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Draft guidance was sent to members of the Committee on 20 April and is available in the Library. First, all trusts must meet the legal requirements set out
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in the Bill; that is, they must be incorporated charities. Secondly, there must be adequate consultation. If a governing body has not consulted, or has not properly taken into account the representations received, the local authority may refer its decision to the schools adjudicator.

Thirdly, proposals must set out evidence that the trust will contribute to raising standards at the school and will promote community cohesion. The local authority may refer the decision to the schools adjudicator if it believes that the trust will have a negative impact on standards. The ability of a local authority to refer proposals to the adjudicator is an important safeguard. We cannot therefore accept amendments Nos. 105 to 108, by which the Conservatives seek to remove that power to refer.

Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): Can my right hon. Friend confirm whether a local authority will have the power to refer to the adjudicator a case where it thinks that the trust may not be able to fulfil its duty to promote social cohesion?

Alan Johnson: I think that I have set out the reasons for the local authority to refer to the schools adjudicator. They include standards and whether parents have been properly consulted and whether that consultation has been listened to. The schools adjudicator must take into account community cohesion in making decisions. The fourth point that I was coming to is that trust members—

Mrs. Nadine Dorries (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Alan Johnson: I am never going to get to the fourth point. I will give way.

Mrs. Dorries: If a school were not performing as well as it should but felt that it could improve standards by embracing trust schools status, and if a local authority’s objection to that school’s proposal was that it should not become a trust school because of the prevailing standards in the school, what would the adjudicator do?

Alan Johnson: The hon. Lady will forgive me if I do not go into hypothetical situations. The whole point is that the local authority can refer and the schools adjudicator will make the decision. That is a very important safeguard.

Fourthly, trust members and proposed trustees must not be involved in activities that may be considered inappropriate for children and young people—for example, those associated with tobacco, gambling, adult entertainment and alcohol—or that could bring the school into disrepute. Fifthly, regulations will disqualify specific categories of people from being trustees. In addition, the Secretary of State will have a reserve power to remove and to appoint individual trustees.

Sixth in this list of safeguards is the fact that trust schools will remain local authority maintained schools, with the budget delegated to the governing body, not to the trust. The trust’s functions will be to appoint
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governors to the school and to hold assets on trust for the school. The Bill will place new protections around the disposal of assets held by foundations.

I am adding a seventh safeguard: I confirm for those hon. Members who have raised the matter with me that trust schools will be inspected by Ofsted in the same way as other publicly funded schools. Ofsted will introduce a number of changes to school inspection to capture the contribution of trusts to their schools. It will add specific references to trusts in the self-evaluation form—the basis on which the new school inspections will be undertaken. The changes will require trust schools to identify their status and to describe their distinctive aims and special features. Inspectors would use that information as the starting point in assessing a trust’s contribution to the school’s overall performance.

The framework for school inspection already provides opportunity for inspectors to examine and to comment on a trust’s impact on the leadership and management of a school, and thereby on all other aspects of the school’s work. However, to make that explicit, Ofsted will amend the guidance on conducting the inspection to include a requirement for inspectors to assess the impact of governors appointed by a trust on the school’s work.

Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab): I am appreciative of the many safeguards that my right hon. Friend outlines. There has been a significant movement in that respect, but I put it to him that a slightly cumbersome structure will be put in place. If Ofsted, in carrying out the very welcome inspection that he confirms will now cover trust schools, and indeed trusts, uncovers grounds for concern about a trust’s performance, it is not clear to me what mechanism will ensure that the trust is brought to an end. How will an alternative mechanism be put in place to ensure that the school is properly managed in future?

Alan Johnson: The important points are the Secretary of State’s powers and the obligation on the governing body to respond to the Ofsted report. A combination of all the powers, now set out in nine different safeguards, will allow us to meet the concerns that my right hon. Friend and others have raised with us.

Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): What on earth were my right hon. Friend’s predecessors thinking when they considered a regime in which the Charity Commission would have been the regulatory body for trust schools?

Alan Johnson: My hon. Friend asks an impossible question: I cannot say what previous Ministers were thinking. The Charity Commission has an important role as one of the safeguards, but it is not the only safeguard. The fact that the schools will be registered charitable trusts means that the commission has to have an input. The point that he has raised consistently is that that is not enough of a safeguard to meet the real fears that hon. Members on both sides of the House have had about inappropriate trusts, and I have set out in detail some real safeguards that I hope will meet their concerns.

