HL Deb 10 June 1998 vol 590 cc1075-9

(".—(1) In relation to a ballot under section 100(2)(a), ballot regulations shall provide that, subject to such exceptions as may be prescribed, the parents eligible to request and vote in the ballot are—

  1. (a) registered parents of registered pupils at the following schools, namely—
    1. (i) where the ballot relates to all grammar schools within the area of a prescribed local education authority, all schools maintained by that authority; or
    2. (ii) where the ballot relates to all grammar schools within a prescribed area, all schools maintained by a local education authority which are situated in such area as may be prescribed, together with (if the regulations so provide) all schools maintained by such local education authority as may be prescribed;
  2. (b) registered parents of registered pupils at independent schools where—
    1. (i) such parents are resident, and
    2. (ii) the schools are situated,
    within the area of the prescribed local education authority or (as the case may be) the prescribed area; and
  3. (c) parents of children of a prescribed description where such parents—
  1. (i) are resident within the area of the prescribed local education authority or (as the case may be) the prescribed area, and
  2. (ii) have registered with the designated body in accordance with section 100(4)(b).

(2) In relation to a ballot under section 100(2)(b) or (c), ballot regulations shall provide that, subject to such exceptions as may be prescribed, the parents eligible to request and vote in the ballot are parents of registered pupils at any school from which a prescribed number of pupils have transferred to the grammar school or schools in question—

  1. (a) at such age or ages, and
  2. (b) during such period,
as may be determined in accordance with the regulations; and such regulations may provide that where, within that period, any such grammar school has been established in substitution for another school, the schools are to be treated as a single school for the purposes of determining eligibility.

(3) Ballot regulations shall provide—

  1. (a) in relation to a ballot under section 100(2)(a), that a request for such a ballot must be made by a number of eligible parents equal to at least 20 per cent. of all parents falling within subsection (1)(a) or (b) above; and
  2. (b) in relation to a ballot under section 100(2)(b) or (c), that a request for such a ballot must be made by at least 20 per cent. of all parents falling within subsection (2) above.

(4) Ballot regulations may provide for a parent's eligibility for the purposes of—

  1. (a) making a request for a ballot,
  2. (b) voting in a ballot, or
  3. (c) determining the number of parents required to make a request by virtue of subsection (3),
to be determined by reference to such different times as may be determined in accordance with the regulations.

(5) Ballot regulations may make provision for determining whether parents are resident in an area for the purposes of subsection (1)(a) or (b).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 101 [Implementation of decision that school should cease to have selective admission arrangements]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 233M:

Page 77, line 27, leave out ("was to the effect that one or more grammar schools should cease") and insert ("shows a simple majority of votes cast (by persons eligible to vote in the ballot) in favour of the grammar school or schools to which the ballot related ceasing").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 233N and 233P not moved.]

Clause 101, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 102 [Proposals by governing body of grammar school to end selective admission arrangements]:

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford moved Amendment No. 233Q:

Page 78, line 3, at end insert— ("() Any revision of the admission arrangements of a school under this section shall be subject to a ballot of parents.").

The noble Lord said: I shall be brief and direct. This clause sets forward proposals to allow a governing body to end selection. Our amendment proposes that members of a governing body should not have that power on their own, but that parents of children at the school should also have an influence on the decision. They should be balloted. The reason for that has already emerged in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, spoke about a situation in Marylebone, about which I remember reading, where the governing body changed quickly.

Given the nature of a governing body—with people from the LEA, parent governors and co-opted governors—there is always a possibility that a small clique on the governing body can have an influence over the policy of a school. Anyone who has been concerned with education will know that the balances that are meant to exist in a governing body do not always work.

