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Strabolgi, L.
Sutherland of Houndwood, L.
Swinfen, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Holbeach, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Triesman, L.
Trumpington, B.
Truscott, L.
Tunnicliffe, L.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Ullswater, V.
Verma, B.
Vinson, L.
Waddington, L.
Wakeham, L.
Waldegrave of North Hill, L.
Walton of Detchant, L.
Warner, L.
Warnock, B.

19 Oct 2006 : Column 884

Weatherill, L.
Whitaker, B.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Windlesham, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Hornsey, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

12.22 pm

Clause 22 [Right of governing body to determine own foundation proposals]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 22:

“( ) must provide for the proposals to be approved through a ballot by a majority of the parents of the registered pupils of the school”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 23, 24 and 38, concerning the process by which a governing body can propose a switch to foundation trust status from being a community or voluntary-controlled school.

The amendments would give parents in particular but also other stakeholders in a school more say in the process. Amendments Nos. 22, 23 and 24 relate to Clause 22, on the right of the governing body to determine its own foundation proposals. As the clause stands, the governing body could decide by a simple majority. We are very unhappy with that proposal.

Amendment No. 22 seeks that any proposal on a change of status from a community school to a foundation school should be approved by a ballot of the parents of the registered pupils at the school. These amendments were debated at considerable length in Committee. In response to this amendment, moved by my noble friend Lady Williams, the Minister replied—I find this slightly odd—that it would be “disproportionate” to require ballots for a change of trust status. He was encouraged in thinking that a ballot was unnecessary by the noble Lord, Lord Gould, who is not in his place today, and who expressed very interesting sentiments:

Earlier in his speech, the noble Lord had said that in polls he had conducted, 72 per cent of parents had shown that they wanted more involvement in schools, but he made it quite clear that ballots were not the way to do it. He said:

It seems to me that those are not the words of a democrat, and I am very surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Gould, express such sentiments.

Is it really disproportionate to ask, as we are doing, for a ballot? Amendment No. 23 asks for a two-thirds majority of the governing body rather than a simple majority. Amendment No. 24 asks for consultation

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with feeder primary schools about the move. Transition from community status to trust status is a substantial move. It is sufficiently substantial for the Government to feel that it is very important, because they are encouraging many schools to go down that route. It requires a substantial change in the governance of the schools, with far greater powers for the trustees appointed by the foundation.

We heard in the previous debate that the only governor to be elected to a foundation will be the single parent governor. No other governors are elected. One is a representative from the local education authority but apart from that, all the governors are appointed by the foundation. From having three or four elected parent governors and other representatives of communities on the board to a school being run by the foundation is a substantial change. Parents need to be consulted and to have their views taken into account.

The noble Lord, Lord Gould, said that we needed to know the precise electorate involved in the ballot. The amendment specifies that it would be the parents of registered pupils at the schools. We are saying quite precisely who shall be involved. It could be said that that is not a totally satisfactory electorate because it involves the future parents of pupils at a school, but as a proxy for who to go to, those most likely to be immediately affected by the change are the pupils at that school. It is therefore appropriate that their parents should be involved.

The Minister also claimed that we on these Benches are motivated by an antipathy towards trust schools. Yes—while we do not feel total antipathy towards trust schools, we certainly feel scepticism. It is all about structures; above all, we are unhappy about the contempt shown for democratic processes. I feel that the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Gould, are very offensive to the democratic processes within community schools. He argues that parents need more empowerment. Parents need to have a say. We referred to corporate law and to the fact that local authorities, when they take part in something corporate, have 20 per cent representation. When one company takes over another, it is put to the vote of all the shareholders. On this occasion, the Government are allowing the directors of the board to take the decision without putting it to the shareholders, who, we feel very strongly, should have a say.

12.30 pm

We have tabled four amendments that relate to this matter. Amendment No. 22 asks specifically that the parents of registered pupils at the school should have a chance to participate in a ballot about the proposed change in the structure of the governance of the school. In Amendment No. 23, we are asking that the decision should be taken by a two-thirds majority of the governing board, not just by a simple majority. Again, that seems reasonable. The decision is on a very considerable change in the governance of the school, which would require the full support of the governing board, not just a very slim majority.

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Amendment No. 24 asks for consultation—and consultation alone—with feeder primary schools. Amendment No. 38 asks only that there be a meeting and consultation with representatives of the parents of the school. With the exception of Amendment No. 23, these are extremely mild and perfectly reasonable amendments, and I hope that the Government will look sympathetically on them. I beg to move.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, in case the noble Baroness is in any doubt, let me declare myself at the outset to be a very proud democrat who has been to the fore in many of the arguments that we have had over the past few years on the case for substantial reforms towards greater democracy in society—including, I should stress, within schools. We have had very fruitful debates about the role of school councils and democracy inside schools, on which, I am glad to say, we have been at one with the Liberal Democrats. So we go quite a long part of the way together.

