HL Deb 19 May 1998 vol 589 cc1463-515

4.23 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 6.

Lord Lucas

moved Amendment No. 29: Page 4, line 20, at end insert (", judged by such measures as may be prescribed"). The noble Lord said: The Minister may be able to reassure me that the Government have the necessary powers to specify what is meant by "performance". It is important that the Government do specify what it means so that what is done by local education authorities and schools nationwide is consistent. When specific actions are shown to generate levels or types of improvement, it is important to be able to demonstrate that to local authorities by information which will be measured by and judged against standards agreed nationally. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am entirely sympathetic to the motives of the noble Lord in moving the amendment. He is right to say that it is important that an education development plan should set out what an LEA will do to improve the performance of its schools. He is right to say that we all want to see school performance improved. That is the whole purpose of the exercise. LEAs have an important role to play in supporting and challenging schools to drive up standards and through their education development plans they will be held accountable for their success in carrying this out.

Amendment No. 29 would require an LEA's proposal for improving its school performance to be assessed by measures to be prescribed in regulation. We need to be clear what an improvement to schools' performance means, and the measures by which it should be assessed. We are not at the starting blocks here. There are already well-established means of assessing improvement in schools' performance and information about how well schools are doing is widely available in the public domain. Ofsted inspections of schools provide a clear means of judging schools' performance and improvement and provide a wealth of information which—perhaps I may add, knowing the Lord's expertise in these matters—is available on the Internet. The performance tables which are published annually set out each school's performance and this can be tracked on a year by year basis. Ofsted has recently made available to all schools and LEAs wide-ranging details of schools' performance in performance and assessment reports and LEA profiles which—perhaps I may add, and LEAs to consider what more needs to be done on the basis of firm evidence of their own and similar schools' performance.

In addition, for the first time, Government will make available national value added analyses. This will enable schools to compare the progress made by a pupil between one stage of assessment and another with the progress made by all pupils nationally with similar starting attainments. Value added relates purely to the prior attainment of pupils and does not take into account other contextual factors which research suggests are of less significance in respect of pupil performance. This information will help schools and LEAs to raise standards by evaluating performance and identifying and encouraging good teaching practice.

The draft EDP guidance, on which consultation has recently finished, proposes that LEAs should carry out an audit of pupil performance and other aspects of performance taking account of available data such as Ofsted schools and LEA inspection reports, performance and assessment reports and LEA profiles. It also sets out draft criteria for how the LEA's school improvement programme will be assessed. Advisers from the standards and effectiveness unit in the department will also be working with LEAs to help them prepare and strengthen their plans.

There are therefore a number of mechanisms already in place for judging the improvement of schools' performance and we do not see the need to add to bureaucracy further by specifying measures in regulations which is what the amendment proposes. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

Before the Minister sits down, I am concerned about value added. I understand what the noble Lord says. Can he put a little more flesh on these bare bones and tell me the kind of issues he regards as value added? The noble Lord may remember that I mentioned that certain surveys indicated that such issues cannot be judged on the basis of ethnicity, deprivation and so on. The national value added scheme is important for those of us concerned with the Bill. I hope that the Minister can say more about the issues that the Government will consider.

There have been studies in the past. The Government have undertaken extensive consultation. It would help us considerably on this side of the Chamber if the noble Lord could share some of the insights with us.

4.30 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I do not think there are any insights which have not already been published either by this Government or by the previous government. A great deal of work has been done on this subject. I attempted, when we discussed earlier amendments, to give some idea of what, other than the measure of prior attainment, could be taken into account in value added. The noble Lord was quite right in saying that earlier reports show that prior attainment is the most important single factor in predicting future attainment, but of course it is also true that ethnicity, gender, language skills and social background are other elements. They are not elements in replacement of prior attainment; they are things which go to make up prior attainment, and prior attainment is the evident measure which encapsulates them. Our value added measures take that into account.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. We really do need to get this absolutely clear because it is important that schools themselves know against what they are being measured. Let us take two children. Both have achieved exactly the same at the age of 7: there is no difference between them in terms of attainment and they are level pegging. One child is having free school meals and the other child is not. In a year's time, the child who is having free school meals is attaining rather better than the child who is not. Where is the added value? How is it measured? What factors are taken into account in making a judgment as to how the children themselves have achieved and how the school has achieved? The noble Lord has mentioned gender, ethnicity and free school meals. If this sort of information is going to be added to pure academic achievement, then it is important that he tells this Committee exactly how that information is going to be weighted.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I was not talking about them at all. I was challenged by the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, to say what might be included. The noble Baroness is talking about individual children as if these reports were going to be about individual children. What we are looking at is the performance of schools in aggregate, and of course when we see changes in terms of under-performance or over-performance against targets, we look for explanations. Some of the explanations may be in terms of social background, ethnicity, gender or whatever it may be. It is important that we should understand them but we do not have to say, for example, that gender accounts for 0.35 per cent. of the perceived deviation from the norm.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

These schools will be judged. The noble Lord opposite knows as well as I do that the business of value added has been studied by many bodies and has been the subject of considerable controversy—I repeat, considerable controversy. The noble Lord has been involved in it; I have been involved in it; and the noble Lord knows something about it. What he is proposing in this Bill is to make judgments on the schools on the basis, yes, of prior attainment and value added. But I fear I still must say—I am sorry to have to come back to this—that the noble Lord in his answers has not taken us into the disputes that have arisen and told us what his noble friend's department is considering, because it is going to have to make judgments on a subject that has been in great dispute among people who are supposedly experts. But executive decisions will be taken and I am sorry to say that the noble Lord has not helped us, beyond talking about generalities, as to what line will be taken on the issues which have been put to him. The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, is sitting behind the noble Lord and he has spent many hours, I should think, and many nights, studying just this subject. But the noble Lord has not taken into account all the pages that have been printed. Even just giving us a clue—a candle in the darkness—would help; a mere candle.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The amendment is concerned with whether the conditions should be prescribed in regulations. I have described why it is unnecessary and might even be damaging for this amendment to be added to the Bill.

Lord Dearing

I recall some time ago I was chairman of the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council and it occurred to me that the purpose of education was to raise levels of achievement from what they had been. I invited the very clever people in higher education to help us develop a measure of value added. They applied their brilliant minds to this and added to the problem a degree of complexity which meant that we made no progress whatsoever. The great danger of value added is sophistication and the inclusion of so many variables that the outcome is not understood by parents or anyone else. It is the case that I offered some advice to the previous government on measures of performance and recommended in 1993 that we should introduce value added. I also recommended the setting up of a working party. The chairman is not a Member of this House but is in the Chamber; he led an excellent committee which produced a report amid many other reports.

I am inclined to say that, yes, we do want value added measures. It is important that if they are to be used schools know the criteria which are being brought to bear; otherwise it is an invalid process. However, I think it would be injudicious for your Lordships to prescribe what measures those should be. It is a matter for experts and for consultation, but before the measures are introduced they must be clear and known to all concerned.

Baroness Blatch

Having been involved in the early formulation of the ten-level scale, I have to say, "Save me from experts!". Having made that rather flippant remark, however, I do agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, that whatever judgment is come to should be on the basis of proper consultation and taking into account professional advice. I still believe—this is what I think the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, was saying—that in order for the schools to understand what it is they are going to be judged upon and in order for them to make sure that there is consistency throughout the country—because it would be very unfair to have an ad hoc system built up, with one LEA measured against one set of criteria and another LEA measured against another set of criteria. Whatever the Government may intend, it should take the form of regulations and be introduced only after a great deal of consultation.

I agree with my noble friend when he says that the criteria should be set out in regulations. Perhaps I may also say to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who said a moment ago that this is not about the attainment of an individual child, if it is not about that then it is about nothing. The performance of a school must inevitably be based on the attainment of the children within it and so, if the attainment of those children does not count, then how on earth can a school's performance be judged? It has to be judged on what the school achieves on behalf of the children within that school. Of course it is an aggregate and an amalgam, but the basis of that amalgam is the attainment of the children within a school, which adds up to what that school can achieve, through its teachers, head teacher and the governors and what they add in terms of value to the education of the children.

Lord Desai

Perhaps I may, as someone who has done a lot of work in this field, say a few words. The questions back and forth tell us why it is very complicated even for experts to give a simple answer. It is not an easy problem to which to give a simple answer. The noble Baroness is quite correct in saying that the performance of a school is an aggregation of individual performances, but it is not a simple aggregation: you cannot just add it up. One problem, both at the individual pupil level and at school level, is to be able not only to measure value added to initial achievement and the progress made, but also to be able to attribute some part of the value added to the school's or the pupils' activity and how much to attribute to other factors. I have spent about 35 years as a professional econometrician and this is not a simple problem. It would be very difficult to put anything on the face of the Bill, but what we can say is that in implementing this provision, when the notes are given to schools, and so on, perhaps the Government will try to make the matter understandable and uniform. But let us not think that this is going to be an easy problem.

Lord Walton of Detchant

I wholly agree that it would be totally unsatisfactory to attempt to put any definition or specific criteria related to value added on the face of the Bill. It would be a sheer impossibility. As the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, said, and there are experts who have examined this matter and developed formulae of tremendous complexity.

At the risk of repeating myself, perhaps I may return to the briefing by the National Commission on Education published by Andrew McPherson in 1993. On reading that briefing, a Member of this place said that it alone would have justified the existence of the National Commission on Education. It set out a number of clear, simple, specific statistical criteria upon which this whole issue could be judged.

This is a circumstance where it is not necessary to have the criteria on the face of the Bill, but where one would hope that ultimately the Department for Education and Employment would be prepared to publish recommendations that would be implemented nationwide for the application of such simple criteria.

Perhaps I may pose a question to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. It relates not merely to this amendment, but to the next two tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. It is a well-hallowed principle of education that one defines what we may wish to call targets or, as some would prefer, goals and objectives. Once those are defined, one must be able to implement mechanisms to determine whether or not those targets, goals or objectives have been achieved. That requires specific techniques of assessment. Will the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, tell us in relation to this clause on education development plans—which in general terms I greatly welcome—in what way it is clear that the objective of assessing whether or not targets have been achieved will be fulfilled under the provisions of the Bill?

Lord Peston

I am totally mystified by much of this debate. I take it that we are still discussing Clauses 6 and 7 dealing with education development plans. Most of the remarks from noble Lords opposite do not seem to bear any resemblance to the Bill as I read it. Perhaps they have not noticed the subsection stating that the authority shall consult, or the subsection stating that toe documents will be submitted to the Secretary of State. I assume that all the documents will be in the public domain. The notion that this will be some kind of esoteric or closed area, ad hoc and lacking in consistency, seems to me to be about as far from the Bill I as written as one could possibly imagine. The problem is the usual one: noble Lords opposite do not seem to have read or understood the Bill that we are debating—to put it as tartly as I possibly can.

Perhaps I may remind noble Lords, as my noble friend Lord Desai prompts me to do, that value added is not a concept in education; it was a concept invented in economics before the Second World War following on the economics of Lord Keynes. Essentially, it had to do with how we measured national income and what firms achieved in terms of output relative to the inputs that they had. It was taken over by people in education, often because they lacked any notion of educational theory. But the concept is still much the same. One is comparing what goes in with what comes out—the difference being the value that the organisations have added. It is essentially a concept to do with the organisation, not to do with what happens to a specific individual child. Noble Lords opposite ought to understand that, if I may go into professorial mode.

While in such mode, perhaps I may deal with one other matter. A great deal of educational research has been and will continue to be undertaken to examine the performance of schools and ask questions such as: why does this school achieve that and another school achieve something different? One examines a number of variables and, to use the word used by my noble friend, one comes up with an explanation. But certainly none of us on this side of the Chamber would misunderstand "explanation" to mean "justification", which is what troubles the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. So one might find one or two variables—ethnicity is one which has been established as correlating with, I am afraid, lack of educational performance. But that is an explanation; it is not remotely a justification. There are those of us who are saying that we must determine the causes. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, does not then go on to say that because we want to determine the causes we are trying to justify poor performance. I, for one, am certainly not, and I am sure that my noble friend on the Front Bench has no intention of doing so. We are not advancing the subject of education by pursuing this argument in this form at this time.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

I approach a professor with great trepidation. What we are talking about is subsection (2)(a)(ii)— improving the performance of such schools". We have to judge how we improve performance. Value added is one idea.

I was pointing out to the noble friend of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that in this debate we might even be able to contribute something to the part that value added could play in contributing to improvement in performance. That is what this debate is about: how we judge a school.

Now the professor may not think that we should debate these matters. The professor may doubt our brain. But the fact is, we are going to debate these matters, and we are going to carp on, because two years from now when this Government are in a much weaker situation, we shall be asking them why the performance of schools has not improved. So we make our point in this debate. The professor may not like it, and I am sure that in his college he would not allow it. But naughty schoolboys do what they want, particularly in this Chamber. So he has got to take it, I am afraid.

Lord Lucas

It may be helpful if I retaliate now so that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has the advantage of dealing with all his opponents at once. I find myself greatly enlightened by the remarks of the noble Lords, Lord Dearing and Lord Walton of Detchant.

