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I assume that they will be single-sex schools, a point which no one has mentioned. There is nothing wrong with single-sex schools, but are we sure that gender equality will be taught in these schools? Gender equality may be a subject in girls schools, but will it be one in boys schools? There is no point in fudging the issue because we all know that this is an
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Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, Members on these Benches also support the amendments, and your Lordships will not be surprised to hear me say that. At every stage of this Bill amendments have been tabled from these Benches on the duty to promote social cohesion, despite the fact that in Clause 33(6) there is already a duty on foundation schools to promote it. We tabled an amendment to put the duty on local authorities, with their more broad-brush powers that affect whole communities. In Amendment No. 11, to be debated later, we also seek to put the duty on admission forums rather than just have it in guidance. So noble Lords will not be surprised to see that we support Amendment No. 7, which started life as a duty to promote well-being but now has had the duty to promote social cohesion added to it. However, we will have the debate on well-being in a few minutes time when we come to Amendments Nos. 8 and 9.
If you ask an Irishman how to get to Tipperary, he will answer you by saying, Well, I would not have started from here. I too would not have started from here. It is probably well known that I, like many noble Lords, would prefer the state and religion to be separated and for our schools not to be of any denomination. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, has rightly said, we are starting from here. We have faith schools, many of them extremely good schools and popular with parents. But what we have to do is to persuade them to serve the whole community as much as they possibly can and to open their doors to those of other faiths or none. The question, of course, is how that is done. Indeed, the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, also occurred to me: does a school have the capacity to actually affect social cohesion in its community other thanI stress thisby addressing its admissions policy?
The noble Lord, Lord Baker, emphasised the burden on the inspectorate produced by this amendment. I agree that it is a heavy burden, and I want to ask about the benchmarks. How are these things to be inspected? The noble Lord, Lord Alton, suggested that it would be done through the self-evaluation forms that the schools have to fill in. I am concerned that schools that do not want to open up their admissions to those of other faiths and none are not let off the hook by Ofsted.
It is not enough to make federations, however loose or close, with other schools. It is not enough to outreach into the community. At Report stage we enjoyed hearing the noble Lord, Lord Alton, tell us that Catholic schools do such outreach, but such work is not enough. These schools have to open up their admissions to people of other faiths and none. I am somewhat doubtful whether some of them want
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Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I am very pleased to return to this debate with an amendment that is the result of the best spirit of consensus. I begin by thanking all noble Lords who have supported the amendment, beginning with my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour. However, it is thanks largely to the efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that the amendment before us has materialised, and thanks to the combined efforts of the noble Lords who signed up to the amendment that such consensus has been achieved. I do not think that the media or most people in the world outside have any idea, or will ever know, much of what has gone on behind the scenes over the past week, which is what has brought us to this consensus. We were expecting a government amendment but are pleased that one has not surfaced. Following the remarks made by the Secretary of State for Education after Report last week, we on these Benches were very wary of any kind of quota system. While I am sure that the Minister would have handled it responsibly, we are not so confident in his potential successors.
Briefly, Amendment No. 3, in my name, is a probing amendment to ensure that new schools will be expected to set out in their proposal their plans for fostering community cohesion. I am sure that the Minister can assure me that that would be a matter of routine. These amendments offer a hugely constructive way forward in how greater integration of faith schools can be achieved. While it is the integration of faith schools that has come under scrutiny in recent weeks in public debate, it is clear that the successful future of a cohesive society cannot be the responsibility of faith schools alone. That is why I am so pleased that these amendments will apply to all schools, not just faith schools, and will form part of their inspection regime. It is right that this is an enterprise taken on by all in the education system, and, I should add, by all of us outside the education system as well.
The amendments germanely link well-being to community cohesion. I applaud that sentiment. It is clear that the future well-being of our nation depends on greater integration and interaction within communities. That is the right step forward. It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that these measures are introduced and applied with some rigour. Community cohesion among the next generation of young Britons is of critical importance and we should expect all faith communities and those without a religious faith among us to set an exemplary example. I for one, in my personal capacity, shall be watching this like a hawk.
In the context of this Bill, I believe that this amendment strikes the right balance between parental
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These amendments provide the perfect incentive to engender social responsibility. Legislation is at its best where it expresses an expectation of a standard, provides an audit on that expectation and trusts people to act upon it themselves, and yet achieves that without the complex rigidity of a quota system. I am proud to have been able to assist in its success and I am pleased that the Minister has been able to abandon his previous position and give his support to this side of the debate. The motto of these amendments could well be, Integration, not intervention. I ask noble Lords to support these amendments, which will enhance the efforts of schools in playing their crucial role in spreading the values of tolerance that will foster community cohesion.
