fairly standard and could not be fine-tuned to the different circumstances of individual schools.

Since, on the whole, the Government are responding positively today to suggestions that have been made, I do not want to introduce an acerbic note into the proceedings. However, I feel that the area of finance has not been fully thought through. Therefore I hope that either the Government will be able to make a more positive statement today about financial resources or some way will be found between now and the implementation of the Bill to clarify the matter. It may be that something can be done by regulation.

The matter is serious. Given that it now appears that the Bill will become law, we have to take the financial side particularly seriously. Given that the Government are intent on going ahead with the privatised inspection teams, despite the fact that we have tried to persuade them to the contrary, they have to face up to the need to provide appropriate incentives.

I accept the point which the noble Baroness made in Committee that in the public interest the Treasury must not make it too easy to make money. I agree entirely. However, on the other hand one does not want to create a state of affairs in which it is not just not too easy but is impossible to do so, in which case the arrangements would be unworkable.

I hope that the Government will be able to give some assurances on those points. I beg to move.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, on this occasion at least I am only too happy to leave the arithmetic to the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I should like to support the amendment on the rather boring grounds that, because we are moving into a very new field in education involving the introduction of many new experiments, it would be false economy of the most foolish kind to economise on the inspectorate. We need the best inspections we can possibly achieve in order to identify errors in the schemes which ultimately would prove very much more expensive than paying for a really first-class inspectorate. That is why I want very strongly to support the amendment.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, I note the concern which the noble Baroness raised, and I hope that I can continue in the spirit of good will to which the noble Lord, Lord Peston, referred.

Whether it is paragraph (d) or (e), we do not need to add this provision to the Bill in support of the other changes which have been and are to be made. I am sure that noble Lords have noted the number of amendments we have brought forward to meet anxieties expressed at earlier stages and to give full and proper effect to the intention of amendments already made. I am certainly not in the business of arguing against change on principle, but the amendment before the House does not fit into the scheme of the Bill as it will leave your Lordships' House.

First, it suggests a need for the chief inspectors to keep the Secretary of State informed about the availability of resources for regular school inspections. Under the Bill as amended that will not be a matter for the Secretary of State. He will not, as we had envisaged, be adjusting the schemes of local management so as to direct the necessary resources to schools. The chief inspectors will be responsible for arranging inspections and the sums required will need to be included in the budget which the chief inspectors will negotiate with the Treasury each year. They will be able to comment publicly if they feel that the sums involved are inadequate, but it does not make sense under the new arrangements to put the chief inspectors under a duty to advise the Secretary of State on a matter which is not within the latter's direct control.

The chief inspectors will of course be under a duty to keep the system of school inspections under Clause 9 under review and that must include reviewing how it is affected by the resources made available.

As for the sums available for such inspections as LEAs will carry out, under the powers to be made explicit in the Bill that will be one of a number of aspects of LEA activity on which the chief inspectors will report if it affects the standards and quality of education. However, we see no need to single it out in the Bill when advisory work, training or other LEA activities are not to be covered in explicit terms.

As the noble Lord said, during Committee stage we debated at some length the sums to be made available for inspection. I would not want to go over all the exchanges again. 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 cost of inspection for the quarter of the schools which must be inspected each year. We shall need to ensure that the appropriate sum is transferred from local authorities to the chief inspectors to meet our timetable.

Of course financial estimates must remain tentative until the chief inspectors' guidance is known, and we are still some way from the first inspections in September 1993. However, they are based on a range of costs—from £6,000 for a small primary school to £30,000 for a large secondary school—which reflect current HMI practice in terms of the length of the full inspection leading to a published report. There will not be a fixed scale but there will be a minimum rate. Those are substantial sums. They are based on inspection costs of over £400 a day, including VAT.

We remain confident that there will be no shortage of competent inspectors applying for registration both within and outside local authorities. I hope that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord will consider it possible to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, before my noble friend replies, perhaps I may ask the Minister, since the Government have opposed the amendment, whether it means that the chief inspector would be prevented or forbidden from commenting on the adequacy of resources for inspection because there will be no express duty to do so in the Act? Does that mean that he is prevented from commenting on the adequacy of the resources?

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord will be pleased to hear that, after negotiating with the Treasury, the chief inspectors will be able to comment publicly if they feel that the sums involved are inadequate.

Lord Peston

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. It was very clear, especially her answer to my noble friend. It dawns on me that she understands the consequences of my amendment better than I do. Therefore I find her answer quite convincing. It is clear that if the chief inspector now has the lead role, he will also have a lead role when it comes to the matter of resources. I apologise to the noble Baroness because that ought to have been clearer to me at the time. I take her to be saying that although she believes that the sums set aside are adequate—we could argue about that, but it is pointless to do so now—if the chief inspector cannot get the job done on those resources, he or she will simply say, "I want more resources."

We have placed on record our view. I accept the point which the noble Baroness made. I should have liked to see this matter on the face of the Bill, although it is not that vital, given what she said and especially in the light of her reply to my noble friend. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.30 p.m.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield moved Amendment No. 4: Page 2, line 19, after ("schools") insert ("in England").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 11. The first amendment relates to the Chief Inspector for England and the second amendment to the Chief Inspector for Wales. They are simply drafting amendments: they make clear that the Chief Inspector for England is responsible for giving guidance about the inspections of schools in England and the writing of inspection reports on such schools while the Chief Inspector for Wales has similar responsibility for Wales. I am sure that noble Lords will recognise that these are sensible amendments which improve the Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 5: Page 2, line 25, leave out paragraph (d).

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 12, 15, 17, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 38, 41, 42, 43, 47, 49, 57, 58 and 59. These amendments put the heart back into the Bill. I am sure that they will meet with general support. They are designed to meet and build upon the spirit of the two amendments made to the Bill last week. They replace those amendments in a way which, I believe all noble Lords will agree, improves the clarity and consistency of the Bill. The amendments are not watered down in any way. They simply give full effect.

I am grateful to noble Lords opposite for withdrawing their package of similar amendments, which suggests that they accept the amendments now before the House. I expect that in their turn they will be keen to represent the changes to the Bill as a major disaster for the Government. I fear that I gave them some false hope last week by saying that one amendment that was passed struck at the heart of the Bill. That was in the context of just one amendment which, as it stood, removed all responsibility from the governors; and we have always believed that governors and parents are central to our plans for inspection. Whatever noble Lords said about their real intention, the amendment would have given the chief inspector power over not only the choice of inspectors but also the preparations for the inspection and its follow-up. It is an amendment which would have removed governors entirely from the picture.

We believe that governors must be at the heart of any plans to improve standards in our schools. Our amendments place them back at the centre in all but one respect. I hope that that will be welcome. The amendment on local authority inspection powers which is essentially presentational is one which in any event we were prepared to make at this stage. I shall speak to it at the end of my remarks and hope that our version will also be welcomed.

If we look carefully at what will be achieved by the substantive revisions to the Bill which have been pressed upon us, the main losers seem to be the local education authorities and not the Parent's Charter. The arguments on which noble Lords opposite were pleased to win last week fly in the face of all that they have been arguing for during the passage of the Bill: continuing control for local authorities and a corresponding weakening of the chief inspector's role. As amended, the Bill will still meet the Parent's Charter. It will meet the commitment to have regular independent inspection of schools followed by published reports and action plans. It will meet the Parent's Charter commitment to HMI oversight of inspection standards. It will break the LEA monopoly of inspection provision and will allow governors a say in what they want from their inspection team. It will also allow parents a role in setting the agenda for inspections.

In fact, the only change from the position reached two weeks ago, after we accepted the amendment so helpfully moved by my noble friend Lord Renfrew, is that instead of the chief inspectors having to approve the governors' choice of inspector, school by school, they will have to consult the governors and make the choice themselves. While we regret that further shift of balance away from the governors, nevertheless we are prepared to accept your Lordships' wish to proceed more cautiously with these radical reforms.

This will have major consequences for local authorities. It would be a nonsense to have the chief inspectors seeking tenders and choosing inspectors if the funding were left with local authorities and schools. We shall need to remove from local authority budgets that proportion of the inspection and advisory funds which is required to run the system. We have estimated it to be around £70 million at 1991–92 prices. That will form part of the budget of the chief inspectors.

I suspect that the chief inspectors may be more dispassionate and critical judges of local authority tenders than many schools would have been in the early days. Many authorities will need to work very hard indeed to bring their standards up to the level of the best competition.

The simple fact is that the Bill remains nine-tenths or more intact, meets almost all our objectives and will get the new inspection system up and running by September 1993 as we had planned. We regret the fact that a whole new bureaucracy will need to be established to run a centralised system, but we shall make it work. My right honourable friend has said that he will keep that aspect of the new arrangements under review and may reconsider the matter in due course.

The amendments that we have tabled in this respect are a self-contained package which amends the Bill along the lines for which your Lordships voted last week. In fact they build on the amendment then passed and for that reason go slightly wider than the similar amendments—now withdrawn —from noble Lords opposite.

First, there is the matter of consistency. The amendment passed last week removed the power from school governors to appoint inspectors. But it would still have allowed the proprietors of city technology colleges or independent schools which take pupils with special needs to choose their inspectors. Such proprietors and local authorities managing schools directly, whether special schools or nursery schools, should be put in the same position as governors who are responsible for school management. Our amendments secure consistency in that respect and give the duty to arrange inspections in all cases to the chief inspector.

Secondly, there is the matter of consultation. An amendment tabled but not moved last week by the noble Lords, Lord Ritchie and Lord Peston, would have required the chief inspectors to consult governors when appointing inspectors. I am sure that it will be necessary for governors to give the chief inspector detailed factual information and also to explain features which might require some addition to the otherwise standard specification. The aim is to require consultation before the tender is drawn up—consulta-tion on the job to be done rather than on who should carry it out. Our amendments secure that. I hope that the rest of the consequential changes on these points are self-explanatory and will commend themselves to your Lordships' House.

Amendment No. 49 is rather different. It replaces the separate provisions on local authority inspection powers added to the Bill last week, which were moved by the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley. At that stage I said that we would consider bringing forward an amendment to meet his point. But the noble Earl decided to press on with his original draft. I have to say that the drafting of his amendment is not acceptable as an addition to statute, since I am advised that its effects are far from clear. That view is supported by the record of last week's debate. Therefore, we asked the parliamentary draftsman to produce a new clause which met the intentions clearly expressed by the noble Earl when he moved his amendment. Referring to the local authorities' existing power of inspection, at col. 666 of the Official Report he stated: This amendment seeks to restore that power but only where it is strictly necessary".

The new clause before your Lordships is the result. It makes explicit the LEA's right to inspect where it needs to know more about a school or to find out more quickly than it can discover from other reliable sources.

The consequential amendments now before your Lordships' House I believe meet with acclamation from all sides of the House. I hope therefore that the House will accept this package of amendments.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister and indeed to the Government for accepting the principles underlying Amendments Nos. 111 and 111A that were moved in Committee last week and supported by the House.

I was a little surprised to hear the Minister refer to putting the heart back into the Bill. I thought it a somewhat defensive remark. However, I am grateful that the Government have undertaken all the tidying up that is necessary and have tabled a number of consequential amendments.

At the end of last week, we on this side of the House were uncertain about what would be the Government's attitude to the amendments on which the Government were defeated in Committee. We therefore put down a substantial number of consequential amendments. They were tabled in my name and in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. I am glad to say that on seeing the Government's own amendments, we felt able to withdraw our amendments. However, perhaps I may correct one thing that the noble Baroness said. In moving the original amendments in Committee, we never intended to give Her Majesty's chief inspectors the role of all preparation and follow-up to inspections in primary and secondary schools. We intended to come back at Report stage with tidying up, consequential amendments. I believe that that is demonstrated by the amendments that we put down. I wish to correct the noble Baroness on that point.

We welcome the fact that the Government's amendments go somewhat beyond the solution adopted in the original Amendment No. 111 by providing that the chief inspectors for England and Wales shall arrange inspection for all schools referred to in Clause 9. We believe that it makes sense to shift the concept of "appropriate authority" into Schedule 2 where it applies to the organisation of parents' meetings, the distribution of the report, action plans and so on. We endorse entirely the Government's proposals in the amendments that governing bodies should remain the appropriate authorities for the purpose of Schedule 2. That was our intention. We endorse the proposal that they should keep the function of making ancillary and follow-up arrangements to inspections.

We also very much welcome the removal of the rather awkward references in Clause 9(8) to the intervals for inspections being linked to the availability of funds to governing bodies, replacing them with a more general power for the Secretary of State, in prescribing intervals, to name the period within which the first inspection is to begin.

We are glad too to see the demise of Clause 2(13) which we considered somewhat flawed. We are also glad that the distinction between appropriate bodies has been abandoned, leaving HMCIs with the statutory duty to arrange inspections. That includes those categories of schools for which the governing body did not have the duty in the Bill debated in Committee.

However, there are a couple of questions that I wish to put to the Minister. I understand from what has been said today that HM Government intend to fund inspections directly. That was stated by the noble Baroness, Lady Denton, and confirmed by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, who also implied that £70 million will be transferred from the local authorities to Her Majesty's chief inspectors to carry out inspections. I wish to know the implication of that transfer for local authorities which may need—it is implicit in Amendment No. 49, to which the noble Baroness spoke—to carry out inspections. Is all the money that the local authorities currently have for inspections to be removed from them? Perhaps the noble Baroness will clarify that; I may have it wrong. I should also be grateful if the Minister will say whether the statement on the financial effects of the Bill will be changed. Are there any implications for local management schemes? For example, will there be a change to the requirement that LEAs have to delegate 85 per cent. of the potential schools budget by as early as 1st April 1993? It would be helpful if we could have answers to those questions.

There is still a great deal to criticise about the Bill. Indeed in our view it is still a very bad Bill. On this side of the House we regret that nine-tenths of the Bill is still intact. However, at least two of its worst features have been removed by the amendments. Schools can no longer choose their own inspectors. Her Majesty's chief inspectors will now do that. I do not accept what the Minister said: that it will create a whole new bureaucracy. On the contrary, it now means that the long experience and expertise of Her Majesty's Inspectorate can be maintained to ensure that inspections are properly carried out without collusion or connivance between head teachers and governors and privatised inspectors. That is a matter which many people feared.

I am also extremely glad that local education authorities can now undertake inspections where they need to do so in the proper exercise of their functions as the providers of primary and secondary schooling at the local level. I have no doubt that the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, will wish to comment on that. Apart from those reservations, I welcome the amendments.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, perhaps I may also express some apprehension about the financing of inspections. I raised the matter last week. In the Explanatory Memorandum—we do not have that in this publication of the Bill—it was stated clearly that the new inspectorial system would be paid for out of the amount which local authorities now spend on their inspection and advisory services. The noble Baroness today put a figure on that of £70 million which is to be withdrawn from the local authorities and given to the chief inspectors. Does that not mean that local authority advisory services are likely to end? The noble Baroness shakes her head. Perhaps she will tell us how much the local authority advisory services cost. As I understand it, local authorities which are now strapped for cash will be in the greatest difficulty if that is withdrawn.

Very often, the advisory and inspectorial services are intertwined in local authorities. But very often they are quite separate. The advisory services in practice represent expert teachers who give advice to teachers in schools about difficult subjects. Very often, that advice is to young teachers. It is an important aspect of our education system. Will the noble Baroness give us some reassurance? Local authorities throughout the country are extremely worried that they will have all that money taken from them with nothing in return.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps it would be helpful if I respond to that point. The figure is £135 million. It is £70 million of that £135 million—the purely inspectorial sum—which will he taken. The money that is left will continue to fund limited inspection because the need for inspection from LEAs will be much reduced. However, the advisory function and its importance, which has been so well set out by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, will continue to be a role for local education authorities.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, is the noble Baroness saying that local authorities now spend £135 million and only half of that is being withdrawn? That is certainly not the information that I received from local authority sources.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am sorry about what local authorities are saying to the noble Lord. However, I said that a number of times during Second Reading and in the early Committee stage of the Bill.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, we on these Benches are glad that the Government have accepted the spirit of the two amendments that were passed last week. In consequence the Bill is greatly improved. As regards the local authorities, £70 million from £135 million leaves £65 million for the advisory services. However, the local authorities have continuing inspection expenses. What will be the amount left relative to what they now spend on advisory services after an allowance has been made for their inspectorial and advisory cost?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, with the leave of the House, the amount will be different for the various authorities. Some authorities carry out a great deal of inspection and therefore the need for that quantity of inspection will be much reduced. It was thought that as regards the primary inspection role of local authorities the figure was about £70 million. How the remaining money is spent will be a matter for each authority. As a result of Amendment No. 49 to which I am also speaking, if local authorities have good reason to be anxious about a school they will continue to carry out some inspection and they will have the funds to apply to that. They will also continue with advisory services. I am sorry that local authorities are not admitting to the full amount of £135 million.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

My Lords, I must admit that I had a moment of confusion when the noble Baroness forgot to mention that she was speaking to Amendment No. 49. We plainly are doing so and I am glad that we are at this time. On behalf of those noble Lords who put their names to the amendment tabled in Committee, which brought about the second change to the Bill—it was Amendment No. 111A dealing with the LEAs' right to inspect —I wish to say that we have looked at the change in the wording that the Government are putting before us today in Amendment No. 49. We are satisfied that it produces the effect that was intended and to which the Committee agreed. As the Minister said, it is just a preferred form of words as advised by parliamentary counsel and as such we are happy to accept it. Meanwhile I associate myself with everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said about the Bill in general.

Lord Young of Dartington

My Lords, I wish to ask a further question for clarification. It relates to the points being raised about the financing of the local authorities' inspectorial services. Will it be in order for the chief inspector to make use of local authority advisers and inspectors as agents for conducting inspections wherever he believes that to be the best way of carrying out the job? It is important that local authorities should be quite clear about that matter.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the answer is yes. If the inspectors are registered under Her Majesty's Chief Inspector they will of course be used, and I suspect substantially used. That was the case under the Bill as it previously stood and it is the case as it now stands.

In reply to the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, I wish to place on record the fact that the situation is unfortunate. During the course of speaking to his amendment I said on at least three occasions that we would come back with a form of words that was an improvement on those which then appeared in the Marshalled List and that it would achieve the objectives of his amendment. I said that a number of times but the noble Earl chose not to believe that I would do so. I hope that the House will accept my amendment.

The noble Baroness and other noble Lords broached the question of funds and the consistency between them and the financial memorandum. In a previous amendment we agreed to what we called the Renfrew inspectors. They are no longer required because they do not have to be in place to oversee the arrangements between a school and the contracted inspectorate. They now disappear from the Bill as does the funding. When I responded to that amendment it was the only amendment on the Marshalled List which related to that matter. Only in a subsequent debate was it hinted that there would be consequential amendments because it was pointed out that the amendment in itself made an all-powerful and impractical HMI. I opened my reply with the statement that the amendment on its own would have affected the Bill most seriously.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I believed that the Minister was aware that the Opposition tabled a number of consequential amendments at the end of last week. They were in the Public Bill Office and available for the Government to see. If the Minister was not aware I am surprised that they were not drawn to her attention. Perhaps I may have an answer to my question about the local management scheme. If the Minister is unable to reply now I shall be happy if she will write to me.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, with the leave of the House, the scheme will not affect local authorities because no money for the inspections passes from the school or the local authority. Those inspections will be paid for by HMI.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield moved Amendment No. 6: Page 2, line 36, at end insert: ("( ) The Chief Inspector for England may at any time give advice to the Secretary of State on any matter connected with schools, or a particular school, in England.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 13. The amendments address an issue that was raised in Committee by a number of noble Lords. They relate to the question of the right of the chief inspectors to give advice. We promised to consider further the anxieties which noble Lords expressed on the matter.

In Committee we made our views clear. We stated our firm belief that the chief inspectors already have an implicit right to give advice on matters within their remit, whether or not asked to do so. We have not changed our view but we appreciate that a number of noble Lords were concerned about the matter. By tabling the amendments we are making the power to give advice explicit. I trust that noble Lords will be satisfied with the amendments and will be happy to accept them. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

My Lords, as one of those who urged Her Majesty's Government to put this function on the face of the Bill I am extremely grateful.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, perhaps I may follow the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in saying that we on this side of the House also welcome the amendments. We regret that the Government were not willing to accept them at a previous stage. I remember that in Committee the Minister vigorously rejected the suggestion that the provision should be on the face of the Bill. We are glad that at last the Government have seen fit to change their mind and we are grateful for the new amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 7: Page 2, line 39, after ("be") insert ("specified in regulations or").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in Committee I sought to persuade Her Majesty's Government that the arrangements for the inspection of schools might be greatly improved by the Bill. However, I said that the arrangements for the inspection of teacher training institutions would be untouched by it and that that was not satisfactory. In reply the noble Baroness made it clear that the process of accreditation would ensure that new courses were up to standard. In my reply I pointed out, first, that courses were different on paper from what they were in practice and, secondly, that saying a measure was good at the outset gave one no confidence that it would continue to be good for an indefinite period thereafter.

I sought a different approach to the problem and have tabled a different amendment. It enables the Secretary of State to lay down regulations which will set out how the training of teachers is to take place. I believe that some regular inspection of teacher training institutions is important, whether they be universities or colleges of education or of further education. It must be clear from my amendment that there is no intention to introduce the inspection of attributes or activities in such institutions other than the training of teachers.

As the quality of our schools ultimately rests entirely in the hands of our teachers it must pay us to ensure that the teachers are fully and properly trained and, if necessary, re-trained later in their careers. I hope that having had time to reflect on the matter the Government will give me an answer that is slightly different from that which they gave in Committee. I beg to move.

4 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I appreciate my noble friend's anxiety and I believe that I can give him the reassurance that he seeks. Under the Government's proposals for the reform of initial teacher training, which are now out for consultation, accreditation of courses would be for a fixed period of up to five years and would apply for that period to a whole programme of courses in each institution or department. Therefore, I can give my noble friend an assurance about the idea of regular assessment.

To support this process, all teacher training establishments will have to be inspected regularly by HMI—a four-year cycle is currently planned—and the evidence from HMI would be taken into account by the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education in considering whether to recommend initial or renewed accreditation. Teacher training establishments may of course be visited, formally or informally, at other times by HMI. This will give us a much better oversight of the training system than we have at present.