The discussion has fallen into two parts. the first on value added. I was heartened by the opening reply of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh; namely, that the measure of value added published by the Government would not include any biases in relation to underlying factors such as economic or ethnic circumstances. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that these are explanations, not justifications. If one takes, for instance, my daughter's school, the boys there do as well as the girls. That is not common. If one were to examine value added nationally, one would apply a discount to schools with more girls because they would be expected to do better. It is right to examine the matter on an even basis and then say, looking at the matter nationally, that boys do worse and we must find some way of dealing with that and improving matters. Let us examine the schools where that does not happen and learn from them. So we examine the explanations and try to work out from them what has been going right in those schools and transfer that to other schools.

In order to undertake that wholly admirable process, systems of measurement are needed which are common to the nation as a whole. As the Bill presently stands—and as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, wishes it to be—one LEA can state that it will use one measure of value added; another may say that its measure of improvement in school performance is whether or not the children are happy, how many are excluded, or whether or not they are fighting. But we hear a whole variety of disparate measures in relation to school performance. The matter could be treated on an ad hoc basis within individual LEAs, with the Government saying, "Oh, that looks all right", and Ofsted waving its hand over the matter and saying, "Yes, we accept that that LEA's programme is an interesting one and at the end of the day it will produce some sort of measure of its own as to whether or not it has succeeded", and the Government again saying, "Well, that looks all right".

However, what I hope we shall arrive at is what the noble Lord, Lord Detchant, asked for; namely, some kind of nationally measurable, consistent system. I see nothing in the Bill, nor in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, which enables the Government to say, "You will measure performance in a way that is consistent; you will produce your figures—targets against which you can be judged—in a way which is consistent across the country and can be judged by common measures". It is very important that the Government should do that. Even if they do not want to do so, it is important that this Bill should contain sufficient powers to enable a future, better-informed government to do it. I hope the noble Lord will reassure me that his initial reply was not sufficiently precise and that the Government have powers and intend to use them to make sure that the information and measures employed by LEAs nationwide are consistent and can be used to transfer information from areas of good performance to those where improvement is needed.

Lord Dearing

I wish to offer a further thought. Schools are little places. Four thousand schools have five or fewer teachers; they are not sophisticated analysts. They need objectives that are clear and simple which primary school teachers can understand. If the objectives are complex, they will be meaningless and useless.

The reality is that the teacher can understand the absolute level of performance and the increment from A to B, stage 1 to stage 2. That is it. Anything beyond that is an explanation or contribution to the understanding of what is happening. But one cannot set targets which are complex and where teachers must anticipate, such as how many schools meals will the school offer in X years' time? How many parents will be unemployed? That is meaningless. The targets must be simple and the rest should be explanation and interpretation.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, kindly offered me the opportunity to reply to all my opponents at once. That was the way he described it. I do not see the debate in that way at all. It has been a helpful debate. I am grateful to Members of the Committee who have taken part.

I start by saying to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that of course there is no such thing as an aggregate assessment of a school's achievement or underachievement in relation to targets except that which is built up on the basis of individual pupils. That seems to me self-evident and it is helpful to set it out. However, the use of that information is not related to individual pupils. As I am sure the noble Baroness will recognise, the use of it is related to the school as a whole. That is what the review mechanism referred to in Clause 7(5) means. When we talk about implementation, we are talking about it at the school level.

The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, in the course of two interesting and helpful speeches, made the valid point, first, that whatever the measure used it must be simple and understandable to individual schools. As I understand it, he also made the point that any measures must be comparable and that the same message must go to all schools. The noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, confirmed that point.

In the light of the correct observation by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, that it would be impossible to put such a measure on the face of the Bill, I suggest that I write to him or that Ministers in the department write to him, with copies to all Members of the Committee who have taken part in the debate. The letter will set out the Government's thinking on what elucidation will go to local education authorities and individual schools.

I am quite clear in my mind, and I hope that the Committee will he clear, that we have planned adequate means of checking against targets. We have regular monitoring by the standards and efficiency unit of the DfEE, as set out in the draft EDP guidance. We have the annual review of the EDP performance by the standards and efficiency unit and the periodic inspection of the LEA by Ofsted. So I am in no doubt whatever that there are adequate provisions in place, without further regulation as proposed by the amendment.

However, we have enough time between now and Report stage for further explanation to be given for which Members of the Committee on all sides have called. I suggest that I do so in the form of a letter to the noble Lord, Lord Dearing. Meanwhile, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will not press his amendment.

Lord Lucas

That was an enormously gracious and helpful reply by the noble Lord. I am delighted to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Lucas

moved Amendment No. 30: Page 4, line 20, at end insert ("or (iii) improving or enlarging school premises (particularly in successful schools),"). The noble Lord said: At Second Reading the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, was kind enough to say that she thought that additional cash going to schools to deal with the necessary expansion to reduce class sizes in early years should be biased towards successful schools and those which were popular and in demand. The guidance or regulation sent out by government would reflect that.

In the amendment I ask whether the Government agree that that principle should be applied also to later years where again additional capital expenditure should be biased towards schools which are successful and in demand. If so, how is that to be reflected in guidance or regulation? Anyone who has visited the enormously successful state schools in the north of London will be astonished at the state of dilapidation and decay in some of them. Over many years they have been neglected by the local authorities. The attitude seems in many cases to be that the money should go in other directions and towards schools which are less popular rather than more popular. One has the extraordinary situation of some of the most famous schools in the land existing in portacabins, with buckets strung out along corridors and no hope or prospect of improvement, let alone rebuilding, which is what should happen.

I hope that it is not too much to ask that the Government give a gentle push in the direction of suggesting to local education authorities that success should be supported and celebrated and that such schools deserve good premises, not just those schools which find themselves failing. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Lord asks what we plan to do in the future about improving or enlarging school premises, particularly in the case of successful schools. Perhaps he will allow me to start by saying what we are doing now and what we have done in the past 12 months. I think it is relevant.

In 1997-98 we provided £83 million extra for school building work through phase 1 of the new deal for schools. That was an increase of 12 per cent. over the existing plans. We expect the new deal for schools to result in £2 billion being spent on repairing, renewing and improving school buildings, security and information technology facilities by the end of this Parliament.

Central government allocations for capital work at grant-maintained, voluntary aided and LEA schools in 1998-99 will be £1.012 billion. That is a 50 per cent. increase on previous plans. So I hope it is on record that we are attacking the problem extremely seriously. Of course, we want to encourage popular and successful schools to expand. Parents naturally want to send their children to schools that are doing well and we want them to be able to do so. I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to say this and for his support, as I understand it, for the approach we are taking. However, I do not think that education development plans are the right place for that. They relate to the achievement of standards rather than school buildings.

Clause 25 would be an appropriate point to discuss this matter. The clause provides for each local education authority to prepare a school organisation plan which will set out how to secure provision of education to meet the needs of pupils in the local authority's area. As the statement on school organisation that has been placed in the Library makes clear, we do not intend to be over-prescriptive about the content of the plan. That is a decision to be taken at local level. But we expect the plan to include statements of the authority's policy for the provision of places that make a specific link to raising standards. I hope the noble Lord will agree that Clause 25 is the right place to discuss the matter. I shall be glad to consider it at that time.

We should also consider asset management plans on which we have recently consulted. We hope to issue guidance later in the summer. The plans set out the process through which LEAs and schools determine school premises priorities. They might also include LEAs' proposals for improving school premises.

Education development plans, which are the subject of Clause 6, rightly focus on raising standards of pupil performance through school and LEA targets and LEAs' school improvement programmes. That specific focus is the most effective way in which LEAs can make their contribution to the standards agenda.

There may be scope for LEAs to make reference to their school organisation plans and their plans for improving school premises in the supporting evidence part of their EDPs if those contribute directly to raising standards in schools. The draft guidance already proposes that any relevant outcomes from the plans, alongside other plans, should contribute to LEAs' audit and self-review and feed into the process of identifying priorities for action in the school improvement programme.

I hope that the noble Lord will feel that we take his concerns seriously and that the Bill will provide the information he needs. On that basis, perhaps he will withdraw his amendment.

5 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

Perhaps I can ask the Minister a question. He talked about the money that has been put in since 1st May last year in relation to this amendment. I have seen some of the applications that have come in bidding for some of that money. I do not remember anywhere, in either the bidding advice or the applications that came in, where there has been a link with popular and successful schools.

My understanding is that local education authorities have apportioned money consistent with their priorities; in other words, schools needing new roofs, buildings with outside lavatories and buildings needing new heating systems. Nowhere in the information that came from the DfEE has there been a link to my knowledge with the provision of extra capital for expanding and developing successful schools.

Linked with that point, is the noble Lord saying that in the future, if my noble friend's amendment is accepted at the appropriate place in the Bill—I believe that that is what he said—there will be capital which will be ringfenced for the expanding of popular and successful schools and which will be additional and ancillary to the money made available to meet the statutory duties of local education authorities and their own local priorities in terms of refurbishing and expanding their buildings?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

To get a potential problem out of the way, I did not say that we would be accepting the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, in Clause 25. I said that we would he properly debating these issues at that stage.

I am surprised that the noble Baroness should raise the point that she did. She is absolutely right to say that the £83 million extra for school building work in 1997-98, the beginning of the new deal for schools, is remedial. It is remedial because of the neglect over many years under the previous government, not by local authorities. It was lack of support from central government for local authorities in providing the necessary capital authorisation and finance for school buildings. If that has to be got out of the way first—and it does—it is the previous administration which should be taking responsibility. I am surprised that the noble Baroness should seek to lead with her chin in that way.

What I said about the future is that capital expenditure on school buildings will be affected by the demand for those schools. When we are talking about schools which are in demand we are talking about successful schools. When we are talking about successful schools we are talking about schools that achieve the necessary standards. That is the relationship between school building expenditure and standards and that is what this Government are determined to proceed with after they have remedied the shameful neglect of school buildings by the previous government.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Perhaps I can intervene in this fascinating debate to say how glad I am that the Minister has not accepted the amendment. However. I am not particularly reassured by what he said following his declaration that he was not going to accept it. Looked at from the point of view of an education authority, one might well—with great justification—decide to improve, for example, the laboratory availability at schools in order to improve the performance of that school in terms of education of its children. It is not sensible, in many places, to concentrate on improvement in one site or one school which is deemed at that time by parents to be the best school, often on faulty information. From the point of view of the education authority and the children who are being educated within that authority, it is better to concentrate expenditure where it is most needed—not just in replacing outside lavatories, but also for first-class equipment or as near as one can get to first-class equipment across a wide range of the curriculum. I hope that when this kind of matter is reflected in the discussions between the Secretary of State and the local education authorities, that kind of approach will be adopted.

Baroness Byford

The noble Baroness slightly beat me to it. I understood the Minister to say that the money would only go to schools which were achieving. We will read Hansard tomorrow, but if that is what he said, it is very strange. The development and help we need is often for schools that in many cases are not achieving. I was standing up to raise that issue; it may be that I misunderstood the Minister. I shall certainly read Hansard tomorrow unless he wishes to clarify the situation. I reacted in the same way as the noble Baroness.

Turd McIntosh of Haringey

I agree with every single word that the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, said. Therefore, if I said anything in my previous remarks which confused the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, I apologise. They are both saying what he Government are saying and the opposite of what the Opposition Front Bench is saying. They are both saying that the applications for expenditure on school buildings should not be linked to this part of the Bill, which is concerned with school standards. We are certainly not saying, and have never said, that capital expenditure should only be provided for those schools which are successful and attracting more pupils. However, the element of demand must be one element among all the others referred to in deciding where capital expenditure should be allocated. That is all we are saying.

Baroness Blatch

The Minister misinterpreted what I was saying. I was trying to obtain clarification from the Government who claimed that this policy was being pursued. I was simply saying that the money bid for so far in this past year has been on the basis—I believe rightly—of local authorities' priorities.

A policy that I would support—my local authority did this to great effect—is that when buildings are refurbished and schools reorganised, it is done on the basis of trying to root out of the system the buildings that are beyond repair or more expensive to repair. To get the best value for money and the best provision for children, the capital programme can be dovetailed into doing just that. That makes sense in local authority terms. I still say that the best people to determine how to spend the money and what the money should be spent on are the local authorities.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

So do the Government.

Lord Lucas

I shall read with great interest this debate in Hansard. If it seems appropriate to return to it in the proper place in the Bill, I shall. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Lucas

moved Amendment No. 31: Page 4, line 21, after ("otherwise;") insert— ("() in the case of the second and subsequent such plans, a statement in prescribed form of the outcome of the previous plan;"). The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 31 merely asks the Government to make sure that when a local authority draws up its second or subsequent plan, it should include an analysis of what went right or wrong with the first or previous plans.

It is always the wish of those involved in forecasting—I am sure that economists are not exempt from this—that previous forecasts should be forgotten if they are wrong and trumpeted if they are right. It is a bad practice to allow local authorities to behave in that way. It is important that everyone is honest about what did not work as well as what did. I hope that the noble Lord can confirm that this sort of analysis will be included in the plans to be specified by the Government. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

If I may get in before the economists do, after that temptation! The noble Lord is certainly ahead of the game. We are still struggling with education development plans in the first round. Now he is trying to prescribe what we should do in the second round.

