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Standing Committee A
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Mr. Eric Illsley, †Mr. Eric Forth
Allan, Mr. Richard (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD)
†Atkinson, Mr. Peter (Hexham) (Con)
†Baird, Vera (Redcar) (Lab)
†Burnham, Andy (Leigh) (Lab)
†Coaker, Vernon (Gedling) (Lab)
†Gibb, Mr. Nick (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton) (Con)
Hoban, Mr. Mark (Fareham) (Con)
†Pickthall, Mr. Colin (West Lancashire) (Lab)
†Pugh, Dr. John (Southport) (LD)
†Touhig, Mr. Don (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales)
Turner, Mr. Neil (Wigan) (Lab)
†Twigg, Derek (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills)
†Twigg, Mr. Stephen (Minister for School Standards)
†Watkinson, Angela (Upminster) (Con)
†Watts, Mr. David (St. Helens, North) (Lab)
†Wright, Iain (Hartlepool) (Lab)
Alan Sandall, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
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Tuesday 22 March 2005
[Mr. Eric Forth in the Chair]
The Minister for School Standards (Mr. Stephen Twigg): I beg to move,
(1) during proceedings on the Education Bill [Lords] the Standing Committee shall, in addition to its first meeting at 9.25 a.m. on Tuesday 22nd March, meet
(a) at 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday 22nd March; and
(b) at 9.25 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. on Thursday 24th March, Tuesday 5th April, Thursday 7th April, Tuesday 12th April and Thursday 14th April;
(2) the proceedings shall be taken in the following order, namely, Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clauses 2 to 19, Schedule 2, Clauses 20 to 27, Schedule 3, Clause 28, Schedule 4, Clauses 29 to 46, Schedule 5, Clauses 47 to 50, Schedule 6, Clauses 51 to 53, Schedule 7, Clause 54, Schedule 8, Clauses 55 to 61, Schedule 9, Clauses 62 and 63, new Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 1, Clause 101, Schedule 16, Clauses 102 to 107, Schedule 17, Clauses 108 to 117, Schedule 18, Clause 118, Clauses 74 to 77, Schedule 13, Clauses 78 to 98, Schedule 14, Clause 99, Schedule 15, Clause 100, new Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 3, Clauses 64 to 66, Schedule 10, Clause 67, Schedule 11, Clauses 68 to 71, Schedule 12, Clauses 72 and 73, new Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 2, Clauses 119 to 123, Schedule 19, Clauses 124 to 128, other new Clauses and new Schedules and any remaining proceedings on the Bill;
(3) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5.30 p.m. on Thursday 14th April.
I welcome you to your position as Chairman of todays proceedings, Mr. Forth. We have the opportunity to make good progress today on an important piece of legislation, which has won widespread support in the education world, and on which we had a good, and largely consensual, debate last week.
Question put and agreed to.
The Chairman: I remind the Committee that there is a money resolution in connection with the Bill, and that copies are available in the Room. I also remind members of the Committee that adequate notice should be given of amendments. As a general rule, I and my fellow Chairman do not intend to call starred amendments, including any starred amendments that may be reached during an afternoon sitting of the Committee.
Her Majestys Inspectorate of Schools in England
Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): I beg to move amendment No. 5, in clause 1, page 1, line 16, leave out
be appointed for a term of more than
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serve more than two consecutive terms of.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship in Committee this morning, Mr. Forth. I confess that I suddenly find myself in difficulty, because the set of amendments that I was given or their numbers bear no relation to those that I see on the amendment paper. I shall proceed as best I can.
The amendment would restrict the term of appointment of the chief inspector to no more than two consecutive terms. That seems to us a sensible limitation on such an appointment. The amendment would provide a control in the Bill, against very long service by one person in that post. A sensible 10-year term would seem the most appropriate maximum.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Derek Twigg): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today, Mr. Forth. I shall be brief.
Clause 1 re-enacts the provisions of the School Inspections Act 1996, which, in turn, re-enacted the original provisions of the Education (Schools) Act 1992. It includes a requirement for the chief inspector to be appointed by the Queen in Council for a maximum of five years, but places no further restrictions on the reappointment. Those arrangements balance the need to safeguard the integrity of the post, by limiting the length of the term of office, with the need to ensure that the most suitable candidate may be appointed.
