HL Deb 03 March 1997 vol 578 cc1586-696

House again in Committee on Clause 30.

Clause 30 agreed to.

Clause 31 agreed to.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede moved Amendment No. 129: After Clause 31, insert the following new clause— ASSISTANCE TO PARENTS IN ADMISSIONS (" . A local education authority may, in respect of admissions to maintained and grant-maintained schools in its area, exercise the function of distributing information to—

  1. (a) parents; and
  2. (b) schools, 1587 concerning respectively the availability of places at such schools and the number and content of applications from parents in respect of such places.").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of the amendment is that a local education authority should act as a clearing house for admissions to secondary schools. The amendment as drafted is a little narrower than I had originally intended. I had originally intended that a local education authority should also distribute school prospectuses and other supporting information to parents who are deciding where their children should go at the secondary stage.

The amendment arises out of a plea from the heart which I received from a friend who is the head teacher of a primary school in central Battersea, which is a feeder school for what has unfortunately become one of the sink schools in Wandsworth. That is a pejorative term but it is the popular perception of that school.

My friend the head teacher spends a lot of his time explaining to parents of pupils that they should take advantage of the choice now available to them in the London Borough of Wandsworth. He encourages them to exercise choice and think of moving their children further afield. However, his impression is that many of the parents are simply overwhelmed by the amount of time it would take to exercise their choice properly and make an informed judgment about what is best for their children.

Many children go to the local school for no better reason than that it is where their elder brothers and sisters have gone and where the other children are going. The head teacher said that the one thing that would lighten the burden for parents would be to have a single port of call to obtain information and literature about the availability of school places and the types of schools available. I propose in this amendment that the LEA should be given that role. The authority is not expected to be an advocate for any particular school. The sole purpose of the amendment is that the LEA should be a clearing house and a source of information for all schools in its locality. I beg to move.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I rise formally to support this interesting amendment and look forward with interest to hearing what the Minister has to say.

Lord Henley

I note that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, originally wanted a different amendment. So be it, but I think it would be better to take the amendment before us today. If he wants to bring a different amendment another time, no doubt we can look at that.

The amendment is permissive and is therefore unnecessary. There is absolutely nothing to stop LEAs acting in the way proposed if that is what the admissions authorities concerned agree to do. I therefore believe that there is no need for the noble Lord to move the amendment.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

The experience of parents in Wandsworth is that, although the local education authority may be entitled to distribute this information, they do not do it on a systematic basis and do not necessarily do it for the grant-maintained and private schools within the borough. The purpose of the amendment as I had intended it to be was to put a more systematic duty on local education authorities to make that information available to parents. I should have been more grateful if the Minister could have given some indication about the intent of the amendment as I described it in my introduction. Nevertheless at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 5 [—Schedule inserted as Schedule 33B to the Education Act 1996]:

[Amendments Nos. 129A to 130C not moved].

Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 131 to 134. Page 66, line 13, leave out ("who is a disqualified person") and insert ("to whom sub-paragraph (3) applies"). Page 66, line 16, leave out ("the child is a disqualified person") and insert ("sub-paragraph (3) applies to the child"). Page 66, line 18, leave out from ("schools.") to ("during") in line 19 and insert ("this sub-paragraph applies to him"). Page 66, line 21, leave out ("in relation").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to Amendments Nos. 131 to 134 with Amendment No. 118. I beg to move.

Schedule 5, as amended, agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 135: Before Clause 32, insert the following new clause— EXCLUSION OF BASELINE ASSESSMENT SCHEME FROM SELECTION (" .—(1) No baseline assessment scheme designed or adopted in accordance with sections 32 to 35 shall be used for the purposes of the selection of pupils as to school admissions whether by reference to ability or aptitude or otherwise. (2) The duty on a school governing body to adopt a scheme under section 33(1), and the duty to assess pupils under such a scheme under section 34(1), shall be undertaken solely for the purposes for which the scheme was designed in accordance with section 32.").

The noble Baroness said: Amendments Nos. 135 and 137 were grouped on the first day but mentioned only briefly. Our recollection is that the Minister acknowledged that we would return to these. They are linked by subject to Amendments Nos. 139 and 141. I will speak to those when we reach them.

Amendment No. 135 is the first amendment which deals with baseline assessment and this is therefore an appropriate moment to place on record general support for the principle of baseline assessment. There is agreement across the political parties and among educationalists that the introduction of universal baseline assessment for children entering primary education is a positive development which should be supported.

The School Curriculum and Assessment Authority (SCAA) conducted a survey in early 1996 and found that about half of all English LEAs were involved in some form of baseline assessment and that it was well established in many schools and authorities. Reception class teachers have had an excellent record over many years of making formative assessments, finding out about the prior learning and attainment of children who are new in primary school. Information from that exercise has enabled the reception class teacher to plan his or her teaching programme, see to the educational needs of children and also provide information within the school about individual children who may need further help. What is new is that LEAs have been developing assessment instruments for all the schools in an area, so that reception class teachers use a common method of assessing pupils on entry to school. In part that has been brought about by having common assessment arrangements for children aged seven and 11 under the national curriculum.

The advantages of baseline assessment as opposed to reception class teachers carrying out their own formative assessments are that assessment materials can be esed across a number of schools and the results moderated. Common training can also be provided for teachers. Children will have a record of their learning at entry to school which can be carried on at school transfer and the assessment instrument can be used for diagnostic purposes—screening children for special needs, but not for assessing the detail of those special needs—and for value added information on the work done in school. The value added information is important as the development, for better or worse, of primary school league tables based on the achievements of 11 year-olds will mean that schools will wish to examine their performance against the achievements of pupils entering at the age of five.

We believe that the first purpose of baseline assessment means that schemes are expected to fulfil two not necessarily complementary objectives: formative diagnostic and value added. The other purpose of baseline assessment is the measurement of children's future educational achievements as referred to in the SCAA consultation document; namely, to assist with curriculum and resource planning, form part of a value added measure and aid accountability.

It is possible to speak in great detail on the issue of the way in which baseline assessments can be performed. It may well be an area to which we shall wish to return on Report. At this stage, suffice it to say that in recording a very broad measure of support for baseline assessment, there is certainly not a broad measure of support for what possibly the proposed law could enable or even plan to happen; namely, that the Government would use baseline assessment as a measure for entry tests to primary schools. If the Government are committed to preventing baseline assessments being used to create a new model of some kind of primary grammar school, we are able to support the government proposals in these areas. I await with interest the reply from the Minister. I beg to move.

8.30 p.m.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

I should first like to thank the Minister for his letter to me of 14th February after the Second Reading debate, assuring me that there has never been any intention that the information derived from baseline assessment should be used for selection purposes. He also specifically wrote about entry to primary school and made the point that children cannot be assessed until they have already entered a school in reception class. I thank him for that letter and the views it contained.

But the information could easily be used for subsequent moves of the child or for entry to junior school at the age of seven. There is also a possibility, which rather disturbs me, in Clause 34(8) of the Bill that the age at which baseline assessment takes place could be changed from what is currently proposed and that the baseline assessment could be done on children in nursery classes prior to admission to the school in the reception class. The Minister, I know, must be well aware that schools often—certainly those in London in my experience—have nurseries attached to the school which give no automatic right at all to admission to the reception class. The children have to apply again to go into the reception class from the nursery.

I suggest that if the Government are committed to preventing baseline assessments being used for any kind of selection, they should welcome this amendment and the amendments associated with it which will be moved later.

Lord Tope

I simply wish to put on record, if it needs to be put on record again, that there is indeed widespread support for baseline assessment. Certainly, my party wholeheartedly supports it. But we are quite right to be wary of its possible dangers. The Minister says—I hope he will repeat it in a moment—that there is no intention that it should be used for selection or for admission purposes. I accept that that is not the intention but I fear that it may be what will develop. We look at what is coming with test results, league tables and baseline assessment. There is a danger—I put it no more strongly—that this may be leading some schools perhaps toward introducing it as a means of selection. We are wary of that and this amendment seeks to address it.

Lord Henley

Let me first make it quite clear that we have no plans to bring in primary grammar schools, as the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, suggested. Obviously, we allow the possibility for primary schools to select, if they so wish. I feel that it is very unlikely that many would do so but the power is there and was always there.

Having said that, I am grateful to noble Lords on the two Front Benches for their support for baseline assessment. This is one of those occasions on which there is general agreement from all three parties and, dare I say it, all round the House on the virtues of baseline assessment and its usefulness.

I also ought to repeat the assurance that I gave at an earlier stage—it should hardly be necessary to repeat it, as I spoke from this Dispatch Box on an earlier occasion—that we have no intention that baseline tests should be used for primary selection. In fact, that would be impossible in that baseline assessment takes place after the child has entered the school. Therefore it could not be used for selection.

However, that is not to say that it would not be possible, should a school want to go down that route—I feel that it is exceedingly unlikely and it is not a route

that many schools would want to follow—that they could not use the test, should they so wish. But that is not the function of those particular tests. The function is just what it says: baseline assessment. That is what it will be.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, asked whether the information could in future be used for selection by means of baseline assessment taking place at an earlier stage—she quoted from my letter—on nursery school pupils. I should like to look at that point and possibly come back to the noble Baroness in correspondence between now and another stage.

There is one last point that I should like to pick up now in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington. She talked about the tests having certain functions in terms of screening for special educational needs and so on. One must be very careful about thinking that baseline assessment can play so useful a role in that field. She accepted that it was not suitable for diagnostic purposes of special educational needs and I am sure that we all agree on that. I feel that we should probably all like to say that it is not necessarily suitable for screening for special educational needs but, like the noble Baroness, I suspect that there might be occasions when it may help for that purpose to throw up some problems earlier rather than later. But the important point to remember is that it does not have a special educational needs function. There are other mechanisms in place for that. Therefore, although she recognises that it does not have a diagnostic purpose, it possibly does not even have a screening purpose, though it might help on some occasions.

Lord Addington

Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I can pursue his last point in relation to recognition of special educational needs. Does not the Minister agree that it might be worth considering including some form of initial warning programme into the tests? A large amount of time and money is spent and many children suffer when problems such as dyslexia are not resolved early. The Government should look at bringing in some form of test at some point.

Lord Henley

The function of the baseline assessments is different to the requirement the noble Lord is talking about. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, knows that children can be statemented from a much earlier age—indeed, from two onwards—and it is right that that should happen. As I said, it is possible that there may be occasions when it may help a bit, as the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, said, on the screening. But that is not the function of the test.

The function of the test is to get the baseline assessment right. Other mechanisms should be in place to ensure that there is early recognition—we all recognise its importance—of special educational needs. However, I am not sure that these tests should necessarily be designed to do that. If the experts who advise us on these matters say otherwise, and one could devise them in such a way, then so be it. However, I would not want to distort the tests in that way.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I was trying to express from these Benches that we recognise that there is a difference between baseline assessments and the types of testing necessary for the detailed analysis of special educational needs, notwithstanding the fact that statemented pupils who may have quite severe learning difficulties may well be identified in advance of primary school age. However, we are concerned with the 18 per cent.—often referred to as the "Warnock" children—who have special educational needs and for whom a statement is not necessary, but provision is.

My understanding of the legislation as it is drafted—perhaps the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—is that it does not require that the baseline assessment necessarily takes place after the child has started school; it could take place earlier. Given that there is a wide degree of support within the education profession from many schools and governors because of their experience, across political parties and from those with no political affiliation, and given that the Government's stated intention is that baseline assessment should not be used in order to select pupils at primary school age, cannot the Government accept amendments that would prevent such use? Such amendments could identify the purpose of baseline assessment as being those that the Government and SCAA have stated clearly. It would be helpful if the Minister could respond, at least to say that he will take the matter away and consider it.

Lord Henley

I repeat what I said earlier. Our intention is that baseline assessment should start after admission. The noble Baroness knows that my door is always open. Of course I shall take away this matter and consider whether the drafting needs to be tighter. There may be some who believe that there are occasions when earlier baseline assessment might be possible. I can only repeat that our intention is that it should not be part of the admissions process.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I know that the Minister's door is always open. However, if it is open always to give the same answer, the open door can serve little purpose.

It is with deep concern that I record that many people will be greatly troubled by an apparent government refusal to rule out the use of baseline assessment for selection purposes. I noted the Minister's words carefully and shall read them again tomorrow in Hansard. I believe he said, "there may be some who would".

To start a system of selection by ability at primary age would patently be divisive and destructive. It is something with which we cannot possibly agree. However, I shall read the Minister's words carefully and hope that it is possible to obtain stronger support for ruling out selection at primary school age. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.45 p.m.

Clause 32 [Introductory]:

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendment No. 136: Page 28, line 39, leave out ("Chapter") and insert ("Part").

The right reverend Prelate said: In moving Amendment No. 136, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 150. Clauses 33 to 35 relate to baseline assessments of primary school pupils. As has been said, there is widespread support for that. Clause 36 refers to performance targets. The intention of Amendment No. 136 is to link together baseline assessment and performance targets. It seeks to extend the definitions in Clause 32 to cover also Clause 36. The intention of Amendment No. 150 is to require that regulation should provide for annual targets in primary schools to be set by reference to the baseline assessment scheme for the school.

The general feeling is that baseline assessments will enable some kind of measure of what might be termed "value added" to be made. I do not believe that expectations of value added should be set low; indeed, I believe that expectations need to be high, whatever the setting of the school—it is particularly true in inner city schools. Nevertheless, it makes sense that the targets which are set under Clause 36 should bear some relation to the baseline assessments or at least should be prepared to take into account those assessments. With that brief introduction—I do not want to detain the Committee at this late hour—I beg to move.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

Perhaps I may speak to both Amendments Nos. 136 and 150. I found some difficulty in threading my way and wrapping my mind around those amendments. I shall be grateful if either the right reverend Prelate or the Minister will correct me if I have gone wrong.

As I understand it, baseline assessment is defined only for Chapter 1 of Part VI and, by substituting "Chapter" for "Part" the term "baseline assessment" can then be used in Chapter 2 on performance targets, which is the point of Amendment No. 136. Amendment No. 150 requires primary schools to set annual targets, by reference to any baseline assessment schemes adopted for the school". One might hope that targets would be set in relation to numerical outcomes on baseline assessment schemes; that is, how many children each reach a set series of standards. Clearly, a school would not wish to set targets for the results of baseline assessments—by which I understand that schools should not themselves set the standards The net result is that the targets would be on a common basis.

If I understand that correctly, then the amendment is a probing amendment to find out whether "baseline assessment" can be used in relation to the construction of targets. Do baseline assessments count as, the past performance of pupils in the particular examinations or assessments"? That is a phrase used in Clause 36(2)(b). I shall be grateful for any correction or agreement that my understanding of the amendments is correct.

Lord Henley

Again, I express sympathy with Amendment No. 150—the substantive amendment following on Amendment No. 136. I believe what the noble Lord, Lord Morris, pointed to is the problem with that specific amendment. There would be nothing wrong with using baseline assessments for the target; the trouble is that we do not intend to introduce statutory baseline assessment before September 1998.

As recommended by SCAA, there will be a nationwide pilot early this year. Obviously, children who undergo baseline assessment in six months' time will not be doing their Key Stage 1 assessments until the year 2000. It would therefore be wrong to wait until that came through to set targets for Key Stage 1 and deny pupils now in the schools the improvements that setting targets would bring. Given the delay in the instruction about targets for Key Stage 1, which Amendment No. 150 would entail, I suggest that the amendment is unwise. However, I accept the spirit behind the amendment, and good targets will be determined by reference to the starting points of the children concerned. That could include in the future baseline assessment or any other prior assessment, but obviously it cannot at the moment. To fix it on the face of the Bill at this stage in particular would be wrong. It might be something that could be addressed in a number of years' time but certainly not now. I hope that what I have said will satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Morris, and that the right reverend Prelate will be prepared to withdraw his amendment.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

At this late hour I too have difficulty in discerning precisely the meanings of amendments, but my understanding is that Clause 36 gives a permissive power to publish targets and past performances, whereas the amendment that I am proposing would require that annual targets would be set by reference to the baseline assessment. It is a slightly different point to the one about publishing, but I am glad there has been some warmth for the principle behind this amendment. I accept what the noble Lord the Minister says about the difficulties of timing, and in the light of that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 137 not moved.]

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 138: Page 29, line 3, leave out from beginning to ("and") in line 4 and insert (""designated" means designated by the Secretary of State;").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 138 I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 140, 142 to 145, 161 and 172. These amendments are of a technical nature, and I beg to move.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I welcome Amendment No. 138 as I have not welcomed anything for some time, for the simple reason that eight words replace 22 words. How refreshing to find that the art of précis is not dead: would that it had been extended to the rest of the Bill!

As regards Amendments Nos. 140, and 142 to 145, they allow for the possibility that there may be more than one designated body which can accredit baseline assessment schemes. I take it that this amendment is really looking at the possibility that the Welsh curriculum body would approve baseline assessments in addition to the English body. As regards Amendments Nos. 161 and 172, these are again concerned with baseline responsibilities of QNCA and refer to the responsibilities of QNCA and the equivalent Welsh body for baseline assessment, which is why they are grouped with Amendment No. 140. The Welsh body, Awdurdod Cymwysterau, Cwricwlwm ac Asesu, has an acronym, which is ACCAC and takes the place of ACAC. Both are pronounced "ACAC", as far as I can see. I have no difficulty with these amendments.

Lord Henley

The noble Lord is absolutely right. He is also right in giving what I think is now the current form of pronunciation of the assessment authority for Wales. It is pronounced the same, whether it is ACAC or ACCAC. I will not follow the noble Lord in trying to emulate his Welsh.

Clause 32, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 33 [Adoption of baseline assessment schemes]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 139: Page 29, line 15, at end insert— ("(1A) A baseline assessment scheme may be so adopted if (and only if)—

  1. (a) it enables the school to identify and meet the needs of pupils who have special educational needs without a statement; and
  2. (b) no pupil is excluded from such an assessment on grounds of ability.").

The noble Baroness said: In speaking to this amendment I would also like to speak to Amendment No. 141. Amendment No. 139 will provide for a baseline assessment being adopted if, and only if, it enables the school to identify and meet the needs of pupils who have special needs without statement and that no pupil is excluded from such an assessment on the grounds of ability.

The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that baseline assessment schemes can be used to identify and meet the needs of pupils who have special educational needs. The introduction of a universal baseline assessment will enable for the first time a standardised formal evaluation of learning achievements to be made of children on entry to school. Given that a major objective of this exercise is diagnostic, the question is how can these assessments be best used to identify children with special educational needs. The draft national framework for baseline assessment published by SCAA in September 1996 requires approved baseline assessment schemes to be sufficiently detailed to identify the learning needs of individual children, including special educational needs, in order to support effective and appropriate planning for teaching and learning.

The consultation that ensued indicated that virtually all the 8,000 respondents supported such a requirement. The elements of the national framework will become the criteria determined with the approval of the Secretary of State as proposed in Clause 33(2). There were a few comments about using baseline assessment schemes for the identification of children with special educational needs. This was an area that we touched on in discussing Amendment No. 135.

Obviously, there are problems that need to be overcome. The Council for Disabled Children noted that it may categorise children and lower expectations, especially as the baseline assessment scheme does not reflect the very real achievement of disabled pupils. Authorities such as Hammersmith and Fulham recorded that schemes which provide diagnostic information of sufficient detail to identify learning needs for all pupils, including those with SEN, are likely to be difficult to design and would certainly result in manageability problems and inflexibility. It is because of these problems that the draft criteria of the baseline assessment schemes published by SCAA on the 4th February—the consultation ends in mid-March—give further thought to how the baseline assessment should relate to the assessment of children with special educational needs.

It is accepted that there must be an effective link to the procedures developed under the DfE's code of practice for the assessment and identification of children with special educational needs. It cannot be a formal part of the process without a revision of the code. It is recognised that most baseline assessment schemes will not provide sufficiently detailed assessments to place a child on stage one of the assessment procedure, but viable information will be provided which may lead to the identification of some children's special educational needs.

It is expected that accredited schemes will have to provide guidance on how the results will relate to the assessment procedures, such as requiring a review of progress after a term at school. This approach could use baseline assessment not so much as a means of identifying children with special needs but as a means of providing initial screening of children with special needs. The amendment is raising with government the issue of what parliamentary scrutiny there will be over the approved criteria for accrediting baseline assessment schemes. The assessment arrangements at Key Stages 1 to 3 have to be made by statutory instrument, which, while not subject to the negative resolution procedure, as a statutory instrument, is readily available to Parliament. Clause 33(2) provides for the criteria to be approved by the Secretary of State and presumably published by a designated body. Can the Minister say how the relationship between the criteria for baseline assessment and the identification of special educational needs can be assured if this amendment is not passed into the legislation?

I spoke earlier to the issues covered by Amendment No. 141 which deals with the question of the sole purpose and function of baseline assessment. I beg to move.

9 p.m.

Lord Northbourne

As a matter of clarification, I wonder whether either the noble Baroness or the Minister can tell me whether either baseline assessment or the assessment of special educational needs—or both—cover the question of physical medical problems, such as limited hearing or limited vision, which are often undetected in young children?

Lord Henley

Such problems comprise special educational needs where they affect the educational requirements of an individual. They might therefore be taken into account.

Again, I sympathise with the spirit behind the amendment, but I do not think that it is appropriate for inclusion in the Bill. We must ensure that in due course we have got baseline assessment absolutely right.

The first objective of the proposed amendment will be achieved by the national framework in a way that has been largely welcomed by most members of the teaching profession and most SEN specialists. To undertake baseline assessment in accordance with the Bill's provisions, schools will have to adopt an accredited scheme. In order to achieve accreditation under the national framework, all baseline assessment schemes will be required to meet the criteria drawn up by SCAA or, dare I say this, by ACCAC in Wales. As the noble Baroness informed the Committee, those criteria are currently subject to consultation. That consultation will end in March. That is one very good reason why we want to be careful about how we proceed at the moment.

The criteria will require baseline assessment schemes to include guidance on how the schemes link in with more detailed assessments. The assessments might, indeed, need to be more detailed. That takes me back to what I said earlier about the assessments not necessarily always being suitable for diagnostic purposes. However, they might link in with the more detailed assessments which can identify children's special educational needs. Further, they will oblige scheme providers to offer guidance on how baseline assessments might link in with the Government's code of practice on special educational needs. At this stage, we must await advice following the consultation. We must see what the consultation turns up in terms of whether, and how, baseline assessments can pursue these ends, valid though they are.

The noble Baroness also asked about parliamentary scrutiny of such schemes. My understanding is that, as the noble Baroness put it, a statutory instrument will be required and that—again, as the noble Baroness put it, although I shall have to check this—it will not be subject to the negative procedure. However, as the noble Baroness and many noble Lords opposite know well, there are always means by which such instruments can be made a matter of parliamentary scrutiny. I hope that the consultation process will allow us to arrive at a consensus on these matters.

Having said all that, I hope that the noble Baroness will accept that neither of her amendments is appropriate to be included on the face of the Bill. As always—I cannot repeat this often enough, although I have said it on many occasions—the guidance that we shall be offering on these matters will be subject to thorough consultation.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I thank the Minister for that detailed reply, but advise him that I noted his words carefully when he said that there are "means" of ensuring parliamentary scrutiny. I would have been even happier, however, had I heard him say that there are means that the Government will use to ensure that there is detailed and adequate scrutiny of the provisions. Although I did not hear the noble Lord say that, we shall return to the matter later because it is important that this receives proper scrutiny.

We recognise the difficulty of linking baseline assessment to detailed diagnostic testing of an individual pupil's needs, but the problem with the Government's view does not relate to those pupils who have very marked and individual special educational needs, but to those pupils to whom the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, referred—I am sorry that the noble Lord is no longer in his place—who may have some eyesight or hearing loss but who have neither such a marked eyesight loss nor are so profoundly deaf that that is apparent. I hope that the assessment procedures will recognise the need to remind parents of the importance of having their children checked.

Our other deep and real worry is that it would be tragic if a baseline assessment were not followed up by some assessment of the causes of a child not having achieved the same level of competency as his or her peers. I say that because the last thing that any of us would want to do is to set in place a mechanism that would somehow confirm that some children were not as able as others at the age of five. The important thing to do is to assess what children can do and then to work positively to find a way to help them. Within special educational needs, an average of 18 per cent. of children have non-statemented special needs, often called the "Warnock" children. Indeed, in some schools, it is as many as 40 per cent. of children. It is critically important that we do not allow the mistaken philosophy that a certain school has children of low potential to be developed from the statement, "This school takes in pupils whose level of attainment, as assessed by baseline assessment, is lower than that of the rest of their age cohort or is lower than average". That is our concern—not that baseline assessment is not good, but that it cannot on its own identify what is needed to raise the achievement of children who are not performing at the same level as the rest of their age group at that stage. However, I hope that the Minister will give further consideration to these points. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 140: Page 29, line 17, leave out ("the") and insert ("a").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 138. I beg to move.

Clause 33, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 34 [Assessment of pupils in accordance with scheme]:

[Amendment No. 141 not moved.]

Clause 34 agreed to.

Clause 35 [Regulations for purposes of this Chapter]:

Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 142 to 145: Page 31. line 1, leave out ("the") and insert ("a"). Page 31, line 7, leave out ("the") and insert ("a"). Page 31, line 21, leave out first ("the") and insert ("a"). Page 31, line 26, leave out ("the") and insert ("a").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendments Nos. 142 to 145 en bloc. I spoke to these amendments with Amendment No. 138.

Clause 35, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 36 [School performance targets]:

Lord Dormand of Easington moved Amendment No. 146: Page 31, line 32, at end insert ("in accordance with any education development plan for its area made by the local education authority and approved by the Secretary of State.").

The noble Lord said: It cannot be stressed enough that the White Paper Self-Government for Schools states: Each school is responsible for its own performance. It is central to raising standards that the staff and governors of every school should feel that it is directly for them to monitor the quality of the education they provide, to identify ways of improving it, and to take the necessary action".

However, the problem that arises is what should be done if schools set targets that are too low or there is a need to make an overall improvement in the performance of schools in an area. The newspapers continue to publish LEA league tables of performance, and SCAA member John Marks has done the same for 1995 key stage tests. The national education and training targets are addressed to LEAs among other bodies. If an LEA is to be able to raise achievement levels in all its schools it will require a development plan that, among other things, will have to set targets for schools. In these circumstances it is right that schools should have targets set in accordance with the development plan. To safeguard the role of schools the plan provides for LEA development plans to be approved by the Secretary of State. I beg to move.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I should like to speak to Amendment No. 147 and leave Amendments Nos. 215 and 216 to better minds than mine. Amendment No. 147 has as its purpose to improve the effectiveness of performance targets by introducing consultation with the local education authority before the governing body sets them. The Bill as currently drafted requires school governing bodies to set performance targets annually for the performance of pupils in national curriculum assessments at Key Stages 1 to 3 and in GCSE, GCE and GNVQ. Presumably, regulations will enable the Secretary of State to specify which schools have to produce targets. For example, do we know yet whether all special schools must have targets? Perhaps the Minister can enlighten us on that. Regulations can also specify how the targets must be published. They may require information about how the past performance of pupils relates to their targets. As far as I know, draft regulations have not yet been produced.

