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My only reason for pushing consideration of this being included in primary legislation is that, since leaving the Department for Education and Skills and going back into the real world, even four years later I sometimes visit schools which are only just beginning to implement things that were passed in my time in the

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DfES. In politics we sometimes underestimate the difficulty of implementation. We should seize as many opportunities as we can to send a clear signal about what we want to achieve. I suspect that this amendment is something no one disagrees with. I bet that no one is going to stand up and say, “It would be a really bad idea to ask parts of the education system to secure the well-being of children”. Does anyone want to argue against securing the well-being of children? So the debate becomes whether we are adding anything here, and whether we are making it any easier to achieve these objectives by putting them into primary legislation.

My first reason for supporting this proposal is that the crusade or huge cultural change involved in persuading professionals—teachers and those looking after children who are not teachers—to think differently needs every encouragement and tool we can possibly harness and give it. We should not miss any opportunity to make that happen. Thinking back to when I was at the department, at certain times I saw words going into legislation and, to be honest, I thought, “I am not sure that putting that word into legislation is going to achieve much”. But what I saw over the years was that it kept the agenda on that word and sent a clear signal to the education world that change was needed.

I shall give a few examples which I know my noble friend on the Front Bench will agree with. Way back in the late 1990s we put into primary legislation the provision that schools and local authorities have a duty to secure high standards. If ever there was no need to put something into legislation, it was a reminder to teachers that they are about achieving high standards. It was almost an insult, but it was necessary and it has worked. Over the months and years it has allowed people constantly to go back to the legislation and say, “Look, this is what you are about. This is about high standards”. In truth, the notion of high standards has now become part of the vocabulary of what schools do. I could make a powerful case for words that we put into legislation, such as the need for local authorities to promote choice and encourage diversity. In themselves the words do not mean a lot, but they provide the background to a set of priorities towards which we want things to move.

I wonder if this amendment would achieve that. It would help those of us out in the field who are trying to enact the five outcomes necessary to an integrated delivery, getting professionals to cherish their own skills while acknowledging that others can contribute to the job they are doing on behalf of children. To me, this amendment has that sense of those primary legislation clauses which said, “You are about standards; you are promoting choice; you are promoting diversity”. I think it might help those who are trying to take Every Child Matters, a very important and fantastic agenda, into the field. For those reasons, I ask my noble friend to consider it. To tell the truth, it is a good trick to mirror something in the Children Act 2004 because it sends the same message to different groups of professionals—and we are trying to encourage them to work together. I look forward to hearing my noble friend’s comments, but from my reading at the moment, this might just be something that will help us in the years to come.

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Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: My Lords, I support all the sentiments which imply that we must focus on the child as a whole being with many forms of potential, and I certainly support all that leads to the enhancement of that. However, I would regret dropping “educational” in Clause 1, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, suggests, for two reasons. The first is that I have a very high view of education and I believe that education properly carried out extends well beyond what we call, I think mistakenly, the “merely academic”. The second reason I would regret dropping “educational” to qualify potential here is that I can recall the case of a schoolboy who, to all intents and purposes, certainly fulfilled the potential that his fellow schoolboys saw in him to the extent of being subject to the detailed attentions of the fraud squad and a period in Barlinnie prison following that. We need to qualify “potential”, and I cannot think of a better word than “educational”.

Lord Dearing: My Lords, I shall speak briefly in support of the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland. Schools exist primarily to educate and I would regret dropping the word, but I do not believe that education can be effective outside the context of the whole well-being of the child. I recall the head of an inner-London primary school whose first concern was to see whether the children had had any breakfast and whether they had got dry feet before they started school. She knew that they would attend the lessons better if they had physical comfort. Their whole well-being was directly relevant.

4 pm

I cannot say as well what I said last time—or what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said I said last time—but I would make a supplementary point. I said on the previous occasion that a busy head gets this further dollop of legislation on his desk—I have forgotten how many hundreds of pages of guidance there are—and what happens? The emphasis goes. Let me give an illustration of that happening in a related field. The Government had had a strong commitment to providing 14 year-olds with work experience and then the Chancellor—I believe it was he—saw the importance of enterprise education, and I saw the shift of funding from one foot to the other. It was not that work experience was not important, but the emphasis which had just come into focus was enterprise education and the funding for work experience was reduced. I fear that the horsepower for caring about well-being in the interests of education will be diminished unless we enforce it. I support the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, Clauses 1 to 4 are grounded on the principle that every child deserves a good education regardless of their background or circumstances. They require local authorities to do everything they reasonably can to promote the fulfilment by every child in their locality of their educational potential, alongside their existing duty to promote high standards and the new duty to ensure fair access to educational opportunity.