The education development plans will be three year plans subject to annual monitoring against targets and the implementation of the LEAs' school improvement programme. This will inevitably involve consideration of the outcome of the plan each year and their contribution towards the overall progress of the plan. LEAs will be required to submit information annually to the department to support this monitoring. Approval of the education development plan can be suspended or withdrawn if an LEA has not shown satisfactory progress. The details of all of this are set out in the draft education development plan guidance and will be reflected in subsequent regulations. This will allow flexibility over the precise details and timescale. In addition, it will provide the chance for us to see how the whole process works in practice before the second round of EDPs and to learn from the experience. It will also avoid adding unnecessary detail to the Bill and creating further bureaucracy, a point I rather think the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, supported when he was in government. On that basis, I hope he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Peston

It is important that we should not confuse the word "plan" with the word "forecast". I speak as a notoriously bad forecaster. Indeed, if I may say to the noble Lord, if he ever hears me forecasting anything, I suggest he backs the opposite. I am much worse than random.

These are plans. One of the things we have to bear in mind, much as we do not like it, is that some of the plans will be ambitious—we hope they will be ambitious—and therefore they will achieve less than they are saying. Yet, having done that, they will still have achieved a great deal of good. I am totally with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and with my noble friend. When it comes to assessing outcomes, which is vital—there is no point in having plans if one does not assess outcomes—we should not take it for granted that the only acceptable outcome is one that hits the plan's target. Sometimes an ambitious plan will not be met. Equally, sometimes an unambitious plan—I hope that the Secretary of State at the time will say that the plan is not ambitious enough—will hit the target but it is still not good enough in terms of performance. To go back to the point made earlier about the difficulty involved, we should not jump to too easy a conclusion on any of this.

One thing I would say in favour of the previous government—I say it most sincerely—is that they suggested that we should not accept poor performance Is being inevitable in the system. Some of their philosophy, much as I disagreed with other parts of it, was that we should be ambitious over what we can achieve in schools, and in the worst of circumstances their philosophy was that we could still do better. I agreed with that very strongly. But in trying to do better, we may not do as well as we would like. We must not then undermine schools by saying, "You did try to do better; you actually improved; but you did not do as well as your plan". I hope that the noble Lord is not preparing a frame of thought—I am sure he is not—for saying that, "You did not hit the target. Therefore, you are like those stupid economists and their forecasting and we are going to tell you off'. I do not think that is the way we should approach the matter.

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Before the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, responds to the Minister, perhaps I may say how much I agreed with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Peston, said. I think it is important that people should have ambitious plans, if I may use that as a basket phrase; not ludicrously ambitious but not just saying, "We can achieve this and therefore this will be our target". One of the merits of the noble Lord's amendment is that it would bring to people's attention what has worked in areas.

The whole of the development plan approach is based to some extent on good practice in certain education authorities. Some education authorities are doing this already. Other education authorities have had extremely interesting plans afoot as to how to bring the lowest performing schools and pupils up to a more average standard. They have undertaken extremely interesting and varied plans and activities to achieve that result. If the approach suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, was adopted it would enable this learning from good practice to continue. I am sure that the Secretary of State would not slap down local authorities which had made a genuine attempt to achieve a good deal. Therefore, whether or not the requirement remains on the face of the Bill, I hope that the approach suggested by the noble Lord will be adopted. It bodes well for sharing good practice.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Perhaps I may respond to my noble friend Lord Peston because I think he made a valid point. I do not think I used the word "forecast" in what I said. I would not do so. I have quoted Robert Graves to the House before. In his poem Non Cogunt Astra he said: Come, live in now and occupy it well; Prediction's no alternative to forethought". That, I can grandly say, is certainly the view of the department.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, and my noble friend are right. Targets are not forecasts. They are not intended to be seen in that way. It is important that they should be ambitious as well as realistic and it is important that we should not degrade the education development planning process by allowing targets which do not achieve our national objectives for improving school standards. But that does not mean that we need to prescribe on the face of the Bill now what will happen in the second round of EDPs.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, made an important contribution. She suggested to the noble Lord that the amendment might be worth consideration and she gave the reasons for that. It would be a pity if the Government did not consider the amendment for the next stage of the Bill to see whether there is not something in it. The noble Lord said at the beginning of his remarks that my noble friend had moved on from the present to future years, as if that were an unfortunate thing to do. The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, who has great experience in these matters, suggested that the amendment might have great uses. I wonder whether the Minister could consider it before the next stage of the Bill to make quite sure that it is not a good idea to include reporting back on where there were successes and where there were not. That would improve good practice in local authorities and would enable them to share with one another what they had achieved. To me that sounds absolutely excellent. I am sorry that the noble Lord the Minister pooh-poohed it a little.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I did not pooh-pooh it in the least. I referred to the draft education development plan guidance which talks about the annual monitoring of the three year plans against targets, the implementation of the school improvement programme and the consideration which that involves of the outcomes of the plan. That draft guidance will be reflected in subsequent regulations. There is no pooh-poohing at all of the sensible and forward looking thinking behind the noble Lord's amendment. It is just that the amendment is not necessary.

Lord Lucas

Nonetheless, I hope the noble Lord will bear in mind what the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, said. It seemed to be eminent good sense that there should be mechanisms for one local authority to learn from another. A local authority or LEA reporting in centrally to the DfEE and knowing what is happening in its own plan will not disseminate information between local authorities. As good practice is developed in one area it needs to be disseminated. There need to be mechanisms for that. I hope the noble Lord will bear that in mind. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Addington

moved Amendment No. 31A: Page 4, line 22, at end insert ('which shall include proposals for monitoring standards and exclusions by gender and ethnicity and for using evidence from such monitoring in order to raise standards"). The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 31A, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 31B and 33A. Amendment No. 38 has been removed from this grouping. These amendments are pleasantly straightforward, although the esoteric arguments we had earlier on may well colour some of the discussion we will have on them. Amendment No. 31 addresses a problem that has been recognised in virtually the whole education sector. Certain ethnic groups—for instance, white males from lower socio-economic groups (or working class groups as they used to be called in days gone by)—do badly in school and young males from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds tend to rank highly in the number of people who are excluded from school. Even if we do not want this provision on the face of the Bill, I look forward to the Minister giving some assurances that these issues will be looked at in the plans. Surely here is an opportunity to deal with one of the larger problems in our schools today, and that is the perception of a breakdown in discipline. I believe that is far more a perception than a reality. This is an opportunity to deal with the problem.

Amendment No. 31B asks for a very important provision to be put into the proposals, which is how these are to be achieved in certain areas. When one is dealing with such matters as discipline and performance in class, if one knows how these are to be achieved one will probably be able to allay a certain amount of public disquiet. In trying to reduce the number of exclusions, if one shows under what conditions pupils will be kept in schools, that may well prevent some panic measures which seem to occur in certain schools periodically. We all have had to listen to a great deal of parental reaction to very important matters such as a child being returned to school, and the ensuing arguments. This measure would provide people with information on issues that worry them.

As regards increasing inclusion of children with special educational needs within mainstream schools, that is a subject I know rather more about than I should. Over the past few years we have discussed this subject many times at a philosophical level. People do not know why certain pupils are not allowed in mainstream schools and why certain groups are asked to withdraw from them. Often one finds groups with special educational needs and individual parents fighting each other. Surely, if we have a clearer definition of what is in the plan, we shall once again be able to deal with this problem. It is a matter which takes up far too much time when people argue philosophically about things which are basically of a practical nature.

The last amendment is Amendment No. 33A, which also deals with special educational needs. It was said earlier in the discussion that there was probably a place in this Bill for special educational needs and for including a policy in the development plan. I suggest that those suggestions and plans could sit quite comfortably in Clause 6. I beg to move.

Lord Hardy of Wath

I would not disagree with the intentions which clearly inspire the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and his comments on this matter. I have two or three very brief observations to make. I believe that far too many young people are expelled from schools or suspended. Any steps which are taken to reduce that number are to be commended. The one anxiety that I have is based on my experience long ago as a senior schoolmaster and arises from conversations with former colleagues over the past decade or so. They have told me that they are over-burdened by bureaucratic demands. If one lets the bureaucrats loose and if the House were to approve this amendment, the bureaucratic burden may be increased more than it need be.

My main concern is with Amendment No. 31B. I entirely agree that, wherever possible, children should be brought into the mainstream of education and that is particularly the case with those who are physically disabled. It is good for such children and for their peers to work, live and enjoy life with those who are less fortunate than themselves. I have a reservation about schools for those who are not gifted mentally. Not far from my home there is a school which was established for the educationally subnormal. I knew it for many years while I was teaching. I kept in touch with it when it was in my constituency. It was, and is, the happiest school to be found in South Yorkshire. I believe that such a school gives rather more to those children than they might get in a mainstream school.

Indeed, on one recent visit I left that school in a state of very real anger that the previous administration required its results at GCSE to be published. Year after year the school was offering "nil, nil, nil" in the entry for GCSEs as though it were an appalling failure. I found that to be distasteful and disgusting. I remember raising the matter in the other place. But that particular burden may not apply. However, in that school, with dedicated staff and fine people supporting it, the children are happier and have a greater sense of confidence. They attain more than they would in any other circumstances. I would not wish such schools to be in any way affected by the belief that we should draw the children automatically into the mainstream where they would not enjoy the advantages that are available in a school of the kind I have mentioned. When my noble friends consider the amendment they will bear that kind of condition and consideration in mind.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Like my noble friend Lord Hardy, I very much sympathise with the thinking behind the amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. Let me deal with them in turn. Amendments Nos. 31A and 31B both deal with exclusions from school. That is certainly an issue that we are determined to tackle. Amendment No. 31A would include among annexes to education development plans proposals by LEAs to monitor standards and exclusions by gender and ethnicity and to use the evidence so obtained to raise standards.

Amendment No. 31 B would require the statement of proposals within the EDP to set out how an authority planned to improve attendance, reduce exclusions and increase the inclusion in mainstream schools of children with special educational needs. The noble Lord is quite right that truancy and exclusions result in educational disadvantage. Children stop learning and the wider community suffers because of the high levels of crime into which some truants and excluded pupils are drawn.

The Social Exclusion Unit published an important report on 11th May on truancy and social exclusion. That is available from the Printed Paper Office. It sets out how the Government intend to bring the level of truancy and exclusions down and to secure a better deal for all children.

That depends—and it comes back to the thrust of the amendment—on setting clear goals and allocating clear responsibilities. As the Social Exclusion Unit's report says, we propose to set national targets to reduce truancy and permanent and fixed-term exclusions. These will be set out in LEAs' education development plans following consultation with local authorities.

Speaking as an ex-chair of governors for many years of a comprehensive school, I am personally very well aware of the difficulty which headteachers and governors have in making decisions about exclusion and what happens to those who are excluded. It is always tempting for teachers to exclude disruptive children without paying adequate attention to where they will go.

Therefore, I refer Members of the Committee, including my noble friend Lord Hardy, to paragraph 15 of the draft guidance for LEAs on education development plans. It says, In planning for improvement in the three key areas, you should also reflect the following aspects in the priorities and/or the activities. There should be significant action in: improving standards in literacy and numeracy; raising standards attained by underachieving groups of pupils (gender, ethnicity. or background): particularly the underachievement of boys, where relevant; supporting pupils with special educational needs (SEN) and gifted and more able pupils;"— I should have quoted this passage to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, in connection with the previous amendment— supporting schools which are causing concern; supporting school self-review; disseminating good practice; and using information and communications technology". All these factors have to be considered and analysed by LEAs to support the drive to reduce truancy and exclusion and monitor and raise standards.

The result of all of this is that the draft guidance, subject to any further consultation that is necessary, will be reflected in regulations which, I hope the noble Lord will agree, will achieve the purpose of his amendments. We have to make it clear that the Government's response to the Green Paper would be linked to the availability of resources. Subject to that, I hope that our determination to deal with the problems which the noble Lord has identified is undiminished.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Baker of Dorking

I welcome some of what the Minister has just said. The Government are fashioning a policy to deal with exclusions. We all await with interest the specific recommendations, some of which have been outlined. The rise in exclusions has been due largely to the extension of the development of local management of schools. As the noble Lord, having been a school governor, will know, before LMS, exclusions had to go before local education authorities, which often overruled the views of the headmaster or headmistress and of the governing body because they were not keen to expel unruly pupils. Since that responsibility has moved to schools, there has been a substantial increase in the number of exclusions. That must be of concern. Although the Government may hope to reduce the number of exclusions, that may be difficult to achieve, despite some of the noble Lord's statements. A policy to deal with truancy is not the same as a policy to deal with exclusions. They are very different problems indeed.

On the question of exclusions, I hope that the Government will develop a series of policies which recognise the fact that it is almost too late to deal with unruly children at the ages of 12 to 14. Behavioural problems should be identified at a very much earlier age, at primary school. Remedial action should be taken then, possibly within the school. The most difficult children should, however, be removed from primary school to a special school. I have seen some such schools operating. They are exceptionally good. They take children whose behavioural problems have been identified early—even at the ages of five, six or seven—and provide helpful and constructive action to try to improve their behaviour. That is much better than merely leaving matters until the behaviour develops into an almost intractable problem at the age of 12 or 14. As the Government develop their plans in this area and their guidance to local authorities, I hope that they will take such considerations into account. I believe that exclusions can be reduced in the years to come only if action is taken at a much earlier stage of a child's development.