We remain committed to making recommendations to Her Majesty about the appointment of the chief inspector on the basis of merit and ministerial accountability. We would not usually reappoint without competition for more than two terms, save in very exceptional circumstances for a short period. However, it is right to retain the flexibility to extend the appointment for a further full term, on the basis of open competition, if the candidate is the very best for the job. I therefore urge that the amendment be withdrawn.
Angela Watkinson: Bearing in mind what the Minister has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 1 agreed to.
Functions of Her Majestys chief inspector of schools in England
Angela Watkinson: I beg to move amendment No. 6, in clause 2, page 2, line 25, after State,, insert
by a resolution of either House of Parliament, or by a resolution of a committee of either House of Parliament,.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 7, in clause 2, page 2, line 26, after State, insert
or to the relevant House or committee.
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No. 8, in clause 2, page 2, line 27, leave out Secretary of States.
Angela Watkinson: The amendment is a sensible expansion of the scope of the clause. It clarifies the functions of Her Majestys chief inspector, in expanding the role taken between the two Houses.
Derek Twigg: Clause 2 places a general duty on the chief inspector to keep the Secretary of State informed about standards and quality of education and the well-being of pupils in our schools. That is key information for the Secretary of State in discharging her responsibility for ensuring that education policies and education provision in England are of the highest quality. She is accountable to Parliament for that. She needs the best independent information and advice to assess the impact of those policies, to inform the development of new policies and to be able to account for her decisions.
That is not to say that Parliament should not benefit from the independent advice of the chief inspector. 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, to allow that to happen. I emphasise to the Secretary of State because the Secretary of State has no power to intervene in the findings of the chief inspector.
What Parliament receives is the chief inspectors independent assessment. The annual report distils all the inspection evidence that Ofsted collects into the now very familiar state of the nation in education report. The evidence makes an important contribution to the parliamentary debate and scrutiny. Indeed, one of the biannual meetings of the Education and Skills Committee with the chief inspector focuses specifically on the report.
The chief inspector publishes on his website every school, college and local authority inspection report. He also publishes a wide range of thematic reports and studies, most recently on further education colleges, special needs, out-of-school provision and outdoor education. The chief inspector also publishes more than 100 of those thematic and subject reports every year. All contribute to parliamentary debate and scrutiny of education policies, without the need for a resolution or request from any Committee.
The amendments cut across that clarity of accountability and independence. Amendment No. 6 would mean that the Secretary of State would require the agreement of Parliament before any request could go to the chief inspector. Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 would mean that that request would no longer be in the Secretary of States name and the advice or information would be provided to Parliament.
As I have shown, a great deal of the advice and information is already publicly available; that which is not published is of a more sensitive nature.
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Mr. Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton) (Con): Will the Minister just clarify precisely how the Bill changes the accountability of Her Majestys chief inspector to Parliament? What is the present position, and how will the Bill change it?
Derek Twigg: As I have just made clear, the Education and Skills Committee has the report and discusses it. Ministers are obviously accountable through questions and debates that take place in Parliament.
The information that is not published is of a more sensitive nature, as it often deals directly with individuals or specific institutions. It would not be right for that information, or even the request for such sensitive information, to be so much in the public domain. There are many occasions when Members of Parliament receive information from others sources that we do not disclose to ensure that no injustice is done, even inadvertently, to individuals or institutions.
It appears to me that the process resulting from the amendments would be unnecessarily bureaucratic. Is such additional bureaucracy what hon. Members intend? Perhaps they are concerned that the chief inspector holds back information at the Secretary of States request. I assure the Committee that that is not possible. The chief inspector has always published, and will continue to publish, reports that may be viewed as critical of the Governments policies.
There is nothing in the Bill that enables the Secretary of State to prevent the publication of any report; nor would she do that. I know that she places great value on having such a respected, independent chief inspector as David Bell. As he recently stated in his evidence to the Education and Skills Committee on 16 March, it is his job to report as he finds things, with a view to influencing the decisions that Ministers make. I ask that the amendments not be pressed to a vote.
