HL Deb 03 March 1997 vol 578 cc1504-70

3.12 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley):

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

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Henley.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


[Amendment No. 112A not moved.]

Clause 26 [LEA plans relating to children with behavioural difficulties]:

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 113: Page 23, line 15, at end insert ("having regard to the contents of any guidance issued by the authority to schools in its area in connection with their responsibilities under sections 154 or 306A, and to any written statements produced by those schools in accordance with those responsibilities.").

The noble Baroness said: We are still on behaviour and discipline policies. The purpose of this amendment is to make sure that there is a sensible connection between disciplinary policies adopted by schools and support plans of the relevant LEA.

Clauses 19 and 20, which we discussed last week, introduce a new duty for school governors to develop a policy setting out a framework for discipline within the school and for head teachers to plan their disciplinary strategy within the governors' policy.

Clause 26 sets out a duty for the LEA to review and consult upon its plans for supporting schools in the exercise of good discipline; and to set out the arrangements it will make to deal with excluded pupils.

It is clearly a matter of common sense that those plans and policies should dovetail in order to provide consistent and coherent arrangements for the whole area. In particular, it is important that this consistency and coherence will operate between the authority and each of its maintained schools. This could be more difficult to achieve if the demands made of the authority by different schools were in conflict with each other. It is also desirable that, within a given area, there is a degree of consistency of approach between different schools. Clearly it is right and proper that each individual governing body should have control over its own policy. The legislation does of course require governing bodies to have regard to guidance by the Secretary of State. It should also be incumbent upon governing bodies to take account of the policies of neighbouring schools and develop their policies in the light of the support plans issued by the LEA.

This amendment therefore builds in a reference to the issue of guidance from the authority to schools in its area in pursuance of its responsibilities and an encouragement for all parties to work together. It mirrors the proposal in Amendment No. 95 that governing bodies should contact LEAs when developing their discipline policies.

When this issue was debated in another place, the Minister made heavy weather of this simple amendment, which is designed simply to clarify the Bill and ensure greater co-operation among relevant parties—all the schools and the LEAs. The only argument against its inclusion seemed to be that because consultation is required, co-ordination would automatically follow. That is an optimistic stance and one which is not always supported by experience. This Bill would be strengthened by the amendment and I hope very much that the Minister will see fit to accept it and realise the good sense behind it. I beg to move.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I wish to support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady David. It is all part of the same wish to try to ensure the greatest possible co-operation and co-ordination among the various partners in education in the way in which they approach difficult subjects. I agree with what the noble Baroness said. Experience teaches us that co-ordination and co-operation are not always the same and that co-ordination is extremely important in those matters.

Lord Henley

Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness that we agree with what I suspect are the main intentions behind the amendment. However, I hope to be able to persuade her that it is not necessary to amend the Bill because those concerns are already met by the clause as it stands.

Clearly, an LEA's behaviour support plan should reflect the approach which local schools take to discipline and behaviour issues. Equally clearly, it is essential for the LEA and schools to work together constructively to ensure a consistent and coherent approach to those issues. Schools are at the forefront, after parents, in promoting good pupil behaviour and tackling indiscipline and disruption. That is recognised in Clauses 19 and 20, which will ensure that governing bodies agree the framework for schools' discipline policies, and that those are widely publicised.

Clause 26 acknowledges the need for LEAs to support schools in that role: subsection (2) of the proposed Section 527A specifies that every LEA's plan must cover the advice and resources it makes available to local schools in relation to behaviour problems. That would include any guidance which the LEA might issue in connection with schools' responsibilities in relation to discipline policies under Clauses 19 and 20 of this Bill. Indeed, it ought to go wider than the amendment and cover any guidance or advice which the authority issues to schools in relation to behaviour and discipline. We shall be making that clear in the Secretary of State's guidance to which, under Section 527A(6), LEAs will need to have regard. I hope that that meets the first part of the amendment.

The second part of the noble Baroness's amendment would require an LEA to take account of discipline statements adopted by local schools under the provisions of Clauses 19 and 20. We believe that this point too is already addressed in Clause 26. Subsection (4) of new Section 527A will enable the Secretary of State to prescribe by regulations a list of interested bodies whom LEAs must consult in preparing their plans. And LEAs will have to take account of the responses of those consulted.

I give the noble Baroness and the Committee an assurance now that it is our firm intention that LEAs will be required to consult local schools. That will ensure that schools will have a say—not just in relation to their own policies, but also in relation to the full range of the LEA's provision for tackling behaviour problems.

I hope that the explanation and assurances I have given today are sufficient to persuade the noble Baroness both that the Government take those issues very seriously, and that they are fully addressed in the Bill as it stands. I hope therefore that, on reflection, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness David

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, for her support and the Minister for his response. His response was, of course, rather what I expected but the Minister has given certain assurances that there will be consultation. However, I hope that it will be both ways—that is, between the schools and the LEAs and the LEAs and the schools and that similar policies will apply within a given area. I believe that the Bill will work much more satisfactorily if that is so. Granted the assurances that the Minister has given, I am happy at this moment to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 114: Page 23, line 15, at end insert— ("(2) The statement shall in particular have regard to—

  1. (a) the principle established in section 316 of this Act that children with special educational needs (including behavioural difficulties) should where possible be educated in schools which are not special schools, and
  2. (b) any plans made by the local authority or any health authority for children's services in the area.".").

The noble Baroness said: In moving the above amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 115. Clause 26 requires LEAs to prepare statements setting out the arrangements that they will make in connection with the education of children with behavioural difficulties. In general, the clause is to be welcomed but that does not mean that it is incapable of improvement. Amendment No. 114 seeks, first, to ensure that children are not excluded from school just because they have special educational needs. Indeed, we are seeking to see some of circular 10/94 actually on the face of the Bill. That is because of the discrepancies in practice between those schools which do not exclude those whom they should and those who do exclude even when they should not. Ofsted's report on exclusions in 1995–96 drew attention to those problems. We feel that the discrepancies require a more binding directive to be placed on the face of the Bill.

The second objective of Amendment No. 114 is to ensure that the LEA co-operates with the other agencies, such as social services, to address all the problems of children with learning or behavioural difficulties and thus enable them to remain in mainstream schools. In the ordinary daily experience of many authorities, it is not just the LEA which can bring to bear important aids in the drive to keep children with special educational needs in the mainstream sector. The second part of the amendment is directed at that concern.

Amendment No. 115 would amend subsection (3) of Clause 26. As it stands, subsection (3) says: The statement shall also deal with the interaction between the arrangements", made by the LEA in the statement and those made by its policies towards pupils with special educational needs. While we welcome the acknowledgement that the policy and the practice should at least interact, we believe that Amendment No. 115 would strengthen the provisions of subsection (3) by requiring consistency between the LEA's statement about the children with behavioural difficulties on the one hand and, on the other, the LEA's policies as they affect children with special needs. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I should like to express my support for the amendments. I shall speak briefly to Amendment No. 115. The measures proposed in Clause 26(3) requiring LEAs to prepare a statement setting out the support that they will provide in respect of children with behavioural difficulties ensure that the statement required of the authority about the arrangements for supporting good behaviour and discipline should take account of the "interaction" between arrangements for such pupils and its policy with regard to pupils with special educational needs arising from behavioural difficulties.

The measures are designed to promote good standards of discipline and behaviour and, in intent, are obviously welcome. However, where the measures fall short of being effective is in the weakness of the requirement. The word "interaction" recognises that there is a connection between pupils who are identified as having special needs associated with behavioural difficulties and the disciplinary problems which may arise from a similar cause. It suggests that there should be some consistency of practice between the treatment of individuals who come to the attention of the authority by different routes, but it remains weak in its formulation.

It is desirable that the policies adopted by an authority to discharge its responsibilities under different parts of the Bill should be informed by a similar approach. Amendment No. 115 would strengthen the Bill by seeking to ensure that the authority's statement is consistent with its overall policies and practice with regard to SENs. It is likely that local educational authorities would wish to do so in any event and we fully recognise that fact. However, we believe that the amendment would put the matter beyond doubt.

Lord Addington

I believe that both amendments are very sensible. First, they try to bring children with behavioural problems into mainstream schools where it is possible to do so. I believe that we can take it from that that the intention is not to have such children there when it is damaging to other mainstream pupils, but it would stop such children being ghettoised. Surely that is something that we should strive to do for the simple reason that if you remove children from mainstream schools they have great difficulty in getting back into such schools; indeed, their education almost inevitably suffers.

Secondly, when it comes to co-ordination, if you have a behavioural problem which is caused by something like hyperactivity, you must take into account such factors as health authority plans and programming because it is a medical problem which is leading to the

educational problem. I hope that the Minister will be able to accept the amendments or at least give us a very firm assurance that they are unnecessary because the matter is already dealt with.

Lord Northbourne

While I agree with the proposed amendments in that support should be co-ordinated within the children's services plans, I should like to question the philosophy that we constantly hear from the Opposition Benches that it is always best for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties to remain within the mainstream. I simply want to say that that does not correspond with my experience. Indeed, children whom I encounter on holiday schemes from Tower Hamlets go to two different schools for EBD children—a day school, Weavers Field School, and a boarding school, Bowden House School. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the more severely damaged children who are sent to a boarding school make the fastest progress because they are separated from a continual "reinfection", so to speak, with the problems that they have encountered either in the home or in the street culture to which they return every day if they are in a day school or a mainstream school.

Lord Monkswell

In expressing support for the amendments, I do not believe that anyone is saying that there are no occasions when a child needs to be educated in a special school. One of the things that the amendments are saying is that, historically, we can recognise that there have been a number of children who have been to special schools and who would in fact have benefited from being in mainstream schools, with adequate support to enable them to flourish.

However, having said that, I should also like to add that, when we talk about children with behavioural difficulties separately from those with special educational needs, one of my concerns is that there is the risk that we may not recognise that those children have, almost by definition, special educational needs in that they have not learned what one might describe as the "normal modes of behaviour". I happen to believe that that sort of education is something which it is essential for schools to undertake; indeed, it is part of their remit not only to inculcate an academic education but also the whole range of social, personal and practical education which is so essential for young people growing up in a modern world.

If the Minister cannot accept the amendments, I hope that he will go some way towards persuading us that the problem of children with special educational needs will not be sidetracked or detracted from by describing them as just children with behavioural difficulties and, therefore, not really in need of support and assistance.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, I believe it will be helpful for me to stress that we are not seeking to impose a rigid policy on LEAs with regard to the way in which they treat pupils with special needs which lead to, or are connected with, behavioural problems.

It is a fact that Ofsted reported that the majority of children who are excluded from school have unmet special needs. Not all those needs will inevitably be behavioural in origin, but the symptom may have become behavioural. I refer to the example of the child with mild dyslexia who has above average intelligence but whose problem is not recognised and whose frustration at not being able to perform may lead to severe behaviour problems. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, that the circumstances of some children are such that they may be well adjusted to the home environment but they may have totally ill-adjusted social behaviour that makes them unable to function in mainstream education. Circumstances will vary but these children deserve to be treated as having special needs.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Henley

I think the noble Baroness would accept that she, myself, and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, are very much in agreement when we say that it is obviously not always right that every child should be integrated. As the code sets out—and as all the provisions following the 1993 Act have sought to do—every child should be looked at, whatever his special educational needs may be, in terms of whatever is the appropriate provision for that child within the resources available and all the other factors that LEAs have to take into account.

I start by saying to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, that I have considerable sympathy for these amendments but they seek to add detail to the framework for LEA support plans as set out in Clause 26. We have drawn that deliberately widely to ensure that the new plans encompass the fullest possible range of local arrangements for pupils with behaviour problems.

As regards Amendment No. 114, I believe it is not necessary. New Section 527A will already require LEAs in drawing up their statements to cover their arrangements for pupils with SEN who have behaviour problems. Those arrangements are subject to the existing legislation, including Section 316 of the 1996 consolidation Act. There is nothing in Clause 26 of the Bill which would relieve an LEA of its duties under that section. It follows, then, that any arrangements set out in an LEA's plan must, under Clause 26 as it stands, take account of those duties. There is absolutely no need to reinforce that in the way the amendment suggests.

Also on Amendment No. 114, I wholly agree that children's services plans are key documents. It is clearly important that LEA behaviour plans build on them, and that in turn children's services plans are influenced by the arrangements set out in LEAs' behaviour support plans; in other words, that all the different component parts of the authority talk together and co-operate. I can certainly give an assurance that we shall cover this issue fully in our guidance to LEAs. But given the variety and the range of local children's services, we do not believe it would be appropriate to have further specific requirements on the face of the Bill.

Amendment No. 115 does not require LEA support plans to say anything about links with SEN policies. Clause 26 as it stands requires the plans to deal with this. One could argue that the interaction is somewhat on the weak side. As regards that amendment, we agree that there is a clear need for an LEA's policies and practices in relation to special educational needs to dovetail closely with its arrangements as regards behaviour problems. Clause 26 already ensures they do so by specifying in new Section 527A(3) that that interaction must be covered in behaviour support plans. We shall emphasise that point again in our detailed guidance to LEAs on implementation of their new duty under this clause. Any inconsistency between an LEA's SEN policies and its behaviour support plan would become apparent when the plan was published. It would emerge in any Ofsted inspection of the LEA's services, as provided for by Clause 54 of the Bill which we shall reach at some point later this evening, or perhaps later today.

These considerations will provide powerful levers to promote consistent and well balanced provision for pupils with behaviour problems. While we are sympathetic to the intentions underlying the amendments of the noble Baroness, I hope she would agree that it is not necessary to add them to the Bill in this way.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I thank other Members of the Committee who have contributed to this debate, and the Minister for his response. It is always rather disappointing when the Minister tells us that he agrees with almost everything we have said but that he will not do anything about it. It seems to me that there may be provisions that ought to be on the face of the Bill but are not. However, given the circumstances, for the time being I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 115 not moved.]

Clause 26 agreed to.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale moved Amendment No. 116: After Clause 26, insert the following new clause— EXCEPTIONAL PROVISION OF EDUCATION IN PUPIL REFERRAL UNITS OR ELSEWHERE (" . In section 19(1) of the Education Act 1996 the words "or part-time" shall be omitted.").

The noble Baroness said: The aim of this amendment is to ensure that the LEAs' new duty to secure the provision of education for children who are out of school—which was introduced in the 1993 Education Act—is for full-time, not part-time education. I cannot understand how it could be considered right that pupils out of school should be entitled only to part-time education. After all, parents are under a duty to ensure that their children have full-time education, so how can this provision be different?

I am aware that in his letter of 14th February after the Second Reading debate, the Minister made the point to my noble friend Lady David that for some—he gave the example of school phobics or those who are in hospital—full-time education may not be appropriate. However, the definition of "full-time" does not have to correspond with school hours. It is a principle of long standing that full-time home tuition, for example, is much more intensive than a normal day's school work. Therefore, full-time education can be less than the 9.30 to 3.30 school day. Indeed, that is the case with schools in hospitals.

Nonetheless it is quite unacceptable that excluded pupils receive—as many do at present—only a few hours' home tuition a week. The Minister indicated that he also considered that unsatisfactory. Both the Home Office and the Audit Commission have documented the strong correlation between out-of-school pupils and offending. Surely this is an additional reason for trying to ensure that these pupils should receive full-time education. If pupils who have already demonstrated behaviour problems serious enough to be excluded are left unoccupied and without stimulation, can anyone be surprised that many of them come to the notice of the police? I hope that the Minister will be able to accept this new clause which would ensure that an excluded pupil is entitled to full-time education appropriate to his age, ability and aptitude. I beg to move.

Baroness David

I wish most strongly to support this amendment. I raised this matter at Second Reading. Excluded pupils need a great deal of education, more perhaps than those who have not been excluded. It is most important that they are educated properly. My noble friend Lady Ramsay has raised the point that it is very much excluded children who are the offenders and are constantly in trouble with the police. If they are not occupied, it is not surprising that that is so. It is the duty of parents, after all, to ensure that their children receive education. Therefore, I think the Government should do something to be much surer than they are now that proper education is provided for these children. That seems to me vitally important.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

In terms of benefit to society and to the individual, full-time education for those who have been excluded is paramount. I believe that to allow anything otherwise is a short-sighted policy. I am glad to support the amendment.

Baroness Warnock

I strongly support the amendment. I hope that it will not be rejected simply on the ambiguity of the expression of "full-time education". I understand entirely the difficulty. To calculate how many hours of education in the week are full-time equivalent would be difficult. On the other hand, we know that a number of children who have been excluded receive literally two hours teaching a week. That cannot be sufficient. I hope that some formula will exist—it may not be in the words of this amendment—to impose an obligation to provide supervision as well as education for children who have been excluded. If the amendment is not accepted, there must be some provision in the Bill to make it positively illegal to provide only two hours' education in the week for a child, with no further supervision or supervised activity.

