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Lord Lucas: I thank the noble Lord for that reply. It is not what I had hoped for, but I shall take instruction. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 175A:

Page 169, line 5, at end insert--
("Advisory rights for appropriate diocesan authorities
.--(1) This paragraph applies to a voluntary controlled school which is a Church of England, Church in Wales or Roman Catholic Church school.
(2) The governing body may agree with the appropriate diocesan authority to accord to the appropriate diocesan officer--
(a) with respect to all teachers at the school, or
(b) with respect to any particular description of such teachers,
the same advisory rights in relation to their appointment, engagement or dismissal as are exercisable by the chief education officer in accordance with paragraphs 18 and 28.
(3) The agreement of the governing body for the purposes of sub-paragraph (2) must be given in writing and may only be withdrawn by notice in writing to the appropriate diocesan authority.
(4) In paragraphs 18 and 28, as they apply to a voluntary controlled school within sub-paragraph (1) above, references to the chief education officer accordingly include the appropriate diocesan officer, so far as necessary for giving effect to any advisory rights exercisable by him under this paragraph.
(5) In this paragraph "the appropriate diocesan officer" means such person as the appropriate diocesan authority may nominate.").

4 Jun 1998 : Column 566

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 16, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 54 [Staffing of foundation, voluntary aided and foundation special schools]:

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford moved Amendment No. 175B:

Page 43, line 7, leave out subsection (1).

The noble Lord said: As ever, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, provides me with a marvellous introduction. He does not believe in prescriptive legislation and I want to talk about prescriptive legislation. In moving Amendment No. 175B I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 175C and 175D which underline my wish that Schedule 17 shall not stand part of the Bill.

As we are all mentioning our credentials at the moment I should say that I have been a governor of seven schools and I was a headmaster for 17 years. I have suspended teachers and therefore I suppose I can speak with some authority on the matter. The most important function of governing bodies is to appoint heads. It is possibly the only great thing that they do, because the future of their school depends on it.

The amendments relate to Schedule 17 standing part of the Bill. Therefore I am referring to Schedule 17. My worry is that, under the schedule, too much is referred back to the local authority. On page 171 of the Bill, Schedule 17 reads:

    "If, within the period of 14 days beginning with the date when they receive a notification under sub-paragraph (2)(a), the authority make written representations to the selection panel that any of the applicants selected by the panel is not a suitable person for an appointment".

I should have thought that a governing body would be quite capable of making its decisions without an extra level of bureaucracy referring matters to the local authority.

I welcome the amendments in relation to foundation and voluntary-aided schools allowing for the normal procedure to be followed, which was not to be followed under the Bill as originally drafted; namely, a selection panel referring people to the whole governing body. I am delighted about that, as I am about the fact that the superiors of religious orders have rights of appointment.

9.45 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: They have rights of inclusion in a list for consideration, to be precise.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: They own the buildings, it must be remembered. But I thank the Minister.

Line 16 refers to the chief education officer and the provision states that,

    "the selection panel's notification ... shall be accompanied by such information",

and so on. The provision introduces needless bureaucracy. So far as I can gather, the whole essence of the Government's policy is to hand autonomy to schools, to give them responsibility for these issues. However, under Schedule 17, the Government are

4 Jun 1998 : Column 567

nannying more than is necessary. Governing bodies are ready to be responsible. They will appoint the right person. We do not need this extra bureaucracy.

Turning to the appointment of teachers, if a head is going to be any good at all in his job, the appointment of staff is the key test of his ability. A head teacher stands or falls on whether or not he appoints the next member of staff. The Bill lays down a regulation that a post has to be advertised. Perhaps I may relate an anecdote. It is very hard to get teachers of mathematics or physics. A colleague of mine was searching for a teacher of physics. He heard from Australia that a brilliant teacher of physics was moving back to England. He telephoned him, trusted the advice of his colleague, and appointed him without advertisement. He proved absolutely superb. I myself appointed a teacher of mathematics in a similar way. I went to a dinner at Oxford and met a student fellow who was giving up his fellowship and said he was looking for a job. I saw him as a genius, and I appointed him. He was a genius. That would be forbidden under this provision. The initiative of an enterprising headmaster such as myself or many of my colleagues would be stopped. Posts would have to be advertised throughout England and Wales. Under this provision many noble Lords on the Benches opposite would not have occupied their posts. Many jobs have been given to people.

My point is that this measure is prescriptive. I hope the noble Lord will justify that prescription, which I am sure has never applied in his own career. A manager at Marks & Spencer would not accept the restrictions that would be laid upon him under this schedule. It does not exist in many other fields. It is sheer waste in terms of local authority bureaucracy. Will the noble Lord therefore tell us how this prescriptive provision could be relaxed? I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I admire the noble Lord's initiative in recruitment. I think it is fair to say that, having run a business myself for 30 years as a managing director, I would have done exactly the same as he did. When I found somebody, particularly if they were working for a competitor, I would try to poach them. But I have to remind the noble Lord of what I said when we began to talk about staffing. I pointed out that, with the very few exceptions that I read out, we are carrying over into this legislation, with only the minimum necessary adaptation, prescriptions which already exist in legislation.