Coupled with the duty to set targets, the DtEE has commissioned SCAA to do work on the introduction of benchmarking information. Benchmarking information is not a term of art. One would like to have greater assurance as to exactly what it means. The intention appears to be that schools will be provided with an annual analysis of the most recent national curriculum assessment and examination data in the form of benchmarks. One paper produced at a high profile DfEE conference in November stated that the benchmarks would show what the best schools with similar characteristics across the whole country were already achieving. One's understanding is that "similar characteristics" means that information will be produced to indicate that, for instance, schools with a specified range of pupils having free school meals have achieved a given range in GCSE passes. For example, schools that have 25 to 30 per cent. of pupils with free school meals will be told that in the 1995 Key Stage 1 test the median school had 73 per cent. of pupils achieving level two in the reading test and that the upper quartile was 82. A school with FSM in this range might then choose the upper quartile as its target. That seems to me—I speak subject to the Ministers's correction—what that is all about.

The DfEE paper stated that SCAA would carry out consultation early in the new year. Well, we are getting a little past early in the new year now, and, so far as I know, no consultation paper has been produced.

If I were to dream and speculate upon rumours that flitter towards my ears from all sorts of unauthorised sources, I would believe, or might believe, what is widely believed—that that consultation paper has been held up by the No. 10 Policy Unit because of the use of free school meals in defining benchmarks. Free school meals are not things that the Government like to have bandied about too much too close to an election.

Mr. Forth, the Minister of State, in Committee stated that in respect of regulations: We are now consulting on such matters".—[Official Report, Commons, Standing Committee D, 14/1/97; Co1.573.] Perhaps—dare I speculate?—Mr Forth was confusing consultation with No. 10 with public consultation.

The White Paper, Self-Government for Schools, stated the Government's view of the role of the LEA in "quality assurance". It noted: Each school is responsible for its own performance. It is central to raising standards that the staff and governors of every school should feel that it is directly for them to monitor the quality of the education they provide", as my noble friend Lord Dormand of Easington has already reminded us.

Within that context the Government set out three main functions for LEAs which would complement the work of schools in promoting higher standards—first, direct intervention by a LEA where a school has major failings which it is unlikely to resolve by itself; secondly, working with schools in setting targets for improvement; and, thirdly, providing services to help schools carry out their own plans for improvement. The amendment would, therefore, give force to the second of those declared functions.

The White Paper suggest that LEAs can assist each school in determining its targets by analysing and circulating a wide range of information available from the national curriculum assessments and tests, performance tables, Ofsted inspection reports, the inspectorate databases, financial monitoring, and a number of other sources. If they go in for too much of that, I wonder how much time any of the schools will have for the incredible luxury of teaching the children committed to their charge. However, they will go ahead and do it because they have been told to. By that means each school will have a fair basis for assessing its current performance with schools within its own area, and will be able to determine its priorities for improvement. There is no reason why that support should be restricted to county and voluntary schools.

That admirable DfEE publication Settings Targets to Raise Standards: A Survey of Good Practice (November 1996) was an interesting document to read. If I may digress for one moment, I do so to thank the Minister for his great courtesy in sending to me before we began this Committee stage last week, a number of publications which had not come my way before and for which I am extremely grateful. I cannot claim to have given them the total attention that they should have, but I have looked through them all, and I have derived a great deal of help from some of them, and a little rethinking on my part from one or two of the others, which was obviously what the Minister intended me to do.

Setting Targets to Raise Standards describes how many LEAs have promoted school improvements, supported school self-evaluation, and raised governors' and teachers' expectations of pupils, and sometimes themselves, by providing high quality comparative information for their schools. That information helps schools to set short-term targets for improvements in the performance of pupils which are demanding but realistic in relation to their starting point.

So, LEAs are in a unique position to provide data for all the schools in their area. Surely it is one of their functions to spread that information. It takes time for the schools to read it, to assimilate it, to talk about it, to discuss it and to see how in each individual case it will be applied, but I suppose that that is the climate in which Her Majesty's Government have decided that we must all now live, at least until, if it be the right date, 1st May.

For many years most LEAs have been doing excellent work in collaboration with their schools. Amendment No. 147 would simply reinforce that relationship. Where the activity needs to be supported for both schools and the local education authority, Amendment No. 147 will encourage its further development. I hope that the Minister will look kindly upon it.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

The noble Lord, Lord Morris, has introduced Amendment No. 147 most comprehensively. I wish to comment briefly on Amendment No. 148. Its purpose is to ensure that performance targets, once they have been set and achieved or not achieved, are reported upon in the annual report of the school.

The amendment was brought to the Committee stage in the other place but the Minister was not receptive to the idea. Can the noble Lord say what other convenient means there is of letting parents know about the school's targets and its performance against those targets if annual reports are not used?

I turn to Amendments Nos. 215 and 216. They relate to the ability of the LEAs to obtain the information that they need to fulfil their role. In order for the LEAs to help schools to set performance targets, they need information on the performance of individual pupils from which accurate school information can be constructed. Although LEAs collect and process the data for Key Stage 1 assessment for the DfEE and have always had access to GCSE and GCE results, they have not been given a role in Key Stages 2 and 3 tests and therefore have not had access as a result.

The need for LEAs to have access to results is not disputed. The White Paper, Self-Government for Schools, states: The LEA can help schools by analysing and circulating the wide range of information available from national curriculum assessments and tests". LEAs have an unequivocal right to this information, using the powers in Section 165 of the Education Act. Many LEAs use those powers to obtain information on Key Stages 2 and 3 results. However, it means that each school must supply data to both the LEA and a national data collection agency commissioned by the DfEE to collate Key Stage 2 and 3 tests. It would obviously be easier if the education authority could obtain its information from that data collection agency.

The DfEE claims that Sections 408 and 537 of the Education Act 1966 prevent it asking the four GCSE examination boards or any future data collection agency to pass on data to LEAs. Amendments Nos. 215 and 216 will, it is hoped, remove whatever legal impediment exists to the smooth transfer of data to LEAs and prevent schools having to supply data twice. The efficient supply of this data to LEAs could greatly increase the effectiveness of the LEAs in setting performance targets. I shall be interested to see whether the Minister, on this occasion at least, can accept an approach which strengthens the purpose of the Bill.

Lord Henley

We have consistently made it clear that the schools are the main agents for change. In answer to the first question put by the noble Lord. Lord Morris, "schools" includes special schools. I invite him to look at Clause 36(3)(c), which mentions special schools. Responsibility for driving up standards rests with the schools. We believe that self-government in all its various forms—LMS, GM or whatever—has proved to be a success and that schools are capable of rising to that task.

Amendments Nos. 146 and 147 seek to establish a greater role for the LEAs in respect of school targets. I do not believe that that is necessary. It will be open to LEAs to provide information, support and advice to the schools which they maintain, and good LEAs already do that. However, I do not believe that that needs to be mandatory.

Self-Government for Schools set out the role for LEAs to work with their schools in setting targets for improvement. Targets are most effective when they are developed and owned by those who are responsible for achieving them. As I said earlier, that means that each school should decide what its targets should be and what action is needed to achieve them.

The part that LEAs can play is in analysing and circulating performance data to give those schools a sound evidence base for assessing their current performance by assessing themselves against other schools and deciding priorities for improvement. The LEAs can also work with schools in ensuring that they set suitably stretching targets. They will certainly wish to do that as part of their quality assurance work. They can also monitor the setting and meeting of the performance targets.

But we do not believe that it is necessary or desirable to impose extra stages which would slow down the target-setting process and remove responsibility and ownership from the school. That is exactly what Amendment No. 147 would do by requiring governing bodies to consult their LEAs before setting annual school performance targets. That would apply equally to grant-maintained schools.

Amendment No. 146 refers to the LEA's development plan which has been approved by the Secretary of State. I presume that originally that was meant to tie in with Amendment No. 180F, which is no longer part of this group of amendments. We do not accept that it would be helpful to require such plans to be made on a statutory basis, but perhaps that can be dealt with during our discussions on Amendment No. 180F.

Our priority is to foster the internal will and capacity of schools to generate their own improvement. As I have said already, the LEA has a role, but not an exclusive one, and there will be many partners, including parents, TECs and strategic fora, which have an interest in school targets.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, spoke to Amendment No. 148 which would require school targets to be published in a school's annual report to parents as specified in Section 161 and Schedule 17. The annual report is likely to prove the best vehicle for schools to communicate their annual targets to parents. But the appropriate place to specify detailed requirements is in the regulations and not in the Bill. We have committed ourselves already to wide consultation on the detail of those regulations. That consultation will give schools an opportunity to comment on how targets should be formulated in parallel with how they and past performance should be published. Other views may come forward. As always, we are reluctant to put on the face of the Bill matters which are dealt with more properly elsewhere.

Amendment No. 149 seeks to give the Secretary of State power in the regulations to require schools to publish a value added indicator of pupils' progress since admission alongside their actual results. Whether or not that is desirable, this proposal is not as yet practicable. Value added comparisons based on progress of pupils against their level of attainment on entry are not yet available at either pupil or school level across the country and across all age groups. But by creating a national framework for assessment, the Government have made it possible for schools to have value added analysis in the future. Obviously, we are not there yet and the data do not yet exist. Therefore, to amend the Bill to require such indicators would delay the establishment of school targets, and I do not believe that the Committee would wish to accept that today.

Amendments Nos. 215 and 216 relate to the collection of school performance data. I accept that that is a complex area. Certain principles are clear, on which, as I understand it, there is a degree of agreement. First, the Secretary of State needs the powers to collect school performance data from governing bodies. That power exists already and I suspect that there is no wish on either side of the Chamber to remove it. The noble Baroness now proposes that the Secretary of State should have the power also to collect individual pupil data and to pass that on as appropriate; for example, to LEAs. That would have a number of important applications in the area of school improvement; for example, in the context of target setting and value added calculations.

I understand the concern of the noble Baroness to ensure that LEAs and others have the necessary data to enable them to pursue vigorously school improvements and other policies. At the same time we must ensure that information in respect of individual pupils does not enter the public domain. I feel that the amendments as they stand would not achieve those ends. Obviously that is no criticism of the noble Baroness as we are discussing a very complex area; indeed, I do not know whether she drafted the amendments herself or whether she had some assistance in such matters. However, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendments on the understanding that I will reflect, with some degree of speed, between now and Report stage on the issue and possibly consider the matter further.

Finally, I return to the suspicions, if I may put it that way, of the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, who is not normally a suspicious man—indeed, he is normally the most reasonable of men—that the SCAA consultation paper is being held up. I can assure the noble Lord that his suspicions are completely and utterly unfounded. There are some very difficult issues to be resolved on how we compare schools on a like-for-like basis. There is nothing suspicious in that. I hope that the noble Lord will be prepared to withdraw not only his amendments but also, on this occasion, his suspicions.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I respond to that by saying that, of course, I believe every word the Minister says. However, perhaps I may ask him a few questions which have arisen from what he said so far and which I found to be of great interest. First, am I not correct in thinking that Clause 36 is permissive? The Secretary of State "may" make recommendations requiring targets. Is the Minister now confirming that there will indeed be targets required for all special schools?

Secondly, in response to the Minister's concern about the grouping of the amendments, we ought to put it on the record that the grouping is in fact correct. Indeed, Amendment No. 180F is quite separate. Thirdly, can the Minister say what information or research data have been collected by HMI or Ofsted since 1979 on the correlation between free school meals and test and external examination results in particular schools? Of course, I realise that the Minister is not likely to have the information on figures since 1979 just peeping out of his top pocket. Nevertheless, if that information could be made available, I should be quite happy to receive it by letter. I want to know whether or not poverty is relevant to school achievement. We had given warning that we would raise this issue. My noble friend Lady Farrington said on Second Reading that she would raise the matter, or at least at some other earlier stage of the Bill.

Lord Henley

The noble Lord raised three points. Of course, I recognise the fact that the clause is permissive. It is permissive for all maintained schools in this section, as subsection (3) makes clear that "maintained schools" means those that are set out in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). I should point out that paragraph (c) refers to, a maintained or grant-maintained special school (other than one established in a hospital)". As regards the noble Lord's second point, he is quite right. Bulky though all my pockets are—indeed, they are full of information to pull out for the noble Lord and he saw just how many folders that I brought in for this afternoon's, this evening's and tomorrow morning's debate—I am afraid that I do not have details at hand of the research data collected by Ofsted on free school meals and performance. However, I should be more than happy in due course to write to the noble Lord on the matter. Thirdly, I understood that Amendment No. 180F was not included in this group. It just occurred to me that, as other Members of the Committee were referring to it, they might have missed the fact that we shall come to deal with that subject in due course.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may thank him for the way in which he responded to Amendments Nos. 215 and 216. I shall take his advice when we come to consider those amendments in due course.

Lord Dormand of Easington

I found the Minister's reply to my amendment rather disappointing and indeed somewhat unrealistic. It is sad that the Government continually relegate the role of LEAs. Time will prove that we on this side of the Chamber are right on most occasions. I shall have to read what the Minister said. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 147 to 150 not moved.]

Clause 36 agreed to.

Clause 37 [The Qualifications and National Curriculum Authority]:

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendment No. 151: Page 32, line 12, leave out ("National").

The right reverend Prelate said: In moving Amendment No. 151 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 159, 160, 162, 163, 164, 166, 167, 169 to 171 inclusive, 173 to 175 inclusive, 178 and 206 to 214 inclusive.

In spite of that long catalogue of numbers, which I as a mathematician was delighted to enumerate, I begin with a semantic problem. I do so with some trepidation in a debate in which literary scholarship has played a prominent part. My semantic problem is a question. Does the word "national" in the title of the new body, the Qualifications and National Curriculum Authority, qualify curriculum, so that it is the national curriculum authority by contrast with, shall we say, the basic curriculum authority, or does it qualify authority, so that it is a national authority dealing with the curriculum? That element of doubt raises a problem which I expressed at Second Reading. National curriculum refers only to part of the total curriculum, that part whose content is determined nationally. There are wider curricula delivered in schools and in particular there is the basic curriculum which includes religious education in addition to the national curriculum.

The religious education syllabus is determined locally—as has been made clear already in the Committee discussion—and it is not therefore part of the national curriculum. It is clear that the proposed brief of this new body includes religious education. I welcome that inclusion. The position of religious education was adversely affected for a number of years by the National Curriculum Council's unwillingness to accept responsibility for any curriculum issue beyond the national curriculum. I am glad that this new body will accept such wider responsibilities. It is right that its title should reflect beyond doubt those responsibilities. This amendment therefore proposes to drop the word "national" and to entitle the new body the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

I make no comment about the acronym nor the names by which the acronym might be spoken, which we referred to at Second Reading. I simply make the point that I have spoken to the chief executive designate who has expressed himself fully satisfied with this change. Indeed I understand that members of his staff are now using the title, as amended. I hope that none of us is making a false presumption about the favourable response of the Minister. I beg to move.

Lord Henley

Clearly the body will have responsibility for the whole school curriculum including

the national curriculum, religious education and other subjects which form part of the general curriculum. Therefore I have accepted the principle behind the right reverend Prelate's amendment and I am prepared to accept the amendments in their total to show what a reasonable chap I am. I hope that that will receive general support throughout the Chamber.

I am not a mathematician but I did some counting up and I see this strikes out 23 words from the Bill which can be no bad thing. I note what the right reverend Prelate says, that those working in the new authority—as it will be under the chief executive designate—are already using the new title. I note that up to the amendment my briefing referred to QNCA; after the amendment it refers to Q(N)CA. I hope that with the agreement of the Committee I can strike out the letter in parenthesis. I hope that the Committee will support the amendments of the right reverend Prelate.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

I am delighted at the Minster's response. In the light of an earlier exchange between the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, perhaps I may declare that it is not my birthday; and that given the gap in age—I believe that it is 10 years—between the noble Lord the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, the gap in age between the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and myself is even larger. Perhaps it is a concession to seniority which has elicited this response.

However, I am delighted. I thank the Minister and his department for the help that they have given in the matter. Indeed, the number of changes to which the Minister referred was due in large part to the help of his department. I am grateful for the response.

[Amendments Nos. 152 and 153 not moved.]

Lord Morris of Castle Morris moved Amendment No. 153A: Page 32, line 23, at end insert ("and for the purposes of this paragraph "education" shall include education provided in maintained schools").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 153A, I wish also to include consideration of Amendments Nos. 154 to 156A and 168F.

Amendment No. 153A requires some experience of maintained education in schools in the profile of experience of members without constraining the overall scope of the education category. I think that we shall have a bit of tugging, and to-ing and fro-ing, during the next, I hope not too many, minutes about the precise qualifications, membership, and areas of expertise and representativeness of the members of what we may now call QCA rather than QNCA—although I hope that we shall be forgiven if, in moving at fair speed, we refer to the old and discarded title by mistake.

Underlying this is a general dissatisfaction with the number of people set down for membership. As soon as the Secretary of State sets down a small number such as that provided, hackles rise. People go into spasm. They say, "There is absolutely no representation for this or that, further education, the maintained sector, the cat or the dog". Everyone has to be represented. It used to be trade unions which had to have proper representations on this, that or the other. That is one thing with which at present we do not seem to be overly concerned, although that may come.

Clause 37(4) makes provision for the membership of the QCA. Specifically it requires persons, to have experience of. and to have shown capacity in, the provision of education, or to have held, and to have shown capacity in, any position carrying responsibility for the provision of education".

There is no indication that such a person has shown such a capacity in a maintained school, be it LEA maintained or grant maintained. In our view that is casting the net a little too wide. As the Bill stands, Clause 37(4) would accept me as a shiningly well-qualified member of the QCA—so that proves that it must be fatally inadequate.

The Minister will no doubt be able to confirm that there has always been an independent school head teacher in membership of SCAA. Currently it is Dr. Philip Evans, Headmaster, Bedford. There are four from the maintained sector. It is not easy to imagine that this present Government would not appoint someone identified with the independent schools sector to the QCA. Given all the other competing interests, could it be the case that with membership that could be as few as eight there would be no room for somebody from the maintained sector? If that was so, we would consider it to be a very undesirable situation and this amendment would ensure that there would be.

The problem is in the size of the new authority. In the other place the Government were not able to justify why it should be so small. It is worth making some comparisons to see whether there is any logic in the composition of these bodies, or whether some official somewhere simply plucked a number out of the air and said, "Well, give it a run and see who salutes it". We must speculate whether in this case the Government's left hand knew what their right hand was doing.

As I understand it, the Welsh body will be the same size as the SCAA, with 10 to 15 members. There are about 30 people involved at present in the governance of SCAA and NCVQ. Interestingly, the Scottish body, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, established under the Education (Scotland) Act 1996 provides for up to 24 members. Now Scotland is a big place, and it is rather difficult to travel around it, especially during the winter months. But I can only imagine that this decision was taken as a precaution against ice and snow. Up to 24 members is rather a lot. The Secretary of State is limited to appointing only 19 members. That was an extremely interesting little discovery. Additional members are appointed by the SQA itself. In my view that improves the chance of achieving a balanced membership representing all the relevant interests. In England, on the other hand, all the members will be appointed by the Secretary of State, and that is that. The QCA will have no say whatsoever in the matter. It will not be able to appoint anybody that it rather fancies. Why not? What is the difference?

The other problem with small bodies is that they are much more open to political manipulation. Just two political appointments on a small body can be much more effective than on a larger body. It is to be hoped that the Nolan reforms will put an end to such appointments. However, our discussion on this matter would have been relevant to the amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, did not move; namely, Amendments Nos. 152 and 153.

The Minister may care to develop to our advantage the basic philosophy behind these appointments. Although there is an issue about how the authority will work with such small membership given the expanded remit of the organisation compared to each of its constituent parts. It is likely that there will be significant areas of the work of the QCA in relation to which there will not be a QCA member with any personal knowledge at all. Can the Minister explain and justify why there has been a reduction in the size of the authority? That is especially the case if there is no one with a maintained school background. As I say, this amendment attempts to rectify that situation.

A frequently made criticism of the SCAA is that it does not achieve a consensus in consultation. Without a sufficiently large authority the debates generated by consultation cannot be repeated in the membership of the authority, which leaves very little room for consensus and compromise in making final decisions. That is not a plea for the 120-plus membership of the good old Schools Council—in the days when life was different and the sun shone every day—on which every body of significance was represented. It is simply a plea for a need to consider the size of the body to do the job. Eight is much too small.

An example of the problem can be seen in last year's presidential address to the Royal Statistical Society by Professor Adrian Smith in his reference to the mathematics curriculum and SCAA's habit of consulting with representative bodies separately. He said: a major cause of these problems [in mathematics education] … [is]… the flawed method of planning changes in school mathematics over the past decade … there has been no representative, authoritative, continuing national forum for mathematics in the UK, bringing together mathematicians, scientists, engineers, employers and teachers. Instead, increasing power has been assumed by the bureaucrats of the Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority (SCAA), with debate and consultation degenerating into a one-sided dialogue between the SCAA and the individual bodies, with agenda setting and decision-making controlled by a small and necessarily unrepresentative group within the SCAA".

I could not have put it better myself. It takes a good mathematician to produce some good, clear prose. Why are the Government allowing this pattern to continue in the constitution proposed for the QCA? I beg to move.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 154 and 156, which are included in this group.

The noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, made the point about the importance of including those with experience of the maintained sector. These two amendments make it clear that the maintained sector includes voluntary schools and grant-maintained schools having foundation gofernors. As I said at Second Reading, about a third of all schools are Church schools. It is a very substantial provision to the maintained sector.

The amendments mirror those for the Funding Agency for Schools. Amendment No. 154 requires the appointment of persons who appear to the Secretary of State to have experience of, and to have shown capacity in, the provision of education in these areas. Amendment No. 156 requires the Secretary of State to consult particular bodies. In relation to the Funding Agency for Schools, we are glad that the Government have observed the provisions of the earlier Bill. We have indeed been consulted about these matters. In the last round of appointments for the Funding Agency for Schools one of the nominations put forward by the Churches was accepted by the Government.

The argument is that in relation to the new body the same provision should apply. It is not necessarily the case that the Secretary of State would have to accept any outcome of a consultation. His own freedom to appoint whom he wishes would not be constrained by any names put to him, but Amendment No. 154 would require that not only the maintained sector but also the voluntary sector is taken account of.

Lord Burnham

Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, whether it is not the case, in the light of Amendment No. 154, that the wording of Clause 37(4)(c)is not so wide that the amendment is quite unnecessary, particularly with reference to the last part of Clause 37(4)(c), or the practice of any profession"?

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I have not the remotest idea. I would need time to have a look at that and I shall, of course, do so. Perhaps the Minister may be able to enlighten me on what I think.

Lord Henley

I doubt it very much indeed. Perhaps I may remind the noble Lord, Lord Morris, that we are not debating the size of the authority on this occasion. In the Bill we say that something of the size of between eight and 13 is appropriate. The noble Lord and my noble friend Lord Butterfield proposed different figures of between 12 and 18. As I think I said to the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, in relation to other numbers that came up on another occasion on an earlier day, getting these figures right is not a precise science; it has to be a matter of judgment. Like the noble Lord, Lord Morris, I would not want to go back to the great Schools Council. The noble Lord tells me that the figure for that was 120; I thought it was around 100. Anyway, it was a big figure and something that would not necessarily be appropriate on these occasions.

What we want is a small strategic body that can make the appropriate decisions, but then, by means of a committee structure, can look at specialist matters—obviously it covers a whole range of different things, covering NCVQ and SCAA—and through its committee structure bring in a great many other people who will cover other matters. All those members of committees can include members who are not members of the authority. It will be up to the authority itself to consider whom it should bring on to its specialist committees and at that stage it might be more appropriate to go down a different route.

As I said, during the passage of the 1993 Act—I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Walton, who quoted my words from the 1993 Act; but I shall quote myself on this occasion—when we discussed similar amendments relating to the membership of SCAA: If the Secretary of State were to concede on representation in one case, however worthy, it would be very difficult to draw the line on other requests from organisations and groups which have a stake in what happens in our schools". I do not believe I could have put it better then and I shall repeat it now. Once one concedes one group for the authority, one then has to accept the argument for a great many others. I do not intend to go down the route of reserving places on QCA for any groups other than those set out in the three paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of Clause 37(4): persons who have experience of education, persons who have experience in the provision of training and persons who have experience of industrial, commercial or financial matters. I believe that is appropriate.

To go further and say, "You have to have teacher trainers, LEAs, teacher unions, parents and pupils", would mean that the small businesses would demand separate representation; so would the professions, universities and trade unions. I could go on and we would have a very long list indeed. The noble Lord, Lord Morris, would be the first to admit that. We do not believe that that would be an appropriate body to deal with these matters. We believe that a body of roughly that size would be more appropriate.

I do not know whether it would be making a political point and it might be that I have picked up things in a newspaper that were not necessarily true. But I noticed a comment to the effect that the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, should he get into government, was considering a smaller, inner Cabinet of a smaller and tighter size, on the basis that that was more appropriate to make decisions. We believe that a size of roughly eight to 13 would be more appropriate.

I accept that it is different from the SQA, the Scottish equivalent. But that is a very different body. First and foremost it is an awarding body rather than a regulatory body. It cannot be compared with the QCA. I accept that it is smaller than ACCAC. But then, ACCAC is not a new body. It is a reconstitution of the existing Curriculum and Assessment Authority in Wales. The existing members, chairman and chief executive will continue to serve. Consequently, it was not felt appropriate to reconsider the size of its board. No doubt my right honourable friend, if he wanted to reconstitute it at some point, would consider the advantages or disadvantages of a new body. As I said, we consider that the QCA is a new body. We consulted fairly widely on that, and decided, for the reasons that I have already set down, that a figure of about eight to 13 was about right.

I do not know whether the noble Lord wants to continue further on that question. My understanding was that we had a degree of support from the noble Lord's friends in another place. Perhaps he can tell me if that is not so. I believe that the appropriate size would be eight to 13. I do not believe that it would be appropriate to start listing certain groups at certain stages. As I said earlier, once one begins to open the door, one opens it for a great many other equally deserving cases, all of whom need representation. If one wants to go down that road, the committee route is appropriate for the authority itself. I believe that what we propose is the better way round. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

10 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Before the Minister sits down perhaps I can raise one point with him. I listened carefully to what he said. Is it his feeling that the sub-committee route would be the best way of bringing on board more specific considerations—for instance, those people with experience and expertise in nursery and special education?

Lord Henley

I do not believe that one should reserve a specific seat on the authority for nursery or special educational needs. I would hope that the authority, which will recognise that it must consider these matters, just as it must consider a whole host of people ranging from teacher trainers, LEAs, teacher unions and so forth—I ran through a long list of them—will be able to ensure that appropriate people with the appropriate expertise deal with the appropriate subjects.

Baroness David

My name is attached to Amendments Nos. 155A and 155B, along with that of the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas. Amendment No. 155B covers both. We want people to be represented on the committee, who appear to … have experience of, and to have shown capacity in, the provision of special education and nursery education, or to have held, and to have shown capacity in. any position carrying responsibility for the provision of special education and nursery education". It is wise to remember that the code of practice for special educational needs affects all phases of education and has a direct impact on the national curriculum and its assessment. It is vital therefore that persons with specific special educational experience are represented on the authorities.