Where institutions are not, at least initially, granted accreditation for a particular programme of courses, those courses will have to be approved by the Secretary of State on the recommendation of the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education —backed up by HMI's findings—as now. Those courses too will be subject to inspection by HMI.

Our intention is that under the new arrangements HMI will remain responsible for inspecting provision for in-service training and checking the follow-up to it in schools. The details of how that responsibility is to be discharged will be for HMCI to consider in due course. I hope that with those assurances, my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for that elaboration of the system which is about to be put in place. That will be extremely beneficial to teacher training generally. I hope that the Government will continue to give it a suitable level of priority. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Baroness Blatch moved Amendments Nos. 8 and 9: Page 4, line 4, leave out ("and"). Page 4, line 6, after ("efficiently") insert ("and ( ) the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at those schools.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

Baroness Denton of Wakefield moved Amendment No. 11: Page 4, line 19, after ("schools") insert ("in Wales").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 12: Page 4, line 25, leave out paragraph (d).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield moved Amendment No. 13: Page 4, line 36, at end insert: ("( ) The Chief Inspector for Wales may at any time give advice to the Secretary of State on any matter connected with schools, or a particular school, in Wales.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 14 not moved.]

Clause 9 [Inspection of certain schools]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 15: Page 5, line 25, leave out from second ("the") to ("is"), in line 26, and insert ("Chief Inspector for England to secure that every school in England to which this section applies").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 16: Page 5, line 28, at end insert ("and an inspection team including at least one lay person who is a parent of a pupil at any other school in the area covered by the local education authority").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment attempts to deal with what seems a not very satisfactory arrangement about the inspection team. The inclusion of a lay member in the inspection team does not have many precedents. There are rightly lay members on the bodies which organise many areas of public life. School governing bodies largely comprise lay members. Local education authorities have councillors who are lay members. Health authorities have lay members. However, to ask the lay members to take part in the day-to-day technical work of a body such as the inspection team is something new and is possibly not a very good idea. It has been suggested to me that it is rather like asking a lay member of a health authority to take part in the operations on the operating table.

Obviously, there is need for an outside approach to the work. We suggest that it may be a good idea to have as a member of the inspection team a parent of a pupil in another part of the area dealt with. There is nothing like having people of the age of parents of the children in the school who can report back and who can bring knowledge of their children and their children's friends to bear on what they see.

This amendment would require a parent to be involved in the inspection of schools instead of a lay person as such. At least parents, as representatives of consumers, would have a direct involvement in the quality of education in local schools.

In the Commons at Committee stage, the Government opposed a similar amendment because of the danger that the lay member would be a teacher and part of the educational inside track. However, the Government did not make clear whether they were against a parent being involved per se or merely because a parent may also be a teacher. If the latter were so, that could be put right. I believe we need to press the Government about that.

In practice, the reason behind suggesting the appointment of a lay person tends to disappear with experience. How many inspections must a lay member take part in before he or she ceases to have a fresh perspective and becomes someone who has considerable experience of school management? I am not sure that this matter has been thought through and I should be grateful to hear what the Government have to say about it.

Baroness David

My Lords, I support what the noble Lord said. There has been a good deal of criticism about this lay person who is to be part of the inspection team. I seem to remember that on Second Reading some noble Lords favoured the idea but I do not believe that we like it very much. It seems to us that if there is to be a lay person, it should at least be a parent who would have a real interest in what goes on in schools and who would, if living in the same area but not connected with the school, have some knowledge of the education in the area. We need answers to the questions asked by the noble Lord. I hope that we shall hear from the Minister.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, I wonder if I can at this stage remind your Lordships of some of the doubts that have been cast on the whole business of the lay person in general on these inspection teams. I do not believe that it is a good idea to have a parent at the school on the team because of the fairly obvious risk of conflict of interest.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, perhaps I may intervene and suggest that the noble Lord reads the amendment. He will see that that is not suggested, and that it must be a parent of another school.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, if I have misunderstood the amendment, I apologise. However, as among the education establishment represented in the House there is a good deal of worry about the concept of lay inspectors on these teams, perhaps I may remind your Lordships of what the noble Lord, Lord Peston, said at Second Reading, and what he and others have repeated on and off throughout our debates on the Bill. The noble Lord said, My general view on the lay person in this case is fairly brutal. I suppose that, as a teacher myself, I have simply never really appreciated ignorance".—[Official Report, 11/2/92; col. 667.] I have to say that there is a certain amount of academic hubris in that attitude, and it is a great mistake and pity that the nemesis of that hubris has been visited upon generations of our school children. Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord, Lord Peston, and others who have doubts about the advisability of lay inspectors being on inspections teams, to give us their views on what appears to be happening in Switzerland.

I trust that noble Lords will agree that Switzerland is a successful country, both academically and commercially. Indeed, in the recent findings of the International Assessment of Educational Progress—the IAEP—Switzerland came top in maths of the 21 countries studied, including all the European countries, and by and large appears to be doing much better than the United Kingdom in most subjects. One could mention languages in that regard although I am aware that noble and academic Lords may say, "Well, they have to learn languages, don't they?". But they do it, and they do it very well.

In case there should be a mistaken impression that Switzerland is a collection of gnomes and cuckoo clock makers, on the commercial front, with a population of 6 million people, Switzerland exports three times the value of the machine tools exported by this country, which has a population 10 times greater.

A group of British teachers, including one senior inspector of a London local education authority, recently visited Switzerland under the auspices of the National Institute and the leadership of Professor Sig. Prais. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, and others will agree that some of their discoveries are enlightening to our debate on the usefulness of lay members of inspection teams. For instance, in the districts of Zurich and Berne, which account for much of Switzerland numerically, the schools are inspected only by lay inspectors.

The Swiss are wise enough to make sure that representatives of the Swiss educational establishment —if such a thing exists—are in a minority on school inspection teams. I have no doubt that other successful cantons follow that laudable policy. The noble Lord, Lord Peston, and other members of the educational establishment, may like to know that in one of Berne's most successful cantons, the teachers are elected entirely by popular vote of the parents whose children attend the schools in question.

I believe therefore that if we have a successful European country which, far from finding any difficulty in including lay teachers on their inspection teams, relies entirely on lay teachers, the noble Lord and others from our education establishment will feel that not all lay people are necessarily guilty of the ignorance of which he accuses us.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh

My Lords, I support not only the amendment, but also what was said by the previous noble Lord. It is vital that the lay element is included. Parents surely gain the best impression; they will obtain first hand knowledge from the pupil, that is the child, at the school.

I should like to draw a parallel brought to us by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, when she was asked to open a school for the disabled. When the noble Baroness entered the school in her wheelchair, she asked to see the "loo". When she got to the loo she could not turn the wheelchair around within it—and that was a school for the disabled designed to enable the students to go in with wheelchairs. Unless one has first hand knowledge, brought forward by the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, the correct decisions will not be made.

Lord Peston

My Lords, perhaps I can intervene for a moment, since I heard my name mentioned on at least one if not 10 occasions. First, in regard to the point of consistency of ignorance, I am totally ignorant about Switzerland. I learnt something this afternoon, and I thank the noble Lord for ridding me of that area of ignorance which otherwise would have stayed with me all my life.

I admit that I am clearly in a minority. Even my noble friend Lady David in the amendment supports lay people. On the whole, I do not. I do not backtrack from that view, although I shall consider the experience of Switzerland and try and find out more. My point is that it is not obvious to me what lay people do. For example, were I to undergo an operation—which I did recently—I would not care to think that any lay person ever got involved with the medical profession.

I always ask what it is about teaching that somehow makes it an area in which we want lay people to take part all the time. I appreciate the accusation of hubris, and there is no doubt about that. Certainly as a university professor I would strongly have resented any lay person turning up and taking part in anything in which I was involved. Therefore I do not withdraw from that view, but I found what the noble Lord said particularly interesting.

In response to the previous noble Lord who spoke, it seems to me that the point he made was the reverse point. The point regarding the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, on the question of the disabled is that she is not a lay person; she knows what she is talking about. That is the kind of person I want involved. To come back to my point—I know it was a brutal word—I do not see the benefit of someone who knows nothing about education asking so-called questions. I therefore hold my view. Nonetheless, I appreciate that I am in a minority on the matter in your Lordships' House.

I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is allowed to speak again. But perhaps I can ask him whether he was supporting the amendment. It was the only point on which he left me a little lost. In other words, if we divide, will he accompany my noble friend into the appropriate lobby?

4.15 p.m.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord's question, I shall probably not support the amendment as such. It is probable that with sufficient people who have the appropriate experience, which will come from parents and no doubt from nearby, and especially if we can get enough lay people on these inspection teams, the amendment will not be necessary. The noble Lord will not be surprised to hear that on this occasion I shall be following my noble friend the Minister.

In a final and brief answer to another analogy made by the noble Lord I say this. As he has done before, he gave the analogy of a lay person in the health service whom both he and I would not want messing around in an operation or whatever. There is a great difference between the health service and education. We have all been to school; we have all been through that experience and therefore been on the receiving end of what we are inspecting. I should have thought that that was a difference between the lay person in the world of education and the lay person in the health service.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I can put just a short question. What did he mean by a lay teacher?

Lord Elton

My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness will allow me to intervene—but it appears she will not do so.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, is it me or is it the noble Lord being queried?

Lord Elton

My Lords, it is both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord that I am querying. We are actually on Report and we are rapidly sliding into Committee procedures. My noble friend has spoken twice and he should only speak once.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, I knew the moment I stood up somebody would raise that point. On the last amendment the Government Minister rose three times and I did not rise to call her to order. I could have done. But I knew that the moment I stood on my feet somebody would call me to order. However, I am not out of order. I have not spoken before. If the Minister speaks now, she will be out of order. She was out of order before and seems to be continually so. Perhaps I may repeat my question to the noble Lord.

A noble Lord

No, because he cannot answer!

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, then perhaps I can put my question to the Minister. Does the Minister know what the noble Lord means when he speaks of lay teachers? Does he mean unpaid teachers? I do not know any of those, and I hope that we do not introduce them into the teaching profession. We have had enough people telling us what to do without bringing in unpaid teachers.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, with the leave of the House, the noble Baroness was entirely within her rights to speak. Summing up on the amendment has not yet taken place. However, the noble Baroness was wrong to compare or compound what was happening with the analogy of my responding. I was responding with the leave of the House to questions posed to me as the Minister. But the amendment has not been wound up and therefore the noble Baroness was entirely within her right to speak.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, I had thought that this would have been quite a straightforward amendment to which to reply. I learn the hard way. I recognise noble Lords' concern about this matter. I am a little surprised at the determination in pressing for the lay member of each inspection team to be the parent of a pupil at another school within the same local education authority. If I have heard aright I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, is a little surprised at the inclusion of a lay member at all.

We are looking at a very restricting provision which seems to suggest that the only outside perspective of any value is that of a parent. Governing bodies have a number of lay members representing the local community and employers as well as parents. The lay member of an inspection team should certainly not be drawn from a narrower field. The fact is that the lay member, given his or her function on the team, might come from a range of backgrounds. Neither parenthood nor physical proximity would be necessarily a qualification in itself for the function.

We are seeking the person who brings an outside perspective; the shrewd observer with no particular axe to grind and the non-professional who is willing to question professional jargon. Such people are to be found in all walks of life and should be selected for their personal qualities and not because they have this or that specific experience. Registered inspectors will want to search out the very best person for the job and should be allowed to do so, as indeed I suspect the Swiss are determined to search out the best person for the job. I hope that it will give my noble friend much pleasure if we are able to replace the Swiss at the top of the league, but as to what his interpretations are, hearing in mind what the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, said, I cannot say.

I also note the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. I suspect that the kind of matter he quotes would be well observed by the type of person we are looking for to be a lay member; namely, some shrewd observer who would spot the problem. Perhaps I may reassure the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. Obviously the majority of any team would need to have appropriate education qualifications and experience to carry out their task effectively. That would be assured through the chief inspector's guidance and conditions. But where a more general judgment is being made, including whether the teaching and learning provided in the school meets the demands and expectations of the parents, local business or the wider community, there is a case for an outside perspective. I suggest that the interest between the surgeon and the patient is much less a matter of wide concern and more of a one-to-one concern.

There is a case for an outside perspective when the local community needs are to be looked at. Lay members will certainly not be chosen at random. They will be selected to make a worthwhile contribution to the work of the team. Registered inspectors will not be able to afford to "carry" weak team members and will want the lay member to make a real contribution. They will look critically at the quality of the lay member and the particular insights which he or she will bring to the job. I hope that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord will not press the amendment.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, I did not say that I thought that parents were the only lay people with a contribution to make. But clearly lay people with a child in education in the local area have rather more of a contribution to make. This is an area where we do not have the matter quite right, partly, I suspect, because we are dealing at the moment with one person. I was very interested to hear about the Swiss experience. Their wholesale approach to the problem may be more relevant. I suspect that this is not an amendment which your Lordships would wish to press to a Division. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 17: Page 5, line 29, leave out from second ("the") to ("is"), in line 30, and insert ("Chief Inspector for Wales to secure that every school in Wales to which this section applies").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment was spoken to with Amendment No. 5. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 18: Page 5, line 44, at end insert: ("(i) independent schools").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is an amendment which I believe we have got right and which is considerably more important. It is an amendment to make certain that the parents of pupils at independent schools have the right to the same method of quality control as those with children at maintained schools. There is no breach of precedent in this particular case. The Bill already provides for the inspection of certain independent special schools, or non-maintained special schools and independent schools which have been approved to take pupils with special educational needs.

In answering a debate in the Commons the Minister stated that such independent schools would be inspected because they depended for their existence on public finance. But there are many non-special independent schools which are also dependent for their running on public finance; namely, those schools in the assisted places scheme and many schools that are funded for the children of military and diplomatic personnel.

If the new inspection is of such a high quality for the maintained sector, why are not the independent schools which are dependent for their finance on the public purse also included? I make the point that almost all the independent schools are dependent for their finances on their exemption from various taxation laws because they are charities. For all intents and purposes they are in receipt of public money and therefore they should be subject to the same kind of inspection.

At the Commons Committee stage the Minister stated that independent schools are inspected on a regular cycle at between five-year and seven-year intervals. These are not full inspections as required under Clause 9, but monitoring visits to do with the registration of independent schools. Once again independent schools are being treated differently with a longer period of time between inspections. I do not see why they should be treated differently. It would be an extremely good idea if they were integrated into the full inspection scheme. I beg to move.

Lord Peston

My Lords, perhaps I may add a few points to this amendment which also stands in my name. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, has covered most of the main points but there are two others that I wish to make. One point which unifies us is that we all believe that inspection is a good thing. We have been arguing how that is to be done, but there has never been any doubt that we all believe that inspection is a good thing and that the Government are right in wanting to see more inspections. That is not the problem.

The reasons why inspection is a good thing are that, first, it is helpful to parents because they gain a great deal more information about the schools; secondly, it is helpful to teachers, including the head teachers, because it tells them what they are doing well and also how they can do better and, thirdly, it is helpful to the Government for similar reasons. The logical question one has to ask is this: if we agree that inspection is a good thing then the Government should explain why it is not a good idea for independent schools. Public money goes into the system, but even if it did not, if inspection is a good thing then surely the Government should take that provision on board and see that it happens.

There is another argument which again is an information argument. One of the benefits of inspection is that the inspectors will learn a great deal about the schools. In a sense the good schools will set the standard for the other schools. The good schools will say what is possible along the lines argued by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, at Committee stage when she said that one often believes that a school could do better. One compares a school with one which appears to be similar and then one asks why the latter school is not doing so well.

I do not want to get into a very detailed argument about independent schools per se. I have certain views on the subject. There is no doubt that in many areas they do very well. If the inspectors then had access to them, that would add to what the inspectors themselves know. In other words, there would be a learning function there and a carry-over to the maintained schools. Although the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, were decisive, these are a couple of additional points on which I should like to hear the Government's comments.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, I should like to support the amendment. This is a particularly important matter in the case of preparatory schools. Many of the public schools have governors. On the other hand, I remember at my school, which was in the depths of Norfolk, the governors came down only once a year on speech day. I agree with my noble friend Lord Peston and I cannot see why the public schools should not be inspected. At one time, particularly with the prep. schools, there used to be two categories. The schools were either approved by the Ministry of Education or they were registered. Parents therefore always assumed that if the schools were registered, they were also approved. I do not know whether those two categories still exist.

There have been some bad cases, particularly with the prep. schools, where they have been found wanting. Sometimes behaviour has been below standard, and in some cases positively harmful to the children. I do not say that they are all as bad as the school in Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall, where the young hero went to have an interview with the head and was asked only one question: "Have you got a dinner jacket?"

Lord Young of Darlington

My Lords, I should like to mention one further point in favour of the amendment. It has been said on many occasions already that the value of independent inspections is that they enable parents to have impartial advice with which to compare the information obtained from the school itself. The school is bound to put its case in the most glowing light and make its brochure as attractive as possible. If there is inspection, a would-be parent, or a parent of children already at the school, could look at the school brochure or the statement from the school and compare it with an impartial statement and say, "Well, they have really overdone it" or whatever. This seems to be particularly important in the case of independent schools because some of them are inclined to make much too much of their virtues as against maintained schools. In my view, it would be correct, and in the interests of parents, if parents could have the same impartial information in order to gauge what is being said by the school as they would have in the case of maintained schools.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, as I understand it, the one criterion on which the Government base their case is that the schools must be receiving public finance. That seems to be the basic reason —good or bad. Some of us think that it is not a particularly good reason as education is all-pervasive in the community as a whole.

But I rise to ask the Minister whether there have been any consultations of any kind with the organisations that represent the independent schools. I am thinking of the Headmasters Conference, but there are other organisations. I ask because it seems to me that if inspection is such a good thing—and the Minister keeps saying this, and we keep saying it, that provided it is a good inspection; and that is partly what this Bill is about—that the private schools could state in their various brochures and advertisements that they have been inspected and have had a good inspection. That would then put those schools on a level with other schools which had had the same kind of inspection. In other words, it would be very much to the credit of the schools. There may be some schools which might have made representations to the Secretary of State for this to be done or at least to be consulted. Your Lordships might be interested to hear that.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, I am the product of a private school of which I am very proud. It was a convent, and I received a good education. There is no question about that; convents still provide a good education. I have taught in many state schools, and I find that independent schools have one vital element which at the moment state schools do not have. They have small classes, so there is a one-to-one situation with the children which so far I have never seen in a state school. I have to wait to see that. Why? Because politicians will always mess about with state schools, whereas they cannot touch independent schools. Frankly, I do not believe that we should worry about this situation; I think that they would be delighted to have an inspection.

Lord Peston

Some of them would.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, I think most of them would. Those schools have the discipline of the parents in that if the parents are not getting value for money, they will take the children away from the school. I can assure noble Lords that that is a very strong discipline. It is better than any inspector. It would be a pity if some of the products of independent schools who have been speaking here leave the impression that independent schools do not do a very good job. I am intrigued to know how they get public money. I thought that was a slightly complicated argument on the part of the noble Lord; but I have to take his word for it. I realise they get money from charities, but so far as I know, they do not get any money from the Government. I am sure some of them would he delighted to receive it. I shall be happy to have my noble friends on the Front Bench put me right about that.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, put her finger on it. These are independent schools, and the customers—the parents of those children who attend them—have the greatest power of all, and that is to take away their custom from those schools. That is a very important factor which does not apply necessarily to maintained schools.

The other important point is that we are talking here about the distinction between inspection voluntary inspection, invited-in inspection or even HMI fulfilling its normal duty to inspect independent schools—and the imposition of systematic and regular inspection. I have to assume from all that has been said that noble Lords opposite, if given power, would bring independent schools within an imposed system of inspection. The difference between us is that we believe that independence is independence. It means what it says. Mr. Straw in another place, I understand, believes that they should be assured a future in the system. Therefore, there is not too much that divides us other than imposition.

Noble Lords have already put their case on a previous occasion for including all independent schools in the new arrangements that we are introducing with this Bill. I have heard nothing today which adds to what has been said before. I have to say that I remained unconvinced.

As noble Lords are aware, the Bill requires the regular inspection of all maintained schools and all those independent schools wholly or mainly supported by public funds. These include city technology colleges, which are funded directly by central government. The other two groups are non-maintained special schools, and those independent schools which are approved to take pupils with statements of special educational need, both of which rely on fees paid by local authorities for pupils they place at the school.

We make no apology for including these schools, and in particular the schools catering for pupils with special needs, in our arrangements. The pupils concerned are a very vulnerable group, and parents generally have no choice but to accept the placement which is arranged for their child. I know many noble Lords welcome this aspect of our reforms, which will expose these schools to close and regular public scrutiny. As well as helping parents, we shall ensure that local education authorities are sent inspection reports on schools where they support pupils, and can obtain such reports on schools they may be considering naming in a statement. This will increase their ability to make the right placement for each child.

It would however be quite contrary to the relationship between government and independent schools in general to bring them within the scope of this Bill. As noble Lords opposite are aware, independent schools are not subject to other statutory requirements such as the national curriculum, and we have no intention of altering that general policy.

Independent schools offer choice for parents. We believe that it is for parents to decide whether what is offered and how it is monitored meets their needs subject to the general safeguards for pupils which HMI oversight and the registration of independent schools allows. If parents feel they do not have adequate information or are dissatisfied with the school, they are free to withdraw their children. It is worth mentioning in terms of information that these schools are subject to the provisions of Clause 16.

I have already explained to noble Lords opposite that many independent schools already arrange to be inspected on a regular basis. For example, membership of the Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools is dependent upon a readiness of each school to undergo regular inspection. We think it more than likely that when the new inspection system envisaged in this Bill is up and running parental pressure, as well as professional pride, will ensure that parallel arrangements will emerge in the private sector, in the same way as most independent schools are offering the national curriculum.

I have no doubt at all that better standards in the maintained sector backed by public inspection reports will serve to force change in the less effective parts of the independent sector, just as the publication of reports for parents in the maintained sector will in our view be a powerful tool for change in the schools covered by the Bill.

I note the argument that schools which participate in the assisted places scheme should be included in the Bill. However, I do not think that the analogy with special schools is sound. Parents can choose whether to apply for assisted places and are responsible for the fees, with some government support. The schools involved are not overwhelmingly dependent on assisted places for their financial viability—and therefore continued existence—in the way that independent special schools rely on LEA fees.

