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Lord Adonis: My Lords, on the treatment of school staff, which I take to be the noble Baroness’s concern beyond these amendments, I am advised that although the amendments refer to the well-being of pupils, the duty to promote well-being applies to the governing bodies of schools at large. We regard it as inconceivable that they could be acting in accordance with those duties if they did not also take account of the issues referred to by the noble Baroness—the maltreatment or bullying of individual members of staff. So while the amendment is couched in terms of

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the well-being of pupils, I hope that the wider concerns she has outlined, the force of which I appreciate, are also met. But, as she says, there is always a limit to how far one can go in legislation. We can impose duties on school governing bodies and school leaders, but ultimately we have to trust them to act in the best interests of their communities.

Putting the duty of well-being into the Bill will have a declaratory force, but when it comes to issues such as the treatment of one member of staff by another, we have to trust to the good sense and leadership of head teachers and their management teams.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Adonis moved Amendment No. 9:

(a) in relation to a pupils at a school in England, means their well-being so far as relating to the matters mentioned in section 10(2) of the Children Act 2004, and (b) in relation to pupils at a school in Wales, means their well-being so far as relating to the matters mentioned in section 25(2) of that Act.”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 10:

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

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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 10 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 11. This is a repeat of an amendment we tabled on Report and I have to say that my arguments in its favour have not changed. Members on these Benches contend that the Government are introducing, through this Bill and the new draft admissions code currently under consultation, very considerable changes in admissions procedures. These new arrangements have been introduced precisely because the Government are worried about the degree of social segregation that has been emerging as a result of the current admissions arrangements. Since the Government now propose that more schools should be in a position to control their own admissions within the context of the local admission forum being subject to adherence to the new code of practice, and since research shows that allowing schools to be their own admissions authority has in the past led to greater social segregation, there is a strong case for reviewing how well the arrangements are working after they have bedded down for two or three years.

On Amendment No. 11, the Minister explained at Report stage that admission forums are specifically enjoined in the new draft code of practice to promote social equity and to serve the interests of local parents and children collectively. In Amendment No. 11 we argue that these duties should be in the Bill rather than buried in the code of practice. As foundation schools are specifically required to promote community cohesion in Clause 33(6), and the new provisions in Clause 38 will require all maintained schools to do so, it is all the more logical that admission forums—which are much better placed to make such an aspiration a reality—should also have this duty provided for them in the Bill.

I return to Amendment No. 10. The Minister has rightly said that an individual admission forum would look at the effect of the changes in their own areas and submit reports to the new schools commissioner, and that the commissioner would review the reports and then submit his own report to Parliament on how far the forums were achieving fair access after the new arrangements had been in place for two years. After the first of those reports, it would be appropriate for the Government to decide whether they needed a further independent review. We contend that since one of the main purposes of the Bill is to ensure, as stated in Clause 1,

and since in pursuit of this objective the Government are introducing far-reaching changes to admissions procedures, it is only right and proper that a full, independent review of these arrangements should take place once they have had a chance to make their mark. We do not consider that the new schools commissioner, as an official employed specifically to make these things happen in the department, can be seen as sufficiently independent to conduct such a review. We need to commit ourselves now to such a review, not down the line in two or three years’ time. Given the degree of concern about social cohesion that has emerged in our debates, we need an independent review even more now than we did before. I beg to move.

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Lord Adonis: My Lords, the noble Baroness said that she was making exactly the same arguments that she made on Report. I will make exactly the same arguments in response—

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I apologise to the Minister. I know that he wants to get on, but I have a couple of—I promise—brief points to make. I commend what my noble friend Lady Sharp said, not least to those who voted in large numbers for the amendment that concerned the whole issue of community cohesion. That is because they are expecting the inspectors to have a remarkable impact. Some of us hope that that will be so, some of us are rather more sceptical. Certainly, an independent review two or three years down the road would ensure that we would discover how far the commitment to community cohesion existed in fact—in the way in which, for example, schools conducted themselves on admissions. If we believe that, then there is nothing to worry about with an independent review. If we are a little uncertain, then an independent review will enable us so to arrange and change the legislation to ensure that what the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and other people have so eloquently demanded is actually going to happen.