Lord Tope

I add the strong support of the Liberal Democrat Benches. Many of the points have been made. It cannot be right that an excluded child is entitled to less education than a child in school. If anything perhaps it should be the other way round. As the noble Baroness said when moving the amendment, full-time education does not necessarily mean school hours between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. or 3.15 p.m. There are different ways of providing full-time education. Nevertheless, the quantity and quality of that education is at least as important—some would say more important—for children out of school as for those in school.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, said, I hope that the Minister is able to support the amendment, or at the very least will assure us that he will come back with some provision which meets the concerns expressed on all sides of the Chamber. We have not yet heard the Minister's views.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I support the amendment. For the majority of children for whom the measure is appropriate and in their interests, the primary aim is to reintegrate the child into mainstream education as soon as possible. Often alongside the behavioural problems is the problem of under-achievement. The more the child falls behind, the more difficult it becomes for him or her to be reintegrated into the peer group at the end of the process of additional help. Therefore we support the amendment.

Lord Henley

Again I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, on the importance and primary need for reintegration. I cannot say that I am not sympathetic to such an amendment, but there are two main arguments against it that I must address before I advise the Committee as to what I consider the best way forward.

First, I believe that an amendment of this kind could be over-prescriptive. Insisting on the provision of full-time education—we shall come back to that definition; it is important—for all pupils regardless of their circumstances could prohibit LEAs from making the most suitable provision in some cases.

Perhaps I may give one example. The noble Baroness. Lady Ramsay, referred to the letter I wrote to the noble Baroness, Lady David, about school phobics and those in hospitals. That is a concern for them. I can think of another. We know that the alienated 14 and 15 year-olds—those coming to the end of their compulsory school life—are at the peak ages for exclusions. The reason that many of those pupils are being excluded, that they are being difficult, is that they are disaffected from normal schooling. A number of LEAs seek to re-motivate such pupils by putting together a package of provisions according to their individual needs. That might involve a couple of days a week at an FE college and a couple of days' work experience. I do not know whether the words "full-time education" would count under that definition. But we know that that kind of provision often works in turning around young people who would otherwise be at risk of dropping out of mainstream society. It gives them a new interest in education, training and the world of work.

We know the effect and advantages of the world of work. I suspect that a provision of this kind could remove the power from LEAs to do that.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Perhaps I may press the noble Lord a little further. Pupils from many schools undertake work experience schemes. We are not dealing in that situation with excluded pupils but with those who are required to have a full-time education until they reach statutory school leaving age. To the best of my knowledge, no one has challenged the position that those pupils are not in receipt of full-time education. It is an integrated part of a good programme of full-time education for secondary school pupils in virtually all schools. It would be wrong to dismiss the amendment on that ground.

Lord Henley

I accept that many secondary school children undertake a degree of work experience. As I remember the figures—I stand to be corrected—something like 98 per cent. of secondary school children are doing a small amount—possibly a week or two weeks over the whole year—of work experience in their final year at school. I agree that that is important and a part of education.

However, we are talking about definitions. If we are considering some plan put forward by the local education authority to involve considerably more work experience than that which currently exists, that provision might be affected by the definition of full-time education. If we are to go down that route, we have to be wary and get our definitions right. That is why I come back to the clear difficulty which has to be addressed of the definition of full-time education.

There are a great many other important implications behind such an amendment. The point was not addressed by Members of the Committee but there would be significant cost implications if LEAs simply expanded their current pattern of out-of-school provision. We know that in its report on pupil referral units published in December 1995, Ofsted found that some provision was of both poor quality and extremely expensive. We do not wish to go down that route. It found that the best provision was often also the most cost-effective because those individuals could then be reintegrated into school. There is clearly some scope for more efficiency in this area of education expenditure.

While giving no commitments because, first, of the implication of high costs, and, secondly, the fundamental point on the definition of full-time education, I am advised that work experience in statutory terms is "authorised absence from schools" and is therefore permissible for a short period. But we are talking of much longer periods; and for that reason the definition of full-time education would not necessarily be appropriate.

Having mentioned the three points of cost, over-prescription and definition, perhaps I may say this to the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay. Without giving any commitment, I should be more than happy to consider whether officials can do something on an amendment like this, or whether the noble Baroness might wish to bring it back at Report stage. I shall not give commitments at this stage, but with the assurance that we might have further discussions between now and Report stage, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Before the Minister sits down, since his answer seems to imply that for once we are in agreement as regards what we seek to achieve, can he assure us that he supports the philosophy that children who are excluded through behavioural problems should be fully occupied during normal schools hours and that the Government will consider the amendment between now and Report? Does the Minister agree that we should seek to meet the objectives, the general principle and ethos underlying the amendment?

Lord Henley

I cannot accept the noble Baroness's precise words. I believe that the appropriate provision should be made by the LEA. Some provision is not as good as it might be. Some is extremely cost-effective and is very good. There might be times when pupils do not have to be occupied to the full length of the school day. The matter warrants further examination. However, I am not happy with this amendment on the three grounds that I gave: first, potential cost implications; secondly, over-prescription on the face of the Bill; and, thirdly, the definition of full-time education.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his remarks. I do not accept the three reasons he gave for the clause not being acceptable. Cost could be worked out—if necessary, within the framework of the capabilities of LEAs. I do not believe the amendment is over-prescriptive. I also think that one does not need to become so "hung up" on legal definitions of full-time education. I agree with my noble friend Lady Farrington that many provisions would qualify under the term "full-time" education and were certainly intended in the clause.

However, given the Minister's indication that he is willing to enter discussions about the matter, I am willing at this stage to withdraw the amendment. I hope that on Report we can arrive at a proposal that is mutually satisfactory and satisfactory to all sides of the House. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 116A: After Clause 26, insert the following new clause— HOME SCHOOL POLICY (" .—(1) The governing body of a county, voluntary, maintained special school or grant maintained school shall ensure that policies designed to promote partnership between home and school are pursued at the school. (2) The governing body shall in particular prepare, and from time to time review, a written statement "a home school policy" specifying

  1. (a) the school's aims and values;
  2. (b) the responsibilities which the school intends to discharge in connection with the education of children admitted to the school; and
  3. 1516
  4. (c) the parental responsibilities, that is the responsibilities which the parents of such children are expected to discharge in connection with the education of their children while they are registered at the school.
(3) In determining the provisions to be included in the statement the governing body shall have regard to any guidance which the Secretary of State may from time to time issue. (4) Before making or revising the statement required under subsection (1) above the governing body shall consult in such a manner as appears to be appropriate—
  1. (a) the head teacher;
  2. (b) the staff of the school;
  3. (c) the parents of pupils registered at the school; and
  4. (d) other bodies or persons who appear to the governing body to have an interest in the school.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment I shall also speak to the amendments grouped with it; namely, Amendments Nos. 126A, 127A-C, 128A-C, 129A-C and 130A-C. I am sure that the Committee will be relieved to know that I do not intend to speak to each of them at this stage. I am sure that others will wish to enter the debate in support of this group of amendments.

The home school policy is an extremely important part of the clauses in this part of the Bill. Amendment No. 116A seeks to insert after Clause 26, in Part IV of the Bill, the following provisions on home school policy: The governing body of a county, voluntary, maintained special school or grant maintained school shall ensure that policies designed to promote partnership between home and school are pursued at the school …The governing body shall in particular prepare, and from time to time review, a written statement 'a home school policy' specifying—

  1. (a) the school's aims and values;
  2. (b) the responsibilities which the school intends to discharge in connection with the education of children admitted to the school; and
  3. (c) the parental responsibilities, that is the responsibilities which the parents of such children are expected to discharge in connection with the education of their children while they are registered at the school.
(3) In determining the provisions to be included in the statement the governing body shall have regard to any guidance which the Secretary of State may from time to time issue. (4) Before making or revising the statement required under subsection (1) above the governing body shall consult in such a manner as appears to be appropriate
  1. (a) the head teacher;
  2. (b) the staff of the school;
  3. (c) the parents of pupils registered at the school; and
  4. (d) other bodies or persons who appear to the governing body to have an interest in the school".

We believe that the home school policy provisions proposed in the Bill need support. They also need a degree of strengthening and clarification. Many issues are addressed in this batch of amendments. I hope that the Committee will feel able to support the proposals. I beg to move.

4 p.m.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

This is a very large grouping. Some amendments seem to us to be more important than others. The two that seem to me important are Amendments Nos. 126A and 127B, to which I shall address myself—necessarily, I am afraid, at reasonable length. I hope that the Committee will bear with me.

The purpose of Amendment No. 126A, and indeed of the whole group, is to make what may appear to be substantial deletions to Clause 30 in Schedule 5. However, they arise mostly because of the structure of the drafting that has been necessary. The effect of the amendments is to require schools—that is, governors and head teachers jointly—to make a partnership document available to parents but to remove the admission condition attached to the present wording. That is what we find we have to insist upon.

This section of the Bill arises from good intentions on the part of the Government. It arises from an idea put into practice by some schools on an entirely voluntary basis which seems to have worked perfectly well. Many have argued that the provision should be more widely extended. As I say, the Government have proceeded from excellent intentions. However, the drafting of the Bill before us is not well thought out; indeed, it is ill thought out and could have unlooked for and damaging consequences. This amendment is designed to improve the Bill by retaining those good and laudable elements while eliminating the problematic aspects of the present drafting.

Every one of us can agree that parents should be given every encouragement to support the education of their children in the schools that they attend. Everyone can agree that the schools themselves should be clear about what they expect of pupils and parents and the ways in which they will help parents to support their children in the learning process. It is eminently sensible that these matters should be clearly understood and clearly written down in a document so that all parties can know where they stand. However, there are worrying elements about a law which allows schools to choose whether or not they will offer such a document and to impose their version of what it should contain. More than that, it seems to us dangerous that that should be done with the sanction of refusing a place at the school if the parents do not comply. The Government are, and always have been, keen advocates of parental choice. But providing a charter for schools to browbeat parents in this way is hardly an enhancement of that.

In Standing Committee D in the other place on 14th January, the Minister conceded that the Government's intention was indeed to tip the balance in favour of schools. In reply to my noble friend leading for the Opposition he said: I concede one part of the argument of the hon. Member for Walton. He said that the provision tipped the balance in favour of schools—'weighted in favour of schools', was, I think, the exact expression that he used. That is true, and deliberately so, for this important reason. The Government have talked over and over again in recent years about parental rights, and we have gone to great lengths to establish parental rights to express a preference for a school, to give parents a role in electing governors, to establish school annual general meetings, and so on. It is now time to talk more in terms of parental responsibilities. If this provision does one thing, it enhances and encourages the role of parental responsibility".—[Official Report,.Commons, Standing Committee D, 141/97; col. 541.] It can be agreed that parental responsibility is a good thing. However, there is an inconsistency here. Parental rights are set out in great detail in statute and in regulation. It is not left to individual schools to determine how far those rights should extend. Why should schools be the arbiter of the extent of parental responsibility? If the Government are now persuaded that parental responsibility is important, they must concede also that it is desirable that it is accepted by all parents.

In the public debate that has surrounded this issue there has been a great deal of talk of home school contracts or partnership agreements. The Bill is careful to avoid terms such as "contract" or "agreement". Such words are associated with voluntary agreements between parties of more or less equal standing. They cannot properly be used to describe a situation where one party is in a position to dictate terms to another. Yet we are here faced with legislation which is weighted in favour of schools, where a school can choose whether or not to offer a partnership document and to determine its content but parents have to accept the school's decision on that point.

However, the clause as presently drafted is not quite as simple as that. It recognises that there is a potential conflict between the ability of a school to refuse admission to a child whose parents will not sign an agreement and the right of access to free education. It makes it clear that admissions authorities can waive the requirement to sign; it gives the Secretary of State the power to strike down unacceptable conditions and to prevent certain kinds of requirement being imposed upon parents; and the final subsection, subsection (6), says that these documents: shall not be capable of creating any obligation in respect of whose breach any liability arises in contract or in tort". In short, it is conceded that these documents are unenforceable. We have a document which purports to be enforceable but on closer inspection its sanctions are revealed to be ineffective.

What will the practical result be? The majority of parents surely actively support their children's education and want to work with their children's schools? For them, enactment of this part of the Bill will make no difference. Parents will happily sign up to a statutory document, just as they would have subscribed to an informal, non-statutory one. But what of the minority of cases? There are good but argumentative parents who are keen supporters of their children's education but who may object to some particular in the partnership document or may have a principled objection to being required to sign such a document. In those cases—and they will not be a few—there will be a dispute between the parent and the school. Either the school will refuse entry or it will back down and waive the requirement for the document to be signed. That will mean either that the parents' choice of school will have been defeated for no particularly good reason or that the authority of the school in insisting on its partnership document will have been undermined.

Surely neither of those outcomes is desirable? In both cases time and energy will have been expended, resulting in damage to the relationship between the school and the community that it purports to serve. On the other hand, less conscientious parents who have less regard for the education of their children might readily sign the necessary papers that enable them to secure their child's place at the school in question and subsequently pay no heed whatever to their responsibilities. Once the child has been put on the school roll, the sanction of refusing admission falls. The school is then no more able to procure the appropriate behaviour of the parents than it was before.

In most cases this legislation will have secured no practical advantages and in a small number of cases it will have been responsible for unhelpful or damaging consequences. That is the poor basis that we are presented with for law-making.

Perhaps most important of all, the amendment will require every school to draw up a statement of what it understands to be the mutual rights and responsibilities of school and parent. It will ensure that every parent has a clear statement of where the school stands on those important issues; it will provide the opportunity for a mature dialogue between the parents and the school; it will allow every parent to know what the school will offer them and what it expects of them; and it will provide a vehicle to assist schools in encouraging parents to live up to their duties and responsibilities. In short, it contains all the positive features of a home-school agreement idea and none of the disadvantages inherent in the present draft of the Bill.

If Members of the Committee will permit me, I shall say a few words on Amendment No. 127B, the purpose of which is to insert a simple requirement for consultation by the Secretary of State with parents on the partnership agreement.

Clause 30 works by enabling admission authorities to make the completion of a partnership agreement part of the admissions arrangements of schools. Other amendments in this group draw attention to the contradiction that the Bill introduces between this proposal and the continuing duty of the LEA to educate children in its area. Amendment No. 127B looks at the narrower question of how the documents will be drawn up. It suggests that parents of existing pupils have a valuable role to play in offering views on the detailed content of the partnership documents and that they should be given a voice by the admissions authority before—under the Bill's proposals as they stand—it decides the content.

It is suggested that, solely for practical reasons, consultation might most easily be organised with parents of existing pupils while recognising that parents of future pupils will have a particular relationship with the documents if they are implemented in this form since it is they whose children will be most directly affected by provisions affecting admissions arrangements. Nothing would prevent an LEA casting the net wider in general consultation in its area.

I concede at once that there is one slight difficulty with this, which is that of identifying exactly what that constituency would be. I can offer no easy solution to saying who should be definitively inside and who should be outside; but I am sure that the constituency itself is an important one, if not the most important one, in this process of consultation.

The Bill rightly acknowledges the importance of consultation elsewhere, as subsection (6) requires LEAs to take note of representations from governing bodies about whether the admission arrangements for a school should include a partnership document and about the terms of any such document and parental declaration and provides for annual consultation thereafter about whether the terms of any existing document and declaration ought to be changed. If the principle of consultation is accepted here as a necessary and important one governing the vital relationship between LEAs and governing bodies within the system of accountability in our public education system, why should it appear to be so unimportant when it comes to the public accountability of the Secretary of State to the parents of children being educated in our schools?

Governing bodies expect to be accountable to the parents of children in their schools and to the wider community that they serve. As an inevitable part of their accountability, governing bodies will necessarily be sensitive to the views and interests of parents. The use of partnership agreements where they have already been introduced in many schools and in various forms demonstrates very clearly the value of such agreements in making the partnership between schools and parents work effectively to the benefit of the children educated in those schools. It is a shared commitment. Closer working together between schools and parents is the hallmark of good schools in this country and elsewhere. That commitment in turn depends upon effective communication and dialogue between the schools and the parents.

Consultation is an indispensable element in the public accountability of our system of democratic government. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment or clarify how the principle of consultation with parents is to be adhered to in relation to the extension and development of partnership agreements in our schools for which the Bill provides. I hope that the amendment is a sensible one within the context of the somewhat flawed plans set out in the Bill.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I rise to support these amendments. I believe that their effect will be to give importance to the whole idea of the parent-school relationship and the mutual obligation which that imposes while subtracting from it what I believe to be the noxious element of making accession to this agreement a condition of admission.

I do not think that anybody in this Chamber needs convincing of the importance of the relationship between the parents and the school in furthering the education of the child. That point has been raised in many of our debates on this Bill and previous Bills.

In practice, at all levels of school education there is a growing realisation of the importance of those agreements or contracts, however one describes them. Perhaps I may refer to one at the upper end of the education system, which was discovered in a major secondary school in the authority of which I happen to be a member. By telling young people in the sixth form what would be their likely attainment if they worked hard for two years—emphasising that that was not just something which the school could do for them but something which they had to do for themselves—and by reviewing their progress on a very frequent basis, the results obtained by those pupils were very considerably improved. That was a practical, down-to-earth example of a relationship between various players in the educational field. Also, at primary school level, there are quite large numbers of parents going into schools and directly assisting with the education of their children. I have every confidence that a home-school agreement of the type enabled or created by these amendments would be of great use in the children's education.

