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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Lord had the courtesy to apologise for bringing this amendment forward at this stage. I accept those words with thanks as they are the most appropriate ones that could be said at this stage. This Bill was written last autumn. It has been through all its stages in the Commons and this is its final day in this House, subject to toing and froing on amendments. I believe it is unprecedented for a Bill still to be rewritten up to the very last moment. No doubt if there were another day's discussion on the Bill, more amendments would be brought forward. The noble Baroness is obviously racking her brains for precedents. It would be helpful to hear of precedents of this number of amendments being brought forward at Report and Third Reading at the final stage of a Bill in the second Chamber, either here or in another place. I do not believe that this extent of rewriting of a Bill has occurred previously. The amendments that have been tabled at this late stage are afterthoughts which could have been thought of many months back.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I am less concerned with the legalities of all this than with the substance of it. I must confess that--

Noble Lords: You cannot speak again.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, the noble Lord has brought forward an amendment. I can speak to that amendment and I wish to do so. In fact, I was asked by my noble friend to do just that. As I said, I am less concerned with the legalities than with the content of the measure.

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I listened to the explanation of the amendments given by the Minister. I think I understood. In broad terms he was saying, as I am certain is the case as regards the publication of admission numbers, that the amendments respond to some of the concerns expressed by the special educational needs lobby over the course of the Bill. If I am right, and that is the intention, I very much welcome it. The provisions concern the publication of information about the admission of children with special needs and with statements. That is precisely what we or another group of Members requested in an earlier amendment. I hope the noble Lord can reassure me that I have the right end of the stick in regard to the other amendments, which I must say I found quite difficult to follow.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, further to the contribution made by the noble Baroness, I wish to ask one question. I understand that the admission number will be X plus the special places. Does the Minister confirm that? Is it the case that the standards that presently exist will be the same, plus the extra places for special educational needs? Or am I becoming totally confused? Perhaps the Minister will return to the matter. If that is the case, will consideration be given to the question of targets set and league tables? If extra children are coming in, it will affect the balance of the level of attainment for some children. I wonder whether a counter argument will be included in any other aspects of the Bill.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I realised that the presentation was rather complicated because of the cross-references between clauses. I did not realise that I was quite so misunderstood as the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, suggested. So far as concerns admission numbers and class sizes, statemented children who are taken in at the normal point of the admission round count as part of that number; they are not in addition to that number. In other words, when it comes to the issue of class sizes, statemented children are not 30 plus X number of statemented children; they are included within the 30.

There is the complication that, if statemented children arrive in an area and it is the parents' choice of school at a later stage, then they should be taken into mainstream education in that school if it is at all possible on other grounds. The school would be allowed to exceed the 30 size limit for only one year, if it came within the age range covered by the class size provision.

I do not particularly wish to reopen the issue of the 31st child. It has been dealt with ad infinitum at earlier stages. However, it affects the way in which the figure 30 is accounted for within the Bill. On this limited basis, I accept some of the strictures by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. In its original draft form the Bill failed to carry forward a previous assumption that statemented children would be included in the admission numbers, a calculation which would then "read over" to the class size amendment. We are correcting that presumption in restoring the earlier position.

However, I do not accept the more general strictures of the noble Baroness in relation to the number of amendments that we are bringing forward as compared

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with the record of the previous government. I recall earlier in the debate my noble friend Lady Jay referring to an example when no fewer than 40 amendments were brought forward at Third Reading in this House. The Bill was before my time, but, as I recall, it had passed through the other House. I have just been passed a note indicating that the Education Reform Bill 1988, with which the noble Baroness will be familiar, added extra full clauses after it had been through the other place. So I do not think that we are behaving unreasonably in this respect. This particular amendment is a clarification which everyone should welcome.

5.45 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, with the leave of the House I wish to make two points. The example given by the noble Lord in reference to the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, occurred at the end of a Parliament. My noble friend Lady Cumberlege saw the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, personally, and all the team and those who were concerned with the amendments. A large amount of trouble was taken and agreement was reached that because it was the end of the Parliament, it was the only way in which to terminate the business. There was agreement across all parties. It is a very different example.

I wish to return to the point made by my noble friend Lady Byford. I am told that I can ask a question arising out of a particular point made by the noble Lord in this debate. I shall be advised by the Clerk. It is a question about a statemented child when the number goes beyond 30.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, the opinion of the Clerk is that if it is a brief question on a matter arising from the opinion given by the Minister, it is permissible. However, it should be brief.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it is brief. If a statemented child comes into a school in the course of a year, the child is, say, five, and the preference is that the child should attend that school, and that means taking the number above 30 if the child is accepted, the noble Lord said that that position would last for only one year. When the child becomes six, if the number still exceeds 30, does that mean that the statemented child has to be moved on to another school?

Lord Whitty: No, my Lords. It means, as in other discussions we have had on the 30 limit, that at the beginning of the following year the school should so organise its staff, and the local authority should provide sufficient resources, to ensure that none of the next year's classes exceeds 30 provided they come within the age range to which we are referring.

In response to the point raised by noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, on information, this clause will allow, as referred to in Clause 100, information to be carried through on this issue and the code of practice to be extended to cover these issues in the way she was seeking. With those clarifications, I commend the amendment to the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Clause 113 [Procedure for deciding whether grammar schools should retain selective admission arrangements]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 84, line 1, leave out ("section 114") and insert ("sections 114 and 115").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 8. These are small amendments. They come as a pair of similar adjustments. They correct a mistake in cross-reference, and that is all. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 84, line 7, leave out ("sections 114 and 115") and insert ("section 114").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 114 [Ballot regulations: eligibility of parents to request or vote in ballot]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 84, line 37, after ("are") insert--
("(a) registered parents of registered pupils at the grammar school or schools in question; and

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment addresses an issue that is causing enormous concern among the parents of children who attend grammar schools throughout the country, particularly in areas where they are one of a group of schools or are stand-alone grammar schools. The Government have not so far explained why there should be a distinction between franchises for the elections in an all-LEA ballot and where there is a group or a stand-alone school. Parents of children from nought to 16 in one franchise are allowed a vote--that is, of all primary and secondary school children, including children from birth to the age of five. Yet, where there are groups of schools or stand-alone schools, only the parents of children in feeder schools are allowed to vote--and even then only where there has been a tradition of sending five or more children over a period of three years. Not even a school where parents aspire to send their children is included. That was the point of an amendment turned down earlier by the Government. If a ballot goes against a school, the school ceases to exist. Yet the very parents of the children who attend those schools are not allowed to vote on the future of their own school. I find that absolutely incomprehensible. So, too, do those parents.

The convention of the Government all the way through this Bill has been not to accept any amendment at all. I hope that, even at this late stage, they will give some real thought to the pain and anguish that is being caused to parents whose children--I know it is not popular with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt--for example, attend the King Edward schools, the Wirral grammar schools or some

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Essex schools. Why do they not have at least a say in the future of the schools they have chosen and which their children attend? I beg to move.

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