§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Lord Filkin
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Filkin. )
§ On Question, Motion agreed to147
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools in England]:
§ [Amendment No. 1 not moved.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Schedule 1 [Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England]:
§ [Amendment No. 2 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]
§ Baroness Perry of Southwark
moved Amendment No. 3:Page 67, line 10, leave out paragraph 2.The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 3, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 4A and 42, which stand in my name, and speak in support of Amendments Nos. 16, 77, 78 and 82, to which I have added my name. I also wholeheartedly support Amendments Nos. 43 and 44, standing in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. Unfortunately there were already four names attached to those amendments by the time I came to read them.
The aim of the amendments is to ensure the quality of inspection, particularly through the quality of the people engaged in the inspection. At this early stage it might be worth reminding ourselves of the new arrangements for inspection.
First, they allow for only short inspections—one to two days. Secondly, they still require that the inspectors observe and report upon the formidable list in Clause 2, including the quality of the education; how far it meets the needs of the range of pupils; the standards achieved; the quality of the leadership and management, including financial management; the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils; the contribution made by the schools to their well-being, and so on. It is a very formidable list on which inspectors are required to report in that very short time. Thirdly, we should remind ourselves that the inspection team has the power to put the school publicly into special measures—in other words, to declare it as failing to meet the needs of its pupils. We should also remind ourselves of the effect that such a public report has on the children at the school and on their teachers.
I rehearse all this because it leads inexorably to the conclusion that the people involved in such inspections must be of the very highest competence, not only in their ability to form professional judgments based on their own experience and knowledge, but also in their understanding of the methodology of inspection, which seems to have been squashed out of the Bill as if anyone could do it at any time. As Amendment No. 42 provides—I support entirely the thrust of the amendments—both the competence and effectiveness of the team are important.
148 Inspection would become nonsense if teachers, parents and pupils had no confidence in the professional competence of those inspecting; if the inspection proved to be inadequately organised and prepared; if it was conducted with prejudice and one-sided views; and if plain factual errors were made. Unfortunately, as was well rehearsed during Second Reading, such faults have occurred even with the system of registered inspectors. It is my view and the view of my noble friends that we should be tightening the procedures for registration and training, not dismantling them in the way the Bill seeks to do.
The Minister was kind enough to write to me after Second Reading to explain the Government's thinking behind the changes. Perhaps I may briefly extract from his letter the core of what he said. The letter states:Currently, registered inspectors have an independence protected by the … 1996 Act. Whilst the majority of inspection reports meet the schools satisfaction, there are a small minority which do not. In these cases, it is not possible for the Chief Inspector to have the reports amended without the agreement of the registered inspector".We wish to change this".So do I. It is absolutely right that responsibility for the quality of the report should rest with the chief inspector and I support those parts of the Bill which ensure that that happens. But there is no sequitur from the wish to put the chief inspector in the driving seat with responsibility for the quality of inspection reports and doing away with the system of registered inspectors. It is important that the registered inspectors should be able to hand their reports to the chief inspector for final vetting, checking and quality control. That is what these amendments—together with what is already in the Bill— would achieve.
I welcome, too, the parts of the Bill which give the chief inspector heightened responsibility for the whole process of inspection. This has been gradually whittled away over the years under the system of contracting-out. The fact that the chief inspector is put firmly in the driving seat and that HMI, through the new arrangements, is to be much more involved—the Minister assures me that up to 80 per cent of inspections will now be under the control and in the hands of HMI—as a former chief inspector myself, is very dear to my heart.
I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us about the need for high quality registered inspectors and will restore to England what the Bill leaves for Wales. If Wales believes that registered inspectors are important, why are they not also important for England? I beg to move.
§ The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara)
I should point out that if this amendment is agreed to I shall not be able to call Amendments Nos. 4 or 4A.
§ Lord Hanningfield:
I support this series of amendments and fully endorse the comments of my noble friend Lady Perry of Southwark. who made a powerful and insightful speech.
149 Unsurprisingly, these amendments are not new. They should be familiar to all noble Lords, coming as they do from a previous Act that the Bill seeks to reform. Their intent is clear: they are designed to retain the status quo in regard to the position of registered inspectors in England.
The Bill as it stands would remove the requirement of the chief inspector to maintain a register of approved inspectors. We on these Benches—despite the best efforts of the Minister during Second Reading—remain highly sceptical that abandoning a system of registered inspectors will bring any significant improvements to the inspection regime. Nor are we convinced that it will speed up and simplify the process, which is one of the principal objectives of the Bill.
We are somewhat in the dark about how the measure found its way into the Bill. None of the various consultations by Ofsted on the revisions to the framework specifically refers to, or provides, a rationale for the removal of registered inspectors. Perhaps the Minister can indicate what prior consultation was undertaken, for how long and with whom, before the proposal was included in the Bill. If there was no prior consultation, will the Minister explain the rationale of the measure and the department's thinking behind its inclusion in the Bill?
A serious concern is how the change will impact on the quality of inspectors and the inspections that they carry out. The Bill will allow the chief inspector to appoint,such persons as he thinks fitas additional inspectors. There is nothing to ensure accountability or the suitability of such inspectors for that role. Under the previous system there was provision for a person who was no longer fit to be an inspector to be removed from the register. Without that qualifying hurdle of the register of inspectors, how will the Minister remove substandard inspectors?
Further questions need to be answered. What impact will the proposals have on existing inspectors? Does the Minister believe that the number of existing inspectors will be reduced? Will he explain how the adoption of this system will speed up the inspection regime? What is meant by the phrase "persons as he thinks fit" in relation to the chief inspector appointing additional inspectors? How will the accountability, quality, impartiality and independence of such individuals be guaranteed?
I have tried to highlight our concerns about scrapping the register of inspectors regime, which are many and varied. That is why I am happy to lend our name from these Benches to all the amendments before the Committee today.
§ Baroness Sharp of Guildford
From these Benches, we, too, have added our names to the amendments, and I shall add a few words to those that have already been said.
150 Accountability and quality control are real issues. I echo entirely the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, about the importance of inspection and the effect of inspection reports on the reputation of schools and teachers. Such reports should not be taken lightly as they are important documents. Therefore, there must be proper quality control. The reason for registration was to maintain quality control over those who participated as inspectors. If inspections were undertaken by those who are employed by Ofsted—in other words, those who are directly Her Majesty's Inspectorate—there would be no problem. It is clear that, while retreating a little from the regime in which there are many subcontractors and many small firms who undertake inspections, the Government are not retreating completely from that regime. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, I, too, received a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, who explained at some length why the Government saw the need for change.
In that letter, the noble Lord states:We shall remove the requirement for the Chief Inspector to maintain a register of inspectors, leaving him solely accountable for the system".That is fine, but he continues:The intention is that Ofsted will contract with a small number of inspector provider companies through efficient value for money contracts. These inspectors will be required to constantly and consistently demonstrate their continued effectiveness and suitability to conduct inspections".It is clear that if they are to be independent, small provider companies, they will be free standing and will have free-standing legal powers. It is important to have some means of keeping tabs on who is operating on behalf of those free-standing companies. Therefore, the quality control and accountability issue is central. Our questions have not been answered, and we do not know why.
We used to have a register, but no clear explanation has been given for it being dropped. We know that Wales has opted to keep the register, and we believe that Wales has made the right decision while we are making the wrong one. What will happen when there are differences between Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools and the independent providers? What is the appeals procedure?
There is a question about the accountability of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, and the need for the chief inspector to work through registered inspectors who have the right to appeal to an independent tribunal, thereby providing accountability. The Bill sweeps that away and gives additional powers to Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools to decide the arrangements for school inspections. For example, scrutiny indicates that Ofsted is moving from 40 providers of inspection services to six, all of which have a regional focus. There will be two providers in each of three regions: two in Bristol; two in Manchester; and two in Nottingham. How will competition be undertaken? If we are to have a smaller number of providers, the power of Her Majesty's chief inspector becomes even greater. There is a question of accountability in that direction, too.
All told, we are unhappy about the removal of the concept of the register, and do not understand why it is taking place. We should like those clauses to be 151 reinstated. I go along with the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, that we have no problem with control and Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools being responsible for reports, but we cannot see how that necessarily means that the registration process needs to be dropped.
§ Lord Dearing
I put my name down in support of Amendments Nos. 42 and 43. The noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, added his name to Amendment No. 43 and would have done so for Amendment No. 42, but the list was already full. I know that the noble Lord would wish me to say that he is engaged in the work of another committee. As a former chief inspector of schools, he supports the proposal that there should be registration. I agree very much with the noble Baronesses, Lady Perry and Lady Sharp, that because Her Majesty's chief inspector is responsible for inspection reports it does not follow that there should not be registration. Indeed, it increases the case for it. Inspections are his responsibility and he should determine whether a person is fit and proper or whether someone should be removed. It works the other way round.
The inspection team is in the position of being investigating officers, judges and jury—sometimes of the fate of a school. It is a weighty responsibility—a quasi-judicial responsibility. Those who exercise it should be explicitly approved for the purpose and the chief inspector should be accountable for their appointments. I note, also, the wisdom of Wales. Who can resist it? I, therefore, add my support for the amendments.
§ Baroness Andrews
I am grateful for the powerful advocates in the debate, who have a great deal of experience in the education inspection system. I hope that I can respond to the overwhelming cry to explain why we have gone down this route, as there are, necessarily, few clues in the Bill.
The amendments have been spoken to with great passion, so I shall take some time to address the central question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, about the need to ensure that we have people of the highest possible calibre within the system and that we lose no value in the changes that we intend to make.
With that in mind, I thought it might be useful if noble Lords had on the record a longer statement of our thinking, particularly on issues which have been raised, such as quality and accountability within the system, and on why we believe that the register has outlived its usefulness in the context of what we are trying to do. I can do so within a broader context that will allow me to address the amendment more swiftly. I hope that noble Lords will be happy if I do that. It will be a rather longer note than we would normally provide.
We had a very positive and extensive consultation process on this whole package with schools and with the providers who are responsible for the registered inspectors, and a pilot in 100 schools is testing the new 152 system. We believe that we have found a way forward that builds on the strengths of the system of the past 12 years and makes it fit for the future.
Like other noble Lords, I should like to pay tribute to all the inspectors across the system and to the extraordinary contribution they make towards raising standards in education. We have had a register for more than 12 years in schools. In that time, the cadre of registered inspectors, working with 250 HMIs, has increased to 5,000, with more than 700 of those being registered inspectors and the rest being enrolled inspectors. They have carried out more than 50,000 inspections over the years; so they have a huge body of experience and a huge and conscientious expertise which we certainly do not want to lose. I hope that I can convince the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, that there will be no damaging impact on the inspectorate and that we are in fact offering enhanced and welcome opportunities.
Noble Lords have recognised in recent debates on the new inspection system that our proposals present new challenges. The noble Baroness, Lady Perry, referred to that in her opening remarks. We are asking for shorter inspections, smaller teams, and a targeted approach that focuses more on core systems, engages more with the management team through self-evaluation and engages with parents and pupils. That will place new demands on the inspectorate. We need to ensure that inspectors are fully competent and can continually demonstrate competence to deliver the new model. Far from dismantling the system, we see this as a tightening up which will bring improvements.
Noble Lords are rightly concerned about what will happen to the existing pool of inspectors who have brought such value to the system. The inspectors have been recruited from many different backgrounds over the years. Their enrolment is covered in law under Schedule 3 of the 1996 Act and was introduced by the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. But regardless of where they come from, the inspectors have in common an ability to produce the standards necessary to lead and manage a school inspection. That means taking account of the school environment and ecology, recognising what a stressful time an inspection is for a school, and recognising the impact that the report will have on the school in the community. They must be able to demonstrate the experience and skills for the phase of education they intend to inspect. They have traditionally worked alongside HMIs who are directly employed by the chief inspector.
Being on the register has simply provided a status that means that the individual can be trusted to undertake a school inspection—it is a badge to do so— and can be trusted to write a report. To get on to the register an individual must initially demonstrate fitness to practise. However, the register has not been an indicator of how good an inspector is at delivering inspections to the required standard. That is reflected in the fact that being on the register is, paradoxically, 153 no guarantee of employment or regular participation. It is possible to be on the register without intending to inspect regularly, and some inspectors may make only three or four inspections a year. For some, inspector status has been a passport to other forms of employment.
Moreover, registered inspectors are not a part of Ofsted; they are employed by a range of contractors who are themselves independent of Ofsted. Many of them operate on self-employed terms as autonomous units. The chief inspector has little or no say on which individuals are used to conduct which inspections; he can only require that they meet the specification for a tender exercise.