Baroness Blatch

I support my noble friend Lord Baker in what he has just said. I believe that Section 3 of the 1993 Act was devoted to special needs. I understand that the department is now updating that provision. Indeed, I have had a constructive meeting with the Minister, Estelle Morris, about it. That earlier provision identified five stages with regard to early intervention. Stages 1, 2 and 3 related not only to children with learning difficulties, but also to children with behavioural problems, which usually manifested themselves in learning difficulties because the one was very often the cause of the other. The intention was that in the first three stages schools should resort to their internal processes for dealing with difficult children. If, at the third stage, the problem was beyond the capabilities of the classroom teacher or the school, outside advice would be sought and the school would move to the fourth and fifth stages, during which help would be received from the LEA special needs department. I am not sure how effective the monitoring of that five-stage plan has been. I do not think that it has been changed in the new proposals.

I understood with feeling my noble friend's point about when a school has come to the end of its tether and the governing body has agreed to an exclusion, not wishing to undermine the head teacher or the teachers, but is then overruled by the LEA. The result is that everybody's authority is undermined. The child with the behavioural difficulties which are deemed to be beyond the control of the school is sent back into the classroom. The knock-on effect and result is that the good education of other children is very much disrupted. That conundrum needs to be addressed.

Perhaps I may refer to the pupil referral unit which I know best, that in my own local authority. It is not used simply to take children out of school and to keep them out of school; it is used so that children can be taken out of school for a period of time during which their problems can be assessed. The unit works with the school so that the pupil can then be readmitted. It has been most effective. However, I understand that the number of pupil referral units, and the number of places in them, are reducing.

This seems an inappropriate time at which to put in place an aggressive process to reduce the number of exclusions. Frankly, if there is a case for exclusion, there is a case for exclusion and help has to be given. The school and the classroom teacher need to be helped. If the number of places at pupil referral units is reducing, where can teachers and head teachers turn if they are asked to keep within targets which I understand are pretty rigorous? I understand that the number of exclusions is to be reduced by two-thirds by the year 2000. Schools can do that only with help and by the effective implementation of the policies. The earlier the intervention, the more effective the remedy.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I do not know whether I need to reply. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Baker, that the increase in exclusions has occurred substantially since the adoption of LMS. I was a chairman of governors before LMS, so perhaps I faced fewer and different problems from those facing governors and head teachers now. The noble Lord implied what the Government are saying: there ought to be some reduction in the number of exclusions. However, saying that there should be some reduction does not in any way reduce the need for pupil referral units, so I agree with the noble Baroness also.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

With due respect to my noble friend, perhaps I may add a couple of points. The Minister made a good point about the draft guidelines. They refer to raising standards for various groups of pupils, including those from ethnic minorities and white males, to take just two examples that we have used. However, that does not appear on the face of the Bill, but that is a different point.

Monitoring exclusions and attendances is a little different. With all due respect, I do not think that that appears in the draft guidelines. It is a new subject altogether. Therefore, I would be grateful if the Minister could consider whether provisions to that effect would make a useful contribution to achieving the purposes of the Bill. If so, perhaps such provisions could be introduced either on the face of the Bill or in some other way. As I understand the draft guidelines—the noble Lord can see that I have them with me; I have, indeed, read them—this is a new subject. The monitoring of attendances and exclusions is important in the context of improving standards.

The noble Lord, Lord Baker, was absolutely right when he spoke about the need for early intervention with regard to children who are difficult in school. Something like two out of three pupils who are permanently excluded from school never return to full-time education. They are being deprived of something which the Education Act 1944 said was their right. Indeed, most people who are interested in ordinary human rights would say that education was a right. We, in this country, say clearly that a child has a right to receive a suitable level of education. This is an extremely important point. As has been pointed out, exclusions are linked to levels of offending behaviour. The noble Lord's Government are interested in trying to repair that problem and other problems of exclusion. I am asking the noble Lord to reconsider those two subjects and whether suitable provisions might add something useful to the Bill.

Lord Northbourne

I rise briefly to support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Baker. I believe that all noble Lords will agree that early intervention is important. However, so far no one has mentioned the involvement of parents. It is not for me to rewrite the brief of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, but the Government have plans for the involvement of parents which I would have thought would be extremely important in this context. I urge that what is produced should include local authorities' plans for the involvement of parents to encourage them to support their children.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Lord, Lord Baker, is correct in saying that truancy is not the same as exclusion, although they were both dealt with at the same time by the Social Exclusion Unit. I believe that I can reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas. Paragraph 15 of the draft guidance does not include a reference to truancy and exclusion, but perhaps I should reread my introductory remarks which the noble Baroness may have missed: As the Social Exclusion Unit's report says, we propose to set national targets to reduce truancy and permanent and fixed-term exclusions. These will he set out in LEAs' education development plans following consultation with local authorities".

Lord Peston

Before my noble friend concludes, we are in agreement on a great many matters. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, spoke of exclusions. I speak with feeling on this matter since when I was a student I was excluded from seminars on macro-economics on the ground that I talked too much and no one else could get a word in. I am sure that most noble Lords find that very hard to believe.

While I agree with what has been said—I have read the remarks of the Social Exclusion Unit—I have a twofold fear. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, was right to remind the Committee about local management. We want to be supportive of teachers. I do not believe that teachers wish to exclude children if they are in any way educable. The problem is that if children are disruptive the cost is not borne by the teachers or indeed by any member of your Lordships' House but by the other children in the class. That is something that we should never forget.

I am aware of the rules under which the Government act. However, I am concerned about the belief that these problems may be solved without resources. I am not of the opinion that this problem can be solved by a free ride, if I may use that expression. Although I am totally supportive of my noble friend—he has struck exactly the right note—when we come to the practicalities of dealing with exclusion in particular it will not be a cheap option but will involve considerable expense. That is an expense that I support on the ground that I believe that in the end virtually everybody can be given a good education as long as the right circumstances are created and the right teachers are there. No one willingly gives up in this field, but we should not simply assume that this problem is caused by a bunch of incompetent teachers. I do not believe that for one moment.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Addington

This debate demonstrates the value of tabling probing amendments. We have managed to get nicely under the skin of this subject. As my noble friend Lady Thomas has demonstrated, we may be able to enhance this Bill by putting something into it. However, that is an argument for another time.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, that the amendment will increase the inclusion in mainstream schools of children with special educational needs. I do not believe that anyone involved in that field at any level is of the view that everybody should be included. I take that back. There are one or two but they are in a decreasing minority. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has pointed out, many children with special educational needs who are not dealt with end up with behavioural problems. It is very important that this matter is dealt with early. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, said that it was important that these matters should be taken into account.

These amendments are all about trying to obtain information and demonstrating how it is to be used. I hope that the Committee has benefited from this discussion and that, in light of the information that has been drawn to the attention of the Government, we can return to this subject, if not these amendments, at a later stage with greater knowledge. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 31B not moved.]

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

moved Amendment No. 32: Page 4, line 30, leave out from ("regulations") to end of line 31. The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 32 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 33. At Second Reading many noble Lords, particularly on this side of the House, expressed doubt as to the excessive bureaucracy embodied in the Bill. The Minister's noble friend Lord McIntosh has said something to the same effect. I understand the dilemma faced by the Government, in that in the past there have been occasions when local authorities have been less than perfect in their management of education. In consequence the Government wish to have reserve powers to enable them to deal with local authorities who fail to fulfil their functions or have the desire to improve standards of education. They have decided to use the dirigiste method of holding power at the centre in the form of the Secretary of State and his department. Without making a judgment or political point on this matter, this is in total contrast to the stance of the previous government. Faced with the same problem of local authorities which failed to fulfil their function, they decided to give schools more authority over budgets and everything. That was the essence of the grant-maintained schools policy. This amendment is designed to question the Government's reliance on bureaucracy.

I emphasise that the Government have a choice in this matter. One can follow the grant-maintained approach, which the Government reject under this Bill, or use the bureaucracy at the centre. There can be no doubt that the object of both—I say this for the third time—is to deal with a problem that has bedevilled English education, namely, that some local authorities are not as good as others.

Under this clause, in the end every local education authority development plan coming from the 24,000 schools in England will be referred to the department and considered by officials, and the Secretary of State will make a judgment upon them. (I shall say more about that when we come to Clause 7.)

I do not wish to insult or question the Minister, her department or the galaxy of talented civil servants who fill every chair in the corner of the Chamber, but having had almost 35 years' experience of education, some of it spent dealing with the Minister's department, I know that speed has never been the essence of that body. I speak from deep experience. Without casting any doubts on the Minister's ardour or that of her civil servants, I have serious doubts whether the department, given its present size and resources, is capable of making a meaningful and testing contribution to the education development plans to be produced by every school in the country.

I accept the difficult position of the Minister in relation to some local authorities. I am not saying that the local authorities should be left in total charge. I provide two more easily accessible judgments on these education development plans. My first concerns the inspectorate. The inspectorate has looked at these schools, studied them and written reports upon them. The inspectorate, under Chris Woodhead, has contributed enormously over the past few years to the improvement of standards, to the extent that they have occurred, in English education. It has done an enormous amount of work and has a mass of evidence. The inspectorate should be the first port of call. My second approach involves governors of schools. Governors are responsible people. Later in this Bill great emphasis is placed on the control of governors and the type of governors to be appointed. I believe that they would also be good judges of the education development plans. Those people know the schools and know the areas. They are much better groups to judge the effectiveness of EDPs than the Secretary of State and his cohorts of civil servants, not very large cohorts.

I make no criticism of the department. In England and particularly in the Department for Education and Employment, we have never had the traditions and skills of a continental state which made it its business to judge from the centre every part of the administrative system of the state. England has never had a system of prefects or intendants. The French, who run a system rather like the Minister suggests where the central department of education judges individual schools, were first taught that by Napoleon in 1799. Therefore, they have a tradition of almost 200 years of that. The tradition of the Napoleonic civil service has not governed the Department for Education and Employment. Nor, I emphasise, is speed the essence of the French administrative system, as the English lorry drivers discovered. I fear that the experience of English schools and their EDPs in relation to the Department for Education and Employment will be the same as the experience of the English lorry drivers with the equivalent French department with which they have to deal.

Therefore, I commend this amendment to the Committee because I believe that the Government are making a mistake. I understand why they are doing it. I cannot understand why they do not like grant-maintained schools, but the Minister need not explain that to me. The Government are wrong but the hammer which they are using to crush that multitude of nuts will be very slow and not very effective. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone

Amendment No. 32 would remove the requirement for EDPs to be approved by the Secretary of State, as set out in Clause 7.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, for saying that he understands our dilemma and that the Government should ensure that the plans are adequate. That is the Government's view. I do not wish to imply in any way that because the Government feel that something as central to our standards and objectives should come back to the department that we want to judge every single part of the system and require LEAs to report on every aspect of what they do. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, was drawn into flights of fancy when he drew comparisons with systems which exist in France and elsewhere on the Continent.

EDPs are a key mechanism in our drive to raise standards in schools. As such, it is necessary that LEAs should produce plans that are of sufficiently high quality to make a real contribution to the improvement of schools' performance. Likewise, it is just as important that when LEAs have implemented their plans, they should monitor how schools are performing and where there is a discrepancy between the plans and schools' actual performance, authorities should take appropriate action to put that right, if necessary by seeking the Secretary of State's approval for a suitably modified plan.

Perhaps I may clarify one matter. The noble Lord implied that EDPs are produced by schools and not by LEAs. It is of course the LEAs which will do that. I am glad that the noble Lord is nodding and is clear about that because he said something which made me a little worried that he had misunderstood the position.

The amendment would remove the responsibility of LEAs to produce EDPs of acceptable quality and to ensure that their plans, in being implemented, were adapted as necessary to maintain the drive to boost the performance of schools. The EDP would effectively be neutered by this amendment, relegated from being a means through which LEAs could help schools to make a real impact on the performance and achievement of children to a mere statement of good intentions. I am sure that the noble Lord does not want it relegated in that way.

The Secretary of State's powers to consider EDPs, to judge their quality and to take appropriate decisions in approving, rejecting or modifying them or in withdrawing his approval, will be crucial to the effectiveness of them. To remove those powers would represent a lost opportunity to raise standards of achievement.

The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, questioned whether the department can examine LEAs' EDPs. He has thrown some doubt on whether there are enough officials to support that work and whether they have the skills to do so. I hope that he will have confidence and be a little more optimistic about the quality of work done in the department and its ability to do something which we believe is extremely important in raising standards.

Amendment No. 33 would require LEAs to publish and send their draft EDPs to the Chief Inspector of Schools for England and the governors of all schools affected by the plan. That would involve an unnecessary exercise in bureaucracy and additional cost, both of which the noble Lord is rightly concerned to avoid. There would not be any benefit for schools or the Chief Inspector of Schools in doing that. LEAs are required to involve schools closely in the formulation of their EDPs. There must be a very deep dialogue between schools and their local authorities about that. That involvement means that schools will be able to enter into an exchange of views with their LEAs at the most significant stage of the development of the EDP. Sending the draft EDP to governors would be of little benefit after they had already engaged fully with LEAs in agreeing targets while the EDP was being prepared.

The prepared EDPs will, as a matter of course, be sent to the chief inspector. I hope that that piece of information is helpful to the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington. The Chief Inspector and his Office for Standards in Education will play an absolutely integral part in the approval process for EDPs. It will not be simply left to officials in the department. It will be a joint exercise. With the Chief Inspector, Ofsted will be invited to comment on all the EDPs. The Secretary of State will take those comments into account when deciding whether to approve the plans. In the light of that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Northbourne

It seems to me that the education development plan is an addition, as the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, said, which will give rise to additional work both in the department and the inspectorate and the LEAs. Does the noble Baroness have a figure for the additional number of employees and officials who will be required? Has a sum of money been allocated for the cost of that work?

