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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I should like to refer only to Amendment No. 168. Where an adjudicator not only makes a determination but also a direction for a modification, whether that modification results in overcapacity, undercapacity, or some cost to the LEA--perhaps transport costs or even building costs, depending on the particular determination that is made--am I right in thinking that the LEA will be under an obligation to conform with the modification, because this is a right of direction, and will have to meet the costs? Is it right that those costs would have to pre-empt any other expenditure that the LEA might deem to be more appropriate at that time?

The Lord Bishop of Ripon: My Lords, I speak also to Amendment No. 168. The Minister referred to the amendments as technical. However, I believe that the issue raised by Amendment No. 168 goes further. There was considerable concern, when the provisions of the Bill were first made public, about the powers of the adjudicator. As a result of that concern, not least in relation to admissions to denominational schools, it was agreed that if there was any dispute in NSAC on the question of admissions on religious criteria it would be referred to the Secretary of State and not an adjudicator.

It appears that the Secretary of State is to be given considerable powers under this amendment to specify modifications in relation to the admission arrangements in question. I should like to have an assurance that those powers will not be used to change the character of the admissions policy of denominational schools which I believe is possible under this amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful both to the right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness for their interventions. The cost of implementing the decisions of adjudicators will fall on the local education authority, if I correctly understand the question posed by the noble Baroness. The right reverend Prelate is right to spell out the fact that after discussion with the Churches it was agreed that because of their concern about the powers of adjudicators the appeal should be to the Secretary of State rather than the adjudicator. That was why on a number of occasions I referred to the Secretary of State rather than the

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adjudicator. It is also true that the Secretary of State at the moment is involved in Wales as part of the transitional arrangements for Welsh devolution.

The right reverend Prelate asked whether the implementation of decisions made by the Secretary of State could affect the character of the admissions policy of denominational schools. My immediate reaction to that is: as little as possible. However, I shall write to the right reverend Prelate in order to make the point clear.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, with the leave of the House perhaps I may pose a question apropos the response of the Minister and the point raised by the right reverend Prelate. It is my understanding that denominational schools are linked with foundation schools. It is my understanding, which perhaps can be confirmed or otherwise, that the character of the admissions policy of foundation schools, just like Church schools, who are their own admissions authority, cannot be changed. Am I correct that they would be exempt from a direction by the adjudicator to modify their admissions arrangements?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, matters are referred to the adjudicator only when there is disagreement about admissions policies. That is the starting point. Therefore, nearly all decisions on admissions will be determined locally rather than by the adjudicator or the Secretary of State. Beyond that in nearly all cases the decision of the adjudicator will be simple and can be implemented in a straightforward way. Amendment No. 168 is very limited. It only provides that where it is necessary for the adjudicator to spell out what the admissions authority must do to change its arrangements he will have power to do so. This does not in any way change the duty of the adjudicator. It refers only to the implementation of his decision. Therefore, no change is proposed to which the question of the noble Baroness is relevant.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, that was not the point of my question. The point of my question is: are foundation schools exempt from a determination and/or a modification direction by the adjudicator?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it is not my understanding that any schools are exempt. A decision has to be made. If it cannot be made locally, it has to be made by the adjudicator. If I am wrong, I shall write to the noble Baroness.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 88 [Procedure for determining admission arrangements]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 165:

Page 66, line 4, leave out from first ("shall") to end of line and insert ("(except in a case where their proposed variations fall within any description of variations prescribed for the purposes of this subsection) refer the proposed variations to the adjudicator, and shall (in every case)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 166:

Page 66, line 22, at end insert--
("( ) as to the information to be published by foundation and voluntary aided schools and by schools maintained by the local education authority about the operation of their admissions policy in the previous year.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 169 and 170 which are on the same subject. Your Lordships will have noticed that the support of the noble Lord, Lord Rix, is indicated on the Marshalled List. He is an expert in billing, as he reminded us at an earlier session of the Report stage. It is a great honour to have so distinguished a thespian as my supporting cast. I am grateful to him for his support.

Amendment No. 166 applies to Clause 88 which relates to the procedure for determining admission arrangements. It provides that regulations shall make provision as to the information to be published by all schools about the operation of their admissions policy in the previous year.

The following two amendments apply to Clause 91 which relates to the publication of information about admissions. The amendments require that the effect of the operation of the admissions policy on foundation or voluntary aided schools should be published, and that other schools should publish information about the operation of their admissions policy in the previous year.

The amendments are not designed to ensure that admissions policy is published, because the clauses already make provision for that. The point is to ensure that the operation of those policies shall be reported on at the end of the year so that local people can see not merely what are the admissions policies but how they have operated in their locality. That is important for all parents, but it is especially important for the parents of children with special educational needs. I shall now hand over to the noble Lord, Lord Rix, to complete the introduction of the amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Rix: My Lords, first, I must thank the noble Baroness for her kind words about my dramatic abilities. She is kinder to me, perhaps, than some of the critics used to be many years ago down the road. From the Minister's response to the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, in Committee, I have reason to believe that the Government are sympathetic to the idea that mechanisms should be available to enable the monitoring of admissions arrangements to take place.

One of our concerns is that as a result of the more hands-off relationship envisaged in the draft code of practice on LEA/school relations, such mechanisms may appear in some schools to encroach upon their autonomy. We are therefore anxious that some formal mechanism should exist for securing information about admissions. The Minister may propose alternative ways of securing the same objective, but the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, and I would welcome any government proposals designed to do this.

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10.15 p.m.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, similar amendments were tabled during the Committee stage. They would require regulations to include a requirement on each school to report on the outcome of the operation of the previous year's admissions policy and require publication by the school of information about the effects of that policy.

We understand that during the previous stage and at this stage of the Bill the main aim and motivation in tabling the amendments has been to ensure that information was readily available so that it could be judged and monitored whether there was any discrimination against children or the parents of children with special educational needs. The amendments go wider than that in terms of giving a general report on the admissions policy and its effect.

As regards ensuring that there is no discrimination against children with special educational needs without statements, the Government's position is clear. We are fully sympathetic to that aim and we have been forthright in publicly saying so. The guidance to which the noble Lord, Lord Rix, referred is bold and straightforward. The interim guidance clearly states that:

    "children with special educational needs but without statements must be treated no less favourably than other applicants".
It also emphasises that an admissions authority may not refuse to admit a pupil just because it feels unable to cater for his or her special educational needs. The reaction of the Special Educational Consortium and others has been to welcome that interim guidance.

Our commitment in this area is clear. We shall not allow children with SEN, including those with a disability, to be discriminated against. I repeat the promise to take careful account of the issues that have been raised in the general consultation on the future of SEN policy in our proposals on inclusion in mainstream education.

As regards the implications of the amendments, leaving aside the fact that they require a wide-ranging and non-specific report on the operations of admissions policy, we are not yet convinced that as regards SEN children the appropriate way forward is to put on the face of the Bill a requirement that such information should be published. If we were convinced of such a move, it would be appropriate for regulations rather than for primary legislation. I can give no firm commitment, but we should be happy to consider the issue further in the context of drafting regulations on which we shall be consulting. We do not believe that the amendments achieve the main motivation behind them and we believe that they are not appropriate for the face of the Bill. I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw them.

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