|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I hope that the noble Lord consulted his Front Bench before putting down that amendment. It is in direct contrast to the amendments that have just been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington.
The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, is very concerned by the amount of work which is involved in the submission of these education development plans. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is proposing an enormous increase in the amount of information which should be prepared in a specified form and available for further circulation.
I have spent a lifetime as a survey researcher, so I am the last person to say that we should not have measurement wherever possible. That which is not measured in a real sense does not exist. But that is not to say that all the raw information which is used for the purposes of preparing an individual education development plan should be collected in such form as may be specified. That would mean that the Department for Education and Employment would have to specify all the information which different education authorities in different circumstances might need. It would ensure that anything that was collected for an individual education authority's specific need was included in the specification, otherwise the impact of this amendment would not be achieved.
In addition to my deep respect for measurement, I learnt in my business career something else which is called "data reduction". Data reduction means that you do not produce the raw data if you can make better sense of data which have been digested and analysed. We say in the draft guidance that local education authorities should indicate the broad results of their analysis of the information and show how it links with their proposals for action. We shall be able to get below the data by co-ordinating and exchanging available data within the department. That will avoid unduly imposing on local education authorities and asking for the same information twice.
We shall also be able to ask local education authorities for clarification and further details, if necessary, during the visits that our advisers will make to local education authorities to help them prepare and strengthen their plans. But to make all of the information available in a prescribed form, and to make it in such a way that it can be communicated between others--"others" presumably include academics as well as other education authorities--subject to such conditions as may be prescribed smacks to me of bureaucracy gone mad. I hope that the noble Lord will not pursue his amendment.
I was suggesting that those parts of the data which the Government consider important should be collected in a particular way. That is something which the Government do extensively already; for instance, in specifying how data should be collected for the performance tables, in what is truancy, and so on. I am not saying that the contents of school meals should be specified down to every last chip. If the noble Lord has recently seen the health and safety manuals in schools he will realise how enormous these specifications can become.
That is not what I am suggesting. What I am suggesting, and what I hoped the noble Lord had understood, is that the data, which are central to the ability to co-ordinate and understand what is going on between one local authority and another, should be in a specified form. I did not envisage that that would amount to more than 10 or so data items. I cannot see that that would create a difficulty.
Baroness Blatch: I, too, do not see the inconsistency. First, it will not be a unique experience to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, either when in Government or Opposition, for a Member on his Back Benches to come up with an amendment that he has thought through and has put forward as is his legitimate right in this place.
But I do not take issue with my noble friend on this amendment. I have read this document carefully. My understanding is that this is some pretty standard information which is required in a set format. There are suggested formats. There is very specific, mandatory information: a table of targets for each maintained school; LEA context and audit; action to address school improvement priorities; resource information for the school improvement programme; a strategy for monitoring and evaluating its plan; and the LEA's consultation on the education development plan.
Perhaps I may link that to something the noble Baroness said earlier. When reference was made to the schools affected receiving a copy of the plan, the noble Baroness said that it was too expensive. So we have a rather secretive process; schools in those authorities about which this plan is devised will not receive copies of it. That seems extraordinary.
Ofsted was also linked with the proposal. My noble friend's previous amendment proposed that this should stop at Ofsted and the governors of schools, so as to cut out the massive bureaucracy beyond. The reply from the noble Baroness was that it would be too expensive to send copies to Ofsted and copies to the governors. So we are to believe that Ofsted will not receive copies and yet Ofsted will inspect LEAs. I suspect that one of the key pieces of information it will use in its inspection will be their educational development plans, the way in which they were implemented and the degree to which they achieved the outcomes, or not as the case may be. And that would form part of the base information on which Ofsted would carry out its inspection of LEAs. I
I refer to my noble friend's point. Unless it is possible to make some judgment about one LEA vis-a-vis another--where the strengths and weaknesses are, and how the country is doing as a whole--the plans will not be worth the paper they are written on. The information must be in a relatively common format. We are now a mobile society. People move from one area to another. It is important that someone moving from Newcastle to Buckinghamshire is able to make sense of their local authority's education development plan and understand what is going on in both authorities. He should be in a position to make a judgment on it.
There is nothing inconsistent on this point. It is not over-bureaucratic. Those of us who oppose the massive bureaucracy have two difficulties. The first relates to how we should like the system to work. LEAs should produce education development plans. They should be ambitious for their children. They should be accountable. The local schools should be involved. Ofsted should be the body that measures both schools and local authorities against those plans. We do not believe that it is necessary to involve the Secretary of State. But if he is to be involved, it is important that whoever reads the information can make sense of it.
Lord Skidelsky: The main purpose of my noble friend's amendment is to ensure the diffusion of good ideas throughout the system. (I am making a point; if the noble Lord will listen I shall be grateful.) I am sure that the Government will accept that as the right objective.
Perhaps this mechanism can be improved on. I am sure that there are other ways of accomplishing the objective. But what is the mechanism at present? Is there a mechanism in the Bill to ensure that good ideas from a local authority development plan can reach other local authorities? Is there a way in which ideas can circulate and improve the system?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Without restricting the scope of what local authorities want to put into education development plans, this is not exactly the place for good ideas. These are development plans. They are designed to ensure that all local education authorities and schools concentrate on the improvement of standards.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, read out the mandatory information required in paragraph 19 on page 6 of the draft guidance. Perhaps I may read out paragraphs 17 and 18, which are relevant. They state:
That enables me to say what I omitted to say when I first responded to the amendment. In strictly comparable terms, we have a wealth of information available and coming on stream, including Ofsted, LEA and school inspection reports, Ofsted LEA profile information, and performance and assessment reports. It includes national curriculum data, examination results, bench-marking data, best value reviews of relevant services and many other sources of information. There is no shortage of information collected on a comparable basis. What is called for in the EDP report is the analysis, not the raw material, which is what is called for in the amendment.
On dissemination, there may be some mis- understanding. In response to an earlier amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said that the draft reports would not be made available to governors. Of course all schools will receive copies of their LEA's education plans. That is set out in the draft guidance, and will be set out, if necessary, in regulations under Clause 7(9).
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page