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Clause 1 relates to the local authority’s educational functions, which is why it is framed in terms of educational fulfilment. In respect of wider Every Child Matters objectives—which of course are vital to outcomes for children, as every speaker in the debate has emphasised—Section 10 of the Children Act 2004 already places a powerful duty on local authorities to promote co-operation to improve children’s well-being, defined within the Every Child Mattersterms as physical and mental health and emotional well-being; protection from harm and neglect; education, training and recreation; the contribution made by them to society; and social and economic well-being.

The Bill needs, therefore, to be seen as complementary to existing legislation on children’s outcomes and services. Indeed, the reason we need these legal changes in the first place is, following precisely the line of argument set out by my noble friend Lady Morris, because we wish to strengthen existing education legislation to bring it in linewith the principle underlining the Every Child Matters agenda—that every child, regardless of their background, should have the education they need to enable them to fulfil their potential.

The Bill deliberately recasts existing formulations which focus simply on the standards of education and the provision of sufficient schools—a formulation which goes back to 1944—with the far more demanding duties of Clauses 1 to 4 to promote high standards, fair access, choice and diversity, and to consider parental representations. In effect, the Bill does for educationin terms of its declaratory value what the ChildrenAct 2004 does in respect of children’s services and the wider Every Child Matters agenda.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, seeks to reinforce these duties by adding a further duty to promote the fulfilment of every child’s potential and to remove “educational” in respect of potential. Like the noble Lords, Lord Sutherland and Lord Dearing, we think it right that educational potential is spelt out as such in the Bill. We therefore do not support Amendments Nos. 3 and 5.

As to the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley—Amendments Nos. 55, 56, 84 and 85—we entirely share her aims but we believe that it is neither necessary nor appropriate to introduce them in the Bill. It is not appropriate because it duplicates the existing Children Act 2004. It is not necessary because improving educational achievement is a key priority at the very heart of, rather than separate from, well-being, as my noble friend Lady Morris so rightly said. For schools to achieve high standards for all, they need to improve well-being and to remove barriers to achievement at every level. Similarly, the contribution of educational attainment to wider well-being is self-evident. We also have evidence from Ofsted, based on judgments made using the new inspection framework, which demonstrates a clear correlation between the Every Child Matters outcomes and pupils’ achievement and concludes that most schools make a valuable contribution to the health and well-being of pupils.

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However, I take to heart the points made by my noble friend Lady Morris about the declaratory value of including well-being in the Bill, and while I can for the reasons I have given make no commitment, I am very influenced by the arguments that have been made from all sides. On the basis that I make no commitments whatever, I would be content to consider the issue further in respect of well-being before Third Reading, while recognising that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has every right to bring this matter back at Third Reading if I do not feel able to make a move.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, we have moved Amendments Nos. 84 and 85 to a later group, so if the Minister intended to complete his remarks by responding to those amendments perhaps he could save them till later, because I did not speak to them.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I am glad to say that I have completed my remarks.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I entirely agree with the Minister—the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, carried the day. It was a wonderful speech and I found myself entirely convinced by it. I very much hope that that spirit will carry through to the Box and to his wider team, and that we shall see the spirit of the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, back at Third Reading. But I am content to take a lesson from those who are older and wiser than me, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 [Duties in relation to diversity and choice]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 4:

“( ) encouraging all schools to become foundation, voluntary or foundation special schools, and to acquire a foundation,”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment would require local authorities to exercise their functions with a view to encouraging all schools to become self-governing and to acquire a trust. The amendment goes to the heart of the Bill and seeks to strengthen its resolve. The principles that we laid out almost 20 years ago still ring true for me and noble Lords on these Benches. At that time, we felt it necessary to state:

Now, in the 21st century, we are pleased to see a move in the right direction by the party opposite in your Lordships’ House to the establishment of independent state schools. Yet there was once a time when—and again I quote the 1987 Conservative manifesto—a Conservative Government pledged to give,

to increase parent choice and, most importantly,

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I believe that Her Majesty's Government have arrived at those same conclusions—the right conclusions for our children’s education. Those are the substantive points, and none is more important than that vital ingredient: school autonomy. Autonomy and freedom from the control of local authorities enables schools to provide for and adapt to the local community. Yet I read this morning that the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has found that nearly 1 million children are being taught in poorly performing schools. It was interesting to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, say that a declaratory statement on high standards in schools can make a difference, but where is the difference when nearly 1 million children are being taught in such schools? That is unacceptable.