Angela Watkinson: In view of the Ministers reassurance on those matters, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Angela Watkinson: I beg to move amendment No. 9, in clause 2, page 2, line 29, at end insert
(2A) In addition, the Chief Inspector has the following specific duties
(a) establishing and maintaining the register mentioned in section [Registration of inspectors in England];
(b) giving guidance to inspectors registered in that register, and such other persons as he considers appropriate, in connection with inspections of schools in England under section 5 and the making of reports of such inspections;
(c) keeping under review the system of inspecting schools under that section and, in particular, the standard of such inspections and of the reports made by registered inspectors;
(d) keeping under review the extent to which any requirements imposed by or under this Part, or any other enactment, on any registered inspector, local education authority, proprietor of a school or governing body in relation to inspections of schools in England is complied with;
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(e) promoting efficiency in the conduct and reporting of inspections of schools in England by encouraging competition in the provision of services by registered inspectors..
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: amendment No. 10, in clause 2, page 2, line 40, at end insert
(7) In addition, the Chief Inspector has the following specific duties
(a) establishing and maintaining a register for registered inspectors in England;
(b) giving guidance to inspectors registered in that register, and such other persons as he considers appropriate, in connection with inspections of schools in England under section 5 or 8 and the making of reports of such inspections;
(c) keeping under review the system of inspecting schools under that section and, in particular, the standard of such inspectors and of the reports made by registered inspections;
(d) promoting efficiency in the conduct and reporting of inspections of schools in England by encouraging competition in the provision of services by registered inspectors..
Amendment No. 13, in clause 5, page 3, line 44, at end insert
(c) to appoint a registered inspector to undertake inspections under this section..
Amendment No. 17, in clause 5, page 5, line 3, at end insert
(8) Schedule [Inspections in England under section 5] has effect in relation to inspections under this section..
Amendment No. 1, in schedule 7, page 84, line 28, leave out paragraph 2 and insert
(1) Section 79P of the Children Act 1989 (early years child care inspectorate for England) is amended as follows
(2) For subsection (1) substitute
The Chief Inspector has a duty to maintain a register of early years child care inspectors for England.
(3) Omit subsections (2) to (5)..
Amendment No. 26, in schedule 7, page 84, line 28, leave out paragraph 2 and insert
(1) Section 79P of the Children Act 1989 (early years child care inspectorate for England) is amended as follows.
(2) For subsection (1) substitute
(1) The Chief Inspector has a duty to maintain a register of early years child care inspectors for England.
(3) Omit subsections (2) to (4)..
Amendment No. 27, in schedule 7, page 84, line 33, leave out sub-paragraphs (3) to (5).
Amendment No. 28, in schedule 7, page 85, line 15, leave out sub-paragraph (8).
Amendment No. 3, in schedule 7, page 86, line 16, leave out sub-paragraph (2).
Amendment No. 4, in schedule 7, page 86, line 18, leave out sub-paragraph (3).
New clause 1Registration of inspectors in England
(1) No person may conduct an inspection of any school in England under section 5 unless
(a) he is a member of the Inspectorate, or
(b) he is registered as an inspector in a register kept by the Chief Inspector for the purposes of this Chapter.
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(2) The Chief Inspector may not register a person under this section unless, having regard to any conditions that he proposes to impose under subsection (4)(c), it appears to him that that person
(a) is a fit and proper person for discharging the functions of a registered inspector, and
(b) will be capable of conducting inspections under this Chapter competently and effectively,
and no person may be so registered if he falls within a category of persons prescribed for the purposes of this subsection.
(3) An application for registration under this section
(a) must be made in such a manner, and be accompanied by such particulars, as the Chief Inspector may direct, and
(b) must be accompanied by the prescribed fee.
(4) On an application duly made under this section the Chief Inspector may
(a) register the applicant,
(b) refuse to register him, or
(c) register him subject to such conditions as the Chief Inspector considers it appropriate to impose.
(5) The matters to which the Chief Inspector may have regard in deciding whether to register the applicant include, in particular
(a) the extent to which the Chief Inspector proposes to exercise his discretion under subsection (1) of section 28 to secure that inspections under that section are conducted by members of the Inspectorate rather than registered inspectors, and
(b) the extent to which there is a need for registered inspectors in England.
