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Baroness David moved Amendment No. 183:

Page 47, line 37, at end insert--
("(c) registered pupils at the school, and
(d) teaching and non-teaching staff at the school.").

The noble Baroness said: Now that there is a chance that I shall be heard, I shall begin my remarks. In speaking to Amendment No. 183, I am speaking to a

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group of 10 amendments, of which Amendments Nos. 183, 184, 185, 190, 191 and 198 are in my name. Some are government amendments, and some stand in the names of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer and the noble Baroness, Lady Byford.

I begin by stating some of the general aims of this group of amendments and of the group starting with Amendment No. 186--a big group of 18 amendments. There are various things I should like to see done with regard to these clauses which deal with exclusion. First, we wish to put in place steps that will prevent so many exclusions. The situation is not good at the moment. Different schools and different local authorities have very different records of exclusion. We need to discover the reasons for so many exclusions in some cases and suggest methods by which there might be fewer.

I wish to see more pupil involvement in matters to do with schools. I spoke at Second Reading about the fact that pupils are not mentioned in the Bill; they will be mentioned in some of the amendments which I shall move today.

Where a pupil has been excluded from school, particularly permanently excluded, we wish to make sure that he or she is reinstated quickly and does not miss out on a lot of education in the meantime. We also wish to see more LEA involvement where there have been exclusions. I believe that some of the government amendments deal with that matter. I shall move my amendments as they arise, but I expect that there will be some answers from the Government when their amendments are moved.

Amendments Nos. 183 and 185 require that governors and head teachers give consideration to the views of pupils and staff on discipline measures. It seems extraordinary that the two groups that make up the school community--the schools' pupils and staff--are excluded from those who must be consulted about discipline measures. The value of including both groups in the process is overwhelmingly obvious. The purpose of the amendment was supported by the Labour Front Bench when in opposition and I therefore hope for a sympathetic response.

The aim of Amendment No. 184 is to introduce more constructive principles for school discipline. In the Bill the Government simply repeat the previous government's principles with regard to school discipline. The amendment reframes these principles and adds others which we believe set a clearer and more constructive framework for the drawing up of schools' behaviour codes--for example, requiring bullying to be tackled and encouraging appropriate sanctions. This amendment, too, was supported by the Labour Party when in opposition.

The responsibility for good order in a school should be of importance to everyone involved in the school community--the governors, the head, the teachers and the pupils. There is much more likely to be a positive outcome if measures have the support of everyone. I am very anxious about bullying. There has been a great deal of talk about it, and no wonder. It clearly happens in

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a great many schools and is not at all a nice thing to contemplate. I hope we can receive some positive responses on that matter.

The purpose of Amendment No. 190 is to ensure that the governing body asks for, and considers, advice from the LEA before confirming an exclusion or reinstating a pupil excluded by the head teacher. There is wide variation between schools in terms of outcomes for pupils who may be experiencing difficulties and in terms of school policy and practice relating to exclusion. It is therefore essential for the statutory framework to provide the necessary checks along the road to exclusion.

The Special Education Consortium argues that one of the most important checks is for the LEA to have the power to intervene in the process of exclusion. This should happen at a point before the governing body confirms an exclusion or reinstates a pupil reinstated by the head teacher. That would provide an opportunity for the LEA to advise the governing body on the appropriateness of steps it has taken and on any steps that the school might take. One of the issues on which the LEA may wish to advise is whether the school has recognised any specialised need that the child may have. I mentioned this point late last Thursday night when I spoke to Amendments Nos. 182 and 189.

The aim of Amendments Nos. 191 and 198 is to entitle pupils to attend appeals against their exclusion. The amendments would put education legislation in line with other domestic children's legislation--the Children Act, for instance--and Article 12(2) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It appears that in practice it would not cause any bother to the system since the department states that it has not had complaints about pupils being excluded from appeal hearings.