We part company on the specific issue of whether, in order to become a trust school, the school must itself hold a ballot of parents. There I am also glad to rely on the democratic mandate of the House of Commons. An amendment on ballot requirements similar to those in this amendment was defeated in the House of Commons by the extraordinarily large majority of 291, by 412 votes to 121 votes. Let me put it this way: the elected House held a ballot and voted against this proposal by a margin of over three to one in a very large Division. That should carry some weight with your Lordships about the role of democracy in the transition of schools to trust status.

The Bill sets out substantial requirements for consultation on changes of school status and organisation. A school wishing to change category or to acquire a trust needs to consult a range of local partners on these proposals. Regulations, which we have made available to noble Lords, list those who must be consulted. They specify,

The governing body may then publish proposals, but must take account of any responses to the consultation and must operate within certain conditions set out by the regulations. These arrangements are consistent with established consultation procedures for other changes of status which fundamentally affect the character of a school, including changes to admissions arrangements and the addition or subtraction of sixth forms and special needs provision. Mandatory ballots are not required for such changes.

I should stress to the noble Baroness that many of those changes are much more profound than the move to a trust, which may appoint a minority of the governors—in some cases, only one or two, because of the nature of the trust relationship with the school in question. To have the rigid template that the noble Baroness envisages would not be sensible.

However, at its discretion a governing body has the right to hold a ballot, and it may well be appropriate for it to do so if the issue of moving to trust status was

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particularly controversial within the school community, for example. The governing body of a school may also choose to hold a public meeting of parents—it has absolute power to do so. But we do not believe it necessary to impose mandatory requirements in respect of either ballots or public meetings.

As for the electorate, I thought that the noble Baroness was remarkably frank when she said—and I wrote it down when she said it—that the electorate that she proposes in her amendment was not a totally satisfactory one. So the House needs to be clear that the noble Baroness is asking us to vote on a proposal which she herself describes as not totally satisfactory.

I agree with her that it is not totally satisfactory. In many cases when schools want to become trust schools, it will be because the school is profoundly failing and needs a very substantial boost and change of character if it is to become an attractive school in its community. As a Minister, I spend a lot of time visiting schools in that circumstance, and the greatest body of local parents who need to be engaged in the life of that school are not those of children who go to the school—because these schools often have very sharply declining rolls and small student populations—but the local body of parents who will not enrol their children in it until it is transformed and provides a satisfactory level of education for them. There are so many cases where that has happened that I do not believe the noble Baroness was in any way incorrect in describing her proposal as not totally satisfactory. I would, if I may, go slightly further and describe it as totally unsatisfactory, because it does not capture the range of partners who need to be engaged in the wider consultation within the community about whether a change of status of a school would help to boost opportunities and standards for the pupils who either attend that school or might attend it if it improved.

On Amendment No. 24, the list of persons who must be consulted according to regulations already includes other schools in the area,

This level of detail is more appropriate for regulations and, as the regulations already ensure that feeder primary schools must be consulted, I hope that the noble Baroness will be reassured.

Finally, on Amendment No. 23, we do not think it right that governing bodies should be required to act by a two-thirds majority. A governing body's decision would normally be by simple majority of those governors present, including in all the other decisions that I mentioned a moment ago. Therefore requiring a two-thirds majority when deciding on trust acquisition proposals would set a threshold which does not apply to any other decision by a governing body, including equally fundamental decisions such as engaging or withdrawing from special needs provision, and opening or closing sixth forms. We see no good justification for it.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply, but I point out to him that even the Conservatives, when they introduced grant-maintained schools, supported the idea of parental

19 Oct 2006 : Column 888

ballots for the change of status of schools. To argue as he does that this is not the democratic way to go is quite unnecessary.

The Minister quoted again, as he did in Committee, this business of the mandate from the House of Commons—that the vote was 412 to 121. Yes, it was, but that meant that 55 of his own side actually voted against that proposal in the House of Commons, so he did not actually have the full backing of his own party.

We are not really happy with the Minister’s answer. We do not feel that it is a satisfactory situation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 23:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we feel it perfectly reasonable that this very substantial change of status should require a two-thirds majority of the governing board, and we would like to test the opinion of the House.

12.40 pm

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 23) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 36; Not-Contents, 182.