But we must remember that the point of education is the children. Education is not for the teachers, the governors or even for the parents; it is for the children. It seems to me a most monstrous suggestion that if a parent is incapable, unable or unwilling to sign an agreement prior to the entry of a child into school, then that child can be excluded from that school. Also, on the purely practical level, it cuts across all the traditional ways of admitting children, for example, by nearness to the school, by sibling preference and so on—all criteria which have been built up over time. I find it impossible to see how the association of the excellent idea of a home-school agreement and the admissions policy of a school can possibly benefit anybody in the education system.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Northbourne

I rise briefly to support the amendment. It seems to me that there are reasonable grounds for concern about the clause as drafted. I believe that schools could use the home-school contract as envisaged as a form of back-door selection, simply by including conditions with which it would be difficult for some sets of parents, some class of parents or some kind of parents to comply. The suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, that consultation with existing parents is important has its dangers in that context. If existing parents wanted to exclude certain other groups of parents, they could do so by including in the proposed partnership documents certain conditions which would be difficult for those other parents to fulfil.

The second danger is that contracts designed and written by the school without consultation with the parents and simply slapped on the table as documents which have to be signed or there would be no entry are not partnership documents. That kind of attitude could destroy the relationship between the school and home which is now absolutely agreed to be a key factor in the educational success of pupils. I do not believe that anybody challenges the fact that home-school relationships and parents' involvement in education are some of the most important factors in children's success at school. I hope that the Minister will consider making some kind of amendment to the proposals as they stand.

Baroness Warnock

I support the amendments in a negative form, in the sense that I believe that as the partnership appears in the Bill, it has very dangerous consequences.

I want to ask one question which has not yet been clearly answered. What is the case with regard to children in care? Who is supposed to sign the document, which I hesitate to call a partnership for the reasons made clear by my noble friend Lord Northbourne. Such a contract would be useless if signed by the parents of children who have been taken away from them and placed in care.

The reply might be that schools do not have to issue such a document. But schools which are the only schools to which children in care may go—because they are the only schools which do not have contracts between them and the parents and there is no question of real partnership—will automatically contain a vast number of children who have special educational needs that derive from their behavioural problems.

It is very well known that the second largest category of children with special educational needs is that of children with emotional and behavioural problems. Years ago, when writing the report on children with special needs, we became very used to the expression "partnership between parents and teachers". At that time we became extremely conscious that the idea of a partnership worked very well over a whole range of disabilities that children might suffer but not their behavioural difficulties. So often the behavioural difficulty arises in the first place because the child is hopelessly at odds with the parents or is completely beyond the control of the parents. Some of those children are in care and some are wandering the streets.

The idea that an agreement can be reached between the school and the parents of those children, who in a way are the children most acutely in need of improvement in their education, seems rather a fantasy. It is on grounds of wishing to change the precision of the language of the Bill on the question of partnership as well as to challenge the propriety of using a document of that kind as an entry requirement for any school that I support this group of amendments.

Lord Walton of Detchant

I welcome the emphasis in the Bill on the introduction of partnership agreements between schools and parents, which, I believe, have been neglected by certain schools for far too long. The Hamlyn National Commission on Education, which I the privilege to chair, was very much in favour of developing such partnerships to an increasing extent.

My concerns are largely those that have been expressed by my noble friends Lord Northbourne and Lady Warnock. They derive from the single fact that in Clause 30 of the Bill as it stands parents would have to sign a partnership agreement before their child or children could be allocated a place. It is said quite plainly that the intention of the clause is not legalistic.

Yet it reads as though it were a legal requirement. I believe that there is perhaps a remote prospect that the introduction of such agreements as a requirement of entry could ultimately lead to litigation.

It is well recognised that many parents are extremely supportive of their children's education and would welcome the opportunity of becoming much more involved. But there is also evidence that, particularly in certain inner city areas, there is a small hard core of parents who have an anti-education ethos and do not willingly take part in discussions—or indeed would find it difficult if not impossible to accept that they would be required to sign such agreements.

For that reason, I believe that the approach embodied in the principles underlying these amendments is much to be preferred to the way in which the requirement is expressed in Clause 30.

I am sure the noble Lord the Minister will remember that when he spoke on home-school contracts during the passage of the Education Act 1993 he said that in his view the contractual approach was not the right one; it carried too many risks of confrontation and allowed schools too much scope to exclude pupils. He felt that that could be self-defeating, making relationships between parents and staff rather stiff and adversarial rather than promoting partnership. He said that voluntary partnerships entered into with commitment on all sides are preferable to compulsory contracts entered into because they are required. I wholly agree that that would seem to be much the better approach. That is the principle underlying the amendments, which I am happy to support.

Lord Henley

The noble Lord, Lord Walton, has done his homework, if I may say so, to remember that I was involved in that Bill, albeit in a minor capacity. He deserves much praise. However, I shall explain why we believe that the approach we are adopting, which is a permissive one, is the right one rather than the approach put forward by the amendments.

We are discussing a whole group of amendments—in effect, Amendment No. 116A and Amendment No. 126A and those following it. As far as I can make out, they have a broadly similar effect. We have a convention in this Chamber when discussing a group of amendments, and perhaps the noble Baroness will respond to the point later. If both amendments were accepted, there would result what could only be described as a nonsense. The same would be true if Amendment No. 126A, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Morris and Lord Tope, was accepted. Clause 30 would then remain as part of the Bill as drafted. I hope that the noble Baroness will advise the Committee on that matter when she responds. The mere passage of one of the amendments would not in any way bind me with regard to the later amendments and it may be useful to put that on the record.

Unlike these amendments, the provisions in Clause 30 are permissive and not compulsory. We believe it should be left to individual schools to choose whether or not they wish to draw up a home school partnership document or statement; that individual schools admission authorities, be they the schools themselves or the LEA, should be able to choose whether or not to use a home school partnership document in an admissions process. The amendments seek, by different routes—I repeat the confusion between them—to compel the former and prohibit the latter. In our view that is the worst of both worlds.

Many schools recognise that parental involvement is one of the keys to raising educational standards. Many schools have excellent home school partnerships; many publish the type of statement envisaged by the amendments and many have written home school agreements. Probably, most do. We recognise that a few schools have yet to be convinced of the benefits of working with parents. However, legislation is not necessarily the answer. There is a case for the dissemination of good practice and guidance and we shall continue to do that, just as the noble Baroness and others would want to do that. But schools must have the freedom to decide how they can develop their own relationship with parents.

Parents—or, referring to the case made by the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, those who currently have responsibility for the care of children—may be invited voluntarily to sign a home school agreement after that child's admission. Nothing in existing legislation prevents schools from doing that. I remind the Committee that our recent admissions circular—Circular No. 696—issued in July of last year makes it clear that there is also nothing to prevent schools admissions authorities from taking into account a parent's willingness or otherwise to sign a home school agreement in determining priority for places where a school is oversubscribed. That has been the case for some time and nothing new in that regard appears in the Bill. But some schools may feel that inviting parents to sign a home school agreement after their child has been admitted is akin to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Our proposal takes the use of the home school agreements in the admissions process one stage further. They enable—not compel—admissions authorities to refuse to admit a child unless his or her parent signs a home school agreement, even if that means keeping a place empty. It is right that parents should consider carefully whether or not they can support the aims and values of a specific school before seeking a place there. Where they are unwilling to do so, there is a strong case for saying that they should not necessarily expect to gain a place at the school concerned. I do not believe that is a back-door method of bringing in selection, as the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, suggested.

Again, such matters are best determined locally so that proper account can be taken of local circumstances and the views of the parents concerned. That is why, before schools' admissions authorities change school admissions arrangements, they will be expected to consult parents. That is the position at the moment—I can quote from Circular No. 696 which I have before me—and will certainly apply following the introduction of a home schools agreement policy. Also, under subsection (3) the admissions authorities will have to

take account of the guidance from the Secretary of State. Again, I can give an assurance that we will be consulting on the guidance and it will include the necessity of consulting parents.

The decision on whether or not to use home school agreements in an admissions policy is properly one for the individual schools' admissions authorities; it is not one that would be appropriate for central government. Those that decide to require parents to sign an agreement as a condition of gaining a place in the school will be able to waive the requirement or specific terms of the agreement in individual cases if they consider there are good reasons for so doing. Parents refused a place because of their refusal to sign an agreement will still have the right of appeal to the independent appeal committee, as at present.

Amendment No. 127B, proposed by the noble Lords, Lord Morris and Lord Tope, also embraces a specific requirement for the Secretary of State, in drawing up any guidance on the use of home school partnerships, to take account of the views expressed by, persons representative of parents of pupils in schools in the area". I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Morris, made some criticisms of our drafting—something that he promised to do at Second Reading—when he talked about the infelicities of some of the drafting in the Bill. However, his words seem no better and in fact bring in more confusion. Taken at face value the phrase, persons representative of parents of pupils in schools in the area", would imply that the Secretary of State will draw up individual guidance for individual areas or even for individual schools. I am sure that that is not the intention. The reality is that any guidance issued by the Secretary of State will apply to all schools. It may be that the amendment is simply intended to ensure that the Secretary of State takes into account, for example, the views of national parents' organisations. If so, such an amendment is unnecessary. Such organisations are routinely consulted in consequence of the guidance put out by my right honourable friend and they will have the opportunity to make their views known.

The noble Lord, Lord Walton, also raised the point that the clause reads as though it is a legal requirement that parents sign an agreement and that that could involve litigation, if I understood him correctly. Where the partnerships policy is used, it is a legal requirement to sign an agreement in order to gain a place. That is all we are saying. But the admissions authority can make exemptions for individual parents. The clause also specifies that there can be no obligation in contract or in tort in respect of a breach.

The amendments, in the various ways they attack the problem, would remove the substance of the clause and compel schools to do something which is appropriately left to their discretion. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment; if not, I advise the Committee to vote against it.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

The Minister asked me a question. If Amendment No. 116A was accepted, it would clearly involve a tidying up of the Bill—specifically Clause 30—at a later stage.

Amendment No. 126A and the rest of the group do not follow on from Amendment No. 116A. They are an alternative way of breaking the admissions link and were grouped for that purpose. On this occasion I can—

Lord Henley

May I interrupt the noble Baroness? I was merely trying to make it clear that obviously I would not feel bound, under the normal rules that guide us, to accept this should the Committee decide to accept Amendment No. 116A.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I think the problem that we face is one of grouping, as I understand it. I think what the Minister has said would clearly apply. The only reason they were grouped together was to deal with the fact that the Government are trying to get this legislation through at the very dying end of this Parliament. We still believe very seriously that all the important issues in this part of the Bill ought to have been debated over two Committee days. However, we accept the point made by the Minister.

We cannot accept the Government's position with regard to this. The Government persist in seeing the admissions policy and the admissions authority as having some sort of power, though not to exclude parents. In one of his replies the Minister referred to parents being unable to gain a place. It is not parents: it is children. This is not the free market system of the private sector. It is the sector to provide an education for every child. We believe that the partnership process is not one where the school or the admissions authority ought to be able to say "You are denied access to a place". We believe that in the community, in order to gain a partnership, it is necessary to support the alternative to linking the home-school agreement which, by its very nature, ought to be a freely agreed agreement. That ought to be separated from the right of the child to an education in that locality. In the light of that, I wish to press this amendment.

4.32 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 116A) shall be agreed to?

Division No. 1
Acton, L. Darcy (de Knayth), B.
Addington, L. David, B.
Annan, L. Dean of Beswick, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Desai, L.
Avebury, L. Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Barnett, L. Dormand of Easington, L.
Berkeley, L. Dubs, L.
Blackstone, B. Farrington of Ribbleton,B.
Borne, L. Fisher of Rednal, B.
Broadbridge, L. Gallacher, L.
Carlisle, E. Geraint, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Gould of Potternewton, B.
Chorley, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Clancarty, E. Grenfell, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Haskel, L. [Teller.]
Hayman, B. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Redesdale, L.
Hughes, L. Richard, L.
Ilchester, E. Ripon, Bp.
Jeger, B. Russell, E.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Sewel, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Shepherd, L.
Kintore, E. Simon, V.
Kirkhill, L. Stallard, L.
Lawrence, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Lockwood, B. Strabolgi, L.
Longford, E. Taverne, L.
Lovell-Davis, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Tenby, V.
McNair, L. Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Mallalieu, B. [Teller.]
Marsh, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L. Thurso, V.
Milner of Leeds, L. Tope, L.
Monkswell, L. Tordoff, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Murray of Epping Forest, L. Walton of Detchant, L.
Nicol, B. Warnock, B.
Northbourne, L. Wharton, B.
Palmer, L. White, B.
Peston, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. Winston, L.
Addison, V. Ferrers, E.
Ailesbury, M. Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Ailsa, M. Gage, V.
Aldenham, L. Gainford, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Ampthill, L. Goschen, V.
Anelay of St. Johns, B. Gray of Contin, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Harding of Petherton, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Hayhoe, L.
Beloff, L. Henley, L.
Belstead, L. Holderness, L.
Blatch, B. HolmPatrick, L.
Bowness, L. Hood, V.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Hooper, B.
Braine of Wheatley, L. Howe, E.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Bruntisfield, L. Inglewood, L.
Burnham, L. Keyes, L.
Butterfield, L. Lauderdale, E.
Butterworth, L. Lindsay, E.
Byford, B. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Cadman, L. Liverpool, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E.
Campbell of Croy, L. Long, V.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Lucas, L.
Carnock, L. Luke, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B. Lyell, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Chelmsford, V. McConnell, L.
Chesham, L. [Teller.] Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Clanwilliam, E. Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Courtown, E.
Craig of Radley, L. Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Cumberlege, B. Malmesbury, E.
Davidson, V. Manton, L.
De Freyne, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Dean of Harptree, L. Merrivale, L.
Denbigh, E. Mersey, V.
Denham, L. Middleton, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B. Miller of Hendon, B.
Dixon-Smith, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Eccles of Moulton, B. Mottistone, L.
Elles, B. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Moyne, L.
Erroll, E. Munster, E.
Nelson, E. Seccombe, B.
Noel-Buxton, L. Selborne, E.
Norrie, L. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Northesk, E. Skelmersdale, L.
O'Cathain, B. Strathcarron, L.
Orr-Ewing, L. Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Oxfuird, V. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Park of Monmouth, B. Sudeley, L.
Pearson of Rannoch, L. Swinfen, L.
Pender, L. Taylor of Warwick, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L. Terrington, L.
Platt of Writtle, B. Teynham, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Rankeillour, L. Trefgarne, L.
Reay, L. Trumpington, B.
Rees, L. Ullswater, V.
Renton, L. Vivian, L.
Rotherwick, L. Whitelaw, V.
Rowallan, L. Wise, L.
Saatchi, L. Wolfson, L.
St. Davids, V. Young, B.


Clause 27 agreed to.

Clause 28 [No requirement to admit persons permanently excluded from two or more schools]:

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 117: Page 24, line 33, leave out from ("of") to end of line 38 and insert ("—

  1. (a) a child who has been permanently excluded from two or more schools during the period of two years beginning with the date on which the latest of those exclusions took effect; or
  2. (b) a child who has been permanently excluded from a previous school during the period of two years following the date of exclusion where, in the opinion of the Chief Education Officer employed by the local education authority, the circumstances of the child's transfer from one or more previous schools gives rise to concern that the application of that duty would prejudice the provision of efficient education.
(1A) For the purposes of subsection (1)(b) above, the application of the duty imposed by section 411(2) above may be taken to prejudice the provision of efficient education even if the number of pupils of the relevant age group at the school concerned does not and will not by virtue of the admission to it of the child exceed either—
  1. (a) the relevant standard number, or
  2. (b) the admission number fixed in accordance with section 416 below.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 117, I shall be speaking also to Amendment No. 121. These amendments are part of a package designed to clarify and strengthen the section of the Bill related to exclusion from schools. Amendment No. 117 effectively ends the largely illusory right of parents to choose the school for their excluded child after only one permanent exclusion rather than two where the LEA considers that its exercise would prejudice the efficient provision of education.

This effectively gives the LEA the power to step in earlier in the "hard" cases, using its power in the 1996 Act to place a child in a school irrespective of the availability of places—that is, making the best choice for the child.

The phrase used in the Bill, "disqualified person", to describe the excluded pupil has been dropped in these amendments in favour of the description of that person given in the Bill. I know that in Amendment No. 118—and in a great many others—the Government get rid of the words "disqualified person" and I am sure that a good many of us who spoke about that phrase at Second Reading are extremely grateful that the Minister has taken the initiative. For my part, I thank the noble Lord for that.

As it stands, the Bill removes the right of a parent whose child has been twice excluded to gain automatic admission at any school with a vacancy for their child. We must always be cautious in approaching legislation that removes individual rights. In this case it can be argued that the existing clause may have very little practical effect. The capacity of parents to enforce the right that they have in law can apply only where a school conspicuously has vacancies. The schools which parents are most likely to choose are, by definition, popular and therefore likely to be full. The right of the parent, paradoxically, becomes in practice a mechanism which ensures entry of the child to an under-subscribed school which may be unpopular with parents and which may therefore become a substantial recipient of excluded pupils from elsewhere. Your Lordships should remember that the Ridings School in Calderdale—we have all heard a great deal about what went on there—had been forced to admit a number of pupils who had previously been excluded from neighbouring grant-maintained schools. I do not think that any of us wants to end up with all these excluded children being pushed into one or two schools.