I listened to what the Minister said in regard to the size of the authority. But will there be guidance as to the people who should be consulted when the authorities are created? I hope that some of the people who have been discussed in this short debate will necessarily be heard, because it is extremely important.

My name is also attached to Amendment No. 186F because Clause 37 refers to the QNCA—or QCA as it is for England—and Clause 43 refers to the same authority for Wales. The amendment does for Wales that which I have been saying in relation to England. I hope therefore that the Minister can say whether or not there will be guidance as to who should be included on the sub-committees so that the various interests are represented.

Lord Henley

In relation to the membership of the authority, I cannot go any further than I have. It would not be right to open the stable door for one specific group or another. It will be a matter for the authority itself to consider who to appoint on its committees, the authority having been appointed under the appropriate procedures using all the Nolan rules.

I can assure the noble Baroness that we will be advertising the posts this month, in March, and the appointments will be made some time in May. We have already appointed a chief executive. We have started the process in relation to the chairman and are fully consulting the noble Baroness's honourable friends in another place, as is appropriate for such appointments at this stage in Parliament. Thereafter it is a matter for the authority to consider who it should appoint. Guidance per se would not be appropriate. The Secretary of State will be able to keep a close eye on the appointments and may make appointments to committees in his or her name, if it is felt that representations are not working properly.

The simple point I am making, going back to the authority rather than to its committees, is that it should not be a matter for listing a whole range of people on the authority who have to be represented. As even the noble Lord, Lord Morris, accepts, that might take us back to the good old days of the schools' council.

Baroness Warnock

Before the Minister sits down perhaps I can say that I feel sure it is right for the committee to be small in number and not representative. It reminds me of the days of the committee on the education of the handicapped when, looking round on the first day, somebody said, "There is nobody here from the remedial gymnasts". If one starts giving places to the remedial gymnasts, one will have to give places to heaven knows who else.

I should like an assurance from the Minister that the names from the people who are consulted—the sub-committee members—will be published. One of the merits of sub-committees is that if the public know who the members are they can lobby them. I would just ask for that assurance when the committee is set up.

Lord Henley

I am very grateful for what the noble Baroness has said. I may say I shall always remember the remedial gymnasts, and we might reserve a place for them. But to be serious, it is a perfectly valid point. I will take advice on that, but I presume it will be a matter for the public record. If I am mistaken I will certainly let the noble Baroness know.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I was interested in what the noble Lord had to say. He mentioned that the leader of my party might possibly want a small group around him. I heard that rumour: I read about it somewhere but it did not make much of an impression on me. He will of course make his own dispositions if and when he is in a position to do so. I do not suppose that any of us will be considered for high office in that particular small kitchen cabinet.

I must say that I was not particularly satisfied with the answers given by the noble Lord the Minister on this occasion. I would have awarded no more than a grudging Beta plus. He relied too much on the floodgate argument: if we allow one in, the rest would be wanting one too. That argument, in a situation of this kind, is not a very convincing one. The underlying question, which has not been properly addressed by the Government in my view, is: what is the optimum, the best size for this body, given what it has to do?

If it has been decided that it will work through a whole raft of committees and there will be a committee on maintained schools, another on SEN and another on further education, that will be an easy solution and a bureaucrat's paradise. However, I do not think it is the kind of thing that will lead to efficient activity on the part of an organisation like the QCA. That authority is going to have to cover a vast range, and to work through committees seems too bureaucratic and detailed, as far as I am concerned. I would think it would make much better sense to work through an authority itself, which could take its own decisions at its own meetings without having to bounce things back and forth, to get minutes and reports and have referrals back from one committee to another.

It will still have to deal with maintained schools, with SEN and further qualifications—that huge area about which there will be so much detailed discussion. I feel still that it is going to be too small with its present number of eight to 13 to work effectively. On the other hand, I do not like the proliferation of committees, because the line management structure will be massive and slow. That having been said, I do not want to press this to a Division at the moment but I may very well wish to come back to the matter in greater detail at Report stage.

Finally, the Minister said something, if I understood him correctly, about the discussion in another place. He claimed that he had the support of some of my honourable friends. I have taken great care on this occasion to become acquainted with all the stages of the work of Standing Committee D on this Bill. At a quick glance and on searching my memory, I cannot remember any occasion during the Committee stage when the size of the QCA was debated. Perhaps the noble Lord the Minister can put me right on that, but I do not think it was at Committee stage. It may have been elsewhere. If the Minister would care to intervene, he may do so right now—

Lord Henley

I cannot assist the noble Lord, but I had got the impression—perhaps unjustly—that his honourable friends supported QCA as we propose to set it up.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I am grateful to the noble Lord although I cannot find evidence of that, but de minimis non curat lex—the law does not concern itself with trifles—and we need not take that any further now. And so, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 154: Page 32, line 23, at end insert— ("( ) persons who appear to him to have experience of, and to have shown capacity in, the provision of education in voluntary schools, or in grant-maintained schools having foundation governors;").

The right reverend Prelate said: I spoke to this amendment a moment ago but, like the noble Lord, Lord Morris, I found the Minister's reply a little unsatisfying. A distinction ought to be made between what might be termed "minority interests"—important and significant as they are—and the substantial interests which are represented in both the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Morris, and, I would argue, in that to which I spoke earlier. Nevertheless, as we shall make no impression on the Minister at this hour, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

[Amendment No. 154 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 155 to 156A not moved.]

Clause 37, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 6 [The Qualifications and National Curriculum Authority]:

[Amendments Nos. 157 and 158 not moved.]

Lord Morris of Castle Morris had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 158A: Page 69, line 35. at end insert ("( ) the Chief Inspector of the Further Education Funding Council,").

The noble Lord said: I am in a bit of quandary about this grouping. We have found Amendment No. 158A grouped with Amendment No. 168C. We are told that the groupings are, informal and not binding. It is therefore open to any Peer to speak to an amendment in its place in the Marshalled List".

After consideration, I do not wish to move Amendment No. 158A, but I shall wish to speak to Amendment No. 168C and, if it is in order, I shall do so in its proper place in the Marshalled List.

[Amendment No. 158A not moved.]

Schedule 6 agreed to.

Clause 38 [General function of Authority to advance education and training]:

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendment No. 159: Page 32, line 33, leave out ("National").

The right reverend Prelate said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 159A: Page 32, line 38, after ("quality") insert (", accessibility").

The noble Lord said: Clause 38(2) states: The Authority shall exercise their functions under this Part with a view to promoting quality and coherence in education and training". Those are clearly both important matters and are rightly included in the Bill, but the issue raised in this amendment is the need to ensure that the qualifications available are not only coherent and of high quality, but also accessible. Most adults study part-time. Many need to interrupt their studies. They experience a range of barriers to access, not least financial. They need access to flexible modes of study. They need to be able to acquire qualifications in small units over time. They need effective progression routes and they need qualifications that can take account of their experience of prior learning.

The amendment seeks to ensure that those issues are all within the remit of the authority. Therefore, this amendment, together with Amendment No. 162C with which it is grouped, refers to "accessibility" and requires that the authority should also exercise its functions with a view to promoting accessibility as well as quality and coherence. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Henley

I agree that it is vital for the new authority to build on the excellent work of both SCAA and NCVQ in promoting access and equal opportunities. We believe that SCAA has an explicit commitment to equal opportunities and that NCVQ has done much valuable work in this area, not least through its Access and Fair Assessment Advisory Forum. The establishment of a coherent, high quality framework of qualifications in itself encourages accessibility. The development of a new entry level for the framework in response to Sir Ron Dearing's recommendations will also do much in this area. I shall consider this amendment further and undertake to return at Report stage with appropriate amendments to reflect the concerns felt by noble Lords for those who face difficulties in achieving qualifications.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Perhaps the Minister can explain a little more clearly exactly how the Government believe that they are meeting the accessibility criteria?

Lord Henley

I believe I said that both SCAA and NCVQ had an excellent record in this matter, but I accepted the concerns voiced by the noble Lord. For that reason I agreed to table appropriate amendments at Report stage to take this matter further.

Lord Tope

For a moment I thought that my birthday had already arrived but it is at least a week nearer than it was when the Minister drew the attention of the Committee to my great age compared with his. I am grateful to the Minister for considering the matter in this way. I look forward very much to seeing what he tables at Report stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 38, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 39 [Functions of the Authority in relation to curriculum and assessment]:

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendment No. 160: Page 33, line 1, leave out ("National").

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 160A: Page 33, line 21, at end insert ("; and ( ) to take into account the interests of children with special educational needs.").

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this amendment is to add to the list of functions of the QCA a specific requirement to take into account the interests of children with special educational needs. The Minister may argue when he replies that this facet is implicit in Clause 39, but it needs to be explicit in establishing a new curriculum authority to reflect advances in the legal and educational framework of special needs of recent years. Clause 39(2)(b) and (c) deal with advice on the curriculum and research to develop it. This amendment is a crucial litmus test of how far special needs will be an integral factor in these areas of the QCA's work. I beg to move.

Lord Henley

I am totally sympathetic to the purpose of the amendment moved by the noble Baroness. I undertake to consider it further and to return at Report stage with appropriate amendments to take account of all learners with special needs, learning difficulties and disabilities in schools, colleges, and publicly funded training.

Baroness David

I am very grateful for that response. In the light of it, I have no hesitation in begging leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 161: Page 33, line 31, leave out ("the") and insert ("a").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 138. I beg to move.

Clause 39, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 40 [Functions of the Authority in relation to external vocational and academic qualifications]:

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendment No. 162: Page 33, line 40, leave out ("National").

Lord Morris of Castle Morris moved Amendment No. 162A: Page 33, line 42, leave out ("external qualifications") and insert ("National Vocational Qualifications").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 162A I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 162B, 162D, 162E and 162F. The problem here relates to the undefined and very broad nature of the powers offered to the qualifications authority in the lifelong learning area. By limiting the power to NVQs, current work can be maintained, but time would be allowed to clarify a wide array of qualifications which will be affected, and to take account of the issues which will inevitably arise in the report which we await, many of us with bated breath, of Sir Ron Dearing's committee on higher education. That will impinge upon what we have before us.

On Amendments Nos. 162B and 162F the issue is whether the QCA should approve individual courses, or whether it focuses on awarding bodies. It surely cannot be charged with deciding on the minutiae of a national curriculum for lifelong learning, which is the implication of the clause unamended. The FEFC's experience has been that three times as many vocational course units have been approved for community-based open college network qualifications than for general non-vocational qualification credits. That reflects the diversity of adult qualifications and the diversity of adults' starting points in pursuing lifelong learning.

Amendment No. 162B requires the QCA to develop criteria for approval, and Amendment No. 162F requires it to approve awarding bodies; that is, the examinations boards such as the AEB. It is not clear who would accredit qualifications. The amendments do not specifically suggest that the awarding bodies should do so, and neither are the functions of awarding bodies defined.

Amendments Nos. 162D and 162E both delete Clause 40(2)(g), which Amendment No. 162F tries to amend. Amendment No. 162D requires the QCA to establish procedures for the accreditation of qualifications submitted to the QCA, which does not seem very different from the Clause 40(2)(g), for which it is substituted. How the procedures relate to the criteria in the previous subsection is not clear—at least not to me.

Amendment No. 162E requires the QCA to set criteria for the accreditation of qualifications. The previous subsection will however require the QCA to develop and publish criteria for the accreditation of qualifications. It is likely, as far as I can see, that the amendments are aimed at reducing the centralist structure of the QCA and allowing examining bodies, rather than the QCA, to accredit qualifications. If I am correct in that, the Minister can no doubt answer. If I am incorrect, he will no doubt tell me. I beg to move.

Lord Henley

I was somewhat baffled by the amendments when I first saw them. I have to say that I am now completely and utterly baffled, following the noble Lord's explanation. It might be that I shall have to look carefully at what he said when I read the Official Report tomorrow. It seems rather odd, when one looks at Amendment No. 162A, after all the pronouncements from the noble Lord and others about the importance of standards, to find what appears to be rather cavalier treatment of standards in GCSEs, A-levels and GNVQs. All we are left with are NVQs, as I understand the amendment.

Amendments Nos. 162B and 162F are somewhat more comprehensive, but again I have to confess to being not absolutely clear whether the noble Lord intends the accreditation of awarding bodies to be as well as or instead of the accreditation of qualifications. The noble Lord's speech has not enlightened me much further. I will, if I may, look at what the noble Lord said, but neither the amendments nor his explanation of them has left me much wiser. As they stand, they seem to do something that would be distinctly undesirable.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

It may be that the reason for that lies in the grouping, which puts together a number of things which, although superficially similar, are perhaps rather different, on the grounds merely that they are related to one authority.

As I was going through the groupings I found that I might be offering the Minister a little more heat than light. I believe that we would do well to reflect upon them. It is important that we get them right. As regards Amendment No. 162A, we were concerned centrally to limit the powers of the NVQs in order that what is currently being done can be maintained before we suddenly leap off into doing something else. That was in aid of the approaching difficulties that we shall have into slotting the report from Sir Ron Dearing into everything which we are currently undertaking and which seems to be perpetually on the move.

Let us by all means read what has been said tonight and perhaps return to the matter on Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 162B to 162F not moved.]

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 162G: Page 34, leave out lines 13 to 18.

The noble Lord said: The purpose of the amendment is to probe the meaning and difference of functions between the terms "accreditation" and "approval" used in the Bill and the likely effect of such powers. It is important that the use of those terms is perfectly transparent within the wording of the Bill to ensure that there is clarity of meaning in the Bill and that there is no conflict of interest between the functions to be carried out by the authority.

The amendment seeks to remove two subsections from the Bill which appear to give the new authority power directly to approve qualifications in addition to power to accredit qualifications. Commonly, the power of accreditation in relation to qualifications is taken to mean the recognition of a qualification designed by another organisation by the designated regulatory body. "Approval" tends to be used to describe the approval of a course or syllabus by the body which designed the course or syllabus. On other occasions, those descriptions are used interchangeably.

The particular use of those terms within the Bill is crucial because of the scope of the powers which would be held by the new authority and the possible conflict of interests which could arise from the exercise of such powers. The current regulatory bodies, the SCAA and the NCVQ, have rather different remits. Broadly, the SCAA accredits GCSEs, which awarding bodies have designed, sets parameters for GCSEs and has responsibility for quality assuring the relevant awarding body processes. The NCVQ is responsible for overseeing the quality assurance process of vocational awarding bodies. It has also been involved in the design of particular types of qualification; the NVQ and the GNVQ.

The new authority may be expected to take on all those roles, but it may be more appropriate and effective for a clear separation of function to be agreed between the regulatory body, the QCA, and the awarding bodies. It must be appropriate for the new authority to have the power to specify criteria and to accredit courses or syllabuses designed by awarding bodies. It is less clear that the QCA should take on the role of designing a series of qualifications within the authority.

We have only to look at the recent history and development of NVQs and GNVQs to see that the process of devising qualifications and approving them within the same organisation is open to real difficulty. GNVQs, although taken by a growing number of students, have been revised annually since their introduction, have been the subject of a major review and assessment and are still undergoing changes. Staff in colleges and schools have had to work within a system which required massive amounts of record keeping and the arrival of new sets of course specifications, often just prior to enrolment of the next intake of students.

The NVQ, although growing, is still a qualification which only 3 per cent. of the workforce holds and which has itself been subject to a major review—the Beaumont report—and is the subject of reworking in order to be relaunched in 1988. Throughout the 10 years of NCVQ's life, other vocational qualifications, such as those provided by the three major vocational-awarding bodies—BTech, now EDEXCEL, City and Guilds and RSA—have continued to be requested by employers, often because qualifications like the National Diploma contain broad educational knowledge and understanding in addition to specific occupational competence.

NCVQ continues to receive a levy of £10 from each NCVQ qualification. A similar levy on GNVQs has now been dropped. It is difficult to see how an authority, given the role of designing and approving its own qualifications, can act as an honest broker between different valid qualification types, as the body has a vested interest in the success of some qualifications at the possible expense of others. Therefore, it is essential that there is clarity about the use of language within the Bill and the purposes and powers which will be available to the new authority. I beg to move.

10.30 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

From these Benches, we support the amendment.

Lord Henley

I found the amendment rather peculiar because I was at a loss to understand the sudden opposition to a clause which has received a high degree of support. But I now understand that it is a probing amendment. In effect, the noble Lord would like to know what is the difference between accreditation and approval.

Accreditation is what the authority will do. It will accredit a qualification such as a GCSE, A-level, GNVQ, NVQ or whatever. In passing, I assure the noble Lord that NVQs have been a great success. It was a little over a year ago that we saw the award of the millionth NVQ. I imagine that the figure is much higher now. There is an increasing recognition of the NVQ in the workplace. If the noble Lord would care to talk to

employers, he would find that they speak in glowing terms about the motivational effect that that qualification has on their workforce.

In this context, approval is what the Secretary of State will do in saying which qualifications may be provided with the use of specified public funding or for pupils of compulsory school age. Obviously, we anticipate different lists for different purposes; for example, for pre-16 schooling or for TEC-funded training. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Tope

I thank the Minister for that explanation. I did not intend to cast aspersions on NVQs and I hope it was not taken in that way. As the Minister identified correctly, this is a probing amendment to seek clarification. I shall read carefully in Hansard what he said and consider the matter further if appropriate. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris moved Amendment No. 162H: Page 34, line 18. at end insert ("; and ( ) to secure adequate qualification mechanisms for individuals seeking qualifications.").

The noble Lord said: In speaking to this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 164A and Amendment No. 164B will be spoken to by my noble friend Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede.

Amendment No. 162H raises the issue of the availability of mechanisms for individual people to acquire qualifications. A wide variety of ways of gaining credit are needed like those mapped in the Further Education Development Agency's work on a credit framework. People need to have ways of getting previous experience and achievement recognised for credit. That is an enormously important incentive in attracting people to particular forms of qualification. As I found so often in university work, they placed a great deal of stress on the credit that they were given or not given for what in many cases might have been half a lifetime of previous, relevant experience.

People need to be able to carry credit with them between institutions, not necessarily in the very mechanistic way of the American university credit-transfer system but in something approaching that; in other words, they need learning on the job to be recognised as having a worth and a value towards further studying. Part-time students may need to take qualifications a little at a time.

Amendment No. 164A has been tabled simply to test whether a loophole exists in Clause 40(5). That subsection disapplies the first five functions listed earlier in Clause 40 from qualifications awarded or authenticated by institutions within the higher education sector, except where those qualifications have gone through the accreditation process which QCA will establish. So, in that sense, it is a probing amendment.

Observers have pointed to a potential loophole in the regulatory framework. The intention to ring-fence degree work within universities and the higher education sector generally is understood. However, it is possible that the wording of that provision might permit any university to authenticate any course or qualification offered in the sixth-form or further education college. That qualification would then not be subject to the QCA's quality assurance process and would lie outside the national framework.

The point of Amendment No. 164A is, therefore, to establish whether or not the fear which some observers have that a university would be able to authenticate a course offered by another institution, such as the sixth-form college, is well founded. It is an important amendment because I can assure Members of the Committee that universities are now in such a hard-pressed position for resources of any kind that they are grasping for almost anything legal which will allow them to bring in a certain amount of money. They are looking for every possible means of accreditation and validation of courses almost anywhere. I do not say—because I do not believe it—that standards are, therefore, dropped; they are not, except in one or two doubtful cases which have already been dealt with. However, because of that pressure the amendment becomes particularly relevant to the work of the QCA and the accreditation of qualifications. I beg to move.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

I shall speak to Amendment No. 164B, which forms part of this grouping. The intention behind the amendment is to draw to the Minister's attention one aspect of the Bill which was not debated in another place and which has not, so far, been debated in this Committee. Tucked away in Clause 40 of the Bill is something which may adversely affect the way in which chartered professional bodies discharge their responsibilities.

The amendment is a short one and would add the words, or by professional bodies established by Charter", after the words "higher education sector". To illustrate the case for the amendment, I shall use such prominent examples as the Royal Society of Chemistry or the Institution of Mining & Metallurgy (of which I am a Fellow).

Both of those bodies award and authenticate their qualifications. For example, the Royal Society of Chemistry validates courses in a number of universities and colleges throughout the country, which lead directly to admission to the society as either a licentiate member or a graduate member. These are both processional categories of membership of the society. The licentiate membership is equivalent to a pass degree in chemistry, and the graduate membership is equivalent to an honours degree in chemistry.

The main point is that, in the case of the Royal Society of Chemistry, this is something that it has been entrusted to do for over 100 years. It has been authenticating such courses and awarding these qualifications in one form or another since the 19th century under the terms of its charter.

I understand that the Government are now proposing, in Clause 37 of the Bill, to establish the QCA, whose job it will be, inter alia, to review and accredit certain qualifications awarded, following study within the higher education sector, including the universities. It is not clear, however, from the Bill how the QCA's powers will affect the existing rights of chartered professional bodies.

Chartered professional bodies have some points of similarity with the position of universities. The Royal Society of Chemistry's role is a good example. Like many universities which were established by charter (including most of the older universities in the United Kingdom), the Royal Society of Chemistry was also established by charter almost 150 years ago; in fact, its first charter dates from 1848. Like most of the older universities, the society (together with my own professional body and several others) has long operated under chartered status approved by the Privy Council. Under the terms of its Royal Charter the society is required, to establish, uphold and advance the standards of qualification, competence and conduct of those who practise chemistry as a profession". To help it fulfil its charter obligations the society is authorised to, cause examinations to be held", and, issue formal documents certifying competency in chemistry". The Royal Society of Chemistry, together with the other chartered professional bodies, has therefore been accorded exactly the same authority to award and authenticate its qualifications as have the universities. This amendment would clarify their position and safeguard that role.

Lord Henley

These are interesting and, I think, finely balanced amendments. I shall, if I may, speak to each in turn.

Amendment No. 162H is intended to impose a duty on the QCA to secure a sufficient supply of qualifications for individuals seeking them. I appreciate the intention behind the amendment, but I think it could create substantial practical difficulties. First, there would be a clear tension between this provision and the responsibilities of the various funding authorities to secure adequate or sufficient facilities for education. Secondly, it might well result in the QCA requiring awarding bodies to provide qualifications tailored to single individuals, without regard to there being a "best fit" alternative qualification available, to costs or to the desirability of there being a transparent, easily understood framework.

Amendment No. 164A would bring every sub-degree qualification offered by an HE institution within the QCA's remit. The existence of such qualifications is a growing feature of HE, as the noble Lord, Lord Morris, made clear. One has only to think of the Open University to be aware of the growing importance and value of such provision. And while all bets are off on the future direction of HE provision until Sir Ron Dearing reports, I think we could hazard a guess that any solutions he and his committee come up with might well involve an increased focus on such provision as an integral part of HE. We have been accused before of creating in QCA an authority with an excessive remit. However, I think I am fairly clear this is one area where it would not be appropriate for its remit to run.

Finally, Amendment No. 164B to which the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, spoke is designed to put qualifications offered by professional bodies on the same footing as qualifications offered by HE institutions. Again, I have some sympathy with the views of the noble Lord. The professional bodies are valued upholders of standards and an important safeguard of professional integrity. They have not, however, been treated in the same way as HE institutions because of the overarching requirement for the QCA to promote coherence. Many lower level NVQs feed into higher level professional qualifications. We want the articulation to be as clear as possible—hence the requirement, in particular, to keep such qualifications under review.

I hope that with these explanations the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendments.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

If I may say so, the noble Lord the Minister has made a much better fist of trying to get rid of our amendments on this occasion than he did on the last.

I am not entirely satisfied, but I take some of the points he made. Without forfeiting my right to come back to this on Report after I have seen in print what the Minister said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 162J not moved.]

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendments Nos. 163 and 164: Page 34, line 23, leave out ("National"). Page 34, line 30, leave out ("National").

[Amendments Nos. 164A to 165 not moved.]

Viscount Chelmsford moved Amendment No. 165A: Page 34, line 49, at end insert— ("( ) The Authority shall establish a Board, to be known as the National Vocational Qualifications Board ("the Board") to which it shall delegate the functions falling within subsection (2) above where these relate specifically to National Vocational Qualifications. ( ) The Board shall have responsibility for the marketing of National Vocational Qualifications for such period as the Secretary of State shall direct but in no event for less than three years. ( ) The Board shall include a majority of members who have experience of, and have shown capacity in. industrial, commercial or financial matters."). The noble Viscount said: I believe that there is a need for balance between those in training who have to do written examinations and those involved in NVQs. There is a fragile balance at this time. It is in the latter area that anxieties are being expressed currently.

I recollect that a year or two ago my own discipline, the insurance industry, was greatly alarmed when suggestions were made that qualifications could be achieved without any written examinations. I do not think that there is any doubt that insurance standards would have dropped had written examinations been overset, but happily common sense prevailed and a series of exemptions were agreed both ways, based on the levels of competence obtained in NVQs where written examinations were concerned and vice versa.

I am advised that the insurance industry training council and the Chartered Insurance Institute fully support the "employment" rather than the "academic" focus of career related qualifications. Also they have been pleased to see a growing recognition in the DfEE of the need for some sectors to have a heavier bias towards examined knowledge than others in the context of vocational qualifications.

So perhaps we can say that proponents of qualifications by written examinations are currently relaxed, but not so the proponents of competence based qualifications through NVQs. The CBI points out that NVQs are a much younger and less well established qualification: that they are a fundamental tool for the promotion of adult learning; and that they have not yet reached a critical mass and thus need a strong voice in order to remain closely related to employment needs. My own institute—I am president of IDPM, the institute for the management of information systems—supports this. So also, I am told, does the pharmaceutical and allied industries awarding body.

The first paragraph of my amendment calls for the establishment of an NVQ board to work within the framework of the new QCA to ensure that critical mass in adult learning through NVQs does in fact take place. When the discipline has matured, I suggest that such a board would no longer be necessary.

I am aware that Schedule 6 to the Bill allows the Secretary of State to direct the QCA to establish committees for specific purposes. I hope very much that he agrees with the current need to ensure NVQ maturity by retaining those best qualified to do so, as per the third paragraph of my amendment, and will be able to confirm that such a direction will be made.

My second paragraph responds to the fact that the Bill limits the activities of the QCA to the provision and dissemination of information. However, the role of the NCVQ included the requirement to market NVQs as per its 95/96 annual guidance document where it was emphasised that effective marketing was critical to take up. In effect this is also transitional but necessary in order to ensure NVQ maturity. I appreciate that the Minister may not think that the QCA or even a board set up below the QCA is the right place for marketing. But it is a job that needs to be done, and the Bill does not seem to cover it. If it is not to be covered here, who will have this responsibility once the NCVQ is no more? This is a probing amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Henley

I appreciate my noble friend's strong commitment to NVQ. It is a commitment that I share, as, I understand, does the noble Lord, Lord Tope. I retract if there was an implied criticism, in anything I said earlier.

Sir Ron's vision, when he recommended setting up a single authority responsible for all qualifications, was to bring together the academic and vocational, and to tackle the divisions between education and training—rather along the lines of the spirit behind the merger that formed the Department for Education and Employment. I am therefore anxious not to enshrine that vision in a statutory constitution of the QCA by delegating the majority of the QCA's functions in respect of NVQs to some autonomous board that would be almost separate from the QCA. That would in effect mean that the QCA was responsible for academic matters with a separate body being responsible for NVQs. I hope my noble friend will accept that.