My first point is that those who are relying heavily on some of the amendments being made ought, in order for the Bill to carry the weight that they are giving it, strongly to support an independent review, which carries no political baggage. It is a straightforward request that we look again at what we have just done.

Secondly, as somebody who, like the noble Lord, has been a Minister, I am very struck by how little feedback there ever is from legislation. We pass often sweeping and very thorough legislation—I am referring not just to this Government but to any Government—but we then almost never follow up to see what has happened and how far that legislation has been justified. That is one of the reasons why we keep putting new Bills in—to replace the holes in the previous Acts. Anybody who believes, as I am sure the Minister does, in research, study and careful looking into the facts of what has happened ought to support an independent review, because we have very complicated admissions arrangements in the Bill. We also have transparent ones, but ones that are in some ways likely to conflict to some extent with each other.

I come to perhaps my most important point. It is well known in this House that some of the crucial changes that the Government have made to the Bill, under considerable pressure from Back-Benchers in their own party as well as in other parties, were specifically to the admissions arrangements. Quite a lot of concessions were made in that regard. It is therefore important that we know how far those concessions are going to be carried out.

In case anyone doubts that this could happen, I shall quote briefly, but also very relevantly to the amendment that we have just discussed, with regard to the issue of good and excellent local authorities. At Second Reading in another place, the then Minister, Ruth Kelly, said:

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That was not brought forward in our previous debate but it was a specific promise by the Minister that does not appear to have been fully carried out.

For all these reasons, I strongly suggest that we should give weight to an independent review to ensure that the various promises, changes and arrangements that have been made should actually stand the tests of fact, of research and of study. I strongly support my noble friend in moving the amendment.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, has just made a speech rather similar to the one I made just a few days ago when I asked the House to support an independent review on special educational needs. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has said that her party is nothing if not consistent. It would have been so nice if her party had thought about this in terms of consistency. Indeed, in the Commons only last week her party had a debate on whether there should be a major review of special educational needs. The response from the Liberal Benches by the shadow Minister, or the cross-party—I think she is called—shadow Minister for children and the family, was that there should be. It is deeply unfortunate that the Liberal Democrats are now asking us to support a major review of this kind on admissions, but seemed unable to support us on something so hugely important, which in the Commons they were crying out for only last week—a major review of special educational needs.

6.45 pm

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I apologise for intervening before the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. After the very nice things she said about me earlier, the last thing that I would want to do is to discourage her from speaking. I am only sorry that on this occasion we cannot agree with the amendment. It is not that we disagree with the objective, but we believe that it is met by the arrangements put in place by the Bill as it stands. The changes that we have made will ensure that the admissions system is kept under proper review, both locally and nationally, which is the concern of the Liberal Democrats in this matter.

Locally, the core membership of admissions forums represents a wide range of interests in the local admissions process, including schools. The reports of the admissions forums will reflect these different perspectives, ensuring that their decisions are not swayed by the views of a single group and are properly representative of the views of local stakeholders. In addition, admissions forums must act in accordance with the new school admissions code of practice. The guidance given to admissions forums gives them an unambiguous responsibility for ensuring that the admissions system promotes social equity. All schools must comply with the admissions legislation and the new school admissions code and must also have regard to the advice given to them by the relevant admissions forum. As well as that, local authorities and other schools will act as a check on

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the operation of unfair admissions practices. Local authorities may produce their own reports, if they so wish, and they can refer admissions practices that they regard as unfair to the adjudicator. Locally, we believe that the system is kept under proper review by the arrangements in the Bill.

Nationally, I agree with the noble Baroness that there should be a proper process of evaluation and review. That is provided for in the role of the schools commissioner, which is a new role—the first schools commissioner has just been appointed. Integral to the role of the schools commissioner is that they should promote fair access and report on it. I quote from the schools commissioner’s job description. His role shall be to,

We are committed to there being a proper process of national evaluation and reporting. In our earlier debates I undertook that the Government would submit to Parliament the reviews that come from the schools commissioner, so we believe that the objective of the noble Baroness is met without setting up an additional independent review process over and above that we have already provided for in the role of the schools commissioner. I hope that our objectives are shared. We believe that the ends of the noble Baroness are met by the Bill and that there is no need for these further provisions.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I say to the Conservative Benches that on our Benches we take account of the particular circumstances of the case. On the advice of a good many of the organisations involved in special educational needs, including the Special Education Consortium, we felt that it was appropriate not to ask in this particular instance for an independent review. On other occasions we have supported such reviews. On this amendment, we continue to feel that there would be a good case for a fully fledged independent review to look at these substantial changes in admissions procedures. I am very sorry that the Minister has not seen fit to agree with us. In view of the hour, the sensible thing would be not to press the amendment. I therefore beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 12.