Removal of this parental right therefore means that an excluded pupil can be legally denied entry into any school, but means in practice that the LEA's duty to seek a place at an alternative school for the child can operate in respect of any school in the area. Sections 431 and 432 of the 1996 Act give the LEA powers to direct admission of an excluded pupil to schools even if they are technically full. In practice, local authorities will always seek to find a school that is willing to take the excluded pupil and to give them a genuine second chance rather than using legislative power to enforce an admission on a reluctant head teacher. Nevertheless, the existence of this power is very helpful to LEAs in negotiating voluntary arrangements with the schools in their areas so that each school is willing to take its fair share of pupils who have been excluded from elsewhere in order that every excluded pupil would be given a "second chance" in an alternative school.

The effect of Clause 28 is therefore to help and encourage LEAs and schools to work together to get excluded pupils back into mainstream education as quickly and as successfully as possible. This is a valuable addition to the law and LEAs support it. However, the amendment, while remaining within the spirit of the original drafting of the Bill, improves upon it and will make it more effective.

The amendment creates a discretion for chief education officers to operate in the way envisaged in the Bill when a child has been permanently excluded from only one school. It has been drafted in this way because LEAs do not believe that the right to express a preference should be removed automatically after one exclusion, but it recognises that the circumstances that are likely to arise in most cases after two exclusions could sometimes exist after one; for example, where a parent is "persuaded" by the school to remove a child voluntarily and seek admission to a second school, which then carries out a formal exclusion, the position in law will be that the child has been excluded once. However, for all practical purposes, it will be as if the child had been excluded twice. In these circumstances and others that might be envisaged, we believe that mechanisms to secure an appropriate placement for that child should become available immediately.

Debate in another place on a similar amendment focused on anxieties that the amendment would give too great a power of discretion to chief education officers to override parental preference for an unlimited period of time. This amendment has been redrafted to include a two-year limitation on the alternative power and to make it more explicit that it should be used only in circumstances where there has been a history of "de facto exclusion" preceding the formal exclusion that triggers the power. The amendment has also been improved to rectify certain other technical faults in the original drafting.

I hope that the amendment will make the Bill much better for LEAs and for excluded children and their parents. This is a very difficult area, but I hope that the amendment will help to make things slightly better. I beg to move.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Henley

I am somewhat confused by the amendment because it struck me—having listened to the noble Baroness, I am not sure whether this is the intention—that she was taking a considerably more draconian line with excluded pupils than we were proposing under the Bill. Perhaps that is a sign of New Labour attempting to outflank us on every occasion.

The noble Baroness seems to be suggesting that the parent of the once-excluded pupil shall be treated like the parent of the twice-excluded pupil. Under the amendment, like the parent of the twice-excluded pupil, the parent of the once-excluded pupil would have no right to a place in their preferred school. However, in this case, the decision on whether a place should nevertheless be offered will not be for the admissions authority of the school concerned which could, after all, be the LEA, but merely for the LEA's chief education officer. It will give the chief education officer the very broad discretion to take away the right of parents of the once-excluded pupil, rather than of the twice-excluded pupils to whom we refer, to gain a place in their preferred school.

In drafting Clause 28, we considered very carefully the loss of that right for parents. In concluding that it should be suspended for a period of two years in the case of pupils permanently excluded from more than one school, we judged that such a pupil might rightly be considered to have a proven record of violent or disruptive behaviour. That cannot be assumed in the case of the once-excluded pupil, as is proposed by the slightly more draconian provisions put forward by the noble Baroness. The exclusion may simply have been the result of a one-off incident caused, for example, by the pupil reacting badly to a temporary upset of one sort or another.

It is not clear whether the parents of once-excluded pupils will have a right of appeal against the chief education officer's decision. In practice, it would be very difficult for those parents to challenge the chief education officer's decision, since under the amendment he does not have to be satisfied that prejudice would be caused at the school of the parents' choice by the child's admission but only that the relevant circumstances "give rise to concern" that there would be prejudice. I believe that that is a very imprecise and weak test. As the amendment is drafted—I believe that the noble Baroness must accept some criticism in this regard—it would be unnecessary for the CEO to concern himself. It would be sufficient if someone else were concerned; for example, a group of parents.

I do not know whether the noble Baroness has discussed this matter with the Church authorities. I believe that some of the voluntary aided and special agreement schools would have considerable doubts about giving the chief executive officer power to intervene in their admissions processes. Currently, an LEA has little say in those arrangements. The matter is left to governing bodies. I do not know whether the right reverend Prelate has his own views as to that, because it certainly has implications for such schools. I also point out that the amendment is technically flawed. Subsection (1A) is unnecessary since the duty to comply with a parental preference as to choice of school for an excluded pupil covered by the clause would already have been disapplied by subsection (1) of the provision.

Finally, I thank the noble Baroness for what she has said about the amendments that I shall move shortly. From the tenor of the debate at Second Reading and from what she has said, I believe that those amendments will receive a degree of support from the Committee. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

In response to the comments of the Minister, at this stage I should like to take advice on what he has said. I accept the thrust of his comments, but I should like time to reflect upon them and, if they prove to be right, to return to the House.

Baroness David

This amendment seeks to improve the position of excluded pupils and the LEA. It gives the LEA greater power to control what happens to excluded pupils so that they can return to school and are not all massed into one school. I hope and believe that this amendment would make for better planning. I should like to discuss this further in the light of what the Minister has said, particularly about the technicalities of the drafting, and also in the light of what the right reverend Prelate has said. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 118: Page 24, line 33, leave out ("disqualified person") and insert ("child to whom subsection (2) applies.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 118 I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 119, 120, 123, 124, 125, 131, 132, 133 and 134. These amendments are intended to fulfil the commitments that I gave at Second Reading. I undertook to look again, in the light of the concerns then expressed, at the use of the term "disqualified person" in Clause 28 and related clauses to see whether we could come up with a better way of describing pupils who had been permanently excluded from two or more schools, while still retaining the principles of this provision.

The original form of words was a drafting device. I made clear that there was never any intention that any pupil should walk around with a label on his or her chest—or worse—saying "disqualified person". But I recognise the validity of the concerns expressed on that occasion. Therefore, to remove any doubt we propose this series of amendments to Clauses 28 and 29 and Schedule 5. I hope that the Committee will accept these amendments in the spirit in which they are tabled. I also hope that the Committee accept that they honour my undertaking to preserve the principle of the provisions. I beg to move.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

Accept a miracle instead of wit, See two dull lines with Stanhope's pencil writ". I can see from the look on the face of the Minister that that is one quotation he does not recognise immediately, although a few moments with the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations will probably assist him. Those were the words of Edward Young in 1820 in Spence's Anecdotes. And so say all of us in 1997, since only last week both my noble friend Lady Farrington and I were forced, sadly, to complain that in over 100 amendments so far the Minister had not felt able to accept even the vestige of one. Lo! here today we are able to thank him for his acceptance so far, not of two lines, but of two words anyway—"disqualified person".

This is a serious issue. I should like to quote one terrible historical occasion. In the late 19th century in Welsh schools it was the practice for any child caught speaking Welsh in the playground or classroom to have a piece of wood placed around his neck and the words "Welsh not" emblazoned upon it. That was a cause of both shame and delight to some of the people concerned, but it was a matter of enormous political passion in Wales at that time. We felt that the use of "disqualified person" might well have come into that category, even in this enlightened England, since I understood that it would not have to be done in Welsh.

The age of miracles is not passed. Now that the noble Lord has broken his duck, I hope that he will go on to rattle up a respectable score of matters that he is capable of taking away and reconsidering. The two words cause deep offence to all kinds of people. In the meetings that we held before this Bill came on to the Floor of the House, or since for that matter, it was regularly referred to as one of the matters that many people and organisations hoped would be removed from the Bill. We are grateful to the Minister for agreeing to our request. I can only say to him: For this relief, much thanks". Hamlet, Act I, scene I.

Lord Tope

I believe that in the Second Reading debate I was the first speaker to express concern about the use of the words "disqualified person", solely because I was one of the early speakers. That concern was shared by many noble Lords on all sides of the House. I cannot match the literary eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, or his expression. I believe that all I can say to the Minister is, thank you.

Lord Henley

The noble Lord, Lord Morris, should accept that my education may be limited, but even I would have got the second quotation. The first was beyond me. However, he will also have seen my entering the Chamber with a fairly large pile of documents. I think that to have brought with me the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations in anticipation of the wit of the noble Lord would not have been appropriate or necessary. No doubt those who advise me, if they have a moment, will look up these matters at some point. Having said that, I thank the noble Lord for what he has said. I beg to move.

Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 119 and 120: Page 24, line 35, leave out from ("schools,") to ("during") in line 36 and insert ("this subsection applies to him"). Page 24, line 39, leave out ("in relation").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move.

[Amendment No. 121 not moved.]

Clause 28, as amended, agreed to.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale moved Amendment No. 122: After Clause 28, insert the following new clause— COSTS OF PERMANENT EXCLUSIONS (" . The Secretary of State shall satisfy himself that the resources available to local education authorities, including resources from recoupment, in respect of the functions exercisable by them under sections 411A(l)(b), 431 and 432 of the Education Act 1996 are sufficient to enable them satisfactorily to carry out those responsibilities.").

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this amendment is to draw attention to the need for adequate funds to be available to LEAs to enable them to meet their responsibilities to excluded pupils. In this connection one should remember the introduction of the special education needs code of practice. It was argued at the time of the 1993 legislation that to introduce better procedures would lead to more efficient use of public funds and therefore no additional resources would be required. One knows that earlier and more comprehensive diagnoses of children's special educational needs have led inexorably to a demand for more and more costly provision to meet newly developed needs. In short, costs have gone up enormously. The costs of exclusions may very well be similar. To require LEAs to devise and publicise explicit policies to deal with excluded pupils is bound to encourage schools to make increased demands on these services. No bad thing, one might well say, but it will create increased pressure on public expenditure, and that should be recognised by the Government.

The objectives in the Bill of trying to make the public education system more effective by improving schools' approaches to discipline issues, regulating the use of exclusions and trying to secure the best possible continuing education of excluded pupils are all strongly supported by LEAs. They also recognise that an LEA has an important role in that. They have to put in place appropriate frameworks of support for schools, and when a child is permanently excluded they have quickly and effectively to make alternative arrangements for his education or secure admission to an alternative school.

Those functions are recognised by LEAs and by us all as important and necessary, but they do not come cheaply. There is a serious possibility, if not a likelihood, that the resource implications of those functions will, to say the least, sit uncomfortably with the pressure to reduce central functions and delegate more resources to schools.

It may be argued that the problem could be solved by LEAs offering those services for purchase by the schools from their delegated resources, but the structure of the legislation (Clause 26) seems to make it clear that each LEA has explicitly to offer services to meet requests of schools for "support and assistance" in connection with the promotion of good behaviour and discipline on the part of pupils. That seems to amount to a requirement that the LEA offer a free service. In addition, it is part of the LEA's duty to deal with permanently excluded pupils, and the responsibility for providing alternative arrangements for the most difficult and disruptive pupils will devolve on the LEAs. They are of course the most expensive of all.

It is therefore most important that we can be sure that the resource implications of this legislation are fully taken on board by the Government and that the Secretary of State will give proper consideration to ensuring that LEAs have sufficient resources to implement it. I beg to move.

5 p.m.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

Perhaps I may say just a few words in support of the amendment. I had the opportunity during the past few weeks of discussing this problem with a recently retired head teacher of a secondary school in my area. He said that sometimes this matter can be easily settled but at other times it is extremely difficult and costly. Occasionally head teachers can, in the kind of freemasonry that exists among head teachers of secondary schools, get together and discuss excluded pupils and by moving a difficult and disruptive child from one secondary school to another can, as it were, give that child a fresh start and a clean sheet.

It is possible in certain such cases—they are more than a few—to solve the problem cheaply, quickly and effectively. But in other cases that is not the case. I should like to ask the Minister how any cost estimates for this activity have been arrived at. Secondly, is it obligatory that the LEA offers a free service, or would it be permitted to charge for its advice? Thirdly, is there a known average cost for fulfilling responsibilities to a permanently excluded pupil? That would be a helpful figure if it is available.

Fourthly and finally, I should like to ask the Minister whether he is aware of, as I am sure he is, the activities of organisations such as Cities in Schools. I have had extremely useful discussions with the officials of Cities in Schools, who seem to be offering a remarkable service to excluded pupils by arrangement with LEAs in certain areas. If they have an 80 per cent. plus success rate with excluded pupils by virtue of the fact that they can pay close attention to individual cases. I should like to know whether the Government approve of that organisation and others like it as fulfilling a useful role in dealing with this difficult and recurrent problem.

Lord Tope

I support the amendment and the concern which was expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale. I know that the costs of SEN have soared astronomically in recent years. I would not attribute that entirely or directly to the code of practice, but I am certain that that has been part of it. For the reasons that have been given, the same could well happen, for good reason, in the case of exclusions. I await with interest the answers to the questions posed by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, who as, so often, posed the questions that I was going to pose. It is to be hoped that we will receive the same answers.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

Perhaps I may intervene briefly in the light of the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, to make the point that the Churches have made provision in this area in the past. I think, in particular, of St. Francis, an institution of the National Society, which provided the kind of help to which the noble Lord, Lord Morris, referred. It is the lack of resources which has forced a number of these institutions to close. Therefore, the question of resources is of enormous importance.

Lord Henley

Pupils who have been excluded from school should receive the appropriate support. That is something with which we all agree and which local authorities are bound to offer in appropriate ways. The amendment seeks to give the Secretary of State a wholly inappropriate role in scrutinising the availability of such provision. Resources in relation to excluded pupils, or for that matter in relation to all educational matters which are the responsibility of LEAs, are provided from within the local authority's overall budget. It is up to local authorities to decide what provision is needed. The Government play a role in deciding what the overall level of resources should be. That, in essence, is the answer to the question asked by the noble Lord,

Lord Morris, about the Secretary of State determining what the need should be. He will know that it is part of the annual public expenditure round, and then of negotiations with the local authorities, as to what the final support should be.

It should not be for the Government to lay down what that should be. It would be wholly inappropriate. But within the resources available to them, it is properly for local authorities to decide what support they should devote to meeting the needs of pupils excluded from school.

I say in all sincerity to both noble Lords opposite that it is difficult to see how that local discretion can be reconciled with the amendment. I just cannot understand how the two parties opposite, who believe in the independence and autonomy of local authorities, can support an amendment like this.

The question is not whether schools and local authorities can afford to provide effective support for excluded pupils but whether they can afford not to do so, as the alternative to successful education and re-integration—something about which we talked earlier—of excluded pupils should be their long-term aim and could possibly be cheaper. It is an expensive and often ineffective alternative if the LEA is obliged to continue to provide for pupil referral units, or whatever, if reintegration fails. Again, perhaps I may mention the Ofsted report of late 1995 which I mentioned earlier. In that inspection it was made clear that the cheaper provision was sometimes the better provision and the mere level of expenditure on any provision was not necessarily a sign of how effective it is.

For those reasons, it is important for the LEAs to have in place effective policies which support the education of such pupils and their re-integration into mainstream schools. The introduction of LEA behaviour support plans under Clause 26 will help to ensure that they do so. For the first time, the full range of each LEA's provision in relation to pupils with behaviour problems must be the subject of local consultation and the LEAs must publish details of their policies and arrangements.

The noble Lord asked about Cities in Schools, a programme of which I must confess I was not aware. However, my officials are well aware of the work that is being developed. Some LEAs and the department have been encouraging that—

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I thank the Minister for giving way. I am happy to hear that his officials are in possession of that information. However, I shall ensure that I send him all the information about this valuable service.

Lord Henley

If the scheme is as effective as the noble Lord says, it is one that I shall be more than happy to know about. I regret that it is not within my remit in the department and perhaps that is why I am not aware of it. I shall be more than happy to read the information that he sends.

I hope that for the reasons I have given the noble Baroness will feel it unnecessary to press her amendment.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

I find the Minister's response very disappointing. The amendment is about ensuring that resources are available to the LEAs. It has nothing to do with interfering with an LEA's internal responsibilities. I did not understand the Minister's point about that.

It is cold comfort to be told that the LEAs must find the wherewithal to carry out these functions from within their own resources. Anyone who has first-hand experience of LEAs and their current problems knows the real difficulties which exist in providing the requirements for children with special educational needs. The issue of looking after excluded children shows all the signs of going the same way as that relating to children with special educational needs. It is a difficult burden on LEAs.