As to marketing, I do not consider that it would be appropriate for the QCA, or even one of its committees, to be involved in promoting one of the qualifications that it regulates. That could give rise to suspicions of conflict of interest. The QCA's function of publishing and disseminating information relating to external qualifications will help schools, colleges and employers to become aware of all the qualifications in the framework. That will include information on NVQs, including the advantages they can offer for individuals and companies.

My noble friend is right to point to the importance of promoting and marketing NVQs. One principal role should lie with the Government on the one hand, and with the industry representative bodies responsible for the development of qualifications on the other. However, I give my noble friend an assurance that, even if the Government play the lead role, there are many others involved in these matters—the CBI, the IoD, the Careers Service, further education colleges, the TEC network and individual firms, which have found NVQs such a powerful tool for improving skills and the motivation of their workforce. I hope that with those explanations my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Chelmsford

I thank the Minister for his response. I do not intend to suggest that there should be an autonomous board, merely that I hope that he or his department might make a direction that a committee should, at least for a transitory period, give some protection to the NVQ side of training. I shall need to read the Minister's comments on marketing; however, I am grateful for them. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 40, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

The Committee will recall that the merging of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority (SCAA) and the National Council for Vocational Qualifications (NCVQ) was recommended by Sir Ron Dearing in his recent review of qualifications for the education of 14 to 19 year-olds. That proposal has been generally welcomed in relation to this age group and discussion of the Bill as a whole has concentrated on schooling and the education of young people. However, as the Bill is now drafted the functions of the proposed agency go far wider than this, and they will impact on the education and training of adults and their opportunities for lifelong learning. It is a matter which has barely been discussed.

Clause 40 of the Bill gives the new body functions in respect of "external qualifications", both academic and vocational. That is a very broad and very general description. Only exempted, as I said, are academic qualifications at first degree level or any comparable higher level. Clause 40 suggests that the agency will not only develop and publish criteria for the accreditation of vocational qualifications, of which there are thousands, but actually accredit them. There are already a large number—I think it is over 100 now—of independent awarding bodies, often charitable in structure, involved in this work.

Nowhere does the Bill take account of the differing needs of adults in respect of these qualifications. I think it is true to say that most adults study part time. Most adults fund their own studies; it is not easy for an adult to get himself or herself funded by some other body.

Increasingly, studies are modular. That is necessary. Many of us, especially people in higher education, have fought against this and regretted it because it imprisons the free spirit. One of the great virtues of the British university three-year undergraduate degree is that, on the whole, it does not work in these ridiculous modular structures which tell people what they have to do in sickening detail, following which they tick off the various answers to the questions produced when they take some sort of examination at the end of a term.

As I know from my work in my own subject, English literature, it is perfectly possible to have a module called "18th Century English Literature" which one can get through by reading three novels and six poems and knowing nothing whatever about anything else. But in this new form of higher and further education that we are moving into and shall have presumably throughout the next millennium, modular structures are the fashion—the norm—and we have to find ways of working with them.

Increasingly, studies are modular. Individual credits are accumulated over time to gain certification. Adults also have need of different types of certification mechanisms, such as the accreditation of prior learning, on which I place such a premium. Seventy per cent. of further education students, mostly studying vocational courses, are adults. Costs to learners are already high as few grants are available for part-time study. The power to be given to the agency to raise a levy on awarding bodies is likely to prove an additional barrier to access for part-time learners.

For these reasons, among others which I do not doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, will illustrate, we are not content that this clause should stand part of the Bill.

Lord Tope

There is now widespread agreement on the importance of lifelong learning and the achievement of the national training and education targets for adults, as well as for young people, but there has been little discussion on the implications of the Bill for adult learners, further education or awarding bodies.

We believe that Clause 40 is also premature since Sir Ron Dearing is engaged in yet another review, this time of higher education. While the Bill exempts academic qualifications at degree level and higher levels, the move of the NCVQ into higher level NVQs is bound to lead to overlap with universities, especially in areas of applied study and professional qualifications. It is surely better to wait for Dearing to report before hastening to hand over these extensive powers to a new agency, particularly one whose original focus is rooted in schooling and not in post-school education and training.

For these reasons, we consider that Clause 40 should not stand part of the Bill, since all these matters require further discussion and clarification with the wide array of bodies involved, and particularly in the light of the awaited Dearing report.

Lord Henley

I find the noble Lord's behaviour quite extraordinary when it seems to be part of the policy of the party opposite to support these clauses of the Bill. No doubt the noble Lord wishes to have his amendment; possibly he wishes to have an ambush and strike the clause out.

We entirely accept the need to promote lifetime learning. That is one of the reasons why we have brought together SCAA and NCVQ. There is no reason why this clause should undermine modularity at A-levels, GNVQs or whatever in the way that the noble Lord suggested. As it is, I could not quite follow the drift of the noble Lord's argument as to whether or not he seemed to be in favour of modularity. But there it is.

Perhaps I may set out what the clause seeks to do. It sets out the authority's functions, which we have been through in some detail, in relation to external qualifications. As with the school curriculum assessment, the QCA will have full functions of review, advice, research and development and information-giving. New to this Bill is a power for the QCA to accredit qualifications against criteria which it has developed. That will give the new authority the statutory backing to build on the valuable work done by both staff and NCVQ to assure A-levels, GCSEs, NVQs and GNVQs. It will be a vital tool in implementing Sir Ron Dearing's proposals for a coherent and rigorous national framework of qualifications. In that respect it is fully within the recommendations of Sir Ron's review in his report on 16-to-19 qualifications.

I fail to understand at this late hour just why noble Lords opposite wish to oppose the inclusion of this clause, having understood that in another place it had general support from both parties opposite. Perhaps at this time of night I am naive but I shall certainly recommend those on my side of the House, those on the Cross-Benches and even, dare I say it, those on the Benches opposite to support me in accepting that Clause 40 should stand part of the Bill.

11.2 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 40, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 65; Not-Contents, 14.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 40, as amended, agreed to accordingly.

11.10 p.m.

Clause 41 [Other functions of the Authority]:

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendment No. 166: Page 35, line 1. leave out ("National").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 41, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 42 [Supplementary provisions relating to discharge by Authority of their functions]:

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendment No. 167: Page 35, line 16, leave out ("National").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 167A not moved.]

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 167B: Page 35, line 21, leave out ("and").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 167C and 168A. The purpose of this amendment is to seek recognition of the need to include skill and knowledge as important considerations for the authority when seeking to meet the educational and training requirements of industry, commerce, finance and the professions—

Lord Henley

Would the noble Lord give way? Is he speaking to Amendment No. 167A or 167C?

Lord Tope

I think I am right in saying that the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, did not move Amendment No. 167A. I am therefore moving No. 167B, which is simply to leave out "and", and I do not have a great deal to say on that. Therefore I am speaking to the next amendment in this group, which is Amendment No. 167C. I hope that now the Minister has recovered from his recent great victory he has managed to catch up with us.

The National Curriculum Authority, as it was called, is charged with a range of publicly funded qualifications. This function should include recognition and cognisance of the role and importance of the development of skills and specific knowledge in addition to the attainment of the required standards of practical competence. Much of the recent and current work on the development and possible revision of NBQS, for example, has been based around an acknowledgment of this need. Developments have included building to NBQ specifications and opportunities to develop key skills such as communication and working with others. New unit specifications now include information on those areas underpinning subject knowledge which it is essential for a candidate to understand. This ensures that competence is supported by a sound knowledge and rationale for the activity undertaken. I beg to move.

Lord Henley

I totally agree with the intention behind Amendment No. 167C. I apologise for having interrupted the noble Lord earlier, but I have now caught up with myself, as he put it. Although I agree with the

noble Lord's intention, I would argue that the amendment is totally unnecessary. Practical competence encompasses the necessary skill and knowledge that he asks for. People at work will simply not be able to demonstrate competence without skill and knowledge. The clause as it stands reflects the very strong views that were put forward forcefully and often by employers. They want trainees who can do things, and that is exactly what competence is about. They want training to be practical and they want competent employees. They do not want people with a head full of theory; they want people who can get the job done, and knowledge is an essential part of that. There is increased emphasis on that, in NVQs, as the noble Lord knows. With that, I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

11.15 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Before the noble Lord sits down, could I press him to be a little more explicit in particular on Amendment No. 167A, and on No. 167B as well? Part of the purpose of this group of amendments is to insert accessibility to qualifications as a factor which the QNCA should take into consideration when carrying out its functions.

The issues which these amendments address include how easily or realistically individuals may gain access to courses and qualifications which QNCA will oversee. Other amendments deal with the scope and level of the qualifications, but the amendments include a requirement that QNCA considers the accessibility of the courses that it supervises—in other words, it should take an active and informative view of the education provision presented under its aegis and should consider geography, the range and level of courses and the suitability of qualifications for the educational needs of individuals. It should be proactive—consulting, researching, advising and planning—rather than a passive filter for the bids of institutions. It should not only raise standards, but should fit what is available to the needs and aspirations of students.

All our experience of working with individuals throughout their lives and of encouraging people to stay in, and to return to, training is predicated on the notion of it being readily available. Sadly, some institutions have failed to understand that if people have to attend after work in order to complete their qualifications and training, they must take account of the geography of the locality and the availability of transport when planning their provision.

These are not minor but major issues if we are to address something about which I understood the Government to be concerned. I refer to the huge shortfall in the level of access to, and the quality and range of, opportunities for people at what is called "technician level". This is a very serious subject in a country which based its educational system for far too long on educating well a small minority—it still does—but which failed to meet the needs of the overwhelming majority of the average. Unlike many of our competitor countries, we have succeeded in producing among people who are deemed to be average a feeling that that will not do and that they are somehow incompetent. But they are the people whose hopes and aspirations we need to raise. They are the people we need to encourage. For them, geography, range and level of courses, and their suitability for individuals are particularly important. Could the Minister address those issues in his reply?

Lord Henley

I addressed those issues somewhat earlier, but it depends on what the noble Baroness means by "accessibility". I suspect that she has taken its definition somewhat further than matters relating purely to what might be termed equal opportunities and disability matters. I have said that I shall consider those matters and that I might have to return to them on Report. Although the noble Baroness is now taking the definition of accessibility somewhat further, I assure her that I shall look carefully at what she has said.

Lord Tope

I am grateful to the Minister. As far as I can understand it, he now agrees with me so much that he cannot agree with my amendment! I suppose that that is progress of a sort. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 167C to 168A not moved.]

Lord Morris of Castle Morris moved Amendment No. 168B: Page 35, line 24, at end insert ("and ( ) the requirement for adults seeking access to education, training and work to have access to accreditation mechanisms that take account of their prior experience, and of learners undertaking part-time study.").

The noble Lord said: We have looked at this issue slightly previously and now we are going to look at it again. The amendment seeks to draw attention to the needs of adults who will be affected by the work of the authority by charging it specifically with responsibility to have regard to their needs. First, it must have proper arrangements for their prior experience to be assessed and accredited—and it needs to be both assessed and accredited. Perhaps I may give just one example. This is the kind of provision which will benefit women returners. It will show that skills developed in even something so humdrum and mundane—dare I say it?—as household management can be transferred to small business management.

Even at this late hour, perhaps I may lighten the technical detail of the discussion by giving one example from university experience over the past five or six years. When I had the honour to be the principal of St. David's University College, Lampeter, as it then was (now the University of Wales, Lampeter), I became aware of the needs of a large number of women in that rural area for computer expertise in order to do such tasks as run farm accounts, assist in small business work and matters of that kind. A course was introduced which originally bore the title "Business Information Technology Course for Housewives". When we realised what the initials spelt we changed it to "Women Into New Technology". That was a roaring success.

It allowed women, who perhaps had seen their families grow up, to return to a university atmosphere and learn the information technology skills which were then remarkably marketable in that rural area for small businesses, shops and farm accounts.

That is a perfect example of the kind of people who can benefit in their further lifelong learning from having their prior experience assessed and accredited and being allowed to go on to other activities. First, it ensures that the authority considers the needs of adults with professional qualifications outside the European Union who cannot currently secure assessment and accreditation of such qualifications. That is a difficult and darkened area which in the past has been shunned by almost everyone but must now be addressed.

Secondly, it allows us to have in place the proper arrangements for people who study part-time. The bulk of post-compulsory students now study part-time. Many interrupt their studies and carry on later. Currently, open college networks accredit much of their vocational learning and access courses for higher education. Thirdly, it ensures that fees and possible levies do not act as a barrier to access, particularly as courses are taken in smaller modules, with smaller units of accreditation. Large numbers of adults now pay for their own studies. That is now very much the rule. The FEFC funded three times as many vocational qualifications leading to OCN credits as GNVQ units in 1995–96, largely because they were flexible and in small sized units. For example, all TUC shop steward courses now attract OCN credits. The National Open College Network is now the fourth largest vocational awarding body measured by FEFC funding. I beg to move.

Lord Monkswell

In supporting the amendment, I should like to point out the difficulties that one particular group of returning employees face in the labour market. I refer specifically to people who have trained as teachers, have had experience of teaching and have left the profession to raise a family. They may be out of the profession for perhaps five, 10 or 15 years and then return to teaching. I speak to this amendment because of my experience as the governor of a school. When governors determine salary levels they have to bear in mind the person's experience in the labour market. We will all be familiar with the progression of teachers' salaries through a salary scale. Over a 10 to 15-year period teachers can expect to see an increase year on year based on their experience and expertise.

If a member of the teaching profession leaves it and does something else, his or her experience outside teaching may be counted in different ways. If they have been a manager in business, the years they spend outside teaching may count on a one-to-one basis. They return to teaching at a higher salary on the basis of their previous progression.

My experience is that a teacher who had left the profession and raised a family, and had effectively been what one might describe as a housewife, had that experience discounted. It counted as half a year only. So they lost a number of years in terms of progression through the profession. The vast majority of people who became housewives did not just learn managerial skills; they learnt people skills. They gained a whole range of experience while they were housewives and mothers. A board of school governors may not recognise the experience and expertise that a housewife develops in, dare I say it, the delivery of her profession.

I am speaking in favour of the amendment because it talks in terms of access to accreditation mechanisms. If people in that position have access to an independent assessment of their abilities and the expertise they have gained, they will be recognised for what they are. It is important to establish proper accreditation mechanisms to assess the experience and expertise people gain, perhaps not just as housewives but in other areas of human activity which are of benefit to the profession. Unless we have those mechanisms, we will lose the expertise and benefits such people can provide to the wider society and we will not satisfactorily reflect their ability to contribute.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Before my noble friend sits down, perhaps I may tell him that I admire, respect and support almost all that he said. But perhaps I may place on record the fact that he should not use synonymously the terms "housewife" and "caring parent" or for that matter "carer of another person". Many women do many hours of unpaid work as carers of children, people with disabilities or elderly relatives. I hope that he will forgive me for that minor correction.

Lord Monkswell

I welcome that admonition if I did not get the nomenclature right. However, I am sure that my noble friend appreciates what I am trying to say.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Henley

I agree that it will be important for the QCA to ensure that as wide as possible a range of learners have access to qualifications, whether they be part-time learners or the women returners referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Morris. The accreditation of prior learning is a keystone of the NVQ principle and, again, it is one that I support fully.

However, the issue must be how many of the entirely worthy and right things we would expect the QCA to do should be enshrined on the face of the Bill. I believe that, as always, there is a balance to be struck between making sure the authority does what we want it to do and allowing it the freedom to be responsive and make its own decisions.

Clause 42(1)(c)(i) refers the authority to the statutory requirements for a balanced and broadly based curriculum. Clause 42(1)(c)(ii) responds to the widespread concerns expressed in our consultation by employers that their needs, and particularly the principle of occupational competence, might be marginalised under the QCA. We thought it proper in those circumstances to impose a statutory requirement.

Consequently, I do not believe that the interests canvassed by the noble Lord, Lord Morris, in this amendment should be put on the face of the Bill in the same way. However, I should like to place on record that the more detailed remit letter the Secretary of State will send to the QCA, which will govern the work of the new authority, will particularly require it to have regard to the needs of part-time and late learners and to encourage appropriate forms of accreditation of prior learning. I hope that, with that explanation, the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

That reply is moderately encouraging. It was nicer than the replies which we have received to a number of amendments tonight. Mind you, as soon as we hear the words "enshrined on the face of the Bill" we know exactly which way the rest of the argument will go. Therefore, I was not unduly surprised by the Minister's closing remarks. Cherishing his earlier words, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 168C to 168E not moved.]

Clause 42, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 43 [The Qualifications, Curriculum and Assessment Authority for Wales]:

[Amendments Nos. 168F and 168G not moved.]

Clause 43 agreed to.

Schedule 7 [The Qualifications, Curriculum and Assessment Authority for Wales]:

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendments Nos. 169 to 171: Page 71, line 7, leave out ("National"). Page 73. line 18, leave out ("National"). Page 73, line 24. leave out ("National").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 44 agreed to.

Clause 45 [Functions of the Authority in relation to curriculum and assessment]:

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 172: Page 37, line 18. leave out ("the") and insert ("a").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 138. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 45, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 46 [Functions of the Authority in relation to external vocational and academic qualifications]:

[Amendment No. 172A not moved.]

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendment No. 173: Page 37, line 33, leave out ("National").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 46, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 47 to 49 agreed to.

Clause 50 [Transfer of property]:

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendment No. 174: Page 39, line 14, leave out ("National").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 50, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 51 [Transfer of staff]:

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendment No. 175: Page 39, line 41, leave out ("National").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 176: Page 40, line 16, leave out ("the terms and conditions of his employment") and insert ("his working conditions").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 177. I am tabling these amendments on the advice of the parliamentary draftsman. Their purpose is simply better to reflect the statutory protection afforded to employees of SCAA and NCVQ by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981, which will apply when those employees transfer to QCA or ACCAC, as the case may be. The amendments will bring this clause into line with those regulations and with the comparable provision made under the Education Act 1993 for the transfer of employees to SCAA from the National Curriculum Council and the School Examinations and Assessment Council. I beg to move.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

We are well content with these amendments but there is just one question I should like to ask the Minister. Do any staff of NCVQ or SCAA not have a contract of employment but only working conditions? Does the term "working conditions" encompass more than terms and conditions of employment?

Lord Henley

I do not have the first idea but I shall write to the noble Lord on that.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I am grateful to the noble Lord.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 177: Page 40, line 20, leave out ("the terms and conditions of a person's contract of employment") and insert ("an employee's working conditions").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 51, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 52 [Levy on bodies awarding qualifications accredited by relevant Authority]:

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 177A: Page 40, line 38, leave out ("vocational").

The noble Baroness said: In the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, I wish formally to move this amendment.

Lord Henley

If the noble Baroness is formally moving this amendment, which has not been spoken to at any time, I should like to object to that formally.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Touché. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 177B not moved.]

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendment No. 178: Page 41, line 9, leave out ("National").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 52, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 53 [Requirement for approval of certain publicly funded and school courses leading to external qualifications]:

[Amendments Nos. 178A to 179 not moved.]

Clause 53 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 180 not moved.]

Clause 54 [Inspection of LEAs]:

[Amendments Nos. 180A to 180E not moved.]

Clause 54 agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 180F: After Clause 54, insert the following new clause—

REVIEW OF PERFORMANCE OF LOCAL EDUCATION AUTHORITIES (" .—(1) Each local education authority shall prepare a three-year strategic education development plan to be updated annually and submitted to the Secretary of State. (2) An education development plan to which subsection (1) refers shall include details of how the local education authority proposes to raise standards in its area and may include other matters pertinent to the powers and duties of the authority. (3) Each local education authority shall make arrangements to review its performance annually against the development plan, and the conclusions of such review shall be published, reported to the council and submitted to the Secretary of State with the following year's development plan. (4) Each local education authority shall every five years commission an independent review of the discharge of its functions according to a framework established by persons representative of such authorities. (5) Where requested to do so by the relevant chief education officer, the Chief Inspector and the Audit Commission may assist with any review carried out by a local education authority under subsection (4). (6) Where the Secretary of State is satisfied that the process of review and report put in place by a local education authority is sufficiently rigorous and independent, he may either— (a) notify the Chief Inspector that no arrangements in respect of that authority are likely to be requested for the time being under section 54(1), or withdraw any such request; or (b) request the Chief Inspector to make arrangements for any inspection carried out under section 54 in respect of that authority to be conducted as a periodic inspection following the carrying out on behalf of the authority of any such independent local review.").

The noble Baroness said: During the debate on an earlier amendment, I noted that the Minister referred to the above amendment. At that stage, my understanding was that he would not accept it. It is important for us to probe and explore what reluctance the Government could have about the alternative local model for the inspection of LEAs. The proposed model, as set out in the amendment, would review the performance of local education authorities and each LEA would prepare a three-year strategic education development plan to be updated annually and submitted to the Secretary of State.

Subsection (2) of the amendment says: An education development plan to which subsection (1) refers shall include details of how the local education authority proposes to raise standards in its area and may include other matters pertinent to the powers and duties of the authority". Under subsection (3) of the amendment, Each local education authority shall make arrangements to review its performance annually against the development plan. and the conclusions of such review shall be published. reported to the council and submitted to the Secretary of State with the following year's development plan". Then, subsection (4) says: Each local education authority shall every five years commission an independent review of the discharge of its functions according to a framework established by persons representative of such authorities". While subsection (5) states: Where requested to so by the relevant chief education officer, the Chief Inspector and the Audit Commission may assist with any review carried out by a local education authority under subsection (4)". Finally, subsection (6) of the amendment says: Where the Secretary of State is satisfied that the process of review and report put in place by a local education authority is sufficiently rigorous and independent", she or he may either: (a) notify the Chief Inspector that no arrangements in respect of that authority are likely to be requested for the time being under section 54(1), or withdraw any such request; or (b) request the Chief Inspector to make arrangements for any inspection carried out under section 54 in respect of that authority to be conducted as a periodic inspection following the carrying out on behalf of the authority of any such independent local review".

All those terms are part of the process of the amendment which requires development plans from LEAs. It will, of course, take Ofsted several years to inspect all local education authorities and the Bill implicitly acknowledges that fact by making the process permissive and controlled by the Secretary of State. As a back-up, inspection under an independent person—for example, as in the model employed by Staffordshire county council—offers a way of involving local expertise more rapidly without losing the benefit of what one might term "heavyweight" periodic inspection by Ofsted.

The proposed new clause leaves it to the Secretary of State to determine whether local reviews have any place within the structure. This is intended to be a constructive amendment to the Bill. It does not seek in any way to remove anything that is proposed in the legislation but it opens up the possibility for constructive developments in an important, and developmental way.

The White Paper Self-Government for Schools which preceded this Bill included a section headed, "Assessing the Effectiveness of LEAs" (paragraphs 38 to 41 in chapter five, pages 56 and 57). That section noted moves by local authorities and professional associations representing education officers to set up frameworks for the use of LEAs in self-review activities.

The final paragraph (chapter five, page 57, paragraph 41) states: The Government will keep the process of these initiatives under careful review, with a view to promoting over time the development of robust mechanisms for assessing and improving LEAs' performance". This amendment provides the vehicle for the Government to do precisely that. One of its clear advantages is that it does not undermine the existing power of the Secretary of State to use the Audit Commission and HMCI to carry out a completely external inspection of LEAs. However, it allows and encourages LEAs to take the initiative for self-review which can, and on present experience would, be more extensive and far-reaching than what the Bill currently provides. The idea of development planning is already well established for schools and is built into the inspection framework that operates for them. This would make a more explicit connection between the nationally prescribed inspection process and LEAs' own initiatives for development and improvement.

Other advantages are that it is likely that LEAs with a certain amount of resource input from HMCI and the Audit Commission would be able to carry out their inspections on a three or five year cycle rather than the 12 to 15 year cycle that is currently being envisaged for the Ofsted driven process. This would deliver much more information about the performance of LEAs to the public but would not give rise to additional expenditure. Indeed, the development of an approach based on local self-review could lead to resource savings at the centre.

However, power will remain with the Secretary of State to ensure that whatever is put in place is both adequate and sufficiently rigorous to meet the purposes of the Bill. I hope that we shall receive a positive response from the Government. I beg to move.

11.45 p.m.

Lord Monkswell

In speaking to this amendment I hope that the Government will not come forward with the idea that the problems in our education system are so immense that a three year development plan is hopelessly unrealistic and that what we need is a 10 year development plan. I support my noble friend who moved this amendment because I think at this stage in the development of our education system it is entirely realistic.

We can recognise that there are two major significant problems that our education system is beset with. The first is the physical state of the educational establishment; the fact that so many of our schools require major investment that will require five or 10 year programmes to resolve. The other major problem is the fact that we are totally incapacitated in our relationships with the rest of the world, and in particular the Continent of Europe, as regards our inability in foreign languages. I think it is well understood that we shall not resolve that problem with a three or even a five year development programme; it requires a 10 or 15 year development programme.

Given the resources that we have at our disposal nationally, it is quite realistic for my noble friends on the Front Bench to propose a three year development programme at this stage. While we recognise the immense problems our education system is faced with, and the need for a 10 or 15 year development programme, it is quite reasonable that we should present at this stage a three year development programme.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I associate these Benches with the amendment. It seems to me a sensible way at least possible cost of bringing the maximum amount of pressure on LEAs to improve their performance. In the self assessment process even good LEAs have proved that they are capable of improvement. It encourages LEAs to know whether they are doing well or badly, and where to target their resources and efforts. I hope that the Minister will be inclined to accept the spirit of the amendment, even if he does not like every word of it.

Lord Henley

I have a sneaking suspicion that the proposed clause is unnecessary. In part, its provisions duplicate what is already in the Bill; and in part they would simply lead to more bureaucracy. I do not believe that they improve on the simple notion that LEAs should be inspected. I hoped that we would discuss that on an earlier clause but for some reason both the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, and the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, chose not to move the amendments which were originally in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, but later in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas. I suspect that they discovered that that was not official party policy. The amendments merely complicate and confuse.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Is the Minister asking us to move every single amendment on the Marshalled List? If so, I suspect that we should be ordering breakfast.

We seek to bring together certain issues in Committee. We shall come back on Report to many of the issues that are not moved tonight. It is a little unreasonable to challenge us as to why we do not move amendments when it is ten minutes to twelve and we still have many amendments to discuss. If the Minister wishes, we can ungroup—

Lord Henley

I was not referring to an amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, but to an amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas. What was intriguing was that it was originally in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, and related to the dropping of "Chief Inspector" and inserting "Audit Commission". For some reason—I think the noble Baroness suddenly discovered the policy of the party opposite—she decided to withdraw the amendment. I recommend that the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, also looks at her own party's policy and she will discover that it too is in favour of inspection by the chief inspector and not the Audit Commission. But that is in passing. I believe that the amendment simply complicates and confuses the issue.

Let me take the first part of the new clause, the preparation of three-year strategic education development plans. I do not believe that this would be a suitable matter for the Bill. Our purpose here is to facilitate the inspection of a stratified sample of LEAs, so that the quality of support provided by different LEAs can be compared. That does not require the submission of LEA development plans from each and every LEA. Such plans are a matter for the LEA itself in the first instance. Ofsted will of course take into account an LEA's intentions as set out in its plans, but above all it will be interested in what an LEA does, not what it said it would do.

