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Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 193C:

After Clause 65, insert the following new clause--

Exclusion of pupils: guidance

(".--(1) This section applies to any functions of--
(a) the head teacher or the governing body of a maintained school,
(b) a local education authority, or
(c) an appeal panel constituted in accordance with paragraph 2 of Schedule 18,
conferred by or under any of sections 62 to 65 and Schedule 18.
(2) In discharging any such function, such a person or body shall have regard to any guidance given from time to time by the Secretary of State.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 194 not moved.]

Schedule 18 [Appeals against exclusion of pupils]:

[Amendment No. 194A not moved.]

Lord Archer of Sandwell moved Amendment No. 195:

Page 176, line 27, at end insert--
("( ) The panel shall be chaired by a barrister or solicitor of at least 5 years' standing or by a person having a 5-year qualification (construed in accordance with section 71 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990).").

The noble and learned Lord said: The Committee may find it convenient if we also discuss Amendments Nos. 196, 197, 220, 221 and 223. Perhaps your Lordships will permit me to reverse the order of my amendments and speak first to Amendment No. 196. It is easier to argue from the general to the particular.

Amendment No. 196 virtually speaks for itself. Being a member of an appeal panel is not the same as attending a committee meeting, although one sometimes meets members of local education authorities who believe that it is. It is concerned with a judicial process. It is concerned with ensuring that the parents or other relevant persons are given a proper opportunity to state their case and that the head teacher, the governing body, the LEA and everyone concerned shall know the case which they have to meet and be given a fair chance to answer it. It is concerned with identifying the issues

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which fall to be decided. The Bill now helps to clarify these issues. But I have visited exclusion panels which failed to keep separate the question whether the conduct complained of took place and the question of whether if it did take place exclusion was the appropriate reaction. The friend who assists the parent or relevant person is not always a skilled advocate. I once heard a well-meaning friend of the appellant say to a panel, "I ask you to believe the boy when he says that the incident never happened and I suggest that he has learnt his lesson and you should give him another chance".

Being a member of a panel is concerned with procedural rights, some of them now underpinned by the Human Rights Act. If those who are members of the panel are to address all those tasks so as to do justice they need to be trained. Perhaps I may say in passing that Amendment No. 220 addresses the same question in relation to admission appeals.

The problem is that there is no one system of panels with a national authority or a national president. There are more than 600 LEAs or other governing bodies. Some of them address the question of training in a serious and responsible way. Some are less conscious of the need. My noble friend may know that last year the Council on Tribunals distributed a questionnaire among all the LEAs in this country in respect of the provisions they made for training. The results were most enlightening. Some LEAs reported that they worked very hard at training. At the other end of the scale were those who said that they did not see the need and did nothing. Right off the scale were those who did not take the trouble to reply. But most interesting of all were the substantial number who said, "We would like to do better, but we are not sure how to go about it. Can you please advise us?".

The Tribunal's Committee of the Judicial Studies Board earlier this year invited a number of people to a course on training for trainers. Some LEAs responded. I believe that some would have attended the course but were unable to do so because the LEAs concerned felt unable to provide the slender resources involved. That is going to require serious commitment by the department together with the tribunals committee.

I can speak for the Council on Tribunals, which has only its advice to offer but which will be happy to provide that. I should be grateful to hear from my noble friend about the department's thinking on this whole problem.

I turn to Amendment No. 195. Of all the concerns which the Council on Tribunals has on the Bill this is probably the most serious. It has appeared in a whole succession of the council's annual reports. An appeal to determine whether a child should be permanently excluded from his or her school is perhaps the nearest analogy to penal proceedings among statutory hearings. The panel needs to establish whether the complaint is well founded and, if so, whether exclusion is the appropriate reaction. Again, the parents and the child have a series of procedural rights, some of them underpinned by the Human Rights Act. Equally, it is

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essential that the head teacher and staff shall have the opportunity of putting their case, together with the governors and the LEA.

All those belong among the occupational concerns of the lawyer. I have heard exclusion appeals chaired by people without legal training. Some were conducted impeccably and I was convinced that justice was done. In others, I have seen mistakes which called aloud for judicial review. My noble friend Lady David mentioned Professor Neville Harris, to whom I ventured to advert last week for showing us some of the provisional conclusions from the research which he is currently carrying out with Miss Karen Eaton. They have observed more than 40 exclusion appeals in eight different centres and received answers to questionnaires from nearly 300 parents, more than 100 panel members, more than 100 head teachers, 60 school governors and more than half of all the LEAs in the country. They conclude that a lawyer chairman would help to reinforce the independence of the panel and would be more effective in giving reasons.

Chairing a judicial hearing is not like chairing a committee meeting. I do not suggest that the special skills called for can never be found in a lay person. I say that they are more likely to be found among lawyers. Sometimes there is a qualified lawyer from the executive department of the local council to guide the chairman, but there is no guarantee of that. Even if there is, the situation is not similar to that in a magistrates' court where not only is there an experienced and qualified clerk, but also an experienced magistrate in the chair. Here, panel members may sit very infrequently or have little experience of sitting at all, let alone of taking the chair.

I have a feeling of deja vu. A few weeks ago, we had this debate in relation to social security appeal tribunals during our proceedings on the Social Security Bill. On that occasion, the Government listened and took note and Ministers were persuaded. I cannot believe that my noble friend is less disposed to listen than her colleagues in government.

Turning to Amendment No. 197, this amendment again addresses a problem which members of the Council on Tribunals have encountered in the course of their visits to exclusion panels. It is important that whoever is to chair the panel should know well in advance that he or she will be in the chair. The chairman must have in mind what to say to the parties about the order of proceedings, whom to invite to speak first, whom to invite to ask questions, the order of submissions in summing up--all that. It is usually sensible for the chairman to go through the papers with the clerk or legal adviser prior to the hearing.

When that is said, it is hardly likely to provoke disagreement; but it does not always happen. We have encountered occasions where, when the panel is assembled at five minutes to two for a two o'clock hearing, the panel members proceed to choose who is to take the chair. My amendment is designed to ensure that someone shall be nominated well in advance of the hearing. If Amendment No. 195 is accepted, it will be obvious who is to chair the hearing; but I tabled

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Amendment No. 197 as a fall-back position since it addresses a separate problem. Amendment No. 221 addresses the same point in relation to admission appeals.

Finally, turning to Amendment No. 223, this amendment addresses a provision which is found for the first time in this Bill. Paragraph 12 of Schedule 24, dealing with admission appeals, provides that a member of the governing body of the school may attend as of right as an observer. In the case of an appeal under paragraph 2 of the schedule, that is, an appeal against arrangements made by the governing body, I assume the governing body will probably attend anyway as a party to the hearing. Where the appeal is under paragraph 1, however, that is, an arrangement made by the LEA, I appreciate the governing body may have no statutory right to be present.

What troubles the Council on Tribunals is, where parents are confronted by a room full of people, they may be less relaxed and less able to state their case than where there are fewer people present. It was that which prompted me to table my amendment. Although I appreciated that one cannot always exclude an observer from the governors, a compromise was possibly to let it depend upon the consent of the appellants. My noble friend has produced an alternative arrangement and it is one which I think I accept. For that reason I do not propose to pursue this amendment further.

After that group, I can say, as I think one of Mark Twain's characters said, "I couldn't set out such a string as that if I never got to glory". I beg to move Amendment No. 195.

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