As I made clear, no one, least of all the LEAs, believes that anything but good is coming out of the actions which are laid down to look after the needs of excluded pupils. The amendment related only to the question of where the resources will come from. That is all it was about and we have not had an answer from the Minister—

Lord Henley

I thank the noble Baroness for giving way. This year the schools have had a pretty good settlement. We made available an extra £1.7 billion. That is money from taxpayers going to LEAs. It is up to LEAs then to decide how to spend it. The noble Baroness cannot have it both ways and say, "Yes, but governments then find specific extra money for specific things". That is taking the discretion away from local authorities.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

The Minister must be as aware as I am of the difficulties which the LEAs already have in relation to special educational needs. That is the best example because it is the best parallel for taking on the responsibilities for excluded pupils. However, I see that I shall get nowhere with the Minister and in a spirit far from contentment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 29 [Appeals in the case of persons permanently excluded from two or more schools]:

Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 123 to 125: Page 25, line 30, leave out from ("made,") to end of line 32 and insert ("section 411A(2) applies to the child."). Page 25, line 37, leave out ("who,") and insert ("to whom,"). Page 25, line 38, leave out from ("made,") to end of line 39 and insert ("section 411A(2) applies.").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to these amendments with Amendment No. 118. I beg to move.

Clause 29, as amended, agreed to.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris moved Amendment No. 125A: After Clause 29, insert the following new clause— DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS: ANONIMITY OF CHILD (" . Where any child is the subject of disciplinary proceedings within a school, or related appeals procedures, there shall be no publication which reveals the name, address or school of the child concerned in the proceedings, except as may be required by the school's disciplinary procedure or any statutory procedure.").

The noble Lord said: Recently there have been an increasing number of occurrences where cases of alleged indiscipline on the part of individual school children have made the national news; that is, radio, television, newspapers and so forth. Serious anxiety has been expressed in a number of quarters about the damage that that can cause to children, their friends, families and communities. There is a precedent for our proposal at Section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. That prevents the publication of details about young people who are subject to proceedings in the courts. Those rules are firmly enforced and as a result the process of youth justice is enabled to proceed unhindered. How many times have we heard the phrase, "The young person whose name cannot be revealed for legal reasons"? That appears to be a remarkably effective deterrent.

It is a paradox that a young person accused of a serious offence outside school automatically receives the protection of legal anonymity, but children accused of misdemeanours at schools can find themselves the subject of national attention and branded, to quote a recent example, "the naughtiest child in the country". To have that label hung around one's neck must be as inflammatory as being labelled a disqualified person.

It was used of someone who I shall call Boy X, simply in order to avoid naming the poor fellow again. He was the subject of the exclusion row at Manton School in Nottinghamshire. The effect of that was to make Boy X a hero among his peers. Anyone aged from 10 to 14 will tell you that a boy or girl excluded from school instantly becomes a member of an elite. In the old days he or she was caned. He was pointed out as one of the boys who was regularly caned by the headmaster and of whom it was said, "My goodness, can't he take it". It gives a wholly unnecessary and undesirable notoriety to the children concerned. However, it will also be remembered when Boy X applies for a job near Manton School in Nottinghamshire. In fact, he would be well advised to get as far away from Nottinghamshire as he can when he seeks permanent paid employment. Furthermore, the notoriety is unnecessary unless one regards it as part of the punishment.

It might be possible to argue that the shame and obloquy of being branded in such a way by the tabloid press is part of the punishment. I would answer that by saying that all too often it appears before any guilt is established. Although of a lesser order of seriousness, school exclusions take the form of a quasi-judicial procedure including rights of appeal. Undoubtedly, it is the case that the individual child's right to a fair hearing and natural justice can be seriously prejudiced by media coverage. In addition to undermining due process in the fair disposal of the immediate cause of disciplinary action, there is a danger of much longer term damage to the individual child.

Being publicly branded as wicked, evil or irredeemably disruptive at a young and impressionable age can have a profound effect. It can often bring about the result which the branding suggests. Even if the disciplinary procedures work properly and the young person concerned is ultimately not excluded from school, the very fact of national publicity can make it impossible for him to continue in that institution.

Similarly, it is very difficult for a person who has been branded by the media to move to a different school and become integrated because everyone at the new institution will be perfectly well aware of the case. The new pupil will be pointed out in playgrounds and will be noticed by all his peers. Inevitably, that will militate against re-establishing successful educational progress. In many cases, it could and would be a permanent blight on the young person's life.

In addition, the onus lies upon the Government, and perhaps the Minister, to prove that to name the individual concerned is necessary. I hope that the Minister will not tell us that the press, local or national, will usually act responsibly. We have a thousand recent reasons for noticing that it has not and it does not. We all know that existing voluntary press codes suggest that children should not be named or interviewed without the consent of their parents. It seems that that is well and good, if it works. But recent experience has shown that that is an appallingly unsatisfactory and inadequate safeguard. For example, parents who are unfamiliar with being in the limelight and who may feel that it would be extremely beneficial to have their point of view aired in public are easily tempted to give their consent and to speak voluntarily to the media.

We have all had experience of being telephoned and asked to comment or to fill in a lacuna in the story a journalist is trying to write, which, of course, will be wholly to our satisfaction. A journalist will talk on until he gets what, in his trade or profession, is known as the "killer" quote. Sooner or later, any one of us has been put in the position where we have said something which we perhaps did not intend to say. We have had one or two quite recent examples in your Lordships' House. I shall say nothing about the individual instances, but they were painful to all concerned and should never have occurred.

Parents are placed in that position and are perhaps even more vulnerable than we are. Many of those who have spoken to the media have lived to regret their decision when they realise the full implications of what follows. But by then it is too late. Their name, address, such descriptions as "attractive, blonde-haired mother of two" and the identity of the child become public property and there is no way in which to recover their anonymity. There is no way back.

This amendment, about which I feel very strongly, as the Committee will probably have noticed, would protect children by preventing—in the scriptural sense that it would go before—disclosure of personal details in the media.

It is important to note that the drafting of the amendment would not preclude discussion of any general issues raised by particular cases or, indeed, identification of particular schools. Therefore, this amendment presents no threat to press freedom. The press need not fidget that they are being shackled in any way whatever. The amendment would not have prevented the media reporting the overall situation at, for example, the Ridings School but it would have prevented some of the more specific abuses which have subsequently given rise to complaints, many of which are still before the Press Complaints Commission.

The amendment makes it clear that the limited publication necessary to allow the legitimate exchange of information among professional persons entitled to have it would not be impeded, and the local authority would be able to undertake such communication of relevant details to fulfil its function under other education Acts. I should stress that the amendment has the support of the National Governors Council and the local authority associations.

I end my plea for this amendment with a short quotation citing examples of unacceptable behaviour by the media from a report of the 22nd annual meeting of the Metropolitan Local Education Authorities at Salford in November 1996. It states that that behaviour included, offering money to children as an inducement to act up for the cameras". Many of the children would not have needed any inducement at all to do that but money was actually offered. It goes on to refer to, The use of a mobile crane and telephoto lenses to film pupils in the classroom". I think that most of us will have seen the shocking television pictures of that taking place. It goes on: Branding individual named children, who had been found by an independent body not to merit exclusion from school, as 'unteachable' or 'out of control"". It is against that that I am fighting, and I beg to move.

Lord Tope

I support the amendment. I attended the AMA education conference to which the noble Lord, Lord Morris, referred. That took place shortly after the news and media circus at the Ridings School. Calderdale, the local education authority concerned, is a member of the AMA and naturally there was great concern about what was going on. The noble Lord, Lord Morris, referred to a number of activities by the media there about which, I think it is fair to say, all of us—and most of us are fairly hard-bitten as regards the media—were quite shocked. The noble Lord, Lord Morris, referred to the fact that the media offered money to children to act up for the cameras. The sum of money quoted was £150. That is quite a lot of money to me, and to a child it is a lot more. That is not just pocket money. It is a substantial sum of money. I do not believe that those stories were disputed. They were accepted generally to be true.

There is an area of very great concern here. It is fair to say—and I should put it on record—that at that conference the AMA did not call for statutory restrictions on such reporting but called on the Press Complaints Commission to develop and implement a professional code of conduct and so on.

As the noble Lord, Lord Morris, said, the amendment does not seek to prevent the media reporting and discussing the issues which arose at the Ridings School. Nor does it seek to prevent the naming of the school. But it seeks to prevent the naming of individual pupils, and the noble Lord, Lord Morris, gave good reasons why that should be so.

First, it is a paradox that where children are accused of misdemeanours outside school there is a law to prevent them being named. When those misdemeanours, which may sometimes even be the same misdemeanours, are committed inside school, and subject to school disciplinary procedures, there is no legal prohibition. That must be a paradox and we should take this opportunity to correct that in relation to the naming of individual children.

The noble Lord, Lord Morris, said rightly—and we all know and recognise this—that at the time it can be enormously seductive and attractive to children to be the hero of the moment and have their name in the papers and to be foremost among their peers. But that soon fades and we all know, perhaps better than the children concerned, how quickly it can fade and what price those children may have to pay later for that.

The noble Lord, Lord Morris, referred to the parents of those children, who may often feel that they have a real grievance. They may welcome the attention and interest of a journalist in promoting that grievance. They may thereby find that the story of their child is plastered across the pages of the national or local press; and it is more likely to be the local press.

It was felt not to be right that that should be so in regard to legal proceedings. Exactly the same issues should apply to what were referred to as quasi-judicial proceedings—certainly proceedings within schools. The same issues apply to such proceedings and we should take the opportunity of this amendment to correct that paradox. The same restrictions should apply to the naming of children and young people in school proceedings as would apply to them were they having proceedings taken against them in the courts of the land. I support the amendment.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Henley

I share some of the concerns expressed by the noble Lords, Lord Tope and Lord Morris of Castle Morris, about the behaviour of the press on many occasions. Like the noble Lord, I refer especially to the instance at Manton and that at Calderdale. However, I should make one point about Manton. As in many similar cases—and I shall stick to calling him a "boy", even though his name was published—it was the boy's parents who drew the case to the attention of the press. The mother in that case believed that that was in the boy's best interests. That implies that the difficulties are somewhat greater than the noble Lord has quite grasped.

I have much sympathy for what the noble Lord seeks to achieve. I also have some sympathy with the intention behind the amendment. Nevertheless, there are difficulties in framing suitable legislation which would be an effective and practical solution. I should like, first, to make one small point. The amendment is drafted far too widely when it talks about "disciplinary proceedings". For example, does that cover every possible disciplinary proceeding from mere oral rebuke up to exclusion? Secondly, there is the problem of enforcement, and the proposed new clause says nothing about that. For example, should publication of the proscribed details be a breach of the criminal law and, if so, what should the penalty be?

I accept that we are discussing a complicated area and that it is something which goes wider than my department; indeed, I believe that it would quite likely involve the Home Office, the Department of National Heritage, because of its interest in the press, and could even have implications for the European Convention on Human Rights. However, I acknowledge that there is possibly a problem which needs to be tackled. I should like to consider the matter further to ascertain whether—and I stress "whether"—a workable solution can be found. I shall certainly read carefully in Hansard what both noble Lords said and, indeed, I shall consider carefully what others might wish to offer me in the form of writing. I do not think that I can promise that I will be able to come back with anything; indeed, I do not think that the noble Lord would necessarily be able to do so in view of the timescale involved and the fact that we have reached a relatively late stage of the Bill. However, as I said, I accept that there is the possibility that we have a problem here and one which needs to be tackled.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I am grateful to the Minister for his response. Of course there are difficulties. Indeed, I would not like to try to give a definition of "disciplinary proceedings" from the Dispatch Box. There is a genuine question as regards how this provision would be enforced. However, I do not believe that the problem is insuperable but it needs serious consideration in a wider forum than this and among a more expert group of people than is the case in a Committee stage in this Chamber.

I therefore gratefully accept the Minister's offer to go away and think about the matter, without commitment and without prejudice of any sort. If we on this side of the Committee—and I believe that I can speak for the Liberal Democrats on this occasion—can be of assistance, I am sure that the Minister has only to ask us and we would be delighted to attend any small meeting which he might like to arrange. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 4 [Schedule inserted after Schedule 33 to the Education Act 1996]:

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 126: Page 64, line 22, leave out ("constituted in accordance with paragraph 3").

The noble Lord said: This is a technical drafting amendment to remove from paragraph 13(2) an unnecessary cross-reference to paragraph 3. I beg to move.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

We are content.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 30 [Home-school partnership documents]: [Amendment No. 126A not moved.]

Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 127: Page 26, line 31, after ("education") insert ("and the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development").

The noble Baroness said: In moving the above amendment, it may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak also to Amendments Nos. 196 to 200 which I believe all deal with the same area. The amendments before the Committee are concerned with moral and spiritual education. It is a most important issue which has not so far been touched upon in any of the other amendments which have been considered under the Bill.

I believe we can all agree that there has been a general call today for a moral and spiritual revival. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, both in this Chamber and outside, has made such an appeal which I believe was very welcome. I am sure that we were all deeply moved by the statement made by Mrs. Lawrence after the tragic death of her husband. She made an important national appeal for a statement of moral and spiritual values. They struck a chord in our society and, I believe, were widely welcomed throughout all the political parties.

Therefore, it seems to me that we have an opportunity with the Bill to do something about this issue. I believe that it could be particularly valuable to send a clear message to the new body which is to be set up under an acronym which I cannot possibly pronounce—QNCA —and to the education service generally, to governors and to teachers on the importance of moral and spiritual education, something which I believe has much support in this Chamber.

In tabling the amendments to the Bill, I should like to make it clear that I am not someone who believes that schools alone can instil those values. Teachers have an immensely difficult task today. I hope that such amendments will be seen as an attempt to be helpful in a difficult situation. As I am sure we all know, many teachers work hard and successfully to instil into their pupils moral and spiritual educational standards; indeed, visits to schools show how effective that can be. Those teachers deserve our wholehearted support.

Many people find it difficult to talk about such matters, and schools alone cannot be held responsible. I should like my amendments to be seen as part of a general need for society to look at moral and spiritual values. They need to be seen in conjunction with the fact that I believe parents have a very important role to play in all of this and one that is in many instances more important than that which can come from schools. But they, too, find it difficult to know what to say. I also hope that we shall hear from the Churches, because I believe that they, above all, have an important role to play in such matters.

Perhaps I may make one general observation. We have had much discussion not just on this Bill but in this Chamber about crime and the rule of law. One of the questions which I believe we should ask ourselves is why in the 1920s and the 1930s, when poverty was so much more widespread and people suffered so much more, there was far less crime. Although that is a subject for a long lecture, one answer is that adult society spoke with one voice. If a boy got into trouble—it was more likely to be a boy than a girl—he was, first, told off by his father and his mother, then by the school and, if necessary, told off by the police. Everyone knew where they stood on a set of values. One of the difficulties today is that people simply do not have that kind of code to abide by.

The basic principle behind the amendments is extremely important. Amendment No. 127 would impose a general duty and, in a sense, is a paving amendment for Amendments Nos. 196 to 200. The 1988 Education Act requires the curriculum to be balanced and broadly based, which includes a requirement to promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils and to prepare them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life. Thus it asserts that spiritual, moral, social and cultural values form part of a broadly based curriculum.

The 1992 Government White Paper argues that education cannot and must not be value free. It states: At the heart of every school's educational and pastoral policy and practice should lie a set of shared values which is promoted through the curriculum, through expectations governing the behaviour of pupils and staff and through day to day contact between them". The 1992 Education Act reinforces this by requiring that inspectors report upon the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils within the schools which they inspect. Therefore this matter already has precedents in law.

What I think is the problem today is that there is a separation between what can broadly be described as the secular curriculum and the moral and spiritual curriculum. I believe that education means that spiritual, moral, social and cultural values are most often associated with religious education, and at best today form what can only be described as a kind of "add" on to the central task of schooling, which is the delivery of the secular curriculum. This view seems to be supported by a selection of reports that I have seen from Ofsted showing that schools have a great deal of difficulty in this area.

The SCAA forum on values in schools has sought to reach a consensus, following a wide-ranging consultation, on those values which all schools should be promoting across the curriculum. We now have to consider how far this will be taken up by the new QNCA. However, the statements of value which have resulted are not linked to religious belief or tradition. The danger here is that the set of values which will become the Government's guidelines for all schools, while representing the lowest common denominator among a wide range of people who were consulted, are actually much more likely to become a ceiling.

The problem is that there is a separation between the secular curriculum and spiritual and moral development, which means that in the challenging context of modern life pupils are in many cases being inadequately prepared as young people to understand the significance of spiritual, moral, social and cultural values for the whole of their lives.

The amendments that I have proposed will begin to address these issues—they are simply a start—by making a connection between the spiritual and moral development of pupils and the secular curriculum. They also make a connection between spiritual and moral development and a belief in systems and traditions. They do this—I refer to Amendments Nos. 196 to 200—by asserting that the religious traditions of Great Britain are in the main Christian, and that in the formulation of policies relating to the aims of schools and the spiritual and moral development of pupils, proper regard should be paid to that fact by local education authorities and governing bodies. Further, they require head teachers to ensure that the secular curriculum, in so far as it relates to the spiritual and moral development of pupils, is compatible with the policy of the governing body, and require local education authorities and governing bodies to include spiritual, moral, social and cultural development in the formulation of policies for the secular curriculum.

I recognise that there is a great deal of concern in schools as regards talking about religion at all. There is a great deal of concern in society as regards talking about religion at all. Yet I could produce a great many statistics from a variety of sources which assert that, contrary to generally perceived opinion, a high percentage of the population sees itself as being a Christian of one kind or another, even if those people do not regularly attend Church. One of the most useful things that we can do is to look to values and standards which have stood the test of time.