Similarly, I fail to see the purpose of subsection (3), which would require LEAs to publish an annual review of their performance against the proposed three-year strategic education development plan. There are already provisions requiring action plans of LEAs following inspection. And under Clause 54(6) LEAs will supply HMCI with information to underpin inspection.

The framework on which LEA inspection will be based has been the subject of substantial consultation and will form the basis of the independent Ofsted-led inspections as set out in the Bill. Why, therefore, spend scarce public resources on a further pattern of five-yearly or three-yearly reviews against yet another framework?

Moreover, it is a recipe for increased bureaucracy at every level: the LEA will be devising frameworks and contracting inspectors; Ofsted and the Audit Commission may be involved in the LEA reviews as well as the Ofsted inspections. And the Secretary of State will need to decide whether the LEA reviews are sufficient to supersede Ofsted inspections. What possible contribution can this duplication of effort make to improving the standards of education in our schools? I therefore hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

The Government's response on this issue is a disappointment. I hope that, notwithstanding the Minister's rejection at this stage, he will take time to consider the matter between now and Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 55 [Reports of inspections under s.54 and action plan by LEA]:

[Amendment No. 180G not moved.]

Clause 55 agreed to.

Clause 56 agreed to.

Clause 57 [Inspections involving collaboration of Audit Commission]:

[Amendments Nos. 180H to 180S not moved.]

Clause 57 agreed to.

Clause 58 agreed to.

Schedule 8 [School inspections]:

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 181: Page 74, line 14, at end insert— ("Rights of entry etc. for Chief Inspectors For subsections (8) and (9) of section 2 of the 1996 Act (functions of Chief Inspector for England) there shall be substituted— (8) For the purposes of the exercise of any function conferred by or under this section the Chief Inspector for England shall have at all reasonable times, in relation to any school in England—

  1. (a) a right of entry to the premises of the school; and
  2. (b) a right to inspect, and take copies of, any records kept by the school, and any other documents containing information relating to the school, which he requires for those purposes.
(9) It shall be an offence wilfully to obstruct the Chief Inspector for England—
  1. (a) in the exercise of his functions in relation to the inspection of a school for the purposes of subsection (2)(b); or
  2. (b) in the exercise of any right under subsection (8) for the purposes of the exercise of any other function."
. For subsections (8) and (9) of section 5 of the 1996 Act (functions of Chief Inspector for Wales) there shall be substituted
(8) For the purposes of the exercise of any function conferred by or under this section the Chief Inspector for Wales shall have at all reasonable times, in relation to any school in Wales—
  1. (a) a right of entry to the premises of the school; and
  2. (b) a right to inspect, and take copies of, any records kept by the school, and any other documents containing information relating to the school, which he requires for those purposes.
(9) It shall be an offence wilfully to obstruct the Chief Inspector for Wales—
  1. (a) in the exercise of his functions in relation to the inspection of a school for the purposes of subsection (2)(b); or
  2. (b) in the exercise of any right under subsection (8) for the purposes of the exercise of any other function.".").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 182. These are straightforward amendments. Their purpose is to ensure that Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors of Schools in England and Wales will each have the right of access to schools premises and records.

The two amendments would allow the chief inspectors to authorise Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools additional inspectors or other members of their staff to exercise wider rights of access on their behalf. This would be to collect evidence about aspects of educational standards and quality above and beyond that collected in the course of inspections carried out under other provisions of the Schools Inspections Act. This allows them, for example, to gather information from schools on issues such as exclusions and reading ability.

Other reports published by the chief inspectors—most notably their annual reports—have contributed significantly to public knowledge of standards in schools in England and Wales. Visits to schools under the extended right of access would normally involve looking at lessons and pupils' work, examining documentation and holding discussions with staff, pupils and others.

Although most schools are happy to co-operate on a voluntary basis with informal visits by inspectors gathering evidence for report or survey, the Government consider it important that the chief inspectors' rights of access are set out clearly in statute. I commend the amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

These amendments seem to us not so much drafting amendments, which most of the previous ones have been, but considerable small additions to, and improvements upon, current legislation.

Nevertheless, there are some questions that we would like the Minister to address before we are completely satisfied. It is quite true that the majority of schools, if approached by HMCI and others with a request for entry for one purpose or another, are not going to stand on the letter of the law and look up the relevant statute before giving permission. That is not the relationship that exists between the inspectors and the schools, for good reasons and bad.

However, it appears that we have here a clarification of Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors' statutory powers of entry to schools, which includes HMI and, by virtue of Amendment No. 182, additional inspectors. So it is a not inconsiderable addition.

At present, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector has the right to enter the premises of a school and take copies, etc., of records only when formally inspecting a school under Section 2(2) of the School Inspections Act 1996. That is quite clearly laid down; and obstruction of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector in that respect is a criminal offence.

This amendment broadens that right of entry to cover any of Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors' functions so that there does not have to be a formal inspection of the school for that right of entry to be exercised. We must be quite clear about that. For instance, it could be pursued in order to give advice to the Secretary of State about the quality of education in any named school without having to launch a formal inspection. At least, that is the way it seems to us. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to give us a definitive answer to the question of whether it is or is not. I hope he may be able to use the immortal phrase used by so many of his colleagues on the Front Bench, "My Lords, it has just come to me that … "

Amendment No. 182, on the other hand, appears to us to clarify the law on the rights of entry for additional inspectors. Let us be quite clear as to who they are. They are individuals appointed by Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors to do inspection work who are not themselves made HMI, and additional inspectors will have the right to enter schools and still have the protection that an offence is committed if they are obstructed.

I think that even at this witching hour we need the Minister to say one or two things: first, to justify this new power a little more and to give examples of why Her Majesty's Chief Inspector might need this power outside a formal inspection. Secondly, since the matter has been raised by the Government, one might ask why it is an offence to prevent HMI from going into a school but not a chief education officer.


Lord Henley

The noble Lord is right to say that these amendments are not merely drafting amendments and that they go wider than that. That is why I wrote to the noble Lord in some detail on these amendments and I hope it is why—but no doubt there are others who advise him—he was able to set out clearly our current position with regard to rights of access. We considered that it was necessary but that there were certain matters that needed a degree of elucidation and clarification and the Bill provided an appropriate opportunity for that.

The noble Lord asked about Amendment No. 182. I can assure him that he was right that it allows the delegation of the functions to those who are not chief inspectors, but obviously those will be people appointed by Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors under the other statutory powers.

He also asked why the Chief Inspector was able to go beyond a formal inspection of a school and why he needs to have these wider powers. To put it very simply, it is to carry out the range of functions laid down in the School Inspections Act, which unfortunately I do not have before me. I think it is Section 2(1) and 2(2) that I should refer the noble Lord to but I shall have to take advice on that because, though it did suddenly come to me, I might not be as clear as I could be. I had better write to the noble Lord about that in due course.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 182. Page 75, line 24, at end insert— ("Delegation of functions of Chief Inspectors .In paragraph 5(3) of Schedule 1 to the 1996 Act (performance of functions of Chief Inspectors), for "in conducting an inspection under section 2(2)(b) or section 5(2)(b)" there shall be substituted "under sub-paragraph (1) or (2)".").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 182, it has now come to me. I was being somewhat incompetent. Somehow a copy of the School Inspections Act 1996 did come to me. If the noble Lord looks at Section 2(1) he will see the functions set out in some detail for the Chief Inspector and similarly in Section 2(2). I believe that the noble Lord would find a study of those subsections of some use and I hope it would answer the point he raised about the need for the clarifications as set out in these amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I am grateful to the Minister for what he said. He has been alone at that Dispatch Box since three o'clock. I appreciate that at the hour of five minutes past midnight he might not be in total command of every last jot or tittle of his briefing. Still, if he will permit me, I shall brutally press him on the last question that I asked him. Why should it be an offence to prevent an HMI—we are not talking about the HMCI—from going into a school but that does not apply to a chief education officer?

Lord Henley

An HMI will need access to all those schools in the maintained sector that he will be inspecting, whether grant-maintained, county, voluntary or whatever. Obviously, that will not be the case with the chief education officer whose writ will run only in relation to his own schools. It is obviously a matter of the arrangements that the LEA and the chief education officer make about access that he should have to his own schools.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I am not convinced about that. But I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he said.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 8, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 59 [Provision of careers education in schools':

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 182A: Page 44, line 35, after ("of") insert ("personal development and guidance including").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to change the limited definition of "careers advice and guidance" within the Bill and to broaden the focus explicitly to embrace a wider range, for example, by placing careers education in its proper context of personal development and guidance.

The intention behind the amendment is to recognise the need for a broader approach to the content of a truly effective programme of careers education which recognises the proper context of the individual's personal development. Careers Service professionals recognise that a key ingredient of a successful programme of careers education and guidance must include an element of personal development and education for the individual concerned. That is especially important for young people, whose needs and individual level of maturity in terms of self-awareness and understanding will vary and change substantially between the ages of 14 to 16, the age range at which the Bill envisages that the programme of careers education will be targeted initially in schools.

The amendment simply aims to secure on the face of the Bill a recognition of that important distinction. To clarify beyond doubt the holistic approach to successful careers education and guidance is what this Bill endorses, thereby strengthening the statutory basis for careers education and guidance in schools and colleges. I beg to move.

Lord Henley

As the noble Lord made clear, the amendment extends the duty to provide curriculum coverage beyond careers education also to cover the more general needs relating to personal development. It would place a somewhat wider duty on schools and dilute the careers focus of this part of the Bill. As the noble Lord is aware, Clause 59 is specifically focused on careers education in recognition of the need for schools to devise an education programme which relates to preparing pupils for careers decisions and their implementation. Pupils need to understand the careers choices and opportunities available to them.

The amendment attempts to place a duty on schools which in practice would not add much at all. I also believe that to bring in an amendment of this kind would lose focus through adding a somewhat vague requirement. That is an important point to consider. That point—the vagueness of what "personal development and guidance" in fact mean—is an important one, since it will prevent enforcement and will therefore, I suspect, weaken rather than strengthen the provision.

Lord Tope

I do not agree with the Minister on this matter, but I am grateful for his reply, which I shall look at carefully. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 59 agreed to.

Clause 60 [Schools and other institutions to co-operate with careers advisers]:

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth) moved Amendment No. 183: Page 46, line 34, at end insert ("and (c) institutions outside the further education sector attended by persons whose education is secured by a further education funding council.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 183 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 185 to 188. The purpose of these amendments is to ensure that disabled students at independent specialist colleges receive adequate careers advice and guidance. SKILL, which is the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities—here I declare an interest in that I am president of SKILL—is concerned that under the Bill as it stands these students are not covered by Clauses 60 and 61.

I should like to make it clear straightaway that these amendments are probing by nature and will, I hope, provide the Minister with an opportunity to give an assurance that the interests of those students will be safeguarded. I am grateful to the Minister for making time last week to meet and discuss this and other matters relating to students with disabilities with me and members of staff from SKILL and MENCAP. I also thank his department for a lot of hard work and co-operation on these matters.

Amendment No. 183 is to Clause 60, which allows the careers advisers from the career companies to gain access to students in schools and colleges. Amendments Nos. 185 to 188 are to Clause 61 which requires schools and colleges to ensure that appropriate careers materials are available to students. The clauses apply to maintained schools, including maintained special schools and colleges in the FE sector; but they do not cover independent specialist schools or colleges which fall outside the FE sector and which are attended by publicly-funded students. Those students obviously have just as much need and indeed the right to careers advice and materials.

The existing voluntary arrangements between the independent specialist schools and colleges and the careers services seem to work satisfactorily at present. But that is not a guarantee that that co-operation will continue in the future. I hope that when the Minister comes to reply he will be able to give some sort of reassurance that that can be safeguarded. I beg to move.

Lord Henley

I take it that the noble Baroness was speaking to Amendment No. 183 followed by Amendments Nos. 185 to 188.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

That is correct. I was not speaking to Amendment No. 184.

Lord Henley

I was grateful for the opportunity to see the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy, and those advising her. We had some useful discussions. It is quite deliberate that the scope of the careers education and guidance clauses does not extend to independent institutions in either the schools or colleges sectors—except for city technology colleges, which receive all of their running costs from public funds.

There is an important point of principle behind this decision. In general, education legislation places requirements on schools and colleges within the publicly-funded state education service, but not on independent institutions. The Government believe that, in the absence of strong reasons to the contrary, the state should not seek to regulate independent institutions in the way that it regulates the publicly-funded sector.

In this instance, there are no strong reasons for departing from that line, particularly as existing legislation relating to the provision of careers services already ensures that young people in independent institutions are entitled to the provision of information, advice and guidance by those careers services. My understanding is that the present arrangements under which independent colleges work with careers services are satisfactory.

Therefore, though I see no grounds for imposing a legal requirement, I understand the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy, and others who promote the cause of students with learning difficulties and disabilities who attend such institutions. We are keen to respond positively. Accordingly, officials in my department and in the Welsh Office have discussed this matter with the further education funding councils and we believe there is scope for adding an appropriate form of words to the contract documents under which students are supported in independent colleges. That change would be underpinned by other measures to promote good practice.

I hope therefore that the noble Baroness will be content with that response and will withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. That is a satisfactory assurance that the careers guidance of individual students will be looked after. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 183A: Page 47, line 6, leave out from ("education") to end of line 7.

The noble Lord said: The purpose of Amendment No. 183A is to ensure that all part-time students have an entitlement to careers guidance. We have discussed a number of times this evening the importance of part-time education. The effect of this amendment would be to delete from the Bill the words, of a description commonly undergone by persons in order to tit them for employment", which we feel is a little restrictive. Some 80 per cent. of students in the further education sector study part time. They include not only those who study for vocational qualifications but a large number who are studying part time for A levels or other general qualifications. All students should be entitled to at least initial support to help them to make career choices or to move from one occupation to another. The current wording of the Bill is unnecessarily restrictive, in our view, and will not meet the needs of a large number of learners. I beg to move.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

If I may rise briefly in support of this amendment, it is simply to ask a few questions. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, said that the current wording of the Bill was unnecessarily restrictive. May I ask the Minister why that is so? What perils and dangers are anticipated? Would it be vastly costly and, if so, how costly, to extend this guidance to all part-time students?

Lord Henley

Obviously there would be cost implications but I could not be specific about them without notice, if at all. Those putting forward amendments with cost implications ought to be prepared to consider the implications themselves. I think we should be very wary of taking forward amendments that have further cost implications.

Obviously the amendment would require FE colleges to provide access to the careers services by a much wider category than is currently set out. Since the purpose of the clause is to allow careers services access only for the purpose of carrying out the Secretary of State's statutory duties under Section 8 of the Employment and Training Act 1973, the amendment would clearly be out of step with that intention. What that Act recognises is that careers education and guidance services should be targeted on a specified group of further education students. The aim is to offer information and advice to those on courses from which they are likely to go on to employment. That is achieved by including all those students on full-time courses and those on part-time courses commonly undergone by persons just to fit them for employment. To remove the words suggested by the amendment would take the provision out of line with the earlier Act and give careers services access to students for whom they are not contracted to provide such services. That would be an anomaly and there would be a cost. I therefore have to say to the noble Lord that I cannot support the amendment.

Lord Monkswell

Before the noble Lord, Lord Tope, responds in terms of how he intends to proceed, I wonder whether I may put just two points to the Minister. The first is that surely the very process of having to distinguish between the vocational and the non-vocational students in a particular college is likely to lead to bureaucracy, cost and time-consuming activity. It would therefore be a costly activity in itself. The proposal to extend this advice to what I might describe as the non-vocational students will in fact be an on-cost, according to the Minister. I would argue that it may actually reduce costs because one would not have to make the distinction.

The second point concerns the argument that we had last year or the year before about the difference between vocational and non-vocational courses. The Minister will be very clear about the example of the student who was engaged in a "non-vocational" course in flower arranging and went on to found quite a significant medium-sized business on the basis of the skills he had learned as a "non-vocational" student. I hope that the Minister and the Government will learn the lesson that it is nonsense to make a distinction between vocational and non-vocational students.

Lord Henley

The noble Lord's point is a red herring. We are not distinguishing between vocational and non-vocational courses. We are simply doing something that we have done since the 1993 Act and that is distinguishing between those who are on courses from which they are likely to go on to employment and those who are not.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Is it the case that students who are in receipt of income support are deliberately prohibited by the Government from studying for more than a very limited time and must restrict their study to part-time or lose their benefit, yet they are the very people who would benefit most from careers advice that may enable them to find employment?

Lord Henley

The noble Baroness takes me on to something akin to the Schleswig-Holstein question. I used to know the answer to the difficult rules relating to how long one can study while claiming benefit. There have been a number of changes to the various rules relating to studying while on income support, but I think that those who are on income support who are actively seeking work should be actively seeking work. Other openings might be available to them. As I have said, I am somewhat out of touch with the rather complex rules relating to income support. It has been some years since I served in the Department of Social Security, but I shall be happy to write to the noble Baroness with more details of the complexities of the matter.

Lord Tope

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. He has not entirely convinced this side of the Committee, but this is not the time to press the matter, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 60 agreed to.

Clause 61 [Provision of careers information at educational institutions]:

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth) moved Amendment No. 184: Page 47, line 22, at end insert ("in appropriate accessible formats.").

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that careers guidance and reference materials are made available to students in formats such as braille or large print where appropriate. It is again a probing amendment, hoping for an assurance from the Minister.

Clause 61 requires schools and FE colleges to provide students with access to guidance and reference materials on careers education and opportunities. SKILL is aware that few careers materials are presented in formats accessible to students unable to read standard print and that materials accessible in other formats are not widely available. Advice to schools and colleges may encourage institutions to consider alternative formats, but the costs of brailling or of specialised materials can be a deterrent. What is needed is a requirement on institutions to make such provision a priority. I very much hope to hear from the Minister that, if he cannot accept the amendment, he will be able and willing to achieve the same aim by different means, perhaps by mention in a circular. I beg to move.

Baroness David

I did not have a chance to say that I supported the last amendment because the Minister was so quick on his feet, but I did support it strongly and I also support this one strongly. Materials must be in a form that students can understand and follow, preferably without having to have an interpreter. I hope that the Minister will have a sympathetic response to this amendment.

Lord Addington

Very briefly, I support the amendment. It is utterly absurd to provide information that somebody cannot understand. It might as well not be there at all.

Lord Henley

I very much agree with that latter point about providing information that one cannot understand. It happens to us all on many occasions—and on all sides of your Lordships' House.

I sympathise with the amendment. I am sure that, as always, the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy, will agree that such matters of detail are not appropriate for the Bill and are better provided in the guidance that will be issued to supplement and explain the legislation to those who have to implement it.

I believe that much of what is wanted is already provided for. Careers services are required, through their contract with the Secretary of State, to provide material which should be presented in such a way as to enable persons with learning difficulties or sensory impairments to make use of and understand it. Thus, the way is clear for each institution in working up its partnership with the Careers Service to explain the needs of its pupils or students and agree how information can be most helpfully presented. I will ensure that institutions are reminded of this in circulars that emanate from my department and are sent to both schools and colleges to explain the legislation. I hope that with those assurances the noble Baroness will be content to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady David, and the as ever down-to-earth and sensible noble Lord, Lord Addington, for their support. I also thank the Minister and his department who were very helpful beforehand in this matter. I appreciate the Minister's comment about this matter not being in primary legislation. A circular would be extremely satisfactory. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 185 to 188 not moved.]

Clause 61 agreed to.

Clauses 62 agreed to.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 188A: After Clause 62, insert the following new clause— CAREERS ADVICE: PUPILS WITH SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS (" A careers adviser shall, in making available careers education to a registered pupil who has special educational needs, have regard to any Code of Practice issued under section 313 of the Education Act 1996.").

The noble Lord said: The intention of this amendment is to probe, and secure clarification from, the Government on an issue debated in the other place in Standing Committee D on 16th January. The question was whether it was adequate simply to rely on guidance which the DfEE intended to issue to careers advisers that they should take account of the code of practice on SEN, or whether there was a need to insert the new clause, which forms this amendment, on to the face of the Bill to secure that widely shared objective. In a debate on an identical amendment moved at the final sitting of Standing Committee D, the Minister of State, Mr. Eric Forth, initially gave assurances he was confident that, the statutory duty to ensure [that] the code (of practice on SEN) takes account of that is already in place".—[Official Report, Commons. 16/1/97; co1.618.] However, in his subsequent remarks the Minister appeared to equivocate on his opening position and acknowledged that he would be prepared to consider the matter further. He gave a commitment to see whether there would be any need to remedy the situation in practice. The Minister stated his intention to secure for himself further advice on this issue.

This new clause is intended merely to establish whether the Government consider that there is any need to make additional references to the SEN code of practice in the Bill. I hope that the Minister will be able to clarify the position. In that spirit, I beg to move.

Lord Henley

I can give an assurance that the appropriate legal duty to take account of the code in careers education provision already exists. There is already a mechanism for bringing the Careers Service into the good practice promulgated by it. Therefore, the noble Lord's new clause is unnecessary and his concerns about careers advisers having regard to the code of practice are already dealt with.

Lord Tope

I am not convinced that that deals with the issue that I raised, but given the time of night I will wait to study it until a little later this morning. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 189 not moved.]

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 190:

Before Clause 63, insert the following new clause— CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS (" . In section 316(1) of the Education Act 1996 (Children with special educational needs normally to be educated in mainstream schools), after the word "needs" there shall be inserted the words "who does not have a statement to the effect that he is mentally handicapped or that he suffers from learning disabilities and".").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 190 I should declare an interest as the father of a 16 year-old mentally handicapped child. Section 316 of the Education Act 1996 places a duty on LEAs and others to educate all special educational needs children in mainstream schools. That duty is qualified by the following four provisos. First, such mainstream education should not be incompatible with the wishes of the child's parents. Secondly, the mainstream school must be able to provide the special education that the child's learning difficulty calls for. Thirdly, the child's presence must not compromise the education of the other normal children. Fourthly, resources must be used efficiently. This amendment would remove mentally handicapped children from the scope of Section 316 and thus from the present presumption that they should be educated in a normal school. The amendment would do nothing to suggest that they would instead have to be educated in a special school. It would merely help to remove the very considerable difficulties that parents face when they want a special school for their child. Nor would the amendment do anything to frustrate the reasonable wishes of parents who want their mentally handicapped children to go to an ordinary school, which can work well for appropriate children in an adequate special unit. Of course, much may depend upon the degree of handicap of the child. By mentally handicapped children, I mean those who have a statement to the effect that they suffer from what are known in the jargon as learning disabilities.

The amendment would not affect other categories of SEN children who, as the Committee will be aware, amount to a very broad range of difficulty, disability and handicap. It refers only to mentally handicapped children who, I submit, are uniquely disadvantaged in the learning process which should take place in a normal school.

I moved a similar amendment on 29th April 1993 (Official Report, cols. 516 to 533) nearly four years ago, when we debated the Bill which introduced Section 316, as it now is. The Committee may recall that there was widespread sympathy for this amendment from all sides of the Chamber, but, to my regret, I did not ask for the opinion of noble Lords then. I say this because in the intervening four years it has become clear that the amendment was necessary then, and that none of the four provisos in Section 316 is working as the Government hoped that they would. The amendment is therefore even more urgent today.

At this late hour I shall not weary the Committee with too much detailed evidence, but as to the first proviso, the wishes of parents who want their mentally handicapped children to go to a special school are often being frustrated. As to the second proviso, those children are therefore often being forced into ordinary schools where adequate special provision is not genuinely available; and for the third proviso, this situation must clearly have a disruptive effect on the education of the other children in the schools in question.

Finally, the fourth proviso does not appear to be working either, because it is not necessarily proving cheaper to educate mentally handicapped children in mainstream schools. For example, I hear that one of the three special schools for children with severe learning disabilities in Doncaster is to close, although demands for its service remain as high as ever. It is not being closed because it is too expensive, but because some 960 non-teaching assistants are being employed in mainstream schools in the area to help in looking after those most unfortunate children, and those assistants' costs have to be met from the general SEN budget. I cast no aspersion upon Doncaster which is doubtless doing its best as a victim of the mainstream-at-any-price ideology which now so regrettably grips our education system.

But I cannot help wondering how those 960 non-teaching assistants are really helping the education of the special children in their care. Would the budget not be better directed towards special schooling with all the economies of scale and availability of special teaching which that would surely bring?

I hope that the Committee can accept that, as the father of a mentally handicapped child, I am not basing my case on saving money; I merely point out that even the fourth proviso of Section 316 is not working as perhaps it was hoped that it might. The other three provisos have proved to be the failure which nearly all noble Lords who spoke in our debate four years ago forecast they would be. Section 316 is therefore very frustrating and unfair to parents who wish to escape its effects. It is often damaging to their children, and it is then damaging to normal children in mainstream schools with whom they have to share education. The amendment would do much to alleviate this unfortunate state of affairs when it occurs and so I commend it to the Committee. I beg to move.

12.30 a.m.

Lord Rix

I read the amendment with incredulity. It seems to me to cast children with learning disabilities back into the dark ages before the Education Act 1970 to a time when we parents had to raise the money to build a school into which to put our children and partially trained teachers so that they might learn a few rudimentary facts of life. How far we have come since then can be judged by the fact that our children with special educational needs can now go to mainstream schools with appropriate support. Some do very well with GCSEs, jobs and even driving licences. Of course, parents, being naturally protective, wish to be able to choose between a special school and a mainstream school, but with the right support in the latter the choice is made easier. To bar them or their child from the possibility of that child entering a mainstream school seems to me both punitive and discriminatory.

The Committee may be interested to hear a few statistics about special needs education which I obtained today from the Library. In January 1996 there were 1,084,126 children with general special educational needs, of which 126,813 are in primary and secondary maintained mainstream schools in England with a statement. Amendment No. 190 would cut a swathe through those figures. It must be clear to the Committee that I hope that it and the Government will reject the amendment with little further ado.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

Perhaps I may briefly speak against the amendment, which worries me greatly. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, will not press it now or at any stage as I would have to vote against it. The noble Lord speaks from direct personal experience and I acknowledge the depth of his feeling, but so does the noble Lord, Lord Rix, who I believe spoke very compellingly. MENCAP also believes that children with special needs should receive the education that is appropriate to those needs in whatever educational setting suits them best.

The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, says that he is trying to redress the balance which in the Act is tilted in favour of mainstream education, but I know that a high proportion of parents who fought very hard to achieve a mainstream education for their children are the parents of children with learning disabilities. I urge the noble Lord to consider carefully the effect that the amendment would have by way of further tilting the scales against them.

Lord Henley

Perhaps I may put briefly to my noble friend what his amendment seems to achieve. I do not know whether it is the intention, but it would remove the presumption of a mainstream school placement for parents of children who have a mental handicap or learning difficulties and also have a statement.

It is important to bear in mind that the amendment would deny such parents a very important choice. I see no reason for doing so. Under Section 316 there is a presumption of going to mainstream schools and many parents believe that that is entirely appropriate for certain children in this form of special educational needs. For others it may not be, and one always hopes that the decision will be made as appropriate in line with the best interests of the parents and children.