(6) Conditions under subsection (4)(c) may be conditions applying generally in relation to all cases, or particular classes of case, or such conditions together with specific conditions applying in the particular case.
(7) Where a person is registered subject to conditions imposed under subsection (4)(c), he is to be taken to be authorised to act as a registered inspector only so far as those conditions permit.
(8) The period for which any registration is to have effect is to be determined by the Chief Inspector and must be entered in the register kept by him.
(9) Nothing in subsection (8) is to be taken as preventing a registered inspector from applying for a fresh registration to take effect immediately on the expiry of his current registration..
New clause 3Removal from register and imposition or variation of conditions
(1) If the Chief Inspector is satisfied that any of the conditions mentioned in subsection (2) is satisfied with respect to an inspector registered in the register, he may remove the name of that inspector from the register.
(2) The conditions are that
(a) he is no longer a fit and proper person for discharging the functions of a registered inspector under this Chapter;
(b) he is no longer capable of conducting inspections under this Chapter competently and effectively;
(c) there has been a significant failure on his part to comply with any condition imposed under section [Registration of inspectors in England] (4)(c) and subject to which his registration has effect;
(d) he has, without reasonable explanation, produced a report of an inspection which is, in whole or in part, seriously misleading.
(3) If the Chief Inspector is satisfied
(a) that he is authorised by subsection (2) to remove the name of an inspector from the register, or
(b) that it would otherwise be in the public interest to act under this subsection, he may vary any condition subject to which the registration of that inspector has effect or vary that registration by imposing a condition subject to which it will have effect..
New clause 5Training for inspections
Schedule [Training for inspections] has effect..
New clause 6Appeals in relation to registration
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(1) Any person who is aggrieved by
(a) the refusal of the Chief Inspector to renew his registration under section [Registration of inspectors in England],
(b) the imposition or variation of any condition subject to which he is registered under that section, or
(c) the removal of his name from the register under section [Removal from register and imposition or variation of conditions],
may appeal against the Chief Inspectors decision to a tribunal constituted in accordance with Schedule [Tribunals hearing appeals in England].
(a) a decision to refuse to renew a persons registration under section [Registration of inspectors in England] is expressed to be based on the ground
(i) that there is a reduced need for registered inspectors in England, or
(ii) that there is no longer any need for registered inspectors in England, and
(b) the tribunal is satisfied that the decision was based on one of those grounds,
the tribunal must confirm the decision to refuse renewal.
(3) No decision of the Chief Inspector falling within subsection (1)(b) or (c) is to have effect until
(a) the disposal of any appeal against the decision which is duly made under this section, or
(b) the period within which an appeal maybe made has expired without an appeal having been made.
(4) Subsection (3) does not apply where the Chief Inspector
(a) is satisfied that the circumstances of the case justify the decision in question taking effect immediately, or earlier than would otherwise be the case, and
(b) notifies the person concerned to that effect.
(5) On determining any appeal under this section, the tribunal may
(a) confirm, reverse or vary the decision appealed against, or
(b) remit the case to the Chief Inspector with directions as to the action to be taken by him.
(6) Schedule [Tribunals hearing appeals in England] makes further provision with respect to tribunals constituted to hear appeals under this section..
New schedule 1Training for inspections
1 No person shall conduct an inspection of a school in England, or act as a member of an inspection team for such a school, unless he has, in the opinion of the Chief Inspector for England, satisfactorily completed a course of training provided by, or complying with arrangements approved by, that Chief Inspector.
2 Where the Chief Inspector for England provides such training he may charge such fees as are reasonable for the purpose of recovering the whole, or part of the cost of providing it.
3 Paragraph 1 shall not apply in such circumstances as may be specified, either generally or in relation to a particular case or class of case, by the Chief Inspector for England.
Meeting with parents
4 Where an inspection is arranged, the appropriate authority for the school concerned shall
(a) take such steps as are reasonably practicable to notify
(i) the parents of registered pupils at the school, and
(ii) such other persons as may be prescribed,
of the time when the inspection is to take place; and
(b) arrange a meeting, in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed, between the inspector conducting the inspection and those parents of registered pupils at the school who wish to attend.