I was struck by a speech of Dr. Nicholas Tate—he has sent me a copy—in which he talked about our shared and common heritage. I wish to conclude by quoting from that speech: Unlike previous societies we lack a shared story to tell ourselves about who we are, where we came from and where we are going. We had such a story once. It was based on the narratives of the Bible. We hear it loud and clear in the literature of the Middle Ages. We hear it still in Tudor and Stuart times: in the sonnets and sermons of Donne, and (loud and clear still) in the poems of Milton. People continued to hear it throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in the Book of Common Prayer and the Authorised Version, but weakening now and competing with contrary voices. It peters out finally in our century and has almost ceased to be heard, even at times within the Church. But we haven't replaced it with a new story that is widely shared". A good basis for choosing to do anything in life is considering whether what one is proposing to do has stood the test of time. These shared values have stood us in good stead for nearly a thousand years. I see no reason why they should not stand us in good stead in the 21st century. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

It gives me great pleasure to support the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I wish to endorse what she has said and perhaps in one or two regards to elaborate on it. The word "spiritual" was insisted on by a former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, when he negotiated with R. A. Butler on the terms of the 1944 Act. I think it is fair to say that the term lay dormant and almost unused until the 1988 Act when it was used in spelling out the purpose of education as having spiritual, moral, social and cultural implications. That is now also built into the inspection process of Ofsted, which is required to inspect these dimensions of education.

As the noble Baroness has said, there was a temptation in the original emphasis to look particularly to collective worship and religious education as being the means by which the spiritual and moral development of pupils should be encouraged. She is absolutely right in insisting that it has to be wider than those two elements. It is not only the ethos of the school about which we are speaking, but it is also the curriculum. The whole curriculum cannot be value free; it is the whole curriculum which has to be measured against these elements of development of young people.

I wish to make one or two comments with regard to the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority document. The noble Baroness has already referred to the remarks of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. I encouraged him to look at the SCAA process and to use it as a peg on which to hang comments and in particular to promote a debate in this Chamber which took place in July of last year. I think there was a widespread feeling that that debate was of significance and value. The point I am making is that it arose out of the work which had been done by the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

The difficulty of the forum which SCAA has proposed is that it has been based on consensus. As the noble Baroness has pointed out, there is a danger that that forum will simply propose and put forward—indeed it has proposed and put forward—what can command general assent. There is a distinction between what is the case and what ought to be the case. Those of your Lordships who are students of Immanuel Kant will know the emphasis he lays upon unconditional obligation—the sense of that which ought to be the case.

It is perfectly possible to accept that the SCAA document describes what is the case at the moment. However, it does not necessarily describe what ought to be the case—what are those shared values which ought to be part of our heritage which are shared with youngsters within schools. The SCAA forum process cannot deliver that dimension of values, it can only deliver the case at present. I owe that insight to a conversation with the chief executive of SCAA, Dr. Nicholas Tate, who clearly is influencing a number of us in the debate. He made the point that it is perfectly proper for Parliament to legislate for what should be the case in the light of our convictions but that the forum can only describe where people are at this moment.

Many schools have difficulties over the word "spiritual". Those who are religious find difficulty in understanding the notion of spiritual without its setting within religion. Those who are not religious find difficulty in attaching meaning to the word. On occasions I have had conversations with heads of county schools in my diocese. They ask what is meant by spiritual development. Many are finding answers and I believe that that debate is significant and important.

However, one of the difficulties as regards the SCAA document is that people found problems in recognising the routeing of spiritual development and values in religious traditions. In this country today many people are not religious. Some make particular point of declaring that. Because of the emphasis on consensus, those who represented the Churches in the SCAA forum found great difficulty in obtaining any acknowledgement of religious routeing, both spiritual and moral.

I recognise that schools are not entirely clear what they have to deliver in this context. I reinforce the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that schools, parents, Churches, and indeed those of other religious traditions have to work together. Young people are influenced by many senses of belonging: to school, family and community of faith. Each of those senses profoundly affects the way that young people think.

Nevertheless, within the overall partnership there is clearly a role which schools have to play about which some may not be entirely clear. Many young teachers are not quite sure what they are expected to deliver. They are clear about the national curriculum and other aspects that they have to deliver, but not as regards this area. It is important that initial teacher training and the training of head teachers should include reference to spiritual and moral development. I hope that the guidelines now being issued by the teacher training authority on what is to be delivered to those who obtain qualified teacher status will include reference to those dimensions of education.

I accept the phrasing of the amendment which refers to having regard to religious traditions which are in the main Christian. However, we need to recognise that our shared story in this country includes religious traditions other than Christian. The values that we propose are almost entirely shared by other religious traditions. We do not need to regard those values as being derived solely from the Christian tradition. We can look for allies among other communities of faith as we seek to restore those values to the heart of our own story as a nation, and to our educational system. I am delighted to support the amendment.

Lord Addington

The debate on this amendment brings to mind several debates in which I have found myself contradicting the noble Baroness, Lady Young. Spiritual, moral and cultural development depends on one's view. We are at the mercy of fashion. From the Benches opposite over a period of time we have heard much criticism of trendy theory. I suggest that at present the trend is towards what I regard as a more traditionalist view.

I agree with the logic of the right reverend Prelate who spoke but I disagree with his conclusion. We have many traditions and styles. We have had a similar debate as regards SCAA. If a specific provision becomes part of the curriculum and one says, "Thou shalt do it in a certain way", that alienates certain people.

As regards the shared tradition of spiritual guidance, for every example of good, moral sense one can find an example of bigotry. Societies which say, "This is the way that we go forward", traditionally become incredibly intolerant. On the last occasion that we debated the SCAA report, I used the example of the communist society of Eastern Europe which gave us a mantra to chant. It happened to be one interpretation of the works of Marx. There is always a danger of some such development at a minor level.

I suggest that the cultural and spiritual development of young people is best left predominantly to their parents. If one starts interpreting events in history, one is bound to distort them in some way or another. By putting this measure into the Bill there is a far greater danger of damaging people's development than of creating benefit. The moment a provision goes down on paper, it will be interpreted and reinterpreted. This type of approach is so fraught with danger that it should be avoided at all costs.

Lord Elton

The noble Lord falls into a trap in ignoring history. Perhaps I may refer to the speech of the right reverend Prelate. He referred to 1944 when Archbishop William Temple requested of Mr. R.A. Butler that "spiritual" be on the face of a Bill. We were in a desperate extreme in a war with a country more powerful than us, recently joined by an ally which had not yet rescued us from what looked like a terrible defeat. We were confident of victory because of our spiritual qualities. We were aware of our interdependence as individuals within the nation. Self-sacrifice was an obvious virtue. Courage was an absolute essential. There was a clear moral matrix without which we could not survive. It was perfectly reasonable then to ask that this should be recognised on the face of the Bill; and it was perfectly reasonable then that Rab Butler should ask the departing delegation, in an aside, to pray for him.

Now in 1997 we are in a world in which success is not seen as the fruit of courage, self-sacrifice and high moral endeavour. It is seen as skill in extracting benefits from the market and from society. The right reverend Prelate says that schools have difficulty deciding what spiritual means. That is an indictment of our education system, because those people are the product of earlier generations of education. If we simply accept that difficulty and say that it is irremediable, we shall accelerate down a very slippery slope into a bottomless chasm. If we are to survive as a nation worth its salt, we have to realise that self sacrifice, courage and endurance are virtues; and they are virtues not simply because they result in the survival of the country but because they are the inescapable conclusion of anyone who examines the religious basis of this country's history which is Christianity.

I see that the noble Lord, Lord Addington, is poised to leap to his feet. However, perhaps he will restrain himself for a moment. He will say that this measure is in danger of becoming a bigoted enforcement of a single religious viewpoint upon the many minorities in this country. But it will not be for this reason. The amendment does not refer to Christian spirituality. The Act of Parliament under which the amendment would be interpreted is the Education Reform Act 1988. Thanks to the exertions of my noble friends, and noble friends of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, the 1988 Act states that what we are teaching recognises Christianity as wholly or mainly the tradition in this country. It leaves ample scope for the local religious advisory bodies to ensure that the local curricula take account of local religious minority circumstances which in certain parts of this country are predominantly non-Christian.

I am looking only at the first word of my noble friend's amendment; namely, "spiritual". The others seem less desirable, but less essential, and simple to explain. If we ask teachers to teach children the moral and cultural background, that again answers the anxiety of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, because it will teach the cultural and social backgrounds of the community in which they teach.

In her amendment, my noble friend asks us to recognise virtues which are too easily brushed under the carpet and too easily silenced by those who wish to be politically correct. I hope that the Committee will support her.

6 p.m.

Lord Howell

I support the amendment and wish to comment on the noble Baroness's remarks about the relationship between schools and parents. That is the great justification for the amendment. It is the duty of parents to do much more. But unfortunately, as we all know, many parents do not accept their responsibilities in this area or indeed other areas. Therefore the question facing us is: if we do not tackle these problems in schools, even though we hope that they will be tackled in the home, in so many cases where will they be tackled at all? That is the great justification for the noble Baroness's approach.

Incidentally, I undertook some research in my old constituency—which I am sorry to say has the highest infant mortality rate in Europe—on the effect of some of these issues on single parents. I have been astonished to find that the attention of single mothers—with all their problems, living in high-rise flats, often trying to earn a living—to the spirituality of their children is probably greater than in many other areas of the city. That in some ways is a great comfort. We must not assume, as I know the noble Baroness does not assume, that the biggest problem is that of single parents. I do not find that to be the case. There is perhaps some complacency in that regard.

The main point that I wish to take up, especially following the remarks by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon, with which I strongly agreed, is the wording that the noble Baroness has used in her amendment, the religious traditions of Great Britain, which are in the main Christian". That wording is very sensible—"in the main" Christian, but not exclusively Christian.

Again, I fall back on my experience in Birmingham to point that out. I hope that I am dealing with the right point.

Lord Elton

The noble Lord is perfectly correct in his reference to the other grouping. I spoke simply to the first amendment, in which the words do not occur. I apologise for interrupting him.

Lord Howell

I am so glad to know that the referee is not offside on this occasion. I wanted to draw attention to a problem that worries me enormously. In my city, Birmingham, as I have mentioned before, in three years' time 50 per cent. of the schoolchildren will be Moslem. Some will be Hindu, some will be Sikhs, and a few will be Jewish. But the balance has changed. The challenge we face is how to deal with questions of spirituality and morality in a society with that sort of make-up. As a member of the Church of England, I do not think that we give enough attention to the problem of how we relate to each other in terms of religion. There is still a great lack of communication between the various religions.

The right reverend Prelate asked us to define "spirituality", or at least to discuss the question. I prefer the phrase "ethical studies" so far as schools are concerned. Ethical studies, which should be central to a school curriculum, can be related to each one of those religions. A great deal of common ground can be found between them. Indeed that is true of religion generally.

I support the later amendment because it uses the phrase "in the main Christian", which is a matter of fact. Religious traditions in this country are Christian; but we have to acknowledge the evolving situation and make arrangements in the schools, the Churches and society to deal with those changes. I would plead that, when these matters are discussed in schools and in churches, the ethical basis of society is the issue that is likely to hold the greater attraction.

I am pleased that, more and more, the Church has regard to ethical questions. In the church to which I am attached we formed a centre for ethical business studies. It is becoming quite revealing and produces a great deal of information from the business community about the ethical basis of its activities. This is an all-embracing question. However, its fundamental consideration has to start in the schools. That is why I am delighted that the noble Baroness tabled this amendment. It enables a few of us to make one or two points that we have wanted to make for some time.

Baroness Warnock

I strongly support the amendment and very much hope that it will not be turned down on the ground that it is not necessary or that the implications are already there in the 1988 Act. It is fairly obvious that, as a society, we are in worse shape than we have been for a long time not only in regard to crime but in regard to a kind of total forgetfulness of morality. It is not sensible to say that the teaching of morality is a function of the family. As we have heard, an enormous number of families do not even possess a moral vocabulary. I was very encouraged to hear the noble Lord, Lord Elton, use the names of virtues as part of that which it is incumbent upon schools not only to teach by example but to name and to hold up as ideals for their pupils. If the schools do not do it, we shall repeatedly and increasingly be in a condition where we have no vocabulary left with which to say plainly that some things are morally wrong and other things constitute ideals.

I have some sympathy with the heads whom the right reverend Prelate came across who did not quite know what to make of the word "spiritual"—unless it means religious. Immediately we say that it means religious, we fall into the difficulty that there are numerous different faiths in one school.

I should feel perfectly happy to say to people who do not know what "spiritual" means, that they are there to teach the possibility of an ideal, a fundamental value, wherever it may come from, from whichever faith, or indeed no faith. "Spiritual" entitles someone to hold up an ideal which is absolute and which may never be attainable. If a child is presented with that idea, an enormous change for the better will come about.

I should therefore like to retain both words—"moral" and "spiritual". However, I believe that in teaching these values in schools it is important for teachers themselves to be unashamed of using deliberately moral words and not to be obsessed with moral relativism or saying that what may be right for one person may not be right for another, but to come down—if necessary, in an Aristotelian way—and talk about virtues and vices. We know that there are such things. I believe that, if the schools do not teach children that that is so, many of them will never pick up the idea and we shall continue in the wave of crime that we now find ourselves in. I strongly support the amendment.

Baroness Platt of Writtle

It is with pleasure that I rise to support everything said by my noble friend Lady Young. Her amendment seeks to place emphasis on the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of children, including the importance of marriage and parenthood in the bringing up of families, with which I wholly agree.

The majority of marriages are for life; the majority of children live with their married natural parents. We do not read nearly enough about the successful upbringing of children; we read too much about the occasional dramatic failure. Too much emphasis is placed by the media on the statistics of failure. Marriage and parenthood are not easy responsibilities to assume. On occasion difficulties loom large in everyone's life. Careful and sympathetic preparation at school, including how to deal responsibly with problems, will give children strength to cope in their later lives. We all know of the problems of housing, finance, mortgages, hire purchase and different family customs. All those problems contribute stresses and strains to marriage. Even such humdrum decisions as who does the washing-up and who makes the bed can be the cause of great tension. If children discuss such problems openly at school under proper supervision, incorporating the principles put forward by my noble friend Lady Young, which have stood the test of time, they will later recall what they have learnt and, we hope, find permanent solutions in their own lives.

If the children of a marriage also see their parents come to an amicable solution of their problems following a disagreement, that will provide a stable basis for their upbringing and will help in their own future marriages.

As a fellow member of the Church of England, I support the emphasis placed by my noble friend Lady Young on Christianity; but I also support an ecumenical viewpoint and co-operation between different religions on spiritual development of children. A spiritual vacuum, which is the alternative, is a much more dangerous situation.

I hope that the Government will accept the principles of my noble friend's amendments and incorporate them into the Bill.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I should like to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Young, a question, but before doing so I should like to comment briefly on what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said when he linked history, religion and morality.

It is simply not possible to look back at the history of our own country, and certainly not at the history of our own continent, and say that religions were always virtuous. We have had persecution of the Jews by various Christian bodies; we have had persecution and burning of Catholics by Protestants and of Protestants by Catholics. We cannot say that just by looking at religion we shall obtain a guide for today's morality. In fact everyone who has spoken has also said that tolerance, which is a modern virtue—it was not a virtue 300 years ago, but is one of today's virtues—should be part of our moral armour. We should not always refer back to what were our basic virtues in the past. What people perceive as being important changes over time. There are a lot of things that many of us would feel are virtues; I personally think of truthfulness, courage, a generous heart and modesty. However, over time not everybody has necessarily supported the same set of virtues. Morality changes. We are all human beings and therefore our ability to interpret religion changes. That does not mean that there is not a spiritual aspect to the life of every human being that needs to be nurtured.

I agree with much of what the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said. It is important that educators take on board some of the aspects of education that she raised. I remember some years ago an education committee trying to lay down what education should be about. Some of us had to struggle to get the word "moral" back into the list because we were then talking of vocational matters. "The person" was being edged out because of the need to prepare that person for adult life.

I have a problem with the reference in the noble Baroness's later amendments to the principle of a mainly Christian approach. If I understand it correctly, this set of amendments has to do with the home-school agreements with which we were concerned earlier. Those home-school agreements are still part, or potentially part, of the admissions process of schools. I should like the noble Baroness to tell us how she thinks that will work when parents who wish their children to go to a particular school come from a wide range of different backgrounds, including non-religious people. That does not mean that those people do not have spiritual values. In today's world people can be very considerate of others and very keen to do their best for the world but be anti-religious. That must be accepted.

6.15 p.m.

The Earl of Longford

Does the noble Baroness agree with the estimate of one of the most revered humanists in this Chamber—he may address us—when he told us long ago that 10 per cent. of the population was non-religious?

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I cannot dispute or agree with the figure because I do not remember, but I am willing to accept that that was what was said. All I can say is that, in my experience, a considerable proportion of people are anti-religious. I am not part of that group. That is one group who might be disconcerted. A second group might be unwilling to sign the pre-admission agreement between the school and the parents. The same might be true of those who come from different religious backgrounds. How does the noble Baroness, Lady Young, see this fitting in with the rest of the Bill?