So this is a belt and braces amendment. In a case where a governing body did not continue to have the trust of parents to make a drastic change in the arrangements for the school, it would not be allowed to do so; the parents would have a say. I suggest that it is a reasonable amendment, well within the spirit of the democracy espoused by noble Lords opposite. There is nothing duplicitous or deceitful about it. It is a nice amendment. I commend to the Committee.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

The suggestion is that this is a nice amendment. The noble Lord will not be surprised when I say that I do not agree. It is about the alternative route to change for grammar schools. If a governing body wishes the admissions arrangements to be non-selective, then this clause makes it possible for that to be so. The noble Lord said that small cliques on governing bodies can alter the course of what might happen. I have been a governor in the past for a number of years in various kinds of schools, and that has not been my experience.

Amendment No. 233Q puts an inappropriate obstacle in the path of the governing body which wants to publish proposals to end selection. It would required a grammar school to ballot parents before publishing proposals under Clause 102 to remove selection. However, under the statutory proposal system—both now and in the future—those who publish proposals have a duty to consult interested parties before doing so. Grammar schools would therefore be expected to include parents in their consultation before publishing proposals to remove selection. So the substance of what the amendment seeks will already be built into the procedures. If parents do not like what the governing body is proposing, they will be able to object—as I am sure they will—and those objections will be considered by the school organisation committee.

The purpose of Clause 102 is to allow a grammar school to publish non-selective proposals if the school wishes. That is as it should be. Most grammar schools already have this power under the current statutory proposals procedure. Clause 102 simple extends it to those grammar schools where currently only the LEA could publish proposals to remove selection. Regulations will make it clear that, if parents have triggered a ballot, that would take precedence over non-selective proposals which had not yet been decided. I hope that is helpful.

To reiterate, under the statutory proposal procedure, parents will be able to make their views clearly heard—through consultation. They can also, if necessary, lodge objections to proposals. I therefore ask the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

This Bill introduces all the fevered atmosphere of ballots. Any arrangements by governing bodies would be made in that atmosphere. I am afraid that the weaker method represented by consultation is not very appealing to us. There should be on the face of the Bill a right for parents to be balloted. I am therefore afraid that I must ask the opinion of the Committee.

7.17 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 233Q) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 49; Not-Contents, 82.

Division No. 1
Alexander of Tunis, E. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Annaly, L. Malmesbury, E.
Attlee, E. Marlesford, L.
Baker of Dorking, L. Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Belstead, L. Milverton, L.
Blatch, B. Norrie, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Northbourne, L.
Burnham, L. Northesk, E.
Byford, B. [Teller.] Norton, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Palmer, L.
Cranborne, V. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Dean of Harptree, L. Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. Rawlings, B.
Fookes, B. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Haslam, L. St. John of Bletso, L.
Hayhoe, L. Seccombe, B. [Teller.]
Henley, L. Sharples, B.
Inglewood, L. Skidelsky, L.
Jopling, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Kimball, L. Strathclyde, L.
Kintore, E. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Leigh, L. Ullswater, V.
Liverpool, E. Wharton, B.
McConnell, L. Young, B.
Acton, L. Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B. Janner of Braunstone, L.
Blease, L. Jay of Paddington, B.
Burlison, L. Judd, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Carter, L. [Teller.] Kilbracken, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Kirkhill, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Levy, L.
David, B. Lockwood, B.
Davies of Coity, L. Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Dean of Beswick, L.
Desai, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Dixon, L. McNair, L.
Donoughue, L. Maddock, B.
Dormand of Easington, L. Mallalieu, B.
Dubs, L. Merlyn-Rees, L.
Evans of Parkside, L. Molloy, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L. Monkswell, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. Morris of Manchester, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Newby, L.
Gallacher, L. Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.
Gilbert, L. Nicol, B.
Glenamara, L. Orme, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B. Pitkeathley, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Hardie, L. Puttnam, L.
Hardy of Wath, L. Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Haskel, L. Rea, L.
Hayman, B. Redesdale, L.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L. Renwick of Clifton, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Rogers of Riverside, L.
Hoyle, L. Sandberg, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L. Simon, V.
Stoddart of Swindon, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Strabolgi, L. Whaddon, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L. Whitty, L.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B. Winston, L.
Tope, L. Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

7.25 p.m.

Clause 102 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 234 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford moved Amendment No. 234A:

After Clause 102, insert the following new clause—