Education Bill

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Mr. Lewis: That is not an accurate reflection of what we have said. Instead of defining the representation of staff on the governing body simply as teachers, it is about time we recognised that a broader group of staff contributes to schools. We guarantee that there will be least one member of the teaching staff as part of the staff representation. The teacher representation could, within reason, be proportionate to the size that the governing body ultimately determines appropriate. Appropriate representation from the staff team would include at least one, but by no means a maximum of one teacher as part of that group.

I do not see how that is contradictory. We simply want to recognise in this change to governance arrangements that, as the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough will know better than most, when we talked in the past about staff representation on governing bodies, it was by and large the head teacher and teachers. Sadly in only a few cases have staff other than teaching staff been represented on governing bodies.

Mr. Willis: The Minister made an insulting remark about me in terms of the status quo. The current governing body must have a member of the teaching staff and a member of the non-teaching staff. That is the current regulation. The Government want to get rid of that and we have had to have all this rigmarole over the last half an hour to put it back.

Mr. Lewis: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that on most governing bodies there are significantly more teacher representatives than representatives from non-teaching staff. Is that not the case?

Mr. Willis: With respect, the Minister should read the current regulations on governors. All primary schools are allowed to have one staff governor and one non-teaching governor, plus the head teacher. We simply ask that that be put in the Bill.

Mr. Lewis: A concern was expressed that we were in some way blurring the right to have on the governing body a teacher representative. I made it clear that there will be guaranteed representation from at least one member of the teaching staff. That is the assurance that hon. Members sought and I am pleased to give it. There is also the possibility for governing bodies to choose a membership model that suits them best within a framework of principle. If a governing body wants more than one teacher, it has the capacity to adopt a larger model to make that possible. It is right that the size of the governing body should not necessarily be determined by the size of the teaching force or the size of the school. A governing body should choose a membership model best suited to discharge its duties and responsibilities in the particular circumstances of the school.

9.45 am

On amendment No. 138, I cannot accept the aspirations of the hon. Member for Isle of Wight. We returned earlier today to attempts to introduce assisted places and now the hon. Gentleman wants to return to the old grant-maintained framework. We see no case for providing a controlling interest for foundation governors at foundation schools. The hon. Gentleman clearly wants to take us back to grant-maintained status, but we have no intention of agreeing to it.

The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 tried to move away from the old divisions. Governing bodies' constitutions for foundation schools must reflect the legitimate interest of the partners with a role in running those schools. Detailed membership will be set out in regulations and will provide a balance between the various groups. No one group will be allowed to dominate, which is an important and widely supported principle.

Amendment No. 177 is unnecessary. As noted earlier, the Secretary of State is allowed, under subsection (2)(f), to prescribe in the regulations any other person who should be included. If circumstances require it, the wording will allow the inclusion of a school improvement contractor. However, building the requirement into the Bill would require the contractor to be included on the governing body irrespective of the particular contract—and we are not convinced that that is desirable.

Amendment No. 221 would introduce a level of detail about the membership of governing bodies purely for one category of school. In framing the legislation, community schools should not be handled differently from foundation or voluntary schools, though the different status will affect the balance of interests between the various stakeholder groups. The provisions are complex and—however unpopular with Opposition Members—I reiterate that we intend to build the details into regulations.

Amendment No. 221 suggests proposals for the membership of community schools that differ from the guiding principles set out in consultation. The Way Forward Group recommended that a fifth of members should be LEA appointees, but the amendment specifies ''at least one fifth'', which clearly raises the possibility of additional LEA members. The amendment also suggests that additional LEA places could be obtained at the expense of the community category because it provides only for ''the remaining governors'' to be appointed as community governors, which the Bill proposes should constitute at least one fifth. We believe that community governors represent an important group of external interests and there is no question of reducing their influence on governing bodies.

Amendment No. 236 would effectively prevent elected members with executive responsibility for education, members of scrutiny committees or anyone employed by an LEA from serving on a governing body—

Mr. Turner: Amendment No. 236 has not been moved.

The Chairman: Order. It is in the group.