I can assure the House that the existing arrangements whereby HMI inspects independent schools for particular purposes will continue to apply. It is an offence to run an independent school which is not registered under the 1944 Act and registration depends on the outcome of inspection by HMI. HMI inspects schools which are applying for provisional registration and may conduct several visits to ensure that standards are acceptable before final registration is granted. HMI also aims to visit all independent schools on a regular cycle to monitor standards. HMI also visits schools which, as a result of parental complaints or other sources of information, are causing concern, or if asked to do so by the Secretary of State.

The new office of HMCI will have the same functions. Nothing changes. Our own provisional estimate of HMI numbers once the new system beds down secures that the full-time equivalent of 15 HMIs will have independent school provision as their main concern. I remind the House that the chief inspector will have a general duty under Clause 2 of the Bill to keep my right honourable friend the Secretary of State informed about the quality, standards and efficiency of educational provision in all schools. This will certainly cover relevant aspects of the curriculum, physical accommodation, staff qualifications, pupil welfare and so on which affect standards of provision in the independent sector.

A previous Labour Secretary of State, Mrs. Shirley Williams, decided to abandon the category of independent schools recognised as efficient. She did so largely for administrative reasons and, in particular, for the saving of HMI time. Her view was that HMI's time was rather more precious and should be spent in the maintained sector rather than in the independent sector. There is no reason whatever why independent schools should not pay for inspections by registered inspectors or why parents should not press them to do so. That will continue to be a matter for independent schools and parents can put pressure on those schools. The difference here is about imposition of the system —whether the system which is part of the previous Act should pertain and whether we allow the independent sector to remain independent; and, if it needs it, to require inspection for which it will have to pay.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, will the noble Baroness answer the question which I asked her?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord. I wonder whether he would repeat his question.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the criterion on which inspection is authorised in the Bill is that the school receives public money? My query relates to an independent school which does not receive public money, although it was not said when my noble friend Lady Phillips mentioned it that such schools have charitable status, which implies some public finance, if my reading of the law is correct. I went on to ask—this was my most important point—whether the Government had consulted any of the independent school organisations. I quoted HMC but there are others such as the Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools. Have the Government consulted as to whether they would welcome inspection in any shape or form and have the independent schools organisations asked the Government about this business? Some may have said that they would welcome it. I went on to say that if a school had a good inspection that might enhance the reputation of the school in its publicity, its advertisements, its school brochures and so on.

4.45 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the question here is whether they have asked about an imposed inspection system. That is what is at stake. We are talking about a system of imposition of periodic regular inspections. We have kept the independent sector informed. There has been no request by the independent sector to be brought under the umbrella of this Bill but it knows what is happening. If independent schools wish to have an inspection they are able and free to request an inspection and it would be up to them to pay for it.

As for payment, I said in answer to the amendment that the schools that we are choosing to bring under the umbrella of the Bill are wholly or mainly funded by either LEAs or the DES. I made a distinction between those children who go to those schools and for whom there is no choice—statemented children, for example—and those in the assisted places system who, first, choose voluntarily to apply for an assisted place and, secondly, are party to the funding of that school. Those are the distinctions.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may remind her of the fact that city technology colleges were originally to be funded up to a level of 90 per cent. by private industry. It is because of the pathetic failure of the Government to secure that funding—industry felt that this was one of the Government's dafter ideas—that we have ended up with a situation in which the colleges are largely funded by the public sector.

Perhaps I may also remind the Minister—I think that she has been badly briefed on this point—that we have not in fact yet debated this amendment. At the Committee stage it was not moved because we ran out of time. This is the first time that we have had a chance to have a proper debate on the issue.

Perhaps I may come to my main point. The Minister suggests that it is perfectly possible for parents to remove their children from independent schools if they are dissatisfied with the schools. Of course that is true. It is equally perfectly possible for parents to remove their children from a maintained school and send them to another school unless they happen to be in a rural area miles from anywhere. However, I do not think it is right to treat children in this way. It is extremely disruptive and can be extremely traumatic for children to be removed from poor schools and sent somewhere else. That is particularly true of boarding schools and there are of course many independent boarding schools. I find that argument very unsatisfactory. I should be grateful if the Minister could respond again on this point.

I also feel that it is extremely unsatisfactory to suggest that it is possible for parents simply to request that a school should be inspected. It is the bad schools that would resist such requests. Perhaps the Minister will respond.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I said that parents could put pressure on those schools. Their leverage to have those schools take notice of parental pressure is that parents can remove their children and remove their money from the school. That is a distinct threat to the future of a private school. Secondly, the request for an inspection would be in the form of a request to the school. Parents can make that public. They can certainly make public the reputation of a school if they are not happy with it. They can take their children and their money away.

The noble Baroness referred to CTCs. It was never suggested that 90 per cent. of the CTCs' revenue should be privately funded. Although it was intended that the private sector should be considerably involved in the setting up of the CTCs, their running is very much a matter for the Government. We think that it is right that they should be subject to this system.

I do not believe that there has been pressure from the parents of children at private schools for such schools to be brought under the umbrella of the Bill. If noble Lords opposite have any such evidence it would be helpful to have it. We have said that such schools will continue to be subject to the provisions of previous Acts, that they must be registered and that HMI must recommend to the Government that they are fit schools to be registered. It is also right that the Secretary of State may from time to time deregister a school. A school may be struck off the register simply because it is not a fit place for young people to be educated in. Her Majesty's Inspectorate will continue to have a continuing right of access to independent schools—a right which it exercises frequently. I have given an assurance that 15 inspectors who will devote their time entirely to independent schools will continue to fulfil that role.

To return to the central point, we are talking about an imposed system of regular inspection and about schools that are wholly or mainly publicly funded. We believe that schools that fall outside that definition —those that are independent—should be truly independent. Therefore, with the caveats that I have made—that their quality of education should still be subject to HMI examination—we are not subjecting independent schools to this system.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, before we were plunged back once again into our Committee stage deliberations on this Bill, I was expecting the noble Lord, Lord Elton, as our conscience, to leap to his feet to try to stop that happening.

The Minister has given us a full answer to the arguments that have been made in favour of the amendment. However, it boils down to one sentence—"independence is independence". That is manifestly untrue. Instances have already been cited by myself, the Minister and other noble Lords of areas where independent schools are not independent and receive government money. There is the whole business of so many independent schools having charitable exemptions. I shall not go into that in any great detail now and shall leave the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, to have a colloquy with her Front Bench on that matter. However, it is the case that all the independent schools benefit from money that might otherwise go to the Government.

The Minister has said that independent schools are different partly because they do not have the national curriculum. I think that it is absolutely right that they do not, but I suggest that the fact that they do not have to apply the national curriculum is an additional reason for inspection. At least one vaguely knows what is going on in a school that has the national curriculum. If the national curriculum is not being applied and the independent schools are trying to experiment with different forms of education—something of which I totally approve—there is all the more reason for keeping an eye on them. I do not think that independence is independence in this field or probably in almost any other. I believe that we should test the feelings of the House on this matter.

4.54 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 18) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 82; Not-Contents, 168.

Division No. 1
Addington, L. Hunt, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. [Teller.] Jenkins of Putney, L.
John-Mackie, L.
Blackstone, B. Judd, L.
Blease, L. Kilbracken, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Boston of Faversham, L. Kirkhill, L.
Broadbridge, L. Kissin, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Listowel, E.
Bruce of Donington, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Longford, E.
Carter, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
David, B. Meston, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Milner of Leeds, L.
Diamond, L. Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Nicol, B.
Donoughue, L. Peston, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Ennals, L. Rea, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Richard, L.
Ezra, L. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Falkender, B. Rochester, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Fitt, L. Seear, B.
Gallacher, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Galpern, L. Shepherd, L.
Gladwyn, L. Stallard, L.
Glenamara, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Strabolgi, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Greene of Harrow Weald, L. Thurso, V.
Grey, E. Turner of Camden, B.
Halsbury, E. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Hamwee, B. Whaddon, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. White, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Williams of Elvel, L.
Hirshfield, L. Willis, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Hughes, L. Young of Dartington, L.
Ailsa, M. Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Aldington, L. Beloff, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Bessborough, E.
Alport, L. Blatch, B.
Annan, L. Blyth, L.
Arran, E. Boardman, L.
Astor, V. Bolton, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Borthwick, L.
Auckland, L. Brabazon of Tara, L.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Brigstocke, B
Bauer, L. Brookes, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Marlesford, L.
Butterworth, L. Marsh, L.
Byron, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Caithness, E. Merrivale, L.
Caldecote, V. Mersey, V.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Middleton, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L. Morris, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Mottistone, L.
Carnock, L. Mountbatten of Burma, C.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Mountevans, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Clanwilliam, E. Munster, E.
Cockfield, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Colnbrook, L. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Nelson, E.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Newall, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Norfolk, D.
Craigavon, V. Norrie, L.
Cranbrook, E. Northbourne, L.
Cross, V. Onslow, E.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Cumberlege, B. Orkney, E.
Davidson, V. Orr-Ewing, L.
De L'Isle, V. Oxfuird, V.
Denton of Wakefield, B. Palmer, L.
Eccles of Moulton, B. Park of Monmouth, B.
Elibank, L. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Ellenborough, L. Peel, E.
Elles, B. Pender, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Penrhyn, L.
Elton, L. Platt of Writtle, B.
Faithfull, B. Prentice, L.
Ferrers, E. Pym, L.
Flather, B. Quinton, L.
Flowers, L. Rankeillour, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Reay, L.
Gainford, L. Rees, L.
Gainsborough, E. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Gisborough, L. Rennell, L.
Goschen, V. Renton, L.
Gridley, L. Renwick, L.
Guildford, Bp. Rodney, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, Romney, E.
L. St. Davids, V.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Salisbury, M.
Harmsworth, L. Seccombe, B.
Harvington, L. Selborne, E.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Shannon, E.
Henley, L. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L
Hesketh, L. [Teller.] Sterling of Plaistow, L.
Hives, L. Strange, B.
Holderness, L. Strathcarron, L.
HolmPatrick, L. Strathclyde, L.
Hooper, B. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E
Howe, E. [Teller.]
Huntly, M. Swinfen, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Terrington, L.
Jakobovits, L. Teviot, L.
Jeffreys, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Jellicoe, E. Tollemache, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Tryon, L.
Killearn, L. Ullswater, V.
Knollys, V. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Lindsay, E. Vivian, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Waddington, L.
Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Long, V. Walton of Detchant, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Wharton, B.
Lyell, L. Whitelaw, V.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L. Wise, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Wolfson, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Wynford, L.
Mancroft, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

5.4 p.m.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 19: Page 6, line 3, at end insert ("including whether each pupil has access to a broad and balanced curriculum").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Clause 9(4) provides: It shall be the general duty of any registered inspector conducting an inspection under this section to report on— (a) the quality of the education provided by the school". We want to add to that: including whether each pupil has access to a broad and balanced curriculum". We want to ensure that all pupils have access to the broad and balanced curriculum, regardless of sex, ethnicity or special educational needs.

Ministers appear to have forgotten the excellent aim for the school curriculum set out in Section 1 of the Education Reform Act 1988; namely: The curriculum for a maintained school satisfies the requirements of this section if it is a balanced and broadly based curriculum which

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

By inserting the amendment, inspectors will have to assess how far each school has achieved the aims of Section 1 of the 1988 Act. If omitted, Ministers' desire for the basic subject-oriented curriculum may affect how inspectors inspect. Failure to ensure that inspectors are interested in assessing whether the curriculum provided for all children is broad and balanced may also lead to pupils with special needs not being provided with a full curriculum. Likewise, there may be a risk that girls, boys and children from different ethnic groups will experience different curricula. Through this amendment we should like to probe the Government's commitment to that broad and balanced curriculum.

Although, as I have said, Section 1 of the Education Reform Act states that the curriculum must be broad and balanced; every recent DES publication appears to be going away from that aim. In particular, a book entitled Your Child and the National Curriculum, which appeared in November 1991, presents a particularly subject-centred approach to the curriculum. The booklet purports to give the reader: The basic facts about what your child will do at school". But it omits any information about non-national curriculum studies or the cross-curricular work that has been developed by the National Curriculum Council in recent years on health education, education for economic and industrial understanding, environmental education and education for citizenship.

I shall quote an interesting article which appeared in the Guardian on 18th February by Michael Marland, a distinguished head of the successful North Westminster Community School, in which he said that it was as if the DES: has forgotten its own legislation, never mind its publications and those of Her Majesty's Inspectorate".

Michael Marland's article contains several quotations against the subject-centred curriculum. The following comes from the 1937 edition of the Board of Education's Handbook of Suggestions for Teachers: undue concentration on subjects as such too frequently means that a great deal is taught which is of no clear value to anyone who is not a professional scholar".

Thus it may be inferred that in 1938 it was recognised that an academic subject-dominated curriculum was not appropriate for most children, especially those with special needs. It is ironic that the noble Baroness, Lady Denton, cited children with special educational needs and the requirements of the Education Act 1981 as a reason for not including a duty on HMCIs to advise on the curriculum in Section 1(2) of the Education Reform Act. The reason was that if the Bill referred to Section 1(2) of the Education Reform Act it might mean that special needs issues would be, in danger of relegation to second division status".—[Official Report, 24/2/92; col. 93.]

The irony is that it is children with special needs who are most in need of a broad and balanced curriculum. That was apparently recognised in the 1930s but not today.

It could be argued that the inclusion of the amendment will protect HMCI from the political interference of those who are committed to a boys' grammar school curriculum. Obviously, the Secretary of State's views are reflected in the DES booklet to which I have referred. How long will it be before HMI reports are the same? The annual report for 1990–91 of the HM Senior Chief Inspector of Schools adopts a much more subject-centred approach in its assessment of the curriculum than earlier reports. In the paragraphs relating to the primary curriculum there is no mention of non-national curriculum studies. We hope that the Minister will feel able to accept the amendment. It will reassure many people that the curriculum will be as broad as Section 1 of the Education Reform Act demands. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment. It seems to us on this side of the House that ensuring that the curriculum is both broad and balanced is an essential part of what inspectors ought to be doing, particularly when they are undertaking a full inspection of any primary or secondary school.

A school that is failing with respect to the content of education is failing in a fundamental way. As my noble friend said, it is quite clear in the Education Reform Act 1988 that it is a requirement that schools should follow. It therefore seems odd to us that it should not be a duty of the inspectors to ensure that the requirement is fulfilled in both primary and secondary schools. I support my noble friend.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, I note that in introducing the amendment the noble Baroness, Lady David, suggested that she was probing the matter. I hope that the amendment will not be pressed. I understand the intention behind it and the anxieties that both noble Baronesses raise. But I believe that those anxieties are already fully taken into account in the way in which the Bill is drafted.

As noble Lords are aware, we undertook to consider further whether it was entirely clear from the drafting of the Bill that inspections had to cover the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at the schools being inspected. We took the view that on reflection it would be useful to put this beyond doubt. We therefore brought forward the amendments which your Lordships agreed should be added to the Bill. I hope that noble Lords will appreciate that we have been willing to be flexible where there is a good case for putting our intentions beyond doubt and where there might otherwise be a lack of clarity. But we do not accept that this is such a case.

We think—and I hope that the noble Baroness will agree—that it is conceivable that inspectors will be able to meet the duty to report on the quality of education to the chief inspector's satisfaction, without reporting on the breadth and balance of a school curriculum available to each and every pupil.

I agree that the words "each pupil" or "all pupils" do not appear on the face of the Bill. But the education provided by the school and the standards achieved in the school are comprehensive descriptions. A report about the school as a whole requires more than the comment that the pupils of above average ability get good GCSE grades. It must also say what happens to the others, including the special needs pupils. Nor can the report limit its comments on curriculum breadth and balance to one group within the school. It needs to cover them all.

I am sure that we can rely on the chief inspector to require registered inspectors to draw attention in their report to any failure on the part of the school to provide an appropriate curriculum for all its pupils. This is one of the key pieces of information that parents, school governors and the chief inspector will want to know. I am sure it will be at the heart of the new inspection framework.

If we were to insert "each pupil" here, we should be calling into question all the other places where we have not used that form of words. Section 1 of the Education Reform Act, to which the noble Baroness referred and on which the amendment is based, refers only to "pupils" and not "each pupil". I very much hope that the noble Baroness will not press a point which could serve to confuse rather than clarify the Bill and other provisions.

Baroness David

My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving me quite a full reply which was obviously meant to be reassuring. I said that this was a probing amendment and we were trying to find out what was in the mind of the Government. We have a natural fear, which was borne out by the last inspector's report, that the inspection may be too subject based. We shall have to wait and see. I appreciate that the words, the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at the school", have been inserted into the Bill. That is some consolation. I thank the Minister for her reply and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 20: Page 6, line 4, after ("school") insert: ("( ) the behaviour policy of the school").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in Committee we spent some time discussing one of the central issues in any school, which is how the school staff secure the good behaviour of pupils. I pointed out that the term "staff" embraces all those employed at the school, not only teachers. I offered your Lordships two amendments. One was couched in the language of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 and the other in the language of one of the teachers' professional bodies. The amendments had this in common: they both addressed the means of securing pupils' good behaviour and thus directed the attention of the inspectors to specific areas of school management.

One of the approaches was couched in language hallowed by statute and the other was more suited to the layman. I notice that the noble Baroness, Lady David, has retabled the second of my amendments in her name as Amendment No. 23. Therefore, I suppose that I am de facto speaking to that amendment as well.

I believe that neither of those approaches was entirely satisfactory and I therefore provided in Amendment No. 20 a form of words of which the meaning will be perfectly clear to laymen and which has an accepted meaning within the teaching profession.

Clause 9(4) provides a list of matters that inspectors are to inspect and report on. There are three at present: the quality of the education, the educational standards achieved and the financial management. To these my noble friend the Minister has added, with my warm support: the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils".

Both her addition and two of the three matters for inspection already in the clause relate to results. They will ensure the assessment of the success or the failure of the school, as the case may be.

The third matter singled out for the attention of inspectors in Clause 9 addresses the processes by which these results are to be achieved. But it addresses only one of them—the management of the school's financial resources. I heartily applaud the inclusion of this aspect of management. The result will, I hope, be a flow of useful advice from properly qualified advisers to teachers who never thought when they embarked on teaching as a career that they would finish up managing the budgets of complex and sometimes large businesses. The inclusion of this aspect of management is therefore welcome.

However, it will not have escaped your Lordships' notice that while the financial management is singled out, all other aspects of management are ignored. The Bill is silent on man-management or the management of human resources, as we call it. It is silent on the management of the discipline of the pupils and provision for their pastoral needs.

These three aspects of management will have a powerful—indeed, a critical—effect on the education that the school provides and the standards the pupils will achieve. Doubtless my noble friend will reply that both of those are already to be inspected. But the fact is that it is easy not to treat these various aspects of management as the cohesive system that they ought to be and to pick up instead the isolated effects of isolated decisions and provisions.

It is perfectly possible to argue—indeed, I expect it to be argued—that by requiring inspection of the product of school management, one is effectively requiring inspection also of the management system itself. Had subsection (4) been silent on the subject of management altogether I might even have accepted that without argument. But it is not silent on the subject. It goes out of its way to direct the attention of the inspectors to one particular aspect of management and no other. It is not academic; it is not pastoral; it is not directed to inter-staff or any other relationships. It is purely about finance.

I have already agreed that financial management is a very important aspect of school management. But it is not the only one, nor is it the most important one to the exclusion of all others. Yet by singling it out for specific reference in the subsection we suggest exactly that. That might be the interpretation even of the courts were it to be tested there. Much more likely and dangerous would be that the large numbers of registered inspectors who will operate under this law in years to come will also think that it means that financial management is the principal aspect of management which they should inspect unless they are otherwise instructed. It is those two dangers that I seek to guard against: danger in the courts and danger in practice.

It would clearly be wrong to ask your Lordships to exclude the financial element from the subsection. Instead we need to balance it by including the rest. A full list of all the elements would be unwieldy and unsuitable for legislation. Fortunately there is a concept available that sweeps up virtually every aspect of management and it hinges on a word that is readily understood by pupils and parents, who also have a key role to play, as well as staff. The word is behaviour.

The importance of developing a whole school behaviour policy was a central recommendation of the report of a committee of inquiry into discipline in schools which I chaired. The report was published in 1989. The report was accepted by the Secretary of State and was sent for action to every maintained school in England and Wales. It demonstrates the way in which almost every aspect of organisation and conduct can affect the behaviour of pupils and should be consciously planned to affect it beneficially. The result should be a code of behaviour upon which staff can rely in providing the firm framework of discipline that is essential for the proper conduct of a school and the proper growth of pupils into maturity. The framework should be such as to secure the support of pupils who might otherwise be in a state of suppressed revolt for much of their school careers.

I believe that inspection of a school's behaviour policy would involve inspection of all the aspects of school management on which the Bill is at present so eloquently silent. If my noble friend cannot reassure me on the legal interpretation of the Bill as drafted in this respect, and that it will not, as drafted, give inspectors a completely false sense of priorities, I shall continue to think that a measure of the kind that I now propose will be needed before this Bill leaves the House. I beg to move.

Baroness David

My Lords, my Amendment No. 23 has been grouped with Amendment No. 20, standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. The noble Lord's amendment adds to the list of provisions in Clause 9(4) and my amendment seeks to add another paragraph to that subsection. My amendment asks that, the general atmosphere of the school, giving consideration to such matters as the school's standard of behaviour, the relationship between staff, pupils, parents and other members of the school community, the methods of discipline and the physical environment", should also be reported on by the inspector.

As the noble Lord has said, under the Bill the registered inspector must report on the quality of the education provided by a school, its educational standards and its financial management. Those are important matters but parents are also concerned with other aspects of the school, for example, what happens in the playground; the standards of behaviour; the methods of discipline and other such matters. My amendment adds a fourth requirement to the list of matters on which the inspectors must report.

At the press conference on the Bill the Secretary of State agreed that the general atmosphere of a school was an important consideration. He said he would expect inspectors to report on that, but that in any event the team would meet parents, when such issues could be raised. The difficulty with that as a solution is that inspectors are under no duty to follow suggestions made by parents. Further, it is our experience that where schools are low in morale and the atmosphere is not good, parents are often apathetic too. Therefore attendance at meetings with inspectors might well be poor or non-existent.