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Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend clarify the answer he gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford)? Is he saying that trust schools will be inspected to the same standards that will apply to local authority schools? The White Paper said that a failing school would be given a year to turn itself around, but did he consider that extreme?

Alan Johnson: No. My hon. Friend mixes two different points. Trust schools will be subject to the same regime, but with the added safeguards that I have described to meet the concerns about inappropriate trusts. We also want to be able to turn around failing schools in 12 months, which at present takes on average 21 months. When we came to power, it took 24 months, but it is still too long. The measures in the Bill to turn failing schools around more quickly are accepted by every contributor to the debate.

Mr. Rob Wilson (Reading, East) (Con): Can the Secretary of State confirm that trust schools will not have to pay for inspections by Ofsted, as some other independent schools have to do? [ Interruption. ]

Alan Johnson: As my hon. Friends point out, the problem with that question is that trust schools will not be independent schools. The Ofsted regime for trust schools will be exactly the same as that for any other local authority schools.

As a further safeguard, the schools commissioner will hold a detailed record of all proposals relating to trusts and make it available via the departmental website. That will allow a school interested in acquiring a trust to access information about a particular trust and to follow up any questions with the school or trust in question.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley) (Lab): On the point about turning failing schools around, a school in my constituency had to be put on special measures, but has now improved its teaching standards from 36 per cent. to 94 per cent. in 12 months. Ofsted said that that was one of the fastest turnarounds it had seen. The school had a lot of problems, but my constituents have seen real improvements.

Alan Johnson: My hon. Friend is right. All hon. Members want to see such schools turned around as quickly as possible, and she confirms that it can be done.

Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): The Secretary of State has mentioned all the safeguards relating to Ofsted inspections. What safeguards exist to ensure the consistency of Ofsted teams? Visits to schools by some teams are very positive experiences, but on occasions an Ofsted team has a destructive effect on the school and its community.

Alan Johnson: The hon. Lady raises some important issues that have been considered as part of the review of Ofsted, which is of course responsible to Her Majesty’s inspectorate. I accept that important issues need to be addressed, but they fall outside this Bill and
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are not specifically related to the point that I am making about Ofsted being a new and added safeguard to meet the concerns that people have about trusts.

We believe that such a record, combined with the safeguards I have outlined, is preferable to the formal register of approved trusts that would be required by new clause 25, which was tabled by the Liberal Democrats; by new clause 48, tabled by my hon. Friends; and by amendment No. 96. Allowing schools to choose a trust partner only from a register would fetter the freedom of governing bodies to decide what is best for their schools, in light of their individual circumstances. It would lead to additional bureaucracy and delay, especially when schools were considering local, community-based trusts that would not benefit from a centralised process for formal approval.

4.45 pm

Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend envisage that the website to which he has referred will be updated regularly, with trusts being entered in such a way that people accessing the site will be able to regard it as a register?

Alan Johnson: My hon. Friend makes a nice try, and I agree that that website, like all websites, should be updated regularly. It is an informal focal point for the provision of information. He might try to call it a register, but I would not.

Meg Hillier (Hackney, South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): Is my right hon. Friend aware that two city academies—the Mossbourne and the Petchey academies—have been set up, in my constituency and in the neighbouring area of Hackney, North and Stoke Newington, by trusts connected with two Hackney boys who made good? So far, those trusts have shown no interest in running schools in other parts of the country. They are Hackney focused, and we in Hackney welcome that.

Alan Johnson: My hon. Friend makes an important point. In my two weeks as Secretary of State, Mossbourne is the only school that I have been able to visit so far. I confirm everything that she says about that excellent school.

The former Minister for Schools committed to include in the Bill a requirement for all trusts to advance education and to promote community cohesion. Government amendments Nos. 43 to 47 make good that commitment. We want there to be no doubt that trust schools, like any other maintained school, will have a role in developing in pupils an understanding and appreciation of the values of others. They will provide equal opportunities for students from different backgrounds and encourage strong and positive relationships between them.

