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I should like the Minister to reassure me that that will not impose a bureaucratic burden on schools. It is important that schools do not discriminate in their admissions on irrelevant grounds. However, since schools are legally forbidden from selecting on the basis of social background or income, there is a risk that schools might make great efforts to ensure a fair intake without any assurance that they will be successful. I am grateful to have been able to place these matters on record. Our amendment would ensure that the new code of admissions was subject to

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parliamentary scrutiny. We on these Benches consider that to be a necessary process for ensuring that schools are not subject to undue burdens.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 176, 177 and 178 on banding. I will return briefly to an issue raised by my honourable friend Nick Gibb MP in another place. I will not go into it again in great detail as I hope that having returned with a slightly altered amendment the Government will be minded to accept this one in your Lordships' House, having been sympathetic to the principle in another place.

I set out the position from these Benches at Second Reading. I firmly believe that banding is nothing more than streaming outside the school gates. I believe that in its purest form it leads to social engineering and can seriously fetter parents’ choice of schools. As such, it goes in principle against the driving forces of this Bill. However, that is the principle of banding in its purest form. While in principle it poses serious problems, in practice it can be shown to work. CTCs, especially the Thomas Telford school, benefit hugely from using banding in conjunction and, as such, I would not wish to fetter the choice of schools to use banding as a method of selection.

These amendments make it necessary for local education authorities that are admission authorities to get the consent of governing bodies when introducing all forms of banding. As currently drafted, Clause 49 provides for governing body consent only to the new form of banding that is introduced by new Section 101(1A) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. Amendment No. 176 is a technical amendment that ensures that banding can be introduced only with the consent of governing bodies when they are not their own admissions authorities. Amendment No. 177 is a clarificatory amendment to ensure that consent to banding is necessary only when first introduced rather than every year that the admission arrangements are determined. I beg to move.

Lord Adonis: I begin on a consensual note, as I always seek to do. We are happy to accept Amendments Nos. 176 to 178 moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. I am glad that she has moved somewhat in her analysis of banding to see that it can be a beneficial system over subscription criteria in certain circumstances when schools want to ensure a genuinely comprehensive intake. We agree that it should be done with the consent of governing bodies and the amendments that she moved would give it that effect, and we are happy to accept them.

Amendments Nos. 175 and 263 stand in my name and relate to partial selection. We do not think that we can go so far as the Liberal Democrat amendments, which would ban partial selection entirely without a process of adjudication, but we believe that when the adjudicator has already decided to reduce the proportion of people selected or to remove selective arrangements, it should not be possible for schools to seek to restore the original level of selection in the following period. It was not our intention that schools should be able to seek to

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restore original selections or partial selection. Our amendments would mean that if the adjudicator or the National Assembly for Wales made a decision to reduce the proportion of children selected by a school with pre-existing selection, that school could not later return to 1997-98 levels of partial selection. The same restriction would apply if an admission authority voluntarily decided to reduce the proportion of children selected.

On Amendment No. 143A proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, we do not believe that it is necessary to amend legislation to prevent academies or CTCs from introducing selection by ability. Academies are already required to be fully inclusive schools and to comply with the school admissions code and admissions law, which is a more stringent set of obligations than currently apply to maintained schools. They are obliged to do so by the funding agreements that are approved by the Secretary of State. CTCs were established on the basis that they must admit children of all abilities, and they achieve that by pupil banding. Similarly, academies are not allowed to conduct interviews and the remaining CTCs, most of which are moving to academy status, will comply with that requirement by consensual change to their funding agreements.

On the vexed issue of selection by aptitude, which the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, would also affect, I shall answer in two parts. At the moment, the prescribed subjects for selection of up to 10 per cent of intake by aptitude are PE or sports, the performing arts, visual arts, modern foreign languages, design and technology and information technology. When the Select Committee looked at that issue, it recommended that we removed design and technology and information technology from that list. We have agreed that we will do so on the grounds that we now believe that these subjects are areas of expertise which ought to be available in all schools. It is crucial to understand that the reason why we permit selection by aptitude is not simply because it is possible to do so—one could select by aptitude in a wide range of subjects—but also because of the access this gives to a wide range of provision in schools that will be particularly tailored or enhanced for that area. The three areas in which we still intend to allow it—PE and sport, performing and visual arts and modern foreign languages—are those where specialist schools are expected to make enhanced provision as a part of being a specialist institution. For example, modern foreign language specialist schools will typically offer a wider range of languages, including minority languages and sometimes Mandarin Chinese and Russian. These are languages which, with the best will in the world, are not going to be generally available. To have a truly comprehensive system, it is right that where schools can offer an enhanced provision which could not be part of the normal expectation of what a school can provide, parents and pupils should have access to it where the school thinks it is desirable.

The noble Baroness asked me for the number of schools using the 10 per cent selection provision. While I do not have the precise figure because I am not sure that we are aware of it, it is not a large

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number. But it is of immense value to some schools for the reasons I have given. Again, we intend that design and technology and information technology should not be included in the list for schools seeking to use the 10 per cent selection in the future, and we will consult on and revise the regulations in respect of aptitude selection at the same time as we consult on the school admissions code.