The noble Lord is right to say that this is prescriptive, but he is attacking something that has been around for a very long time. He, as a head teacher of an independent school, was able to act as a buccaneer, but his colleagues in the state system have never had the type of freedom that he describes--or, if they have, they adjusted the rules slightly.

As I am sure the noble Lord would acknowledge, the effect of these amendments would be to remove Schedule 17 from the Bill, which could have been done more simply by the clause stand part procedure, which has been given notice of. I hope to persuade the noble Lord that Schedule 17 is an essential part of the structure of the new framework, providing for the staffing

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provisions for foundation, voluntary aided and foundation special schools where the governing body is the employer.

The schedule contains the details of the arrangements for the appointment of heads and deputies, other teachers and non-teaching staff; the regulation of conduct and discipline of staff; the suspension and dismissal of staff; and, where appropriate, the provision of professional and expert advice on those functions from both the chief education officer of the LEA and the diocesan authority. The noble Lord's attack has been very narrowly focused on the appointment of teachers, and in particular of teachers other than the head, and not on the other elements of Schedule 17 which would be removed by his amendments.

I hope to persuade the noble Lord of the need for the staffing functions of the schools to which this schedule will apply to be dealt with in a consistent and considered way as between schools and as between education authorities. These arrangements are currently provided in the instrument and articles of government for voluntary aided and grant-maintained schools, which will be replaced in the new framework. The Churches, which have interests in both voluntary aided and grant-maintained schools with a religious ethos, have made no representations to us about removing the staffing provisions for these schools from the face of the Bill. Indeed, they have worked closely with us in order to include additional staffing provisions in the Bill, as provided for in the government amendments on diocesan advisory rights, head teacher appointments at religious order schools and governing body selection panels to which we have just agreed. If these schools were left to provide for all the details of Schedule 17 themselves, we would create a large vacuum that would need to be filled in some other way to ensure that schools were governed and managed in a prudent and responsible fashion.

Staff appointments, particularly those of head and deputy head teachers, are among the most important decisions that fall to governing bodies. In that I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington. I am reminded of the late Nicholas Ridley, who thought he could reduce local authorities to bodies which met once a year to award contracts and then adjourn for a good lunch. I think that that is carrying it to extremes, but there is no doubt that this is the most important thing that governing bodies do. The composition and abilities of the staff, and in particular the head teacher, are vital to the success of any school. The teacher appointment provisions give governing bodies the overall decision on who to appoint to their schools.

It is right that governing bodies should have this responsibility. They are best placed to understand their schools' needs and serve their schools' interests. But the appointment provisions provide for governing bodies to take a responsible and considered approach to this important function. They require detailed consideration of head and deputy head teacher vacancies by a duly appointed selection panel of governors after such posts have been advertised--my text says "throughout England and Wales", but that is perhaps a reserve issue--and for the panel's recommendation to be

4 Jun 1998 : Column 569

approved by the full governing body. They also provide for the governing body to agree advisory rights for the chief education officer of the local education authority and, where those are not agreed, for the Secretary of State to determine that such rights be accorded if necessary. The Secretary of State might, for example, determine that advisory rights be accorded to the chief education officer where a governing body is unable to satisfy him that they are receiving an appropriate level of good quality professional advice from some other source and that the school is in no way failing to provide a good quality of education to its pupils.

So it is not necessarily the case that the chief education officer will always get advisory rights, but even where he does not, the local education authority will enjoy specific entitlements to make representations to any governing body. That underpins the local education authority's enhanced role of intervening and supporting those schools which fail to provide a satisfactory level of education for their pupils. This is a schools standards Bill and this is the role of the education authority.

Included in the teacher appointment provisions are new arrangements--this may relieve the noble Lord's mind--which give governing bodies the scope to engage staff on a temporary basis; that is, engage persons to provide services as teachers at schools otherwise than under contracts of employment. This includes temporary teachers for less than four months and acting heads and deputies while a permanent replacement is being found or the incumbent is on long-term sick leave. The teacher employment market has changed in recent years, as the noble Lord made clear, and there are now a number of ways to meet short notice staffing needs. Schools need to be able to get the best available local support and that sometimes means using teacher supply agencies. They also need to be able to take decisions on covering absences at short notice. The staffing provisions of the Bill provide governing bodies with the scope to meet such staffing needs as they see fit. The scope to engage staff also extends to heads and deputy heads. Very often it is possible to cover short absences or gaps by using recently retired staff and there are many good retired teachers who can help schools in that way, including retired heads and deputies.

I will not go into the detail of disciplinary procedures or of suspension and dismissal since the noble Lord did not raise objection to those elements in Schedule 17. However, I urge him to recognise that Schedule 17 is much wider than the specific points he raised and deserves and needs to stay in the Bill.

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