Amendment No. 23 considers the whole life of a school, not just discipline and standards of behaviour. It also covers a school's physical environment. Given the state of repair of a great many of our schools, that may well be a crucial factor in assessing the success of a school generally. The state of buildings can well affect the teaching that goes on inside them.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, we had an interesting discussion in Committee in respect of similar amendments tabled by my noble friend relating to the duty of registered inspectors to report on behavioural policies and related matters. I note that the noble Baroness has again put before us one of my noble friend's previous amendments, but that his thinking has moved on. I fully appreciate the deep concern that behavioural policies should not be a matter which registered inspectors should be permitted to ignore when reporting on a school.

I believe we have gone further than almost any previous administration in terms of including the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of our children in our proposals for schools. As I believe the noble Baroness, Lady David, said, all aspects of school life should be incorporated in the inspector's report.

My noble friend has this time tabled a more concise amendment in response to our arguments at the previous stage about unbalancing the Bill. However, I have to say that I still cannot accept the need for an explicit mention of behavioural policies, rather than any other kind of school policy, on the face of the Bill. As this amendment was being spoken to, I looked to the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, as it seemed to me to single out one means to an end as regards one aspect of school policy. It calls into question what primary legislation is about. I believe that this is an area of education which must be left to individual schools to determine in terms of developing policies and plans which achieve their objectives. Inspectors will of course measure the end result of all of that and will measure how far schools have addressed the social, spiritual, cultural and moral welfare of their pupils.

My noble friend has suggested that his amendment is in effect a necessary complement to those inspired by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. Those amendments add an additional aspect of the "end product" of education—that is spiritual, moral, social and cultural development—and this amendment concerns the policies which are adopted in pursuit of such development.

I do not accept the proposition that, unless those policies or any other policies are singled out on the face of the Bill, they will be ignored by inspectors. I have two reasons for saying that. One of my reasons is practical and the other is legal. The practical argument is that these are matters which have traditionally formed an important part of HMI reports. It will be Her Majesty's Inspectorate that will have the responsibility for drawing up the new inspection framework within which registered inspectors will operate. I think it is inconceivable that they will fail to require serious comment on these aspects of education as a necessary part of all inspection reports.

The legal argument is equally strong. We start from the very general description in Clause 9(1). The subject of the inspection is to be the school at large, and that includes all aspects of its management as well as all other activities that the institution carries out in pursuit of its functions. I know that we have then specified in subsection (4) a list of the aspects of the school which must be reported upon. My noble friend fears that in doing so we have brought into question the generality of subsection (1). I am advised that this is not the case. In any event it seems to me that the quality of education—that is listed in subsection (4) —includes the process as well as the outcomes of that education. Therefore it must, by definition, include the types of policies which are of concern to my noble friend.

I cannot accept the argument that by mentioning financial management explicitly we have served to imply that other aspects of management are omitted from the inspector's remit. That aspect needs to be mentioned precisely because it is not obviously part of the quality of education. It is clearly different in kind from the other elements mentioned and is a new departure for school inspectors. It has to be mentioned to make sure that it is included. I am assured that its inclusion does not serve to limit the generality of the other elements of subsection (4). If my noble friend remains concerned—from what I have heard him say today I believe that that is the case —I shall certainly be happy to draw to the attention of the new chief inspector in due course our expectation that the inspection framework will meet his particular point.

I hope that in the light of that assurance my noble friend will not press the amendment. Should he worry that I shall not myself be in office to meet that commitment, I believe that that is an assurance for the record and that whoever stands on this side of the House in my place will honour that assurance.

Turning to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady David, I hope that what we said in moving the amendments which we produced in response to the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and what I have said now in response to my noble friend Lord Elton will convince her that matters of ethos and all the matters mentioned in her amendment are fully covered under the Bill and are the proper concern of Her Majesty's Inspectorate and registered inspectors. They will be reported on publicly and will be given the full prominence they deserve and which parents wish them to have.

The work done by my noble friend and his team on discipline in schools is and will continue to be a major statement and guide to schools as they seek to implement policies to fulfil their duty under the Bill to address the social, spiritual, moral and cultural development of the young people in their care. As I said earlier, I believe that we have done more to address the whole life of a school. I hope that with that assurance my noble friend will not press his amendment.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am much obliged to my noble friend for some of her kind remarks. I have some difficulty with her reply and I hope that that difficulty will disappear on reading her reply in Hansard. I thought that I heard my noble friend begin her earlier statement by saying that she could not accept the need to draw attention to one aspect of management rather than another. It is because the Bill already does just that that I took exception to what was being done.

I accept that it is a traditional part of the inspector's duty to report on all aspects of management. My noble friend mentioned the fact that the collection of ideas which constitute management is now wider than it used to be. She rested part of her argument on the fact that Clause 9(1)—and Clause 9(2) for Wales—attracts the generality of schools. She then said that the subsection nevertheless drew attention to finance because that was not recognised as part of the generality of education. There is a slight break in the continuity of her argument in that respect. However, I shall consider the matter between now and the next stage of the Bill.

Much the most persuasive part of my noble friend's argument was her undertaking, on behalf of herself and such of her successors as she might be able to bind, to draw attention to that aspect of reporting to future Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors.

With that curate's egg reply—which was more good than bad —I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment Nos. 21 and 22: Page 6, line 4, leave out ("and"). Page 6, line 6, after ("efficiently") insert ("and ( ) the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at the school.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 were spoken to with Amendment No. 1. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 23 not moved.]

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 24: Page 6, line 6, at end insert: ("( ) The registered inspector shall inspect details of any complaints made by any person about the school. ( ) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision as to the procedures to be established for consideration of complaints about schools.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, at Committee stage I moved an amendment which included this requirement and also provision for the inspection and keeping of punishment books (cols. 655 to 658 of Hansard for 2nd March 1992 refer). The debate on the amendment focused almost exclusively on punishment books, the noble Baroness, Lady Denton, claiming that there has never been in any school provision for punishment books except for records of physical punishment. That is incorrect. At present, under paragraph 11 of Schedule 1 to the Education (Approval of Special Schools) Regulations 1983, special schools have to keep punishment books, although physical punishment is banned in those schools.

The amendment omits all mention of punishment books in order to give a proper airing to the question of complaints procedures. At present the only requirement to have a complaints procedure in a school is, as I said at Committee stage, under Section 23 of the 1983 Act which requires governors to deal with complaints about the national curriculum. The accompanying DES circular makes clear that that provision excludes complaints about all other aspects of the school—for example, the actions of individual teachers.

Complaints about a school can range from the apparently trivial, for example, bullying in the playground, the rules about what food can be eaten by pupils and mass detentions, to the obviously serious —failure to meet special needs, physical assaults and indefinite exclusions. The noble Baroness, Lady Denton, said that it would be hard to know when a concerned query turns into a complaint. If schools had complaints procedures that distinction would not be a problem. A concerned query becomes a complaint when the procedure is formally invoked. Certainly, all of those issues are ones about which parents and students feel strongly and they should be entitled to a proper hearing.

The Children Act 1989 and the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990 both require institutions caring for children to have complaints procedures. The Children Act regulations prescribe a well-publicised procedure which includes independent elements and provisions both for early informal resolution of a complaint and for a formal final appeal. Those are the type of provisions one would expect a school's complaints procedures to contain.

It is also worth noting that under the Children Act independent schools with fewer than 50 boarders must have a regulated complaints procedure and that the provisions for social services to inspect independent schools require the inspectors to examine details of any complaints made about the school. The guidance suggests that if the independent school does not have a complaints procedure then the social services should withhold approval.

It is very hard to see how the Government could deny that schools should have complaints procedures given that the Bill is part of their Citizen's Charter. The right to have one's complaint properly dealt with is one of the first and best recognised rights of the consumer. It is also logical that inspectors should have to study the record of complaints since that is surely one of the best ways of learning how an institution is succeeding and failing. I beg to move.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, in responding to the remarks of the noble Baroness in moving the amendment perhaps I may say that I do not think that I said quite what she implied. However, if I misled the House in any way I apologise.

As the noble Baroness said, the amendment concerns the complaints procedure rather than the inspection which is at the heart of our Bill. We believe that the present framework for managing schools is perfectly adequate for dealing with general and individual complaints and that further detailed regulations are not necessary. To go down the route of regulations, and to define the point at which a quiet word with the head becomes a formal complaint about the school, is a recipe for complication and bureaucracy at school level in an area best left to common sense and the discretion of head teachers.

Of course we agree with the noble Baroness that anyone has the right to lodge a complaint about a school. Nothing in the Bill or elsewhere takes that right away. The Parent's Charter sets out parents' rights and what parents should do if they do not consider those are being met. There are already specific procedures for appealing against decisions on school admission, on exclusion or, for example, against decisions made about a child's special educational needs, or on the national curriculum. School prospectuses must explain how to make complaints about the curriculum, and admission booklets must explain how to appeal against a decision not to admit a child to a particular school. We have—as the charter promised—just amended the regulations so that all parents whose first choice of school is refused will be reminded of their right to appeal and how to go about it.

The amendment of the noble Baroness would, of course, go far wider than parents. It would be concerned with individual complaints about schools by anyone at all—children at the school, staff, inspectors, local education authorities, social services departments or perhaps an uninvolved member of the public. As I have said, nothing can or indeed should stop such complaints being made. But, given the diversity of subjects that they could cover, I do not think it would be helpful to try to formulate regulations to cover each and every eventuality. Governing bodies and head teachers know that it is in the best interests of the school to deal promptly and helpfully with any well-founded complaints, and other sanctions are of course available if either party is in breach of a statutory duty or has acted unreasonably.

In any case, I have no doubt that we do not need a mechanism of the sort proposed in this amendment to enable serious complaints to come to the notice of an inspector in charge of an inspection of a school. For a start, the Bill requires the parents to be notified when an inspection is to take place and for there to be a meeting between the parents and the inspector. This will provide an important opportunity for parents to put any points, including complaints, to the inspector. The Bill also allows the Secretary of State to prescribe in regulations that other persons may be notified that an inspection is to take place. Although I cannot prejudge exactly what those regulations might prescribe, it seems to me that they would be likely to be used to give quite wide publicity to the fact that an inspection was to take place. In such circumstances, those who had particular complaints about a school —especially those who felt that their complaints had been ignored by the head or the governing body—could draw them to the inspector's attention.

We have no doubt that one of the inspector's concerns would be to see how the school handled its relations with parents and other members of the local community and he would want to see how it handled representations of all sorts, including complaints. The inspector's findings would be included in his report, which would be published. Where he or she was critical of a school's procedures in this respect, the action plan prepared by the governing body should say how it intended to improve matters. That action plan must under the provisions of Schedule 2 be provided to parents and be available for reference by others.

I know that the noble Baroness has a particular concern to extend to all schools the procedures recently established following the Children Act 1989 for investigating records of complaints in independent schools. The 1991 Inspection of Premises, Children and Records (Independent Schools) Regulations give the local authority which has placed a child in an independent boarding school the right to inspect records relating to any complaint by any person in respect of the health, emotional or developmental well-being or welfare of a child in the school, as well as details of punishments administered to any child in the school.

There are good reasons for this provision, as noble Lords know, which were deemed necessary for the protection of children in privately-run residential institutions. These provisions also apply in those independent special schools which will be inspected in future under this Bill. We do not need to discuss them here. We do not consider that there is a need to apply these provisions in maintained schools where there is no comparable situation—where parents' rights are already enshrined in legislation and where control is vested in an accountable governing body with full parental representation.

Before I sit down I should like to clear up one point. What I said was that the schools had not as a matter of course had to keep records of punishments other than corporal punishments. The regulations which affect special schools are different, for obvious reasons, and, as I said, relate to the particular vulnerability of that group of pupils.

In the circumstances, I hope that the noble Baroness will not press the amendment for a complaints procedure.

Baroness David

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness if I misrepresented her in any way. I am disappointed with her reply. In the Children Act and in the National Health Service and Community Care Act there is a requirement to keep such records of complaint, and again in independent schools with under 150 boarders the social services also require to have kept details of complaints. It seems to me to be extraordinary and quite illogical that this Bill does not follow from those provisions.

The Minister frequently referred to parents. It is the children we must think about mostly—the children who are in the school and who would suffer if treated badly. We are concerned with the possibility of the children's complaints being made rather than those of the parents who complain about the school. I feel rather strongly about this matter and I shall test the opinion of the House.

5.45 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 24) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 64; Not-Contents, 147.

Division No. 2
Airedale, L. Gladwyn, L.
Barnett, L. Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Blackstone, B. Greene of Harrow Weald, L
Blease, L. Hamwee, B.
Bonham-Carter, L. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Broadbridge, L. Hatch of Lusby, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Carter, L. [Teller.] Hughes, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Hunt, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Jeger, B.
David, B. Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Desai, L. John-Mackie, L.
Donoughue, L. Judd, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Kilbracken, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. McGregor of Durris, L.
Ezra, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Falkland, V. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Foot, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Gallacher, L. Nicol, B.
Galpern, L. Peston, L.
Pitt of Hampstead, L. Strabolgi, L.
Rea, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Richard, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Robson of Kiddington, B. Whaddon, L.
Rochester, L. White, B.
Seear, B. Williams of Elvel, L.
Sefton of Garston, L. Willis, L.
Serota, B. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E
Stedman, B. Young of Dartington, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Abinger, L. Hives, L.
Ailsa, M. HolmPatrick, L.
Aldington, L. Hooper, B.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Howe, E.
Alport, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Ampthill, L. Jeffreys, L.
Arran, E. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Astor, V. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Auckland, L. Joseph, L.
Bauer, L. Killearn, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Beloff, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L.
Belstead, L. Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E.
Blatch, B. Long, V.
Blyth, L. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Boardman, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Borthwick, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Mancroft, L.
Brentford, V. Marlesford, L.
Bridgeman, V. Marsh, L.
Brigstocke, B. Merrivale, L.
Brookes, L. Mersey, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Middleton, L.
Butterworth, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Byron, L. Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Caithness, E. Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Caldecote, V. Mottistone, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Munster, E.
Campbell of Croy, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L. Nelson, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Newall, L.
Carnock, L. Norfolk, D.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Northbourne, L.
Clanwilliam, E. Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Colville of Culross, V. Orkney, E.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Oxfuird, V.
Craigavon, V. Park of Monmouth, B.
Cranbrook, E. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Crickhowell, L. Peel, E.
Cumberlege, B. Pender, L.
Davidson, V. Penrhyn, L.
De L'Isle, V. Platt of Writtle, B.
Denton of Wakefield, B. Prentice, L.
Eccles of Moulton, B. Quinton, L.
Elibank, L. Rankeillour, L.
Ellenborough, L. Reay, L.
Elles, B. Rees, L.
Elton, L. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Faithfull, B. Rennell, L.
Ferrers, E. Renton, L.
Flather, B. Renwick, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Romney, E.
Gardner of Parkes, B. St. Davids, V.
Gisborough, L. Salisbury, M.
Glenarthur, L. Seccombe, B.
Goschen, V. Selborne, E.
Gridley, L. Selsdon, L.
Guildford, Bp. Skelmersdale, L.
Hacking, L. Somerset, D.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Halsbury, E. Strange, B.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Strathcarron, L.
Harmsworth, L. Strathclyde, L.
Harvington, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E. [Teller.]
Henley, L.
Hesketh, L. [Teller.] Swinfen, L.
Teynham, L. Wade of Chorlton, L
Thomas of Gwydir, L. Wharton, B.
Tryon, L. Whitelaw, V.
Ullswater, V. Wise, L.
Vaux of Harrowden, L. Wynford, L.
Vivian, L. Young, B.
Waddineton, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to according

5.54 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)

My Lords, before I call Amendment No. 25 I should point out that if the amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 26.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 25: Page 6, line 7, leave out subsections (5) to (7). The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 25 was spoken to with Amendment No. 5. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 26 not moved.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendments Nos. 27 and 28: Page 6, line 24, leave out ("Regulations under this section may, in particular— (a)") and insert ("In prescribing the intervals mentioned in subsections (1) and (2) the Secretary of State may"). Page 6, line 27, leave out paragraphs (b) and (c).

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendments were spoken to with Amendment No. 5. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 14 [Religious education]:

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 29: Page 9, line 42, after ("chosen") insert ("must have satisfied the requirements of either paragraph 4 or paragraph 5 of Schedule 2 to this Act, or").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall speak also to Amendment No. 45.

The amendments address a difficulty to which I drew your Lordships' attention briefly in Committee. The difficulty is this. Although in the past few years we have been continually updating our education system, there is at least one aspect in which change in the outside world outstrips the changes that we make. Part I of Schedule 2 provides for the inspection of all aspects but one of education given in schools listed in Clause 9. The remaining aspect, denominational education, is to be inspected under arrangements contained in Part II of that schedule.

Denominational education is defined in Clause 14(2) as, religious education given otherwise than in accordance with an agreed syllabus". In effect, that is religious education given in schools which are in a particular sense religious foundations. In such schools religious instruction has for long been given under arrangements agreed with the various Christian denominations and with the Jewish faith. Those arrangements give supervision of religious education entirely into the hands of the governing bodies of those schools. That has been an excellent arrangement. I realise that it would not be right to overturn it without the fullest discussion with the representatives of the Jewish faith and the Christian denominations and a consensus among them. Nor do I imagine that that can be achieved in the hours that remain between this stage and the final stages of the Bill. I now seek to put down a clear marker on a subject which it would be dangerous for us to neglect during the life of the next Parliament.

The matter which gives me great concern is this. A pendulum operates in the intellectual and moral life of mankind. At present it is swinging very fast in a direction in which it last came to rest, I suppose, in the Middle Ages; that is, in the direction of extreme fundamental religion. Because of the juncture of history in which I speak it is necessary to mention principally the Moslem faith because it is examples of extreme Moslem fundamentalism which are freshest in your Lordships' minds and which are most relevant. However, it is fair to consider the matter in the context of our own faith, which not so long ago merrily burnt people at the stake for holding wrong beliefs and conducted wars for the possession of certain relics. The decision to do that and, as I understand it, the decision to issue, for instance, a fatwa directing the assassination of a British citizen were both regarded as purely religious matters. Yet we now regard them as highly political matters, or at least secular in their effect, and unacceptable.

The reason that I seek to embark on the subject at a late stage of the Bill—for which I apologise—is that there is in our present society a number of people who subscribe to those elements of the Moslem faith which have resulted in the fatwa to which I earlier alluded and which advocate, for instance, the establishment of a Moslem Parliament and the disapplication of laws made in this Parliament to members of the Moslem persuasion whom such laws do not entirely suit. Those matters appear to us political. But I understand—I am open to correction—that such matters rest upon the principles with which those people have imbued their faith. They regard them as religious.

That being the case it appears to me, to say the least, a little dangerous to suggest that we should in law cast a ring fence around one set of classrooms —those in which what we would regard as unacceptable political or secular initiatives are taught as though they were religion—and say that they might not be inspected by someone with any formal connection with HMCI, who is charged with advising the Secretary of State.

We are on difficult ground here. The margin between what is done because of religious conviction and what is done because of political conviction is always difficult to define and hotly contested. I also entirely share the hesitation that anyone might have —I believe that it is felt by my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk—about the introduction of people appointed by the state who might be thought of as having the power to supervise theological instruction. That is dangerous and difficult ground into which I do not wish to lead your Lordships in a hasty and ill-considered debate.

If one looks at a map of the world one will see the extent to which the Moslem faith is formally involved in the political management of affairs. An election can be stalled for fear of people of the persuasion about which I am speaking—perhaps my speech is too veiled and I am not making clear the fact that I am not in any way against Moslems practising their religion. As a Christian I recognise that the practice of an honest faith is far better than the practice of none. However, I believe that my own faith, which is the Christian faith, is that which should prevail.

That is not what we are now debating. We are debating whether people of religious persuasions of the extreme kind within the Moslem faith about which I am speaking should be put in a position where they are able, as they will be, to establish a school in terms which introduce it under paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 to the Bill. Under that provision the inspectors would be appointed by the governing body. They would be trained, if at all, under arrangements made by the governing body and without the consent or knowledge of the chief inspector. Their report would then go to the governing body, which was their originator, and possibly to a local authority which in distant years might be of the same persuasion.

In legislation one must provide for the extreme and unlikely as well as for the immediate and obvious. What I am talking about is extreme but not as unlikely as I should wish it to be. I believe that your Lordships should address the issue before events close in to such an extent that people will say, "You are directing your legislation at this particular school that has just been set up". Your Lordships should look at the issue early in the new Parliament. I give advance notice that I shall not press the amendment. I shall seek an opportunity to consult at length friends and colleagues in other faiths and I advise the Government to do the same. However, I hope that the Government will be able to indicate how they view the matter and how they will treat it in the next Parliament. I beg to move.

The Duke of Norfolk

My Lords, I find the amendment totally unsuitable and inappropriate. If the noble Lord wishes to have legislation against fundamental Mohammedism this is not the way and the Bill is not the place. There is a long history as regards the inspection of religious education in Church schools. It dates back more than 100 years. Indeed, my great grandfather was the chairman of the Catholic Education Council. In 1869 he was made a Peer by Gladstone for his efforts in that respect. He was a Liberal. In those days the family was Liberal but it is now wiser in its allegiance.

Religious inspectors appointed by the Bishop of the diocese have carried out that work. During that time the state has always been scrupulous in keeping at a distance from it. The noble Lord's amendment would mark a departure from that tradition. It would have an effect on our schools as well as the Mohammedan schools about which the noble Lord is thinking. The religious inspectors would be required to complete a course of training to the satisfaction of the chief inspector. I fear that the requirement of the chief inspector to supervise training would affect the independence of religious education. An inspector must not only observe but he must also make judgments about content and method. A training course would inevitably cover such matters and trespass on the autonomy of the Church schools in religious education. The Catholic Church is not happy about the noble Lord's amendment. It has not been effectively consulted because the noble Lord sent notice of the amendment too late, although with good intention. I am glad to hear that he proposes to withdraw it because I believe that it is totally inappropriate.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford

My Lords, I fully appreciate the anxieties that were expressed by the noble Duke. I do not share his anxieties on behalf of the Catholic Church. However, as a result of my discussions with representatives of the Catholic Church I recognise that anxieties exist. For that reason I am grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is not pressing the matter.