We are asking schools to learn and improve continuously and to look critically at how they might do so. It is right and proper that we ask the same of the inspection system. So in making the decision to replace the system of a register of inspectors with a greater role for HMIs in the inspection and reporting process, we have been motivated by the intention to enhance the inspectorate system and to enrich the professional development opportunities and systems that will ensure that quality, performance and accountability are improved. That reflects the progress that we have made through the inspection system in recent years. That will keep and mobilise the experience and mix of skills that we already have. It will improve the consistency of inspection, make the process simpler for schools and develop greater flexibility in the inspection system as it grows and develops.
I think that it would help noble Lords if I were to sum up what we believe are the defining differences between the old and the new systems. Our proposed new system creates a new relationship between Ofsted and the providers which is based on collaboration and teamwork rather than regulation. It builds in quality provisions across an integrated system where HMIs and those who we have designated as additional inspectors will together and equally be charged with delivering the new inspection system.
How will we build in quality? It will be built in at all levels. Every additional inspector, HMI or not, and regardless of skill, competence or experience, will have to undergo the same training to implement the new system as HMIs. They will be trained together to deliver the new framework. Indeed, they are already being trained together in the pilot. That will be assessed by senior HMIs and delivered through the providers. Feedback from the providers suggests that the inspectors are very supportive of these changes because they regard the additional opportunities as welcome.
How will we achieve greater consistency and quality? It will flow from the fact that, rather than sample checks by HMI on reports, which is what we have at the moment, there will be a scheme of continuous performance assessment that will apply to all inspectors and inspections and set out the principles for quality in terms of new inspections and the principles for performance management. I refer noble Lords to the Ofsted website where the new scheme for 154 performance management is set out. That is a lengthy and detailed document which is still in development and has been the subject of a lot of hard work. It is difficult to describe because it is long and detailed but I will do my best to boil it down to a few key elements.
Performance management will be undertaken on a team basis. Ofsted and RISPs will share responsibility for HMIs and contracted inspectors. They will work to key performance targets. There will be a continuous process that feeds individual professional improvement and development. There will be no new entry test for additional inspectors but there will be a clearer, tighter framework for continuous professional monitoring and improvement.
A third element of quality assurance will come from clearer accountability and a greater role for HMIs. The independence of the registered inspectors left him or her entirely accountable for the system and. sometimes, as we all know, at war with the HMI who was powerless to intervene to change things. That will be replaced by the chief inspector who will authorise inspectors who are fit to practise and remove that right if necessary. I am very pleased that noble Lords have welcomed the fact that every inspection report will be quality assured by the local managing inspector to ensure that the judgments match the evidence and will go out in the name of the chief inspector himself.
HMIs, the elite of the inspection process, will have a clearer role in leading and reporting on inspection. The noble Baroness, Lady Perry, has mentioned that the proposal is for HMIs to lead 80 per cent of secondary school inspections and 20 per cent of primary school inspections. In future they will work alongside the additional inspectors.
Who are these additional inspectors? They may be inspectors who are already registered or who would have sought registration under the old system. To what standards will they be working? As I said, there will be no new entry threshold, but they will all have to meet the criteria that HMIs set out and on which we have been working. The criteria will be much nearer to those that we would expect for HMIs themselves. Inspectors will have to demonstrate the ability to meet those criteria in the inspection process, the evaluation of evidence, the choice of evidence and the quality of judgments. HMCI will be directly responsible for ensuring that they are all up to the job.
Why do we regard the system as simpler and more accountable? The reports will certainly be issued in the name of the chief inspector. At the moment a registered inspector, independent of Ofsted, can publish a report without the approval of the chief inspector. Even in the most serious cases, where he feels that special measures are warranted, an inspector could in theory publish a report although the chief inspector disagreed with the judgment. That means that at present Ofsted can make changes to inspection reports only with the agreement of the registered inspector. As a result, schools have in some cases been left frustrated, dissatisfied with the judgment and unable to have their concerns addressed swiftly and helpfully. Discussions with the Secondary Heads 155 Association and other teacher associations highlight the frequency with which they are called in to arbitrate in school-inspector disputes. That is, no doubt, one reason why schools and teachers have supported the changes we propose.
Clearly, schools should have a right to swift action. To that end, the new arrangements will also allow the chief inspector to establish a helpline to which schools can address questions. Where there are more serious concerns, he can have a more direct role. He can send one of his HMIs to ensure that all is going well or that the inspector addresses the school's concern. If we retain the terms and conditions for registered inspectors, he cannot do so and our schools will not have the support they need. In the most serious cases, the chief inspector could order HMI to take control of the inspection. If that were to happen, the chief inspector intends that the contractor provider will risk heavy fines.
Under these new arrangements, inspectors will not have free-standing powers to issue reports as all reports will be issued by the chief inspector. Since a key purpose of the register of inspectors is to confer the right on those inspectors to issue reports in their own right, the requirement for a register becomes redundant. However, there is another element. A simple fitness to practise register will not be sufficient to meet the new demands which we are building into the system—a more comprehensive system with performance management, a quality assurance system and a process which is being tested successfully in the pilot schemes at present.
Let me reassure noble Lords that removing the register does not remove the independence which is reflected in the market operation of the provider system. The experience of contractors—who will be fewer but not less competitive—will be used to best effect working in partnership with Ofsted. Contractors will have a vital part to play. They will have to recruit inspectors and demonstrate that those recruits meet the criteria defined by Ofsted, matching the competencies expected of HMI. HMI will monitor the process and ensure that they are of consistently high quality.
A further expansion of independence flows from the difference in conditions of employment. Under the new system, given the likelihood of far fewer inspectors, many individuals are likely to become employed by these contractors with the employment protection that that brings. Individuals who feel aggrieved will be able to call upon the full range of employment protection laws and other services.
Those changes anticipate another, final, change to simplify the system. Deregistration in the past was a cumbersome and expensive way of removing a less than effective inspector. While complaints are relatively few in number, they impact severely on those affected. In future, we want a system where Ofsted can intervene quickly and effectively. If contractors have, or HMCI has, doubts in future about an inspector's competence they will simply be able to cease to use that inspector, without a time-consuming deregistration process. They are not able to act arbitrarily. There will 156 be arrangements to follow up complaints from inspectors. But the system will be much more responsive to evidence of quality.
Given the changes we wish to see, the excellent pool of inspectors who will make up the new additional inspectors, the shorter, sharper, more frequent inspections and greater flexibility, we believe that the notion of a fitness to practise register has served its purpose. Not only will the HMIs have that extra quality and accountability, we believe that the register has outlived its usefulness. It has served the nation extremely well for 12 years. It is time to look for something better; and a better system comes with better performance management and quality controls.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, raised the issue of tribunals. One of the problems with the tribunal system is that during the tribunal Ofsted has to prove that you are no longer fit to inspect. It is a complex and expensive process which adds little to the quality of inspection. To operate the system is also expensive. It can run to £100,000 in a single extreme case. We do not believe that the tribunal process adds any real value to the system.
Wales is different. I am probably one of the few people in this House who can say that with total authority. However, in this instance Wales is keeping a registration process for good, pragmatic and sound reasons. The inspection system in Wales, reflecting the size of the country, is smaller. The workforce is very stable. There is low turnover. We have a highly experienced, small group of registered inspectors who are working closely with HMI, not least because these are people who are always drawn from the same pool. They know the schools, the teachers and the situations. In Wales, there is not a need for changes which build in the performance management which we shall see. Also Wales has just introduced a common assessment framework for inspection. That is very recent— September of last year. It is bedding down. We want to see that change introduced successfully. Wales reserves the right to innovate. It will be able to make any changes which are consistent with what we seek to do in England as and when it wants. Indeed, I am sure that as we watch standards rising across the education sector in Wales, it will develop a system which ensures that that continues.
To summarise, Her Majesty appoints a chief inspector to ensure that inspection is carried out. He or she should be held accountable for the system and be accountable for the quality of all reports. That is what the Bill achieves. We believe that there will be greater accountability and transparency. I hope noble Lords are happy with that description. I shall be happy to write with any further detail.
Amendment No. 3 removes the chief inspector's ability to arrange for additional inspectors to assist him in carrying out his functions across the range of his remit. His ability to operate in this way was put in place at the outset when Ofsted was established, as I am sure the noble Baroness remembers well. It remains an important feature.
157 Ofsted uses this power to engage inspectors to work alongside HMI on inspections of further education colleges, LEAs, and initial teacher training. We do not want to lose that power. Many additional inspectors will have specialist skills. The amendment would prevent Ofsted engaging additional inspectors in these or in any other capacity in the future. I am sure the noble Baroness and noble Lord would not want to prevent the chief inspector doing that.
The current system has a register of inspectors who lead school inspections as well as inspectors who support them—and additional inspectors will be engaged in the way I have just described, drawn from the best of the existing pool. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw that amendment.
Amendments Nos. 4A and 42 seek to reintroduce the system of registered inspectors. In the light of the detail I have provided, I hope that noble Lords will not press those amendments. Without this change, the greater use of HMI, which has widespread support, will highlight the fact that the chief inspector is responsible for inspection reports.
Amendment No. 43 enables the chief inspector to remove inspectors from the register. Perhaps I may refer to specific points. The amendment provides for the removal of an inspector. Under the proposed system, if the chief inspector is dissatisfied, he simply does not have to use that inspector. Were the register still to be in place, to maintain its credibility, although he would not be using the inspector, he has to consider whether there are grounds for that inspector to be struck off. That would mean that the inspector would face a double jeopardy situation. The whole process would be burdensome and time-consuming.
Amendments Nos. 44 and 82 would give inspectors a right of appeal to a tribunal. Again, I covered this in my opening statement. We believe that an appeal would have no practical outcome. A tribunal could overturn the chief inspector's decision to deregister an inspector: it could not insist that the chief inspector use that inspector. Given that the legal costs alone run into many thousands of pounds, it would be difficult to justify the maintenance of an expensive and inefficient process.
Amendment No. 16 seeks to introduce some of the architecture of the system in which Ofsted's role is that of regulator. A regulator gives guidance, lays down standards and monitors. A regulator should keep under review the system that he or she regulates. However, we do not want Ofsted to do that in the future. We want to make the chief inspector directly accountable for the delivery. He will need to ensure that all inspectors receive appropriate guidance and support. He will be held to account for all of that through the Select Committee on Education and Skills, the Public Accounts Committee and the Cabinet Sub-Committee.
Amendment No. 77 also concerns the process of tendering for inspections and the constitution of inspection teams. This would require the chief 158 inspector to consult the appropriate authority for the school which, in most cases, is the governing body, about the tender specification and only then to invite tenders. While supporting the noble Baroness and the noble Lord in their concern to secure value for money and efficiency, it is quite difficult to believe that the amendment reflects their intentions. I am not aware of any evidence that there is concern among schools about the specification for an inspection that would suggest that schools need to be consulted on this matter.
One consequence of the amendment would be to prohibit a move to short notice inspection. Once the appropriate authority was consulted, notice would have to be given to the school. There would have to be a significant time lapse to allow for tendering to take place. It is easy to imagine that this would increase the notice period—currently six to 10 weeks—at a time when we are all trying to move towards shorter inspections.
Of course we are concerned about value for money. Tendering for individual inspections is costly and time-consuming. Moving to a system based on strategic contracts will help secure consistency in standards.
The amendment would also require the inclusion of a lay inspector in every inspection. Let me place on record the Government's acknowledgement of the valuable contribution of lay inspectors over the years. Some of them are among our most experienced and effective inspectors, and they may well be engaged in the future as professional inspectors, where their skills and experience meet the standards.
Lay inspectors were introduced at a time when little was known outside the profession about the performance of schools. Much has changed. There are a great many more performance data available to parents to access; inspection reports have proved an extremely popular hit on the Ofsted website. Many more parents are involved in the performance of schools, both nationally and locally. There is no room for cosy professionalism.
Given that in the future some schools, particularly smaller primary schools, will be visited by only one or two inspectors, it would be hard to justify having a lay inspector as a discrete role. We have proposed that the requirement for a lay inspector on every team be removed. However, I can assure Members of the Committee that the chief inspector and Ministers are committed to ensuring that the user or the lay voice is heard within the inspection process. The school self-evaluation form will need to show how the school is engaging with parents, pupils and others.
Furthermore, we are considering using lay inspectors in other contexts such as area-based and cluster-based inspections. In addition, there could be a lay input to some aspects of the quality assurance process.
Finally, the amendment proposes to place a duty on the registered inspector to ensure that no person takes part in an inspection if he has a connection with the school that might raise doubts and conflicts. We fully support this concept; we assure Members of the Committee that our provisions already include this 159 requirement. That will be achieved through the stringent contract management procedures being developed.
On Amendment No. 78, I am sure the Committee will be relieved to know that I shall not go over in detail the argument about registered inspections. Needless to say, if there is to be no register of inspectors, the issue of rights of entry becomes irrelevant. Other provisions cover the rights of entry for HMI and additional inspectors.