Baroness Blackstone

I cannot give any specific figures. I do not know whether additional LEA staff will be needed to undertake that work. I should have thought that the work would be of such high priority for LEAs and, indeed, for Ofsted that they would find the staff from their existing resources to undertake that work. However, if they are unable to do so, I am sure that the department will be told.

However, EDPs are absolutely fundamental to the whole process of improving standards in our system. I believe that the LEAs are working very hard at this already. They are anxious to do the very best possible job. If additional resources are needed, I have no doubt that that will he reflected in the resource allocation to local authorities.

6 p.m.

Lord Skidelsky

I was rather surprised to hear the Minister say that if the Secretary of State is not required to approve an EDP it will simply become a statement of good intentions. Surely the Secretary of State has adequate powers to ensure that it is much more than a statement of good intentions, without being required to approve every plan. He will see the plans in any event and will have the power to criticise them either in public or in private. Indeed, the Secretary of State will have considerable powers to close down LEAs if he feels that they are not doing a good job or if they are failing.

The Secretary of State also has powers over individual schools. In the light of the very considerable reserve powers which already exist, it is inconceivable that an LEA would draw up a plan without due care and attention that was simply a statement of good intentions. They will be serious plans and will be scrutinised. Why do the Government need to insert the specific power that each EDP has to be approved by the Secretary of State when he can actually influence them in a variety of other ways?

Lord Dearing

The Minister will doubtless wish to respond to that point. However, I have a few comments to make. I welcome the assurance that Ofsted will be inspecting. However, as one who for many years was on the receiving end of Whitehall, I know the immense frustration caused by long delays in getting decisions; and, indeed, the frustrations caused by interplay especially when, if a plan is not approved, there has to be further consultation with the schools.

I have seen the consequences in Japan of strong central control and vast mounds of paper slowing down all action. In pursuing this clause, I hope that the Government will ensure that there are procedures which require decisions to be made quickly.

Baroness Blackstone

Perhaps I may respond immediately to the noble Lord, Lord Dearing. It would, of course, be extremely unfortunate if there were to be very long delays in approving these plans. As I keep repeating, they are central to everything that the Government want to do to ensure that standards in our schools improve. Perhaps it would be helpful if I made clear that the standards and effectiveness unit of the DfEE has put together teams of senior education advisers precisely to work with LEAs on these plans. Those advisers are drawn from schools, from LEAs and from Ofsted and they are organised on a regional basis. They will also work very closely with Ofsted and with senior inspectors in both challenging and supporting LEAs as they develop these plans. We want an amicable partnership between all the parties who wish jointly to share this approach to raising standards.

The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, said that we do not really need the power on the face of the Bill. I think that it is right for us to have this power. It will enable the Secretary of State to ensure that EDPs are of the highest possible quality, given their centrality to our policies. Perhaps I may respond to the noble Lord's suggestion that the Secretary of State already has the power to close down LEAs. That may be true, but it would be a very draconian action to take just because an EDP did not reflect the kind of quality that we all want to see.

LEAs already undertake a great deal of planning. We want them to refocus their activities on improving standards. Therefore, I do not believe that there ought to be huge additional staffing costs. It is a matter of how they use their resources on something which is a very high priority matter for them, for us, for schools and for parents and pupils. Having further explained the situation, I say again that I very much hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Swinfen

Can the Minister tell the Committee how many LEAs there are? Further, can she tell us whether all the EDPs will be coming in for the Minister's consideration and approval at the same time of year, or will they be spread throughout the year? I ask that question because I suspect that many plans will be submitted at the same time. Therefore, there will surely be quite a long delay as regards the approval of some of them.

Baroness Blackstone

EDPs will come in over a relatively short period of time. That is part of our wish to get on with ensuring that there is no delay in trying to do something about improving standards right across the system. I should like Members of the Committee to be a little more confident as regards the Government's ability to deliver a reasonably quick response. Indeed, that is most important. The Government will ensure that the resources are available to provide the answers to the 150 LEAs which will send in their plans.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

I am still quite concerned about the matter. Perhaps I may emphasise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, which reflected mine; namely, that the response must be quick. That is the essence of the matter. Perhaps I may outline my worries. First, there is no mention of Clause 6 in the financial memorandum. Either there are people at the DfEE who will receive 150 schemes who presently have time on their hands or, alternatively, greater resources will have to be found.

The plans are quite complex. Perhaps I should explain them. The Minister thought that I did not understand them so it is quite possible that some noble Lords may not. Each school prepares a plan and the LEA co-ordinates it. From my experience of administration I know that when a plan is to be judged the officials in the department will inevitably have to look at some of the individual schools. If an LEA prepares a plan which the department finds inadequate, the latter will have to say why it is inadequate. The department will then have to look at the bricks which make up the house; in other words, it will have to do a survey. No surveyor goes round a house, just looks at it and then decides whether or not it looks good or bad. Indeed, he will tap individual bricks and look under the floorboards, because that is where he may find the smell.

If the job is done properly, we are talking about an enormous task. Therefore, I am worried about the money and about the detail. I am also puzzled by what the Minister said about the inspectorate. The inspectorate will have to look at the plan as, indeed, will the governors. I was not suggesting that we should just leave them as bland statements; I was asking that the inspectorate should be used to judge them because I believed, and still believe, that that would be more effective than the department undertaking the task.

In summary, there is no money for this, either for the LEAs or the department. It will not be just a matter of a cursory look. Indeed, from her own academic life the Minister knows all about looking at plans which may be found to be inadequate and have to be sent back. The LEA will not say, "Thank you Baroness", and touch its forelock like the natives did to the bwana in the woods in the old imperial days. It will question the decision. The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, and I say that the process must be quick. The department will have to enter into such detail.

I believe that the Minister is being very optimistic. My experience is the same as that of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, and he was closer to the engine room than I have been. Indeed, the engine sometimes ticks very slowly. Therefore, I fear that my worries remain.

Baroness Blackstone

I am an optimist. Indeed, life would be pretty miserable for all of us if we did not have some optimism about the changes that we want to make and the wish to make progress in everything we do. I respond again because I am a little worried. I believe that the noble Lord is confused about how the EDPs will be prepared. It is not a matter of each school preparing a plan individually. The LEA will, of course, have discussions with every school about its targets. However, it is the LEA which will be preparing the plan.

The noble Lord suggests that we will not have enough officials to go round. However, officials are working on a whole range of other tasks at the moment. For or example, they have been working on 150 early years development plans which have been provided by local education authorities to fulfil our commitment to expanding nursery education. They turned those round in six weeks. That is a pretty good record. Some of the officials who worked on that will be available to work on EDPs. Some of the officials supporting Ministers in taking two major Bills through Parliament will be able to work on EDPs. Heaven forbid that anyone should touch forelocks over this, but let us be a little more optimistic and less worried about long delays than the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington.

Baroness Blatch

The noble Baroness is optimistic. That is good, for if she is not optimistic heaven help us all. My local authority has over 300 schools. The negotiations with every school should be based on the progress of each child within a school. That is the way the plan is built up. If this exercise is to be meaningful, it will involve considerable work even in terms of getting around the large counties such as Kent, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and my own authority in Cambridgeshire. The negotiations will involve many men and women hours. Then the plans have to b drawn up. That is a relentless process. Plans are sent to the department and if the department does not like them they are returned. If the DfEE is turning every development plan round in six weeks, it is not doing its job properly. This exercise must be based on the premise of improving educational standards. Then there is the monitoring of that.

The noble Baroness knows that the financial memorandum contains not one single pound extra for education authorities. The noble Baroness told my noble friend Lord Pilkington that many advisers have provided support to the DfEE. How many staff are now in the DfEE as opposed to the number who were in post on I st April last year? This measure constitutes work those staff do not do now but which they will have to do year on year in the future.

The DfEE may have the capacity to take this extra work in its stride. If that capacity exists, that is good as it will not cost the state and the taxpayer another penny. However, I can tell the noble Baroness now that local authorities do not have the capacity in their budgets to take on a whole new administrative burden. The noble Baroness may be optimistic about her department, but she has already said today that the costs of the measure will have to be met from existing resources. Every pound taken from existing resources is a pound that is not spent on the education of children in the classroom. If that cost is not met by the Government, a confidence trick is being played on local authorities. I cannot say that they will share the noble Baroness's optimism.

6.15 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

Much work has been undertaken in the DfEE since the new Government came to power because we regard education as our top priority. There have been many initiatives, most of which I believe have been widely welcomed by the public, parents and many others. I put on record my gratitude to officials in the DfEE for their enormous support in getting this work done. As I said, the early years development plans being turned round in six weeks is a good example of that.

I believe that the noble Baroness is being unduly pessimistic about LEAs. Of course we recognise that this measure constitutes additional work for LEAs. We have reached the end of the consultation period on EDPs. A large number of draft EDPs have already been s submitted by LEAs. There is no suggestion that people are dragging their feet and holding back. We have a timetable for completing this work which has been agreed with local education authorities. I am sure that, like us, they will want to keep to that. It is an iterative process in which we are working together. There will also be a two-stage process for submission which will perhaps make things a little easier. I hope that the Members of the Committee on the opposite Benches will have more faith. I am sure that the work that local authorities will carry out on this important task and the work of officials and members of Ofsted will justify having that faith.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

I am puzzled to hear that so much work has been done when the Bill has not yet become an Act. We have been assured by the noble Baroness's colleague that all kinds of measures are to be included. Earlier today the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, assured us that the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, would receive a letter. However, that would appear to be of total irrelevance to some authorities. I am sorry about that as I believe there are people in this Chamber, including the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, in particular, who could contribute to the noble Baroness's work. I hope authorities which have submitted plans will bear in mind any subsequent work that is done.

That said, I am not an optimist. I hesitate to say to someone of the noble Baroness's experience, sophistication and power that I think there is a degree of innocence in the way she approaches the matter. She is a poor little innocent in a savage world and she has my sympathy. However, she can be assured that, week after week, I and my colleagues will ask how many education development plans the department has dealt with. Believe me, that galaxy of talent will have its work questioned. I hope the noble Baroness can tell me how the EDPs have been submitted when, as I understand it, the consultation is not yet over. How many have been submitted?

Baroness Blackstone

I did not say that EDPs have been submitted; I referred to draft EDPs which are a totally different matter. The date for submission of EDPs is not until the end of the year. I hope that that is helpful.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

I advise those who submit drafts that if they want a good draft it is best to have all the evidence in front of them or a draft just becomes a dream. I do not wish to continue this discussion any longer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 33 and 33A not moved.]

Lord Lucas

moved Amendment No. 34: Page 4, line 35, at end insert— ("() The authority shall collect such information for the purposes of preparing an education development plan in such form as may be prescribed, and shall make such information available to others subject to such conditions as may be prescribed."). The noble Lord said: This amendment is founded in two sets of experiences. One is in asking schools how they know that their pupils and their teachers are doing as well as they can. The answers fall on a scale from, "We talk about it among ourselves and really chat quite a lot", and at the other end of the scale, "We measure." I have been so impressed by the results coming from the schools that measure that I have become a convert to the use of information within education.

I hope that I may draw a particular example to the Minister's attention. She may have come across Greenhead Sixth Form College in Huddersfield which has taken measurement further and for longer than most other schools, certainly those in the state system. The state system is generally ahead of the private system in this area. I have spent time with the English department in that college. Those in the English department remember being up in arms about this mad, physicist scheme for measuring everything and looking at statistics and how a child is doing on one aspect compared with another. However, after a year or two of that, they discovered what an extraordinary difference it made to their experience of teaching their kids. They only have the kids for two years and they could get hold of them early on and see what was going wrong or right with the child and build on it right from the first few weeks that the child was there. That really gave them a feeling of being able to look after the individual children who were coming through their care and achieve much more with them than they were able to do when they did not have the measurements in front of them.

They also found that they could improve their own individual performances as teachers because they could understand what kind of thing they were doing badly and what aspect of teaching one teacher was better at than another. They could help each other to find new ways of overcoming problems and doing better with children who were performing relatively badly. The result is that the college, which has a broad and really very ordinary intake, produces the most extraordinary results at A-level. There is enormous value to be had by using information if you can get the right information in the right way.

The second experience was that of being in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and looking at what had happened with BSE. There, right from the early days of the epidemic, we had a team of excellent scientists doing excellent work. They collected a lot of information but they kept it all to themselves. Their capacity for analysing that information was limited by their numbers and their own intellectual experience and background.

When in the last year or two of our Government we started to release this information to others, we were astonished by the speed and variety of responses and at all the new understandings which suddenly became available to us.

There was a feeling in the department that somehow it would be disrespectful to the scientists to question their judgment in interpreting the statistics or the quality of what they were producing. Indeed, in both circumstances we would have been wrong to do so. Nonetheless, there was a great deal which we could have gained by releasing the information much more widely.