I am happy with what is being proposed. My view is that it is important that those inspecting denominational education should do so to the same standard and with the same rigour as is applied to any other subject. It would be of benefit if those inspecting denominational education had to complete a training course approved by the chief inspector. I do not believe that that would in any way qualify them to check out the orthodoxy or the theological purity of what is being taught. However, it would ensure that anyone inspecting denominational education would be able to do so with skill and expertise. They would also be able to detect the reality behind what is being presented. That appears to me to be one of the important aspects of inspection.

I should have been happy to support the amendment. However, I am sensitive to the fact that because of the shortage of time for proper consultation, and because I know that some of my Roman Catholic colleagues are not happy, I hope that the matter can be left for the time being. Perhaps we can return to it at a later stage when there has been more opportunity for leisured discussion.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, I personally have no objection to the concept of inspectors of whatever category undergoing training. I do not wish to criticise my noble friend unduly. I understand the context in which my noble friend has moved the amendment in which I find merit. However, I should have felt more comfortable had a believer in one faith not found it necessary to reflect on another faith. The amendment would cut always in a manner which might be helpful and constructive and there may be merits in training all inspectors. I should have been happier if the amendment had been presented in a context that cuts equally in all directions. I hope that my noble friend does not mind my making that observation.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the amendments would disturb in an unacceptable way the provisions of the Bill on which we consulted the Churches some time ago. The Bill, as amended in another place in agreement with the Anglican and Catholic Churches, considerably improves the inspection arrangements for religious education as for other aspects of the curriculum. However, it preserves a different regime for the inspection of denominational religious education; education given in accordance with the trust deed of the school rather than the agreed syllabus.

Religious education in most schools is carried out in accordance with an agreed syllabus for the area adopted by the local education authority, following a statutory process involving local churches and faiths. However, voluntary aided, some voluntary controlled and some grant maintained schools are subject to trust deeds requiring them to offer religious education of a particular type. Such religious education has been subject to different arrangements for over 150 years. Section 77 of the 1944 Act confirmed that separate provision was to be made for it and that HMI and LEAs were not to have a role.

It is because of that long-standing differentiation that Clause 9 does not cover denominational religious education, which is dealt with separately in Clause 14. We have required regular inspection of that provision and intend that to take place at the same time as the inspection of the secular curriculum. At the request of the Anglican and Catholic Churches, we have added provisions to ensure that reports of secular inspection are sent to diocesan authorities and that action plans are prepared on all aspects of the curriculum including this one and sent to local authorities.

We share their hope that in most cases inspections under Clauses 9 and 14 will take place at the same time, using one team of inspectors trained to HMI's satisfaction and that a common report and action plan will be written.

We do not wish to disturb that newly agreed position in a way which will not command general acceptance. While the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford is willing to go further and require all inspectors of Church of England provision to be trained to the chief inspector's satisfaction, as Amendment No. 29 provides, it is clear that the Catholic Church is not so sanguine about a provision which would, for the first time, give HMI a direct locus in the inspection of denominational provision. That was eloquently spelled out by my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk.

It would give the chief inspector in effect a right of veto over who was doing the inspecting. That would be an extremely large shift. It may well be, as the right reverend Prelate expects, that the chief inspector would be happy to approve for this purpose the provision already planned by the Church authorities, but what if that were not the case? There would be no right of appeal. We are talking here not about voluntary participation in training, which would be possible under the Bill, but about a new hurdle for all inspectors of denominational provision.

The suggestion in Amendment No. 45 that all inspection reports should be sent to the Secretary of State seems to give him an inappropriately close supervisory role. The reports will be public documents. Anyone can ask for a copy and the relevant local authority will, I imagine, ask for copies as a matter of routine. Action plans setting out the governors' view will be sent to local education authorities as of right.

If there is anything causing anxiety in a published report or action plan, it can be followed up as necessary and the Secretary of State could use his powers of direction if what is going on is unacceptable. I am sure that if there is any serious cause for concern, that will be exposed, investigated and tackled. The Bill as drafted will help that process.

The right reverend Prelate set out his belief that it is good to have an acceptable standard of inspection. I am not sure that anybody would disagree with the principle of that. The difficulty is finding a way to make sure that when inspection takes place, it does so to an acceptable standard. I hope that the right reverend Prelate will agree with me that there is the difficult and thorny issue which has been spelled out by my noble friend Lord Elton; that is, the demarcation line between standards of inspection and the methodology used for inspection and what I believe is a matter of judgment on what is or is not religious education. My noble friend has at least posed questions as regards what could be considered as the territory over which an inspector may wish to comment.

I am grateful to my noble friend for not pressing this issue but we shall continue to give it thought as we move into the future.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I cannot say that I expected a more enthusiastic reply from my noble friend but I am grateful to her for her care and consideration.

Your Lordships will have noticed the gentle reproaches made by my noble friend Lord Renfrew. He said that it were better had the proposal not come from a member of one faith bearing on the conduct of another. He said that it should come from a neutral person so that it cuts in all directions. However, your Lordships will have noticed also that the criticism of my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk was that it cut far too savagely in all directions, particularly round the shins of his—I do not know what the term is "co-religionists".

Whether the noble Duke is the upper or nether millstone in that respect I do not know, but I am certainly caught between the upper and nether millstone.

I should make it clear that the amendments were not intended to subsume to the chief inspector or to the state the arrangements for training inspectors. As the right reverend Prelate has correctly surmised, the amendment is intended to instruct on inspection. I should have thought that that would be a welcome skill for anybody, regardless of faith.

While I do not believe that it is inappropriate to raise this matter on this Bill, as my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk suggested, I have already explained that this matter is far too sensitive—and that has already been shown in this debate—to be resolved between now and the last stages of the Bill. However, I ask your Lordships not to forget the way in which the world is changing and to accept that this is not an anti-Moslem approach, which my noble friend Lord Renfrew may suspect it is. Perhaps he would have been happier had I mentioned a Member of another place, Mr. Paisley, disappearing into the mountains with many riflemen at a not too distant date in the past. That was an overtly political move but it was carried out by an overtly religious person. Therefore, we need to be on our guard in all directions.

We should return to this matter in the new Parliament. However, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 30: Page 9, line 44, at end insert ("and in prescribing the intervals the Secretary of State may make provision as to the period within which the first inspection under this section with respect to a school is to begin.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2 [School Inspections]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendments Nos. 31 to 33: Page 18, line 5, after ("Schedule") insert (" "appropriate authority" means—

  1. (a) in the case of a maintained school (other than a grant-maintained school) whose governing body does not have a delegated budget, the local education authority for that school;
  2. (b) in the case of a school falling within paragraph (e), (1) or (g) of section 9(3), the proprietor of the school;
  3. (c) in any other case, the school's governing body; and" ").
Page 18, line 9, leave out ("appropriate authority for the school concerned shall") and insert ("Chief Inspector shall, after consulting the appropriate authority for the school concerned as to the tender specification,"). Page 18, leave out lines 13 to 28.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 35: Page 19, line 9, at end insert: ("( ) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (5), a previous professional connection with the school as inspector, adviser or advisory teacher which did not involve employment at the school shall not of itself be a disqualification.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment touches on the future inspection service by professional members of staff of LEAs. The intention is to avoid any general disbarment of LEA professional staff from future service as registered inspectors or as members of inspection teams; that is, to give expression on the face of the Bill to the position represented by the Minister of State during the Committee stage in another place and in correspondence. The matter is important because if subsequent non-statutory guidance should imply unsuitability, there are likely to be insufficient numbers of appropriately qualified and experienced people available to carry out the proposed four-yearly inspection of schools.

The AMA received a letter which is not dated but is thought to be of 4th January from Mr. Eggar in which he commented on this matter. I shall quote from one paragraph which may clarify matters: It is clear from the Bill that the test is to be applied at the level of an individual school. There is no question of individuals being barred from inspection simply by virtue of being employed as an adviser by the LEA which maintains the school. Indeed if an LEA official has given advice to a large number of LEA-maintained schools this fact might be sufficient to suggest to a reasonable person that the official would be capable of acting impartially in relation to one of the many schools to which he or she has given advice. But if the adviser had formed a special relationship with one or more schools as part of his or her duties, the Bill would prevent him or her from acting as an inspector in those schools".

The education service generally would accept disqualification in cases where there was such a close connection as to raise the possibility of bias. But, given the uncertainty that exists, it would seem best to put the matter beyond doubt by legislating for no automatic disqualification on account of professional service with the LEA. That would still leave the test of bias to be applied in accordance with non-statutory guidance issued by the future Chief Inspector of Schools.

With this amendment I hope to create confidence among the LEAs and the inspectorate service. I hope that it can be accepted by the Government. I beg to move.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, we believe that the amendment restates the position as currently provided in the Bill. I hope that in the next few moments I can convince the noble Baroness of that.

One purpose of the impartiality provision is to rule out inspection by those who are closely identified with the work of the school through their previous advisory work. The splitting of inspection and advice—not putting advisers in the very difficult position of having in effect to report on their own work—is a key element of our proposals, and is also agreed by the Labour Party. Confusion of roles has in the past allowed ineffective practice to be perpetuated by those who looked for teaching methods they approved of rather than evidence of pupils' learning.

I can reassure noble Lords that an individual will not be barred from inspection simply because he or she is or has been employed as an inspector, adviser or advisory teacher by the LEA which maintains the school—or, indeed, simply because he or she has been employed by the school itself. The schedule is deliberately drafted so as to allow a decision to be made having regard to the circumstances of each case. The noble Baroness quotes the words of my honourable friend in another place and I do not need to add to that.

This amendment would in fact have the effect of making the provisions on impartiality more rather than less restrictive than they are now. It would by implication exclude someone who had at any time been employed at the school from taking part in an inspection there, and we would not want any such blanket exclusion. If someone had been employed at the school for one term 10 years previously, for example, that need not be taken as affecting their ability to act impartially in relation to it now.

I trust therefore that I can persuade the noble Baroness, with a little more success than last time, not to press the amendment.

Baroness David

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, which has given me some reassurance. I hope that it will reassure the local authority associations, which were anxious that the amendment should be tabled. However, they will be able to read in Hansard what has been said and I hope that that will be satisfactory to them. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 36: Page 19, line 12, leave out from ("has") to end of line 15 and insert ("in the opinion of the Chief Inspector for England, satisfactorily completed a course of training provided by or complying with arrangements approved by that Chief Inspector.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 36, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 37. Both amendments address, respectively in England and Wales, the question of the nature of the training which must be completed before anyone is registered as an inspector. They simply require that training shall be satisfactorily completed and that the chief inspector is satisfied that it has been satisfactorily completed in both the Kingdom and the Principality.

I imagine that the chief inspector and the trainee inspectors will wish to have a certificate indicating that the training has been completed. The certificates can be valid for any length of time that the chief inspectors respectively require. While one may hope that that is the way the system will run, the amendments—including those on the face of the Bill—make it more likely that it will be; and that he who runs will read the Bill and understand what it means. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, from these Benches I support the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in these amendments. It is important that the registered inspectors should not simply have undertaken training but should have completed it satisfactorily. There is always the possibility that some inspectors may have had training but dropped out half way or not achieved the outcome at the end of the course expected of them as a registered inspector who is to carry out his or her duties responsibly and effectively.

I believe that it is a relatively simple amendment and one which the Government could accept without too much difficulty.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend in this instance for drawing our attention to the need for an improvement in the Bill, and I note the support of the noble Baroness opposite. The amendments cover the central point which had concerned the House in this regard; namely, the need for training to be a genuine test for potential inspectors. It must not be enough simply to attend a course. They must also give evidence of successful learning.

As was explained during our debate on this issue during the second Committee day, we had always envisaged that HMCI would have arrangements in place to ensure that no one was allowed to complete the training who was patently not competent for the task of inspection. We are happy to make this requirement more explicit on the face of the Bill, and therefore to accept the amendments.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. It seems that this is one of the rare occasions when both Front Benchers made equally good speeches.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 37: Page 19, line 23, leave out from ("has") to end of line 26 and insert ("in the opinion of the Chief Inspector for Wales, satisfactorily completed a course of training provided by or complying with arrangements approved by that Chief Inspector.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 38: Page 19, line 34, leave out from ("Where") to ("shall"), in line 35, and insert ("an inspection is arranged, the appropriate authority for the school concerned").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment was spoken to with Amendment No. 5. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 39: Page 19, line 42, at end insert: ("( ) The registered inspectors and members of his inspection team shall ascertain and give due consideration to the views of pupils about the school by—

  1. (a) where practicable meeting nominated representatives of the pupils, and
  2. (b) offering opportunities for the pupils to talk in private").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, also attaches his name to this amendment. It requires inspectors to hear from pupils during the course of an inspection of a school. I want to begin by quoting from Article 12 of the United Nations Convention, which states: 1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. 2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial or administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of law".

In this country the education system fails lamentably to meet the provisions of that article. This is the first opportunity to remedy the omission. A school inspection is clearly an administrative procedure affecting the child. If the school has some form of pupil representation then obviously it can be used, or the inspectors could ask the pupil body to nominate representatives. It is obviously not appropriate to rely on the parents to represent the pupils. Parents have separate interests and concerns, which in some instances may be in conflict with those of the pupils.

The report of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, makes a number of clear recommendations supporting the need to hear the school students and encourage their participation in the running of the school. All major research into school life has emphasised that school students become more, not less, responsible if they are given responsibilities.

I hope that the Minister will take the amendment seriously. We are in contravention of Article 12 of the Convention if we do not pay attention to it in this way. Therefore I hope that the amendment will receive a sympathetic response. I beg to move.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, in the discussions preceding the tabling of the amendment, one or two people suggested that it might not be necessary; that any inspector worth his or her salt would make it their business to speak to pupils. To that suggestion a member of our group who had experience of inspectors responded, "You'd be surprised". The fact is that we have not yet got to the stage where it is taken for granted that, in a situation like this where it is quite clear that the people most affected are children, their views will be heard. In the first place it may be slightly embarrassing to have to spell it out and it may also be slightly embarrassing to have to make the necessary arrangements for that to happen. Once it is taken for granted that it is the right of the child—surely it is the right of the child and to a large extent that is what the inspections are about —taking their views will become second nature. It should certainly be on the face of the Bill.

6.30 p.m.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, I agree with the spirit of the amendment but I am not sure that I agree with the way it is suggested that it should be done. Having been an inspector in the Home Office children's department, for 10 years and having inspected children's homes and schools which had boarding children in them, one always took notice of what the children said and also the way they said it. One always stayed for one or two meals or perhaps an evening with the children or spent time with them in various activities. In those days one never had a special procedure of seeing the children and asking them what they wanted, whether they had anything to complain of or whether they were pleased with anything.

If the inspectors are to do their job properly they must take the opportunity of seeing and talking to the children in a social way so that they can gauge the feelings of the children. As a member of the Swann committee, I remember going to a school in Coventry where the children had been told that I was coming from that committee. The sixth form asked whether they could see me and obviously I agreed. That was at their request, through the headmaster, and with him present. While I agree with the spirit of the amendment, I would not want the provisions laid down in specific terms.

Lord Elton

My Lords, somewhat in the same vein, I thank the noble Baroness for the kind mention of my report. This matter ties in with an amendment which we discussed earlier and which I withdrew. In the report there is a recommendation that head teachers and teachers should recognise the importance of ascertaining pupils' views, organising systems for doing so and for taking into account in the management of the school the information gathered. That is all part of the behaviour policy which, as my noble friend has said, the inspectorate should be encouraged to inspect. Therefore we are actually tapping into this flow of information already. I too hope that the inspectors will have the wit to discuss matters with pupils. It would certainly be very odd if they did not.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady Faithful, I am very sympathetic to the spirit of this amendment, but it has very real problems. The amendment states that the pupils are to be "nominated representatives", but nominated by whom? They could scarcely be nominated by the staff. There is very serious danger in having pupils nominated by some kind of an election by other pupils. That would tend to throw up the more politically active and not necessarily a representative sample of the pupils. Perhaps there is a solution to this problem, but it should be defined on the face of the Bill. Reference should also be made to the age of the pupils.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, like my noble friend Lady Faithful], I sympathise with the purpose behind this amendment, but I think that it will be better secured in a less formal way. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, that I do not want to argue that it is unnecessary because I believe that children are the most essential consideration in these matters and that they should be communicated with by the inspectorate.

When Her Majesty's Inspectorate conduct an inspection they do not usually hold formal meetings with pupils' representatives or even make special arrangements to interview pupils privately. But they do make it their business to talk a great deal in an informal way with pupils both in groups and on a one-to-one basis as they go about the school observing activities both in and outside the classroom. Most such discussions are private from the teaching staff of the school.

I understand that when doing a school inspection another practice of HMI in pursuing this informal arrangement is to make it known that they will be available in a particular place in the school during, for example, lunchtime when the children can quite voluntarily go along and talk in an informal way to the inspectorate. In this way inspectors are able to gather information about pupils' understanding of the subjects that they are studying, their attitudes to each other and to the school; their participation in extra-curricular activities and so on. This information will feed into all aspects of the inspectors' work and will be particularly important in reporting on the ethos of the school, which noble Lords agree is such an important part of an inspection.

I doubt whether information on all these topics could be as easily or reliably gained from any number of formal meetings. The extent to which the pupils nominated to any separate meeting were in fact representative of the pupil body would be open to doubt. And in such a daunting setting, pupils might well not feel able to talk as freely as they do now to Her Majesty's inspectors who drop in on their lessons or speak to them over lunch.

We envisage that the chief inspector's guidance is likely to contain advice based on HMI practice, about taking the views and attitudes of pupils into account, and on how they may be used in reporting on the school. As I said in opening, children are the most important consideration. Their rights are to an education which is efficient and effective. The inspectorate which is being set up here is being created to that end.

My noble friend Lord Elton said that it would be odd if the inspectors did not communicate with the children. It would not only be odd but inconceivable to think that an effective inspection could take place in any school without extensive consultation with pupils. I believe that the only difference between us is whether it should be formal and through representatives or whether it should be informal in a way which allows young people to be more uninhibited in their communications with the inspectorate. The inspectorate can get a very genuine view not just about the ethos of the school but about the ease or uneasiness of the young people within it.

Baroness David

My Lords, I am grateful for the support which the spirit of the amendment has had, even if the wording has not pleased everyone. I did not think that it was so restrictive, narrow or prescriptive as the Minister and others have made out. No real procedure was laid down in the amendment. As regards nominating representatives, I should have thought that the pupils themselves would have chosen them. They obviously would not be chosen by the staff. If elections do throw up political people, that tends to be what elections are about and what happens is what the people are being elected for.

The Minister has given quite a great deal of reassurance that inspectors do at the moment talk to the children both formally and informally at meals and so on. There must be plenty of opportunity because, if the inspectors are there for a week or so, they can have meals with the children. I have to be satisfied with having the spirit of the amendment accepted. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 40: Page 22, line 4, at end insert: ("( ) A local education authority, where it is not the appropriate authority for a school that it maintains, shall be under a duty to consider the action plan and shall have power to ensure that the action plan is implemented within its available resources.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, under the Bill, local education authorities have to be sent action plans for information, but there is nothing in the Bill as to what the local authorities should do with them. This amendment requires the LEAs to use their powers to assist governing bodies to implement action plans. In an earlier form the Bill stated that it was the duty of the appropriate authority—which in most cases, with the introduction of the local management of schools, was the governing body—to write a plan outlining the action which it proposed to take in the light of the inspector's report and the period of time within which it was proposed to take it. A copy of the action plan was, in most cases, to be sent to the LEA.

However, the Bill does not state that the local education authority has to take any action when it receives the action plan; the authority could put it away in a drawer and let it gather dust and do nothing. At Committee stage in another place, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, in replying to an amendment tabled by Mr. Jack Straw on local education authority advice on action plans, asked: How can governors properly assign responsibility for the action plan back to their council when the action needed, whether on the curriculum, staffing, or allocation of resources is the statutory responsibility of the governing body and not the council?".

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary seemed to be saying in his reply that the LEA has no statutory role. Yet much of the work required within the action plan may not be within the capacity of the governing body. It may be very difficult for them to take the kind of action that is needed in response to adverse comments from inspectors to put it right. For example, aspects of the buildings may be deemed to be unsatisfactory; or facilities such as science laboratories may be inadequate. The local education authority needs to come in and support the school in improving such facilities. Surely it would also be appropriate for a statutory responsibility to be given to the LEA in the light of this to at least oversee the implementation of the action plan. This is particularly important in the case of a school which has received a very poor inspection report and which, as a result of that, will need a good deal of support in order to improve the education that is provided in that school.

We on these Benches believe that there is a danger that without help from the LEA a school in this position will be unable to respond effectively to the criticisms that have been made in the inspection report, thereby making the inspection report less influential than it might otherwise be. The amendment would also introduce a safeguard, where currently there is none, to ensure that all action plans are implemented. I beg to move.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, this seem to me in some ways a curious amendment. At an earlier stage, the Opposition redefined by an amendment the term "appropriate authority". That has been defined again today by an amendment which has been accepted. The definition, as offered and as carried by the Opposition, did not make any significant move towards the LEA or its powers. That amendment, dealing with inspection, moved towards the chief inspector. In this case, rather late in the day, we find the LEA invoked with what seems to be a power of intervention. It is not a clearly defined power; but it looks like a power of intervention which certainly does not exist up to this point in the Bill, unless it is amended in this sense.

In Amendment No. 31, we see the "appropriate authority" as redefined. The proposed Amendment No. 40 can be read quite clearly in conjunction with that. Amendment No. 49 gives the local education authority a power of inspection. But the responsibility for the school, unless the LEA is the appropriate authority, lies with the proprietor of the school or with the governors. Therefore the responsibility for implementing the action plan lies with those persons or with those groups. It is pertinent to ask how would the local education authority ensure that the action plan is implemented? It seems to imply some intervention by the local education authority in the affairs of the school where the responsibility in two out of the three cases lies with the governors or with the proprietor. That makes this a very radical amendment. It may have the look of being an innocent amendment, but it seems to me to be a radical amendment, if I understand it right, and one which goes against the grain of the Bill, even as amended by the Opposition's own amendments as carried at Committee stage.