The amendment also picks up the issues of meeting parents and training for inspectors. Again, I am in full agreement with the noble Baroness and the noble Lord on the principle of parental involvement in their children's education. Indeed, we seek to strengthen this through the package of reforms in the Bill. However, it is important to bear in mind that under the new inspection system, schools have a very limited time in which to organise such a meeting. Ofsted acknowledges this and is working with focus groups of parents in the trials to understand how best to manage this. Often a meeting is not the preferred medium for parents, who may feel the meetings are being hijacked by other, over-anxious parents. So we have included in Clause 6 requirements that steps are taken to notify parents, which may well include a questionnaire.
Amendment No. 78 also requires that all inspectors complete appropriate training prior to conducting inspections. I have spoken at some length about that training programme, what it will involve and how it will be different. This is in place and has been supporting the implementation of trial inspections. Feedback has been very positive. Satisfaction rates about the inspection process are significantly higher than those achieved under the existing system, which themselves are very good.
The programme of training will continue through to the planned roll-out of the new system from September. That includes training inspections overseen by HMI experienced in the new approach.
I hope Members of the Committee do not feel that I have gone into the amendments in inordinate detail. I felt it important to put those points on the record. I hope that my explanation will reassure noble Lords who have been seeking a rationale and that they will withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Hanningfield
I thank the noble Baroness for that very detailed explanation, which we shall have to analyse. I have a particular question for her. The amendments are concerned with the current register of inspectors. The noble Baroness went into detail regarding the training and continued assessment of new inspectors, which we all approve. But are we not creating a new type of register? Surely the inspectors will go on a list when they are trained and assessed. If one analyses what the noble Baroness has said, the Government are getting rid of one register and creating another one. If that is their intention, perhaps we should look at the whole question in the light of getting rid of one register and creating a new one. These people will be on the list once they have been assessed and trained, and the list will be held by the Government or by someone else. Perhaps the noble Baroness will comment on this very relevant point.
§ Baroness Andrews
I do not want to say that that is a semantic point; the noble Lord has raised an important point. The register is essentially a professional register; many professions have such registers, and they serve different functions. This register was intended to badge people up, and it was very useful. Instead of that badge of initial proficiency, we intend to have a continuous rolling system of professional development. People will know when they are on the list.
§ Baroness Andrews
Providers will have to have a list of people that they put forward as qualified to carry out inspections. Additional inspectors will be listed somewhere. The significance of the list will be to show that people serve the purpose. We could probably have quite a long debate on the list's significance, but I will leave it at that.
§ Baroness Sharp of Guildford
I, too, have a number of comments on what the Minister has said. It seems to me that the driving force in what is being proposed probably comes from the wish to get rid of the cumbersome and expensive appeals procedure mechanism. We agree with the Minister that it is an expensive procedure. Equally, as the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, indicated, from what the Minister has said, a new register is effectively being created.
We know that a limited number of private sector contractors will provide inspectors. The Minister indicated that it is up to them to monitor those whom they recruit and ensure that they meet the standards. She also said that if inspectors did not meet the standards, they would be dropped—they would, in effect, be blackballed. There would be some whose names were not acceptable. So there is a list, and people can be dropped from it, but there are now no appeals procedures. If you are dropped from the list, that is that—there is no appeal against the decision. It is much cheaper for Her Majesty's Government but it begs natural justice. It is arguable that you should not blackball people on that basis.
What is not being proposed is that all those who constitute the inspection teams should be HMIs. If that were so the whole thing would add up, but it does not. The Government are still proposing to use outside independent contractors to constitute the inspection teams. Whether you talk about them collaborating or competing does not make much difference—that is purely semantics.
I believe that in some senses what the Minister said about the way in which the system operates in Wales demonstrates how we should be aiming to do it; namely, on a regional basis where there is a stable register of known inspectors who know the schools and who can be relied on. The kinds of relationships that have been established in Wales have worked so well and they are precisely those which we would like to see established throughout the country. There is a great argument there for decentralising rather than centralising the whole procedure.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth
I have been looking for a conceptual gap or divide here. I heard the opening speeches and began to think that there was a serious conceptual divide. Then I heard the Minister replying at some length, which probably means further discussions. I may be a bit thick and thinking too much of the "little list" in the "Mikado" because the word "list" has been used this afternoon. I wonder whether the conceptual point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, about outside inspectors is not the nub of the problem and whether the other matters are not beginning to settle. I may not have understood this debate.
§ Baroness Andrews
I am sure that the right reverend Prelate has understood it. We shall be drawing heavily on his experience as regards many aspects of the Bill. I shall reply to the most important point that the noble Baroness raised, which is that we are being driven by a wish to rid ourselves of a cumbersome appeals procedure. Far from it, I spent what felt like an age talking about the need to drive quality through the system in a manner that we have not previously attempted because we have been unable to do it. That is because HMIs, registered inspectors and others have been two sides of the regulatory mechanism. We are trying to improve quality and raise standards to those which we would naturally expect the HMI to have by virtue of the competence and knowledge that they bring to the inspection process.
The right reverend Prelate spoke about outside inspectors. They are "outside" in the sense that they are not HMIs, but they are inside in the sense that, from now on, they will share competence in the training process for the new inspection system looking at the sort of things that go into making quality judgments under the performance management description. They will reassure while acting as a critical friend. It is not about competence in the academic curriculum, but competence in the skills, not least of the personal kind, that are brought in to the process of inspection.
In doing that, we have to do something different by way of dealing with those who are not good enough. We have not addressed that issue. We shall not abandon natural justice and there will not be arbitrary decisions. We will not expect HMIs, with all their huge experience and conscientiousness, to get into a situation where they are dropping people. Blackballing people is a very pejorative term to use. It is about setting standards.
I agree that with a more regional base and possibly a more stable team of inspectors, we may achieve the more familiar and routine aspects of inspection which we have in Wales because it is a small and intimate community.
As regards getting rid of one register and replacing it with another, the statutory register does currently give an inspector the power to issue reports. The chief inspector does not have the final power to pull or amend an inspection report. If we wish to maintain a list of qualified persons, but not the concept of a 162 register which gives individuals such power, we would have to maintain a list and people will know who is on it and the standards achieved. But it will not be the same concept of the register that we have at the moment.
§ Lord Dearing
We may be misunderstanding and I shall need time to read through what the Minister has said. We all welcome the greater involvement and control through HMI, but because some of us argue for a register, that does not mean to say that the registered inspector should conduct his business independently of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector. It would be consistent with the chief inspector still having the decision.
Twice during the long reply reference was made to the greater role of HMI inspectors. Perhaps the Minister can remind me whether in earlier documentation there has not even been an assurance that there would be an HMI on all secondary school inspections. I had the impression that for primary schools there probably would not be an HMI, but it would be carried out by an unregistered inspector.
The key person in all this is the one who makes the inspection. The controlling, distant Her Majesty's Chief Inspector has to rely on what is going on in the front line. It has been said that it is important that we should learn from experience, but the concern is that before someone is let loose in a primary school who is not an inspector, he or she is the kind of person who the chief inspector and the school are confident can do the job well and there is an assurance to the school that the person has that "tick" from Her Majesty's Chief Inspector. That lies underneath my concerns.
§ Baroness Andrews
The noble Baroness, Lady Perry, spoke about confidence, too, and I meant to refer to it. It is very important. When I speak about the greater role of the HMIs. I am not speaking simply as regards report making. The noble Lord is right in saying that an HMI will not be leading every secondary inspection. There will be fewer of them. The greater role arises in the matter on which the noble Lord has asked for reassurance. It means HMIs not only being alongside the registered inspectors as they train to become the new, additional inspectors; it involves the constant process of individual and team assessment and evaluation of the quality of what is taking place. That will put HMIs nearer the ground to ensure that they know what is going on and can correct matters.
§ Lord Roberts of Conway
Before the noble Baroness sits down, I ask her to clarify a point. What exactly is the role of HMI in relation to additional inspectors' reports? Do those reports have to be approved by HMI?
§ Baroness Andrews
No. In future every report produced on inspection will be put out in the name of HMI. Previously, a registered inspector, by virtue of being on the register, could write and sign off a report and no one could challenge that. Her Majesty's Inspectorate had no status to challenge or disagree with 163 it. We have given HMI the responsibility and control over the quality of the report. He or she is now in charge of saying that the inspection report reflects exactly what has been found and that is the judgment on it.
§ Baroness Perry of Southwark
I am very grateful to all Members of the Committee who have spoken. I am particularly grateful to the Minister who has given us such a detailed and careful response, delivered with such sincerity and charm that it is very difficult to be churlish about it. However, I believe that I am.
The great hole in the Minister's argument appeared when she spoke about Wales. It is perfectly true, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, has said, that if what works in Wales does so because it is a small community where people are well known, that could and should also work for the regions in England. Given that HMI is being divided back into regions, it would be perfectly possible for the same kind of close relationships, close working and knowing people which the noble Baroness rightly said was the essence of the success in Wales, to be repeated in England. The conceptual hole to which the right reverend Prelate referred is very much in terms of what the Government are unhappy to call a "register", but who the new, approved people will be and what they will be doing.
It appears that the Government totally agree with the comments of noble Lords on the two opposition Benches and the Cross Benches that it is vitally important that there should be quality control over everyone who is involved in inspection. All of us in this Committee agree on that. The conceptual difference relates to whether there should be overt and clear standards and people who have status, as the registered inspectors do. All the careful performance controls that the Minister described delight my heart. It is right that the assessment should be extended to performance of the inspectors, not just the initial threshold standard, but that is not an argument against having them as registered inspectors, or whatever they need to be called. There should be an open list, which has a threshold, where all the necessary threshold tests have been met, where proper training is introduced and then where quality controls over performance can be exercised.
The other hole in the Minister's arguments is simply in terms of numbers. It is wonderful to hear that the training that these non-registered inspectors will receive will be equivalent to that of HMI. It was that part of the Minister's speech which rang warning bells in my head. The number of inspections in any one year runs at around 2,000. One cannot involve a very few and carefully controlled number of people in that when you are contracting it out to people who then have the right to use anyone they wish. There will no longer be a quality threshold. That is very worrying, because you are talking about several thousand people over a couple of years who could be involved in inspections with no threshold control over their competence to do the job. That seems to be a worrying issue.
§ Baroness Andrews
Perhaps I may intervene just to say that HMI and HMCI will have the power to tell 164 who is qualified and competent. That will be the quality threshold and many of those people will come from the very best that we have at the moment—the registered inspectors and the enrolled inspectors. Although there is no entry qualification, test or new training, that ability of HMI to determine who meets those standards will be the most important.
§ Baroness Perry of Southwark
But there is nothing whatever on the face of the Bill which says that those people will be quality controlled at the point at which they are engaged to carry out the inspection. The noble Baroness may assure us that HMI will have control over everyone who is used, but it is a long chain. Even when HMI are involved in 80 per cent of the secondary inspections and only 20 per cent of the primary inspections, the contracting system of using teams from outside will require HMI to take on people with different expertise and specialisms and it will have to draw on a wide range of people. If all those people will be on some list, please can we have a list which also has a threshold with something equivalent to the registration as well as all the wonderful things that the noble Baroness described about quality control over the performance of these people once they are engaged in inspection?
I shall read the Minister's comments with great care. I approve of and agree with much of them, but there still remains a conceptual gap—to use the right reverend Prelate's words—between what the Government are advocating and what we would wish to see. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Walmsley
moved Amendment No. 4:Page 67, line 14, at end insert—( ) The Chief Inspector shall ensure that those additional inspectors assigned to inspect any school shall between them possess the necessary specialist knowledge, including where appropriate, knowledge relating to children's affairs as defined in sections 10(2) and 11(2) of the Children Act 2004 (c. 31). in order to complete that inspection satisfactorily.The noble Baroness said: The amendment nicely follows the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry. Its purpose is to ensure that the people inspecting schools have the relevant knowledge and understanding necessary properly to evaluate how the needs of children are being met by schools in the light of the new regime of children's services brought in by the Children Act 2004.
In relation to the inspection of children's services in this brave, integrated new world, the chief inspector faces a formidable challenge. Indeed, the Education Select Committee's recent report on the work of Ofsted noted that:Ofsted faces a considerable challenge in developing an inspection regime that is thorough and fit for purpose, yet does not impose too great a burden on services which are themselves coping with a major transformationIt is essential that inspection teams represent the full spread of expertise needed to assess additional services for children and their families, in extended schools, for example. This is particularly important, given the proposed reduction in the number of inspection team 165 members under the new arrangements. The proposal that only one person will be expected to undertake inspections in smaller schools is a matter for concern, as it would make the personal characteristics of that single inspector of even greater importance than is currently the case.