Mr. Lewis: Amendment No. 236 may also have the unintended consequence of preventing head teachers of community schools from serving as governors for their school. I am sure that that is not the hon. Gentleman's intention.

Existing regulations contain restrictions as to which persons are eligible to serve in certain categories on a governing body; for example, elected members are not allowed to serve as co-opted, appointed parent or partnership governors. LEA employees are not eligible for appointment as parent or partnership governors. I offer further reassurance that we intend to continue with such protective provisions, subject to consultation. However, I must disappoint hon. Members who want to exclude LEA elected members or employees from governorship in the LEA area. We consulted widely about that, and we believe that our proposals met with agreement.

We have had a comprehensive debate, notwithstanding the differences about primary legislation and regulation. Given the Government's assurances, particularly about teachers and the concerns of the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough about private companies, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Brady: The Minister has made an extraordinarily long contribution to the proceedings—possibly the longest we have had. The question arises whether he was trying to talk out his own Bill. Certainly, the contribution will ensure that we have no opportunity to debate amendments Nos. 167, 161, 168, 248, 169 and 57, and the whole of schedule 1 and clauses 19 to 24.

Mr. Willis: On a point of order, Mr. Griffiths. As I moved the lead amendment in this group, do I have the right to wind up after the Minister?

The Chairman: I hope that Mr. Brady will be brief and that you will have the last word. We are finishing in three minutes.

Mr. Brady: I am against the clock, so I shall do my best. When the Minister has a chance to check the facts, he may wish to reflect on whether it was wise to cast aspersions on the integrity of my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight, who did everything that was appropriate, and probably more, in declaring his interest.

Mr. Lewis: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Brady: No, the Minister has ensured that I do not have time. His response to amendment No. 176 was unsatisfactory. The suggestion that he must maintain parity of esteem between non-teaching and teaching staff is nonsense. By accepting the amendment to subsection (2), the two groups would stand beside each other. The amendment would achieve precisely what the Minister said that he wanted by providing categories for teaching staff and for others who work at the school. His response was entirely inadequate, and I will seek to press amendment No. 176 to a vote.

Mr. Willis: The past three quarters of an hour have been very sad for those who have a genuine regard for the work of governors. Those of us who have read the consultation documents that have come back from governors will know that the one thing that governors want is to be left alone; they do not want further change.

The Government's response did not present a single argument in favour of their proposals. The Liberal Democrats do not expect Ministers to know every aspect of every piece of legislation, and it is unrealistic for hon. Members to believe that they should. However, I expect Ministers to understand Bills and their intentions, and the Minister has been unconvincing in his responses.

If we are honest, Opposition Members are divided on what we are trying to achieve for governing bodies. We come from different perspectives. We are trying only to ensure that key groups have automatic representation by right in the Bill.

It being five minutes to Ten o'clock, The Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Sessional Order D, [28 June] and the Orders of the Committee [11, 13 and 18 December], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment proposed: No. 176, in page 11, line 40, at end insert—

    '(bb) persons employed as teaching staff at the school.'.—[Mr. Brady.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 8.

Division No. 17]

Brady, Mr. Graham Grayling, Chris Laing, Mrs. Eleanor Laws, Mr. David
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen Turner, Mr. Andrew Willis, Mr. Phil

Bailey, Mr. Adrian Coaker, Mr. Vernon Flint, Caroline Heppell, Mr. John
Kumar, Dr. Ashok Lewis, Mr. Ivan Miliband, Mr. David Timms, Mr. Stephen

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 18 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clauses 19 to 24 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Heppell.]

Adjourned accordingly at three minutes to Ten o'clock till Tuesday 8 January at half-past Ten o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Griffiths, Mr. Win (Chairman)
Bailey, Mr.
Brady, Mr.
Coaker, Mr.
Flint, Caroline
Grayling, Chris
Heppell, Mr.
Kumar, Dr.
Laing, Mrs.
Laws, Mr.
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Miliband, Mr.
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Purnell, James
Timms, Mr.
Touhig, Mr.
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Willis, Mr.

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