During the passage of the Bill we have had a full, open and often very frank debate about an extremely important and, for some, very difficult subject. We should thank my noble friend Lord Baker for initiating the debate. This is a classic example of this House, as it is currently constituted, being free to express a whole cross-section of views, openly and without fear or favour.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, we are debating Amendments Nos. 7, 19 and 24 separately from Amendment No. 12, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, which concerns admissions to faith schools. But, as Amendment No. 12 has the same genesis, if I may put it that way, I need to explain how we have got to where we are with these amendments.
When we debated the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, at Report stage, I emphasised the importance that the Government attach to all schools, including faith schools, promoting community cohesion. I should say to my noble friend Lord Pestonwho I am delighted to see has joined us in our deliberationsthat the Bill already makes reference to community cohesion, specifically in respect of trusts and the new types of schools that will develop as a consequence of the Bill. I draw his attention to Clause 33(6) of the Bill which states that new foundations shall have requirements on them which, in carrying out their functions in relation to the school, must promote community cohesion.
Lord Peston: My Lords, I have a feeling that my minor contribution was not understood. The point I was trying to make is that you get community cohesion by going to the same school as your friends. Once you start siphoning off people, it will get rid of community cohesion. I may be arguing erroneously but my point was that the school promoting community cohesion is not a feasible strategy; it needs to have in it a full range of children. I may be wrong. I am not really allowed to join in now anyway because I have spoken once, but that is what I was trying to say.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, I believe that it is perfectly possible for schools, including faith schools, to promote community cohesion in exactly the kinds of ways set out by my noble friend Lady Morris when she quoted from guidance issued by the department. Of course, we want to see that take place to a higher degree in future.
As to admissions, in our earlier debates I welcomed the Church of Englands decision that its new schools will offer places within their local community in addition to those made available to declared Anglican families. I said that if there was a sufficient consensus for such a policyand I was careful to say if there was a sufficient consensusthen the Government would be prepared to introduce a local authority power, but emphatically not a duty, in respect of admissions to other new faith schools. I undertook that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and I would consult with the other political parties, with MPs and Peers with an interest in this matter, and with the leaders of the faith communities before deciding on our way forward.
We have undertaken those consultations. Having done so, as the House is now well aware, we have decided that the best and most effective way to promote community cohesion is to lay a duty to promote community cohesion on the governing bodies of all schools. This will of course extend beyond faith schools, whether new or existing, and will embrace all schools whatever their admissions policies. We believe that this will make it far more effective.
My noble friend Lady David and the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, asked about the definition of cohesion. An effective definition is already available in the documentation issued by the Home Office in its publications on community cohesion. This defines community cohesion as,
I believe that the whole House would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, that those are immensely worthwhile objectives which we should be seeking to promote and it is to the advantage of our society that they should be advanced in schools and there should be some teeth behind the promotion of those duties. That is why the new duties will be supported by new inspection requirementsto give them that force.
My right honourable friend and I are grateful to all those who have helped us to develop an effective way forward, which is encompassed in the amendment before us. The noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, who speaks with the authority of a former chief inspector, set out the case for this approach most powerfully. We also appreciate the support of the noble Baroness,
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Ofsted also endorses the proposed approachboth the new duty on schools to promote community cohesion, and the new role for Ofsted in monitoring it. I have discussed this issue in detail with Her Majestys Chief Inspector of Schools, Christine Gilbert, who was until last month chief executive of Tower Hamlets Council and so brings considerable personal experience to bear in this area. In her confirmatory letter to me she says:
I welcome your proposal that Ofsted should be asked to judge the extent to which learners contribute to community cohesion; and that in doing so we should assess both the education of pupils and how the school works with others in the community to achieve this.
I believe that it will be possible for inspectors to make a judgement on this matter by drawing on evidence including, but not restricted to, self evaluation from the self evaluation form (SEF); and that this will be possible while retaining the overall balance and focus of the inspection.
We have the powerful endorsement of Her Majestys Chief Inspector and, taking up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, about how this will be reported through to Parliament regularly, the chief inspector makes an annual report to the Secretary of State which is laid before Parliament and which encompasses all of the areas of Ofsteds inspection activity during the course of the year. Ofsted also publishes periodic thematic reports and we believe that this would be an appropriate area for one of Ofsteds reports in due course. They are of course published and subject to debate in this House and in the other place.