Baroness Elles

Perhaps I may say a few words in support of the amendment of my noble friend Lady Young. It is clear that her amendment has a great deal of support in this Chamber and I very much hope that my noble friend the Minister will accept it into the Bill. Amendment No. 127 refers to "spiritual, moral, social and cultural development" and does not include the word "Christian" at all. That does not mean to say that Christian values are not included. In her later amendments she correctly points out that Christian tenets are in the main the ones that are recognised in this country. However, in the context of Clause 30 that does not lead me to say that every religious class will be dealing with Christianity. On the contrary, I believe that it is very valuable that the word "spiritual" is used rather than the word "Christian" in that it gives a wider definition of what children should expect to learn. In all the cases that I have known over the many years in which I have dealt with schools, I have seldom found that parents—even when they are non-religious or when specifically atheists—object to their children having some kind of general spiritual education in school. In fact I believe they expect it.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness. I wonder whether she would accept that in this country there are places where people have fought to retain county schools because all the other schools for the age group in that area were religious schools. It is simply a matter of fact. I may not agree with it but it is part of the society in which we live.

Baroness Elles

I thank the noble Baroness for pointing that out. But this particular clause is a voluntary and not mandatory provision. The clause states: The admission arrangements for a county or voluntary school may include provisions". It gives the opportunity to those schools which wish to include these provisions to do so. I believe that that is the right and proper way to do it. Therefore, I very much hope that my noble friend's amendment will be accepted by the Government.

Lord Northbourne

Before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may say that it seems to me—though I may be wrong—that the amendment refers to Clause 30. It simply states that schools in their statement should specify, among other things, not only the education but: the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of the pupils. Schools could specify that it was nil. The provision does not state that there has to be spiritual development and so on. It is simply a statement.

It seems to me of the greatest importance and interest to all parents to know whether or not a school is delivering those kinds of teaching and if so what they are. This particular clause, unlike subsequent clauses, is in no way mandatory and does not tell schools what they have to do.

Lord Stallard

I can be very brief. Much of what I would have said has already been said. But I feel that it is necessary to rise in support of the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and in support of my noble friend Lord Howell's remarks about his experience in the inner cities. I have lived in London now for 60 years, come next month. I have seen the tremendous changes that have taken place in schools, education, housing, crime and goodness knows what. Much has gone on in those years.

Those of us who can remember the atmosphere that surrounded the 1944 Education Act, and immediately afterwards when it was implemented, know that there was then a totally different atmosphere. There was a far wider acceptance of the spiritual and moral standards that prevailed in those days. An acceptance of those standards was written into that Act and encompassed everything that surrounded it.

We are now in a totally different set of circumstances. The country and society have become more secularised than it was and there are many more problems as a result. Certainly, I accept and support what the right reverend Prelate said about the need to pay attention to other

religions. I do not advocate that this area is solely the province of Christians. For example, there is the understanding and acceptance of the relationship of marriage as a necessity rather than just something which happens and the emphasis on marriage as a basis for family life and for communities. Those views are shared by the people of other religions who have come to this country. Many of the views that we hold as Christians are shared by the followers of other religions, whose children go to our schools and are taught by the same teachers. That has made it much more difficult for the teachers. Gradually, through the years, religion has changed. In this country religion has meant Christianity and Christianity has implied something traditional, old-fashioned and out-of-date. As time has passed it has become a lesson which is added on to the curriculum, to be spoken about if there is time. It does not have its own space. It is not something which should first be there and then go on to embrace all the other aspects mentioned by the right reverend Prelate. If such teaching were put back on to the agenda, teachers could talk to the children. It would be understood that they must advocate marriage and a stable home.

Teachers face much opposition at the moment. We could discuss for hours the opposition they encounter from videos, television, the tabloid press and so on. The papers are full of examples from soap operas which seem to emphasise the virtues of homosexuality, drugs, and so on. All those aspects are brought in. Teachers may well try to teach one thing during the day and find that in the evening or after school the children are being taught by a different medium altogether which pushes out what they have learnt at school. I do not blame the teachers.

The right reverend Prelate mentioned training. Religious or spiritual training does not come through from some teachers, some of whom have themselves been brought up by a generation which did not believe in religion, did not understand it or came from the same background as some of the pupils of whom we have recently been speaking. There is a big problem, but it is not insurmountable. We should all speak with one voice and the people should be given a lead.

I do not criticise present company but I am saddened by the lack of a lead from the Churches. It is all very well to talk above people's heads. Much of the discussion about morality and spirituality goes way above the heads of ordinary parents. The noble Baroness on the Liberal Democrat Benches was almost right to say that we should talk to people about the meaning of tolerance and of following virtue and shunning vices. The noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, mentioned rights and wrongs: people understand that. That ought to be placed high on the agenda and not just be something that is mentioned in passing or if there is time or a teacher who used to go to Church can be found who is inclined to speak about it and is willing to be used as a part-time tutor, and so on. Those things have to be put back on to the agenda.

Therefore, it is necessary to accept what the noble Baroness seeks in her amendments. I understand exactly what she wants and why the amendment should be included. The amendments should be carried and then we should discuss, if we have to, how best to implement them in order to obtain what we all understand is absolutely necessary if we are to make any impact on the major problems.

Baroness O'Cathain

I rise to support this amendment and to speak very briefly. It is sad to have to make the observation that, say, 30 or 40 years ago the word "education" would automatically have included the words in the noble Baroness's amendment: spiritual, moral, social and cultural development". That was a tradition that we all shared.

I should like to take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Addington, who said that we have shared traditions but in fact it is now the fashion to be religious, moral, ethical, spiritual and so on—that is not exactly what he said, but that was the inference—and we should not pander to fashion. I suggest to him that the breakdown in the spiritual, social and moral standards in this country is a fashion and not a tradition. We ought to try to make sure that we go back to the traditions of this country.

Lord Addington

Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Baroness. We can always select from history examples of spiritual and moral values. At the beginning of World War One a very high proportion of the population was illegitimate. Marriage was not that common. One can go back to periods when prostitution was rife in London. One can always select examples. Whether or not one goes to church makes no difference.

Baroness O'Cathain

The noble Lord and I may have listened to the same radio programme this morning. But the shared traditions of this country are very strong. I believe that the word "education" should encompass those four requirements of spiritual, moral, social and cultural development included in the amendment.

I am sure that the whole Committee is concerned about the lack of spiritual, moral, cultural and social development in young children. When people consider all the problems that we face, they ask why we do not have that spiritual, moral, cultural or social development.

I fear it is too easy to say that it is the duty of parents. We all know the problems that parents face—we heard them graphically described by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, in relation to single mothers and high-rise blocks. Parents do their best to instil those values into their children against all odds, and I am sure they are succeeding. But it should also be part of education. Once we assumed that it was part of education; now it seems that everything must be defined. The requirement should be defined in this way in the Bill. I support the amendment.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My objection to the amendment is the use of the word "spiritual"—a concern expressed also in the debate by other Members of the Committee. The word "spirit" has a connotation of religious belief; indeed, it is more than that. Some of us do not believe that there is such a thing as "spirit" and therefore what the noble Baroness said is a non sequitur and should not be part of the normal education our children receive.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon spoke with his usual courage in attempting to deal with the word "spiritual". However, he did not appear to reach a conclusion, though I am sure he could convince me if we spoke about this matter outside the Chamber. My message is simple: around 25 per cent. to 30 per cent. of the people in this country do not have a religious belief.

The Earl of Longford

On the last occasion my noble friend told us the figure was 10 per cent. It seems to have multiplied very quickly.

Lord Dormand of Easington

I did not catch what my noble friend said. What I was about to say was that there will be disagreement about whether the figure is 10 per cent., 15 per cent. or 30 per cent. What is accepted is that a substantial number of the population of this country are non-believers; they are atheists, agnostics, humanists and so forth. The Committee may be interested to know that there is a parliamentary humanist group which has no fewer than 50 members from both Houses. That seems to be an indication that there is another viewpoint. I do not deny that religion in its full sense can and does produce high standards; I am saying that there is not necessarily a connection between the two.

I want to be brief but perhaps I can remind the Committee what the clause is about. Clause 30 states: The admission arrangements for a county or voluntary school may include provisions and they are listed. If the amendment is carried the clause will include the word "spiritual", to which some of us are opposed.

Suppose the parents of a child in a school are presented with the list of requirements for admission and say, "We are not believers. We are agnostics, or atheists, non-religious and so forth. As I interpret the clause, it means that they would not be allowed to send their children to that school. That is something which must be of fundamental importance.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Perhaps he will accept that it is already a requirement on governing bodies that they should have a policy on spiritual, moral, cultural and social development. All Amendment No. 127 does is require them to publish it so that parents know what the policy is.

Lord Dormand of Easington

I was aware of that. I am also aware that three or four years ago we had a long debate as to whether or not we should include the word "Christianity" in the Act. That was agreed at that time, though some of us opposed it. But that is the law and we accept it. However, when a specific word which has a religious connotation is being included, we cannot treat it lightly.

The Earl of Longford

I rise to support the noble Baroness, Lady Young, very strongly. Years ago Rosamund Toynbee, the famous writer, wrote about her father. She said that he was "a good pagan". The noble Baroness is a "good Conservative"—not the only one, of course—in this area.

I opened a debate on moral education last November and, if anyone wants my views, they are set out succinctly in the Official Report. One can look at this argument from two standpoints. First, one can consider the kind of education one would like to see adopted throughout schools in this country; secondly, one can consider the kind of education one might reasonably expect the Government to ensure.

I speak unequivocally as a Christian. I am not one of those who thinks that Christian ethics are much the same as others. Of course there are wonderful Christians, like my noble friend here. However, I understand that she was baptised a Catholic and may well look down on converts like myself. We also have wonderful humanists, like others who have spoken; they are wonderful people.

I worked as bottle washer for Lord Beveridge for three years. He made wonderful plans for the welfare state and for humanity. At the end of his life, in 1961, we had a debate in the House on Christian unity in which Lord Beveridge took part and spoke up for Christian unity. I said to him at tea afterwards—I always called him "Master" because he was the Master of University College—"Master, I am glad to see that you came out as a Christian. What denomination do you belong to?" He paused and then I said, "When I was at school, if you could not get a boy into a house, you put him down on the general list. Put me down on the general list". Today I ask the Committee to put education on the general Christian list; I am certainly not speaking on behalf of only one denomination.

In relation to Christian ethics, no one can deny that the ideas of humility and forgiveness were introduced by Jesus Christ. They are distinctive Christian virtues, though they were adopted and adapted by other faiths. One cannot imagine a Christian community today persecuting Salman Rushdie. There are therefore differences of ethics between different religions.

I speak unequivocally as a Christian. It is strange that people do not like to mention their Christian beliefs— I think for two reasons. First, they fear it may be boastful; that it may be thought they are claiming to be better than other people. Secondly, people in this country do not like talking about that which is most sacred to them. That is why even very good Christians do not mention the word "Christian". As I say, I speak unequivocally as a Christian.

Does that mean that one is entitled to ask the Government about Christianity? I am sorry that the number of humanists appears to have been multiplied since we last debated the issue. I remember the figure of 10 per cent. well because I quoted it myself in the debate I opened in November; it has now risen to 25 per cent. or 30 per cent. though I have no reason to believe that the humanists are increasing. At the beginning of this century the Bloomsbury set were high-minded humanists. I do not believe that there is anything in the world today equivalent to the Bloomsbury set.

One must face the fact that this is primarily a Christian country with a small proportion of humanists—about as many humanists as there are Roman Catholics. As I quoted in the last debate, 3.7 per cent. of the population belong to other religions. This is primarily a Christian country. "Christianity" was installed in the Act of 1988 on the initiative of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. I hope that that promise will be fulfilled tonight.

The Earl of Clanwilliam

Before the noble Earl sits down, perhaps I can point out that the noble Earl combined the word "spirituality" specifically with the Christian faith. But surely spirituality is part of any faith; even a humanist has some feeling of good or ill. It must have some connotation of spirituality about it.

Spirituality is an aspiration and it may be that many of those who aspire to the Christian faith, as I do, still regard it as an aspiration. As an aspiration and an aim spirituality is an important goal for young children. The sooner our teachers can get spirituality into themselves as they teach it, the better for all of us.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

At the risk of being brief and boring perhaps I can recall the Committee to Amendment No. 127. I am sympathetic to the view of the noble Baroness; but this amendment would require schools to state in home partnership documents not only what the school intends to do about the education of children admitted to the school, but also about the children's, spiritual, moral, social and cultural development". The phrase originates from the School Inspections Act 1996, Section 10(5)(d) which says that registered inspectors conducting an inspection have to report on the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at the school. The phrase was added to the original legislation following pressure from Back-Bench peers, although it was a government amendment in 1992. That formula was devised for registered inspectors carrying out inspections. I do not think it necessarily translates easily to what schools might wish to put into a partnership document. It might be better if parents were directed to the general duties in respect of the school curriculum which are found in Section 351 of the Education Act, for instance.

Generally, Amendment No. 127 has difficulties because it makes an additional requirement to the already difficult burdens that schools will have in meeting other government education legislation. Let me point to just three things. First, we live in a multi-faith society. Moslems, Hindus and Sikhs might very well have difficulties in signing up to a home school partnership which included terms of this kind.

Secondly, people whose ideals of morality are not religious would certainly have difficulty in signing up to this kind of document, and that might well affect the way in which their children were treated. The noble Baroness referred to the moral and spiritual consensus which lasted from the Middle Ages until Victorian England, and how true it was that it did. However, it does not apply now: it is all in pieces, all coherence gone, as John Donne put it.

Thirdly, this has not been discussed, so far as I know, with head teachers or governors. It could be used as part of the admissions procedure to a school, and it is in such a sensitive area and it is so big an issue that the home school contract is just too small a room for it to be contained.

Turning to Amendments Nos. 196 to 200, may I put on the record the other technical difficulties which get in the way of my sympathy. These amendments require the local education authority, in Amendment No. 196, county controlled and maintained special school bodies in Amendment No. 197, head teachers of county controlled and maintained special schools in Amendment No. 198, governing bodies and teachers of aided and special agreement schools in Amendment No. 199 and grant-maintained schools in Amendment No. 200, to exercise their functions to promote the spiritual and moral development of pupils. Amendment No. 199 would appear to me to restrict the responsibilities of aided schools in respect of religious education. Amendment No. 135 inserts a similar formulation to what schools state they will do for pupils through home school partnerships, and that is why they come together.

I wonder whether they are not present already through the general duty on the school curriculum covered by Section 351 of the Education Act 1996, as we now have it, which requires schools to promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils. I have difficulties in fitting all these things together, and for those reasons I hope that the noble Baroness will not press this to a Division tonight. We must give the Government time and opportunity to reflect on the significance and the technical difficulties which these wholly admirable amendments, for which I have great sympathy, present.

Lord Henley

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on one thing and, I suspect, as always, on one thing only: that is the primary role of parents in terms of the spiritual and moral development of their children. It is always important to remember that primary role where there are parents so to exercise these functions. However, I also fully share my noble friend's views that schools have an important role to play in promoting the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of their pupils.

That is why, like my noble friend and also like the noble Lord, Lord Morris, on behalf of the Government I would like to make it clear that we recognise that Section 351 of the 1996 Act requires local education authorities and the school governing bodies, together with head teachers, to ensure that the curriculums of their schools promote the spiritual, moral, cultural,

mental and physical development of pupils at the school and in society and prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life. I believe that the reference to schools discharging their general responsibilities in connection with the education of children in the school can already cover all those things.

However, talking particularly about Amendment No. 127, I believe that when it comes to home school partnerships, the partnership documents and how they should be used, these should be matters for the admission authorities to decide what they want to include in their documents. I think I said earlier that I, for one, would not want to be prescriptive about that. Our proposals merely seek to set out a general framework for the partnership document, and it is right that decisions of coverage and points of fine detail should be decided at local level, no doubt bearing in mind Section 351 of the 1996 Act, as quoted by my noble friend and by the noble Lord, Lord Morris.

Parents will be aware of the school's position and the action it proposes to take for the promotion of its pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, as the schools are required to list that in their school prospectus. They have to have a statement on the ethos and values and such matters, and there is no reason why parents should not know what is going on.

Perhaps I might also very briefly follow on from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Morris, and say a word or two about the amendments to which my noble friend also spoke, Nos. 196 to 200. The effects of those amendments would be to bring these considerations within the scope of the secular curriculum, which I suspect is not something that my noble friend was necessarily trying to do. As happens already in denominational schools, the parents who choose a non-denominational education in a county school have a right to expect that the secular curriculum—for example, in ancient history or in science—will be precisely that: it will be secular.

I have now twice repeated the provisions of Section 351 of the 1996 Act and I think they go a long way towards providing exactly what it is that my noble friend is so committed to. Indeed, that is what so many of your Lordships on all sides of the Committee are committed to—that schools, as well as parents, play their part in encouraging the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of the pupils that they are responsible for. Having said that, if my noble friend would care to have further discussions with me between now and a later stage of the Bill, I am prepared to consider that. I am not sure that the words she proposes actually add very much more than the words in Section 351 of the 1996 Act. I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment on this occasion.

