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Baroness Blatch: The suggestion in the amendment of my noble friend Lord Pilkington was that the plan should be submitted to Ofsted and to governing bodies. The amendment did not relate to the draft plan but to the plan. We shall read the Minister's reply in Hansard tomorrow. The noble Baroness said that it would be an expensive proposition to send copies to Ofsted and to the governing bodies affected by the plan. There was no reference at that stage to draft plans. The reference to draft plans came later when the noble Baroness said that draft plans had come already into the department and they would be updated with the definitive plans later in the year.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I saw my noble friend's speaking note and it referred to draft plans. But what is important is to repeat what I have just said. All schools will receive copies of their LEA's education development plans. That means that governors will be able to have access to them.

Lord Lucas: I find difficulty in trying to persuade the Minister about the virtue of consistency of information. The noble Lord may remember an earlier debate when we discussed inflation. We know today that our inflation rate is about 4 per cent.; and in America it is about 1 per cent. However, when considering the way in which those two indicators are composed, as regards the UK rate one can first take out taxes and interest rates and one then gets down to a rate of 2 per cent. If one takes out further indices of measurements, one gets down to 1 per cent. Unless the indicators of local authorities are compiled on the same basis, it becomes

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extremely difficult to understand how an example from one authority will apply to another. One needs a basic level, a bench-mark of consistency, in order to make the best of all the efforts which will be put into improving schools by individual local authorities.

We shall have to return to this matter, in a slightly different form, at a later stage of the Bill. The Government need to understand that introducing a measure of consistency at this stage will reap enormous dividends later. However, I see no point in trying to pursue the matter at this moment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 35:

Page 4, line 39, at end insert--
("( ) social services departments;").

The noble Lord said: The noble Baroness, Lady David, whose name is first to the amendment, has asked me to apologise to the Committee. Unfortunately she had a long-standing engagement which she was unable to break. Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 in the name of my noble friend Lord Lucas are grouped with the amendment. I shall not speak to them; I shall leave that entirely to him.

The Children Act 1989 requires that social services departments produce, after consulting relevant agencies, children services plans covering all "children in need". The Department for Education and Employment and the Department of Health Joint Circular 13/94 states that,

    "the services which meet the educational requirements of looked after children must feature prominently in these plans".

Despite that guidance, collaboration between education and social services departments is extremely ad hoc. Consequently the best interests of children in respect of their education are not being met. For example, 75 per cent. of looked after children leave school with no educational qualifications whatsoever.

This amendment seeks to enforce existing guidance and to ensure that educational departments consult social services departments in the preparation of education development plans. In addition, the social services departments are probably the departments most in touch with those families who have children with special educational needs of one kind or another, or those who are most likely to be excluded for reasons of poor or bad behaviour. It would be helpful, I am sure, to the education department to have advice in some instances from the social services department on what is happening outside school that the schools might be able to put right or which would have a bearing on the way in which they educated those children. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: If I may, I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 36 and 37. I am principally interested at this stage in listening to what the Minister has to say about how she will address the particular points raised by these two amendments.

Amendment No. 36 suggests co-operation with the Further Education Funding Council, as the educational divide at 16 starts to be worn down with children indulging in vocational education earlier than that age,

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and greater co-operation, which I am glad to see, between further education colleges and eleven-to-sixteen schools and certainly eleven-to-eighteen schools. It seems to me that what the FEFC is up to has a bearing on eleven-to-sixteen education within an area, and that there should be some form of co-operation between the LEA and the FEFC in putting together plans for the improvement of education within an area. There may be much that further education colleges can contribute.

Amendment No. 37 deals with what one might call the London problem, although of course it exists at the boundaries of many other areas. Particularly in inner London, the ILEA never designed the pattern of religious education to be subdivided into boroughs. You can look at somewhere like Kensington and Chelsea, where four out of five of the secondary schools are Catholic and they therefore cater for many children coming from out of the borough while there are many children within the borough who do not wish to have a Catholic education and have to go out of the borough. Pimlico School, which is not unknown to certain members of the Government, is in Westminster, but only about 30 per cent. of its children come from Westminster. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, I think at Second Reading, complained about the effect that out-of-borough children were having on the description of his borough's schools. I find that rather a disappointing attitude. If you provide good education one should surely welcome children from out-of-borough; but there we are, and there is room for differences.