In the view of the Government, the right course is to allow parents the opportunity to ask for a place at a mainstream school, if they wish, and for the LEA to consider whether a mainstream placement would be suitable for the child; then obviously to give the parents the right to appeal to the SEN tribunal in the event that the LEA refuses to accede to the parents' wish for a mainstream place.

I do not believe that it would be right to remove the entitlement from the parents of children with certain types of special educational needs. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

I obviously do not wish to press the amendment this evening, but I shall certainly return to it at the next stage with more support. Unfortunately, given the lateness of the hour, that is not here.

I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Rix, and the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), that I do not think they listened to what I said. My amendment does not produce—and I merely ask them to read in Hansard and perhaps we can discuss it at the next stage—the effect which they say it would produce.

As I say, I do not want to delay the Committee but my noble friend on the Front Bench says that my amendment would deny parents the very choice which I am seeking to grant them. But the fact is that Section 316 as worded says that the child has to be educated in a school which is not a special school unless that is incompatible with the wishes of his parents. That is the hurdle which these parents have to jump. The tribunal is not solving the issue. Therefore, I do not agree, I am afraid, with anything that has been said by the three previous speakers. I will be returning, as I say, to the matter at Report stage with the support of my noble friends Lady Cox, Lord Renton and others and I suggest that we leave the matter until then. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 191 and 192 not moved.]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 193: Before Clause 63, insert the following new clause— REDUCTION IN CLASS SIZES (" . After section 355 of the Education Act 1996 there shall be inserted— "Reduction in class sizes. 355A.—(1) Each local education authority shall determine, and notify the Secretary of State as to, targets for the maximum number of pupils in classes in maintained schools in its area with respect to such years and year groups as the Secretary of State may specify. (2) The Secretary of State may make grants to local education authorities for the purposes of securing reductions in numbers in classes. (3) The Secretary of State may issue guidance to local education authorities, or to governing bodies or headteachers of maintained schools, for the purposes of this section.".").

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this amendment is to require local education authorities to set targets for reductions in class sizes.

The arguments for the amendment are simple. All other things being equal, teachers teach better and children learn more easily if teachers have to work with fewer children at a time. Of course, all other things are not equal. An excellent teacher will do well with a class of 40 even if that teacher is acutely aware that those children could have done so much better with a class of 20. A poor teacher will fail to communicate and engage with a class of 15, although it is likely that confrontation with 35 or 40 pupils may lead to total failure.

What is raised repeatedly by the Government is the argument that because they claim that there is no measurable improvement until class sizes are below 20, there is little point in setting targets for maximum class sizes for children in England and Wales.

In Scotland, there is a nationally agreed maximum class size. I understand that as a result of negotiations between the teachers and their employers, it is the practice in Scotland to agree to maximum class sizes.

The Government can say for as long as they wish that children are as well educated in a group of 35 as to 25 or 40 as to 30. We have just been discussing the issue of special educational needs. Statemented pupils take additional staffing with them; non-statemented pupils do not. Many larger classes are in areas and localities where there is a problem with large numbers of children with moderate special educational needs and learning difficulties.

Money should not be being used to buy for the most able children, chosen by selection, at the expense of resources for children in classes which are growing larger and larger.

We hear much in your Lordships' Chamber about the need to inculcate in our young children a sense of moral values, worth, understanding and genuine social development. Any good teacher will tell you that that involves the teacher, particularly with young children, having an opportunity to talk to and listen to individual children. Money is a scarce resource and that resource ought to be available for all the nation's young children. I beg to move.

12.45 a.m.

Lord Henley

I have to say, again, that I believe that such an amendment is over-prescriptive and would not actually be helpful to schools. Under local management of schools, decisions about class sizes in individual schools are taken, quite rightly, by head teachers—dedicated professionals who know their own pupils' needs. Decisions which many have taken show that they do not believe that class size is the key issue. Indeed, some have chosen to group more than 30 children in—

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I apologise for interrupting the Minister, but can he give Members of the Committee an example of a head teacher in any infant or primary school in England or Wales who has had to increase class sizes and who has stated publicly that he or she regards this as somehow not important?

Lord Henley

Perhaps the noble Baroness will allow me to develop my argument. I was about to make a very crucial point. Obviously I cannot give an example from 24,000 schools of the sort that the noble Baroness demands. However, some head teachers have chosen to group children in larger groups so that they can focus greater support in smaller groups on those who might have extra needs.

It is important to remember the very dramatic growth in the number of support staff over the past few years; for example, the number of support staff in primary schools has grown by some 50 per cent. in the past four years. That seems to suggest that many heads feel that it is more effective to take on support staff to give teachers flexible assistance when and where it is needed, rather than try to keep class sizes at some arbitrary maximum. I believe that those decisions are ones which, quite rightly, ought to be taken by the teachers and not by either LEAs or Ministers. An amendment of this sort would take such decisions out of the hands of the head teachers. For that reason, I cannot support the amendment.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Perhaps I may press the Minister a little further on the matter. Through my interest, which I declare, as a member of a local education authority—though not an abiding interest because I do not intend to stand for re-election on 1st May—I am aware that the Government have repeatedly put pressure on LEAs to reduce the actual level of their spending on education. My understanding is that the average over-spend, the money spent in excess of that which the Government consider to be necessary, provided by LEAs to schools is in the order of £80 per pupil and that, in some cases, the difference between the Government's proposal for the local authority's expenditure in the schools and its actual expenditure is as high as £200 per pupil.

I also understand that many head teachers and governing bodies, faced with scarce resources, have had to make judgments about who they can and cannot afford to employ. But, from a wide range of colleagues covering LEAs in Wales, in the counties of England, in the unitary authorities and, indeed, in the metropolitan districts, I have absolutely no experience of any head teacher who would view replacing a teacher appointment with a non-teaching member of staff as anything other than an essential expedient when faced with such pressures.

Let us consider, for example, the past three years. If we take away the increase in pupil numbers in this sector of the primary education field and take away the additional legislative costs imposed on the education service—for example, for seat belts—together with the government-determined levels of teachers' pay, the Government have reduced the money available. I think the Minister may well live to regret having implied in his reply to the amendment that head teachers in England and Wales are happily increasing class sizes and regard non-teaching support staff as an adequate replacement for the qualified teaching staff that in their professional opinion they believe would be of benefit to children.

Lord Henley

It was not my intention to respond but I cannot allow the noble Baroness to get away with putting words into my mouth in the way that she did. First, I did not say in any way whatsoever that I thought teachers were being replaced by assistants. What I made quite clear was that teachers were being assisted by a greater number of classroom assistants. I think even the noble Baroness would recognise that many people and many heads recognise there is considerable value in having classroom assistants who can assist the properly qualified, and therefore more expensive, teachers to go about their job.

Secondly, I totally and utterly reject her allegation that we have made cuts in public expenditure. If she makes those remarks from the Opposition Front Bench, she is in effect saying that we are underfunding education and that if her party were in government it would provide more money. That is something it has refused to do. What we have made available to education, as provided by the local education authorities, is something of the order of £1.4 billion extra over the past two years. We have increased spending on pupils since 1979 by some 50 per cent.

It is no use the noble Baroness taking just the past three years. She said the number of pupils had gone up in those years. I never heard those remarks from the noble Baroness and her colleagues when numbers were going down, implying that meant that we could, as it were, reduce funds. The simple fact is we have increased funds per pupil by something of the order of 50 per cent. since 1979 and we have increased funding available to local authorities for schools—not cut it—by some £1.4 billion over the past two years.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

First, I ask the Minister to confirm whether the £1.4 billion increase to which he referred is a £1.4 billion increase on the actual amount of money spent on education by LEAs year on year, or whether it is an increase in the standard spending assessment figure which is the Government's notional figure as to what ought to be spent by LEAs, which they have increased, and which is still below the amount actually spent? Secondly, I say to the Minister that, of course, it is relevant to take the past three or four years. During the past three or four years pupil numbers in the primary schools have been increasing and government expenditure per pupil in real terms has been falling. Thirdly, where class sizes of young children have been increasing there has been an increase in the use of classroom assistants, but head teachers would want to supplement that by also having the necessary number of fully qualified teachers. My experience of the professional judgment of head teachers is that they do not view it as an either/or situation but regard it as essential to have the right level of both.

The Government ought to consider carefully their record in terms of education. We have heard tonight that the Government are not prepared to rule out selection at primary level in hard, clear, legal terms in this Bill that is before us. By the Government's and Prime Minister's own admission we are failing the average and the majority in this country. What are the Government proposing to do to take the small amount of additional resource that they are able to make available and to give it to those who are succeeding well now?

The time is late. I shall not press the amendment at this stage.

Lord Henley

The noble Baroness asks me a question. Therefore I should respond, should I not? That would be fair, would it not?

I begin by apologising to the noble Baroness and to the Committee. I misled her. The figure is not £1.4 billion; it is £1.7 billion. That is the education standard spending assessment. Yes, it is permissible for the authorities to spend more should they so wish.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Will the Minister please tell us how the Government's standard spending assessment for the current financial year compares with what is actually spent by local education authorities?

Lord Henley

I do not have the figures in front of me. As I said, it is open to the authorities to spend more should they so wish. We have made available to the local authorities £1.7 billion more than last year.

Lord Tope

I have some sympathy for the Minister. At this hour of the morning he is having to deal with two members of local education authorities who have some knowledge of the facts. I understand that his briefing for this amendment could not have included the facts.

The Minister keeps telling us that the standard spending assessment has been increased. Apparently it has increased during the course of this debate from £1.4 billion to £1.7 billion. If we carry on at this speed we might get somewhere. Those are notional figures. The noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, asked him the actual figure.

Lord Henley

Will the noble Lord give way? I do not consider figures to be notional which are taken out of my pocket or other taxpayers' pockets. Those are funds transferred from central government, from the taxpayer, to local authorities. As I said, local authorities can spend more, and many do.

Lord Tope

I am sorry to upset the Minister, but the fact remains that when one is in a school with a budget, or running a local education authority, it is not the Minister's back pocket, or whatever, that we are interested in. It is the actual amount of spending. The fact remains that the actual spending on education has not been increased as a result of the Government's measures, especially when taking into account all the additional costs to which the noble Baroness referred—teachers' pay, and so on. The fact is that local education authorities en masse are still spending more than the Government are putting into education funding.

I can understanding that the Minister is getting tired and a little irritated at this time of night. But he is not getting away with it. The Government have not increased funding. This debate is about class sizes. It remains a fact on the Government's own figures that in the last year alone primary school class sizes over 36 increased by 20 per cent. No head teacher does that from choice but because of the Government's funding restrictions.

The Government may well say that it is open to education authorities to increase spending as they may wish. I wonder whether the Minister has heard of something called capping? The Government impose a total spending limit on all local authorities. For those local authorities which are also LEAs that is a major part of their funding. Local authorities may be notionally free to increase spending on education. In actuality they are not because they are capped by this Government.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

That was an interesting exchange. It would be helpful to have some of the figures which the Minister does not have at his fingertips relating to actual expenditure and the comparison with the Government's target spend. I am sure that they will be handy because I think that the issue will be returned to on Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 194: Before Clause 63, insert the following new clause— VIEWS OF PUPILS (" . The governing bodies of schools and local education authorities shall use their best endeavours to secure that

  1. (a) due consideration is given to the views of pupils on any matter which affects them, having regard to the pupils' age and understanding; and
  2. (b) where reasonable, steps are taken to ascertain these views.").

The noble Baroness said: This is a new clause to place schools and LEAs under a duty to listen to the views of pupils on matters affecting them and, where reasonable, to ascertain these views.

What the amendment does not do—I hope that the Government will not imply that it does—is this. It does not require teachers to ask the pupils' opinions on every aspect of schooling. It requires only that pupils' views be ascertained where reasonable. It does not give pupils any powers to make decisions about their education. Having given the pupils' view "due consideration", the teacher is still quite free to do the opposite. It does not mean that pupils' views on matters outside the powers of the school or LEA (e.g. the national curriculum or the state of the road outside the school) have to be considered at all by school or LEA staff, since consideration would not be "due".

What the amendment does is common practice in most good schools and by most good teachers—and increasingly by most good LEAs. It is, at bottom, simple wisdom to take into account any views expressed by those receiving a service (the "customer view" to use government imagery) and, where practicable, to discover those views when they have not been expressed. The resources needed to implement this amendment are negligible. The benefits are very great.

As well as creating more effective schools, the amendment also reflects the provisions of Article 12(1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, voluntarily ratified by this Government in 1991. I quote Article 12(1): States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the views of the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child". In addition, it brings education legislation into line with the Children Act provisions requiring courts and social services to consider children's views when making decisions about them.

Versions of this amendment were pressed during the passage of the Education Act 1993. They were rather contemptuously rejected by the responsible Minister, Eric Forth. He argued that education was quite a different matter from Children Act issues. He said: It is at least arguable that there is a difference between taking full account of a young person's attitudes and responses in a social and welfare context and asking the child to make a judgment, utter an opinion or give a view on his or her educational requirements".—[Official Report, Commons, 26/1/93; col. 1108.] He called the amendment if not "dotty" then "politically correct", and said it would be absurd and unworkable, particularly in regard to primary school pupils Official Report, Commons, 9/2/93; col. 1515.

The Government were challenged over the failure to implement Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The persistent reply was that the Children Act covered the UK's responsibilities under Article 12, despite the fact that the Children Act does not cover schools' or LEAs' functions. At the House of Lords' stage, Allan Levy QC provided an opinion to this effect, but to no avail. The Government continued to say that the Children Act met its duties under Article 12. It was the noble Lord, Lord Henley, the Minister today, who said on that occasion: My advice is that there is no conflict between the Education Bill and the UN convention. Article 12 of the convention states that the child shall in particular be provided with the opportunity to he heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child. We believe that the provisions of the Children Act should cater for that. Therefore, I believe that my noble friend's amendment is unnecessary to bring us within the ambit of Article l2".—f [Official Report, 20/4/93; col. 1548.] I believe it was the noble Baroness, Lady Faithful], who was the noble friend referred to by the noble Lord.

As regards Eric Forth's remarks, it is true that there is a difference between children's views about the "social and welfare context" of Children Act decisions and those in the education sphere. The decisions courts and social workers make under the Children Act are some of the most difficult and complex decisions that can be made—education matters are in fact much easier! Secondly, the amendment does not force children to express a view, any more than it forces schools or LEAs to accept those views—it is just about the adults listening and being better informed. Certainly the amendment is neither absurd nor unworkable. Even young children or children with severe learning difficulties should be encouraged to express views and should be listened to when they do.

As regards the conclusions of the noble Lord, Lord Henley, I find them incomprehensible. First, Article 12 covers the views of the child "in all matters affecting the child", not just judicial or administrative proceedings. Secondly, how does the Children Act cater for educational matters or school proceedings? It does not. It has taken four years for these matters to be pursued today. I hope that the Minister will follow my arguments and decide that perhaps he could take a different view today from the one he took four years ago. I beg to move.

1 a.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I rise briefly to support the noble Baroness, Lady David, on this amendment. It seems to me an idea whose time has come. I ask the Minister to consider whether, for example, in all the new clauses which this Bill introduces with regard to discipline in schools, it is not of immense importance to ensure that the pupils understand what is going on, make their contribution and feel that it is received, understood and taken account of by the teachers in the school. Secondary schools are very large now. Such huge institutions cannot be managed unless there is a general feeling that such things as disciplinary procedures are—to use a term which I do not like very much—"owned" by both the pupils and the teachers.

Lord Henley

This not being another place, I will take a slightly more measured line than my right honourable friend took in Committee in another place. I believe that the noble Baroness's amendment is over-prescriptive. It is not necessary to have this on the face of the Bill.

We have already exhorted schools and LEAs to take account of the views of the individual child when carrying out their duties, particularly in relation to special educational needs. In addition, our circular on pupil behaviour and discipline pointed out the benefits of encouraging pupils to discuss the aims and rules of the school.

In other areas consultation often happens in practice. I believe that the circumstances in which pupils' views are invited should remain a matter for local judgment. Schools and local education authorities are best placed to decide where consultation with pupils is appropriate and how that consultation should take place, bearing in mind the different ages of the children that we might be talking about. The most sensible course of action would be to maintain that discretion.

The noble Baroness again raised the question of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which confers on an individual child the right to be consulted on matters affecting him or her. I do not believe that failure to accept the noble Baroness's amendment would render the United Kingdom Government in breach of the convention. As I have already pointed out, the amendment is about collective rather than individual rights, which is what the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child relates to. I regret to say that I cannot support the noble Baroness's amendment and I hope that she will consider withdrawing it.

Baroness David

I am very disappointed by the Minister's reply and very grateful for the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, for the amendment. I thought that there had been a shift in opinion in the last few years; I thought we had moved nearer to accepting that the views of the child should be considered. It would be very helpful to have it written into the legislation. However, I see that I shall not shift the Minister at this time of night. He shakes his head so it is quite clear that I shall not. I shall consider what I do next but for tonight—or rather this morning—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendment No. 195: Before Clause 63, insert the following new clause PROVISION FOR NEW DENOMINATIONAL FURTHER EDUCATION COLLEGES (" .—(1) After section 22 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 there shall be inserted "Provision for new denominational further education colleges. 22A. Notwithstanding anything in sections 18 to 22 of this Act, the instrument of government of a further education corporation which was established to be an institution with a denominational character must provide—

  1. (a) for the governing body of the institution to include persons appointed for the purpose of securing so far as practicable that the denominational character of the institution is preserved and developed and, in particular, that the institution is conducted in accordance with any trust deed relating to it; and
  2. (b) for the majority of members of the governing body to be such governors,
and in this Part of this Act "voluntary college" means such an institution". (2) In section 44 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (Collective worship), for subsection (1) there shall be substituted— (1) In this section "institution of voluntary origin" means a further education institution which—
  1. (a) when it became a further education institution, was a voluntary school or a grant-maintained school which was a voluntary school before it became grant-maintained, or
  2. (b) is a voluntary college.".
(3) In section 45 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (Religious education), for subsection (1) there shall be substituted— (1) In this section "institution of voluntary origin" means a further education institution which—
  1. (a) when it became a further education institution, was a voluntary school or a grant-maintained school which was a voluntary school before it became grant-maintained, or
  2. (b) is a voluntary college.".
(4) Section 27 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (Dissolution of further education corporations) shall he amended as follows—
  1. (a) at the end of subsection (2)(b) there shall be inserted "or
  2. (c) any trustees of the corporation,";
  3. (b) at the end of subsection (4) there shall be inserted "save where the corporation holds property on trusts which are for charitable purposes which are not exclusively educational purposes in which case any property transferred must be transferred on like trusts to those upon which the corporation holds such property."; and
  4. (c) at the end of subsection (7)(b) there shall be inserted ", and
  5. (c) any trustees of the corporation.".").

The right reverend Prelate said: This is a substantial amendment in terms of both the number of words which it would add to the Bill and the issues which lie behind it. It refers to a number of issues, the major one of which is the provision for new denominational further education colleges.

The bulk of denominational education is provided by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church in particular has chosen to deliver much of its sixth-form education through sixth-form colleges, which are in the further education sector and not the secondary sector. The present statutory framework does not provide for the establishment of new denominational colleges in the further education sector, including sixth-form colleges. These amendments provide a means of enabling such a provision to be made. They provide for a further education corporation established to be an institution with a denominational character. That is to be called a voluntary college. It would share the following characteristics with the existing denominational designated institutions: a majority of foundation governors; provisions for collective worship in accordance with the trust deed; and provisions for religious education in accordance with the trust deed.

That is provided for by inserting a new Section 22A into the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, which defines the new type of college and provides for foundation governors. This provision mirrors that applying to the existing denominational sixth-form colleges under Section 30. The provisions for collective worship and religious education are provided for by amending Sections 44(1) and 45(1) respectively to include voluntary colleges in the definition of institutions of voluntary origin in each of those sections.

The other matter dealt within this amendment is the dissolution of a voluntary college. There are three matters which are dealt with by way of amendment to Section 27.

The first is that an addition to Section 27(2) allows the Secretary of State, if it is appropriate, to transfer property to any trustees of the corporation, even if the trustees are not a body corporate. That meets a particular issue which is of concern to the Roman Catholic Church, not least in the matter of transferring property from a religious order to a diocese.

The amendment to Section 27(4) deals with the possibility that a voluntary college may hold property on charitable trusts which are not exclusively for educational purposes. If that is the case, the property must be transferred to the new owner on similar trusts.

The other amendment is an addition to Section 27(7), requiring the Secretary of State to consult any trustees of a further education corporation before making a transfer order under the section.

There has been considerable consultation between officials of the Catholic Education Service, the Department for Education and Employment and the Further Education Funding Council. These proposals have arisen out of those consultations. I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will be able to recognise the seriousness of the issue which lies behind them. I beg to move.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

We read in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis: Let there he light and there was light". Perhaps the right reverend Prelate can enlighten me. The insertion of new Clause 22A into the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 appears to me to require that a further education college established as: an institution with a denominational character", should have a governing body, a majority of whose members have been appointed to preserve the denominational character of the institution.

The right reverend Prelate no doubt will be able to make clear to me—I myself cannot see it—what that has to do with "new denominational further education colleges", as it appears at the side of Amendment No. 195, which, as the right reverend Prelate said, is of considerable length and some complexity. So, perhaps I may say to him: Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee … and … defend us from all perils and dangers of this night".

Lord Henley

In due course I shall leave the right reverend Prelate to respond to those points. But it may assist the Committee if I summarise the current arrangements.

Section 30 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 ensures that the majority of the governing body of a former voluntary aided school is appointed by the relevant trustees. That protection of the religious interests of the trustees only applies to institutions which were former voluntary-aided schools. What then if there were a need for a new denominational institution which does not have that heritage? In such circumstances, I fully appreciate the concerns of trustees that their interests should be properly protected and that steps should be taken to safeguard those interests.

While I appreciate the concerns that lie behind the amendment, its effect would be to hand over effective control of an institution established by a denomination and conducted by a further education corporation to that denomination. The contribution made by the denomination—if any—to the setting up and running costs of the college would be irrelevant.

That is not the way that the Government have done business with the Churches in the past. The Government would normally expect a significant financial contribution to the costs of the institution to justify an arrangement of that nature. Clearly the implications of this extend not only to the school sector, but also to the higher education sector, which has similar arrangements to the further education sector.

It is also worth considering what "denominational character" is supposed to mean. It would appear to exclude institutions with a Christian ethos but which are not affiliated to a specific denomination. But, equally, it could include non-Christian religions. I am unsure if that was the intention of the amendment.

The Government have sympathy with the aim behind the amendment, but it will not do in its present form. The Government would be willing to consider this matter further, but in view of the very substantial issues that it raises I cannot give any undertaking to come back while the current Bill is before us. However, I would be happy, as would my right honourable friends, to discuss this matter with the right reverend Prelate and those advising him.

1.15 a.m.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

At this hour of the night, when darkness is upon us, I am not sure what light I can shed to help the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris.

The intention of the new section is that an institution may be established which has a denominational character. I take the Minister's points in relation to whether that might exclude Christian colleges or those which have a general Christian intent. But, clearly, the vast bulk of the provision is by denominations, as they are termed in statute. The amendment would enable a further education institution to be established. The term "voluntary college" is used in order to provide a title for this new kind of institution.

Nevertheless, I accept the points which the Minister made, particularly about the arrangements that need to be made with the Churches on this matter. I hope we can return to it, in particular in discussion with the Minister and his right honourable friend. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 196 to 200A not moved.]

Clause 63 [Management committees for pupil referral units]:

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 200B: Page 48, line 22, at beginning insert— ("( ) At the beginning of Schedule I to the Education Act 1996 (pupil referral units) there shall be inserted— Al. A pupil referral unit shall have as its principal objective the satisfactory reintegration into school after a limited period of pupils referred to it".").

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this amendment is to require pupil referral units to have as their main objective the satisfactory reintegration of pupils into mainstream schools. The organisation of LEA off-site provision for pupils out of school was created under the Education Act 1993 and institutions were so designated from September 1994. In January 1995 there were 286 pupil referral units with 5,043 pupils and a staffing of 1,446 full-time equivalent teachers.

Concern has been expressed about the quality of education at PRUs following an Ofsted inspection report in 1995. Local education authorities have been making progress towards defining the place of their PRUs in the range of provision for pupils in difficulties. Clause 26 requiring LEAs to prepare a plan for children with behavioural difficulties is welcome. The development by Ofsted of an agreed framework for inspection is also welcome.

Current DfEE guidance in Circular 1194—The education by LEAs of children otherwise than at School—notes that for children out of mainstream school, the prime aim in respect of all children who are away from school should be to secure their return to mainstream education, including special schools, as soon as practicable". That advice flows through to all the arrangements for PRUs, including the need not to provide the national curriculum, though there is still a need to provide a broad and balanced curriculum.

The need to get young people who have been excluded from school back into education is paramount. PRUs can provide an effective means of achieving that end through their specialised teaching staff and generous teacher-pupil ratio. The purpose of this amendment is to write into primary legislation a policy objective which is supported by the Government and all other interested bodies. An amendment with the same wording was debated in Standing Committee D in another place on 16th January 1997. The Minister of State, Mr. Forth, was not convinced that there was a need to include in the Bill: a form of words which states that reintegration is the principal objective". He believed that guidelines and the need for flexibility were sufficient. He said that the Government might reconsider the matter if it was found that PRUs were failing to give priority to return pupils to mainstream education. Why wait? Rather than wait and see how PRUs develop, it would be sensible to see this declaratory amendment put into law now, and I hope the Minister will agree. I beg to move.

Lord Henley

I understand the intention behind this amendment and I would agree in general that most PRUs should act, as has been put on another occasion, as a revolving door. However, what the noble Baroness's amendment fails to take into account is the sheer variety of the PRUs and the variety of pupils within them. There are currently 328 PRUs. Their intakes vary considerably. Pupils may, for example, have been excluded; they may be persistent non-attenders, suffering from neurotic disorders, including school phobia; they may be pregnant or young mothers and unable to attend ordinary school; or they may have other characteristics.

I would accept that in general most younger pupils excluded from school who have not yet embarked on their GCSE courses should be returned to school—and this might sometimes be a special school—as soon as possible. However, I do not think I could accept the noble Baroness's point that it would always be appropriate, or the primary function of a PRU, automatically to aim at reintegrating all the older disaffected pupils when they might be better integrated into another setting. Similarly, I do not think it would be right to require the return to a mainstream school of, say, an 11 year-old mother who was successfully pursuing her studies in a PRU.

What matters in these cases is that a judgment has to be made of what would be the most suitable educational progression for the individual pupil. While I am sympathetic to the wording of this amendment and its declaratory tone, I have to say that one could not put in declaratory words of that sort if it was only in certain circumstances that that was going to be the prime object or the principal objective of the PRU, because many of them will have other objectives for other pupils.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I wonder whether I could press the Minister to see whether there might possibly on Report be a form of wording that would satisfy my noble friend Lady David and overcome the difficulties to which the Minister referred. Such a form of words could refer to, "unless quite clearly not in the interests of the pupil through, for example, age, pregnancy or a severe medical problem". I do not mean that a comprehensive list should be given, but perhaps it could be made absolutely clear that in the case of 10 or 11 year-olds the prime objective was to achieve a return to mainstream education. It ought to be possible for us to achieve what is wanted and to overcome the quite legitimate objections and the valid points raised by the Minister.