Margaret Moran (Luton, South) (Lab): I very much welcome the promotion of community cohesion. Is my right hon. Friend aware that, since 1997, there have been more failing schools than successful ones in my constituency, and that the LEA has been very poor? The fact that parents are choosing to send their children to schools outside Luton is dividing the community and
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creating poor community cohesion. Will he say more about how community cohesion will be promoted as a result of this Bill?

Alan Johnson: My hon. Friend repeats what has been people’s experience in too many parts of the country. The Bill is aimed at dealing with the problem that she describes. The term “community cohesion” has been used by the Home Office in the past, and it has a specific definition. We believe that that definition sums up what local authorities should aim for in their work with schools and governors to deal with the problem that she identifies.

Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester, South) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State accept that fragmenting the governance of schools is a risky enterprise, especially in areas of considerable faith diversity? Is it not likely to imperil community cohesion to a significant extent?

Alan Johnson: No, I do not accept that. We are talking not about fragmenting governing bodies, but about increasing the variety of schools. We want schools in the local authority family to have much more responsibility, and to make decisions for themselves. An exciting agenda is emerging from the proposals that will allow us to address some of the problems described by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Margaret Moran). It will not make those problems worse.

Mr. Chaytor: I accept the argument that trust schools should have a duty to promote community cohesion but, given local authorities’ new strategic powers, why is my right hon. Friend resistant to the idea that they should have a similar duty?

Alan Johnson: Local authorities already have that duty. The point made earlier was that a failure to promote community cohesion should be one of the reasons for referring a trust to the schools adjudicator. The Bill contains three such reasons, and I believe that it covers the waterfront in that respect. In no way do the proposals detract from local authorities’ responsibility to promote community cohesion and social inclusion.

Finally, Government amendments Nos. 70 to 75 and 84 to 86 are purely drafting changes to ensure that all references in that part of the Bill are consistent. I have tried to do justice to the scope of the amendments in this important group. The changes we are making to define a strategic role for local authorities, to bring parents to the heart of the system and to encourage innovation and new providers are, as I have explained, central to our desire to improve outcomes for children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

We believe that the process of debate in which we have been engaged since the White Paper has strengthened our proposals. Our amendments on community schools and community cohesion represent further improvements, and I urge hon. Members on both sides of the House to accept them.

Mr. Gibb: I add my congratulations to the Secretary of State on his appointment. He is a sure pair of hands as well as a former higher education Minister and will be adept at resisting pressure from the Labour rebels on the left. On the Opposition Benches at least, we wish him well in his appointment and his new responsibilities.

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We had a good and interesting Committee; it was an unusual one for such a controversial and high-profile Bill, as its broad principles were supported by the Opposition. Nevertheless, some significant differences of view were brought out, on which we tried to amend the Bill, tabling about 219 amendments. As well as fundamental differences over the admissions code, the ban on interviews, home-school contracts, charging for school travel and special schools, some of which we shall debate later, we also had differences of view even about the Bill’s broad principles. In short, the Opposition are more Government than the Government in respect of the Bill.

The new clause and Government amendment No. 42 both relate to the use of the Secretary of State’s veto on whether a local authority can propose a new community school in a competition for a new primary or secondary school. It was of course never part of the Government’s original vision that a local authority could propose a new community school, which is why, in a speech on the day before the White Paper was published last October, the Prime Minister said:

That was the vision: more diversity among providers of education. But with 63 per cent. of schools already community schools, how will it help to create that diversity if we simply pile on more community schools?

Meg Hillier: The hon. Gentleman seems to be contradicting himself. He suggests that every community school is homogenous and that there is only one type. Community, trust, foundation and voluntary-aided schools are different from each other and within each category. Surely we should welcome that diversity on both sides of the House.

Mr. Gibb: That is one form of the diversity that we want, but we also want diversity in structure that will help to create an even more diverse range of schools, which was, I thought, the objective set out in the White Paper. I thought, too, that it was the original judgment of both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State about what was best for the education system. Indeed, on page 116, the White Paper states:

That was their judgment; it is the judgment of the Government and we share that view on the Conservative Benches.

Mr. Raynsford: Can the hon. Gentleman reconcile the clear statement that his party is opposed to giving local authorities discretion to reach a judgment about what is best for their area with the views being put about by the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman), who speaks for his party on local government, and pretends that a Conservative Government would do just that?

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