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I applaud parents wanting to do better for their children. It is a great motivating force and a great good. It is something that we should all encourage. We have let this great force act entirely for the benefit of the people who are applying it. Ought we not to have learnt from Adam Smith that where you have a great force of this nature—in Adam Smith’s case the desire to better oneself financially—it can be harnessed to the good of society, and then everyone benefits from it? That is really what we ought to be trying to do in schools, and it seems to me that there are various ways of going about it. One obvious one, which might appeal to my Front Bench, is to allow anyone to establish a state school whenever they wanted to; to have complete freedom of establishment of state schools, so that if someone wanted a good state school in an area where there was not one they could go out and establish one. That is a fairly expensive way of doing it, but it is certainly theoretically attractive. I do not think that it will work with this Government, and I do not think it is on the cards in the near future.

We can look at improving admission arrangements to see whether we can make sure that at least an element of them is not capable of social manipulation, or at least is very difficult to manipulate socially. The Government are trying this a bit through banding, but where banding has been in place for a while, say with some of the early city technology colleges, the middle classes are getting pretty good at working it. You get to know the pattern, and you say to your kid, “Come on, we want you to do a bit worse than that”. You make sure they get in to band B or band C so that they can get the admissions from where you are living. It is all a process that is capable of manipulation.

The system that I like is the one that is not often employed, but I came across it first with Haberdashers’ Hatcham, which is one of the new academies where they have gone for balloted admissions. If you set the bounds of your ballot sufficiently wide—Hatcham has it at three miles—you can encompass such a broad section of the population and such a large number of houses that it becomes pretty impossible to predict whether you will get in on a ballot from any particular

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location. There are certainly no other known ways of working a ballot. So you open a good school up—and Haberdashers’ Hatcham is a good school—to anyone regardless of their ability to take advantage of conventional means of admission. It seems to me that ballots have the potential to open up schools in a way that grammar schools used to; to anyone. The old grammar school system—which had many iniquities and which I did not support—at least allowed people to get on to the education ladder from wherever they happened to be in society. We need to produce something that has that breadth, and ballots seem to me to be the way to do it.

Given that, how do we get there? Amendment No. 71 is an exploration of how we get there. I do not think you can do it straight away. You cannot come in and suddenly say that 25 per cent of school admissions shall be by ballot. You disturb communities too much, and you disturb reasonable parental expectations of what the system would look like. You would find yourself immediately unpopular with a large section of society and it is not doable.

However, even those who benefit most from the current system have a strong social conscience. Many of the people who play the current system hard are fervent Guardian readers with deep social consciences, who would be delighted at the idea that they were bringing other people with them in the success that they were finding for their children. There is no doubt also that the breadth of middle-class England would wish to see the whole community benefit from the sort of good schools that their children were going to.

If balloting is introduced gradually, and I propose that it is brought in at 5 per cent and then in gradual 5 per cent increments—although that could be faster, but there would be no compulsion—a predictable move towards 25 per cent would be introduced and be acceptable to those who benefit from the current system, but, within a reasonable time in the context of educational timescales, would achieve a much fairer admissions system.

Subsection (3) of my amendment is concerned with grammar and faith schools. After all, by their nature, they draw children from a wide geographical spread. Is it enough to say that those schools should have geographical selection, as well? I suspect that the answer is that it is not. As the Minister knows, I do not accept the arguments made by faith schools that admitting pupils from outside the faith destroys the faith element of the school and I certainly do not believe that accepting pupils who are not academically tip-top destroys the ethos of a grammar school.

There are many successful bilateral schools in this country where there is a strong academic stream and an un-selected stream. They mix extremely well and, although there is an academic ethos, such schools have the virtue of producing a broad spread of pupils. That is a successful model; so I do not believe that grammar schools would suffer from being required to have balloted admissions. If it were left completely up to me, I would probably leave out subsection (3), so that every school would have to have unconditional ballots.

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Amendment No. 72 looks at the issue from the other side. Many parents want to know where their children are going, want to choose a good local school and do not want to be thrown into a cauldron in which they might not be accepted by any of the schools that they select. They want certainty. Balloted admission systems would produce a guaranteed place for those pupils. That, too, would be done gradually.

In good schools, all admissions would be by guaranteed place to begin with, because everyone who lived locally would want their children to go to a good school. You would then say to that school, “You have either to expand and take on some extra places that, in time, would be filled by ballot, or gradually you have to reduce the number of guaranteed places to make room for the balloted places”. Thereby, a system could evolve in which every child has a guaranteed place and every school has approaching 25 per cent of its places allocated by ballot. The whole system would balance between one year and another—not perfectly in any particular year but, if there is an imbalance, it would gradually work itself out and produce a much fairer system. The guaranteed element would thus produce a system that would be welcome to those who did not wish to take part in a fully balloted system.