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker):My Lords, it is after 6.45 pm—

Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 12.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, it is a convenient moment after 6.45 pm. The noble Lord’s party has asked me to repeat this Statement. I am here only because the

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Opposition parties have asked for this Statement to be repeated. It has been known all afternoon that at a convenient moment after 6.45 the Statement would be repeated and that, with permission, I intend to do.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Baker is making the point that this is not a convenient moment after 6.45. He would like to move his important amendment. I move that we should now deal with Amendment No. 12 and immediately after that go to the Statement. We have seen on several occasions that Statements do not have to be made exactly after the given time. I have been in this House for quite a long time now and I have seen amendments being debated at length and Statements being made even an hour later. I sincerely hope we can take my noble friend’s amendment now and then the Statement.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, I support what has been said by my noble friend. After all, this is a matter for the House. Many of us have sat here all afternoon and it seems to me that it would be greatly unfair to a number of people—and to my noble friend Lord Baker in particular—if his amendment was not now taken.

Lord Grocott: My Lords, I watched the first two or three minutes of these exchanges on the monitor and I thought it was right for me to come into the Chamber. The normal practice is quite clear: as from three o’clock this afternoon it was known that the Statement would be taken at a convenient time after 6.45. As the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, will know, “a convenient time” is not an ambiguous phrase; it means, quite precisely, that when the group of amendments being discussed at 6.45 is completed, we then move on to the next business. If we were now unilaterally to change this practice by an argument in the House, it would not only be a question of changing normal practice but of seriously inconveniencing a lot of people. Some people are interested in the Education and Inspections Bill; others are extremely interested in the Statement; and many others, including people from outside—midwives, I might say—are very interested in the Unstarred Question which we have down for the dinner break. This would be seriously delayed if we went on to the next amendment.

I strongly advise the House that we should continue in the normal way. No one more than I would have been utterly delighted if we had moved more quickly on the Bill. Sadly, that is not within my power. As we have no means of adjudicating on this issue—although we have a splendid Lord Speaker on the Woolsack—if we carry on with this discussion we will simply delay matters further, with the same outcome. I suggest that the House continues with the next business.

Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, I do not want to inconvenience the House but many noble Lords present at the moment have sat through most of the education debates in which important and vital

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matters have been discussed. It is generally agreed that the amendment I seek to move is central to the whole debate about inclusion in schools. Quite frankly, I think many noble Lords would like the debate to continue now. It may not be for the convenience of the House to have the Statement at some time after 6.45. It is for your Lordships to decide whether you want to hear the climate change Statement now. The Statement could be taken later but the Chief Whip made a great point of saying that it is for the convenience of Members. I think that for the convenience of the majority of Members present the debate on Amendment No. 12 would be more interesting. I beg to move Amendment No. 12.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, replies, I would simply say in support of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, that there has been coherence to the debate thus far and most noble Lords anticipated that we would come to a conclusion on these questions before the dinner break. Many of the points that would need to be made during the course of the debate have already been made on the group of earlier amendments, so it is not an unreasonable proposition that is being put.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I do not want to get involved in this. It is a matter for the business managers—and the business managers agreed that this Statement would be taken at a convenient time after 6.45, otherwise it would not be taken. As my noble friend the Chief Whip has stated, there is also the dinner break business to be considered. I do not think one can count the amount of interest by the number of people in the House. Plenty of people have been waiting for this Statement all day. They keep stopping me in the Corridor and asking me questions about it that I have not been able to answer but I am hoping that I can answer. I intend, with good will, to follow the rules that have been explained to me and to repeat the Statement that was made in the other place by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, I am inclined to put the Question to the House—and ask for a vote on it—that my noble friend’s amendment should be discussed first. I beg to move.

Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, that is not quite necessary. I moved an amendment; it is for the House to decide whether I am allowed to speak to it.

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