I quote from a paper by Professor Neville Harris, which is shortly to be published, which was mentioned by my noble and learned friend Lord Archer, entitled The developing role and structure of the education appeal system. It appears in an edited collection of papers entitled Administrative Justice in the 21st Century. Professor Harris and two others are writing up the findings of their research into school exclusion appeal procedures, which is being funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The research has included observations of 46 appeal hearings in eight LEA areas and questionnaire responses from nearly 300 parents of permanently excluded children. A book discussing the research findings in detail is planned.

    "The excluded child may only bring an appeal in his or her own right if aged 18 or over. Thus, in practice, children will only be witnesses, and then only if called. Save the Children see this as meaning that, 'A child facing exclusion ... has no automatic entitlement to challenge accusations made against him or her'.

    Some panel members have told us that it is helpful to be able to speak to the child and elicit the child's version of the events. Turner J. has said that hearing the child's account of the matter constitutes 'an act of obvious fairness' in exclusion appeal cases. In our research, 16% of children who attended the hearing gave oral evidence, although 11% ... were not given an opportunity to do so. Although 84% of children who attended gave oral evidence, it must be appreciated that the excluded child attends in only a minority of cases (42% of the observed hearings). Moreover, there is no mechanism by which the child can be summoned unless the parent brings him or her and the child expresses a wish to speak to the

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    committee. In a recent case, Collins J. was critical of the appeal panel's failure to question the child concerned when they wanted to do so; they allowed themselves to be swayed by the parents' representative who did not want the child to speak to the panel ... Overall, current practice in school exclusion appeals does seem to run counter to the principle of the child's participation in welfare-related decisions, reflected in s.1 of the Children Act 1989 and article 12 ...

    Where the child does participate in the appeal hearing there are, in our experience, sometimes serious shortcomings in the manner of questioning of the child adopted by some appeal committee members or LEA or school representatives. In particular, there was on certain occasions a fairly oppressive questioning of a kind which was quite inappropriate ... It demonstrated the quasi-criminal character of the proceedings in some cases. As one parent wrote to us: 'One member of the panel interrogated my daughter. His tone of voice was disgusting. He was trying to make her admit to things she had not done. His tone of voice reduced her almost to tears'.

    A lack of independent representation of the child (and no equivalent of the guardian ad litem in family court proceedings), together with the lack of a lawyer chair, has probably contributed significantly to this kind of problem in these cases".

I am sorry for having quoted at length, but it is an important matter, and I hope that the Minister will respond accordingly. I beg to move.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: Perhaps I may speak briefly in support of the noble Baroness, who has covered the points very thoroughly. My name is to Amendment No. 190, the aim of which is to ensure that the governing body requests and considers advice from the LEA before deciding to exclude or reinstate a pupil. I believe the government amendment deals with that point. I support entirely what the noble Baroness said.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: Perhaps my noble friend will permit me one correction. I do not believe that any of the amendments now included in this group are tabled in my name. That followed certain representations I made after last Thursday because I did not feel that it would assist the Committee's clarity of debate. It does not in any way diminish my support for what my noble friend said.

Baroness Byford: Perhaps I may speak to the amendments standing in my name, Amendments Nos. 191A and 187A, and the other two with regard to the 15th school day. I shall come back to those if I may.

Amendment No. 191A requires that, where a child has had problems and been considered for exclusion, not only should bad behaviour be looked at, but also the possibility that there may be medical reasons for that misbehaviour. We all know that many children today are diabetic and some have personality disorders. They are often labelled "bad" children when there may be good medical reasons why their behaviour is disruptive.

The Minister will agree that the amendment is not technically correct. As I understand it, there is no medical officer of health to which the matter can be referred. I am willing to withdraw the amendment later and perhaps come forward with more appropriate wording. The point behind the tabling of the amendment is that some children in the system are wrongly labelled bad or naughty when their behaviour may be caused by

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a medical problem. I hope that the Minister will consider this matter because it is not only the occasional child who faces these problems from time to time. I turn now to Amendment No. 187A.

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