Clearly, that complicated system could not be enacted merely by a Back-Bench amendment at a late stage in the Bill, but perhaps we can open things up so that local education authorities can explore that route and propose systems to the Government whereby these two characteristics can be brought into play in local admission systems. Amendment No. 73 would allow the Government to run a few pilots to see how the system would work and, after 10 years, we could come back and say, “This is the way we want to go”.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is inviting the House to reconstitute as a think tank in order to think about particularly adventurous ways in which we might reform the admissions system at some point in the future. I applaud him for doing so. I assure him that he has given me a good deal of food for thought over the past two days as I have tried to get my mind around precisely how his system would work. I spent a lot of time trying to work out how his system of guaranteed places, together with the ballots, might work and how we might develop the system in due course.

Frankly, some of the suggestions put forward by the noble Lord are valuable and I am encouraging my department to continue to give them the attention that they merit. However, I think he will forgive me if I say that we need to move cautiously in this area. Taking his system of guaranteed places as an example, we could not afford for there to be insufficient places for children in a locality. What would be the interaction between the guaranteed places and the ballot which he proposes? The noble Lord wishes us to remove other criteria from school admissions—I know that he is not a great fan of faith criteria—but I do not think that he is proposing to go the whole way and remove the other 75 per cent in schools that have a faith criteria. Therefore, the interaction between those two would be difficult.

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In order to demonstrate to the noble Lord that I have taken this issue seriously, I have looked at what it might mean for particular local authorities and I have to say that the system would be deeply problematic. For example, one authority that I looked at was the London Borough of Lambeth. It was the first that came to mind but there are many others where there might be problems. The London Borough of Lambeth would not have nearly enough school places for its own population if all parents there were to elect to send their children to schools in the borough—that is, if it were to try to adopt the guaranteed place regime. There would be huge problems. For example, in Lambeth in the admissions round that is coming up—

Lord Lucas: My Lords, the Mayor of London appears in the amendment because I know that London boroughs have that sort of problem.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, perhaps I may just give the facts and I shall come to the Mayor of London in a moment. There are 2,420 11 year-olds coming up in the admissions round in Lambeth but all the Lambeth schools combined have places for only 1,672 children. I think that about two-thirds of those places are in faith schools at the moment, and the number of non-faith school places available in Lambeth each year is 535.

We are seeking substantially to boost that number. We are working very closely with Lambeth council to establish new schools, including academies, and to encourage more parents to send their children to local schools across class, in exactly the way that the noble Lord wishes to see happen. We want to improve the quality of education for all parts of the community, but getting the balance right will be a slow process. There are many inner-city areas where this pattern of insufficient places has developed over the years—

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords, it is not the case that you cannot possibly run such an ingenious system as that put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, because some schools are faith schools. Surely Parliament can tell faith schools what to do as much as it can any other school.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I said that it would not be desirable; I did not say that it was not possible. All things are possible within an enlightened Government such as this one, but I was saying that it would not be desirable to do so. Given that it is not the Government's policy, nor, I believe, that of Parliament, to remove the capacity of faith schools to receive state funding, this would be a major obstacle to being able to move in the direction favoured by the noble Lord.

I am a strong supporter of the Mayor of London but his capacity to wave a magic wand in this area is going to be limited unless there is another whole layer of education bureaucracy in London, which is what would happen if the Mayor himself became a responsible agent in school places planning. I think that the local authorities in London, let alone schools, would quail

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at the prospect of another whole layer of bureaucracy being interposed. I completely understand the ideas put forward by the noble Lord but I think that, although they may be applicable in certain circumstances, this matter will need to continue to be debated before we can make progress in some of the directions that he set out.

However, in respect of the unconditional ballots to which he referred and which we debated in Committee, we have made a substantial indication in the new school admissions code, which was published recently and which I circulated to noble Lords, about the applicability of random allocation as a legitimate over-subscription criteria for state schools.

Paragraphs 2.25 to 2.27 set out the circumstances in which that can happen:

I believe that is the context the noble Lord had in mind, where social segregation can be particularly pronounced. However, it notes that it may not be suitable in rural areas where there is not the capacity for individuals to move so easily between schools.