Baroness Young

We have had a useful and important discussion and I am extremely grateful to those of your Lordships who have supported me and made such valuable points. I say to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon how very pleased I was to have his support. I believe profoundly that the role of the Churches in all of this is absolutely paramount in our society, and I was encouraged by what he had to say. May I also say how grateful I am to my noble friend Lord Elton. He is right to draw to our attention the fact that a great many words have gone out of the British vocabulary: "duty", "honour", "self-sacrifice" and "endurance". Use them in some places and people have no idea what you are talking about. We have simply forgotten what they are and what they stand for.

I was also particularly interested to hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, had to say, and I will read carefully in Hansard her extraordinarily interesting speech. She was so right to say that teachers should not be afraid to use moral words. Let us face it, some things are right and some things are wrong. When the noble Earl, Lord Longford, introduced a debate on the subject, I said that I should have thought that we could all agree that bullying, cheating and stealing were wrong—I did not think that that was a matter for debate—so why should we not say that they are wrong? Furthermore, one could add to the list. Those who have responsibility for children should not be afraid to say such things.

I thank also my noble friend Lady Platt and the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, who has been a great supporter on such issues on many occasions in the past. The noble Lord was right to draw our attention to the Education Act 1944 and the general agreement which preceded it. I am grateful also to my noble friend Lady O'Cathain, who made the important point that "education" should encompass spiritual and moral education.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, spoke movingly about his experiences in his former constituency. I assure him that I am not in the least bit interested in blaming anybody. It is a worrying situation for all of us. We are all looking for a solution to a difficult issue.

I was sorry to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said. Of course, there have been endless failures by Christians and by the Church in the past, but surely we are looking to the ideal, even if all of us, every day of our lives, fail to live up to the ideals in which we believe.

I was also sorry to hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, said. However, the noble Baroness asked me a question to which I hope that I can now give the answer. If I got the question down correctly, she asked me how I see Amendment No. 127 working in the rest of the Bill as it stands. I see the amendment as a fundamental part of the Bill because I see, spiritual, moral, social and cultural development". as a fundamental part of education. Indeed, Clause 30(2) states: For the purposes of this section …a 'partnership document' is a statement specifying — (a) the school's aims and values". Let us suppose that the school's "aims and values" do not include teaching the secular curriculum; I cannot believe that that would be accepted, so why should we not include those other things that are a part of life? I believe that it was my noble friend Lady Elles who made that point very clearly and, again, I am most grateful for that. I was interested also to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Morris, said, and I am glad that in principle he agrees with me.

I was, of course, extremely interested to hear what my noble friend the Minister had to say. But perhaps I should conclude by saying that I do not believe that Amendment No. 127 would affect admission arrangements. I believe that it would only strengthen them. It would send out a very clear signal that I believe we should send out in this muddled and confused society in which we live.

The amendment would help to ensure that the values that schools seek to promote take account of our mainly Christian religious tradition. On this difficult point, it is interesting to note that British Social Attitudes found that only 3.6 per cent. of the population adhere to a non-Christian faith, whereas other surveys—and many have been carried out—consistently show that between 70 and 80 per cent. of the population describe themselves as "Christian". Of course, the extent to which they are practising Christians is another matter, but that is how they describe themselves.

In conclusion, this is a most important issue. It will not go away and even if this amendment is not accepted, I am certain that Parliament will return to it time and again until its importance is recognised. However, in view of the offer made by my noble friend the Minister of further discussions on the matter, I shall not seek to press the amendment today. I hope that we can come to some useful agreement between this stage and Report stage. In the meantime, while thanking all those who have supported me, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 127A to 127C not moved.]

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendment No. 128: Page 27, line 6, at end insert— ("( ) Every partnership document shall be deemed to include the following provisions—

  1. (a) that its terms may be revised at any time if, in the opinion of the head teacher of the school, that is necessary in consequence of the child's academic performance or the child's behaviour; and
  2. (b) that if the child is excluded from the school the head teacher may require its revision as a condition of readmitting the child to the school.").

The right reverend Prelate said: We have had a debate with high moral content and the amendments to which I now speak—Amendments Nos. 128 and 130—might seem to be a descent from that high moral plateau to a more mundane issue. Nevertheless, they address the profoundly moral issue of how to respond to disruptive pupils. Like many moral matters, there are no easy black and white answers. There is a moral tension here: on the one hand, there is a need to pay regard to the worth and future of the individual pupil while, on the other hand, there is a need to have regard to the community of the school and the effect that that individual may be having on the education of others in the school.

There has been some debate about the partnership document playing a role in admissions. The amendments are an attempt to lift the partnership document out of the context of admissions and place it in a fresh context. Perhaps I should add that, irrespective of whether the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Morris, to remove subsection (1) of Clause 30 had been successful, Amendment No. 128 would still have stood because Clause 30(2) specifies a "partnership document" and it is to such a document that my amendment refers. Therefore, I hope that, whatever views there may be about the use of the partnership document in the context of admissions, noble Lords on all sides of the Committee will be willing to reflect on the significance of this amendment in placing the partnership document in a different contexts. Indeed, there are two contexts.

I refer first to the position that may arise when a crisis is beginning to loom—that is, when it becomes necessary in consequence of a child's academic performance or behaviour to consider how best that child may be helped. We are all saying that the partnership between parents and school is of enormous significance. I warmed particularly to the comments on that made by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, in relation to a previous amendment. I believe this profoundly. I accept that there may be parents who for one reason or another—perhaps because of parental inadequacy—may be unable to provide the support which is necessary, but in many cases that is not so. When situations are beginning to become difficult, it seems right—indeed, it is normally the case—that a school will consult the parents and work with them in order to bring about a change in the pupil's behaviour or attitudes.

Is it not a strength that revision of the partnership document should be part of that negotiation? It would mean that instead of being a general document, applicable only to those pupils wanting admission to a school, the partnership document could be deemed usable where negotiations with regard to a particular pupil were required. In the context of a child who has been excluded from school for a period, such negotiations could be part of the process of readmission.

If the amendments are accepted, they will allow schools to take into account the response of parents in determining their attitude and actions both in relation to the original exclusion and in relation to readmission. If an appeals procedure were to be invoked, the fact that a partnership document had been revised could be part of the evidence taken into account during that appeal. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will take some interest in Amendment No. 128 and that he may possibly warm to it. I beg to move.

7 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Perhaps I may press the right reverend Prelate for further explanation of the amendment. It was not our understanding that the home-school agreement was an individual document child by child. Having said that, many schools have very successfully negotiated two different kinds of document. One is an agreement with parents as to how to deal with a particular problem when it arises—for example, when a child is falling down academically or is being disruptive. Obviously, the child and the parents will have their attention drawn to the home-school agreement. To start adding to this particular mechanism may create enormous difficulties and problems.

With regard to academic performance, one of the most successful projects is the record of achievements that is used successfully in many schools. It deals specifically with those years which for some parents, perhaps many, can be very difficult—say, the ages between 13 and 16. It deals with it by producing records of what the pupil can achieve. However, we have difficulty in seeing how that can be attached to this particular procedure because it may lead to confusion.

I have a general concern about the assumption that is increasingly being made in this debate that there are good parents and parents who are inadequate and who need to be cajoled, nay bullied on occasions, or trained—perhaps that is a better word—to behave properly. It is my experience over many years of contact with a very large number of schools that we are ignoring a totally different group of parents. I refer to children who are the sole carers of parents who are in need of care at home. I refer to parents with alcohol and drug-related problems or parents, possibly single parents, who are being treated at home for severe mental illness. I worry about taking the whole of the home-school agreement into that sensitive area.

The work that schools do is often very good. We on these Benches agree with the proposal that underlies the amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon. However, we need to be convinced that this is the way to achieve that very worthy end.

Lord Henley

Obviously, it is for the right reverend Prelate to respond in his own way to the questions posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington. Perhaps I may make one or two general points that will assist both the right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness. Strictly speaking, the Clause 30 home-school partnership documents and associated parental declarations have no legal life outside the admissions process, and the question of renegotiation of such documents does not arise. As I believe the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, put it, such documents are intended as statements of general principles, not individualised documents for individual pupils. They set out what the school will endeavour to provide for every child and what it in turn expects of every parent.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Perhaps the Minister can clarify one matter. Is the Minister saying that virtually the sole purpose of the home-school contract is for the purpose of admissions, or that it is to be used at the time of admission and at no other time?

Lord Henley

Their sole purpose is not for admissions. I believe that most of us take the view that they are important in their own right. They are not matters to be considered simply at the point of admission and then forgotten. Their legal life outside the admissions process is the important matter to get right. They are intended as a statement of general principle— I believe that that was the matter about which the noble Baroness was concerned—and not matters that are peculiar to particular children.

In essence, the position after admission would be no different from what it is now, where parents, after their child has taken up a place, may be asked to sign voluntarily such a document that may be personalised to take account of the circumstances of the individual child. The noble Baroness asked whether it could be used as some form of mechanism or condition of reinstatement in the case of an excluded child, as I believe is the intention of the second amendment of the right reverend Prelate. I believe that here the right reverend Prelate has in mind something other than the Clause 30 home-school partnership. Having said that, obviously there is nothing to prevent a school from asking parents to sign an individualised form of home-school agreement as a condition of reinstating an excluded child, provided that its contents are reasonable. But if the parents refuse to sign, and consequently the LEA or governing body decline to direct the head to reinstate the child who has been permanently excluded, the parents will have the right of appeal to the independent committee, which may still direct unconditional reinstatement of the child.

What the right reverend Prelate seeks is perhaps not appropriate for what may be called Clause 30 home-school partnership documents. I do not think that they would necessarily be the right way forward either. But I hope that the right reverend Prelate accepts, as both I and the party opposite accept, that they serve a very strong purpose in their own right and they are important in that respect.

Baroness Warnock

Before the noble Lord sits down, I seek clarification. I have become rather muddled as to whether the home-school agreement is general or particular. Although it may set out the general policy of the school, what the school expects of the parents and what it promises to do, each parent will sign it on behalf of a particular child. It may be that one would feel unable to make this particular promise about the particular child. How do I know that I can control him or get him to go to school? I thought that this document was made with reference to a particular parent and for his particular child or children, but perhaps I am wrong.

Lord Henley

The noble Baroness has misunderstood it. The documents are intended as statements of general principle setting out what the school will endeavour to provide for every child and what the school in turn expects of every parent. It may be that the school will, quite rightly, expect the child to turn up every day. Obviously, it will be particularised to the extent that it will be signed by the particular parents, but it is a general statement of principles.

Lord Northbourne

Before the noble Lord sits down, I should like to ask a further question. It seems to me that the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, raises an extremely important point about certain parents, particularly single parents, who may for one reason or another be inadequate or find very great difficulty in fulfilling the conditions of the partnership document. Is there any possibility that the child of such parents may be regarded as a child in need and the social services department or the local education authority may assume some of the responsibilities of the parents?

Lord Henley

Obviously, if the child was formally in care they would be the appropriate authorities to make such a decision. If the child was not in care and its parents fell into the category spoken of by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, I am sure that, as we discussed earlier in considering the interaction between social services, the LEA and so on, that would be something that they should take into account. I am sure that in developing their proposals for such a home school partnership such possibilities—sadly they are rather frequent—should be taken into account. But in the end it must be the parent. As always, I should not want to undermine the role of that parent.

Lord Dormand of Easington

I have a similar question to that asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock. I am a little confused, and I apologise if it involves repetition. The House of Lords Library notes on the Bill state, "The clause allows"—that is, Clause 30: for LEA schools to use home school agreements as part of their admission arrangements and to refuse a pupil whose parents have refused to sign the agreement". In his reply to that I think the Minister said that the parents would have a right of appeal to the independent commission. But if we take that sentence at its face value, it means all of the agreement. As I made clear in a contribution to an earlier debate on another amendment that is in need of clarification.

Lord Henley

I am not sure that that is the case. As I made clear earlier, and as I have made clear on this amendment, they can be used as part of the general admissions process. If parents are not prepared to sign them, well then it is open to the school, even when they have surplus places, to say that they do not wish to take that child.

Lord Dormand of Easington

With great respect, and I know that the Minister is trying to be helpful, that does not answer the point which we have both made. To put it bluntly, does it mean that part of the document may be agreed, or not? That is the point we dealt with.

Lord Henley

I do not know what the noble Lord does when he signs a document, but normally when one signs a document—insurance, or whatever—one signs the whole document. One cannot sign part of a document and then suggest that one has agreed partially.

Lord Dormand of Easington

Or one does not sign at all. The Minister could not have given a better example, because I had to sign a document today. I refused to sign it because of a certain figure on it.

Lord Henley

If the noble Lord refuses to sign, or if the parents—as I made clear—refuse to sign, it is open to the school to consider that as part of the admissions process.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Before the Minister sits down, the most recent exchange has demonstrated the grave concern we feel that this home school agreement should be used in any way as part of an admissions process. It would appear to us on these Benches, and to other Members of the Committee, that for a government who have espoused the cause of parental choice, to bring in a mechanism which may allow schools to create a home school document which some of the parents in their catchment area find unacceptable, and then to be able to exclude them from school on those grounds, is dangerous. Perhaps more worrying than that, it is a denial of the advantages of the home school agreement in principle, because once it becomes a matter of coercion—we must keep putting this on the record—it is no longer an agreement.

The document may have been agreed by a group of parents, or the majority of the parents, in a set of circumstances, but in no way can it be called an agreement if a parent is told, "You either sign, or your child does not get the place". That is anathema to anyone who has watched with pride and pleasure the development of the home school agreement. To turn it into a mechanism for turning away children is wrong.

Secondly, the concern is that by making it such a rigid pre-admission agreement, there is a danger of it being used, wittingly or unwittingly, against certain parents. I think of the cases of children I met in Lancashire where I chaired the education committee. They were young children going into secondary school for the first time. They lived at home with a parent in advanced stages of an illness who was not able to read or sign anything. The child was the carer.

Of course a reasonable governing body or head teacher will take into account the fact that that parent is unable to sign, when they discover all the circumstances. School places will quickly be filled with those who sign readily, quickly and on the right day, and some people will quickly be denied their rights.

The Government have done what they have sadly done on so many occasions with education legislation: they have taken home school agreements which have been a brilliant—where they have occurred

imaginative, and innovative process, and then sat in Whitehall and tried to legislate to impose them on all schools in the country.

Lord Henley

We have just debated an amendment upon which the noble Baroness was defeated, where the noble Baroness was trying to impose it on every school in the country. That is not what we are trying to do.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

It was to enable schools to use it to exclude pupils from the school. There are things which are necessary if there is to be an agreement. On these Benches we would not start from here. If the Government are determined to impose the agreement as an admissions procedure we shall seek to amend it. The words used by the Minister tonight give grave cause for concern.

Lord Henley

Perhaps I may come back just once again. I have said nothing different from what I said on an earlier amendment moved by the noble Baroness upon which the Committee divided and came to a firm conclusion. In that amendment, the noble Baroness and her noble friends were seeking to impose a duty on local authorities to have such a home school policy in all schools, but not to allow them to make use of them in the admission process. All we are saying is that we believe it is for the schools to decide whether to have such a policy. We should like to see many more, although I believe the vast majority of schools have such a policy, but in addition—it is clear in Clause 30—then to use them as part of the admission process should they so wish.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Before the Minister sits down, did I hear him say that he thought that most schools had a policy for some sort of home school arrangement which they could use to exclude people coming into the school?

Lord Henley

The noble Baroness did not hear me correctly. Most schools have some sort of home school policy. I did not say that they would use that as part of the admission process. What I am saying is that Clause 30 gives them the power to do so, and just that.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

My attempt to lift the partnership document out of the context of admission has obviously failed totally. That no doubt indicates where emotions in this place lie at the moment. I am grateful to those who have taken part in the debate, particularly those who paid attention to the thrust of the amendments. I am glad that there has been such a warm reception for the principle which lies behind the amendment.

I noted the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, about those parents who might, for one reason or another, be in need of some kind of care. I had a recent experience when I went into a home in Leeds. A single black mother had two children. She was partially deaf. As a result of that, when her children came back from school—I was present in the home when they did—they were unable to communicate to her their sense of freshness and interest in the work that they had been doing. Because I was in the house, they did so to me. I found it a moving experience. I wonder what would have happened had I not been there. They would have come back, and they would not have had the kind of encouragement and support for which they might have looked. It was no one's fault that that was the case, but it inevitably happened. I do not have any easy answers. I am sure that the schools are aware of the home circumstances of their children and will find ways of working with such families. I agree that it is a point of great importance.

I do not believe that I heard any Member of the Committee say that an amendment with the intentions of mine should not be enshrined in statute somewhere. I did hear objection to linking it to this particular partnership document.

In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, I understand that my amendment would mean a shift. The partnership document as at present in the Bill would be a general document to which each individual parent would be required to assent. My amendment would require it to be a matter of agreement and negotiation between a school and a family. I accept that that is a change in the intention of the partnership document.

I have listened carefully to the debate and I shall read what the Minister has said. It may be that we shall wish to find a way of expressing our concerns, but in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 128A to 128C not moved.]

Baroness Miller of Hendon

I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving the Motion, I suggest that we reconvene as a Committee no earlier than 8.20 p.m.

House resumed.

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