Looking at the performance of the [NEE in that respect, it is a great deal better than the performance of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food ever was, but it is not perfect. In particular, Ofsted has an enormous amount of information accumulating on how schools are performing in relation to each other and what their relative characteristics are. Ofsted produces occasional reports on that. But I do not find reports based on that data coming out of academia generally, and why not? Surely if that information were released we would see a great deal more benefit from it.

As regards the information which may become available from all the efforts which will be made by local authorities to plan for educational improvement, I ask the Government to ensure, first, that the information that is derived from that process is in a form which is useful to people who want to compare one system or initiative with another and to draw conclusions; and, secondly, that that information should be made widely available to anybody who can make use of it so that the best possible advantage is taken of all the good work and ideas which I hope will flow from the Government's initiative. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I hope that the noble Lord consulted his Front Bench before putting down that amendment. It is in direct contrast to the amendments that have just been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington.

The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, is very concerned by the amount of work which is involved in the submission of these education development plans. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is proposing an enormous increase in the amount of information which should be prepared in a specified form and available for further circulation.

I have spent a lifetime as a survey researcher, so I am the last person to say that we should not have measurement wherever possible. That which is not measured in a real sense does not exist. But that is not to say that all the raw information which is used for the purposes of preparing an individual education development plan should be collected in such form as may be specified. That would mean that the Department for Education and Employment would have to specify all the information which different education authorities in different circumstances might need. It would ensure that anything that was collected for an individual education authority's specific need was included in the specification, otherwise the impact of this amendment would not be achieved.

In addition to my deep respect for measurement, I learnt in my business career something else which is called "data reduction". Data reduction means that you do not produce the raw data if you can make better sense of data which have been digested and analysed. We say in the draft guidance that local education authorities should indicate the broad results of their analysis of the information and show how it links with their proposals for action. We shall be able to get below the data by co-ordinating and exchanging available data within the department. That will avoid unduly imposing on local education authorities and asking for the same information twice.

We shall also be able to ask local education authorities for clarification and further details, if necessary, during the visits that our advisers will make to local education authorities to help them prepare and strengthen their plans. But to make all of the information available in a prescribed form, and to make it in such a way that it can be communicated between others—"others" presumably include academics as well as other education authorities—subject to such conditions as may be prescribed smacks to me of bureaucracy gone mad. I hope that the noble Lord will not pursue his amendment.

Lord Lucas

I am sorry that the noble Lord takes my amendment that way. I see no conflict between what I have proposed and what my noble friend Lord Pilkington was saying. I think that the noble Lord has put an interpretation on my amendment which is just not there.

I was suggesting that those parts of the data which the Government consider important should be collected in a particular way. That is something which the Government do extensively already; for instance, in specifying how data should be collected for the performance tables, in what is truancy, and so on. I am not saying that the contents of school meals should be specified down to every last chip. If the noble Lord has recently seen the health and safety manuals in schools he will realise how enormous these specifications can become.

That is not what I am suggesting. What I am suggesting, and what I hoped the noble Lord had understood, is that the data, which are central to the ability to co-ordinate and understand what is going on between one local authority and another, should be in a specified form. I did not envisage that that would amount to more than 10 or so data items. I cannot see that that would create a difficulty.

Baroness Blatch

I, too, do not see the inconsistency. First, it will not be a unique experience to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, either when in Government or Opposition, for a Member on his Back Benches to come up with an amendment that he has thought through and has put forward as is his legitimate right in this place.

But I do not take issue with my noble friend on this amendment. I have read this document carefully. My understanding is that this is some pretty standard information which is required in a set format. There are suggested formats. There is very specific, mandatory information: a table of targets for each maintained school; LEA context and audit; action to address school improvement priorities; resource information for the school improvement programme; a strategy for monitoring and evaluating its plan; and the LEA's consultation on the education development plan.

Perhaps I may link that to something the noble Baroness said earlier. When reference was made to the schools affected receiving a copy of the plan, the noble Baroness said that it was too expensive. So we have a rather secretive process; schools in those authorities about which this plan is devised will not receive copies of it. That seems extraordinary.

Ofsted was also linked with the proposal. My noble friend's previous amendment proposed that this should stop at Ofsted and the governors of schools, so as to cut out the massive bureaucracy beyond. The reply from the noble Baroness was that it would be too expensive to send copies to Ofsted and copies to the governors. So we are to believe that Ofsted will not receive copies and yet Ofsted will inspect LEAs. I suspect that one of the key pieces of information it will use in its inspection will be their educational development plans, the way in which they were implemented and the degree to which they achieved the outcomes, or not as the case may be. And that would form part of the base information on which Ofsted would carry out its inspection of LEAs. I have spent many years as a school governor. I should find it extraordinary to be told that I could not receive a copy of my own local education authority's plan.

I refer to my noble friend's point. Unless it is possible to make some judgment about one LEA vis-à-vis another—where the strengths and weaknesses are, and how the country is doing as a whole—the plans will not be worth the paper they are written on. The information must be in a relatively common format. We are now a mobile society. People move from one area to another. It is important that someone moving from Newcastle to Buckinghamshire is able to make sense of their local authority's education development plan and understand what is going on in both authorities. He should be in a position to make a judgment on it.

There is nothing inconsistent on this point. It is not over-bureaucratic. Those of us who oppose the massive bureaucracy have two difficulties. The first relates to how we should like the system to work. LEAs should produce education development plans. They should be ambitious for their children. They should be accountable. The local schools should be involved. Ofsted should be the body that measures both schools and local authorities against those plans. We do not believe that it is necessary to involve the Secretary of State. But if he is to be involved, it is important that whoever reads the information can make sense of it.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Skidelsky

The main purpose of my noble friend's amendment is to ensure the diffusion of good ideas throughout the system. (I am making a point; if the noble Lord will listen I shall be grateful.) I am sure that the Government will accept that as the right objective.

Perhaps this mechanism can be improved on. I am sure that there are other ways of accomplishing the objective. But what is the mechanism at present? Is there a mechanism in the Bill to ensure that good ideas from a local authority development plan can reach other local authorities? Is there a way in which ideas can circulate and improve the system?

I was disappointed that the Minister gave a blanket rejection of what my noble friend said, without acknowledging that his purpose was good and suggesting an alternative method of achieving it.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Without restricting the scope of what local authorities want to put into education development plans, this is not exactly the place for good ideas. These are development plans. They are designed to ensure that all local education authorities and schools concentrate on the improvement of standards.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, read out the mandatory information required in paragraph 19 on page 6 of the draft guidance. Perhaps I may read out paragraphs 17 and 18, which are relevant. They state: The supporting information you provide should underpin the proposals in Part 1 of the plan. Some of the supporting information must be included in mandatory annexes". That is what the noble Baroness read out. It continues: You may provide other information on an optional basis. The information required in Part 2 of the Plan should not be overburdensome. The [NEE does not require any information direct from schools and the information sought is similar to that which LEAs already collect. The information will dovetail closely with that required by OFSTED/Audit Commission for LEA inspections". That enables me to say what I omitted to say when I first responded to the amendment. In strictly comparable terms, we have a wealth of information available and coming on stream, including Ofsted, LEA and school inspection reports, Ofsted LEA profile information, and performance and assessment reports. It includes national curriculum data, examination results, bench-marking data, best value reviews of relevant services and many other sources of information. There is no shortage of information collected on a comparable basis. What is called for in the EDP report is the analysis, not the raw material, which is what is called for in the amendment.

On dissemination, there may be some misunderstanding. In response to an earlier amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said that the draft reports would not be made available to governors. Of course all schools will receive copies of their LEA's education plans. That is set out in the draft guidance, and will be set out, if necessary, in regulations under Clause 7(9).

Baroness Blatch

The suggestion in the amendment of my noble friend Lord Pilkington was that the plan should be submitted to Ofsted and to governing bodies. The amendment did not relate to the draft plan but to the plan. We shall read the Minister's reply in Hansard tomorrow. The noble Baroness said that it would be an expensive proposition to send copies to Ofsted and to the governing bodies affected by the plan. There was no reference at that stage to draft plans. The reference to draft plans came later when the noble Baroness said that draft plans had come already into the department and they would be updated with the definitive plans later in the year.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I saw my noble friend's speaking note and it referred to draft plans. But what is important is to repeat what I have just said. All schools will receive copies of their LEA's education development plans. That means that governors will be able to have access to them.

Lord Lucas

I find difficulty in trying to persuade the Minister about the virtue of consistency of information. The noble Lord may remember an earlier debate when we discussed inflation. We know today that our inflation rate is about 4 per cent.; and in America it is about 1 per cent. However, when considering the way in which those two indicators are composed, as regards the UK rate one can first take out taxes and interest rates and one then gets down to a rate of 2 per cent. If one takes out further indices of measurements, one gets down to 1 per cent. Unless the indicators of local authorities are compiled on the same basis, it becomes extremely difficult to understand how an example from one authority will apply to another. One needs a basic level, a bench-mark of consistency, in order to make the best of all the efforts which will be put into improving schools by individual local authorities.

We shall have to return to this matter, in a slightly different form, at a later stage of the Bill. The Government need to understand that introducing a measure of consistency at this stage will reap enormous dividends later. However, I see no point in trying to pursue the matter at this moment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Swinfen

moved Amendment No. 35: Page 4, line 39, at end insert— ("() social services departments;"). The noble Lord said: The noble Baroness, Lady David, whose name is first to the amendment, has asked me to apologise to the Committee. Unfortunately she had a long-standing engagement which she was unable to break. Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 in the name of my noble friend Lord Lucas are grouped with the amendment. I shall not speak to them; I shall leave that entirely to him.

The Children Act 1989 requires that social services departments produce, after consulting relevant agencies, children services plans covering all "children in need". The Department for Education and Employment and the Department of Health Joint Circular 13/94 states that, the services which meet the educational requirements of looked after children must feature prominently in these plans Despite that guidance, collaboration between education and social services departments is extremely ad hoc. Consequently the best interests of children in respect of their education are not being met. For example, 75 per cent. of looked after children leave school with no educational qualifications whatsoever.

This amendment seeks to enforce existing guidance and to ensure that educational departments consult social services departments in the preparation of education development plans. In addition, the social services departments are probably the departments most in touch with those families who have children with special educational needs of one kind or another, or those who are most likely to be excluded for reasons of poor or bad behaviour. It would be helpful. I am sure, to the education department to have advice in some instances from the social services department on what is happening outside school that the schools might be able to put right or which would have a bearing on the way in which they educated those children. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas

If I may, I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 36 and 37. I am principally interested at this stage in listening to what the Minister has to say about how she will address the particular points raised by these two amendments.

Amendment No. 36 suggests co-operation with the-, Further Education Funding Council, as the educational divide at 16 starts to be worn down with children indulging in vocational education earlier than that age, and greater co-operation, which I am glad to see, between further education colleges and eleven-to-sixteen schools and certainly eleven-to-eighteen schools. It seems to me that what the FEFC is up to has a bearing on eleven-to-sixteen education within an area, and that there should be some form of co-operation between the LEA and the FEFC in putting together plans for the improvement of education within an area. There may be much that further education colleges can contribute.

Amendment No. 37 deals with what one might call the London problem, although of course it exists at the boundaries of many other areas. Particularly in inner London, the ILEA never designed the pattern of religious education to be subdivided into boroughs. You can look at somewhere like Kensington and Chelsea, where four out of five of the secondary schools are Catholic and they therefore cater for many children coming from out of the borough while there are many children within the borough who do not wish to have a Catholic education and have to go out of the borough. Pimlico School, which is not unknown to certain members of the Government, is in Westminster, but only about 30 per cent. of its children come from Westminster. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, I think at Second Reading, complained about the effect that out-of-borough children were having on the description of his borough's schools. I find that rather a disappointing attitude. If you provide good education one should surely welcome children from out-of-borough; but there we are, and there is room for differences.

At least it is recognised that there is a considerable problem in asking an individual local authority to plan for its own children without recognising that in certain circumstances, particularly in inner London and, I imagine, in similar circumstances elsewhere, much of that provision will be undertaken by neighbouring local authorities and vice-versa. The local authority will be educating a lot of children for those neighbouring authorities and therefore will, perforce, he co-operative. I hope that the Government will say how they intend to encourage co-operation, rather than the sort of competition which the noble Lord, Lord Tope, seems to envisage between neighbouring boroughs.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Addington

The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, is very important, for the simple reason that it preaches the benefits of horizontal as opposed to vertical integration and that attention must be paid to matters outside the educational world. I am not altogether sure whether it is right to put it all in the Bill, but certainly the intention behind the amendment is something to which I think everybody involved in this field or in any other type of legislation should pay far more attention than any of us do.

Baroness Blackstone

Amendments Nos. 35, 36 and 37 extend the requirements as to whom LEAs should consult in preparing their education development plans. We have kept the requirements minimal so as to avoid unnecessary and overburdensome prescription. Under existing provisions in Clause 6(6), proposed statutory consultees whose views must be canvassed by LEAs in preparing their EDPs consist of the heads and governing bodies of all LEA-maintained schools, diocesan authorities and other appropriate persons.

The inclusion by name of the first two categories will be understood—at least I hope it will—and accepted on all sides of the Committee. EDPs should be prepared by LEAs in partnership with their schools, while diocesan bodies have a direct interest in how EDPs will affect church schools. Beyond this we really do not want to set out precisely whom LEAs should consult. It is bound to vary from local authority to local authority, and we think that LEAs should be free to take account of local circumstances and needs without having this set out in legislation.