Paragraphs 2.26 and 2.27 set out how we believe that random allocation should work:

I cite that to show we have been giving serious thought to how this could work in practice and the guidance that we can give to schools. We also note that it would be desirable that admissions authorities should ensure that random allocations are supervised by someone independent of the school. I hope that that guidance may encourage more of the kinds of policies cited by the noble Lord in respect of Haberdashers and that that may create a climate in which schools are more confident in using such unfamiliar, at present, forms of oversubscription criteria.

Amendment No. 58, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, to include anonymisation of admissions applications, we still consider to be problematic. I repeat what I said in Committee that, although I will ensure that my officials discuss with local authorities and software suppliers whether there is a cost-effective way to take this forward, we believe that we can move only at the speed at which the administrative processes can cope.

I reiterate the point about siblings. I believe that the noble Baroness may have been under a misunderstanding about what the school's admissions code says about siblings. It is not correct to say that it states that the admission of siblings is poor practice. I want to establish that clearly as it is a very important issue for schools. Paragraphs 2.10 and 2.11 of the draft admissions code on page 19 make it clear that siblings policies may be reasonable. Paragraph 2.10 states:

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It is not correct to say that the draft admissions code gives advice to schools against siblings policies. On the contrary, it says that they should carefully consider the needs of parents, particularly in respect of younger children, when placing children in different schools.

The point which the noble Baroness may have picked up from the media which may have led to her remarks is that we state, in paragraphs 2.12 and 2.13, that schools which select by ability or aptitude need to think very carefully about whether siblings policies in those cases are blatantly unfair. They would enable parents who have managed to get one child into the school through a selective criterion to have all their children admitted.

I make that point because, as the noble Baroness knows, often in schools with a siblings policy a high proportion of the places go to siblings. Where there is a siblings policy, the admissions authority would need to know the names of applicants, or it would need to have addresses from which it could ascertain whether applicants come from the household of a child who is already present at the school. That could be done only by making personal information available to the admissions authority. I elaborate that point to make it clear that there are significant practical issues in taking forward what I accept would be desirable in principle—that admissions should be more anonymised—so that the school system is, and is seen to be, fairer.

Amendments Nos. 60 to 69 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, would require a local authority, in consultation with the admissions forum, to prepare and publish reports on admissions matters in its area. There is no need to place such a requirement on local authorities. They already have powers to make reports as they see fit. There is no limitation whatever on a local authority’s power to act in this area. The Local Government Association seems to want us to oblige local authorities to do things that they are at perfect liberty to do anyway, an unusual position for it to adopt. It is normally against us telling authorities to do things they have the power to do or not to do. I am prepared to rest on the maturity of local authorities to make these decisions for themselves without us needing to tell them to do so.

3.45 pm

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I am glad he is taking up some of the ideas proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. As the Minister says, in some sense the noble Lord is acting as a think tank for the department on some of these issues.

I hope that we can perhaps see the use of random ballots, in particular, where there is over-application. Having lived in an inner-London borough, and having

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experienced the selection processes at 11, I know how incredibly complicated they can get. Some schools are enormously over-subscribed, and the use of a random ballot seems a fair way of allocating those places. Perhaps we could see greater use of that sort of procedure.

I accept what the Minister says on the anonymisation of applications. One can only move forward and, as the Minister says, the development of the software must take place in conjunction with local authorities. I am relieved to hear what the Minister says about siblings. I am not sure why I got hold of the wrong end of the stick, and am relieved because I felt that giving no preference to siblings would have been a retrograde step. I think some admissions authorities are moving away from giving siblings preference at secondary school level, but I will check back and perhaps come back to the Minister on a one-to-one basis. It would still be possible, once siblings have been taken out of the selection process, for over-subscription to be sorted out on a random basis. Be that as it may, I accept that both issues currently pose something of a problem.

I am interested to hear what the Minister says about the LGA already having powers to make such a report. The Bill clearly gives the duty to the admissions authority rather than the LEA, but I shall make certain that the LGA—we tabled these amendments on its behalf—knows what the Minister’s answer is. If it is not satisfied, we may come back to it at Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 59:

(a) teacher associations; (b) local authorities; (c) parents and governors; (d) pupils in secondary schools; (e) employers; (f) such other persons as it considers appropriate.

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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I argued the case for an independent review of admissions arrangements in Committee. I do not intend to repeat those arguments today. My main points are, however, worth a brief recap so that we can see the amendment in context.

First, this legislation is introducing a new type of school, which the Government and the Opposition would like to see become the predominant type of school in England: the trust school or, in the wording of the Bill,

We already have foundation schools, as we know, but most of them do not actually have foundations behind them. The model propounded here is that of a foundation school with a foundation behind it.

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