It is pertinent to ask how would the local education authority be able to exercise this power? It would appear to be a power of intervention which would involve it in some way taking over the school. I cannot see how it would do otherwise. If it were to make resources available to the governors of the school so that they would then implement the action plan, that would be a very different kettle of fish. Therefore I see this as a rather suspicious amendment—an amendment which arouses suspicions—because it seems to hint at a kind of intervention by the LEA in these categories of school which does not exist in any other part of the Bill.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, it may be worth adding that unless the duty in the 1944 Act on the local authority to secure the education of its children has been extinguished (which I do not believe it has), it has an implicit duty to secure that education. Also, in case of need, under Section 37 of the Education Reform Act 1988, the local authority has a power to withdraw delegation of budgets to a school. Therefore it can assume control of a school directly in financial terms. Furthermore, my noble friend has an amendment later on the Marshalled List for intervening in extremis. So I do not see that there is a need for the amendment which is being argued.

I only intervened because originally I was in favour of machinery to secure implementation of action plans which I could otherwise see mouldering on the shelf. However, after having studied it further, it seems that it is no longer needed.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the last part of this amendment is quite inappropriate. The powers which local authorities have in respect of their schools are quite clearly set out in existing legislation. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Elton has just referred to it.

This Bill is about inspection and its follow-up, and is designed to make the current balance of powers more effective—not to shift it, as this amendment suggests. Noble Lords opposite have consistently throughout this Bill from Second Reading to the present amendment tried to shift power to the local education authorities and this amendment does just that.

The local authority has the power to help and support the governors as they draw up and implement their action plan, so no further power is required. But it cannot be given the power to ensure that action is taken without being given additional powers over the governors. The governors are accountable to the parent body and others who appoint and elect them for the action they take or fail to take in this respect. The LEA can only take responsibility for ensuring that things happen in the school where they take back the budget and remove effective control from the governors. In such cases, they will take over formal responsibility for the action plan.

Where the governing body of a maintained school is responsible for drawing up the action plan, it must send a copy to the LEA. The LEA will naturally wish to offer the governing body any assistance it needs. Indeed, there may even be aspects of the report that refers to the local education authority. In many cases, the LEA will simply be responding to requests for services from the school, which will be able to meet the costs from its delegated budget.

That offers the right balance of responsibility. We do not need to use the route suggested by this amendment to secure for local authorities the powers that they need to keep an eye on their schools, and if necessary—in extreme cases again as my noble friend has pointed out—take back the budget. Amendments we have tabled to meet the purpose of those added to the Bill at the suggestion of the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, will establish beyond any doubt the powers of the LEAs to investigate where necessary. The power to withdraw delegation is in the 1988 Act.

We must not weaken the basic responsibility of governors for the management of their school. Noble Lords opposite agree with us that governors should draw up and report on progress with action plans. They must also carry the final responsibility for the implementation of those plans—as befits their crucial responsibility for their school's budget and management. In the unlikely case of an LEA failing to take reasonable steps to provide help in the area of its own statutory responsibility—for instance, by failing to meet an identified need for capital investment by including a project for the school in its forward programme —then, as I said when we debated this before, the governors will be able to draw attention to this in their reports to parents and the problem will be highlighted in the next inspection report on the school.

Under our proposals there is no possibility that any of these matters can be ignored, hidden or forgotten as might once have been the case. The amendment seeks to back-track on the 1988 Act by taking responsibilities from schools and the governing bodies and giving them to local education authorities. As we have said, local education authorities have fall-back powers in respect of a concern about a school fulfilling its functions under the Act. This amendment widens the powers of local education authorities to intervene, a point made very well by my noble friend Lord Renfrew. At best it means that an LEA can go into a school and intervene when it is quite unnecessary and everything is in order. But at worst it would have the power to meddle in the operational management of a school. For both those reasons I believe that we should leave the power where it belongs—with the governing body—with all the checks and balances that there are in the system. I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply. Perhaps I may begin by making one or two comments on the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew. I was staggered by some of his comments and I felt that he had perhaps misunderstood the intention of the amendment. It is perfectly clear that the governors have to produce the action plan. Nothing in the amendment suggests otherwise. It is also perfectly clear that the governors have to ensure that it is implemented. But a school which has an adverse inspection report, a school which therefore is not likely to be performing well, may have difficulty in ensuring that it implements its own action plan. The only purpose of the amendment is to make sure that local education authorities both consider these action plans and then, if they are not being adequately implemented, take some action to support the governing body.

There is no intention that this should be an opportunity for all local education authorities to meddle. Nor do I think it at all likely that a local education authority would want to use its precious time and energy intervening in schools where things are working perfectly well. It is indicative of this Government's attitude to local authorities, and indeed of the Minister's attitude to local authorities, that they always come out with such negative comments about local education authorities even where they are trying to do their best to ensure that the standards in our schools are raised rather than lowered.

Perhaps I may make a brief comment on the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I entirely accept what he said about the implicit duty in the 1944 Act and also what he said about the powers to withdraw delegation in the 1988 Act. But it is a serious matter for a school that has delegated powers that it should get into such a mess that a local education authority has to withdraw them. The purpose of the amendment is to try to find a way of allowing a local education authority to come in and support a governing body in making sure that its action plan, when it is in difficulties, is implemented and to avoid coming to the rather extreme solution in which its delegated powers have to be withdrawn.

The Minister said that LEAs will have sufficient powers to intervene when necessary. That is partly as a result of the amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin. I am conscious that she is extremely confident that there is no possibility that anything could be ignored—I think that those were her words. I shall take away and read what she has said. However, I am not altogether happy with it and I may wish to come back at Third Reading.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I think there has been a misinterpretation of what I said and what my noble friend said. The power to intervene if a local education authority has a concern about a school is there. We have confirmed that in Amendment No. 49 and we have confirmed it all the way through. Today we have properly put a seal on that. That is there if there is concern.

In speaking to this amendment I have also given an absolute assurance that where it is mutually agreed, where a school either requests help from an LEA or where an LEA proffers its help and it is agreeable to the school, there is also a power to go in and help there. What the amendment seeks—we have to consider the amendment before us—is that the LEA shall have a power and indeed an obligation to concern itself with the action plan of every single school and have the power, with or without the agreement of a school, to intervene in the implementation of the action plan. That is whether the LEA is concerned about the school or whether it is not. That is the essential difference. All the powers that the noble Baroness desires and wishes for an LEA are there.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I have listened to the Minister but I am not altogether convinced. I should like to take away and read what she has said. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

On Question, amendment negatived.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendments Nos. 41 to 43:

Page 22, line 26, leave out sub-paragraphs (1) and (2) and insert: ("(1) Where an inspection of a school is required under section 9 but the Chief Inspector is satisfied that it is not reasonably practicable to secure that the school is inspected by a suitable registered inspector, he shall secure that it is inspected

  1. (a) if it is a school in England, by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools in England; and
  2. (b) if it is a school in Wales, by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools in Wales.").

Page 22, line 32, leave out ("in response to a request made under") and insert ("by virtue of').

Page 22, line 35, leave out sub-paragraphs (4) to (6).

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, these amendments were spoken to with Amendment No. 5. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 44:

Page 22, line 48, at end insert: ("12A.—(1) A governing body may ask—

  1. (a) the Chief Inspector;
  2. (b) the local education authority; or
  3. (c) the Secretary of State
to arrange for the school concerned to be inspected under section 9 by an Inspector. (2) Where such a request is made, and whether or not the person to whom it is directed is the appropriate authority, that person shall comply with it if, but only if, he is satisfied that it is not reasonably practicable for the appropriate authority to secure that the school is inspected by a suitable registered inspector. (3) Where an inspection is conducted by an Inspector in response to a request made under this paragraph, the provisions of this Act shall have effect in relation to the inspection as if the Inspector were a registered inspector. (4) Subject to sub-paragraph (5), the person concerned shall recover from the governing body the full cost to him of complying with a request made by the authority under this paragraph. (5) The person concerned may not recover any of the costs to the extent which—
  1. (a) those costs are unreasonable; or
  2. (b) it is, in the opinion of the person concerned, unreasonable to recover them, having regard to the funds available to the governing body.
(6) In this paragraph "Inspector" means—
  1. (a) in relation to any school in England, one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools in England; and
  2. 1285
  3. (b) in relation to any school in Wales, one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools in Wales.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have two concepts of the mechanism of inspection. We have a mechanism coming from the outside in, which is the one that we have been talking about most of the time and which my original amendment, Amendment No. 111, particularly emphasised, with Her Majesty's Chief Inspector essentially choosing the inspection team. Despite one or two remarks made earlier to the contrary, it was never the intention of that amendment, as was made clear at the time and has since been made clear again today, that in other ways it should undermine the role of the governing body of the school. I was somewhat surprised to hear that the noble Baroness was under that misapprehension at some point but I think she understands that better now.

What concerns me is that on occasion the governing body of a school might itself want to reach out rather than merely consider the inspection as something coming from outside. In other words, it might want an inspection to take place because it believed that it needed an inspection. That is nearer to the management consultancy concept of the inspection than the one with which we have mostly dealt.

I have searched the Bill to see whether that is possible. My hope is that the noble Baroness will be able to say that I have not read the Bill very carefully. I cannot see anything in the Bill that stops it but I am a little worried whether it is actually possible. There will be occasions when the school is not due for an inspection—it may be low down on the list, and we have no idea how during the course of the prescribed period schools will be chosen—but believes that it could do with some help and would like an inspection. The purpose of the amendment is to put that on the face of the Bill. If I were better able to read the Bill I could perhaps find that somewhere in the Bill anyway. The purpose is to get the Minister to tell me, first, that she agrees that this kind of reaching out for an inspection should be possible and might be occasionally desirable, and, secondly, to get her to tell me that it is in the Bill somewhere, although I cannot find it, and that therefore my amendment is not needed. But if it is not in the Bill I think that the Government ought to accept this amendment or a similar one. I beg to move.

7 p.m.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, this seems a ramshackle amendment, particularly because on first reading it does not appear to emphasise the point that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, has stressed, which is that the intention is to seek an inspection outside the normal cycle, which we understand will be a quadrennial cycle. It would be helpful if the amendment could make that clear. Reading it in the context of Schedule 2, one has the initial impression that its provisions are intended in some way to operate within the quadrennial cycle, but I take it that that is not the noble Lord's intention.

One must therefore ask why the amendment provides that a governing body may ask for an inspection when, as a result of the Opposition's own amendment, it should be the chief inspector who makes arrangements for the inspection. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, has answered that point by implication by saying that the chief inspector would organise the quadrennial inspection and that we are talking about the possibility of organising an inspection outside that sequence.

However, the amendment also has one or two other curious characteristics. Subsection (2) states: only if, he is satisfied that it is not reasonably practicable for the appropriate authority to secure that the school is inspected by a suitable registered inspector. But it is not at all clear why on earth the governing body would ask the Secretary of State to have anything to do with that. Why would not the governing body simply ask the chief inspector to ensure that the school is inspected by a registered inspector where possible or, if there is a preference, by an inspector from his own inspectorate?

As I have said, I find this a rather ramshackle amendment. However, it may be perfectly reasonable that a governing body of a school should be able to request an inspection outside the normal quadrennial inspection cycle. That seems a reasonable objective but, if I may say so, it is not fulfilled coherently by the amendment.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I, too, am puzzled, but the noble Lord, Lord Peston, may tell me that I have not read his amendment properly and that these provisions are in it. The amendment seeks to enable a governing body to arrange for the school concerned to be inspected under Section 9 by an Inspector. The "Inspector" is later defined as one of Her Majesty's Inspectors". There are two breeds of inspector under the Bill—Her Majesty's Inspectors or the chief inspector and his inspectors, and registered inspectors. An earlier clause deals with the chief inspector and the HMIs, but the amendment is directed at Clause 9, which relates to inspections by registered inspectors. Therefore, it does not appear that the animal that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, is requesting should do the work under the amendment is actually in the stable from which he intends it to come.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, we are all confused. I am puzzled about what is behind this fairly convoluted amendment. This is a very long and involved addition to the Bill, apparently designed to ensure that the governors can have an inspection any time they want. I took that to mean inside or outside the quadrennial inspection. If they cannot secure an inspection for whatever reason, they can oblige HMI to carry one out—or oblige the local authority or the Secretary of State to arrange an inspection by HMI. I am not clear why the new right to be inspected is thought necessary. I think that the Bill already covers all eventualities. All that I can do is to invite the noble Lord, Lord Peston, to read it again.

Clause 9 requires inspection at regular intervals, and Schedule 2(12) makes provision for that to be carried out by HMI if need be. There is nothing to stop any governing body spending its resources on an additional inspection of any kind—if that is what the governing body wants. Local authorities have the power to inspect where necessary. Her Majesty's Inspectorate can similarly inspect any school where it feels that that is necessary or desirable, but neither the LEA nor HMI can recover the costs of such an inspection, which is carried out in pursuit of the authority's or HMI's statutory duties, and not as a service for the school.

I am also unclear why the amendment allows the governors to ask the LEA or the Secretary of State to arrange an inspection by HMI, since they would also have in every case the option of asking the chief inspector directly. The money is to be recovered from the governors, where they can afford it, but the implication of the amendment is that if the LEA or Secretary of State act as intermediary, they must pay the cost if the governors cannot do so. Under the amendment if the governors go direct to the chief inspector, he must meet the costs himself if the governors genuinely cannot meet them.

The amendment would seem to superimpose an inspection on an already regular inspection that is held every four years. In addition, any school can request an inspection either from its LEA or from HMI and can simply hand the bill for that to the LEA or the inspectorate. I am not absolutely certain whether that is what the noble Lord, Lord Peston, intended.

Lord Peston

My Lords, at this stage of a Bill it is difficult to engage in the toings and froings that are required for such an amendment. I find that doubly difficult because the whole thing seems so clear to me. But I often find that in my teaching with some of the more backward pupils—

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, is not insinuating that we are backward.

Lord Peston

My Lords, no, I was criticising myself, not anybody else. That is one of my failings. I certainly shall not animadvert on the question of whether the amendment is ramshackle.

I shall leave it at this: the thought is that there will be a regular inspection. We do not know the length of time involved because although the Government say that it is four years, the Bill does not. The Government could decide that it should be eight years or 100 years —and that will happen one day.

The purpose behind the amendment is to address the problem that, despite the holding of regular inspections, a particular school may not be due for an inspection for another three years, but it may feel that it needs an inspection now. There are two issues involved. I asked a question which, in the end, I believe that the Minister answered by saying that one can still hold such an inspection. Despite everything that the Minister said, I believe that it came down to the simple answer, "Yes, you can still do that, but the only complication would be cost". I raise the cost issue because although a school may need an inspection, it may not be able to afford it. I was trying to find a way to establish whether it would be possible to go to Her Majesty's chief inspector and to say, "A year has gone by since your last inspection and things are not right. We need another inspection and a detailed scrutiny of a certain bit of the school, but we do not have the money to pay for it". That is the issue that I was raising.

I do not seek to defend the precise detail of an amendment of this kind because that would be very difficult, but I hope that the Government and your Lordships understand that this is a serious point, especially if one believes that, as we have all agreed, the governing bodies have considerable responsibilities in this area. Having said that, I do not want to pursue the matter because I have made my points clearly enough for my own satisfaction. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 45 not moved.]

Clause 11 [Removal from register and imposition or variation of conditions]:

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 46: Page 7, line 39, leave out ("when taken as a whole") and insert ("in whole or in part").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 46 strikes in page 7, line 39, and returns to a point that we addressed briefly but not satisfactorily in Committee. At that stage, as I understood it, the Government were content that a chief inspector might remove the name of a registered inspector from the register if he was satisfied that that inspector had knowingly or recklessly produced a report of an inspection which is, when taken as a whole, seriously misleading.

However, the Government did not wish the chief inspector to have the power to remove somebody from the register when that report knowingly or recklessly, in part, was seriously misleading. It seemed to me that knowingly or recklessly misleading anybody about an official report on which the reputation of a school, its staff and pupils depended, must be a serious offence that must bring into question the ability and fitness of that person to continue as an inspector.

In the hope that the Government have had further thoughts on this matter, I have ventured to bring this matter back to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Elton rightly points out that if a registered inspector knowingly or recklessly produces an inspection report which is seriously misleading, even in part, the chief inspector should be able to remove that inspector from the register without further ado. My noble friend will be pleased to know that after further thought we are content to accept the amendment.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I express my thanks.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 13 [Failure to arrange for inspection]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 47: Leave out Clause 13.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 15 [Provision of inspection services by local education authorities]:

Baroness Faithful moved Amendment No. 48: Page 10, line 11, after ("within") insert ("or beyond").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a probing amendment. I apologise to my noble friend for not having brought up the subject before. Clause 15 provides that: Any local education authority may provide a school inspection service for schools within their area". The amendment asks for inspectors to be able to move to another authority's area. There are three reasons for that. First, with regard to special needs children under the 1981 Act, it is not always possible for one authority to have a specialist inspector for every specialism or, for example, for children with special needs. If there is an inspector in one authority with a specialist skill in assessing the special needs of a dyslexic child or a child with an impairment—for example, a deaf child—it would be possible to ask him to go to another area.

Secondly, some schools teach special subjects. For instance, I know two schools that teach Japanese. Children want to study Japanese. But if there is no inspector in the area who knows Japanese the school could go outside its area.

Nursery education is also important. Not all local authority inspectors include a specialist in nursery education. An inspector could then be obtained from another authority. The amendment would enable one authority to borrow from another authority someone with a special skill. I beg to move.

Baroness David

My Lords, I support the amendment, not just for the good reasons that the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, gave; but if authorities have to cut their numbers of inspectors, or are unable to afford to keep all that they need to cover all subjects, it would be helpful for a local authority to be able to obtain some money from doing work for other areas. It is merely giving authorities a little more flexibility. LEAs would find it helpful if the amendment were accepted so that they could be told that their inspectors could tender for work not directly within their own local authority area.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I hope that I can offer the very flexibility for which the noble Baroness, Lady David, has asked. First, I must stress that there is no intention on our part to prevent LEAs from continuing to offer inspection services to their schools provided that they have inspectors who can meet the requirements of registration imposed by the chief inspectors. Clause 15 is designed to allow that, and indeed, in subsection (3) we make provision to allow LEAs to maintain inspection services to cater for grant maintained schools within their boundaries, so extending their sphere of operations to what will soon be the largest group of secondary schools.

But my noble friend Lady Faithfull and the noble Baroness, Lady David, are suggesting in support of the amendment that LEAs should also be able to maintain staff so as to offer inspection services outside their boundaries. Local authority trading of this sort is governed by the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970. All local authority activities are covered by the powers conferred under the 1970 Act unless expressly excluded.

That Act allows authorities to use marginal capacity to offer services to a designated public body, and we shall use our powers to add the new offices of the chief inspectors to that category. That will allow local authorities to tender, using marginal capacity, for inspection contracts outside their area. But they cannot engage or retain staff merely for the purpose of external trading activity. LEAs have never before had an unrestricted ability to trade and we are not proposing that they should be given one in this case.

Local authorities are not private firms. They are answerable to locally elected councillors and dependent to an extent on locally collected funds for their existence. All their money comes from public funds: it is money provided by the public so that necessary services are provided for the population of the area.

Such bodies are not intended or designed to operate as national trading bodies. Of course we want local authorities to be efficient: to test their services against those offered by private firms and to offer services themselves only when that is clearly the most efficient way of meeting the needs they have identified. That is the thrust of a number of our policies. But that is a far cry from giving local authorities the power to act as if they were private firms. Private firms have shareholders who expect them to make a good return on the money they have invested. Local authorities have charge payers who expect them to offer the best level of services within the funds available. They certainly do not want their authority to use funds designed to meet their needs to offer services to those living in other areas. That is why local government legislation allows trading only with marginal capacity and why we do not intend to override that in this Bill.

As I have said, the powers to trade which are conferred by the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970 apply to all services, including inspections unless they are expressly excluded. That Act allows authorities to use marginal capacity to offer services to a designated public body, and we shall use our powers to add the new offices of the chief inspectors to that category.

My noble friend Lady Faithfull is worried about special needs. A local authority with an effective inspector may have spare capacity in its workload. It is appropriate, and the Bill allows it, for that spare capacity to be traded with another authority. I believe I have met the flexibility for which the noble Baroness, Lady David, asked and the anxieties of my noble friend Lady Faithfull.

Baroness Faithful

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Neither the noble Baroness, Lady David, nor I had any intention of using the inspectors as a trading body. We were thinking entirely of flexibility as between one authority and another, with the specialists of one authority being able to help another authority which did not have specialists in a particular area. I listened to my noble friend with great care. The noble Baroness, Lady David, and I would like to read what she said. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 49: After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:

Power of local education authority to inspect maintained school for specific purpose

(" .—(1) Where—

  1. (a) a local education authority require information about any matter in connection with a school which is maintained by them, for the purpose of enabling them to exercise any function of theirs, and
  2. (b) it is not reasonably practicable for them to obtain it in any other manner,
they may cause an inspection of the school to be made by one or more of their officers for the purpose of obtaining that information.

(2) Any officer of a local education authority inspecting a school under this section shall have at all reasonable times a right of entry to the premises of the school.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 16 [Power of Secretary of State to require information]:

Lord Northbourne moved Amendment No. 50: Page 10, line 41, at end insert: ("( ) The Secretary of State shall by regulations make provision requiring the proprietor of every independent school and the governing body of every school falling within paragraph (a), (b) or (c) of subsection (1) above to publish, in such manner as may be prescribed, information describing the manner in which they develop the spiritual, moral, social and cultural values of pupils at the school.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 53. I had hoped to be in my place to give an unqualified welcome to Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 8, 9, 21 and 22 moved by the Minister. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to do so. Amendments Nos. 50 and 53 are complementary to those amendments. Their purpose is to concentrate the mind of governing bodies and proprietors on the spiritual, moral, social and cultural values in the schools of which they are in charge; to make them consider what values they feel ought to be promulgated in the schools, to discuss them with heads and staff, to agree them and then to declare them in the prospectus. That is what the amendments deal with.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who said earlier that these values are in a difficult area and are difficult to define. There is a question as to whether, at some time in the future, there may need to be constraints and inspections. Here we simply ask schools and school governors to write on a piece of paper what they are trying to do. There may be room for discussion and even research in the future.