Lord Henley

On Report I shall obviously be prepared to consider amendments tabled by either noble Baroness should they wish to do so. However, I believe that they would find it difficult to draft provisions in the manner they have suggested. That is often one of the dangers of having declaratory principles in Bills— although they are sometimes desirable, as we all accept. I leave it entirely to either or to both noble Baronesses to do their best.

Baroness David

I thank my noble friend for her support and advice. I also thank the Minister because that was not a wholly unsympathetic reply. I should like to read in Hansard what he has said. It may be that we can cook up another amendment, but with slightly different words, for the next stage of the Bill, but for now I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 200C: Page 48, leave out lines 37 and 38.

The noble Baroness said: As I did not think that this amendment quite fitted with Amendment No. 200B, I thought that it might be better if I spoke to it separately. The amendment seeks to find out why the consent of the Secretary of State is required before a joint committee is established for two or more PRUs.

Section 19 of the Education Act 1996, which includes provision for the establishment of pupil referral units, defines PRUs as a school established and maintained by a local education authority. Quite rightly, there is no role for the Secretary of State in the establishment, change or closure of PRUs. It would clearly be ridiculous for the Secretary of State to be involved in the approval or otherwise of decisions to establish PRUs. It would reduce the flexibility of PRUs to be organised to meet the continuing development of need in an area. This is not to say that under other powers the Secretary of State should not collect information on LEA practice on the establishment of PRUs, which is a proper exercise of her role and provides valuable feedback to LEAs on the development of this new type of school. What we want to know is why the Secretary of State's consent is required before a joint committee is established. I beg to move.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I rise briefly to support the amendment. Intervening in such situations seems a curious use of the Secretary of State's power, particularly when the Government's mood is what one might call "deregulatory".

Lord Henley

Perhaps I may respond briefly. The Government believe that in most cases there should be a separate management committee for each unit. We believe that that is the best way to ensure proper management and oversight of most units. The Secretary of State will be setting out in guidance the factors that she will take into account in deciding whether to approve any particular arrangement of LEAs coming together, but her principal or long-stop role will be to provide that necessary safeguard against joint committees being established solely for the administrative convenience of the LEAs and not leaving it as we think it normally—I stress "normally"—ought to be, which is that there should be a separate management committee for each unit.

Baroness David

I cannot say that I am convinced by the Minister's answer. It seems to me that this is not a role for the Secretary of State, but at this hour of the morning, I shall not continue with that argument and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendment No. 201: Page 49, line 1, after ("(including") insert ("voluntary and").

The right reverend Prelate said: In contrast to the last amendment that I moved, this is brief and, I hope, crystal clear. It refers to the joint management committees which we have just discussed and in particular to the requirement for such committees to include persons representing schools, including grant-maintained schools. This amendment would add voluntary schools to the grant-maintained group. Clearly, voluntary schools are greater in number than grant-maintained schools and if there is an argument for including grant-maintained schools in such a committee, that argument must surely extend to the voluntary sector also. I beg to move.

Lord Henley

I do not know how far the right reverend Prelate wished to go in his amendment, but it would mean only that the Secretary of State in making regulations may include a specific requirement about representatives from voluntary schools, not that she must. That is no substantive advance on the provisions already in paragraph 15(2)(c) inserted by Clause 63. That already allows for the regulations to make provision for the composition of a management committee, including representatives of local schools.

It might be useful if I explain why there is a reference on the face of the Bill to grant-maintained schools and not to voluntary schools or indeed any other category of school. This was necessary to remove any doubts about the vires of regulations that would require local education authorities which maintained PRUs to include on their units' management committees representatives of schools not maintained by the LEA. The same considerations do not apply to voluntary schools. I hope that that satisfies the right reverend Prelate.

1.30 a.m.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

I am grateful to the Minister. I shall read his reply carefully. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 63 agreed to.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 201A: After Clause 63, insert the following new clause— GENERAL TEACHING COUNCIL FOR ENGLAND AND WALES (" .—(1) The Secretary of State shall establish a body to be known as the General Teaching Council for England and Wales. (2) A body established under this section shall have the functions of advising the Secretary of State as to the following—

  1. (a) rules and guidance as to the professional conduct and discipline of teachers;
  2. (b) the qualifications to be required of persons seeking to become or remain teachers;
  3. 1671
  4. (c) the professional development and appraisal of teachers;
  5. (d) such matters, including matters relating to education or the employment of teachers or other persons connected with education, as the Council may consider relevant to the promotion of good teaching in England and Wales; and
  6. (e) any other matters the Secretary of State considers relevant.").

The noble Lord said: We have today discussed many important issues. The establishment of a general teaching council is probably one of the most important issues that we shall discuss today, at least for the teaching profession. Late though the hour is, I believe that we must spend a little time on it to do it justice. It was discussed at considerable length in the other place at various stages. In the other place the Minister, Mr. Eric Forth, said in Committee: The time for a GTC may have come".—[Official Report, Commons, 16/1/97; co1.653.] If I correctly recall, in the Second Reading debate in this Chamber the Minister was not entirely unsympathetic to the idea of a general teaching council and felt that the time might well have come for it. This is the opportunity. The purpose of this amendment is to require the establishment of a general teaching council.

There is a strong body of professional opinion that supports the notion that something must be done to raise the morale and status of the teaching profession. I now meet a large number of teachers both at home and by virtue of my duties in your Lordships' House. I am constantly struck by just how low morale is in the teaching profession. It is too late—and perhaps this is not the time—to discuss why that is so but that it is is beyond doubt. A front page story in The Times Educational Supplement on 10th January of this year reported a survey that had been carried out by that newspaper which showed that morale was at an all-time low. Teachers felt oppressed by perpetual public criticism and believed that their professionalism was undermined by government interference, constant change and not knowing where they were. More teachers are retiring early through stress-related illness and other reasons than ever before.

No one defends poor teachers or poor performance. That applies most of all to teachers themselves, who in my experience are generally most critical of bad teachers. No one argues that incompetence should be condoned. But generalised abuse of an entire profession, as is practised in some parts of the press, fails to address the shortcomings of the small minority of poor teachers. Instead, it depresses and casts down the great majority of good and competent professionals. Commercial management practice and educational theory agree that praise for good work and encouragement for individuals to take responsibility for their own development raise morale and performance at the same time. I contrast that with the words, too often repeated, of the chief inspector, who seems to believe that thousands of teachers should be sacked. I do not believe that that does anything for the morale of a profession that already feels deeply under-appreciated.

The creation of a GTC will empower teachers themselves to take charge of raising the quality and standards of the profession. There is every reason to expect that that will do more to raise professional standards and boost the quality of recruits to the profession than any amount of hectoring from the Government and the tabloid press. This development is urgently needed not only because standards of teaching need to be improved but because there is a danger of a teacher shortage developing.

As the economy picks up—we are constantly assured that it will—disaffected and demoralised teachers will leave the profession in even greater numbers for areas of employment where their skills are appreciated, while teacher training institutes will fail in the competition with other employers for good graduates to replace them.

During debate in another place there was general agreement of the need to raise educational standards by improving the quality of the work of individual classroom teachers. The Minister in the other place conceded that a GTC could make a contribution towards raising the morale and status of the teaching profession. Objections raised by Ministers included whether the body need to be statutory, the possibility of public subsidy, and how it might relate to existing statutory bodies with responsibilities in the same field.

The first query was whether, given the widespread support for the idea, such a body needed to be set up by statute. The answer is clearly in the affirmative for reasons that flow from the nature of the organisation and its necessary status and functions. To begin with, if it is to police professional conduct and discipline it must be universal in its coverage, and it must be able to apply sanctions. For such a duty to be discharged effectively, there cannot be an opportunity for the small number of teachers who may need to be subject to discipline to avoid it merely by opting out of the organisation.

On Report in the other place, it was argued that the amendment would require only that the GTC advise the Secretary of State, and therefore would not have such executive functions. The normal approach for a professional body is that being struck off the register effectively prevents that individual from being allowed to practise the profession. Given that control of access to the teaching profession is currently in the hands of the Secretary of State, and that there is no immediate proposal to change that, the amendment is phrased in the way that it is. However, it is easy to see how the internal process of a GTC to register or deregister an individual could be linked administratively with the award or removal of qualified teacher status by the DfEE. Thus, although for legal purposes the GTC would be advising the Secretary of State, it would in practice be the gatekeeper of the professional status of teachers.

There exists already a number of professional associations for teachers to join on a voluntary basis. While those bodies do much good work to promote better professional standards, they are in business primarily to protect the interests of their members. Significantly, the teacher associations are strong supporters of the establishment of a statutory GTC.

They recognise that it must be a fundamentally different organisation from themselves. Significantly, there is already a voluntary organisation called the General Teaching Council which exists to promote the creation of a statutory GTC. It is widely supported by organisations representing teachers, their employers, and the wider community. It recognises that its objectives cannot be achieved by an expansion of voluntary activity.

All of us say that education is our top priority. If that is the case, then the people who deliver education must be among our top professionals. It is long past the time that we need to recognise and value them as professionals, treat them as professionals, and to give them their own proper professional body in a general teaching council. Although it is late, I end where I started by saying that I believe that this is one of the most important amendments we are discussing today. A favourable wind today, even at this late hour, will send a message to the teaching profession, which will probably do more than anything else we have said tonight, important though that has been, to lift morale and start them on the road back to the proper professional status that they should enjoy. I beg to move.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I rise, inspired by the words of the noble Lord, Lord Tope. He is absolutely right in saying that although this is a late hour this issue is so important that it cannot be given short time. I am delighted that he has mentioned the question of the minority of poor teachers—we have read enough about them in the press—but nothing in the Bill deals with that. It appears to be in no one's sphere of responsibility; all cases are individual. The famous 15,000 dud teachers immortalised by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector are, as we have heard, neither sacked nor succoured. If one thing is worse than being either sacked or succoured it is being ignored. To that extent, the minority of poor teachers—and there is always a minority or poor teachers—are getting away with murder while the Government shilly-shally and do nothing at all about it.

The noble Lord drew attention to the words of Mr. Forth in Standing Committee D on 16th January 1997 and quoted a short phrase. Perhaps I may quote rather more. Mr. Forth said: The time for a general teaching council may have come and such a body may make the contribution that the honourable Member for Walton described. However, several fundamental questions would need an answer before we could progress on the lines set out in the new clause. For example, if there is such a groundswell of demand among teachers for a council, does it need to be created by statute?". The noble Lord, Lord Tope, dealt with that simply; the answer is yes. Mr. Forth continued: Could it not be created by popular support among teachers? Related to that point is the issue of funding, which is not covered in the new clause. The honourable gentleman might say that it does not need to be at this stage. Would the body have to he funded by taxpayers' money or could it be funded by teachers' subscription?". Note the grim and grinding reference to the taxpayers' pocket being introduced into this stage.

The Minister inquired about funding, asking whether the GTC would require public subsidy. The answer is emphatically no. It would not only be unnecessary, it would be undesirable. Independent funding for a GTC would be one guarantee of the independence of the body. Perhaps I may explain to the noble Lord how it would work. There are approximately half a million teachers in this country. If they were all required to pay a registration fee of just a few pounds per year the GTC would very quickly achieve an adequate budget for its relatively modest costs.

The universal requirement for teachers to register would simultaneously keep the fee to a low level and ensure that the organisation was independent of government without becoming a creature of a mass voluntary membership. It could thereby be both professionally independent and rigorous on standards. This is another reason why the idea requires a statutory basis to work. Teachers have made it abundantly clear that they would subscribe willingly the small registration fee necessary for the benefits that would accrue, as they do in Scotland.

It was pointed out on Report in another place that there may be a need for a one-off grant to enable the GTC to get off the ground before the subscription income can be collected, and that this would have to come out of the taxpayers' back pocket. I hold up my hands and say that that is true. I cannot deny it; I concede it. But the sums would be so insignificant as not to matter and they would represent no permanent drain on public funds.

The Minister in another place also questioned how the GTC would relate to the Teacher Training Agency. It is true that a GTC would be operating in the territory now occupied by the TTA, but it would perform a complementary role. They would not be in opposition. The TEA. is charged with spending public money on the recruitment, initial training and continuing professional development of teachers. That is fine; that is clear. It is a vitally important function. Since its inception it has, quite properly, conducted wide consultation on the discharge of its functions. The GTC is emphatically not a creature of government and would not be concerned with spending decisions. But it would be an extremely useful source of consultation and provide a mechanism for the dissemination of ideas and good practice. It would also have a breadth and legitimacy, through its broad representation, to gain respect for its work on upholding professional standards that a small appointed body, however well managed, would be jolly hard-pressed to emulate.

The question of the composition of the body was also raised as a conceivable possible theoretical objection by the Minister in another place. The Minister in another place asked how and by whom representatives on the council would be elected or appointed. It is true that that is not specified in the amendment, which in practice leaves the matter for the Secretary of State to decide. The shadow GTC, the unofficial body which has given itself that name, has a number of proposals on that point.

There are also a range of existing bodies which could provide a model on which the GTC could be based and there would be scope for the Secretary of State to consult with interested parties before setting up a GTC to comply with this clause.

Finally, the Minister in another place accepted that the idea had merit, but he was worried about the various difficulties which he outlined and he felt that they needed to be resolved before the matter could progress. There may well be questions of detail to be resolved. There must be; there always are. But this new clause deals only in the broad principle which the Minister, Mr. Forth, said that he accepts. The detail would be for the Secretary of State to determine in implementation, if there is the political will to do it.

There are no serious obstacles that could not easily be overcome. The proposal has greater support and fewer intrinsic problems than almost any of the educational innovations forced through by this Government in the recent past. There cannot be any serious objection to the inclusion of this sensible reform in the Bill. The extent to which those speaking on behalf of the Government at earlier stages of this Bill have made heavy weather of trivial objections suggests that there must be reasons why the Government are hostile to this proposal. If so, we should like to know what they are. But if the Government accept the principle, will the Minister agree to bring back his own amendments, with the technical issues discussed and resolved, so that we can all go ahead with what everybody in the profession seems to think is a vitally important innovation which will do more than anything else, except money, to raise morale?

1.45 a.m.

Baroness Warnock

Having campaigned for 12 years for a general teaching council—and this is an idea that has been tried over and over again—I must rise to support the amendment.

I make just two points. At present the recruitment of teachers is falling to a new low. It is not just that the numbers are small but the quality of people coming forward to teach is dropping. Many people who go to even the best teacher training colleges, such as Homerton in Cambridge, which is part of the university, up to a point, go there against the wishes of their parents and the advice of their teachers. When they get there, they really prove themselves not to be of the quality in many cases that one would want of members of a profession on whom so much depends. It is not possible to raise the standard of recruits to the teaching profession without a change in the status in society of teachers.

My second point is simply to reiterate what the noble Lord, Lord Tope, said which I believe to be absolutely true. When a government or, indeed, all of us in this country genuinely want to raise the standards of education, how can it be right that we should not manifestly show that we respect, value and trust the people who deliver education? Unless we have a statutory body which is self-regulating in the profession, we will not be showing that we trust its membership. I strongly support the amendment and only wish that it had not come up the day after it should have done.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

I should like briefly to support the amendment. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, made out a compelling case which has been made even stronger by the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock. There is low morale and a perception that status is not what it should be. There is also a very wide recognition that the establishment of a general teaching council would do a great deal to put matters right. The Churches have been glad to be involved in consultations about its structure.

Lord Henley

I accept, as my right honourable friend said in another place, that there has been some agreement throughout the profession that a professional body, which would allow the teaching profession to speak with one voice on key issues, could play a useful role. I thought that we were speaking to both amendments which reflect that but, as we are really debating general principles, I need not focus on one or the other. Nevertheless, they reflect to some extent the fact that there is not, as yet, total agreement on what form such a body should take even if, as I said, the debate in the other place showed that there is broad support for the principle across all parties.

As has been quoted on a number of occasions, my right honourable friend did not rule out the establishment of a statutory body, but stressed that whether or not such a statutory body is required would depend on the answers to a number of key questions. Those key questions have been repeated several times in the course of this debate. However, what I found rather interesting in the TES last Friday or Saturday was that even Mr. Doug McAvoy of the NUT, in an article entitled, "Beware Ministers Bearing Promises", repeated those questions, expressing doubts about the creation of such a body and saying that those questions have to be answered before one can progress down such a route.

I shall repeat those questions again. For example, what functions would the body have? That is very important. How would its members be elected or chosen? It is no good the noble Lord saying that I must accept the amendments or accept them in principle and then come back in two weeks with agreement across the entire profession as to exactly how these matters could be dealt with. What would its relation be with other bodies such as the teacher unions? We have all agreed that we can only do this if we have the general support of teacher unions. I certainly gain the impression from Mr. McAvoy's article that we do not have his support for what has been proposed. What would that body's relations be with the TTA?

Those are very important questions and ones which will have to be asked in due course. As I said, my right honourable friend did not rule out the establishment of such a statutory body, but I do not think that now is the time to address such matters. Therefore, I am afraid that I cannot provide the comfort that either noble Lord wanted between now and the Report stage. I leave the noble Lord with the questions which he can contemplate in due course as he further considers the setting up of such a body.

Lord Tope

I said at the beginning that this was arguably one of the most important issues to be debated tonight and I am delighted that the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has chosen to join us thus indicating, somewhat to my surprise, its importance. Nevertheless, it is a very welcome surprise. I suspect that the noble Viscount was as surprised as I was to hear that the Minister is unwilling to go ahead with the proposal because there is not "total agreement" upon it. I was not aware that the Government were ever inhibited in going ahead with what they wanted to do because there was not total agreement among those who will be affected. However, if that is the principle that the Minister is now establishing then that at least is welcome even at this late hour.

Another first has also been established. Certainly in the time that I have taken part in education debates in this Chamber, I cannot ever remember the Minister quoting the NUT in his support. I tend to think that it is perhaps a measure of desperation that the Minister quotes Mr McAvoy's views and says that because Mr McAvoy feels as he does, then he must be right and the Minister must agree. I rather feel that tonight we have won the argument but perhaps for the time being lost the battle. I think we all acknowledge it is an important issue; it will not go away and it will be brought back. However, in view of the late hour, I shall not press the matter to a Division. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 64 [Power to make regulations: teachers not under contract of employment and persons having access to those under 19]:

[Amendment No. 201B not moved.]

Clause 64 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 201C not moved.]

Clause 65 [Recoupment by local education authority of costs of teachers' premature retirement]:

[Amendments Nos. 201D to 201F not moved.]

Clause 65 agreed to.

Lord Butterfield moved Amendment No. 202: After Clause 65. insert the following new clause— PROFESSIONAL INSTITUTION OF TEACHERS (". The Secretary of State may, by order, make provision for the establishment of an independent Professional Institution of Teachers, including a contribution to the costs of setting up such an institution.").

The noble Lord said: I am anxious to bring this matter forward as an idea in parallel to the question of the establishment of a general teaching council. This institution would encourage teachers to progress intellectually. It is an idea which has been in the air for some time. I remember discussing it with the right honourable John Patten when he was Secretary of State for Education some five or six years ago when we were wrestling with the question of the establishment of a general teaching council. Even then it was clear to many of us that such a body was needed in parallel with a general teaching council. In many ways such a body seems comparable to the General Medical Council in my profession. We realised that, just as the medical and other professions needed, in parallel with the General Medical Council, the Royal Colleges to ensure the proper monitoring of standards, so there would be a need for some kind of institution in the teaching profession which would provide a stimulus for teachers to improve their knowledge and have a way of recording it and having it recognised.

There has been much discussion of the need for an organisation for teachers to associate themselves with to gain status with the public for their abilities in their subject, be it mathematics or geography. I should tell the Committee that the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, who was unfortunately out of the country and so not able to add his name to this amendment, and perhaps even lead the discussion, has been calling meetings of a small group—not a conspiratorial group—which has been frank and open in its views and which has consulted many bodies about the possibility of establishing the institution mentioned in the amendment.

Of course it should be recognised by all of us that there has been for many years—nigh on a century—the College of Preceptors. That organisation has provided teachers who wanted to show their ability in their subject with some kind of recognition or certification of their ability to meet certain standards. This was particularly useful to those teachers who were going to Commonwealth countries such as India or Australia, or wherever else it might be. They could add this certification to their general qualifications in the teaching profession. In a way, the College of Preceptors is a role model for those of us who have joined the discussions of the group of my noble friend Lord Caldecote about the future for the teaching profession in this matter. It is important that I convey to the Committee that all the eight to 10 people in the group are absolutely convinced that it is vital for teachers to have better recognition. All the remarks made about the need for a general teaching council to improve teachers' morale are equally applicable to the establishment of an institution which will give recognition to the teachers' ability in their subjects.

I cannot understand how we as a nation have allowed ourselves to get into such a state of criticism, harassing the teaching profession as we do. We must all appreciate that unless teachers have our confidence and our recognition for their abilities, it is highly unlikely that the children they are trying to teach will have the right attitude towards them as individuals and as leaders of morality, ethics and learning in our society. It is for that reason that I am keen that we establish an institution such as that referred to in the amendment.

Perhaps I may remind the Committee that it is inevitable that I should feel this way as a member of the medical profession. If I were a nurse, the same would be true. In both those professions there are organisations comparable with the general teaching council for the control of the profession. Sadly, we have to register. Sadly, we have to have ways of disciplining ourselves when there is bad behaviour or bad practice. But in addition, there have to be ways in which people who have joined the profession can push ahead and climb a ladder of achievement to gain recognition that they are striving for quality in their teaching and knowledge of their subject. I hope that the Committee will find the amendment reasonable and support it.

Many people inside and outside the teaching profession recognise and support the idea of an institution such as that referred to in the amendment and supported by my noble friend Lord Caldecote and his group. I beg to move.

2 a.m.

Viscount Caldecote

I strongly support the amendment. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Butterfield for his remarks.

There is no doubt that we all agree that teaching is an important profession. It is arguable that it is the most important profession because it affects every aspect of our lives, whether at work or play. The highest achievable standards are vital to the well-being of the whole community. Like my noble friend Lord Butterfield, I find it amazing, and a matter of serious concern, that alone among important professions there is no independent professional institution of teachers, run by teachers, such as exists in other important professions like medicine, to which my noble friend referred, engineering and accountancy. In Australia, there is the example of the Australian College of Education. It is just that: a professional institution of teachers.

A similar professional institution for teachers would provide a focus for excellence in every sense for maintaining the highest standards in training, in the classroom and in professional conduct. As it developed, teachers would come to aspire to membership of it. I hope that eventually it would become a "Royal College of Teachers". But in any case such an institution would generate a greater feeling of unity and comradeship within the profession of teaching and it would contribute to higher morale, a point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Tope. I entirely and very strongly agree with him on the importance of that. It would contribute to higher morale and a better public recognition of this most important profession.

When this institution is fully established it must be self-financing, as are similar institutions in other professions. But substantial expenditure would be required in the first few years of its formative stages before it became self-supporting. I hope that the Government will show support for such an independent professional institution. I hope the amendment will also enable the Secretary of State to contribute to the initial setting-up costs.

I therefore most warmly commend Amendment No. 202 to the Committee. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will feel able to reply sympathetically to this proposal. I am given extra hope that he might be able to do so as a result of his comments during our debate on Amendment No. 164B. He emphasised the importance of the role played by professional chartered bodies in maintaining standards.

There is element of "chicken and egg" in this situation. Such an institution must have the full support of teachers. But Her Majesty's Government should give a lead on this important issue. That in itself will help to encourage the support of teachers.

I was not able to speak on Amendment No. 201A. However, as it was grouped with this amendment I hope that the Committee will feel that it is in order for me to say just a few words in connection with that amendment, which was withdrawn. I have no objection whatever to the setting up of a general teaching council for England and Wales similar to, but not the same as, the Scottish General Teaching Council, which has done valuable work. However, I rather doubt the wisdom of setting it up as a statutory body—though I shall not become involved in the detail of that tonight.

We must be clear that the general teaching council would not be a professional institution of teachers, with members elected by teachers on the basis of their academic qualifications and experience as teachers, as happens in other professions. As my noble friend Lord Butterfield emphasised, councils similar to the proposed GTC exist in medicine (the General Medical Council) and in engineering (the Engineering Council). But the valuable contribution which both those bodies and similar ones make would not be possible without the support of the professional institutions such as the Royal Colleges in medicine and the engineering institutions.

The establishment of a professional institution of teachers and a general teaching council should be urgently progressed side by side, with the highest priority given to the professional institution simply because of its essential supporting role for a GTC and the fact that it would be more difficult to form.

Perhaps the best outcome of this debate would be for Her Majesty's Government and my noble friend on the Front Bench to accept the principle of both these amendments. We have not the time to go into all the details tonight. I should be very happy to discuss them with my noble friend on the Front Bench. I hope that he will accept the principle of both these amendments and perhaps bring forward at Report stage an appropriate amendment to promote the formation of both these bodies, the GTC and the professional institution for teachers.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Perhaps I may speak very briefly in support of this amendment without repeating any of the things that the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, and the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, have said except that the importance of the teaching profession in our society can hardly be over-rated.

I have some experience, as a former member of a hospital trust board, of appointing senior medical professional people, with the assistance of representatives from the relevant Royal College, and know the kind of activity of which the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, spoke. I should like to make one additional point. One of the things which is not quite right in the teaching profession at present is the fact that the teacher who remains in the classroom as a highly qualified teacher somehow has less prestige than the teacher who moves towards the more administrative side. I believe that the suggestions put forward tonight would reverse that position and give greater prestige and authority to the really outstanding classroom teacher. There is almost no one more important in any school.

Baroness Warnock

I believe that the present time would be very good for the setting up of such an institution as has been discussed. A great deal of energy goes into professional development, to which all employers of teachers are committed. This goes together with the assessment of teachers inside the schools which is now highly professional and efficient. A great deal of time and money is spent on this development and on INSET courses, either long courses or day courses. However, teachers themselves complain that INSET courses are by and large unfocused and do not lead to anything. They may generate a few bright ideas which come back into the school but nothing very much happens with them after a few months or a year or so.

If there were an institution for whose awards teachers could systematically work while teaching and attending courses, it would make an enormous difference to the development of teachers' professional status, as well as giving them motivation to get more out of their courses and for the courses themselves to be better focused and directed from above by an institution of the kind we have heard of. I believe that the time is very good for the setting up of such an institution.

2.15 a.m.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I have been wondering all day why the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, was not moving any of the interesting amendments in his name in the Marshalled List. I wondered too at the absence of my friend the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, whom I have known and worked with since we were both humble lecturers in the University of Sheffield. All I can say now is that what we have heard was well worth waiting for. I listened with great interest to what the noble Lord said. I did not know what he was going to say; we on these Benches had a little thought as to what it was he was putting forward and whether it was a rival body to the one that we were talking about, the general teaching council, or not. Clearly he has made a powerful case for a parallel body.