Currently, Section 10 inspectors undergo a rigorous regime. They are required to be qualified teachers and generally have had substantial experience in education. The preparation for inspection is a relatively rigorous process involving a course of training and practical experience of inspection, both of which are assessed. In addition, in order to inspect the foundation stage, inspectors have to demonstrate background knowledge and experience in that phase and attend an additional one day's specialist training—which I very much welcome. Section 10 inspectors are expected to keep up to date with inspection developments and in order to do so are required to attend five days' annual professional training.
That is in stark contrast to the experience of inspectors responsible for Section 122 inspections, the majority of whom have a social services background and minimal training in early years development and learning. To qualify as inspectors they are required to attend only one day's training, which mainly concentrates on inspection procedures. Additional professional training and guidance is provided, but that is attended only on a voluntary basis. In addition, social inclusion will be vitally important in relation to monitoring children's services. The inspectorate will need to be alert to a wide range of issues, including race and gender equality, provision for disabled children and those with special needs. In that context, Ofsted needs to address the profile of its own staff, which currently displays rather limited diversity. What assurances can the Minister give about the suitability, training and experience of inspectors?
The General Teaching Council contacted us and was particularly concerned about the need for a common language across the different professions in the inspection teams. We on these Benches believe that that is important. At Second Reading we raised our concern that there appeared to be a lack of alignment between the children's agenda and the Bill. Those criticisms were answered to a degree by the new inspection plans for children's services issued by Ofsted at the beginning of December, which made clear that the aim was to run integrated inspections with CFCI, focusing on how a council's services were improving outcomes for young people and replacing the annual Audit Commission comprehensive performance assessment.
I notice that on page 5 of the draft for consultation, Every child matters: The Framework for Inspection of Children's Services, principle (6) states that inspectors must,aim to secure the co-operation and confidence of those being inspected and contribute actively to the improvement of servicesThey seek to do that by various means, one of which is,using teams with appropriate experience, relevant skills and shared understanding".166 In view of the existence of that principle in the Government's document, I hope that the Minister will have no objection to enshrining it in the legislation by accepting my amendment. The amendment states:The Chief Inspector shall ensure that those additional inspectors assigned to inspect any school shall between them"—not "each one" but "between them", which I think is very reasonable—possess the necessary specialist knowledge",to relate to the responsibilities that schools now have under the various sections in the Children Act. Therefore, I hope that my amendment will be well received by the Minister. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Andrews
The noble Baroness is always very persuasive. When she spoke, I had a sense of déjä vu in respect of the Children Bill. She is seeking to require the chief inspector to ensure that, between them, the additional inspectors have the appropriate knowledge relating to children's well-being. I shall speak far more briefly on this matter than I did on the previous amendment.
As the noble Baroness knows, many inspectors will already have considerable experience of these matters both through their work as former teachers and through their inspection role. Although it is not explicitly required in the current purposes of inspection, most aspects of well-being are in fact included in the existing framework for inspection and inspectors are used to assessing concepts of well-being.
However, the noble Baroness is right that not only does the Bill increase the emphasis on the school's contribution to the well-being of children but the Children Act itself, with its very powerful five outcomes, has changed the landscape surrounding what we expect people to recognise and reflect on. When we look at the range of inspections—the area inspections and so on—which will be brought into being as a result of this legislation, we see that that landscape has changed dramatically.
The most helpful thing that I can say to the noble Baroness—if she wishes, I shall be very willing to write to her with further details—is that the current trials are looking at the aspects of the framework which capture the outcomes as set out in the Children Act in terms of the process of development. From the pilots, we have good and early evidence that that job is being done through the inspection framework, and it can certainly be developed and enhanced through the new training which will be available for the additional inspectors as they come on stream. The new inspection training will reflect that and all inspectors will have to demonstrate it fully through the training inspections.
Therefore, we do have some evidence. We are absolutely alive to the problems raised by the noble Baroness and to the opportunities. We are alive to the mechanism which is in place through the training inspections and through the framework.
I turn to two specific points. Speaking personally, I think that the notion of common language is extremely powerful. The more we look for the integration of well-being, welfare and learning, the more we shall search 167 for that common language and the common experiences and practice. That is the burden of the children's trusts and it is part of everything that we are trying to achieve through the Children Act.
Furthermore, as some inspectors will both undertake school inspections and participate in joint area reviews, children's trusts and so on, there is bound to be cross-fertilisation of skills and knowledge on children's well-being. That will include issues relating to the more powerful recognition of social inclusion and social exclusion. Therefore, there is progress to be made. The trials are in place and they are piloting the new ways of looking at, identifying and auditing the outcomes and so on.
Where inspection covers extended schools or children's centres, we shall certainly be looking to include specialist inspectors for the early years and elements of childcare in extended schools. Inspectors who picked up on the new after-school learning elements of the framework may have a particular interest in that, and we shall be looking for people with that kind of expertise. We shall ensure that all aspects of provision can be covered in a single inspection event so that people will not be going back and forth and continually looking at different parts of the extended school in the system.
With the chief inspector personally responsible and accountable for all aspects of school inspection and leading the implementation of joint area reviews, together with the other points that I made, particularly about the ongoing pilots, I hope that, tempting although it is, the noble Baroness will not push me to include her amendment in the Bill but that she will withdraw it.
§ The Earl of Listowel
I shall intervene briefly. Having visited a number of nurseries in this area and spoken with providers of nursery education, I am aware of their concern that much of the workforce consists of very young, poorly educated women. Therefore, it seems to me to be vital that the inspectors have the expertise to help to develop that workforce.
What I have heard has been reassuring but it emphasised the point made earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry of Southwark. We need to be absolutely confident that the people entering these settings have the necessary qualifications and expertise to do a thorough job.
§ Baroness Walmsley
I am very grateful for the Minister's response. To some extent, I am reassured. We shall look very carefully at any evidence that comes to us from the pilots. I was particularly reassured by the Minister's statement that inspectors will have to demonstrate that they have looked very carefully at the integrated services in the light of the five outcomes in the Children Act 2004.I am not sure how they will have to demonstrate that, but I am prepared to leave that for the moment unless the Minister has anything further to add.
§ Baroness Andrews
There is relief from this Front Bench. I can add a few more details. We shall be using 168 a common evaluation that will cover the foundation stage, primary, secondary and post-16 education. Part of the evaluation is about ensuring a common language of inspection, which is interesting because the pastoral language may run through it. Teams will be configured to ensure that appropriate skills exist in the way that the noble Baroness wishes. The trials include extended schools and children's centres to help to determine the requirements, and the trials themselves will be evaluated. Therefore, the process is rigorous and we know what we are expected to do. We understand the challenge and we are trying to meet it.
§ Baroness Walmsley
I thank the Minister for that further detail. I shall look with great interest at her remarks in Hansard and give them further consideration. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment No. 4A not moved.]
§ Schedule 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Functions of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England]:
§ Baroness Sharp of Guildford
moved Amendment No. 5:Page 2, line 9, leave out "the Secretary of State" and insert "ParliamentThe noble Baroness said: With this amendment we return to the issue of accountability. The question here is whether the accountability is to the Executive or to Parliament. Again, there is an interesting difference here between Wales and England. Clause 1 makes it clear that it is Her Majesty who appoints Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, but to whom does he report? Clause 2 states:The Chief Inspector has the general duly of keeping the Secretary of State informed".There then follows a list of things that the chief inspector must do. Under Clause 3, the chief inspector,must make an annual report to the Secretary of State".who must lay that report before Parliament. But Parliament comes second here, not first.
When we turn to the Welsh clauses—Clauses 18 to 20—once again, it is Her Majesty who appoints the chief inspector of schools for Wales. However, Clause 19 states:The Chief Inspector has the general duty of keeping the Assembly informed".Clause 20 states:The Chief Inspector … must make an annual report to the Assembly".Therefore, as I said, there is an interesting difference, and the purpose of the amendment is, once again, to bring England into line with Wales, as we sought to do in the amendment on registration. It raises an interesting issue of accountability.
169 I was interested to see that, in the letter that he sent to me, the Minister said firmly:We shall remove the requirement for the Chief Inspector to maintain a register of inspectors, leaving him solely accountable for the system. As the Head of his organisation he will be accountable, both to the Public Accounts Committee and to the Education and Skills Select Committee, for the quality of inspections and for the judgements in all inspection reports".I found it extremely interesting that the Minister should, in writing to me, imply that the Chief Inspector of Schools was accountable to the Select Committee and to the Public Accounts Committee—in other words, accountable to Parliament. That is what we want, but it is not what is in the Bill.
I suppose that what we would like to see is the Minister's words translated into words in the Bill. Therefore, we suggest the replacement of the words "the Secretary of State" in Clause 2—we did not carry the amendment through to Clause 3, as we should have done—so that the chief inspector has a general duty "of keeping Parliament informed". As the Minister suggested, that was his prime concern, and it is an important issue. As we all know, the power of the executive has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished. The power of the legislature is far too small. Where we have the opportunity of increasing the power of the legislature in relation to the executive, we should do so. The amendment is a small element in that process, and I hope that it will meet with the Minister's approval. I beg to move.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Hanningfield
I support the general thrust of the amendment. We shall come back to the matter with other parts of the Bill. The amendment is an important test of the situation, and I hope that the Minister can give some reassurance to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford. The letter stated that the chief inspector would be more accountable to Parliament, but, according to the Bill, he is not. We should rectify that, and I would be interested to hear the Minister's comments on the matter.
§ Lord Sutherland of Houndwood
I support the thrust of the amendment. I think that I remember correctly that the original legislation in 1992 provided for the chief inspector to be accountable to Parliament. The introduction of the Secretary of State was, in part, a technicality. The chief inspector is, of course, not a Member of Parliament and there had to be a mechanism for laying the chief inspector's report before Parliament; this was the chosen mechanism.
The point about the reference to Parliament was to emphasise the independence of the inspectorate and, therefore, its independence, in at least one sense, from the Secretary of State. There is good sense in the amendment.
§ Lord Filkin
I shall surprise the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, by saying that, in fact, the Bill is right. I shall try to persuade her that that is so. 170 As the noble Baroness knows, Clause 2 places a general duty on the chief inspector to keep the Secretary of State informed about a number of matters, including educational standards, the quality of education and the well-being of pupils. That information is key to the Secretary of State in the discharging of her responsibilities for ensuring that education policy and provision in England are of the highest quality. She is accountable to Parliament for that. As Secretary of State for Education, she needs the service that the chief inspector provides, but that does not mean that the chief inspector is, in any sense, the puppet or servant of the Secretary of State. He provides information on the basis of his professional service to her about the state of education in the country, and she needs that in the discharge of her duties. She needs the best independent intelligence and advice to assess the impact of the Government's policies, inform the development of new ones and account for those decisions. I expect no difference between us on that.
That is not to say that Parliament should not benefit also from the independent advice of the chief inspector. As the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, signalled, Clause 3 specifically requires the chief inspector to produce an annual report, which must be laid before Parliament. The report is made to the Secretary of State, as the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, said, for exactly the reason that he gave. I shudder to describe my Secretary of State as a "vehicle", but, in this context, that is what she is in constitutional terms. That is the route by which the report comes to Parliament, which is emphasised by the fact that the Secretary of State has no power to change even a comma in the report.
Parliament receives the chief inspector's independent assessment. The annual report distils all the inspection evidence that Ofsted collects into the now familiar "state of the nation in education" report. The evidence makes an important contribution to parliamentary debate and scrutiny. One of the biennial meetings of the Select Committee on Education and Skills with the chief inspector focuses on that report, for good reason. The chief inspector also publishes over 100 thematic and subject reports each year. All contribute to parliamentary debate and the scrutiny of education policy and are therefore accessible to Parliament and, more specifically, to the Select Committee on Education and Skills as part of its functions.
The Secretary of State needs to be informed about standards and quality to perform her parliamentary function and her governmental functions, and there are mechanisms that ensure that Parliament is informed about the chief inspector's findings and can engage face-to-face with the chief inspector on those findings through the Select Committee. We believe, therefore, that the amendment is neither desirable nor necessary.
As we suspected, the amendment was triggered in part by the situation in Wales. The situation in Wales is more different in appearance than it is in reality. In Wales, the chief inspector has the general duty of 171 keeping the Assembly informed about standards, quality and so on. That is a more appropriate model. However, the reference to the Assembly in the Wales equivalent to Clause 2—Clause 19—is open to misinterpretation. The Government of Wales Act 1998 does not provide for the Executive Committee of the Assembly to have a separate legal existence from the Assembly. In practice, most of the Assembly's powers are delegated to the First Minister and, therefore, to the Assembly Government. This is one such example. The position in Wales is, therefore, similar in practice to that in England.
In conclusion, I turn to the power of the inspector's contribution to parliamentary scrutiny. Since 1999, the Education and Skills Select Committee has formalised its scrutiny of Ofsted. It calls the chief inspector twice yearly to examine Ofsted's work and the issues raised by the chief inspector's annual report. It produces regular reports on such matters. The inspector's most recent appearance was in November 2004, and it is open to the Select Committee, if it wanted, to develop and enrich that engagement with the chief inspector. The executive have no power to intervene between Parliament and the chief inspector, nor should they have.