In response to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, on the steps that the Government take to follow up Ofsted reports, he will know that the Government have not been dilatory in following up the Ofsted report in respect of the particular private Islamic school in Sussex that he referred to. There was a full parliamentary Statement on the action that Ofsted and the Government have taken in response to that report and we believe that the public authorities have risen to their responsibilities in that regard. I should stress that David Bells remarks, which the noble Lord cited, were in respect of private Islamic schools and it is precisely in those schools that we have powers of enforcement where they do not meet the required standards. In the particular case that he mentioned, we have made it clear that we are ready to exercise to the full those powers of enforcement if the standards of education do not meet the required level.
Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, the report that the noble Lord refers to by David Bell specifically referred to inadequate standards in private schools and it anticipated that the Government would react. That report has not been debated in this House as far as I know and the Government have taken no action upon it. If the noble Lords amendment is to be effective there must be action upon the report.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, that is simply not correct. Where Ofsted reports unfavourably on the standards in a private Islamic school, enforcement action follows and there are set procedures to ensure that that takes place.
Thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, Ofsted already reports on the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils, assesses personal development and well-being and evaluates learners contribution to the community. In doing so, inspectors already pick up on aspects of a schools work which contribute to community cohesion; the measures we are debating build on that. However, having an explicit reference in legislation will, we believe, ensure that all schools will be held to account for their contribution in this important aspect. My department will work with Ofsted to determine what changes will be necessary to the inspection framework and supporting documents, such as the self-evaluation form, to make this a reality.
The new focus on community cohesion through school inspection will enable the tremendous work that is already taking place in many of our schools across the country to be recognised and shared. For example, we know of a wide range of school-linking projects: children and their families from diverse ethnic, cultural, social and religious backgrounds who might normally not meet because they live in and attend schools in different areas are able to work and play together through joint assemblies, visits and activities. Many schools also encourage visits by leaders of other faiths to increase understanding of different religions. To cite one example, the Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum is working in partnership with secondary schools and the local standing advisory council on religious education to develop a model for supporting religious education and community cohesion across the borough by encouraging faith leaders to visit schools. Three schools are currently piloting the project, and the borough is looking to take this forward more widely.
The new focus for school inspection will also identify schools that need to do more. Here I pick up the remark of my noble friend Lady Morris about there being an impetus to defined activities which will see that the duty to promote community cohesion is taken seriously. Schools should do more through their curriculum delivery, including education outside the classroom; they should do more through developing partnerships and effective working with other bodies; and they should do more through the professional development of staff, among other things.
Prompted by Ofsteds findings and by recommendations on areas for improvement, schools will be expected to take appropriate action. They will need to reflect the progress made on these actions in updating the self-evaluation form. The school improvement partners will challenge and support the school in making any necessary improvements, and schools will need to inform parents about this progress through the school profile.
We believe that this is an effective way forward. We are extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord
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The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, can he explain what would happen if a school was top of the exam league but failed to make any effort to promote community cohesion? Would it be closed down? What punishment would there be? What effect could anyone have if that were the case, which is perfectly possible?
Lord Adonis: My Lords, Ofsted would report accordingly. It would give the school a very low grade on its action to promote community cohesion, and the school would be expected to produce an action plan setting out the measures it would take to meet the concerns expressed. There are clear practices on critical Ofsted reports, and they would apply to the full in such a case.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment relates to Clauses 7 to 14 about competition for establishing new schools. Throughout the passage of the Bill, we on these Benches have been arguing in favour of local authorities having as much right to put forward proposals for new schools as any other organisation or institution. In Committee, my noble friend Lady Williams argued very coherently for promoting a level playing field between local authorities and other organisations and institutions that are, particularly under Clauses 7 and 8, encouraged to put forward proposals for new schools.
In Committee and at Report, we tabled amendments to open up the competition between local authorities. We also argued for the deletion of Clause 8 which, as we argued then and continue to argue, imposes unduly restrictive constraints on local authorities. Clauses 7 and 8 are only about putting forward proposals for a competition for a new school. Decisions are then taken as to which of the proposals may go forward. We have been arguing that local authorities should have the right to put forward a proposal for a community school on the same sort of basis as the other institutions being encouraged to do so by this Bill.
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