At least it is recognised that there is a considerable problem in asking an individual local authority to plan for its own children without recognising that in certain circumstances, particularly in inner London and, I imagine, in similar circumstances elsewhere, much of that provision will be undertaken by neighbouring local authorities and vice-versa. The local authority will be educating a lot of children for those neighbouring authorities and therefore will, perforce, be co-operative. I hope that the Government will say how they intend to encourage co-operation, rather than the sort of competition which the noble Lord, Lord Tope, seems to envisage between neighbouring boroughs.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Addington: The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, is very important, for the simple reason that it preaches the benefits of horizontal as opposed to vertical integration and that attention must be paid to matters outside the educational world. I am not altogether sure whether it is right to put it all in the Bill, but certainly the intention behind the amendment is something to which I think everybody involved in this field or in any other type of legislation should pay far more attention than any of us do.

Baroness Blackstone: Amendments Nos. 35, 36 and 37 extend the requirements as to whom LEAs should consult in preparing their education development plans. We have kept the requirements minimal so as to avoid unnecessary and overburdensome prescription. Under existing provisions in Clause 6(6), proposed statutory

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consultees whose views must be canvassed by LEAs in preparing their EDPs consist of the heads and governing bodies of all LEA-maintained schools, diocesan authorities and other appropriate persons.

The inclusion by name of the first two categories will be understood--at least I hope it will--and accepted on all sides of the Committee. EDPs should be prepared by LEAs in partnership with their schools, while diocesan bodies have a direct interest in how EDPs will affect church schools. Beyond this we really do not want to set out precisely whom LEAs should consult. It is bound to vary from local authority to local authority, and we think that LEAs should be free to take account of local circumstances and needs without having this set out in legislation.

We have set out in the draft EDP guidance what further consultation LEAs ought to consider. This includes social services and other relevant educational institutions such as the Further Education Funding Council. However, I believe that it is very important, particularly for pupils with special educational needs, that LEAs and social services departments should consult each other. I intend therefore to consider this point further, and so I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, and to my noble friend Lady David for raising this matter. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that of course we want to strengthen cross-service inter-agency work, and, where appropriate, we will try to improve consultation with social services departments. EDPs provide a very special and unique opportunity for LEAs to forge local partnerships and to agree on what needs to be done to drive up performance, and who will do it.

Perhaps I may also say to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that we are trying to encourage a great deal more contact than existed under the previous administration between the FEFC and particularly its regional committees and the local education authorities in their areas, because we think co-operation here is also important.

LEAs will also be required, as part of their audit within their EDP, to analyse the numbers of pupils with special educational needs and to include significant action to support such pupils in their school improvement programme. We also expect LEAs to consult neighbouring LEAs where it is appropriate when they are preparing their EDPs. However, it would be unduly prescriptive to specify on the face of the Bill too many additional consultees. For some LEAs additional consultees will of course need to include neighbouring LEAs, but this may be rather less appropriate for others. We think that LEAs will be best placed to decide who else they ought to be consulting during the consultation process.

I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that local authorities will not be able to circumvent either our or his expectations on this point, since the EDP will contain information about the nature of the consultation process, including what responses have been received. That LEAs have consulted appropriately, and with their neighbours where that would be proper, will certainly be one of the considerations the Secretary of State will bear in mind in deciding whether to approve an EDP.

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Guidance on EDPs will make it clear that neighbouring LEAs are among the bodies which may be included as consultees but, as I have said, we do not want to impose too many additional administrative burdens on the LEAs on the issue of consultation, irrespective of whether the circumstances are right. In view of what I have said, I very much hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

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