The first priority of Government should be to tackle that situation. We now offer them an opportunity to commit to their original vision of a system in which schools are given the autonomy from local government that they need to succeed. How many more children can the system afford to fail? I take the liberty of reminding the Minister of the White Paper statement that:

It goes on to say that local authorities will,

What is more, it repeats:

I stress that this amendment will not preclude the establishment of community schools. A Government run from these Benches may have tackled that differently in the Bill. Indeed, it was the original intention of Her Majesty’s Government to stem the creation of new community schools. Paragraph 9.11 of Chapter 9 in the White Paper clearly states that local authorities will have to,

In rereading the Minister’s responses to my amendments in Committee, including those that would have prevented the establishment of new community schools, I was able to confirm that, regrettably, the positive, constructive heart of policy in the White Paper has been abandoned. It seems that the price of school freedom becomes ever lower. My amendment seeks to stem the erosion of school freedom as it is viewed by central Government. It would enhance, not denigrate, the role of local authorities. We should remember what the Prime Minister said almost a year ago, on 24 October 2005:

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This pledge of freedom from the Prime Minister to allow for self-governing schools has been the basis of DfES policy since July 2004. The Government stated in their Five Year Strategy for Children and Learners:

In response to that stated policy, which we support, my amendment would place a duty on local authorities actively to encourage the establishment of foundation and trust schools and the creation of the type of school that will be best placed to provide innovative, excellent education. I beg to move.

4.15 pm

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 12 to 15, in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Walmsley. This series of amendments is almost, but not quite, on the opposite track to that proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. The Government propose that, other things being equal, all new schools should be foundation schools. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, suggests not only that all new schools should be foundation schools but that there should be positive encouragement for all existing schools to become foundation schools.

We argue somewhat differently. Our amendments propose that, in the competition for new schools, there should be even terms between foundation schools and community schools. What is the difference between foundation schools and community schools? Both are financed via the dedicated schools budget, which comes through the local education authority and is paid for partly by government grants and partly by local taxes. But the foundation school owns its own buildings, has control over its own budget and runs its own affairs. It is, as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said, an independent state school. The community school, via local management of schools, manages around 93 per cent of its budget, but the local education authority owns its buildings, employs its staff and appoints its governors, who are responsible for its overall running.

The key issue is the link to the local education authority and how far the school can act wholly independently of that authority. As the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, stressed, the notion of foundation schools, deriving from the Conservative proposals for grant-maintained schools, is that state schools should be independent of local education authorities. We believe that the link with local education authorities is beneficial, because we see education provision as a system whose parts—nursery schools, Sure Start centres, schools and colleges—are interdependent at community level and need some overarching control system at that level: the local education authority. Schools and colleges are there to serve the local education authority. The community helps to pay for them, so it is right that the community should have some say in how they are run and that there should be some accountability, through the governance process, to the community.

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I talked about foundation schools being derived from grant-maintained schools, but the idea goes back considerably further, because the concept of the grant-maintained school was derived from voluntary-aided and voluntary-controlled schools, which are the church schools. That was part of the deal done with the churches at the end of the 19th century and, particularly, as enshrined in the Education Act 1944. While the state would meet all the current expense of such schools, the church would maintain the capital fabric of the school and appoint the governors. That model of the voluntary-aided school was copied in the 1980s, when the Conservatives introduced the grant-maintained system. The only difference with foundation schools, which were introduced in 1998 under the School Standards and Framework Act, is that the old grant-maintained schools became foundation schools and were financed through the LEA budget rather than directly by the department for education, as grant-maintained schools had been.

I stress that Amendments Nos. 12 to 15 do not seek to undo this process in any sense. We accept that church schools and foundation schools exist in the system and that they have been—as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and the Minister both stressed in their arguments in Committee—a popular and successful model of governance albeit, as the Sutton Trust research highlighted, one serving a disproportionately middle- class constituency. We are also happy to see this model extended to more schools, new and old, where that is the wish of the local community.

That is the key issue in this group of amendments. Amendments Nos. 12, 13 and 14 seek to allow local education authorities to propose the establishment of a new community school alongside other proposals that may go forward for foundation schools or for other, what I would call, “company schools” run by companies such as Edison as foundations in competition with new schools. That is essentially what my noble friend Lady Williams, in moving the amendments in Committee, called establishing a level playing field between the foundation proposals and the community proposals.

In Committee, we had a protracted discussion on these issues, with extensive consideration of international comparisons and the virtues or otherwise of comprehensive education. As the noble Baroness will probably remember, the debate ran late into the night. I do not wish to consider all those issues again, and the set of amendments that we have tabled today is slimline. It concentrates only on when a local education authority may propose a community school, to be considered alongside other proposals.

The Government rightly state that the Bill allows local education authorities to propose a community school; but, whereas other providers, more or less irrespective of their track record, may propose these schools—it should be remembered that the proposals are in competition with each other, and the providers will then be judged on their track record—LEAs are not allowed to enter that competition unconditionally unless they have been awarded the top performance assessment rating of “4”. Only 11 out of some 145 local authorities have achieved that top assessment

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rating. The remaining local authorities would all need to satisfy further criteria and obtain the Secretary of State’s permission to put forward proposals.

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