Rights of entry etc.
5 A registered inspector conducting an inspection, and the members of his inspection team, shall have at all reasonable times
(a) a right of entry to the premises of the school concerned; and
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(b) a right to inspect, and take copies of, any records kept by the school, and any other documents containing information relating to the school, which he requires for the purposes of the inspection.
Offence of obstructing inspector or inspection team
6 (1) It shall be an offence wilfully to obstruct
(a) a registered inspector, or
(b) a member of an inspection team,
in the exercise of his functions in relation to an inspection of a school.
(2) Any person guilty of an offence under sub-paragraph (1) shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale..
New schedule 2Inspections in England under section 5
1 In this Scheduleappropriate authority means
(a) in the case of a county, voluntary, maintained special or maintained nursery school whose governing body does not have a delegated budget, the local education authority;
(b) in the case of a non-maintained school, the proprietor of the school;
(c) in any other case, the schools governing body;
inspection means an inspection under section 5.
Selection of registered inspectors
2 Before entering into any arrangement for an inspection, the Chief Inspector shall, after consulting the appropriate authority for the school concerned as to the tender specification, invite tenders from at least two registered inspectors who can reasonably be expected
(a) to wish to tender for the proposed inspection; and
(b) to tender at arms length from each other.
3 (1) Every inspection shall be conducted by a registered inspector with the assistance of a team (an inspection team) consisting of persons who are fit and proper persons for carrying out the inspection.
(2) It shall be the duty of the registered inspector to ensure that
(a) at least one member of the inspection team is a person
(i) without personal experience in the management of any school or the provision of education in any school (otherwise than as a governor or in any other voluntary capacity); and
(ii) whose primary function on the team is not that of providing financial or business expertise; and
(b) no member of the inspection team falls within a category of person prescribed for the purposes of this sub-paragraph.
(3) Otherwise, the composition of the inspection team shall be determined by the registered inspector.
(4) It shall be the duty of the registered inspector to ensure that no person takes any part in an inspection if he has, or has at any time had, any connection with
(a) the school in question,
(b) any person who is employed at the school,
(c) any person who is a member of the schools governing body, or
(d) the proprietor of the school,
of a kind which might reasonably be taken to raise doubts about his ability to act impartially in relation to that school..
New schedule 3Tribunals hearing appeals in England
Constitution of tribunals
1 (1) A tribunal constituted to hear an appeal under section [Appeals in relation to registration] of this Act (a tribunal) shall consist of
(a) a Chairman appointed by the Lord Chancellor; and
(b) two other members appointed by the Secretary of State.
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(2) To be qualified for appointment as Chairman of a tribunal, a person must have a 7 year general qualification (within the meaning of section 71 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990).
(3) A person shall not be appointed after the day on which he attains the age of 70 to be the Chairman of a tribunal.
Procedure of tribunals
2 (1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision with respect to the making of appeals to, and the procedure to be followed by, tribunals.
(2) The regulations may, in particular, make provision
(a) as to the period within which, and manner in which, appeals must be brought;
(b) for the holding of hearings in private in prescribed circumstances;
(c) as to the persons who may appear on behalf of the parties;
(d) for enabling hearings to be conducted even though a member of the tribunal, other than the Chairman, is absent;
(e) as to the disclosure by the appellant, and others, of documents and the inspection of documents;
(f) requiring persons to attend the proceedings and give evidence;
(g) as to the payment of expenses incurred by persons compelled to attend proceedings by regulations made by virtue of sub-paragraph (1);
(h) authorising the administration of oaths to witnesses;
(i) as to the withdrawal of appeals;
(j) as to costs and expenses incurred by any party to the proceedings; and
(k) authorising preliminary or incidental matters in relation to an appeal to be dealt with by the Chairman of the tribunal hearing that appeal.
3 The Secretary of State may, with the consent of the Treasury, make such provision as he thinks fit for
(a) the allocation of staff for any tribunal;
(b) the remuneration of members of tribunals and the reimbursement of their expenses;
(c) defraying any reasonable expenses incurred by any tribunal..