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The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, referred to the background paper on the organisation committees that is in the Library. I understood him to say that foundation and community schools would be represented. However, in paragraph 8 of that document the only groups to which the Government refer are those appointed by the LEA elected members, the Church of England diocese, the Roman Catholic diocese, the members of the FEFC nominated by them, reflecting the council's statutory responsibilities, and schools drawn from serving school governors.
There are two omissions relating to the amendment which are inconsistent with the answer the noble Lord gave to Amendment No. 105. First, can we have an assurance that foundation schools, as a category, will be represented on the committee? Secondly, there is no mention anywhere of teachers or head teachers. It is inconceivable that an organisational committee should have only governors, members of the Church and members of the LEA but with no guaranteed member for special needs, no teachers and no mention of foundation schools as a category of school within the local area.
I have a further question for the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. It arises from what arose in another place. A note on school organisation was circulated to members of the Standing Committee on the School Standards and Framework Bill in another place. From its discussion of that, the Government anticipate that the governors from primary, secondary and special schools will be represented on school organisation committees. That will be extremely welcome. It goes some way to meeting our concerns. However, we need a commitment on the record of the Government's intention regarding the issue of membership. I should like to consider what the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has said so far and come back to this matter at Report.
If special educational needs issues are to be represented on school organisation committees by the governor of a special school, clearly such membership needs to be balanced by having the membership of someone with an understanding of special educational needs in mainstream schools. It becomes a vicious circle.
We indicated that the schools' group would include governors from a primary, secondary and special school where there was one within the education area. We should expect schools to be represented in proportion to the number of pupils that attend them. In relation to special schools, there would be representation. The more complicated area is that to which the noble Lord, Lord Rix, referred; that is, representation on behalf of special educational needs within mainstream schools where we are looking at different ways of achieving that. It may be through membership of the schools' group or it may be through an adviser. We are prepared to seek further views in relation to that and I hope that that clarifies the position in relation to special educational needs.
I apologise to the noble Baroness for not covering the point relating to head teachers. We have considered the issue and feel that schools are best represented through their governors--the governors being the corporate authority within those schools. In certain circumstances head teachers can be governors. We would certainly not rule out a head teacher as a governor serving as a member of a school's group. In any case, we have no doubt that governors would wish to seek the views of head teachers on school organisation, plans and proposals. We might also seek views as to whether we should consult on the committee welcoming head teacher assessors offering a professional view from the frontline.
As regards the committee itself, we believe that schools are best represented only by governors and not by head teachers working with those governors. That is the position we have taken and it is a clear one. That does not mean that we are excluding the expertise of head teachers. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, is looking worried about that. The authoritative position within the schools is represented by the governors. They are the appropriate people to be represented on the school organisation committee. In the light of that answer I hope that for this stage at least the noble Baroness will consider withdrawing her amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Rix, has already indicated that he might come back to this matter at a later stage in the light of what I have said.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I did not hear the discussion on the first amendment so I did not join in. However, my hair was standing on end in the light of what the noble Lord said on a couple of occasions. I believe that the Government are courting disaster. Members of the Committee should realise that for anyone who has been a councillor and engaged in the business of organising schools, and particularly as regards closures, there are technical aspects which only
It is not a question of being difficult or awkward or trying to undermine the Government in their strengthening of the position of governors: I am all in favour of that. The governors will not like the arrangement. The head teachers will be quite often put in a very difficult position because their point of view will not be understood. Usually, head teachers and governors do not disagree, but there is a different input and one needs both of them simultaneously when decisions are made. The Government should look at these issues and not simply brush them aside out of some macho desire to push through their policies. The Government have the very wise and experienced view of those who have done these things for years. There is a book called How to Close Your School. Everyone is buying it, but because of the Bill it will have to be re-written. It is not very easy to close a school. The adjudicator is just going to make trouble. The Government should look again at the question of head teachers.
Lord Whitty: I am not sure that there is a typical answer. Local education authorities vary dramatically in size and in the number of schools that they cover. Therefore, there is not a typical pattern. As regards the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, I am not saying that there should be no head teacher input into the process. Clearly there will be both with the LEA and the school organisation committee. As regards particular schools, there will be the adjudicator as well. Therefore, that expertise will be available and that channel will be open to head teachers and not simply through the governors.
Lord Belstead: I admire the way in which the noble Lord has been handling the questions, but he cannot quite get away with the answer that he gave me just now. What do the Government envisage would be the smallest type of school organisation committee and what do they believe could be the largest?
Lord Whitty: Theoretically, I suppose that the smallest could be one representative for each of the groups indicated. That is extremely unlikely but, theoretically, in a very small local education authority that could be the case. We would be talking about five or six people. But in an authority such as Birmingham I would hesitate to say what the size of the school organisation committee would be. Even with the largest authorities we would wish to keep them to a manageable size for taking sensible decisions.
Lord Peston: I thought my noble friend was making the logical point that on the face of the Bill only three groups are mentioned whereas the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, mentioned four, so I have missed the fourth one.
Lord Peston: Logically, therefore, four is the minimum. I believe that is what my noble friend was saying. He then said that the number would be appropriate to the circumstances, or some such gobbledegook that the civil servants will write for him any minute.
What interests me is the initial position from which the Bill started; namely, the notion that the partners and providers would be getting together to do the job. That seemed to be the philosophy on which the clauses are based. I find the next phase very difficult. My noble friend seems to have accepted that beyond the partners and providers there is a concession, which slightly surprised me, that interest groups and experts come in as well. My original interpretation of the Bill was that they were not included. I thought the whole point was that the Bill would cause the heads of the local partners and providers to be knocked together and that they would have to make up their minds.
The moment my noble friend goes down the path of saying that headmasters should be included and why not this and that, he ends up not only with a large committee, but with one which is different from that which the Government had in mind in the first place. We have a classic case here where the interest groups declare their interests and try to influence the committee. It is by no means obvious to me that there should be interest groups on the committee. Normally, as regards anything which the noble Lord, Lord Rix, et al. say about special educational needs, I say yes to it, but in this case it is not obvious to me that they should be included in running the committee.
This matter goes back to an earlier debate. It depends on how we assume the committee will be run. I understood that the purpose was to concentrate our minds on practical cases. I am indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for mentioning that. What really matters is whether this or that practical case can be sorted out. In considering the needs of special education, if a school is closed, one has to be aware that a tough decision is being taken and that perhaps certain children with such needs will have to go further. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, is quite right in that if unanimity is the
I do not accept at all the view put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that the adjudicator has absolute power. He or she will have to operate according to all the rules of due process, reasonableness and all the other things. No adjudicator in any law that we have ever passed in your Lordships' House is in a position to say, "I decide it: it is decided". The matter could certainly be queried if it were portrayed as a frivolous decision. I am less worried about the absolute power of the adjudicator than the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. That does not mean that I am not worried because I am always worried, but that is another matter.
I see why my noble friend Lord Whitty is trying to respond to the interest groups, but it is not obvious to me that the Government should say that the heads of interest groups should be involved. For that matter, why not include professors of economics who know all about finance, choice and decision making? Why are they not represented as an interest group? The answer is that interest groups are endless. We should stick to the philosophy of partners and providers at the centre of the scheme who should really try to come to a conclusion and not exercise what used to be the easy way out of saying that it is a hard decision and the Secretary of State should decide. That is my attempt to be helpful.
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