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Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 94A:

Page 150, line 15, at end insert--
("Minor authority governors0011")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 95 and 96 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 96A:

Page 152, line 44, at end insert--

("Minor authority governors 0 0 1 1 ")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 97 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 97A:

Page 153, line 40, at end insert--
("Minor authority governors 0 0 1 1 ")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 98:

Page 154, line 4, after ("person") insert ("from whom or").

2 Jul 1998 : Column 849

The noble Lord said: My Lords, these are technical amendments necessary to correct the Bill where current wording does not reflect our intended use or where it does not take into account some specific circumstances which may face schools transferring to the new framework.

Amendments No. 98 and 104 in this group are necessary to correct a form of words in the Bill which, currently, can be read only in the plural, but which we intended to be read in the singular or plural as circumstances demanded. It relates to nominations to be sought for the appointment of additional governors to the governing body.

Amendment No. 99 is needed to allow governing bodies to be reconstituted with minimum disruption. It will enable transitional regulations to allow certain existing governors to remain in post even where they may not strictly meet all the new requirements. Amendments Nos. 100 and 101 provide for specific circumstances where a governing body cannot be fully reconstituted by the appointed day. These amendments are needed to ensure that such schools have a corporate governing body which can continue to function until such time as the governing body can be fully reconstituted under the new framework. The circumstances and the necessary modifications will be set out in the transitional regulations we propose to make under this schedule. We shall of course be consulting on them in the normal way.

Amendment No. 105 is necessary to provide for circumstances in which the LEA which has proposed a variation to the instrument of government can proceed with it. It clarifies the requirement on the LEA to explain why it wishes to proceed and to give an opportunity for agreement to be reached with the governing body. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 10 [Incorporation and powers of governing bodies]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 99 to 101:

Page 155, line 24, after ("sub-paragraph") insert ("(3) or").
Page 155, line 41, leave out ("constitution") and insert ("existence").
Page 156, line 31, leave out ("of Part II or III of the Education Act 1996") and insert ("made by or under any of the Education Acts").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 36 [Instruments of government]:

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford moved Amendment No. 102:

Page 32, line 29, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 102, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 103 and 106A. They relate to articles and instruments of government. The articles of government define how a school is to be run. They set out the priorities of the school with regard to the curriculum and the particular religious ethos of a Church school.

The Bill proposes that all articles should be abolished, while instruments of government, which define the powers and responsibilities of the governing body of a

2 Jul 1998 : Column 850

school, are to be standardised according to a centrally imposed model which is put forward in the schedule. We are worried that these proposals will reduce the particular ethos and individuality of a school. We believe that it is too much standardisation and that there are dangers in it.

Perhaps I may give an example of a school which I should like to remain unnamed. Details are contained in a letter from the department written in 1989 when the instruments and articles of government were reissued. The department stated that Ministers accepted the governors' argument that the school has a large catchment area and a particularly well developed tradition of independence and that that justifies greater flexibility in these documents than in the models that were published earlier on. The letter continued:

    "We have therefore removed the references to an Admissions Committee--responsibility for admissions now rests with the governing body as a whole, subject to the general provisions of the Instruments and Articles ... We have also recast the procedures for the appointment of the head and other staff".
Your Lordships' will notice that the present Bill lays down detailed conditions as to how head teachers and staff are to be appointed.

The letter further stated:

    "In the first case ... we have restored responsibility for appointment to the governing body ... You will also wish to note that we have made more explicit the governors' responsibilities for the conduct of a ... school [of specific religious denomination], and have incorporated more minor drafting points".

The point of that letter, which was written by the same department as is putting forward these proposals, was to state that the particular school needed greater independence and greater flexibility which is now to be denied it.

I have in front of me a letter written to my noble friend by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. He says that the purpose of these clauses and schedules is to name the category of the school, the composition of the governing body, the arrangements for foundation governors and, where the school has a religious character, a description of its ethos. He says that there is no intention to add to that list.

Further to that, the noble Lord's honourable friend said in the other place on 2nd February in Standing Committee A:

    "I am very conscious of the hard work that many schools have put in to develop their own articles to reflect their priorities and ethos. It would be a mistake"--
in other words, he supports what the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said,

    "to deny those schools the opportunity to incorporate those provisions in the new arrangements".
He goes on to say:

    "The Government took the view that it would be better to remove the requirement to have articles and instead have a common instrument of government, details of which are in schedule 12. That would provide a narrow and focused set of requirements and there will be nothing to stop individual schools adding to them".--[Official Report, Commons, Standing Committee A, 10/2/98; col. 436.]

That is the theory and it is true that the Government have allowed certain committees for governors and a certain degree of delegation of power to the head. But

2 Jul 1998 : Column 851

in essence, my noble friends and I find that they restrict the individuality of various schools. I mention in particular the appointment of staff, financial delegation and admissions, with which we shall deal later. The department were saying how desirable it was to give schools those powers.

It is true that Canon Hall, who is the General Secretary of the Board of Education, who I have quoted before, said in his letter to The Times that many of those articles were obsolete and needed revision. He said that it is no attack on a school's distinctiveness. I disagree with that.

One of the reasons why I disagree is that I have been approached by a number of headmasters and those approaches have demonstrated that Canon Hall's views are not shared by everyone. They believe that flexibility is destroyed and the schools are more limited.

The abolition of articles followed by prescriptive schedules limits the freedom of manoeuvre for a school. A particular strength of a school is the power of a head to appoint staff. A head teacher of a maintained school telephoned me yesterday. He said that he opposed the changes which is why he decided to ring me. He said, "The Government constantly exhort us to raise standards". He said that he is told on every occasion that the object is to raise standards. He said that one of the best ways to do that is by giving to heads the independence to appoint staff so that there is as much room to manoeuvre as possible. He went on to say, "We want the sort of independence that independent schools enjoy". He said that in many cases, he was competing with independent schools when he was appointing staff. Whereas the independent schools could do that in a flexible and rapid manner, he would have to go through the elaborate procedures which are defined in this schedule unless my noble friend's later amendments are accepted.

I do not believe that either the assurances of Mr. Byers in another place or those of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, in his letter to my noble friend reflect the facts. The abolition of articles and the imposition of standardisation will limit the freedom to manoeuvre and will actually work against the object of the Bill which is to raise standards. I beg to move.

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