Division No. 2


Addington, L.
Avebury, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, B.
Chidgey, L.
Cotter, L.
Dykes, L.
Garden, L.
Goodhart, L.
Greaves, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hurd of Westwell, L.
Jones of Cheltenham, L.
Laird, L.
Lee of Trafford, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Newby, L.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Redesdale, L.
Roberts of Llandudno, L. [Teller]
Rogan, L.
Roper, L.
Russell-Johnston, L.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Sharman, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B. [Teller]
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Teverson, L.
Thomas of Winchester, B.
Tordoff, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.


Acton, L.
Adonis, L.
Ahmed, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Amos, B. [Lord President.]
Ampthill, L.
Anderson of Swansea, L.
Andrews, B.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Arran, E.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Baker of Dorking, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bell, L.
Bhattacharyya, L.
Billingham, B.
Blaker, L.
Boyd of Duncansby, L.
Bradley, L.
Brett, L.

19 Oct 2006 : Column 889

Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Bruce-Lockhart, L.
Buscombe, B.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carter of Coles, L.
Chadlington, L.
Christopher, L.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Condon, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Crawley, B.
Dahrendorf, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
De Mauley, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denham, L.
Desai, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Drayson, L.
Dubs, L.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elder, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Feldman, L.
Ferrers, E.
Flather, B.
Fookes, B.
Ford, B.
Fowler, L.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Hanham, B.
Harrison, L.
Hart of Chilton, L.
Haskel, L.
Haworth, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Henig, B.
Hogg, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hooper, B.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
James of Blackheath, L.
James of Holland Park, B.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Jopling, L.
Judd, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lyell, L.
Lyell of Markyate, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
McDonagh, B.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
McKenzie of Luton, L.
Manchester, Bp.
Marland, L.
Marlesford, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Maxton, L.
Mitchell, L.
Montrose, D.
Moonie, L.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Morris of Bolton, B.
Morris of Handsworth, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Moynihan, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Noakes, B.
Norton of Louth, L.
O'Cathain, B.
O'Neill of Clackmannan, L.
Ouseley, L.
Parekh, L.
Patten, L.
Pendry, L.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Peterborough, Bp.
Pitkeathley, B.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Plumb, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Quinton, L.
Reay, L.
Rees-Mogg, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Renton of Mount Harry, L.
Richard, L.
Rooker, L.
Rosser, L.
Rowlands, L.
Royall of Blaisdon, B.
St. John of Bletso, L.
St John of Fawsley, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Seccombe, B.
Selborne, E.
Selsdon, L.
Sewel, L.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Shephard of Northwold, B.
Simon, V.
Skidelsky, L.
Slim, V.
Smith of Finsbury, L.
Soley, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Sutherland of Houndwood, L.
Swinfen, L.
Taylor of Holbeach, L.
Temple-Morris, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Triesman, L.
Truscott, L.
Tunnicliffe, L.
Verma, B.
Vinson, L.

19 Oct 2006 : Column 890

Wakeham, L.
Waldegrave of North Hill, L.
Warner, L.
Whitaker, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Windlesham, L.
Wolfson, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Hornsey, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

12.50 pm

[Amendment No. 24 not moved.]

Clause 24 [Proposals under section 19: implementation]:

Lord Adonis moved Amendment No. 25:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 25 [Proposals for removal of foundation or reduction in foundation governors]:

Lord Adonis moved Amendment No. 26:

“(i) proposals for the establishment of the school were implemented under Schedule 2, or (ii) proposals for the acquisition of a foundation, for a relevant change in the instrument of government or for a change of category to foundation school or foundation special school were implemented under regulations under section 24,”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I wish to speak also to government Amendments Nos. 27 to 30. Government Amendments Nos. 26 to 30 relate to the removal of foundations. Clauses 25 to 27 provide for the governing bodies of certain foundation schools with foundations—trust schools—to publish proposals to remove the school’s foundation. Otherwise it would be possible to terminate the relationship between a school and its foundation only by closing the school.

Amendments Nos. 26 and 27 correct deficiencies in the existing wording of the Bill. They clarify the circumstances in which a minority of the governors of a school may trigger the publication of proposals to remove the school’s foundation. Amendments Nos. 28, 29 and 30 deal with arrangements for agreeing the transfer of land where a foundation is removed, and any associated compensation. This may be compensation in relation to capital expenditure incurred on school land or in relation to the value of the land itself. The effect of these amendments is to ensure that governing bodies have a full picture of the implications of removing a foundation when they are considering their proposals. They will eliminate the risk that a governing body may publish proposals that cannot subsequently be implemented.

Amendment No. 31 is intended to deal with those exceptional cases where a trust school is established on land provided by a foundation from private sources, and the foundation is removed. Such cases will be extremely rare. We are concerned here only with schools established after the Bill is enacted on land provided from private sources, either as trust

19 Oct 2006 : Column 891

schools or as voluntary schools which subsequently change category to become trust schools.

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