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Baroness Darcy de Knayth: My Lords, perhaps I may briefly support the noble Baroness, Lady David, who gave a powerful and clear explanation of her amendment, and the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. I hope that this Bill will be brought into line with other legislation; after all, it is very much to do with children and their future.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, let me say at once that I agree with the sentiments expressed by all those who have spoken on this amendment. The Government strongly agree that children ought to be involved and their views taken into account in planning for their education.

The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, is right that if all people, not just children, are consulted, they feel a sense of worth and ownership and that encourages participation. The Government therefore agree that we should be taking as many reasonable steps as possible to encourage young children to feel a sense of ownership of their education and to reach their full potential.

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We have no difficulty about the objectives of the amendment; but we need to discuss how to achieve them. We have a responsibility not to overburden our schools and the Government are looking particularly to reduce the level of bureaucracy in schools. My noble friend Lady David said at the beginning that this is a--she did not use the words "watered down"--neatly worded amendment. Indeed, that is true. But if it were a provision on the face of the Bill, it would still be legally prescriptive and intervene with the need of schools, in their own time, to set in place the structures that are necessary to foster a spirit of consultation.

I am not able to say therefore that we can accept the amendment on the face of the Bill. However, it may be helpful for me to say something about the good practice that has been brought to the attention of the department and how the views of pupils are being taken on board in the planning processes of schools.

Many schools have set up schools' councils, which work remarkably well. I do not know why I should present that as new; my own children took part in schools' councils 20 years ago. Nevertheless, it is a fact that schools' councils are increasing in number and in effectiveness. Where they are set up, they often act as a focus for pupils to improve the ethos of their school and act as a conduit for pupils to be heard. But that does not mean that we should place schools' councils or many other good things into the framework of a school Bill. However, we will certainly continue to encourage schools to set them up.

Education is as much about the personal and social development of pupils as academic achievement. That is often taken forward in a schools' programme of personal, social and health education. That is an area where we recently took positive action and set up a PSHE advisory group to examine the whole issue so that we can be better informed and better prepared to take forward the personal and social development of pupils. We can then feed its conclusions into the forthcoming debate on the review of the national curriculum. The group, which will be chaired by Estelle Morris and Tessa Jowell, will look to the aims and objectives of a PSHE and what can be done to help schools in this important area of education. I see no reason why I should not ask them to take into account how the views of pupils can be best taken forward in the group's deliberations on the personal and social development of pupils.

My noble friend quoted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and she referred to the opinion of Mr. Allan Levy QC, who referred to procedures to be introduced. We are in favour of procedures being introduced; we are in favour of all encouragement for pupil involvement; what we are not in favour of is placing an amendment of this kind on the face of the Bill.

Baroness David: My Lords, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Maddock and Lady Darcy de Knayth, for their support, which was very welcome, and I thank the Minister for a quite sympathetic and understanding

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response, although he would not go the whole way of accepting the amendment. I am disappointed about that, though not altogether surprised.

I do not think that this would overburden the schools. Schools should consult the pupils. I do not think it would overburden them. In fact they might be rather more successful in having a good disciplinary code and good procedures if they did consult the pupils than if they do not. I do not see that it would be legally prescriptive. In some ways, if we are to be in line with the UN convention, it ought to be provided in legislation that pupils' views should be considered. We shall be interested to see what the committee says at the end of the year when it will have to report on what the UK has done in relation to this.

I cannot do other than withdraw the amendment. However, I am disappointed, particularly as the Labour Party in Opposition--perhaps not the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who was not speaking from the Opposition Front Bench on education but certainly the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone--would have supported the amendment.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness David: Was I interrupted? I know that the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, would not be in sympathy, because he does not seem to have any understanding about this. As I say, I am disappointed in my own Front Bench because they were in sympathy with this proposal when in Opposition. It is rather sad that when in Government they change their mind. However, I am glad of what I have heard. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 197B not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 197C:

After Clause 127, insert the following new clause--

Transfer of assisted places

(".--(1) In section 3(2) of the Education (Schools) Act 1997 (regulations for purposes of transitional arrangements), after paragraph (f) there shall be added--
"(g) provide for the Secretary of State, in a case where he is satisfied that it is reasonable to do so in view of any particular circumstances relating to a pupil who holds (or has at any time held) an assisted place provided by a school under section 2(1), to authorise another school which is either--
(i) a former participating school, or
(ii) a new school authorised to provide assisted places by virtue of paragraph (f) above,
to provide for the pupil under section 2(1) the assisted place which the first-mentioned school was authorised to provide."
(2) In section 75A(9A) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (regulations in connection with assisted places)--
(a) the word "and" immediately preceding paragraph (b) shall be omitted; and
(b) after that paragraph there shall be inserted "; and
(c) provide for the Secretary of State, in a case where he is satisfied that it is reasonable to do so in view of

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any particular circumstances relating to a pupil who holds (or has, at any time since the beginning of the first term of the 1997-98 school year, held) an assisted place at a school under a scheme operated by virtue of subsection (1) above, to authorise another school which is, or is treated as, a participating school to provide for the pupil under such a scheme the assisted place which the first-mentioned school was authorised to provide."").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I wish to speak also to government Amendments Nos. 207A, 208A, 209A to 209E, 228A and 228B, and to refer to Amendment No. 197D, which stands in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. Although this is about the assisted places scheme, it is not intended at this time of night to raise the whole issue of the assisted places scheme but to speak about how we can more sensitively deal with children who are still in the system.

We have received representations, including from the noble Baroness herself at the Committee stage, about children who currently hold assisted places scheme places who, due to particular family or educational circumstances, need to move schools. It appears that last year's legislation is drawn too tightly to allow a pupil with an assisted place to transfer to another independent school participating in the scheme otherwise than in the most exceptional circumstances. We share some of those concerns.

We are aware of 10 or so cases where parents need to move their children between schools and want to retain the assisted places scheme place. Noble Lords may have seen press reports of one case where a child at a boarding school wished to move to a school closer to home to spend more time with his disabled father. Through this amendment, the Secretaries of State for Education and Employment, and for Wales and Scotland, will have the power to help in such cases.

Amendment No. 197C is the substantive provision which will provide for a new discretionary power under regulations to allow assisted pupils to move between participating schools and retain support under the scheme. Amendments Nos. 207A, 208D, 209C, 209D and 209E are technical amendments relating to commencement, extent and repeals. Amendments Nos. 209A and 209B, and 228B relate to the slightly different Scottish provisions but they will have the same effect. Amendment No. 228A is a consequential amendment.

As regards the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, I shall obviously respond to what she says at a later stage. At this stage I must mention that there appears to us to be a difficult technical issue concerning her proposal. The framework for the phasing out of the assisted places scheme is set out in Section 2(2) of the Education (Schools) Act 1997. The proposal of the noble Baroness involves providing, through regulations, a right for children of primary school age to continue to have support under the scheme throughout their secondary schooling. That is inconsistent with the provisions of the Act itself. I shall deal with any other points at a later stage, but I thought that I should deal with that technical problem.

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The purpose of these amendments is to allow us to help families with genuine difficulties. We would use the discretionary power sensitively. It is our intention that that kind of sensitive response should allow a transfer to take place where there is a genuine need. I beg to move.

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