Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill [Lords]

[back to previous text]

Mr. St. Aubyn: In supporting my hon. Friend, I should point out that at page 49, the Green Paper, ``Schools: building on success'' states:

    ``we intend to develop a new model which would enable an external private or voluntary sector sponsor to take responsibility for a weak or failing school . . . This will further develop the model used at King's Manor, Guildford'',

to which I referred earlier. I am grateful to the Prime Minister at least for endorsing that outstandingly successful Conservative policy. As I said in the House the other day, what a pity it is that the local Labour party and the Secretary of State opposed us at every step of the way.

However, if we take the Green Paper and the Prime Minister's endorsement of our policy at their words, the paragraph to be inserted by the amendment is clearly essential. Paragraph 4.23 of the Green Paper tells us that the Government intend, if they should have the opportunity in the time left to them in their last year in power—or their last weeks, if they want to curtail that period—to introduce a new form of school similar to but different from colleges, academies and technology colleges.

Jacqui Smith: The amendment is intended to ensure that the clause covers any new type of maintained school designated by the Secretary of State. The hon. Member for Guildford suggests that it is at least partially inspired by our recent schools Green Paper, which seeks to build on the reforms that transformed primary education, to secure a step change in secondary education and, in particular, contains our plans for diversity and autonomy in the secondary school system. I must say, however, that rather than crowing about it, the hon. Gentleman should be ashamed of the fact that we had to respond to the failure of Conservative-controlled Surrey county council to facilitate improvement in the school to which he referred.

Mr. St. Aubyn: As I explained, there are many children with special educational needs and disabilities at that school. When we took over the running of the authority in 1997, we found that the problems that we inherited were due to the actions and failures of the previous LEA run by the Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition.

Jacqui Smith: There is evidence that although many children with special educational needs and particular difficulties may be a challenge for a school, that does not necessarily imply that that school will fail. What may prevent the school from improving is not receiving the necessary support from the local education authority.

Mr. St. Aubyn: Will the Minister give way?

Jacqui Smith: No, I will not.

To return to the amendment, I am afraid that however worthy, it is unnecessary. It is not appropriate to write into the Bill definitions of schools that may come into being. The correct place to define such schools would be the legislation that accompanied their creation. I should remind the Committee that existing specialist schools and the new city academies are covered by the definition of a mainstream school for the purposes of clause 1. I assure the hon. Member for Daventry that if and when new types of mainstream schools are created we will be able to extend the definition of a mainstream school in proposed new section 316(4).

Mr. Boswell: I am sure that the Minister and the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon will remember the famous story—now long-bound in antiquity—of the Liberal Prime Minister who, on forming his Cabinet, said, ``Good Lord, I forgot Goschen.'' It is open to Ministers and draftspersons to overlook the matter, but the Minister has given us a challenge: she will not do any such thing. She may well shortly not be in a position to do any such thing, and if she will not help me, we shall have to ensure when we come into power that we get it absolutely right.

Mr. St. Aubyn: Does my hon. Friend agree that the Minister' s recalcitrance on this point casts doubt on whether the Labour party really would, given the opportunity, enact the proposed new model, and that those who want it to succeed will have to look to the Conservative party to pursue the policy successfully?

Mr. Boswell: I have a feeling that you would not wish me to go too far with the point, Mr. O'Brien. I must say that the Minister's speech did not really represent a new model; I am not even sure whether it was the third way.

We should draw consideration of these matters to a close before we impart an improper element of levity, let alone electioneering, into the proceedings. It is important for the Minister to bear such points in mind. It is important that draftspersons should get it right. The Minister has given some assurances about the extent of the existing provisions, and I must accept them. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

        Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Betts.]

        Adjourned accordingly at ten minutes to Seven o'clock till Thursday 29 March at Nine o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
O'Brien, Mr. Bill (Chairman)
Barnes, Mr.
Begg, Miss
Betts, Mr.
Boswell, Mr.
Ennis, Mr.
George, Mr. Andrew
Griffiths, Mr. Win
Harris, Dr.
Hayes, Mr.
Levitt, Mr.
Randall, Mr.
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
St. Aubyn, Mr.
Smith, Jacqui
Squire, Rachel
Whitehead, Dr.

Previous Contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 27 March 2001