Turning to interviews for entry into sixth forms and to assess religious commitment covered by Amendments Nos. 169 and 170 spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, I think that we have rehearsed our position on interviews so often that I hesitate to go through it again at just before midnight. Perhaps I may make two brief points. First, I should stress that the faith communities themselves—the last area in which interviewing was allowed—had reached a position where they wished to end interviewing as an admissions criterion. Only a very small number of schools were still doing it by the time we announced that we would seek to end this practice in primary legislation, and the faith communities have supported us. Secondly, we do not believe it should be any more necessary for schools to interview prospective candidates for entry to the sixth form than it is for entry into any other form. The use of, for example, minimum attainment requirements at GCSE level, as many schools now providing sixth form education currently use, or of other over-subscription criteria should be more than adequate to offer year 12 places in an objective and impartial way rather than relying on subjective interviewing.

In response to Amendments Nos. 144 and 145A moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, requiring an affirmative resolution of each House rather than the more usual negative procedure, we have already laid a skeleton school admissions code before your Lordships and we will publish a draft of the full code in September, allowing for full consultation and debate in the education community and with noble Lords.

Home-school agreements are specifically prohibited from being linked to school admissions processes and we do not believe it is right to change that, even though we think that the agreements can have value. Given that, we do not support Amendment No. 144. We believe that admission to a school should not be contingent on promises of good behaviour or any other judgments about past behaviour, and while we encourage schools to meet with parents to discuss home-school agreements, this must not be an interview to determine whether a child should be admitted to a school, but an opportunity to discuss the school’s policies and the role of parents in supporting their child as a member of the school.

Finally, on the interesting point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, about the anonymisation of admission applications covered by AmendmentNo. 145, we believe that over time the issues around this should be considered. Looking at IT systems in their current state and the obligations this would impose, it would be a step too far to take immediately. There is also the practical issue of how to deal with siblings under anonymised systems which we have not

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yet been able to get our mind around. While we do not think this is something that can be done now, if we want to get to a system where it is truly criteria and no other factor weighing in the allocation of places to children, clearly there is something to be said for those arrangements. I know that this links with an amendment dear to the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, which he will move at what I hope is a better hour of the day, in respect of over-subscription criteria which use random allocation rather than proximity or banding. That is an oversubscription criterion that the new school admissions code will make permissible. In fact, only a tiny number of schools use it at the moment. It is widely used, for example, in the United States for charter schools. There is something to be said for it since it is manifestly fair, but it would involve quite a big departure from existing admissions practices in this country, which are largely governed by proximity. While we wish to make it possible, we do not think that it can be done against the wishes of schools. It would obviously impact on provision in a particular area, so it would have to be done in some form of geographical community, and it would need to be considered very carefully.


Lord Lucas: I hope from what the noble Lord said that we are about to be showered with some good news that this might be the sort of time that we are heading home. Before that, I ask him for some further good news, that it will also under the school admissions code become illegal for a school to take into account the position in the ranking of parental preferences in which that school has been placed. As he knows, I very much feel that schools that say, “We will not let you in unless you place us first on the list”, are causing a serious problem. My noble friend referred to that. I do not see it in the existing draft of the code; perhaps I am just missing it. Secondly, will the criteria in paragraph 133 of the draft code apply to Church schools? They are the main offenders under the criteria for socially selective systems. I would be delighted if they were no longer able to operate as they have been.

Lord Adonis: Is the noble Lord talking about paragraph 133 of the draft code?

Lord Lucas: Yes.

Lord Adonis: In respect of the noble Lord’s first point, while we intend to say that “first preference first” systems are poor practice, we do not intend to rule them out entirely. This will be a matter for the adjudicators to decide. In point of fact though, adjudicators have largely ruled against such admissions criteria where they have been used. We would expect that trend, if I can put it that way, to continue and to be strengthened by the new code.

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Baroness Buscombe: Although I am disappointed by the Minister’s response to my Amendments Nos. 144 and 146, I am very pleased with his agreement to accept our Amendments Nos. 176, 177 and 178. I am extremely grateful to the Minister.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I am pleased that the Minister is going to look kindly on the concept of anonymisation, which is an important principle, and I am glad that he is prepared to look at it at length and consider ways of introducing it.

In relation to the point about academies and city technology colleges, I take on board what the Minister said. Indeed, I predicted that he would tell me that all these restrictions applied to the academies, city technology colleges and city colleges of technology for the arts. If that is the case, why are they always excluded from the Bill? Why are they not included in the Bill? It would make a lot of sense for them to be included. The Minister is right in saying that the draft code has been issued and that there will be plenty of opportunity for discussion and consultation on the draft code, but it is a very different issue from that of having affirmative resolution for both Houses as distinct from leaving it to negative resolution. If the code is to be mandatory, there is some point in the position that it should be under the affirmative resolution procedure. However, at this very late hour, it is time to withdraw the amendment. We can come back to it at a later stage if necessary. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 143B and 143C not moved.]

Clause 37 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 144 and 144A not moved.]

Clause 38 [Code for school admissions]:

[Amendments Nos. 145 and 145A not moved.]

Clause 38 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 146 and 146A not moved.]

Baroness Crawley: I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Compensation Bill [HL]

The Bill was returned from the Commons on17 July with amendments; the Commons amendments were printed pursuant to Standing Order 51(2).

Health Bill

The Bill was returned from the Commons with the amendments agreed to.

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