I listened with great interest to what has developed into an important debate and with deep regret and sadness that we are reduced to debating this important issue at this ridiculous hour, with so few Members of the Committee present to hear what we have to say. If the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, in a fit of pique, should decide to call a Division on this issue tonight, I wonder whether sufficient noble Lords would muster. It must be almost tempting. This situation has arisen because we were denied a fourth Committee day for this Bill. We fought for it, argued for it and negotiated for it. In the end we pleaded for it. But we did not obtain it.

All day we have not moved dozens of important amendments. But we have still ended up with this great issue at a quarter past two in the morning, with a virtually empty Chamber. The amendment should have been given a fairer hearing.

Lord Henley

Perhaps I may intervene at this time. If the noble Lord wishes to come in later, he can certainly do so. I just want to respond briefly to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Morris. I appreciate that the hour is late and the noble Lord has been very forbearing. But noble Lords will also appreciate that he has taken somewhat excessive time over just one or two amendments on earlier occasions on other days.

I shall deal with the amendment briefly. I appreciate the concerns of my noble friends and that my noble friend Lord Renfrew also wished to speak but was unable to be present. I addressed the points earlier on Amendment No. 201A and exactly the same questions have to be put as would be asked if one were suggesting setting up a general teaching council.

Having said that, as my right honourable friend said on another occasion, the time might have come for such a body or for such a body as the GTC. The time might also have come for two such parallel bodies. That is another matter, but I do not feel that it is a matter that we can address at this stage in the Bill.

Lord Monkswell

As a number of noble Lords have said, we are engaged in a serious and important debate this evening. I was interested by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, and the other noble Lord who spoke from that side of the Committee. Both of them referred to examples—on one side the General Medical Council and on the other side the Engineering Council—in which bodies were made up of individual Royal Colleges on the one hand and separate engineering institutions on the other.

I wonder whether this amendment is fully adequate to cope with the full range of professional aptitudes and experience within the teaching profession. If the amendment were to read: a number of independent professional institutions of teachers", it might make more logical sense. Rather differently from the two examples already given, one can see within the teaching profession a number of discrete specialties but constituted in a different way. One can think in terms of the specialty of primary school teachers; the specialty of secondary/high school teachers, maybe in terms of the specialty of a subject; the specialty of teachers in further education; and teachers in universities. Maybe the different professional bodies within the broad context of a general teaching council might be differently constituted. I wonder, in the deliberations that have obviously taken place and will no doubt continue, whether some consideration of the organisations that currently exist within the broad teaching profession might be taken on board.

If one looks at the various trade unions within the broad spectrum of the general teaching professions, one can see that there is a preponderance of membership within the elements I have already mentioned. That is perhaps one of the ways in which we can develop a consensus for how we can go forward in what is emerging as a need for the ability to bring together the broad spectrum of the teaching professions, encompassing everyone within a general teaching council but incorporating different specialities within specific institutions or colleges. I hope that in the context—admittedly the hour is late—of the seriousness of this debate, Members of the Committee opposite will take these points on board.

Viscount Caldecote

Perhaps I can say briefly that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell; but there is a real danger of fragmentation. If we do not have just one body, we lose many of the advantages put forward by my noble friend Lord Butterfield. Many professional institutions deal with the problem of different specialities by having different divisions or different sections. That is a much better way of dealing with the situation than having a greater fragmentation.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

Perhaps I may add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, and the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, for introducing this enormously important amendment. The interest it has generated in your Lordships' Chamber is an indication of the importance of the issue.

For some years I have been involved in the formulation of a proposal for a general teaching council. But this suggestion came as a new idea to me, as I suspect it did to others in your Lordships' Chamber and I am wrestling with the implications of it.

I should like to make just one observation. I hope that any professional institution would not simply be concerned with academic qualifications. We can take the parallel made by the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, of royal societies. They are in the primary business of healing and academic qualifications are in order to further that aim. A professional institution of teachers would surely be stimulating teachers to be recognised in the chief thrust of what they do; that is, to inspire, to excite, as well as to impart knowledge and to lead people on. I hope that the aims of such an institution would not only be a greater head knowledge, but also a greater sense of wisdom and of the way in which young people can be encouraged to learn and be drawn onwards through education.

Lord Butterfield

We heard a very important contribution from the right reverend Prelate. I am extremely grateful to him. I should like to make clear that it is important to both my noble friend Lord Caldecote and myself that features other than just the brain are incorporated in what we hope will evolve into people's appreciation that we have a wonderful lot of people in our teaching professions and they should not be kicked around any more.

The noble Lord, Lord Morris, will not be surprised if I say that I am very piqued. I would put this whole matter to a Division except that I feel that, as a relatively new Member of this Chamber, I would rather curry favour with the Minister in the hope that I can make some progress with the general idea, than irritate him with a Division. I hope the Minister will take that as a genuine compliment in our belief in his ability to lead us through the present waters into smoother waters and better times for the teaching profession. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 202A: After Clause 65, insert the following new clause— STAFFING OF SCHOOLS WHERE DELEGATION HAS BEEN SUSPENDED (" —(1) In section 133 of the Education Act 1996, at the end of subsection (4) there shall be inserted "except that, where delegation has been suspended under section 117, the local education authority may also suspend the provisions of the Articles of Government specified in Schedule 13.".").

The noble Baroness said: We move almost from the sublime, but not to the ridiculous. Amendment No. 202A is about giving power to local authorities to enable them to make staffing changes in schools when delegation has been suspended. There is no current power for that to happen.

When the issue was debated in Standing Committee D at its final sitting, Mrs. Cheryl Gillan, in responding to the proposal for the new clause, gave two reasons for resisting a change to the law. She cited the Government's review of local management of schools, which she stated she did not want to pre-empt. She offered the view that there might be a better way of changing the present law than that proposed in the new clause. Again, she stated that the Government did not wish to pre-empt the review the Government were undertaking.

It is quite a serious situation, when a school is in difficulties and delegation has been suspended, that the educational authority cannot go into the school and make what may be considered to be essential staffing changes as a first step in getting the school back on to the right road. It appears that the Government are not prepared to make provision now to avoid the risk of an LEA being unable to make these essential staffing changes in a school which has fallen into difficulty. I should like to ask the Minister how the review of the local management of schools is going and whether, either now or at Report, he will be in a position either to support the principle of this amendment or to produce a Government amendment to respond to the point I have raised. I beg to move.

Lord Henley

I think my honourable friend Mrs. Gillan, during Committee proceedings in another place, expressed some sympathy for the clause when it was considered. The pre-LMS staffing provisions of Schedule 13 of the 1936 Act clearly were not originally designed for a school where delegation had been suspended but, as my honourable friend made clear when this was considered, we are inclined on balance to resist this sort of new clause for the following reasons. First, as she said on that occasion, we are undertaking a review of LMS and would prefer to consider this measure as part of that review. I would say to the noble Baroness that does not allow us to come forward with something on Report or Third Reading. We would also want to consult all the relevant interests, having completed that review, rather than rush into legislation. We would also need to think about whether LEAs should remain under some kind of duty to consult governing bodies of schools from which they have suspended delegation.

Perhaps I could make one other point, but I do not know whether it is helpful or not to the noble Baroness. The clause that she is putting forward does not in fact necessarily represent the best way of changing the law. It would be possible to achieve the effect of her proposal by a simplification of the law—and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Morris, would prefer a simplification of the law in order to reduce the number of words we have on the statute book—involving the repeal of Schedule 13 and some consequential amendments. Briefly, I say to the noble Baroness that I do not think it is necessary to legislate urgently on this. The suspension of delegation is rare, and LEAs can often find ways of dealing with problem schools, short of suspending delegation. I do not think there is a case for rushing into legislation in advance of the review and the appropriate consultation.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

We on these Benches support this amendment. Could I press the Minister to give us further information about the review of LMS? Ever since the LMS scheme was introduced there have been deep and bitter complaints from schools because one of the central features of the LMS scheme, as introduced by the Government, is that schools must by law be funded at the average cost of teachers' salaries, which is grossly unfair to a school which has a stable and long-standing staff who do not receive in their budget formula the actual cost of employing the teachers who are on that staff. A school which has a large number of younger members of staff, perhaps because it has only recently been established, is in the opposite position of receiving more.

That means that when a school with a larger number of older, more experienced teachers, seeks to appoint a replacement for a teacher who is leaving, it is forced to consider not appointing the best teacher for the job, but the person who will come most cheaply in an attempt to reduce its overall staffing costs, for which, by law, its LEA is not allowed to recompense it. Think of the tragedy for a small primary school where that applies and where the problem could be at its most stark. The person who is leaving may be the one responsible for co-ordinating maths teaching yet the best applicant for the job may exacerbate that government-created problem.

It is my recollection that as long as three years ago—and possibly longer—Mr. Gummer gave an assurance that the review was imminent and that the time was ripe for looking at such problems, which had been forecast. I believe that the Secretary of State at that time was not noted for always being conciliatory when listening to other points of view. I wonder whether we could have the exact details of when the review was established, what its terms of reference are, who is taking part in it and when we can expect the report.

2.30 a.m.

Lord Henley

The noble Baroness will remember last June's White Paper in which we put forward a number of proposals, many of which made their way into the Bill in due course. One proposal which did not was that for making alterations to LMS when looking for a greater degree of delegation of money from the local authorities to the schools. We recognised that that was a complex issue. Will the noble Baroness listen to what I have to say before attempting to intervene? We recognised that a number of issues needed discussing and that is why we are discussing with the local authorities all those complex issues. Further proposals will be announced in due course.

Perhaps I may point the noble Baroness to the appropriate paragraph of the White Paper on the future policy of the LMS formulae. Paragraph 34 states: The Government has reviewed this issue several times. It is a fundamental principle of LMS that governing bodies should take responsibility for the financial implications of their decisions, including deciding what to spend on teachers' salaries. The problems of schools that inherited high salary costs when LMS was first applied should now have been resolved through the transitional mechanisms built into LMS schemes and normal staff turnover. It remains open to LEAs to adjust the budgets of small schools to reflect their actual salary costs. So the Government does not propose to change existing policy in this area".

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

The reason that I sought to intervene at the beginning of the Minister's reply was that he was not answering the question, which is: how can the Government possibly say that they are having a review of LMS if they are not setting up a clear and discrete review with people to whom evidence may be given and if they have ruled out the very issue which in my experience and in that of my local authority colleagues has caused the most problems? The Government may say that in the case of small schools it is open to LEAs to vary the formula in order to help them. That is true, but all small schools would then be helped in exactly the same way because the differentials cannot be varied. It must be done objectively. Furthermore, that does not solve the problem of the long-established secondary school which may be quite large but which may have a large number of staff.

Teachers age during that 10-year period, so the school which did not have a problem five or six years ago may now be encountering one. The Government's attitude is cavalier and their refusal to have a thorough root-and-branch review cannot be replaced by detailed discussions with the local authorities, however welcome. If the Government say that they are reviewing the matter, the governors expect them to review it properly.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I thank the Minister for his response to my amendment. I hope that he is right in believing that the powers that I propose will not be necessary in the interval between today and the completion of the review. I confess that his responses to the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, do not encourage me to believe that that is necessarily the case. However, he advises me to look at a better way of producing the same effect. It may be that at a later stage I will return to this matter. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No.202B not moved.]

Clause 66 agreed to.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth) moved Amendment No.203: After Clause 66, insert the following new clause— COURSES OF FURTHER EDUCATION FOR PERSONS WITH LEARNING DIFFICULTIES (" . In sub-paragraph (j) of Schedule 2 to the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 the words from "which" to the end of the paragraph shall be omitted.").

The noble Baroness said: I shall be as brief as possible in view of the hour. This is a very important issue, and one that keeps coming back—always late at night. The amendment would enable FEFCs to fund courses in independent living and communication skills for people with learning disabilities without their having to show that they could progress to other vocational or academic courses. My noble friend Lord Rix spoke eloquently on the problem at Second Reading. He entrusted the amendment to me as he was going on holiday. However, I am delighted to see that he has returned in time to support the amendment.

It is also very cheering to have the unflagging support of the noble Baroness, Lady David. This is the third Bill in respect of which the noble Baroness and I have attempted to do something on this subject more or less at every stage. Schedule 2 to the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 describes courses for adults over 19 and part-time students for whom FEFCs have a responsibility.

Course 2(j) is a course in independent living and communication skills for people with learning difficulties which prepares them for entry to other courses. This was introduced at the Third Reading of the 1992 Bill by the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish of Furness, in response to considerable badgering and cajoling from the noble Baroness and myself. We were very grateful for that. But at the moment some students, particularly those with most severe disabilities and learning difficulties, miss out on the opportunities for education after 19 simply because of the wording in legislation about progressing to other courses.

The amendment would not alter the existing requirement on LEAs to provide recreation and leisure courses. The Minister will remember that the last time the noble Baroness, Lady David, and I had a go at tabling this amendment during the passage of the Disability Discrimination Bill—by that time the noble Lord, Lord Rix, had joined us—the Minister tabled at Third Reading an amendment requiring LEAs to publish disability statements. We were also very grateful for that. I believe that the first of those will be published this year. I am sure that they will prove very useful, as are those that are published by the colleges. They will increase the information on what support is available. But for students with severe learning difficulties life skills are not a recreational option but an essential tool in order to live as effectively and independently as possible in the adult world. They are the equivalent of A-levels for the more academic student. They are, if you like, A-levels in living and survival and are best learned in a college environment and in contact with other students.

Inclusive Learning, a recent report from the FEFC's independent Learning Difficulties and/or Disabilities Committee, chaired by Professor John Tomlinson, suggested that the current interpretation of Schedule 2 should be reviewed. It is an extremely thoughtful and thought-provoking report. It has some interesting things to say as to what constitutes progression and how important it is that the right courses are available to offer opportunities to progress.

The FEFC has not yet said what its intentions are towards the report's recommendations. It has sent out a consultation circular and replies to it are to be in by the end of March. The Minister referred to it when he replied at Second Reading. He concluded: In those circumstances further comment before that consultation is finalised would be pre-emptive".—[Official Report, 10/2/97; col. 91.] I appreciate that it may be difficult for the Minister to say anything too definite in the circumstances, but this is an important and long-running saga which has still to be resolved satisfactorily. I feel strongly about this. Mencap and Skill feel strongly about it, as I am sure do Members of the Committee who have supported it so strongly on many occasions and the previous time around. I see a number of those noble Lords here tonight, for which I am grateful. Of course they may be here for other things as well.

There may well be a need in the future for further clarification about the role of the social services and the FEFC in relation to the opportunities for adults with the most severe disabilities and learning difficulties. But for the moment I believe that the recommendations of Inclusive Learning offer a good next step forward. I therefore greatly hope that the Minister can agree that the problem still exists and can at any rate acknowledge the importance of the work of the Tomlinson Committee and the value of its report. I beg to move.

Baroness David

We have been struggling with this for five years. I congratulate the noble Baroness on her great efforts to get a move on with it. She takes immense trouble with this issue. She deserves the support of the Committee, and, I hope, the Minister. It has been difficult. I know how hard we fought in the 1992 Bill, because we felt that children with learning difficulties, particularly those who were aged 19 and were then unable to stay at school or in that sort of environment, needed to be able to progress to a college. That is what has proved so difficult.

What is such an enormous help to our cause this time is the report Inclusive Learning, chaired by Professor John Tomlinson. It is a good report and extremely helpful to our cause. It acknowledges that there are problems with the way that the FEFC currently interprets the legislation. It offers a solution that retains the important notion or progress, but broadens out what that word "progress" means.

I shall quote paragraph 9.39 of the report, which states: We want to ensure that the Council's—and colleges'—interpretation of schedule 2(j) is in keeping with the spirit of the legislation. We recognise that the Act is designed, in part, to ensure that national training and education priorities are met. This places importance on learning programmes that contribute to economic productivity, directly or indirectly. Programmes which contribute to independent adult living should be included because they facilitate economic productivity. It is the committee's view that the Council's present interpretation of Schedule 2(j) and that of some colleges does not take properly into account the value to society of this kind of learning. As we argued in chapter 3, our focus on inclusive learning requires new standards for judging the adequacy of provision". This is a very important document. I hope that the Minister will be able to give it a warm welcome, and express his enthusiasm for it when he comes to reply.

Lord Rix

I thank my noble friend Lady Darcy for moving this amendment in my supposed absence. I did apologise on Second Reading for the fact that I should be out of the Chamber away on holiday. I had no idea that the length of Committee stage would exceed the "Ring" cycle and Oberammergau combined. Therefore I have found myself back from holiday and able to hear the amendment moved.

I of course support the amendment, but I realise that at this late hour of the morning it is impossible to seek a Division even if we wished to, though I gather that my noble friend Lady Darcy has had meaningful conversations with the Minister in my absence and that some progress may have been made.

In Committee, the Minister said that the recommendations of the Tomlinson Report, including the recommendation that the FEFC should take a wider view of progression in the wording of Schedule 2 to the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, have now gone out to public consultation. In those circumstances, further comment before that consultation is finalised would be pre-empted. Clearly, that probably still applies.

However, I know that all of us who are interested in the amendment would be grateful if the Minister could comment on some of the following points. I refer to acknowledgment of the issues that the amendment is seeking to raise; an encouragement of the work of the Tomlinson Committee in dealing with the issues of inclusive learning and getting education to the widest range of students with learning disabilities; acknowledging that Tomlinson has made some useful suggestions on how to deal with the Schedule 2(j) issue; encouraging the FEFC to address the issue either by implementing the recommendations or by some equally effective means; and, finally, requiring the FEFC to report on progress in its next annual report.

If the Minister could give assurances on one or all of those points they will be happily received by those of us moving the amendment.

Baroness Warnock

I strongly support the amendment and everything that has been said in its favour.

2.45 a.m.

Lord Henley

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rix, for describing my conversations with the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth) as being meaningful. I hope that they were on this amendment and others which she came to discuss with me. They are important as regards the provisions for students with severe learning difficulties.

It may assist the Committee if I first clarify some details of Schedule 2 to the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. It sets out the descriptions of courses to which the duty to secure adequate further education relates and which, therefore, the FEFC may fund. Paragraph (i) provides for courses which teach independent living and communication skills for persons with learning difficulties. But the qualifying criterion is that such a course must prepare the student for further progress. All education is, to some degree. preparatory. By definition, learning implies new skills which lead the student on to other things. The concept of progress in education cannot be removed. I am afraid that the amendment would do just that.

There would also be some major practical difficulties if the amendment were to be enacted. It would lead to enormous confusion between the local authorities and the FEFC. At present, local authority social services departments make provision for many severely disabled adults, for example, through day centres. Other provision will, of course, be made by local education authorities which are under a further duty to have regard to the needs of persons with learning difficulties. Local education authorities retain duties to provide full-time and part-time education suitable to the needs of persons over the age of 16 in so far as the FEFC is not already under the duty to provide such education. In the main, this takes the form of courses which do not lead to qualifications and which may be of a more informal kind.

The amendment would blur the responsibilities of local authorities. It would mean that the FEFC's responsibilities would extend to new groups, including all day care clients with learning difficulties currently in social services facilities and people engaged in rehabilitation programmes because of injury or mental illness.

I believe that the resource implications are considerable. The demands on capital to secure adequate facilities would be of a particular concern for the FE sector. The FEFC could be under pressure to secure placements for individuals in specialist establishments outside the FE sector for a new group of students for whom the local authority currently only has a target duty.

Obviously, those are compelling reasons why the Government cannot accept the amendment. However, I can assure the noble Baroness that further consideration is being given to the difficulties faced by students with learning difficulties in the light of the Tomlinson Report, to which reference has been made and which has recently gone out to consultation. We warmly welcome the publication of that report. We believe that it represents the most comprehensive and detailed review of further education provision for students with learning difficulties and disabilities that has ever taken place. As has been referred to, one of its key recommendations is, to take a wider view of progression within the wording of Schedule 2(i) to enable students to acquire new skills at the same level as their current course or maintain skills learned where this represents an achievement for them". That recommendation argues for a considerably more liberal interpretation of Schedule 2(i) while still maintaining the principle of progression. Therefore, it is closely related to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord but moved so ably by the noble Baroness.

We should certainly wish to hear whether the further education sector believes that change to be desirable. Obviously we shall consider that recommendation carefully in the light of the whole consultation process. I believe that the noble Baroness understands that, as I said on Second Reading, I cannot give any further commitment before the end of that consultation period, but we shall consider these matters very carefully.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

First, I thank all Members of the Committee who have taken part in the debate. The noble Baroness, Lady David, highlighted the importance of the Tomlinson report. My noble friend Lord Rix asked some important questions, many of which I believe have been answered by the Minister. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Warnock for her support, which I value a great deal.

The Minister said that he could not shift much from what he said on Second Reading but I am pleasantly surprised by what he said and I rather feel that he has shifted. I understand absolutely his point that the concept of progress in education cannot be removed, and it is important to keep that, and that the amendment would blur the divide between the social services, the LEAs and the FEFC. However, he said that there would be further consideration in the light of Tomlinson and, indeed, that he warmly welcomed the report. I believe that he said that it was the most important review ever of education for pupils with learning difficulties.

In a sense, I am only the surrogate mother of this baby so I seek confirmation from my noble friend Lord Rix that he does not wish to return to this matter at the next stage. I am delighted because I thought that I might have to reserve my position. I thank the Minister very warmly. I hope that really good things will come from Tomlinson and that there will be a different look at progress and at what courses are on offer to enable people to progress in different ways. I have no hesitation in begging leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 67 [Commencement of compulsory school age]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton move Amendment No. 203A: Page 51, line 15, leave out from ("such") to ("specified") and insert ("a day in the year as is").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment is necessary because, during the passage of the nursery education vouchers legislation, the Government failed to have due regard to the points that were raised in the other place and in your Lordships' House in relation to the entitlement to schooling and the start date for children starting their reception class year in primary school.

The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that there is a single date from which a child will become of compulsory school age. Although the number does not appear on the face of the Bill, the Government appear to intend to produce three dates. I have two questions for the Minister. First, how can the Government justify children, merely as a result of when they are born, being entitled to less statutory school time? Children will go through their school lives in the same year but the youngest in that class will be doubly disadvantaged because they may be entitled to only one term full-time reception class; they are the youngest in their year; and research shows that summer-born children remain disadvantaged.

Secondly, were the Government to recognise the need for such pupils to have their full year in the reception class, they ought also to recognise that the introduction of very young children should be matched by the proper training and staff resourcing to cope with those very young children at the start of the reception year. I beg to move.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I should like briefly to express my support for the amendment. I do not know quite why I have put my name to the amendment because I am one of those people who, every year, have to remind themselves what it means to put the clocks forwards and backwards. It is exactly that kind of comparative time-scale, with two time-scales working one against the other, which complicates the issue. However, I am acutely aware of the problems that this age of entry into full-time education gives and I am very well aware of the research which shows that it affects children for the rest of their lives. Therefore, I look forward with great interest to hearing the Minister's response.

Lord Henley

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, I have much the same problem. I remember the great volume that we all bought, A Brief History of Time, which confused me even more. However, I am not alone in that respect. I shall have to tell the noble Baroness that I must look at the matter again more closely. When I first saw the amendments, I was somewhat confused, in that she seems to be saying that it is just one day in the year when a child becomes of compulsory school age. It seems to me that that in itself could cause much greater unfairness than having a number of different days in the year.

Perhaps we can work through an example of the practical effects of the noble Baroness's amendment as tabled. If we assume that the prescribed day is 31st August, any child turned five on or before that date would start school in the following autumn term. A child who turns five on the 30th August would start school in early December, whereas one whose birthday fell on the 2nd September would wait nearly a whole year before starting school. I believe that there was rather a bad case the other day of twins born either side of midnight and a rather inflexible local authority. However, the authority saw reason in the end. I just put that forward as an aside that I came across in newspaper reports. I do not know whether it is true.

I am sure that the noble Baroness will realise that that could lead to problems for the child born three days later, in that he would not start school until he was nearly six years of age. I do not believe that the noble Baroness means to advance amendments which would allow quite such a delay in the time at which a child starts school. Having said that, it is very late and I should like to look again carefully at what the noble Baroness said to see whether I can understand the nature of her precise concerns. If necessary, we can have further discussions between now and the Report stage.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I thank the Minister for his reply. I should tell him and the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, that I learnt about this subject because one of my children was born on 31st August. I should also tell the Minister that, if I could have my life over again, I think that I would have lied and said that he was born on 1st September.

However, when the Minister considers the implications involved, I would ask him to ignore the red herring as to whether or not a child would have to wait a year. The issue is to look at when children join the year with which they will go through their school lives. Therefore, one looks at when a child would be in that particular year. When one has identified the year cohort, one then seeks to ensure that none of the children in that year is denied the one or two terms that his or her fellow age group receives. Then one considers the appropriate resource and the appropriate provision. Virtually all schools, except the smallest village schools, are divided by year group, so if a group of rising fives is entering school they will all be in the same year in the end. At this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 203B, C and D not moved.]

Clause 67 agreed to.

Clause 68 agreed to.

Clause 69 [Orders and regulations]:

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 204: Page 52, line 2, leave out ("11,").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 204, I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 205 and 217. These are technical amendments which take on board the recommendations of the delegated powers and deregulation committee. They relate to various order making powers provided for in the Bill. The committee's report was published on 17th February. I imagine it is familiar to all Members of the Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

These amendments are technical. Amendment No. 204 requires the order making power in Clause 11(1) to be made by statutory instrument using the negative resolution procedure. That is in accordance with paragraph 11 of the report of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. We think that is good.

Amendment No. 205 introduces the need to make orders by statutory instrument to transfer staff and property from the SCAA and the NCVQ to the QCA. That is in accordance with paragraphs three and four of the report of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. We find that good. Amendment No. 217 is in exactly the same way a matter of negative instrument and is in response to paragraph 10 of the Select Committee report. We welcome these amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 205: Page 52, line 5, leave out ("50(5), 51(9) or").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 69, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 70 to 72 agreed to.

Schedule 9 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

The Lord Bishop of Ripon moved Amendments Nos. 206 to 214: Page 76, line 21, leave out ("National"). Page 76, line 26, leave out ("National"). Page 76, line 41, leave out ("National"). Page 77, line 10, leave out ("National"). Page 77, line 24, leave out ("National"). Page 77, line 30, leave out ("National"). Page 80, line 11, leave out ("National"). Page 80, line 17, leave out ("National"). Page 80, line 22, leave out ("National").

The right reverend Prelate said: I have already spoken to this group of amendments. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 206 to 214 en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 215 and 216 not moved.]

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 217: Page 81, leave out lines 29 to 34 and insert— ("46.—(1) Section 568 of that Act (orders) shall be amended as follows. (2) In subsection (1) (orders required to be made by statutory instrument unless made under excepted provisions), after "excepted provisions" insert "or one falling within subsection (2A)". (3) In subsection (2) (the excepted provisions)— (a) after "77(7)," insert "81 A,": and (b) before "paragraph 5 of Schedule 21" insert "paragraph 7 of Schedule 5A,". (4) After that subsection insert— (2A) An order falls within this subsection if it is made under section 413A(4) or paragraph 1(4) of Schedule 33B and applies only to one or more schools specified in the order.".").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 204. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 218 not moved.]

Schedule 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 73 [Short title, commencement and extent etc.]:

[Amendments Nos. 219 to 222 not moved.]

Clause 73 agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.

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