I apologise for that lengthy answer, but, in essence, that is how things are. The chief inspector is independent; he has a duty to report and give his professional judgments on the state of education to the Secretary of State. Parliament has a direct ability to engage with him and the judgments that he makes on the basis of the work that he has undertaken. That is as it should be, and that is what the legislation reflects.
§ Baroness Sharp of Guildford
I thank the Minister. I am better informed, and his reply was helpful. The intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, indicated that there was independence in the establishment of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools of which I had not been fully cognisant.
There is an interesting difference between the position of the English Parliament and that of the Welsh Assembly. In the English Parliament, we have to use the Secretary of State as the vehicle by which we can approach Parliament, whereas, in Wales, there is a different set-up, and the Assembly can be approached directly, so to speak. In that sense, the legislation is perhaps slightly misleading because it initially gives the wrong impression. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Baroness Sharp of Guildford
moved Amendment No. 6:Page 2, line 11, leave out "by" and insert "inThe noble Baroness said: This is a small amendment, but it is perhaps a fairly important one. This is an interesting issue. In Clause 2 it says,the quality of education provided by schools in England".It happens that schools have no legal identity. If schools have no legal personality, how can they provide something? The providers are the governing 172 bodies of schools; they are the ones with legal identity. In law, schools cannot do anything. The issue raised in the amendment is a small but subtle point. If we change the clause to read,the quality of education provided in schools",one overcomes the problem that schools have no legal identities as such.
Perhaps there is too widespread a tendency to speak of schools having obligations and doing this and that. It covers up issues of who, within the school management structure, has the relevant responsibility. In turn, that leads to disguising responsibility and sometimes, as far as schools are concerned, to the overload of responsibilities. It is a rather subtle, little amendment but it has quite important repercussions.
§ Lord Filkin
Not for the first time, I fear it is too subtle by half for me. One tries to get one's head around what is behind an amendment and sometimes one misses.
I do not believe that there is a problem on the legal identity point because the amount of scrutiny that the Bill has had by parliamentary draftsmen and departmental lawyers would have exhibited that by now. However, I do not expect the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, to take that on trust; I believe that it deserves a really detailed and nastily complex letter on why there is no problem, which we shall supply for her.
I believe that there would be a problem if we took her advice. As we interpret the point, again with the benefit of our excellent lawyers, it would have the unintended consequence of limiting the process to what took place physically within a school and, therefore, would quite literally put out of bounds all the functions that a school undertook in the wider community, such as school trips, sports activities outside the school, work experience with local employers and so on. In other words, it would imply a physical definition on the activities of the school, which I am certain is not what the noble Baroness intended. I am sure that she will be the first to see that that is part of the wider responsibilities of a school and that a school could not always fulfil those responsibilities simply within the physical curtilage guarded by the school caretaker.
For those reasons I hope to be able to persuade her that there is no legal problem. I hope that she will accept my suggestion that, if on this occasion we did what she suggests, there might be a problem. I hope she will feel minded to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Wedderburn of Charlton
Before my noble friend sits down, I understand his feeling of anxiety about going into a morass of legal issues. I trust his speech did not imply that when he writes to the noble Baroness he will agree with the proposition that schools have no legal identity. I know of a number of schools with very young children aged from three to five which recently have incorporated themselves. They did not realise what troubles they would get into 173 with the returns that have to be made, but at least it should be on the record that it is not true that schools always have no legal identity.
§ Lord Filkin
I thank my noble friend Lord Wedderburn. I am sure that in our response we shall mind what he has said and ensure that we enrich our answer as a consequence.
§ Baroness Sharp of Guildford
I look forward to the letter that I shall receive from the Minister. It was the legal minds within the National Union of Teachers that informed me that schools have no legal identity. It is true that the school governing bodies have legal identity in relation to schools. The point that the Minister made in relation to the wider issues of education would surely be caught by, for example,spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at those schools".Other aspects within this would pick up the point that he raised. I shall leave it to the lawyers to argue this one. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Lord Hanningfield
moved Amendment No. 7:Page 2, line 20, leave out paragraph (f).The noble Lord said: A number of the amendments that we have tabled at the early phases of this Bill are designed to probe and elicit from the Minister assurances that we seek. I stress that that does not necessarily mean that we are opposed to particular elements of the legislation, but we are taking our time to scrutinise properly the Bill as the House has come to expect, and to hear from the Government how such changes will operate and work in practice. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will take these amendments in such a light and see them as essentially probing in their nature.
Amendments Nos. 7 and 27 are a case in point. By their nature, in England and Wales they would leave out a new duty to which the chief inspector must have regard in the inspection of a school; namely, reporting on how a school contributes to the well-being of its pupils. Such a step arises from the very important piece of legislation in the Children Act, to which we referred earlier. We on these Benches were happy to support the intent of that Act, which is a very important piece of legislation involving the well-being of children, believing that it introduced important efforts to safeguard and to guarantee the rights and safety of children.
While I understand the reasoning behind why such a new duty is to be included as part of the inspection process, I believe that there are a number of practical questions that need to be answered. The definition of well-being as set out in the Children Act and which will be used in this scenario is wide-ranging and comprehensive. Therefore, basing an inspection category on such a definition raises a number of questions.
174 How will Ofsted and each inspector measure and judge such a definition in each school? Elements of the definition, such as social and economic well-being and the protection from harm and neglect, would appear to have more to do with life outside a school environment and would appear to be matters that a school is limited in its ability to influence. Therefore, is there not a danger that such a wide-ranging definition of well-being will differ from one school to another and from one inspector to another? How will the Minister guarantee that there is a standard comprehension and application across the country? What percentage of the report and the time taken for an inspection does the Minister envisage will be taken up in the judging and reporting of well-being?
If there is to be a significant increase in the work undertaken to judge well-being, does the Minister believe that that could have resource implications? Furthermore, what additional burdens and work does the Minister estimate will be placed on each school in the evaluation of what they are doing in this area? Does the Minister believe that, in incorporating such a major category as the contribution played by each school to the well-being of its pupils, there is a danger that elements of the inspection regime, notably around educational attainment, may suffer as a consequence. Is there not a concern that schools may be diverted from their principal objective of providing quality education, given the inclusion of this new category?
As I said earlier, we are not opposed to this at all, but we want to elicit from the Minister some answers on the concept of including this measure in the inspection regime. I hope that the Minister can provide some of the assurances that we seek. I beg to move.
§ Lord Dearing
I am grateful that this issue has been raised. It is an issue of interpretation rather than disagreement. The requirements of the Children's Act, as incorporated in the Bill, are very wide indeed.
Amendment No. 8 from the Liberal Democrat Benches will again look at this particular subsection and seek to tie it down to those things for which teachers and the staff in schools are specifically responsible. Some provisions imported from the Children's Act are so wide that one wonders—for example, in primary school X—how on earth they could impact on the economy of the community, and so on. One is concerned that the breadth of this provision may detract from the sharpness—the focus—of what the inspectors are required to do in a very short period.
The Government have made clear their very strong commitment to improving the physical development of school children. There is an investment of £1 billion up to 2006 in PE and sport—excellent. Two hours a week is to be committed to PE and sport—excellent. I say "excellent" to both those propositions because, as I said previously in the House, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology in a report found that by 15 years of age 15 percent of our young people are obese. It defines that as a weight gain which is a serious threat to health.
175 The Government's example is that one wants to make sure that the remit of the inspectors is not interpreted so widely that they will not be able to give the weight of attention to this that the Government clearly intend. My own preference would be to import the word "physical" into the "social, moral and cultural development of children", which provision has been there for a long time, because the school is concerned with the physical development of children through physical education and the quality of school meals.
In a private discussion, the Minister and I noted a report by the Evening Standard last week on the quality of some school meals; and again it was concerned about it in a report last night. One just wants to elucidate that, in this very broad requirement of the Children Act, the inspectors will be given the kind of focus on the physical development of our young people that seems to be in the Government's mind.
§ Lord Filkin
I was slightly surprised when I read this amendment because it seemed, on the face of it, to unwind the Children Act on which we spent many important hours in the previous Session of Parliament, by the removal of the well-being responsibility from the inspector's duties and leaving only the discipline elements of well-being. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, has made it clear that while that is what it looks like on the face of it, in practice it is a probing amendment for the reasons he has articulated.
There may be a slight sense of déjà vu therefore in some of the things I say in terms of why we think that this must and should be an appropriate part of an inspector's functions when inspecting schools. The House knows well that the Children Bill, as it then was, really rested on two key ideas—one of which was the recognition by most teachers that the capacity of a child to learn in the school was so massively affected by other factors in terms of the child's wider well-being. One does not need to labour the point, but clearly the parental environment, the attitude to learning, the health of the parents, the physical health of the child, in the sense if the child or young person was on drugs, quite clearly impact on the child's capacity to learn.
We know that one does not deal in schools with standard raw material. The child sits in the context of a wider sense of well-being, or not so well-being, which impacts on his ability. Therefore, if we are concerned only about educational attainment, we would also have to be concerned about how one removes some of those wider barriers to educational attainment. The Children Act does not sit simply on that as an argument: it basically says that the child is a person, not just a vehicle for importing educational learning; and that, therefore, we have to be concerned as a society about the total well-being of the child.
That is why we think that the Children Act is one of the most fundamental and powerful pieces of legislation that this House has passed for some time, and why it is also necessary that the inspector has a responsibility to look at well-being within the school.
176 The devil is in the detail of course. We recognise that the school can have an impact on wider aspects of well-being than simply the educational attainment impact of it. Clearly, it can have an influence on health outcomes; it can have an influence on the attitude of the child on whether he goes into meaningful employment; and it can have an influence, along with other partners outside the school, on whether a young person drifts into crime or other forms of activity.
Essentially the Bill recognises that the school, whose primary function is undoubtedly educational attainment, is also a crucial contributor to the wider well-being attainment of the child. We expect that of the school and therefore it is right that the inspector has an appropriate look at what the school is doing to contribute to those wider aspects of well-being.
How will Ofsted judge the matter? That is a good question, to which there is no glib or quick answer. Ofsted is currently consulting on the framework for inspection of schools, which includes physical health and wider aspects of health. We are happy to give more details of that in correspondence, so that the House can get a flavour of its nature. We do not believe that this should be burdensome on schools, because, as my noble friend Lady Andrews said, well-being in practice is already within the remit of schools. The Children Act has just made it sharper and more explicit. Otherwise, there will be a diversion from standards; in fact, one would hope for the reverse.
Let me make that last point. Because schools work better with other partners in attending to, for example, the mental health of a child, which is affected by the mental health of the mother—which, in fact, is often the cause of mental health problems of children in school— you will get better learning by that child at school. So, it is not simply that we do not believe it would create burdens. If it works well progressively, you will actually get better educational attainment because you are addressing some of the impediments to educational attainment as part of the process. In a sense, that obliquely addresses why I do not think that it would be right to limit the provision just to physical well-being, not least because I have responsibility for child and adolescent mental health. I would not want to let that one pass.
Also there is harm and neglect outside. Let me not go on for too long, but part of what we are saying is that all public bodies, of which schools are one, have a duty to contribute to the safety of a child. It is not only social services that have responsibility; teachers will also pick up issues that worry them—for example, a child is bruised, but why is that child bruised? This provision makes it clearer that that must be part of their responsibilities. Therefore, they will know how to act in that situation without having the prime responsibility for making the judgments about whether the child needs to be taken into other forms of care or protection.
On the difference between schools and inspectors, these are also the challenges of inspections. As part of what I promised in terms of more detail on the testing of the framework, I shall give a flavour of quality assurance 177 on those issues because it is a proper question. Let me try to ensure that there is good moderation and that there are no significant differences between schools and inspectors.
I believe I have probably touched on many, if not all, the points.
§ Lord Hanningfield
Could the Minister explain a bit more? I wear another hat as the leader of a large local authority with 600 schools. They are very different. A lot of schools spend much time supporting families. I totally agree with what the Minister has said, but if you go to different parts of my county of Essex, the well-being could be interpreted in totally different ways. I was trying to probe how this will actually work in inspections, because some inspections might have to devote a lot more to the well-being of what is happening in that school and—almost—whether parts of the Children Act are being complied with.
In other schools the situation would be different and the point of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, that there should be more physical activity in that school might apply. Therefore, if the Minister cannot do so today, I hope he will let us have more details because I can see that it could be an important new part of the inspection regime, particularly in some areas because of the nature of schools. As I say, we have 600 of them and they are very different; indeed, there are many diverse problems in different areas. I do not want to go into details here, but different problems in different schools must be looked at. Well-being is very important, but it can be interpreted in different ways in different places. Perhaps the Minister will comment further on that.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Filkin
The noble Lord is right; he has partly answered his own question. In Essex there will be different situations in Basildon, if I have got it right, compared to the most rural part of Essex. In other words, the challenges to the well-being of children will differ between schools. One of the reasons that local government has leadership responsibility for the Children Act 2004 in communities is to reflect that function.