We have set out in the draft EDP guidance what further consultation LEAs ought to consider. This includes social services and other relevant educational institutions such as the Further Education Funding Council. However, I believe that it is very important, particularly for pupils with special educational needs, that LEAs and social services departments should consult each other. I intend therefore to consider this point further, and so I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, and to my noble friend Lady David for raising this matter. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that of course we want to strengthen cross-service inter-agency work, and, where appropriate, we will try to improve consultation with social services departments. EDPs provide a very special and unique opportunity for LEAs to forge local partnerships and to agree on what needs to be done to drive up performance, and who will do it.

Perhaps I may also say to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that we are trying to encourage a great deal more contact than existed under the previous administration between the FEFC and particularly its regional committees and the local education authorities in their areas, because we think co-operation here is also important.

LEAs will also be required, as part of their audit within their EDP, to analyse the numbers of pupils with special educational needs and to include significant action to support such pupils in their school improvement programme. We also expect LEAs to consult neighbouring LEAs where it is appropriate when they are preparing their EDPs. However, it would be unduly prescriptive to specify on the face of the Bill too many additional consultees. For some LEAs additional consultees will of course need to include neighbouring LEAs, but this may be rather less appropriate for others. We think that LEAs will be best placed to decide who else they ought to be consulting during the consultation process.

I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that local authorities will not be able to circumvent either our or his expectations on this point, since the EDP will contain information about the nature of the consultation process, including what responses have been received. That LEAs have consulted appropriately, and with their neighbours where that would be proper, will certainly be one of the considerations the Secretary of State will bear in mind in deciding whether to approve an EDP. Guidance on EDPs will make it clear that neighbouring LEAs are among the bodies which may be included as consultees but, as I have said, we do not want to impose too many additional administrative burdens on the LEAs on the issue of consultation, irrespective of whether the circumstances are right. In view of what I have said, I very much hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Swinfen

I thank the Minister for what she has said. I will read her reply very carefully, as will my noble friend Lady David. We will consider whether it is necessary to come back at a later stage of the Bill, but in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 not moved.]

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

moved Amendment No. 38: Page 4, line 43, at end insert— ("() No education development plan prepared under this section shall include proposals to—

  1. (a) discontinue sixth form provision at a particular school;
  2. (b) introduce pupils of the opposite sex into any age group or teaching group in a particular school in which that school currently offers single sex education; or
  3. (c) eliminate selection by ability, in part or in whole,
unless the proposals submitted within the education development plan have previously been accepted by the governing body and parents of the school concerned."). The noble Lord said: These issues, as noble Lords opposite will know, are very sensitive. School communities take many years to form themselves, and part of their achievement lies in the traditions of the past and the manner in which those are grown. To destroy those traditions often means the destruction of a good school. It has happened many times in the past 30 or 40 years.

Let me examine each of the issues. First, let me take the sixth form. As noble Lords opposite may remember, there was an intense battle fought some years ago over a school in London, the Oratory school—which I am told is so popular that parents go long distances across London in order to send their children there. So it obviously had some value. There was a proposal from the local authority to discontinue the sixth form. The then headmaster fought a long battle against his own diocesan authorities and the local authority. With the help of his trustees, his sixth form was retained. I think we would all acknowledge, especially those parents who take long trips across London, that it was a worthwhile battle. The school was, and remains, excellent. I point to that as one example of what can happen if you try to behead a school.

Secondly, I turn to the matter of single sex education, regarded by people who choose such schools—in many cases for their daughters—as particularly important. To destroy that tradition breaks a pattern which parents have deliberately chosen. Thirdly—and I realise that this will raise opposition from noble Lords opposite—a school develops its character by the manner in which it selects its pupils and chooses its staff.

I am suggesting, not that changes cannot be made—I emphasise that point—but that in the case of these particular issues, equity and common justice demand that the governing body and the parents of the school concerned are consulted. Ballots are to be in vogue later in the Bill. I assume that the Government believe in consulting parents. I therefore hope that the Government will give attention to these matters. We on this side feel strongly about them and shall be very interested in the Minister's reply. I beg to move.

Lord Swinfen

I speak briefly in support of the amendment, in particular on the question of single sex schools. Members of certain religious communities specifically forbid their daughters to mix with the opposite sex without being properly chaperoned. That is of particular significance in relation to single sex schools. It would cause considerable distress to members of those religious communities were they to be forced to send their daughters to mixed schools.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

I support the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, for tabling the amendment. I have visited schools, as, I am sure, have other noble Lords, where those from religious minorities find suitable places particularly for their daughters. I know that there are varied views on whether schools should be of mixed or single gender. I think the received wisdom is that, on the whole, girls flourish in schools that provide for their gender only and that boys do not do so well in schools for their gender alone. Nevertheless, the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, is important.

Lord Belstead

Perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness a question. I am afraid I am revealing that I have not done my homework in the way that I should. Am I right in thinking that the three limbs of the amendment—that an educational development plan shall not include proposals unless the governing body and parents of the school concerned have been consulted if it affects the discontinuation of the sixth form; if it introduces pupils of the opposite sex into any age group; or if it eliminates, say, selection by ability—are presently part and parcel of the changing of the character of a school and that therefore those issues presently fall under the well-tried provisions of public protestation if necessary and final decision by the Secretary of State? I apologise if I have got the matter wrong.

Secondly, the question of Church schools has been raised. What about the question of transfer age? Transfer age may be 11 or, in a middle school system, 11 and 14. That has affected the character of schools. Is a different procedure envisaged under Clause 6?

Thirdly—and this possibly reveals the reason for my suspicion—what does "or otherwise" mean in line 21 on page 4? Subsection (2) of Clause 6 states: An education development plan shall consist of … proposals for developing their provision of education for children in their area … by … raising the standards … or … improving the performance of such schools, or otherwise". What does that mean?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I hope that I can set the minds of noble Lords and the right reverend Prelate at rest fairly rapidly. It is the Government's intention to be much more strict than this amendment would provide. Perhaps I may ask noble Lords to look at the wording of the amendment, and I shall read out what is the Government's intention.

It is the Government's intention that no education development plan prepared under this clause shall include proposals to discontinue sixth form provision at a particular school, introduce pupils of the opposite sex into any age group or teaching group in a particular school in which that school currently offers single-sex education, or eliminate selection by ability in part or in whole. Period. Not whether or not the education development plan has been accepted by the governing body and the parents of the school concerned—but period. Under no circumstances will an education development plan do any of those things. That is not the purpose of education development plans. The plans are about raising standards.

Separate legislation already exists, or is planned in this Bill, regarding school organisation. It is referred to in Clause 25, which provides for the school organisation plan, and later in Clauses 94 and 98 dealing with the character of a school. That is not what education development plans are for. Noble Lords can be entirely assured that none of these issues will be included in them.

Baroness Blatch

That is a pretty unequivocal answer. However, I want to press the noble Lord further so that we get it absolutely, unequivocally, on the face of the Bill. If a local education authority took the view that it would be an educationally sound proposition to rationalise sixth form education and not have sixth forms in schools but another form of provision; or if its view was that co-education was preferable because it believed that educationally it was more sound, or that selection by ability was thwarting good education under that local authority, is the noble Lord saying that, even if it had come to those views on educational grounds, that would have no place whatever in an education development plan?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I hope that local authorities would never come to those views except on educational grounds. Yes, it would not occur in an education development plan. If they took that view, then they would make other proposals which are dealt with in other legislation and later in this Bill.

In direct response to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, the statement of proposals is about developing education, first, by raising standards, and secondly, by improving performance. Those are non-exclusive examples, and if the LEA has other ideas for raising standards and improving performance then it can include them— but not about organisation, not about selection, not about single sex schools, not about selection by ability.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

Would the Minister like to give me an assurance that he would be prepared to put on the face of the Bill in the clauses regarding school organisation committees that they would not break the conditions in this amendment?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

If the noble Lord cares to put down an amendment to Clause 25 or a later clause, we shall consider it. But it is hardly for me to anticipate what will happen in the debate on those later clauses.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

I should like to put this on the face of the Bill and therefore I wish to ask the opinion of the Committee.

7 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 38) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 53; Not-Contents, 110.

Division No. 1
Annaly, L. McColl of Duiwich, L.
Ashborne, L. McConnell, L.
Baker of Dorking, L. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L
Belstead, L. Mancroft, L.
Blatch, B. Marlesford, L.
Bridgeman, V. Masham of Ilton, B.
Butterworth, L. Mountevans, L.
Byford, B. [Teller.] Naseby, L.
Cadman, L. Noel-Buxton, L.
Caithness, E. Northesk, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Oxfuird, V.
Chesham, L. Palmer, L.
Coleridge, L. Patten, L.
Cross, V. Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Dundonald, E. Rankeillour, L.
Elton, L. Renton, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Roberts of Conwy, L.
Greenway, L. Seccombe, B. [Teller.]
Harlech, L. Selkirk of Douglas, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Sharples, B.
Howell of Guildford, L. Skidelsky, L.
Inglewood, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Keyes, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Lauderdale, E. Swinfen, L.
Lucas, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Trenchard, V.
Young, B.
Acton, L. Dixon, L.
Addington, L. Donoughue, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Dormand of Easington, L.
Berkeley, L. Eatwell, L.
Blackstone, B. Elis-Thomas, L.
Blease, L. Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Borrie, L. Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Gallacher, L.
Burlison, L. Geraint, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. Gilbert, L.
Carlisle, E. Gladwin of Clee, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.] Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B. Graham of Edmonton, L.
David, B. Grantchester, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. Gregson, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Grenfell, L.
Dearing, L. Hampton, L.
Desai, L. Hamwee, B.
Hardie, L. Parry, L.
Hardy of Wath, L. Perry of Walton, L.
Haskel, L. Peston, L.
Hayman, B. Pitkeathley, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Prys-Davies, L.
Hollick, L. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Hoyle, L. Razzall, L.
Hughes, L. Rendell of Babergh, B.
Hughes of Woodside, L. Richard, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Hunt of Kings Heath, L. Rix, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.] Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Sandberg, L.
Islwyn, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. Serota, B.
Jeger, B. Sewel, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Shannon, E.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B. Shepherd, L.
Kilbracken, L. Simon, V.
Kirkhill, L. Slim, V.
Kirkwood, L. Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Lockwood, B. Steel of Aikwood, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L. Stone of Blackheath, L.
Lovell-Davis, L. Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L [Teller.] Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
McNair, L. Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Maddock, B. Tope, L.
Mallalieu, B. Turner of Camden, B.
Mar and Kellie, E. Varley, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L. Walker of Doncaster, L.
Milner of Leeds, L. Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Mishcon, L. Weatherill, L.
Molloy, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Monkswell, L. Whaddon, L.
Montague of Oxford, L. Whitty, L.
Orme, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

7.8 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 39 and 40 not moved.]

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Approval, modification and review of statement of proposals]:

Lord Lucas

moved Amendment No. 41: Page 5, line 9, after ("shall") insert ("publish it and"). The noble Lord said: With this amendment I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 42, 43 and 44. It is a loose group of fairly minor amendments. Amendment No. 41 suggests that when the local authority sends an education development plan to the Secretary of State, at that point it should become a public document. The public should not have to wait until the Secretary of State has had his say before knowing what the local education authority proposes. They should have it in front of them, as the Secretary of State has it in front of him or her. The public should therefore not find themselves in the position where the plan has gone through all the approval procedures and has been set in concrete before the public have a chance to chirp up and say what they think about it. It would be advantageous to the progress of democracy and the production of a plan which will command local support generally if it is made available at that stage. I am not suggesting that it should be published in the thousands and sent round to everybody. However, it should be made available. A couple of copies could be sent to local newspapers and copies made available in council offices. Something on those lines would be useful so that people pick up what is going on if they wish.

Amendment No. 42 deals with the position where a local authority has taken advantage of this part of the section to propose modifications to the plan. There is nothing in the Bill as it stands which limits the extent of the modifications and they could be extremely wide-ranging. Amendment No. 42 simply suggests that the local education authority should consult such persons as it considers appropriate. Therefore, if consultation is appropriate, it should be undertaken. At the moment there is no requirement whatever for consultation, however wide-ranging the modifications may be.

Amendments Nos. 43 and 44 are probably unnecessary, but it seemed to me that the plan should be provided to anybody who asks for it and not just to a prescribed list of people who are entitled to have it. I doubt the accuracy of my drafting, but that is the intention behind the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Tope

It is perhaps time I joined the debate and I start by embarrassing the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, by saying that I agree with everything he said, including his comments in relation to his drafting on Amendments Nos. 43 and 44.

The intentions behind the amendments are obviously right and I am sure that they will be fulfilled. I was considering under what circumstances it may be possible for a local education authority to produce an education development plan and not publish it. At some stage it will be approved by the education committee. That alone will make it a public document. I cannot conceive of an LEA refusing to allow people to see it, so I am sure that it will be published. It certainly should be published and I cannot conceive of circumstances under which that would not happen.

Amendment No. 42 refers to the consultation, and of course that is right. Again, I cannot envisage circumstances under which that would not happen anyway. I wonder—it is for the Minister to reply and not for me—whether it is necessary for the amendment to be on the face of the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, was rightly a little bit more uncertain about Amendments Nos. 43 and 44, but again I agree with their intention. It is of course right that everyone who wishes to have a copy of either the summary or the full plan should have it. I would have thought—I am not a legal expert—given that it is a local authority document, people will be entitled to obtain copies under the access to information Act anyway.

