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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Perhaps I may respond to my noble friend Lord Peston because I think he made a valid point. I do not think I used the word "forecast" in what I said. I would not do so. I have quoted Robert Graves to the House before. In his poem Non Cogunt Astra he said:

That, I can grandly say, is certainly the view of the department.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, and my noble friend are right. Targets are not forecasts. They are not intended to be seen in that way. It is important that they should be ambitious as well as realistic and it is important that we should not degrade the education development planning process by allowing targets which do not achieve our national objectives for improving school standards. But that does not mean that we need to prescribe on the face of the Bill now what will happen in the second round of EDPs.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, made an important contribution. She suggested to the noble Lord that the amendment might be worth consideration and she gave the reasons for that. It would be a pity if the Government did not consider the amendment for the next stage of the Bill to see whether there is not something in it. The noble Lord said at the beginning of his remarks that my noble friend had moved on from the present to future years, as if that were an unfortunate thing to do. The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, who has great experience in these matters, suggested that the amendment might have great uses. I wonder whether the Minister could consider it before the next stage of the Bill to make quite sure that it is not a good idea to include reporting back on where there were successes and where there were not. That would improve good practice in local authorities and would enable them to share with one another what they

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had achieved. To me that sounds absolutely excellent. I am sorry that the noble Lord the Minister pooh-poohed it a little.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I did not pooh-pooh it in the least. I referred to the draft education development plan guidance which talks about the annual monitoring of the three year plans against targets, the implementation of the school improvement programme and the consideration which that involves of the outcomes of the plan. That draft guidance will be reflected in subsequent regulations. There is no pooh-poohing at all of the sensible and forward looking thinking behind the noble Lord's amendment. It is just that the amendment is not necessary.

Lord Lucas: Nonetheless, I hope the noble Lord will bear in mind what the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, said. It seemed to be eminent good sense that there should be mechanisms for one local authority to learn from another. A local authority or LEA reporting in centrally to the DfEE and knowing what is happening in its own plan will not disseminate information between local authorities. As good practice is developed in one area it needs to be disseminated. There need to be mechanisms for that. I hope the noble Lord will bear that in mind. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 31A:

Page 4, line 22, at end insert ("which shall include proposals for monitoring standards and exclusions by gender and ethnicity and for using evidence from such monitoring in order to raise standards").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 31A, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 31B and 33A. Amendment No. 38 has been removed from this grouping. These amendments are pleasantly straightforward, although the esoteric arguments we had earlier on may well colour some of the discussion we will have on them. Amendment No. 31 addresses a problem that has been recognised in virtually the whole education sector. Certain ethnic groups--for instance, white males from lower socio-economic groups (or working class groups as they used to be called in days gone by)--do badly in school and young males from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds tend to rank highly in the number of people who are excluded from school. Even if we do not want this provision on the face of the Bill, I look forward to the Minister giving some assurances that these issues will be looked at in the plans. Surely here is an opportunity to deal with one of the larger problems in our schools today, and that is the perception of a breakdown in discipline. I believe that is far more a perception than a reality. This is an opportunity to deal with the problem.

Amendment No. 31B asks for a very important provision to be put into the proposals, which is how these are to be achieved in certain areas. When one is dealing with such matters as discipline and performance in class, if one knows how these are to be achieved one will probably be able to allay a certain amount of public

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disquiet. In trying to reduce the number of exclusions, if one shows under what conditions pupils will be kept in schools, that may well prevent some panic measures which seem to occur in certain schools periodically. We all have had to listen to a great deal of parental reaction to very important matters such as a child being returned to school, and the ensuing arguments. This measure would provide people with information on issues that worry them.

As regards increasing inclusion of children with special educational needs within mainstream schools, that is a subject I know rather more about than I should. Over the past few years we have discussed this subject many times at a philosophical level. People do not know why certain pupils are not allowed in mainstream schools and why certain groups are asked to withdraw from them. Often one finds groups with special educational needs and individual parents fighting each other. Surely, if we have a clearer definition of what is in the plan, we shall once again be able to deal with this problem. It is a matter which takes up far too much time when people argue philosophically about things which are basically of a practical nature.

The last amendment is Amendment No. 33A, which also deals with special educational needs. It was said earlier in the discussion that there was probably a place in this Bill for special educational needs and for including a policy in the development plan. I suggest that those suggestions and plans could sit quite comfortably in Clause 6. I beg to move.

Lord Hardy of Wath: I would not disagree with the intentions which clearly inspire the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and his comments on this matter. I have two or three very brief observations to make. I believe that far too many young people are expelled from schools or suspended. Any steps which are taken to reduce that number are to be commended. The one anxiety that I have is based on my experience long ago as a senior schoolmaster and arises from conversations with former colleagues over the past decade or so. They have told me that they are over-burdened by bureaucratic demands. If one lets the bureaucrats loose and if the House were to approve this amendment, the bureaucratic burden may be increased more than it need be.