Secondly, the inspection process hangs off the school's self-evaluation of how it is addressing the five well-being responsibilities. Again, that is right. Because of the differences between areas, the inspector will look at what a school says are the challenges to its children's well-being, based on its understanding of their school environment, and what they are doing about them. No doubt the SIPs and the inspector will at times challenge a school about whether its focus has been too lopsided on one outcome rather than another. That is part of what good inspection is about. But the process will start with a school's perception of the issues. Therefore, while the five outcomes will be common, as splintered down into the 25 more detailed ones that we have set out in subsequent documents, it is right that schools will respond at times with a different emphasis or different initiatives. There is not a set of perfect answers to all the issues. Part of the 178 process is for schools to demonstrate their own creativity in getting around the issues. If we knew the answers to obesity or drug-taking, we would have dealt with them by now. There should not be a national rubric in this sense.
I hope that those points are helpful, because they relate to why local government should have the lead role in this respect. Despite that, it is important that I set out in a little more detail how within that diversity there needs to be fair commonality. I think that that is the nub of the noble Lord's question.
§ Lord Hanningfield
I thank the Minister for that reply and look forward to his further response. I still wish to know more about how the Government feel that Ofsted would operate in the system, given the diversity of schools and the nature of well-being.
§ Lord Filkin
Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps he will bear with me if I say a little more on health, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, whose questions I should have addressed.
Health and well-being are of the utmost importance. We share the concern about obesity and other health challenges. The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, has spoken powerfully and passionately about the issue at previous stages. We know some of the complex of factors leading to obesity and other negative outcomes. We want all schools to be healthy schools, which means promoting a school ethos and environment that encourages a healthy lifestyle; using the full capacity of the curriculum; offering healthier food and drink across the school day; and promoting physical activity. We want all schools to be working towards being healthy schools by 2009.
To support schools we have developed a healthy living blueprint, which offers resources and guidance on teaching and learning, including cooking; suggests ways of helping pupils to understand where food comes from and how it is produced; promotes physical activity and sport, and offers help with the physical environment, indoors and out. It draws in many other facets that have an impact on good health and well-being.
As the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, signalled, we are providing £1.1 million to support schools in ensuring that healthier school meals are available; reviewing national nutritional standards for secondary schools; providing advice for schools on procuring a healthy school meals service, and training for school caterers.
Physical education and sports are obviously crucial. Active children are less likely to be obese. Investment now stands at over £1.5 billion, more than £680 million of which is funding a step change in school sport facilities. Already over 50 per cent of schools are involved in a school sport partnership, and every school will be in a partnership by 2006. The network of schools comes together and receives extra funding to enhance and increase sports opportunities.
Adding to the purposes of inspection the contribution that schools make to the well-being of pupils will ensure that health and well-being are captured in the routine inspection of schools and used 179 to inform the wider requirements on services to children, as required by the Children Act 2004. In addition, Ofsted will, through its separate programme of subject and thematic reviews, look at specific aspects of pupils' health and well-being in more detail. There are at least two such studies in the programme for 2005–06. The Government have set a challenging PSA target to address obesity, focusing on children.
Schools cannot take full and absolute responsibility for tackling child obesity but have an important role. We will give support and encouragement to help them, their pupils and their families to work together to make each school a healthy school.
I apologise for interrupting the closing remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, but it probably was efficient to seek to address the question of the noble Lord. Lord Dearing.
§ Lord Wedderburn of Charlton
I understand that the Minister made an additional point, on which I would like to ask a question. When guidance is given down the line on all those enormously important matters, which become increasingly wider the more one debates the subject —the whole life of the child and his or her family—surely one should bear in mind the teachers who must prepare for inspections. Preparation for an inspection, and the inspection itself, can be emotionally and psychologically traumatic for some teachers. They worry that they have not done enough. I know people for whom inspection was the last straw that made them leave the teaching profession. It does not happen very often, and I hope that it will not happen at all.
Does my noble friend think that some boundaries will be indicated? If not, teachers preparing for an inspection on all the matters that have entered noble Lords' minds—they are valid, of course—will find it increasingly difficult to know whether they have left anything out. I hope that that aspect will be borne in mind. Having disagreed, it seems, with the advice of the National Union of Teachers, I have an interest in making up by asking such a question. However, it is a genuine question, which is particularly applicable to young teachers facing their first inspection.
§ Lord Filkin
At one level, the five outcomes are not new; they have implicitly been part of many schools' responsibilities to the wider education of their children. Secondly, we will touch later on the shorter notice period, which, we believe, helps to reduce teachers' anxiety and stress, because it is better to worry for a week rather than two months, if I can so put it. Thirdly, this is not, I am glad to say, theory. The process of testing the new system is extensive and has been extensively advanced. So far the feedback from head teachers and teachers has been very positive. They are finding the new system possible and perceive it as working better than the old one. My noble friend 180 is right that the anxiety and burdens on teachers must remain part of our concerns, but so far the evidence looks positive.
§ Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
I wish to follow up the points on physical exercise that the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, raised. Like him, I was very impressed with my noble friend's response and the amount of resources and activity going into improving the provision of physical exercise opportunities in schools. I wish to raise two points.
I hope that the Government's provision will include encouragement to take part in competitive sports. I know that competitive sports are not particularly attractive to some pupils and that schools must ensure that some of the activities made available will appeal to such students. But over the past 10 to 15 years the opportunity for many children in state schools to take part in competitive sports has been reduced. They have lost out considerably.
One of the problems that arose during the industrial disputes of some years ago was out-of-hours activities by teachers. I raise in particular the question of primary schools. With the gender imbalance among teachers, it can sometimes be very difficult for kids in primary schools to have any access to team games, particularly in leagues. It is a great pity. I hope that my noble friend will agree to take the matter back to the department and, as part of the impressive programme for encouraging physical activity, he will look into the ways in which we can encourage competitive team sports.
§ Baroness Howe of Idlicote
I probably ought to have entered into the discussions a little earlier.
I was extremely pleased to hear what the Minister said about the flexibility that the schools would have in interpreting the range of provisions set out in subsection (1). During the passage of the Children Bill, we received a number of rather surprised comments from the education side on the fact that they were not as involved as they thought they should have been. An attempt is being made here to remedy that and leave a degree of flexibility, particularly in subsection (l)(b) which deals with,how far that education meets the needs of the range of pupils at those schools".I am not going to go into that matter because we will come to it. This emphasises the real concerns we have about whether growing children receive the support they need to achieve the Government's aims of getting children—and particularly the most vulnerable children— out of the state that they are in and able to make the best of their qualities.
I would like to emphasise the question of recreation and sport which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, mentioned. Though a huge amount of money has been put into this, there is a long way to go to achieve the two or three hours of recreation and—it is to be hoped—of competitive sport. I could not agree more on that matter. There was a period when any form of competitive sport in schools was regarded as highly undesirable. That was an appalling time.
181 Like my noble friend Lord Dearing, I have raised the matter of obesity on several occasions. We have had a debate on the subject. It is a matter of growing concern and I see that the Government are taking it more and more seriously. I hope that there will be no need for legislation, but a great deal more needs to be done here. I am glad that there is room for it in the range of requirements under the Bill.
§ Lord Filkin
I am grateful that the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, acknowledged that there needs to be—and is—proper flexibility according to local circumstances, needs and creativity as part of both the responsibility set out in the Bill and the way in which schools respond to it.
I strongly agree with both the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, on the subject of competitive sports. There was a rather strange fashion when anything competitive was seen as slightly suspect. Those days have gone. Without being too personal, one knows that when one swims against someone one gets more exercise than if one plods up and down the pool alone.
I would like to give a fuller answer on what we are doing to promote competitive sports in schools that I will set out in a letter and copy to other Members of the House.
§ Lord Roberts of Conwy
I would be grateful if the Minister would give way for a second.
In view of what we have heard in this debate—and what the Minister has said about the Government's concerns—is it not very surprising that the word "physical" does not occur in the clause? The words "spiritual", "moral" and so forth occur, but "physical" does not. Should it not be included somewhere?
§ Lord Filkin
As I touched on earlier, health is absolutely and categorically one of the five outcomes that the Children Act has as its central responsibility. I signalled why this is a wider concern than just physical health. Mental health will, I fear, increasingly be one of the problems of our society in the future. Schools can make a contribution to that as well. The Bill deals with both physical and mental health in their totality. I am well paid by the House for interrupting the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, on his closure.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Hanningfield
We have had a very interesting debate. I was going to withdraw the amendment a little while back but a lot more discussion was precipitated— particularly about sport—which I found very interesting and worth while. We are all united on that matter. My noble friend Lord Moynihan announced the Conservative Party's policy on sport about a month before the Government announced theirs. We have identical policies on sport in schools and wish to support that.
I look forward to the Minister's response on this matter, as the issue of all types of well-being in schools is very important. That has engendered a much longer 182 debate. I am sure that we will pursue this at further stages of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Baroness Walmsley
moved Amendment No. 8:Page 2, line 20, leave out paragraph (f) and insert—(f) the contribution to the well-being of those pupils by the teaching and other staff of those schools according to their different responsibilitiesThe noble Baroness said: As your Lordships well know, Clause 2 adds two elements to the duties of HMCIS to keep the Secretary of State informed: first, the extent to which the school meets the needs of all students; and secondly, its contribution to well-being as defined in Section 10(2) of the Children Act.
Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, I do not want to delete subsection (l)(f) completely, but it needs clarification. That is why we on these Benches have chosen to move the amendment. Its intention is to probe what "well-being" is supposed to mean in a school setting, and how the Government envisage the teaching and other staff of the school contributing specifically to that.
The other side of the coin is this. What constitutes a lack of attention to well-being? Can the Minister indicate how staff might fail in an inspection on this factor?
Can the Minister say something about how he sees all five elements of the outcomes—physical, mental and emotional health, protection from harm, education, training and recreation, their contribution to society and social and economic well-being— playing out in an inspection? I share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, on the stressful effect that the very breadth of what we are asking schools to achieve could have on teachers.
We know that schools are a major contributor to children's well-being and always have been. I do not know if noble Lords saw a programme during the Recess entitled "The Child of Our Time" which was presented by the noble Lord, Lord Winston. Both my noble friend Lady Sharp and I saw it. There was a perfect example in it of a lovely little boy who, despite all kinds of terrible situations in his family background, managed to keep school as a special place. His behaviour in school was totally different from his behaviour at home.
Conversely, we know that very often difficulties at home spill over into behaviour at school. The role of a school in a child's well-being is, as the Minister said, nothing new. But what is new is that it is specified clearly in the Children Act and now the inspection framework will include inspecting how well schools are doing in that context.
It is odd that the Government are making so much of the role of schools in well-being in the Bill, while at the same time refusing to accept in the Children Act that schools should be listed as co-operating partners.
Both the Ministers will probably remember that during the passage of the Children Bill, with the support of many children's charities including the 183 NSPCC, we tried to persuade the Government that the duty to co-operate should exist not only between strategic bodies such as strategic health authorities and probation boards, but also between operational delivering agencies including schools. In response to our amendments the Government stated that one of the levers of influence to ensure that co-operation took place between delivering agencies would be inspection. While we welcome the provisions set out in the current Bill to inspect the contribution made by schools to the well-being of their pupils, there are no explicit provisions for inspection to ensure that co-operation between other strategic and operational agencies takes place in schools.
That is why we have tabled this amendment. It seeks simply to probe how the lever of inspection is to apply, as the Government stated it would, during the passage of the Children Bill last year—and very specifically how it relates to what teachers and other staff in schools are expected to do. I beg to move.
§ Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
I want to speak to my Amendment No. 9. This is something of a catch-all group around the definition of "well-being". I must confess that my amendment might have fitted better with our discussion in the previous grouping on physical activity than it does with these amendments, but I hope that noble Lords will bear with me on that as the other course of action would be decoupling the amendment from this group.
As we know, Clause 2 sets out the functions of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England. Subsection (1) specifies the chief inspector's general duty of "keeping the Secretary of State informed" about a number of aspects of the performance of individual schools including paragraph (f), covering the well-being of pupils. My amendment seeks to ensure that in any assessment of the well-being of pupils, a school's commitment to out-of-school learning is an important matter to be considered. As we heard on the previous group, "well-being" is defined in Section 10(2) of the Children Act 2004 as,physical and mental health and emotional well-being; … protection from harm and neglect; … education training and recreation; … the contribution made by them to society; … and social and economic well-being".I think that that rather wide definition ought to embrace out-of-school learning—or as I no doubt incorrectly refer to them, school trips.