On those grounds, though I support entirely what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said, and the intentions behind the amendments, I suspect that the Minister is about to tell us that they are unnecessary. On this occasion, if that is what we are told, I have to say that I agree.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, answered the point for me; there does not remain much more for me to say.

Amendment No. 41 would require LEAs, having consulted on and prepared their education development plans, to publish them prior to submitting them to the Secretary of State for his approval. I fear that the likely consequence of this amendment would be to add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy, something that I am sure cannot have been intended by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas.

The LEAs will have agreed performance targets with schools and consulted schools and others on the means by which they propose to help them meet those targets. Everything necessary for the Secretary of State to consider the EDP should have been done. Publication at that stage, however, would be a tacit, but misleading, invitation for further comment. Yet any comments offered at that point would not only be superfluous but would lack the detailed significance of the direct exchange of views that would have occurred during the actual consultation period.

Amendment No. 42 concerns an EDP which has been approved by the Secretary of State but which the LEA in question wishes to modify. Clause 7 of the Bill already makes provision for LEAs to seek such modifications. The amendment would require an LEA seeking a modification first to undertake consultation with appropriate persons.

The noble Lord's amendment raises the issue of whether modifications to EDPs should always involve re-consultation between the LEA and relevant bodies or whether there are circumstances, as currently envisaged in the Bill, when the nature and circumstances of the modification sought makes further consultation unnecessary. In the latter case, to require re-consultation as a matter of course might on occasion introduce a gratuitous element of bureaucratic delay that I have no doubt the noble Lord would not wish to see.

Amendments Nos. 43 and 44 may be considered together. Their joint effect is to require LEAs to provide copies of their approved education development plans, or copies of summaries of their plans, or copies of both, to any persons who request them. The draft guidance on EDPs—on which we recently completed consultation with LEAs and others—provides details of the proposed publication arrangements and those will in due course be set out in regulations.

The draft guidance proposes that LEAs should provide a full version or, where appropriate, a summary of the approved EDP, on request and without charge, to a range of bodies including head teachers and chairs of governing bodies of their schools, the diocesan bodies, local training and enterprise councils, and the regional committee of the Further Education Funding Council. The EDP must also be provided, at a price no greater than the cost of production, to anyone else requesting it. Furthermore, to ensure that approved EDPs are made fully accessible, LEAs will be required to place copies of their EDPs in local libraries, to send copies to the local press, to place them on the Internet and to publicise them through media used to disseminate information about council services along the lines referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Tope. Regulations will formalise the contents of the draft guidance on that as well as other points concerning EDPs.

Given that, I do not believe that this amendment would add significantly to existing provisions to ensure that EDPs are widely available to those who need or wish to have access to them. Like the noble Lord, Lord Tope, I am in full agreement with the intention of the amendment to see that access to EDPs is maximised; I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will agree with me that what is already proposed in this connection will lead to that outcome while avoiding the possibility that some authorities will find themselves unnecessarily burdened in having to distribute an unspecified number of EDPs.

In light of the reasons I have given, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendments.

Baroness Blatch

First, I accept all that the noble Baroness says regarding the number of documents that may be prepared on the way—drafts and redrafts of documents—until one arrives at the definitive document. I am not sure therefore whether my noble friend meant that all those documents should be widely distributed.

Perhaps I can ask two questions. The first is in relation to Amendment No. 42. If I understand the noble Baroness's point correctly, there will be modifications which are so small in nature that they are inappropriate for wide consultation, being either minor or technical. As I understand the amendment, it says, after consultation with such persons as they [LEAs] consider to be appropriate". In other words, if the LEA considers it to be appropriate, there should be consultation. For instance, if there is an impact on a school, an aspect of the curriculum or some change of policy in some way, it seems appropriate that there should be consultation, and the amendment gives the local authority discretion to do that. I should have thought that this was a fairly inoffensive amendment. Even if it were not accepted on the face of the Bill, it would be helpful if the noble Baroness could say that there would be an obligation on local authorities where the change was not just minor or technical but where there was an impact on policy or on the delivery of education.

There will be occasions—one hopes not very often—when there is a tension between the DfEE and the local authority. The local authority will submit its EDP and the Secretary of State and the people who will be judging on his behalf may reject it for one reason or another. That sets a tension between the local authority and the department. If I were a parent in that authority I would want to understand the nature of the disagreement between the DfEE and the local authority. I know that the system is that the DfEE will request the local authority to modify its plan according to what is deemed by the Secretary of State. I am not quite sure, because I do not understand the Bill, what will happen if the local authority refuses to accept the advice or the requirements set out by the DfEE. I suspect that the DfEE has the whip hand, but I do not quite know in what way that will be delivered in practice.

It ought to be a matter of public record if an EDP is rejected by the Department for Education and Employment so that not only the councillors in the local authority understand what the tension is between the DfEE and the authority—it is not just between one official and another—but the local authority understands what the tension is; and if it is serious, then the school, the head teacher and the governors and parents should know. I just wonder what facility there is for making it public that there is a disagreement pending the outcome of the definitive plan that is satisfactory to the Secretary of State.

Baroness Blackstone

I accept what the noble Baroness said about Amendment No. 42. It is inoffensive. On the other hand, we do not think it is necessary to put it on the face of the Bill. I accept what she said and we shall try to reflect that in the guidance.

With regard to Amendments Nos. 43 and 44 and the possibility of disagreement between the LEA and the DfEE, the EDPs have to be agreed by the Secretary of State. She is right in saying that the department will continue to negotiate until agreement has been secured. That is entirely understood by local authorities. I think it would be a matter for the LEA to decide whether it wanted to indicate to its head teachers or others that there had been some disagreement and what the nature of that disagreement was. I do not think the Government would want in any way to restrict LEAs from providing that information. That is something we should leave to them.

Lord Lucas

I am grateful to the noble Baroness. However, I still find some difficulty with what she is saying on Amendment No. 42. I entirely accept that there will be many circumstances where what is proposed by way of an amendment is minor. But let us suppose that what is proposed is major and has a significant effect on several schools or on a substantial part of the local education authority's area. The Government go to the lengths in Clause 6 of requiring that local authority to consult on the original plan but impose no conditions at all as to consultation under subsection (8). I would be content if she would say in terms that if the amendment was a major one the Secretary of State would not approve it unless there had been consultation. However, if we are not in that situation I really think that this is a matter which I would have to bring back at a later stage. Perhaps she would care to give me the comfort I seek, that, if there is a major modification, consultation will have taken place before the Secretary of State approves it.

Baroness Blackstone

I thought I had made that clear in my answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. If there were to be a major change I think that I can give the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, the comfort that he has asked for.

Lord Swinfen

Before my noble friend responds, who decides whether it is a major problem?

Baroness Blackstone

That is a matter for the Secretary of State.

Lord Lucas

I am just as prepared to trust the Secretary of State as I would be to trust the local education authority. I am delighted to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 42 to 44 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 7 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

I wish to oppose Clause 7 standing part of the Bill. I will not burden your Lordships too long over this before supper because I have set out most of the reasons why I am worried about Clause 7. Perhaps I may put it simply and concisely. I and many of my noble friends believe that the inspectorate, Ofsted, would be a better judge of these education development plans than having the whole paraphernalia of the Secretary of State. That is the essence of our situation. Under Clause 7 the Secretary of State first has to approve the plans. If he decides not to approve them or to make modifications, he notifies the authority. The authority can say whether it agrees with the Secretary of State. Then the authority may submit modifications. There is an elaborate process here and the Ofsted system could do it better.

I realise that I am burdening the noble Baroness with a good deal on this but I should like further reassurance that all the processes that are gone through will be done quickly. Again I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, said. I should like a clear assurance from the Minister that even if the local authority questions it—there will be times when the local authority and the Secretary of State are opposed to each other—she can guarantee what the time span will be. Can she take the risk—she is an optimist, so optimists must put their money where their mouths are—and say how long she expects these processes will take in the case of an objection? Is it six weeks or eight weeks? Two months is a long time with a school and a local authority not knowing where they stand. Can we have nice, big optimistic assurances to send us to dinner in a happy frame of mind?

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

When the noble Lord replies can he say clearly what will happen to a local authority which refuses to change the plan in the way the Government are insisting on? If there goes on being a problem, the Bill does not seem to say what will happen. The Minister said that the local authority will carry on arguing. There could be a confrontation. I think the Bill ought to resolve that.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, has described what Clause 7 involves. It involves the obligation on the Secretary of State to approve, to modify or to reject an education development plan. If he approves it, the LEA has to implement it. If he says it should be revised, the LEA has to revise it. He then has to review the proposals and the implementation. If he thinks it is not being properly implemented, he can withdraw his approval. Under subsections (5) and (6) he can require further modifications. The clause requires that the authority should publish the education development plan. Finally, subsection (10) says that the costs incurred are legitimate costs of an education authority. If the clause were to be taken out of the Bill, the education development plans described in Clause 6 would hang in the air. They would serve no purpose. Nothing could be done about them.

The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, made an interesting suggestion that Ofsted should be responsible for all the procedure. If he wants to do that he should table amendments to that effect, but what he should not do is to take out the clause without replacing it.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

It is going to be basic, fundamental information for Ofsted anyway. It now has the responsibility for inspecting LEAs. It is a policy that we were about to implement and it has been picked up by the Government. We applaud the fact that local authorities will be inspected against their own plans. They will be inspected against the quality of their plans, their implementation and the output from them.

It seems that we now have two tiers and a raft of bureaucracy which will bypass Ofsted, going to the Secretary of State and to-ing and fro-ing the great paper chase. We are asking: why not have one bureaucracy instead of two?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Baroness is right that Ofsted will be involved. The Secretary of State will take account of advice from Ofsted in approving the plans. If the Opposition suggest that Ofsted should take over the whole process it is perfectly open to them to propose amendments to do so. But the Opposition have not done so. Education development plans having been prepared, the Opposition's proposal would leave those plans completely in limbo.

The answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, is that if a local education authority refuses to obey its obligations under this clause it will be in breach of its statutory duty. Although I cannot conceive of this happening, in the end it could come to the courts. I am perfectly prepared to argue a serious case about the involvement of Ofsted, but to take out Clause 7 does not make sense.

Baroness Maddock

I support the Government on this issue. I am a little mystified as to why we have had such a long debate about it. I raised the matter earlier in a debate on this Bill. To the best of my knowledge, much of what will go into an education development plan already exists in most local education authorities now. It is not called an "education development plan" but it exists. Good education authorities work in that way. I do not believe that it will be too difficult for most local education authorities to get their education development plan together.

We on these Benches often accuse the Government and others of too much centralisation, but there is a point in having central information when one is trying to target resources effectively to a service that is being provided. That is particularly true of education. On that basis, it is important for the Government to have a grip on what is going on in our schools so that they can ensure that the resources go to the right place. We had discussions earlier this afternoon as to how we target money for school buildings and so on. I believe that this type of information will enable better long-term thinking in planning budgets for education. If the Government move to budgets that cover three years, such information will be very important.

I was somewhat surprised by the concern that the department could not deal with 150 plans. There may have been times when people thought that it was not possible. Businesses regularly deal with that kind of situation; they believe that they can deal with 150 plans, or whatever, coming in. It is the same for the Department for Education and Employment.

There may be problems ahead when the department falls out with a local education authority. The idea behind these plans is that schools can work with local education authorities to help them develop standards. It will be a useful tool. From that, information will go to the department to enable it to deal with future planning, particularly financial planning.

We have not been inundated with representations from groups and local education authorities, including teachers, who normally say that they do not like what is going on. We have been inundated with briefing notes. The reason we have not been inundated with representations from local education authorities and others is partly because the Government are putting the issues out for consultation, although that is about to finish. It may be that at some future stage we shall need to return to these issues. We may receive representations from local authorities, teachers and other bodies when we reach Report stage.

The clause should stand part of the Bill. As I was rising to speak to the Question that the clause stand part of the Bill, I was reminded of the time when I arrived in this place. I could not understand what that meant. People used strange language. I am pleased to say that I now know what it means and I wish that this clause stands part of the Bill.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I welcome the noble Baroness to our debate today. I agree with everything she said. We have designed the education development plan process in order to build on and develop existing processes and not to add unnecessary layers of requirements. As the noble Baroness said, most LEAs already prepare and implement strategic plans. Education development plans will serve to sharpen and refocus that activity on raising standards in schools. In practice, EDPs should reduce LEA bureaucracy since they will co-ordinate and streamline information-gathering exercises by the DfEE, Ofsted and the Audit Commission. On reflection, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his opposition.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

It has been a long evening. The noble Lord may remember Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 where I suggested that Ofsted should take over. I thank the noble Lord for his invitation to bring the matter back at Report stage. I shall give that consideration. I still believe that Ofsted would best fulfil the ideals behind these education development plans. It would fulfil the hope of the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, of having central information. It would also provide the expertise which has been gained from detailed knowledge. But for the moment, I shall withdraw my opposition to this clause. I shall consider the noble Lord's strong urging to bring back a strong amendment at Report stage. I am glad that he is so keen for conflict.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I beg to move that the House do now resume. In doing so, may I suggest that the Committee stage should not be resumed before 8.35 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.