In Committee, the noble Baroness said that the Secretary of State already has power to make regulations to ensure that the issues are declared in school prospectuses. I agree that indeed he can do that. The question is: will he do so? He has not yet done so and that is prima facie evidence that he may not. I believe that the degree of support which these amendments or something similar received in Committee justifies me asking for at least a strong assurance from the noble Baroness that the Secretary of State intends to make such regulations, if I am not to press the amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, I support Amendments Nos. 50 and 53 which stand in the name of my noble friend Lord Northbourne and also in my name. These important amendments mean that the spiritual, moral, social and cultural values to be taught and developed in pupils attending the schools in groups (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (1) should be clearly stated in the prospectus for the schools. This means that parents may have the opportunity to see for themselves what values a particular school is likely to teach.

It seems to me important that this should be included on the face of the Bill and not just as an afterthought in the regulations. Can my noble friend the Minister confirm that these important values will be stated on the face of the Bill?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I share the concern of both the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and my noble friend Lady Strange to ensure that parents are fully informed not just about the academic policies and achievements of schools, but also about the ethos and values of every school, and the attitudes and behaviour of pupils. These very important aspects of school life are central to parents' choice of school for their child and have been central to our discussions throughout the proceedings on the Bill.

We have at the noble Lord's suggestion amended Clauses 2 and 6 of the Bill to provide that the chief inspectors must keep the Secretaries of State informed about the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils; and Clause 9, to provide that registered inspectors report on these matters in addition to the others already provided for. This means that the issues the noble Lord has in mind will be very much in the public domain—reported on both for each school and in the chief inspector's annual report to the Secretary of State.

However, I recognise that in these amendments the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, is seeking more detailed information at school level. Existing regulations already require that governors have to include in their school's prospectus a statement of curriculum aims, which must take account of Section 1 of the Education Reform Act, with its requirement that the curriculum must provide for the spiritual, moral and cultural development of pupils. But I accept that this does not exactly meet the concerns expressed today. We therefore intend to consult, as is our practice, I assure noble Lords, on a requirement to extend the regulations to require governors also to publish a statement describing their policies for the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils—which will make their values quite clear. Our commitment to extending is assured and we shall consult about the requirement.

I am sure this kind of policy statement will be welcomed by parents choosing a school for their children, and will also enable both parents and inspectors to judge how far the school is achieving its stated aims in this respect. I shall be happy to consider any suggestions from noble Lords who have expressed an interest about how the requirement should be phrased to make it as informative as possible.

The Secretary of State already has power to make such regulations under the 1980 Act, and no additional powers are needed. I do not think it would be right to take additional powers to add the information into comparative tables published under Clause 16—and I believe the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, made this point—as it will not lend itself to the summary statistical presentation which those tables require. I trust that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, will be content with my assurance about the Government's intentions, and will not now seek to press these amendments.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that most helpful assurance. I shall, of course, read carefully what she said and reserve the right to come back on the matter. However, I am fairly happy and in the circumstances I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 51: Page 10, line 42, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is to remove the power of the Secretary of State to require the publication of information about the destination of school leavers. It is an item which Ministers seem to wish to include as an indicator of the performance of schools. I suggest that it is not a good indicator.

The DES consultation paper, which was issued on 10th January this year, proposes that governing bodies of all maintained schools—primary as well as secondary—should be required to publish statistics of the intended destination of those leaving at the ages of 11, 16, 17 and 18 years in the prospectus and annual report. It proposes that local education authorities should be required to publish league tables giving this information for secondary schools.

The Government accept that it is impractical to require schools to establish the actual destination of leavers or to do more than make a conscientious shot at establishing the intention. This will make the statistics, by definition, systematically totally unreliable as an indicator of leavers' destinations. I believe it is contrary to public policy to require the publication at public expense of information which is not factual because it is systematically unreliable. It is also contrary to public policy to put on governing bodies the ambiguous duty of securing its collection and publication.

Moreover, the statistics have no or minimal value as indicators of a school's performance. I find it particularly absurd that governing bodies are asked to publish information about the destination of primary school leavers. The destination of those leaving a primary school is determined by a variety of things: the availability of secondary school places in the area, the exercise of parental choice in relation to secondary schools; and where admission to secondary school depends on the pupil's ability as displayed. However, there are many areas and many schools where admission is not based on ability.

In so far as the national curriculum test performance is relevant, that will already be required to be published by the primary school. Therefore, we shall have information on pupils' performance at the end of primary school from the national curriculum assessment procedures. So it seems patently absurd to ask for this additional information about the destination of primary school leavers.

The destination of those leaving secondary schools depends heavily on the results achieved at public examinations. Information about destinations in many respects would duplicate the information about examination results. But again, it also depends on local opportunities for employment. In some parts of the country there will be great difficulty in school leavers securing employment locally, particularly in a recession such as we are experiencing at the moment. It will also depend on local opportunities for training. As we all know, some employers are much more willing to invest in the training of their school leaver employees than others; that can have absolutely nothing to do with what went on in the secondary school. It will also depend on the extent of the part-time further education provision, and, of course, of full-time FE provision.

All those factors are quite irrelevant to a school's performance. They are affected by the attitudes and financial circumstances of pupils' families. The information may also be affected by how many school leavers go into temporary work. That factor will determine whether the information is valid and useful. Many young people today do not go straight into either further or higher education. Instead they spend a period of time taking a series of temporary jobs.

Earlier the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, referred to his experience in prep schools. I wish to refer briefly to my experience after I left school. I do not know how my school would have mapped out my destination. In the year after I left school I worked as a waitress, a shop assistant and as an untrained teacher in a prep school. That prep school could have benefited from some inspection of my extremely poor quality teaching. I worked as a telephone sales girl for a wholesaler and as a governess abroad. What would a poor governing body make of that in terms of deciding what my destination was?

Today many young people take one, two or sometimes three years off before entering further or higher education. They leave school with the intention of entering higher education eventually but they have no idea where they will undertake that education or what they will study. I believe this requirement will not be helpful from the point of view of telling us something about the performance of schools. I believe it will give us misleading information and it will make it difficult for governing bodies to collect sensible information.

Finally I believe it constitutes a total waste of public money. I beg to move.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, we cannot accept this amendment nor do we agree that the information requested is irrelevant. Of course we recognize—and so will parents—that information on the destinations of school leavers needs to be interpreted in the light of the circumstances of the pupils concerned. The same applies to all the other indicators that we shall publish. But the plain fact is that parents wish to know, for example, what proportion of a school's pupils stay on into the sixth form, if the school has one, or continue in further education when they have completed their compulsory schooling, and how many go on to employment or other destinations. They also want to know, in schools with sixth forms, how many 18-plus leavers go on to higher or further education.

These indicators—especially when compared with the record of other schools in the same area—reflect much more than academic achievement. They say a great deal about how far schools have helped their pupils to understand the value of continuing education and training, or have fitted them with the qualities which employers as well as further and higher education establishments will seek.

We have just finished consulting with LEAs and others on a proposal that they, and schools of all kinds, should co-operate in 1992 in publishing information on the intended first destinations of 16, 17 and 18 year-olds or over in much the same way as we shall require from 1993 onwards following the enactment of this Bill. Aggregate figures for those leaving at the end of the 1991–2 school year would be published in school prospectuses and annual governors' reports, and in comparative tables compiled and published by LEAs, alongside local and national comparators. This exercise should be very useful, not only in meeting parents' needs for this information as soon as possible, but also in giving schools, LEAs and the department practical experience of the new arrangements in advance of our decisions on the requirements to be imposed from 1993.

Schools will not be unfamiliar with the kind of exercise we have in mind. The department has for many years collected from all schools, on a voluntary basis, information relating to a 10 per cent. sample of older leavers, and a slightly smaller sample of those leaving at age 16. The information is provided on a rather more detailed basis than we now have in mind with, for example, higher education destinations split by type of institution and subject of degree course. I am sure it is for this reason that we have had little comment in our consultation exercise on the principle of collecting destinations information. That principle is now fully accepted.

We recognise the practical issues raised by an exercise of this kind and we shall only ask schools to collect the sort of information which most try to obtain already and which all provide on the sample basis I have mentioned. This would encompass the intended first destinations of pupils—continuing education, employment or other—backed up where possible with confirmation that they carried out their intentions. The information provided will thus be as complete and accurate as practicable and will provide parents with a reasonably complete overview of the first serious destinations of pupils leaving the schools concerned.

We are aware of the problems that the noble Baroness referred to. The consultation draft says that schools will be asked to record the intended destinations of leavers in order to make it clear that we do not mean to require them to track pupils once they have left school. But we seek more than a bland and unchallenged statement of intention. No pupil will intend to be unemployed, for example. What we want to know is the prospective destination of each pupil; that is, his or her most likely destination. In order to discover that, pupils will need to be asked about actual job offers rather than simply whether they intend to find a job.

We imagine that college and job offers would be noted towards the end of the summer term, and pupils without any (even conditional) offer at that stage would be listed in the "other" category. Schools compiling aggregate data at the start of the next autumn term will be able to adjust tables to take account of those who failed to achieve the necessary grades for a conditional offer, and also to add in those who found jobs or college places at a later stage.

The noble Baroness also referred to primary and middle schools. We are indeed consulting on the proposal that primary and middle schools should in 1992, on a voluntary basis, list in their prospectuses and annual governors' reports the secondary schools to which their previous year's leavers went on. We intend to require this information to be published in this way from 1993 onwards. It will be of interest to parents and may well give them ideas about available alternatives of which LEAs have not made them aware —such as GM schools and CTCs, or independent schools participating in the assisted places scheme. The information cannot be aggregated so there can be no question of it being published in comparative tables. I hope the noble Baroness will accept that we believe that this information will be useful to parents. Its collection will not place an excessive burden on schools, as our consultation has confirmed. I trust that the amendment will not be pressed.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I do not accept that the information will be useful to parents. Nor do I accept that its collection will not impose an excessive burden on schools. The noble Baroness began her speech by saying that it was interesting to know what proportion of pupils in a school might stay on into the sixth form. I do not dispute that statement. That is a perfectly easy statistic to collect. However, that information does not concern pupils' destinations after they have left school, which is what my amendment is concerned with. I am perfectly happy for information regarding the proportion of pupils who stay on into the sixth form to be collected and published.

The noble Baroness also referred to information about pupils entering FE colleges. That information, again, is rather easier to collect than some other information. However, I repeat that I do not think it will tell us all that much about the performance of a school. The noble Baroness completely failed to reply to my point about delayed entry to further education and higher education. There are large numbers of pupils leaving secondary schools who do not have conditional offers because they have not even applied to further education institutes as they intend to apply later.

I am, however, glad that the Government have at least started to recognise the practical difficulties of this requirement. I was not terribly reassured that they did not intend to push this matter rather too far as regards implementing this clause of the Bill. The information will, of course, be incomplete and because it is incomplete it will be inadequate.

The noble Baroness made reference to the fact that pupils will be asked their intended destinations. That is even more useless information than their actual destination. Anyone who has had children in that age group, as I have relatively recently, knows perfectly well that young people in that age group have all kinds of fantasies about what they might want to do, most of which never materialise. Many others who have no such fantasies do not have a clue what they might do and therefore will not be able to answer the questions adequately.

I regret to say that in my view the Government are totally out of touch with reality on this matter. However, I have no intention of dividing the House at this time of night and at this stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 52: Page 11, line 6, leave out ("educational standards achieved in those schools") and insert ("effectiveness of those schools in achieving the best educational standards for pupils at each such school").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the information provided about schools shows the effectiveness of schools and not just pupils' raw examination and test results. The amendment requires school effectiveness data to be published under Clause 16. It does not substitute or in any way change those powers in the 1980 and 1988 Acts which enable the Secretary of State to require the publication of raw results. The noble Baroness suggested in Committee that it did, but that is not the case.

The reason given by the noble Baroness for rejecting a value-added approach was that: there is no general agreement on the extent to which adverse socio-economic factors actually cause low performance".—[Official Report, 2/3/92; col. 611.]

The Minister stated that the use of school effectiveness data can lead to the assumption that being from a low income family is linked with doing badly at school. School effectiveness research is not geared to making individual assumptions but to understanding something about the work of a school overall and how successful it has been in achieving its aims. The Minister's approach overlooks the problems arising from using raw data alone.

The danger with raw results is that they lead to complacency. Schools with poor examination results may justify poor performance on the basis that they have an intake of low achievers. Only through using statistical analysis in assessing the effectiveness of a school can we learn how well that school is doing. The National Commission on Education set up by Sir Claus Moser published documents on the subject recently.

When speaking on the subject at Committee stage the noble Baroness referred a great deal to people on low incomes and the socio-economic considerations. It is not just that that we are considering. We are concerned with the progress that pupils make; that is what we must celebrate and publish, not merely the results of tests and exams. Therefore I hope that a more positive attitude may be adopted at this stage. I beg to move.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, many of us will feel great sympathy with the intentions behind the amendment and agree with the spirit of it. It is clearly desirable to have an assessment of received educational benefit. However, the problem lies in delivering the goods at this stage. It is not clear that there is at present an agreed basis for doing that in a manner which would be uncontroversial. The raw data themselves may carry controversial elements, but at least we know what they are.

In relation to a previous amendment moved at Committee stage I criticised the unhappy phrase "value added" on the grounds that quality of education is not computed in readily quantifiable units of account. I was also uneasy about the notion of objectively assessed effectiveness. The noble Lord, Lord Peston, delivered a notable tirade in reply and seemed reluctant to concede that objectivity is a difficult concept in those areas.

I welcome the wording of the amendment, which is much more flexible and less free with concepts of objectivity than its predecessor, but the difficulty remains. One understands what one is publishing if one is publishing raw data. However, at the moment we do not have an agreed procedure for measuring effectiveness. Any attempt to add opinions on the data is bound to be much more controversial than the publication of the data themselves. That is the real difficulty which the Opposition have not yet altogether grasped or faced. I agree with them that it would be useful to work towards that, but we are not yet ready to write into the Bill or into the procedures a requirement that such parameters be added when there is no altogether clear way of reaching such parameters.

I should like to quote from an article by Professors Goldstein and Nuttall in the Times Educational Supplement of 7th February this year. I imagine that they are as familiar as any with those concepts. They said: We know that there is often considerable numerical uncertainty about the value to be attached to 'effectiveness' measurements, and that it is usually impossible statistically to order schools precisely. Most of those involved in value-added research regard 'effectiveness' measures as useful pointers to identify institutions which seem to be doing much better or much worse than most others. They do not provide a definitive assessment of each school". Those on the other side of the House may feel that that is sufficient, but that is a quotation from those who are urging the effectiveness of their effectiveness measures of so-called value added. I am sure that progress is being made and it may be that at the end of the day agreement can be reached. However, I suspect that very often the assessment of raw data will depend on assumptions and preconceptions on which it is very difficult to reach agreement. That necessary groundwork needs to be done and that agreement needs to be reached before we can have a statutory obligation to publish such parameters.

While I hope that in a year or two we may be ready for the amendment which the Opposition now propose, at present it would not be timely and would ultimately, in the implementation, lead to a great deal of predictable, understandable and undesirable controversy.

7.45 p.m.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

My Lords, I have little to add on the merits of the argument, having contributed to the debates which we had at earlier stages. However, there are a couple of points in the Minister's reply last Monday to Amendment No. 87A on which I should like to comment.

The noble Baroness spoke (at col. 610 of Hansard) of exposing under-achievement. That will be difficult to do on the basis of raw data alone because it will take adjustment for other variables to spot where any under-achievement lies. At col. 612, the Minister argued that allowing for the statistical link between poverty and low achievement could have the effect of reinforcing low expectations, and that point has been raised.

I must admit that that made me stop and think but I concluded, and I hope that your Lordships too will conclude, that the argument goes the other way round. Under a value-added table all schools will want to demonstrate what they have been able to add, and the more the better. It is those which are tempted to rest on their laurels or not to exceed their low expectations which will show up badly under a value-added scheme. It is quite right that they should. With raw data alone the excuses would be easier to make.

I know that the noble Baroness has not set her face against the principle of what we have been asking, just as those of us who want meaningful statistics accept that it is right to publish the raw figures. I stress that point for the benefit of the Minister, who, I have come to think in the course of our debates, has been so blinded by my background as an LEA person that she has been rather deaf—to mix my metaphors—to some of what I have said. We want the raw data just as we want openness in schools.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, I like the wording of the present amendment because it allows some leeway and is not at all prescriptive while firmly stating the principle of effectiveness which should be sought. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to accept it.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, may remember that when he used the words "value added" and, I think, "accountancy"—which he repeated in his contribution of a few moments ago—I agreed with him to a large extent that that was not an appropriate measure of what happens in schools and was not the main aspect of the debate. Therefore I am a wee bit surprised to hear him say that again today.

I could be very wrong about this and, if so, I hope that the noble Lord will jump up and correct me—but although the noble Lord is a distinguished representative of university life I am not sure that he has much experience of schools of all kinds. I say that because I feel that there is something about life in schools which cannot be measured. We have said that on numerous occasions from this side of the House. That is the main purpose of the present debate, which in some respects is a repetition of what has been said previously.

I am not against measurement. I believe that some things can be measured. On a number of occasions I have mentioned to the House that I was a local education chief officer so I had to deal with finances, furniture, carpeting, staffing and so on. I have considerable experience of all that. But that is not what we are debating at the present time. What I say now will in some part be a repetition of what I have said before. The effectiveness of a school is measured by what is taught in the whole curriculum and by the quality of life in that school.

During the debates on this Bill a Member from the Government Benches said—these are not the exact words but are something like it—that when he (or she) walked into a school he could get the atmosphere of a school. That is correct to a very large extent—if not on every occasion, certainly on many occasions. That is why I use the words quality of life. Parents and the community have a right to clear information about this. By "this" I mean the whole aspect of school life. Assessment of pupils' progress is important because it ought to encourage pupils to learn, inform parents and teachers of progress and provide feedback on achievement.

I suggest that that last point is fairly obvious. It is essential that schools become increasingly effective with all their pupils. This need will not be met by a simple focus on examination results or other such "raw data" which disregard the different starting points from which each school begins. I feel that that is a fairly fundamental basis which the House ought to consider.

Crude league tables will play one school against another—we all know that that happens from time to time—forcing each to compete in the market place for education. That will undermine co-operation between parents and teachers and support for strong links between the school and local community.

Under the terms of the Bill it is difficult to see how schools which are doing a very good job with their pupils can promote themselves and thus motivate their pupils. Schools will try to change their pupil intake rather than become effective with the pupils that they have. That sounds terrible, but again I have to say that it happens from time to time. The last thing that we ought to do in this measure is to encourage it. It offers a recipe for lack of parental choice and a poor quality school system for the majority of pupils.

Such a crude approach to measuring educational standards is of no benefit to the school, teachers, parents or pupils. If the central focus of the Bill is to raise pupil achievement and improve the effectiveness of schools, it is essential that the Secretary of State gives emphasis to measures of effectiveness. Measuring effectiveness encourages schools to concentrate on the learning needs of their pupils rather than simply give priority to academic achievement.

Quality and effectiveness are inextricably linked to policy decisions relating to resourcing, training and other support services—measures which we on these benches have urged not only in this Bill but on many previous occasions with other legislation. Yet there has been no indication from the Government whether the information required under Clause 16 will relate to any of those issues.

The Bill will leave schools to compete against each other in league tables of academic achievement without the necessary resources to supply a rounded education for their pupils. Truancy rates will be measured without providing the essential funding to encourage pupils to develop and continue in education. Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that this is Adult Learning Week. We are talking not just about school learning now but about further and higher education, and vocational and non-vocational learning. This week learning is the focus of attention countrywide. The implications in the Bill are such as to list the destination of school leavers without taking into account the socio-economic background of the pupil intake.

Parents and others ought to be informed about the success of the school which their child attends. But the publication of league tables serves political and not educational purposes. The aggregation and publication of test results will provide a partial and skewed picture of achievement and denigrate the other educational activities of the school. They will undermine the effectiveness of schools in achieving the best educational standards for all children.

I feel very strongly about a number of issues in the Bill, not least the matter of school inspection, on which there have been long debates. For what it is worth, I feel especially strongly about this issue. I support the amendment and hope that we shall obtain widespread support throughout the House.

Lord Elton

My Lords, Clause 16 into which this amendment strikes is the clause which gives the Secretary of State power to make regulations requiring the proprietor of each independent school and the governing body of schools of various types to publish information. The purposes for which it is to be published are set out in subsection (3). Paragraph (b) of that subsection is the subject of the amendment. In that paragraph one is directed to look at the power of the Secretary of State to direct those bodies to publish information to: increase public awareness of the quality of the education provided by the schools concerned and of the educational standards achieved in those schools"— or in the words of the amendment: effectiveness of those schools in achieving the best educational standards". I am not sure that there is so much between us as has been suggested or might be deduced from the tone of the debate. The Bill directs the Secretary of State to base such information on fact which has come to be known as raw data. As my noble friend Lord Renfrew pointed out, any data which is not raw is regarded as cooked, unless it is mediated on criteria which are generally agreed.

Such criteria do not at present exist for publication of the information in a form of the kind that will flow from this part of the Bill. Effectively this is the advertisement by the proprietors or governors of a school on the merits of their school and it has to be held down to earth by reference to the facts. But if the facts are to be interpreted and not "cooked", there must be an agency to do it. The amendment does not provide that agency. It therefore gives ground for considerable dispute.

There is already an agency in the Bill and publication is already required. The agency is the inspectorate. The information which needs to be interpreted is information about the effectiveness of the school. The function of the inspectors is primarily to judge the effectiveness of the school and to make a statement about it. They are not parti pris. I believe that they are able to address data and improve them without "cooking" them. I hope that noble Lords opposite will agree that that is the way forward rather than as in the amendment.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, I should like to speak against the amendment, largely because of the word "effectiveness". It seems to me that that word again drags us into the old story of raw data versus value added, together with the supporters of each.

I do not know whether the noble Baroness, Lady David, and the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, have seen a report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate which was published yesterday. I must confess that I have not read it. However I have read the report of the report in today's Telegraph. The report admits that some 700,000 children in a fifth of our primary schools are not learning to read properly because they are poorly taught in badly organised classrooms. It goes on, in effect, to give support to those who would speak against this amendment. It admits, as we should all expect, that poor standards are most prevalent in areas of marked social and economic disadvantage. However—this is the important point—the report emphasises that in HMI's opinion the quality of teaching rather than home background was the most important influence. I should like to quote briefly from the report: About half the schools serving areas of social disadvantage achieved satisfactory or better standards and the quality of teaching they provided was often outstanding … The contrast between the quality of teaching in the best and the worst classes of similar aged pupils in broadly comparable circumstances was very stark indeed". Another important point that the report makes—it was published yesterday—is that the impact of parental support on reading and other standards is "huge". I use the word in the report. In almost all the schools in which children's progress was good there were signs that parents took an active interest in helping them to read at home. Therefore an important aspect in the debate between those who support raw data and those who want the data "cooked" is the aspect of parental support even in the most deprived areas. I do not know how important that aspect is in the vocabulary of the "cookers"—and that brings me back to the word "effectiveness" and the difficulty that I have with the amendment.