School trips contribute enormously to the well-being of children. They can enrich a pupil's education by contributing to physical activity, as we have just discussed, and by providing adventure and raising environmental awareness among students. In particular—and this is where there is a connection with the other amendments in this group—school trips can be especially helpful to less able children. The evidence of the advantages that such trips bring to many of our young people is clear, but there is currently a real problem in schools when organising them.
Many schools have negative perceptions about trips. Performance between schools on their attitude towards them is very patchy and we know that there 184 are particular financial problems for schools in inner city areas. The fact is that schools often depend on so-called voluntary contributions from parents towards the financing of trips. Anyone who has read the letters that are cleverly crafted by head teachers to encourage "voluntary contributions" will know that unless parents are prepared to contribute, the trips will not be undertaken.
We know that there are problems related to the so-called blame culture, with fears of litigation when an accident occurs. The NUT reckons that insurance premiums for school trips have increased by 25 per cent over the past few years because of the problem of litigation. Some teacher unions are reluctant to encourage their members to supervise trips. There is also a lot of bureaucracy involved. My noble friend has debated with Members of the House on a Starred Question on school trips the whole issue of those wretched risk assessment forms that teachers have to fill in. I would say to my noble friend that he really ought to look at some of them. If a teacher wants to take a group of sixth-formers from a sixth-form college to a local museum, he or she must fill in these ludicrous forms. That is absolutely ridiculous and no wonder they are so off-putting to teachers. There is also a problem with regard to teacher training. I am not sure whether enough focus is put on encouraging the value of expeditions and school trips among new teachers.
I am not here to criticise my noble friend or his department; indeed, the record of his department in this area has been encouraging. For instance, the Growing Schools programme has included in-depth studies of outdoor sites and centres and the advantages that they bring. Practical guidance on health and safety has been published, although I must say that I think it very much goes over the top. I know that his department has encouraged the importance of school trips and has opened up a dialogue with the teacher unions.
I also draw attention to the work of the Better Regulation Task Force and its report entitled Better Routes to Redress, published in May of last year. The report looks at the whole question of the compensation culture and at what I would describe as the urban myths of people suing public authorities for large sums for trivial reasons. It is a very encouraging report because it states in essence that fears of a compensation culture are often over-expressed and not substantiated. It also makes the point that our judicial process is very good at sorting the wheat from the chaff. The compensation culture is actually rather a myth in our society, but because people, public authorities and schools believe that there is a culture of compensation, it leads to defensive management and a fear of litigation, with the result that organisations are overly cautious about what they do.
Because of that, we hear of schools banning or not holding events that they used to hold because of the fear of being sued. They worry that if anything happened to a student, the parents would take the school to court. That affects the culture in which school trips take place.
185 I acknowledge the work of my noble friend's department in seeking to do something about it, but I want to take this opportunity to encourage him to do still more. I know that establishing task forces sometimes leads to criticism about the way the Government go about their business, in particular among Members of the party opposite, but I cannot think of a better subject for a task force and a rapid action plan if we are to turn the whole business of schools trips around.
The kind of work that we need to embrace over the next few months is this. First, we must send an absolutely clear message to schools that out-of-classroom experience is important and ought to be an integral part of every child's education. Secondly, we need to find the resources to help poorer schools and students meet the cost of school trips. Thirdly, I ask my noble friend to look at whether we ought to give students a statutory entitlement to a minimum number of days out of the classroom. I acknowledge all the problems associated with trying to fit the curriculum into a busy school year and we have already heard about the intention to provide two hours' worth of physical activity a week, so trying to sort all this out is not easy. But one way of enhancing out-of-school education as a whole would be to provide a minimum amount of time that students spend out of school.
We ought to ensure, through the Training and Development Agency for Schools, that current and future teachers are adequately trained to undertake schools trips.
Above all, we need to work with teachers, heads and school governors to attack the compensation culture myth. As a minimum, if the DfES would summarise the work of the Better Regulation Task Force report and ensure that it was circulated to all schools with some support from the department, that might have a beneficial impact on the current climate, which makes people fear litigation so much.
We also need to help teachers. We have to ensure that they feel supported when things go wrong with certain school trips, as they sometimes do. It is impossible to devise out-of-school activity that really means something to a young person if there is to be no risk whatever of physical accidents. It is impossible to reach that situation.
Where accidents happen, the very least that teachers can expect is that there will be no knee-jerk, blame-culture reaction to suggest that if something happens, the teacher in charge must automatically be wrong. My noble friend Lord Winston is in his place. The same considerations apply to doctors and medical staff who are concerned with accidents in the health service. If we automatically assume that the person in charge has made a mistake, it is no wonder that professionals are very reluctant to accept the responsibilities that we want to place on them.
I hope that my noble friend will listen sympathetically to the points that I have made. I do not expect him to accept my amendment. However, I hope that he will consider whether his department will be prepared to 186 develop some kind of task force, some kind of action plan, to get back to the idea of school trips that really are supported. They can do so much good for so many young people.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Baroness Massey of Darwen
I intervene very briefly in the debate on paragraph (f), which seems to have caused many issues to arise.
My noble friend Lord Wedderburn spoke earlier about the burden on teachers of undergoing inspections. As a school governor who has just undergone a school inspection, I appreciate that the present system is indeed a burden and causes tremendous pressure on staff, governors and parents. However, we should remember that the intention of the Bill is to reduce that pressure by having far less detailed inspections. We should not forget that these inspections are about inspecting the school development plan, which will, one would hope, be developed with governors and would involve parent governors at least.
I agree with much of what my noble friend Lord Hunt said. I believe that we could become involved in some obscure detail about what we mean by learning out of school, but I shall not elaborate on that. I wonder whether we could get round the problem by simply adding to paragraph (f) a form of words as defined in the Children Act and set out in the school development plan. The Children Act is fairly precise about outcomes, and I know that those are defined later in the Bill. However, I wonder whether they should be mentioned here, which would get over the business about the physical and mental areas to be developed in pupils and might indeed include everything that we are talking about, apart from the liaison with other agencies, which is due to be debated shortly.
§ Lord Hanningfield
I support much of what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said. I am not so sure about the task force that he proposed. As he said, we may not be quite so keen on it. However, I certainly support all the sentiments that he expressed about school trips. I have visited literally hundreds of schools during my pleasurable career. Sometimes one meets young people who would not have had a chance to develop by seeing all kinds of things and visiting all kinds of places without their schools having organised such trips. I certainly know from my own experience that if I had not visited many places when I was at primary school, I probably would not be here, as I am sure is the case for many Members of the Committee. Actually seeing the way that things operate has contributed greatly to our personal development. I have sometimes felt very depressed about the opportunities missed by young people as a result of schools failing to organise such outings for them.
I therefore very much support what the noble Lord said about school trips. Unfortunately, because of problems in recent years, I believe that not very many trips are currently taking place, and certainly people are withdrawing from them because of the culture of our society these days. I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about that in his response.
187 I now want to speak particularly to Amendment No. 26 in this group of amendments. We discussed this kind of issue when we debated previous amendments, but this is a serious and important amendment which would add to the inspection criteria. Together with the comment made just now, it is very relevant to the Children Act. It relates to how effective the school is at enabling vulnerable children to thrive within its environment.
It is estimated that about a quarter of all school children experience difficulties at some time in their schooling. Such difficulties could arise as a result of being disabled or handicapped or from statements of special educational needs, with which we shall deal later in this legislation, but also as a result of suffering from learning and behavioural difficulties.
I am a supporter of special schools for many of these requirements, but now more are being integrated and will be integrated into mainstream schools. That is the specific reason why this amendment is important. It is crucial that every school should do everything possible to ensure that these children benefit from the same learning and physical environment as their fellow pupils.
This amendment would be used by Ofsted to gauge how successful a school was in providing such facilities and how well it had achieved the objective of integrating these children, and, most importantly, in providing them with life chances and educational opportunities. There could be further advantages. With such knowledge, the parents of such children would be better placed to make informed decisions about which school was best suited to the needs of their children.
§ The Earl of Listowel
I rise to speak to Amendments Nos. 28 and 30 tabled in my name. However, before doing so, I also voice my support for the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt.
Having been involved previously in organising trips for 11 and 12 year-old children, having taken them ice skating, some of them for the first time, and having seeing their delight when they began to master that skill, I believe that it would perhaps also be of great benefit to teachers to be able to take pupils on such trips and to see them having such a good time and enjoying themselves. I also took a group from White City on a dry skiing trip, which I believe was a very good experience for them.
Both of my amendments concern children in local authority care. The first refers to the educational attainment of looked-after children in the school, and the second refers to the adequacy of the plans for looked-after children in the school. The purpose of my amendments is to ensure that inspectors consider very carefully whether the guidance regarding the education of looked-after children is being properly followed and implemented in schools.
Concerns have been expressed in the Government's Social Exclusion Unit report, A Better Education for Children in Care, about the consistency with which this guidance has been implemented. That has been 188 supported by perhaps the first piece of really thorough investigation of the education of looked-after children in schools, Taking Care of Education, by the National Children's Bureau. The senior researcher who supervised that project, Dr Isabelle Brodie, recently sent me an e-mail in which she states:it seems that schooling experiences continue to be variable and the ways in which existing guidance has been implemented differ considerably between LEAs and schools … The evidence from the first phase of our study indicated that even when PEPs were being completed, the quality of the content was often poor".The matter needs to be addressed and this guidance is fundamental.
There are particular challenges for children in local authority care. First, they come principally from very poor backgrounds; black children are over-represented; and black boys are likely to spend far longer in care than other children.
The people who work with such children, regrettably, lack professional development. Very often they are committed people but, for instance, in 1998, 70 to 80 per cent of residential care workers had no relevant qualifications to work with children in children's homes.
As to foster carers, in France people have to undertake an obligatory 240 hours of training before they can be registered as foster carers. In France and Denmark there is a very substantial remuneration for the work they do with foster children, whereas in this country, it is gratifying to learn, the Government have recently introduced a minimum allowance to ensure that payments for clothing and food are adequate. But that is a long way from what happens on the Continent.
Such children tend to lack the advocates that other children may have. For example, many children with disabilities have middle-class parents who are very vocal in getting what is needed for them, but children in the care system tend to come from poor backgrounds and both parents may not be able to act as powerful advocates for them. The people who look after them are often not professionally trained and therefore not necessarily the best and most effective advocates for such children. So that is one issue; one challenge.
A second challenge is that many of these children arrive in schools in the middle of the school year. Sometimes the schools which have places at that time of year are those to which parents would prefer not to send their children. So, quite often, children in the care system tend to end up in poorly performing schools. That is further disadvantage for them.
Thirdly, the Government's policy on statements is, quite rightly, to try to reduce the number of statements so that the money can be used to build up the capacity of the whole school to support children with particular needs. Statements tend to go to children with clearer physical disabilities rather than to those with emotional behavioural difficulties. Of the group of children I am discussing at the moment, because of their backgrounds and histories, 40 per cent have some 189 kind of psychiatric disorder according to the Office for National Statistics. That compares with about 10 per cent in the general population.
So these children are disadvantaged by arriving in the middle of the year, perhaps, and by missing out on getting a statement and not necessarily getting the resources they need to be supported in the school. They make up only 1 per cent of the school population and so, again, it is easy to overlook the particular needs of these children.
It is important to recognise these challenges for such children and it is also important to recognise the challenges for the teachers. As I say, because of their experience, some of these children present quite challenging behaviour. So it is vital that the right processes are in place in schools to ensure that teachers know what is going on and can respond strategically to what is happening with the children.
Many of these children benefit from smaller settings— special schools—as the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, commented earlier. We also want them to be in the mainstream if at all possible and there have been recent innovations to make it easier for these children to be in a mainstream school. I emphasise that it is a diverse group; some children are very academically inclined and do very well, but others have more difficulties.
Perhaps I may briefly give an example from my own experience of working with eight and nine year-olds this summer. Anne Longfield, the chief executive of 4Children—formerly Kids' Club Network—kindly arranged for me to have some practice work with these children in north London. On the third day, the Wednesday morning, I was walking with the senior worker and one of the children, a nine year-old. We had been having some problems with the child, who had difficulties relating to the other children and with his behaviour. As we walked along he said, "Well, I have started my new parents now"—and that is how we learnt that this child had just moved from the care system and become adopted. It would have been extremely helpful if we had known that at the beginning of the week. Looking back on it, there are a number of things that we could have done that would have helped.
I was very pleased that we were able to do some good work with this child on the Thursday. Returning from a trip to go canoeing with the group, in the van back he had a good, long conversation with an eight year-old girl. She had been to Butlin's many times and he was going with his new adopted parents to Butlin's for the first time. So she was very happy to talk about her visits to Butlin's and he was very interested to learn what to expect when he got there. This was all mediated by a worker. It is an example of what can be done but it is helpful to have all the information when one tries to do that kind of work.