My main concern is with Amendment No. 31B. I entirely agree that, wherever possible, children should be brought into the mainstream of education and that is particularly the case with those who are physically disabled. It is good for such children and for their peers to work, live and enjoy life with those who are less fortunate than themselves. I have a reservation about schools for those who are not gifted mentally. Not far from my home there is a school which was established for the educationally subnormal. I knew it for many years while I was teaching. I kept in touch with it when it was in my constituency. It was, and is, the happiest school to be found in South Yorkshire. I believe that such a school gives rather more to those children than they might get in a mainstream school.

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Indeed, on one recent visit I left that school in a state of very real anger that the previous administration required its results at GCSE to be published. Year after year the school was offering "nil, nil, nil" in the entry for GCSEs as though it were an appalling failure. I found that to be distasteful and disgusting. I remember raising the matter in the other place. But that particular burden may not apply. However, in that school, with dedicated staff and fine people supporting it, the children are happier and have a greater sense of confidence. They attain more than they would in any other circumstances. I would not wish such schools to be in any way affected by the belief that we should draw the children automatically into the mainstream where they would not enjoy the advantages that are available in a school of the kind I have mentioned. When my noble friends consider the amendment they will bear that kind of condition and consideration in mind.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Like my noble friend Lord Hardy, I very much sympathise with the thinking behind the amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. Let me deal with them in turn. Amendments Nos. 31A and 31B both deal with exclusions from school. That is certainly an issue that we are determined to tackle. Amendment No. 31A would include among annexes to education development plans proposals by LEAs to monitor standards and exclusions by gender and ethnicity and to use the evidence so obtained to raise standards.

Amendment No. 31B would require the statement of proposals within the EDP to set out how an authority planned to improve attendance, reduce exclusions and increase the inclusion in mainstream schools of children with special educational needs. The noble Lord is quite right that truancy and exclusions result in educational disadvantage. Children stop learning and the wider community suffers because of the high levels of crime into which some truants and excluded pupils are drawn.

The Social Exclusion Unit published an important report on 11th May on truancy and social exclusion. That is available from the Printed Paper Office. It sets out how the Government intend to bring the level of truancy and exclusions down and to secure a better deal for all children.

That depends--and it comes back to the thrust of the amendment--on setting clear goals and allocating clear responsibilities. As the Social Exclusion Unit's report says, we propose to set national targets to reduce truancy and permanent and fixed-term exclusions. These will be set out in LEAs' education development plans following consultation with local authorities.

Speaking as an ex-chair of governors for many years of a comprehensive school, I am personally very well aware of the difficulty which headteachers and governors have in making decisions about exclusion and what happens to those who are excluded. It is always tempting for teachers to exclude disruptive children without paying adequate attention to where they will go.

Therefore, I refer Members of the Committee, including my noble friend Lord Hardy, to paragraph 15

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of the draft guidance for LEAs on education development plans. It says,

    "In planning for improvement in the three key areas, you should also reflect the following aspects in the priorities and/or the activities. There should be significant action in: improving standards in literacy and numeracy; raising standards attained by underachieving groups of pupils (gender, ethnicity, or background); particularly the underachievement of boys, where relevant; supporting pupils with special educational needs (SEN) and gifted and more able pupils;"--

I should have quoted this passage to the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, in connection with the previous amendment--

    "supporting schools which are causing concern; supporting school self-review; disseminating good practice; and using information and communications technology".

All these factors have to be considered and analysed by LEAs to support the drive to reduce truancy and exclusion and monitor and raise standards.

The result of all of this is that the draft guidance, subject to any further consultation that is necessary, will be reflected in regulations which, I hope the noble Lord will agree, will achieve the purpose of his amendments. We have to make it clear that the Government's response to the Green Paper would be linked to the availability of resources. Subject to that, I hope that our determination to deal with the problems which the noble Lord has identified is undiminished.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Baker of Dorking: I welcome some of what the Minister has just said. The Government are fashioning a policy to deal with exclusions. We all await with interest the specific recommendations, some of which have been outlined. The rise in exclusions has been due largely to the extension of the development of local management of schools. As the noble Lord, having been a school governor, will know, before LMS, exclusions had to go before local education authorities, which often overruled the views of the headmaster or headmistress and of the governing body because they were not keen to expel unruly pupils. Since that responsibility has moved to schools, there has been a substantial increase in the number of exclusions. That must be of concern. Although the Government may hope to reduce the number of exclusions, that may be difficult to achieve, despite some of the noble Lord's statements. A policy to deal with truancy is not the same as a policy to deal with exclusions. They are very different problems indeed.

On the question of exclusions, I hope that the Government will develop a series of policies which recognise the fact that it is almost too late to deal with unruly children at the ages of 12 to 14. Behavioural problems should be identified at a very much earlier age, at primary school. Remedial action should be taken then, possibly within the school. The most difficult children should, however, be removed from primary school to a special school. I have seen some such schools operating. They are exceptionally good. They take children whose behavioural problems have been identified early--even at the ages of five, six or seven--and provide helpful and constructive action to try to improve their behaviour. That is much better than merely leaving

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matters until the behaviour develops into an almost intractable problem at the age of 12 or 14. As the Government develop their plans in this area and their guidance to local authorities, I hope that they will take such considerations into account. I believe that exclusions can be reduced in the years to come only if action is taken at a much earlier stage of a child's development.

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