8 p.m.

Lord Peston

My Lords, perhaps I may intervene briefly on two matters. I agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, said but the arguments seem to me to lead to the value added concept. I do not understand how they lead to the "raw data" view.

All data are calculated, manipulated and presented. It is a common fallacy to say that raw data—or whatever one cares to call them—have objectivity and are non-controversial. There are no such things as non-controversial data. The Government stake their claim on raw data.

Perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness who speaks for the Government whether she saw a fascinating document published in the Financial Times on Saturday called The FT Schools 500. As one who is obsessed with league tables, averages and so on, I have been scrutinising the document almost non-stop since Saturday. It does exactly what the Government envisage: it presents raw data—namely the A-level results of the independent schools in this country —and ranks them. It presents a league table. The interesting factor is that, for example, Bradford Grammar School ranks only 66th in the country. Harrow—a school well known to your Lordships—ranks 82nd; Marlborough ranks 108th, Wellington 129th, Highgate 225th and Stowe 271st.

The Government believe that such data are relevant to parental choice, school assessment and so on. I hold the Financial Times in the highest esteem. That is the best objective job that it can do, but the outcome is ridiculous and preposterous. I do not know whether there are any old boys from any of those or other listed schools present in your Lordships' House, but they will not accept such ranking. I see the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, shakes his head. I guess that he went to Eton; but that school ranks only 7th. It is getting close to relegation from the first division.

Such data are absurd; they are absurd with regard to independent schools. Will the noble Baroness who speaks for the Government take note of what Peter Owen, the headmaster of Rushmoor and chairman of the Independent Schools Association, said? What he said is not very different from what some noble Lords opposite said. He stated that two C grades and a D grade from one pupil may be a far greater achievement for the individual and for the school than a very bright pupil who achieves three A grades. A pupil with good grades from one school may have received a very narrow education compared with another pupil with the same grades from a different school. He states finally—it sums up our whole case and indicates how absurd the Government's position is—that in the end a good school academically is not one with the best results but one which gets the most out of its pupils in all ways, whatever their ability.

That is the exact point that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, made. That is precisely what will be destroyed by league tables. That is what is destroyed in the report of the Financial Times on independent schools. The Government ought to consider the matter again. Their view leads to the opposite conclusion from the one that they reach. There is a better way to present the data.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I spoke at length on the matter in Committee. I demonstrated our anxiety about relying purely on raw data in the presentation of league tables. I do not wish to speak at great length now. However, as my noble friend Lord Peston said, it is important to consider the value added aspect. One must consider what a school contributes towards the education of its pupils rather than simply measuring the ability of those pupils.

I quoted from a number of head teachers from independent schools. They share the Labour Party's view about the matter and are extremely anxious about the Government's intentions. I also attempted at some length to explain that the methodology to measure pupil intakes, progress over time and pupils' performance on leaving—in other words to indicate the value added aspect—is now available.

The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, argued that there is no agreed procedure. I am sorry to have to say to the noble Lord that he is completely wrong about that.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, perhaps I may intervene. I wish to make this point clear. Who agrees with the procedure? That is the point. We refer to measures which involve an element of subjectivity. The noble Lord, Lord Peston, is quite right: no data can be regarded as objective in every sense. When the noble Baroness states that the procedures are agreed, they may be agreed by one or many segments of the education profession, but are they universally agreed? Those may be very controversial issues.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I have to repeat what I said. The answer is that there is now an agreed methodology. The noble Baroness shakes her head. I should be very happy to arrange a seminar for the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, and anyone else on the Government Benches who would like to attend. The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, referred to Professors Goldstein and Nuttall, both of whom have been colleagues at two different periods of my life. I am sure that they would both be delighted to provide a tutorial for anyone who wishes to come.

At Committee stage I mentioned that multi-level modelling is the approach now being used by academics. Three separate studies have used the approach. The Audit Commission, the AMA and the National Commission on Education are all agreed that it is a reasonable methodology. Of course there is some subjectivity in any data. However, the data that emerge from studies using that method are no more subjective than simply presenting raw data and they provide much more information.

Various disparaging remarks were made in Committee about the work of social scientists in this area. Suggestions were made that parents would not want such information or would not understand it. I believe that that was patronising. I do not say that parents would understand the fairly sophisticated techniques that need to be used to obtain the information, but once presented the information is perfectly comprehensible. I thought that there was a rather ostrich-like debate in Committee. We are having somewhat of a repetition of that today. Noble Lords opposite seem to reject important advances in knowledge and understanding in a way that I find shocking. As a social scientist I was also a little hurt.

I wish to make three points. Parents should not be given misleading information about the quality of education provided in their local schools. Teachers should not be able to shelter behind misleading information. I regret to say that league tables based on raw data will allow them to do so. Inspectors and advisers need to have the very best information that is available to monitor standards and to work to bring the below average school to the standard of the above average school. We now have the possibility to do that. However, in Committee the Government seemed to dismiss the value of that approach even though they accepted it in relation to the FE sector. I cannot understand why they are being so inconsistent. Perhaps the Minister will explain the different approach in the further education legislation from that now being adopted in this Bill.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I never cease to be amazed at the length to which noble Lords opposite will go to ensure that raw data do not find their way into the public domain. The noble Baroness, Lady David, opened—

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, perhaps the Minister will allow me to intervene. It was made perfectly clear at Second Reading and in Committee that we were in favour of raw data being published. But we have been arguing that it is very important to publish additional information that is based on a more sophisticated analysis of that data.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, this amendment actually rules out raw data. As was said by the noble Baroness in opening, it does not remove the powers of the 1980 and the 1988 Acts to require the publication but it removes the new powers that we are taking in the Bill to provide comprehensive comparative tables of raw data. The clause is needed in order to allow that publication.

The noble Earl, Lord Baldwin—I take him on what he said rather than for the profession to which he belongs—said, "We want the raw data". The amendment removes that requirement by taking from the Bill the words, "educational standards achieved in those schools".

We have discussed the amendment almost as though raw data was the only information to be put into the public arena for parents. The Bill before the House contains a great deal more than the provision in Clause 16. In addition to annual meetings, annual reports, action plans, follow-up action plans and information on every aspect of school life, there will be systematic and regular inspections by HMI and the full publication of those reports. All that information is available in the arena. In addition, we have Clause 16 which will allow the publication of comparative tables. They will be another piece of the jigsaw which makes up a comprehensive raft of information allowing people to make judgments.

We debated this matter at some length during the Committee stage of the Bill and there is little to add to what was said then. The Government are not opposed to the publication of value added information provided that it is securely based, readily understood and calculated according to generally accepted principles. All of the researchers cited by noble Lords opposite in that debate, including those employed by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, the National Commission on Education and the Audit Commission, recognise that technical difficulties remain in calculating value added on the basis of the information currently available. The difficulties are those to which I pointed before; namely, the availability of universally comparable measures of attainment at different ages and stages and the problems of tracking a given cohort, for example, between GCSE and advanced or AS level.

So we are simply not yet in a position to require the publication of value added information. And we are certainly not prepared to wait until that position is reached before requiring the publication of the basic information from which value added can in due course be calculated. The noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, was very clear that his commission is fully in favour of the publication of raw data as well as value added information. That is removed from this Bill. There is no reputable case to be made for keeping this information away from parents. I believe that noble Lords on all sides accept that position.

When the national curriculum assessment arrangements are in full operation pupils will be assessed at 7, 11, 14 and 16 on a consistent 10-level scale against the same national targets in all foundation subjects. That will make it possible for the first time to calculate securely the value added by schools as between one key stage and the next. But, as noble Lords are aware, it will be some time before we reach that position. In the meantime, researchers will continue to work with the raw data—which we shall be placing in their hands —to develop various ways of indicating educational value added and to be able as the amendment wishes to have a statistical factor put to effectiveness. The Department of Education and Science will keep in touch with this work so that when a consensus begins to emerge on the best way of proceeding we shall be able to consider introducing a requirement to publish the appropriate information.

I must repeat that this is no argument for failing to publish as soon as possible the information which is available. It would be quite wrong to wait any longer before putting more raw data in the public domain in readily usable form. The parents who take an interest in this data will recognise that schools take pupils from various catchment areas and of varying ability. They will know that the information in comparative tables is only part of the evidence, as I have already pointed out. I have referred to a raft of evidence that will be available simultaneously to these tables. They will form a rounded judgment based on a whole raft of factors, including prospectuses and the reports of other parents as well as visits to the school and discussions with its staff and pupils. They deserve the fullest possible information on all aspects of interest to them. I cannot imagine that noble Lords are seriously arguing that parents cannot be trusted to use this information wisely and so should not be allowed access to it.

I shall not repeat the arguments. I believe that the amendment should not be accepted.

8.15 p.m.

Baroness David

My Lords, the Minister has misrepresented the Opposition's position. She has repeatedly said that it does not want the publication of raw data. However, the Opposition has said that it is agreeable to the publication of raw data but that it wants other information to be published as well. I suppose that the Minister is suggesting that by the removal of the words, "educational standards achieved in those schools", and inserting the word, "effectiveness" we do not want the inclusion of exam results, and so forth. In fact, those powers are contained in the 1988 Act. Section 22(5) (a) of the Education Reform Act requires schools to provide information to parents of the national curriculum assessment results. The 1980 Act requires almost all the information for which Clause 16 is asking.

It was suggested to me that Clause 16 was an entirely unnecessary addition to the Bill because it asked for almost everything that is provided for in the 1980 and 1988 Acts and that it is a demonstration of the parent's charter. Perhaps I may read from the list of items in the 1980 Act about which information is required to be given. It includes exam policies, exam results, the way in which the curriculum is differentiated, homework requirements, pastoral arrangements, discipline and societies. The exam policies and the exam results are asked for.

We are happy to have the raw data published, but we also wish to have published other signs of what has happened in the school in order to show the quality of the education there, the effectiveness of the school and how it has improved. It must show what the school has done for the children who have attended. I am not knowledgeable about the latest educational research but I am certain that my noble friend Lady Blackstone is well informed. She has said that research has been carried out and information is available, and I am sure that that is true.

There has been a great deal of support from all sides of the House for the spirit of the amendment. Indeed, I had thought that the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, might have been construed to give some support. However, at this time of night I shall not press the amendment and beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 53 not moved.]

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 54: Page 11, line 9, at end insert: ("( ) In exercising his functions under paragraph (b) above the Secretary of State shall ensure that any individual citizen shall have access to a process of appeal whereby may be challenged any substantial inaccuracy in any information published, or, where appropriate submitted for publication, under subsection (6) below").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the purpose of the amendment is to provide a process of appeal in cases of substantial inaccuracies in the information published or submitted for publication under Clause 16. Information that is published in order to assist parents and the public at large informing opinions about particular schools should be free from any serious inaccuracies. By providing a process of appeal, the amendment should make schools realise that the provision of information is an important matter and that it should be undertaken with great care.

Without intending to provide information that is seriously inaccurate, I am afraid to say that schools frequently provide poor information. That has been my experience. Local education authority officers who must check information returns from schools—for instance, the annual schools census on Form 7—know that very well. No doubt the DES statistics branch, now the analytical services branch, also knows that. In the light of all the pressures on schools, perhaps it is not surprising that serious errors occur. That is not because the schools concerned set out to mislead but as a result of the pressure of work or merely through carelessness.

The amendment covers all information which schools provide. Therefore, serious inaccuracies in a school prospectus about the curriculum—for example, the provision of religious education or sex education, the policy about entering pupils for public examinations and all subject choices available in the sixth form—are covered by the amendment.

As the Bill now stands, a parent has no right to challenge any of the information produced by a school although I presume that an LEA would have power to check information under its right to inspect, which is now established in the Bill.

I give an example which illustrates the problems with school-produced information. Local education authorities collect from schools in September information for the DES annual school examination survey. One local education authority in North London compared that data with the information supplied electronically by the National Consortium for Examination Results—the NCER—and found that only two of its 10 secondary schools had managed to get correct the number of pupils with five or more GCSE passes at grades A to C. None of the errors was great; and they were all due to mistakes by the schools. However, if the school-produced data were put into a league table on the basis of the percentage of pupils with five or more GCSE results at grades A to C, the positions of five of the schools would change, compared with their positions when using the NCER data. Therefore, substantial changes can occur in the league tables when the wrong data is supplied. This amendment will allow for an appeal against any information published by a school so that inaccuracies can be corrected. I beg to move.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, we shall naturally wish to ensure that the information published is complete and accurate. But we believe that the methods commonly used to ensure the accuracy of published information will also be sufficient under the new arrangements, without the need for a specific new appeals process.

The Bill provides for governing bodies and LEAs to have a duty to provide information as prescribed in regulations. We would expect those bodies to act responsibly, by ensuring to the best of their ability that it is accurate. The usual checks will be built into the process of data collection. The information published in comparative tables will, in the case of maintained schools, relate directly to the information which those schools publish in their prospectus and annual governors' report as prescribed in regulations made under Section 8 of the Education Act 1980 and Section 22 of the Education Reform Act 1988. Regulations in respect of examination results in particular have been in force since 1981 and we have no evidence of their abuse. If such abuse were brought to our attention, we should have powers to act against any defaulting governing body.

It would be extraordinary to create a right of appeal against the actions of the school or LEA. I would remind your Lordships that an appeal in statute is more significant than a complaint. It generally requires the creation of formal machinery to hear both sides of the case and come up with a judgment. We would certainly not wish to go down that route. If any abuse is brought to the attention of the department by complaint or otherwise, it will be fully investigated. If evidence of abuse or incompetence were uncovered, the local authority or school would be asked to rectify the error which had been identified and to publish a correction. If it refused to do so, a public direction could be made under Sections 68 or 99 of the 1944 Act requiring it to publish corrected information.

In the case of an independent school, the Bill allows for the ultimate sanction of removal from the register for supplying inaccurate information. Those are stiff penalties and the information regulations are not and will not be taken lightly. The noble Baroness quoted instances that she has found, but the amendment does not extend to information in prospectuses or reports. It refers only to information provided under Clause 16 and to that which will be published in comparative tables. We hope that the noble Baroness will accept that there are sufficient means of taking action and that she will not press the amendment.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply. I thought it was a little complacent, and I am not altogether convinced that we can expect responsible action from all schools nor, as I have said already, can we expect all schools to get it right, even if they are trying to be responsible. I am somewhat reassured that there will be full investigations when complaints are brought to the department, that abuses will be looked into and that local authorities or the schools concerned will be asked to publish corrections. If they refuse to do so, further action will be taken. I am glad to have that on record, and I believe that it will be necessary to monitor that. In the light of the answer that I have received, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 55: Page 11, line 43, leave out subsection (10).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this rather technical amendment is to elicit information from the Government. We are referring to Section 16 which is to do with the powers of the Secretary of State to require information. As the House will be well aware, the Secretary of State has many such powers; for example, Section 92 of the 1944 Act, Section 8 of the 1980 Education Act, Section 56 of the 1986 Education (No. 2) Act and Section 22 of the Education Reform Act. Those are all sections which give the Secretary of State power to demand information.

I have two questions. Will the noble Baroness tell the House, or write to me in due course, and say why the opportunity was not taken in this Act to consolidate all the legislation to which I have referred on the provision of information? That seems sensible.

That leads me to the inverse question which is that the answer to that question must have something to do with subsection (10) which I want deleted. That subsection almost reads as though the Government have no idea how to fit this piece of legislation into all the previous legislation so they thought they should include a fail-safe clause which says that if there is any conflict of interest between all the information requirements, they legislate that there is no conflict. Do the Government have any inkling of what conflict may arise from subsection (10)? It is a technical drafting point but it is interesting because information provision is extremely important and will become increasingly so. It may be that the department did not have time to consolidate the different Acts. I should like to know the answer, but I can wait if the noble Baroness is not able to tell me at this moment. I beg to move.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, while doubting the need for this amendment, I believe it gives me the opportunity to put a rather general question to the Minister. This question concerns the guidelines for and the general standard of the inspections which will be carried out under the Bill.

As I understand it, it will be for the new chief inspector to publish for consultation what is tentatively becoming known as an inspection code for all inspectors to follow. It may be that I have missed some part of the debate which concerns this requirement, but I should be grateful if my noble friend would confirm that the new chief inspector will be required to publish his guidelines or inspection code, first for consultation and then for inspectors to follow so that all inspections have a core of common practice which I am sure will be helpful to everyone.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Peston, made an extremely important point about consolidation. That is a good point. At present, we are working on a comprehensive consolidation measure for education legislation at large. It is timely that that should be done.

I assure the noble Lord that there is nothing remotely sinister in the subsection which he wishes to be removed by the amendment. The subsection adds nothing at all to the powers of the Secretary of State in respect of the collection of information, but it makes clear—and it is for the avoidance of doubt that it should make clear—that none of his existing powers relating to his right to make regulations in connection with the provision of information is affected by the new powers given under Clause 16. The subsection is necessary in a legal sense to ensure clarity in respect of what the Secretary of State may or may not do.

I think that, in a sense, the two points are linked and, because legislation is all over the place, this makes it absolutely clear and beyond doubt.

In response to the question posed by my noble friend Lord Pearson, perhaps I may say that it will be for the chief inspector to decide how to draw up his guidance. However, he is obliged—and this is the point in which my noble friend is interested—to issue guidance under Clause 2 of the Bill.

Lord Peston

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. I am particularly interested to hear that the department is thinking about consolidation. It is not a party matter; it is something which we urgently need in order to understand the legislation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.30 p.m.

Clause 17 [Information as to schools and pupils: Scotland]:

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 56: Page 12, line 38, after ("schools") insert ("and the provision for special educational needs in those schools").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 56 seeks to ensure that information relating to schools includes information regarding special educational needs. It is supported by a large number of organisations interested in that field—the Scottish Society for the Mentally Handicapped, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish Consumer Council, among others.

Clause 17 empowers the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring schools in Scotland to publish information about themselves and their pupils. It is important that that power is used in a way which enhances the rights of parents of children with special educational needs and does not jeopardise provision in schools for such children.

One of the purposes of publishing information is to assist parents in choosing schools. Parents of children with special needs should be as entitled as other parents to the kinds of information which will assist them in making their choice. Often parents are faced with difficult decisions regarding whether to seek a placement in a mainstream school or opt for a special school. The choice may be even wider for a child with special needs. They may have the right to select a special school outside the local authority sector and request that the local authority pay for it. Parents must be able to find out what extra help is available in a mainstream school and to compare it with other services that may be on offer. Such information would also be helpful in enabling the overall level of provision of special needs to be planned more effectively.

It is important that the publication of information regarding schools in any kind of league table should not act as a disincentive to the provision for special needs. Many students with special needs will be unlikely to obtain formal academic qualifications or go on to gainful employment. Information which is restricted to those points will not show how well such pupils have been provided for. There may therefore be a temptation to direct resources away from that area.

The amendment was rejected by the Government at Committee stage in another place. They argued that some pupils with special needs were capable of high levels of achievement and that it would he wrong to place them in a separate category. But that was the point of the amendment. By definition pupils with special educational needs require special types of provision. It is only reasonable that information regarding that provision should be made available. The amendment does not allow schools to doctor or modify the information relating to pupils in general. It simply seeks to add to the information already provided.

The Government's rejection of the amendment in another place is surprising because they recently amended the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Bill to provide that information published by the new boards of further education shall include the educational provision made for students with learning difficulties and the facilities provided for such students. The amendment seeks to do the same for schools. I hope therefore that the Government will accept it. I beg to move.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

My Lords, I should like briefly to support the amendment so ably and comprehensively moved by the noble Baroness, Lady David, and to reiterate what she said. In view of the fact that the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Bill was amended and contains the provision, I hope that the Minister will be able to say something positive in relation to the amendment.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Strathclyde)

My Lords, it is a pleasure to join the debate at this stage.

I am grateful for the way in which the noble Baroness, Lady David, introduced the amendment. As she said, the amendment would provide that, in making regulations about school information, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland should do so with a view to increasing public awareness of the provision for special educational needs in schools. I am sympathetic to the view that performance tables should take account of this factor, and that the provision made for special education needs is made known to parents and to the public at large.

At Committee stage my noble friend Lady Blatch accepted, in response to my noble friend Lady Faithfull and on behalf also of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, that the comparative tables would be improved by the addition of information in respect of the number of pupils in each school, with a record of special educational needs and a statement as to whether the school is a special school. I was later able to reassure my noble friend Lady Brigstocke that such information would indeed be included.

The consultation paper on information for parents, issued last week by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, proposes the inclusion of this information in relation to special educational needs. In the light of that assurance, and earlier assurances given by my noble friend Lady Blatch, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady David, is able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness David

My Lords, perhaps I can ask a question for elucidation. Can I be quite clear where the information was given. Is it in a consultation paper?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I gather that some information was given at Committee stage. More to the point, it has now been included in a consultation paper issued last week. I believe that a copy was sent to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael.

Baroness David

My Lords, that was a moderately satisfactory response. I hope that something positive will happen with the consultation paper and that it does not simply sit somewhere so that nobody sees it. That happens all too easily. It is not like provisions in regulations; it is rather different.

At any rate, I shall read again what the Minister said and hope that I am as satisfied as he obviously thinks I should be. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy, for her support. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 18 [Interpretation]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 57: Page 14, line 15, leave out ("section 9(5)") and insert ("paragraph 1 of Schedule 2").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 57 was spoken to with Amendment No. 5. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 20 [Financial provisions]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 58: Page 15, line 27, leave out ("5(3) or 12(4)") and insert ("or 5(3)").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 58 was spoken to with Amendment No. 5. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 21 [Short title, commencement, extent etc.]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 59: Page 15, line 32, leave out ("(4)") and insert ("(6)").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 59 was spoken to with Amendment No. 5. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.