There is also the issue of confidentiality. For many of these children who are taken into care, their experience of the adult world has not been a positive 190 one. Many express strongly the feeling that schools should not know anything about their backgrounds; that this should be kept in confidence. But they also say that they would like their experience to be acknowledged to some degree in some way. So there is a certain tension there. Those who have looked carefully at the issue think that such information needs to be shared, but I emphasise that the processes behind sharing that information have to be absolutely top notch.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, the experience of being in school can be a tremendously positive one for any of us, but for children who are experiencing a great deal of chaos in their home lives and a great deal of instability it is especially vital. The programme of the noble Lord, Lord Winston, I believe, bore that out. I should also emphasise, as I have found myself with a particular teacher, that a teacher who speaks to the child and has a good relationship with the child can raise that child's self-esteem and inspire the child to be involved with education. Again, Dr Brodie refers to this. Young people themselves report that teachers can play an extremely supportive role in their lives.
Perhaps my amendments are not the right instrument to ensure that this happens but the point I am trying to reach—and this should be on the face of the Bill—is that there is a real motor here to ensure that inspectors very carefully check procedures; check that there is a senior designated teacher in the school, who is given the time to liaise with local authorities; and check that personal education plans are not merely tick-box exercises and are continually up-dated.
This is a real opportunity to improve the educational experience of these children. I look forward to the Minister's response.
§ Lord Wedderburn of Charlton
I am conscious of the time. We have had a very interesting debate on this clause and I will briefly put the main point which led me to anticipate the noble Earl as I did. I am sorry.
My noble friend Lord Hunt surely raised a tremendously important point. As it has been said so often I shall merely subscribe to it and leave it there.
But it also raises the question of what the Committee is doing. There is a relationship between drafting and reality. There is an easy way out, which Mr Balfour took in 1905 when challenged on the way that he had put the question that trade unions were corporations, which is wrong. He said, "I know that. I am talking English, not law".
But that is a glib way out. If there is a justification for this House and its procedures, a question which I prefer to leave pregnant in the minds of some of your Lordships, and if there is a worry about a compensation culture—I put it that way advisedly because sometimes it is in the imagination of well-stocked bars rather than reality—and people do believe that risks have increased, my noble friend Lord Hunt is quite right about that, then that is not invented by lawyers; it is partly invented by Parliament because Parliament does not take enough care with Committee stages. The difference between 191 reality and drafting is what the Committee stage is all about. I dare to raise this question in a technical form as it will be quicker that way. My noble friend may not want to answer it tonight, but I hope that he will keep it in mind.
The debate has rather assumed that the tremendously important word "well-being", which underlies the entire debate about how far teachers must look, what they must do, and what inspectors must do, is in the form set out in Section 10(2) of the Children Act 2004. There must be a relationship between the meaning of well-being and all that goes with it, including:physical and mental health and emotional well-being; … protection from harm and neglect; … education, training and recreation"—which my noble friend Lord Hunt will be especially interested to note. Section 10(2) continues:the contribution made by them to society; … social and economic well-being".But the Bill does not tie the meaning of well-being to those targets.
It is interesting that there is no amendment tabled to Clause 11, so the point may be lost if it is not raised now. The clause states:'well-being', in relation to pupils at a school, is a reference to their well-being having regard to the matters mentioned in section 10(2) of the Children Act 2004".It manifestly could include something that is not mentioned in that section. Whether or not there is a compensation culture, there will be litigation. It is a fact of life that in any free society there will be litigation. One of the most important words that will have to be defined in those proceedings will probably be "well-being".
Perhaps my noble friend and his officials can look at Clause 11 to ensure that it is in the form that he wants. A reference to "having regard to" a list of things is a long way short of a conclusive definition. Perhaps such a definition is not wanted; there may be other things to be kept in mind. But Clause 11 contains peculiarly loose phraseology, which I mention at this stage so that it is not missed.
§ Lord Filkin
There is much to respond to, and I shall do my best. One well respects and is sympathetic to the intention of the amendments. There is strong consensus about the broad spirit of the Bill, and the debate is about whether such things are best achieved by making specific amendments to it. We clearly recognise the importance of schools both in improving the well-being of their own pupils, including, in particular, the most vulnerable, and those children and young people in the wider community.
That is why we have proposed changes to the statutory purposes of inspection, requiring inspectors to consider and report on how far the school meets the needs of the range of pupils at the school, and its contribution to the well-being of its pupils.
192 The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, spoke fulsomely and passionately about the issue of looked-after children. His amendment and that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, and the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, relates to vulnerable children.
The purposes of inspection are delivered through the framework for inspection. During the trials of the new system, inspectors have used the framework to ask schools about looked-after children, using a case study approach to track the experience of those children within the school and the impact on their educational and personal development of the school environment. I hope that the noble Earl found that as he would wish it to be. It includes looking at how the school works with other agencies in meeting the needs of looked-after children, as well they need to, given the appallingly poor educational outcomes of looked-after children.
There is a section of the inspection report dedicated to the attainment of pupils in the school. Inspectors report on their assessment of whether there is significant under-achievement between groups of learners, for example. That ensures that attainment of all groups of learners, including looked-after children and other groups of vulnerable children, such as pupils with special educational needs, is evaluated.
Schools are responsible for promoting the educational achievement of all their pupils, as your Lordships know from discussions on the Children Bill. We do not, therefore, see what a specific duty for one particular group of children would achieve. We would be in danger of having a list of particular groups that the inspector had to think about and assess, and which would be adding one thing after another. That would fetter the inspector's discretion. It would also single out individual children from vulnerable groups. The number of looked-after children can be one or two in a primary school, and as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, signalled, there are also issues of confidentiality in that respect.
Evaluating the impact of all services, including education, on the attainment and progress of looked-after children will be an important element of the joint area reviews and will be picked up there. In such an inspection it will be possible to report on that group of children as a whole without drawing attention to individuals.
I hope that that provides the assurance that the needs and experience of looked-after children must be an important part of the system. But it would not benefit from being explicitly addressed in the way suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel.
On the amendment regarding Ofsted reporting on the adequacy of the plans for looked-after children in school, evidence shows that it is the local authority, as corporate parent for looked-after children, that holds the key to improving their educational achievement. I shall not speak at length, but issues such as stability, 193 out of authority placements, and the ambition of foster parents or care homes make an enormous contribution to whether looked-after children do or do not achieve.
School inspection is moving to a model built on self-evaluation by the school and focuses on the outcomes achieved within the school, as opposed to the processes by which those are achieved. Reporting on the adequacy of the plans is in danger of taking us back to the world that we have well lost rather than trying to evaluate the outcomes. Therefore, such reporting and the institutional inspection of school will be better captured as part of the wider assessment of children's services at local authority level. Should there need to be a more detailed look, that would be best achieved by other means, for example, the evaluation of the relevant policies, which could include a thematic study conducted by Ofsted as part of its annual work programme that is agreed separately with the Secretary of State.
We heard a passionate speech on out-of-classroom learning from my noble friend Lord Hunt. I cannot do it full justice in the time available, particularly as my noble friend the Leader of the House will be snapping at my heels if I go on for too long as the other debate is about to start.
What my noble friend said is important. We recognise that there is concern about a blame culture. The Better Regulation Task Force, as he signalled, has demonstrated extremely powerful common sense in that respect. I shall give some thought to whether there are ways in which to get the good messages of the Better Regulation Task Force to schools, without breaking our self-imposed abstinence of not showering schools with more advice and paper. That might be a bit of a challenge. Nevertheless, there is a kernel of common sense in what my noble friend said, on which we need to reflect.
I shall be even more cautious about setting up a task force from the Dispatch Box—my noble friend will be surprised to hear that. But his proposal requires considered thought rather than a quick letter bashed off within 24 hours of the debate. I shall try to give my noble friend a slow letter and an even more thoughtful one, which would be better. I shall not speak at greater length on that issue as time is pressing.
On well-being, the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, started to stray into the next debate, and I shall resist the temptation to debate Clause 10 now. I hope that she will forgive me, as we shall have plenty of time after dinner.
The amendment concerning inspecting the contribution of the school to the well-being of pupils requires the chief inspector to keep the Secretary of State informed about the contribution made by various groups within the school to the well-being of the child. I am pleased that the noble Baroness is at one with the Government that we must assess the contribution made by schools to the well-being of children as they are clearly major players. Children develop in a great many ways and base their views on a great many factors. It is not the individual contribution of each group of the school work force that is important, but the environment that they 194 combine to provide, which should be one that encourages learning and stimulates the young, keen mind and challenges the learning that they receive in a positive, developmental way.
Where they require support, it is important that the staff ensure that it is of the right quality and suited to the needs of the individual. I believe that the manner in which the clause is currently drafted, requiring the chief inspector to report on the contribution made to the well being of the child by the whole school, is the right way forward, and I hope that the noble Baroness will take that positively. Inspection contributions are important, but their overall impact on the child must be paramount.
Perhaps I may look to some of the other points that I have not addressed so far. The noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, answered the challenge made by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, by reminding me that well-being is defined in Clause 11 by reference to Section 10(2) of the Children Act. I shall take the invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, to ask our lawyers whether there are any risks in the way in which the law is currently drafted in the Bill. I thank him for that. I could talk on hard-to-place pupils and the contributions that protocols will make for them, but we will, I hope, come to that later tonight.
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, started by talking about the risk of failing an inspection. In a sense, inspection starts with self-evaluation. The issue of the new system is the stimulus of self-evaluation within a soft framework, rather than a rigid one. We hope that that will stimulate the school and its leadership, both the paid staff and the governors, to think about how they can do better to achieve the outcomes for the children. It will therefore be less of a case of pass or fail, except in the most extreme cases. Without using ghastly jargon, it will be much more of a learning journey whereby the school's self-evaluation, the contribution of SIPs and the dialogue with the inspection process will stimulate the school to raise its ambition and its performance and do better, rather than a "fail". I mention that because it is crucial to the philosophy of how we hope the new system will work.
I have spoken at greater length, though not at as much length as some noble Lords would have wished. I hope that, at least for now, I have persuaded various Members of the Committee not to press their amendments.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ The Earl of Listowel
I rise to speak briefly in the full knowledge that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House will wish to proceed. To be brief, I wish to thank the Minister for his customary thoroughness in his response and for his understanding. I look forward to studying his reply.
However, I have two points to raise. The first is about the specificity of distinguishing these children from all other children. This is a debate that we had during the Children Bill and I recognise the concerns about the matter. There was a careful consideration of this in this House and the conclusion that we reached was that these children have had poor outcomes in the 195 past and that they are children of the state whom the state has unfortunately failed in the past. In these circumstances it is perhaps right to make an exception for these children. But I shall look carefully at what the Minister said, consider it and see what the options are for the next stage.
With regard to local authorities, it is very welcome that the responsibility for these children has been laid so clearly on the doorstep of the local authority. It is for them to ensure that these children find the stability that they have lacked in the past. We also now recognise throughout government the importance of partnership working. I hope that I have been emphasising that it is for local authorities and schools to work in partnership together to improve outcomes for these children. Local authorities have the principal responsibility, but schools also play a very important part. This may also be a point to which I shall return at the next stage of the Bill. However, I thank the Minister for his response.
§ Baroness Walmsley
My Lords, before commenting on my amendment, which started this group, I shall say a word about the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, with which I have an enormous amount of sympathy. My focus on out-of-classroom learning is not only on physical education and participation in sport, but also on field studies in my own subject, biology. I think that such study has suffered over the years from the kinds of problems outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. I would like to see something done to improve teachers' abilities to take students outside the classroom for the kind of educational enrichment that is so important to the subject.
Before adding the obligation to inspect out-of-classroom learning, it might be helpful if we could also incorporate into this Bill something like the provision contained in the Private Member's Bill of Julian Brazier MP which was introduced in another place. That legislation addresses the problems of the providers of outdoor activities in relation to the risks involved. Although it had the support of the DfES, it was dropped from the agenda of another place. I detect considerable support around your Lordships' House for something of that kind. That needs to go hand in hand with what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is trying to achieve in inspections. But perhaps we ought to talk among ourselves about that before the next stage of the Bill.
I thank the Minister for his response to my amendment. I look forward to talking more about these subjects after the break, when we come to Amendment No. 10. I was not expecting him to say specifically what the contribution of individual teachers and other members of staff was meant to be, but I am sure that he will accept that looking at a very big subject such as the school's contribution to the child's well-being is like eating an elephant—it must be done one bite at a time.
It is clear to me that many teachers and other members of staff are concerned about what they will be expected to do and the basis on which they will be inspected. Anything that the noble Lord has to say on 196 that subject is helpful in setting their minds at rest that the demand will be reasonable and appropriate to their responsibilities in the school. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed