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Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I cannot say that I am totally convinced by the Minister's arguments. For example, as regards using the word "promote", she said, "Yes, of course we are promoting innovation; that is what we are about". However, she also said that she does not want that in the Bill because it would involve centralising. Why? Perhaps it was lucky that the amendments were grouped; at first I did not think so. That is precisely why we want to remove from a later subsection the power involving the opinion of the Secretary of State. We feel that the concept of promoting is more positive but we do not want the Secretary of State to feel that she should do the promoting. We feel that promotion needs to be in the general atmosphere and that it should devolve downwards. We have already argued that it is up to each individual school to innovate.

Nor do I buy the argument that the Secretary of State needs to have the confidence to respond. The argument was that the Secretary of State needs that power in order to protect the vulnerable. However, the Bill's provisions in that regard are incredible. Clause 2(1)(a) refers to,

I stress the phrase, "any requirement". If someone suggested that we should suspend special educational needs legislation, we should not of course do so. That is why we need the opinion of the Secretary of State. We come back to the central question.

2 May 2002 : Column 825

When one talks to heads and principals of colleges, the one point about which they want a little flexibility is in relation to the national curriculum. That is one reason why the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, and I tabled Amendment No. 15. That is the one area in which heads and principals feel constrained. One might say that they do not need to feel constrained, but there is a degree of such a feeling. Perhaps during our discussion on the Bill we can pass on the message, "You need not feel constrained. You can go off and, so long as you can fulfil the requirements, spend your time doing anything else". That would be splendid. However, it underlines the general feeling that we do not need such legislation.

I am not convinced by the Minister's arguments. I shall read her speech very carefully and we shall probably return to these issues on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 not moved.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 6:

    Page 1, line 8, after "State" insert "or the Chief Inspector"

The noble Baroness said: I want to respond to a point that the Minister made about the amendment. She said what I feared—and, in fact, what I predicted—she would say; that is, that the chief inspector will of course be consulted. That will duplicate all of the efforts. We will have the Secretary of State, who does not know all of the schools locally, speaking to the chief inspector, who does know all of the schools locally. If the chief inspector can say—this is consistent with the proposed wording—that a proposition from a school or an applicant contributes to the raising of educational standards, that should be the end of the matter. That should not be second-guessed by the Secretary of State, although technically it would be. The order would be laid technically because it is simply a matter of officials laying the order in the House.

I am going to test the Government's nerve on this matter. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

4.57 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 6) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 75; Not-Contents, 133.

Division No. 1


Anelay of St Johns, B.
Ashcroft, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Baker of Dorking, L.
Biffen, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Byford, B.
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Chadlington, L.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller]
Cox, B.
Craigavon, V.
Crickhowell, L.
Denham, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dundee, E.
Elton, L.
Ferrers, E.
Flather, B.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Freeman, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Glentoran, L.
Goschen, V.
Gray of Contin, L.
Henley, L.
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Holderness, L.
Hooper, B.
Howe, E.
King of Bridgwater, L.
Lucas, L.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Marlesford, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Noakes, B.
Northbourne, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Rawlings, B.
Reay, L.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rogan, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Selborne, E.
Skelmersdale, L.
Skidelsky, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Swinfen, L.
Taylor of Warwick, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Tugendhat, L.
Vivian, L.


Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Ahmed, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Amos, B.
Andrews, B.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Blackburn, Bp.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Bragg, L.
Brett, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Colville of Culross, V.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Craig of Radley, L.
Crawley, B.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dearing, L.
Desai, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Gale, B.
Gavron, L.
Geraint, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gilbert, L.
Goldsmith, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grabiner, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grenfell, L.
Grocott, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hooson, L.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Jay of Paddington, B.
Judd, L.
Levy, L.
Lipsey, L.
Listowel, E.
Lockwood, B.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
McNally, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Mitchell, L.
Monson, L.
Morgan, L.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Newby, L.
Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.
Palmer, L.
Paul, L.
Pendry, L.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roper, L.
Russell-Johnston, L.
St. John of Bletso, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Sheldon, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Temple-Morris, L.
Tenby, V.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thornton, B.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Walmsley, B.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Weatherill, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L. (Lord Privy Seal)
Williamson of Horton, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

2 May 2002 : Column 827

5.8 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 7 to 9 not moved.]

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 10:

    Page 1, line 11, at end insert—

"( ) In this Bill "innovation" and "innovative projects" refer inter alia to—
(a) teaching methods, and
(b) access by teachers and pupils to computers and information and communication technology."

The noble Lord said: In speaking to Amendment No. 10, which stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lady David, I begin by making some general remarks. Because I did not speak to any of the earlier amendments, I hope that Members of the Committee do not think that I was not sympathetic to what was said. But, if we are to get the Committee stage of the Bill finished before Whitsun, I do not believe that we should all pop up every minute to say, "Oh, yes, we agree with the noble Lord". In that sense, in relation to the previous group of amendments, I was particularly pleased to hear the Minister say that she would talk to noble Lords opposite about some of their concerns.

The amendments tabled in the names of my noble friend Lady David and myself are, in every case, exploratory. We simply seek clarification and, therefore, the amendments amount to questions. I do not know about other noble Lords, but I have been in this House for a great many years and find this Bill particularly difficult to understand. Quite honestly, there are large sections of it that I do not understand at all. I do not know what the Bill is saying, let alone whether I agree with it. Therefore, one reason for tabling some rather tedious amendments is in order to be a good pupil and to learn something.

I turn to one or two other general points. Anyone who is interested in innovation and who knows about the history of education will know that, throughout our history, innovation in our education system has

2 May 2002 : Column 828

come from teachers in schools. It has come from local education authorities and not from the department. I speak as someone who, for a long time, was the Minister's chief adviser in the department.

My own general judgment is that the way in which to help innovation in our country, and, indeed, the way in which to help education more generally, is for the department to adopt as its maxim, "Let's not get in the way". However, as we discuss innovation, I am concerned that the department seems to want to get in the way. That is what it believes it can do to help. The word "facilitate" appears but, from my reading of the Bill, the department seems to be interested in the opposite—the antonym—of "facilitate". However, that could simply be down to my ignorance because, I repeat, I do not fully understand the Bill.

My general aim regarding this section of the Bill is to try to understand what counts as an "innovation". The reason that my noble friend and I have approached the matter in a rather different way from opposition Peers is that, instead of looking at generalities, we want to look at specifics. In doing so, I have in mind one other difference: I believe that there is a valid distinction between what a school can propose and what it can do. I had always assumed that what went on in a school, subject to various broad rules, was up to the head teacher and the teachers to decide. What puzzles me partly about the Bill is that that seems to be called into question now.

I am still dealing with my general remarks. The Minister that teachers should know the law. I admit that that had never occurred to me in all my life, both as a pupil, teacher and an adviser at the department. If that is now the Government's position, I believe that this matter is much more serious than Members of the Committee opposite have said. It seems ridiculous to me that there should be the notion that before anything is done one had better find out beforehand whether it is legal. I cannot believe that the department really believes that to be the case.

I turn now to the set of examples which I would like the Committee to begin with and my Amendment No. 10. It states that innovation should include teaching methods and, within that, it should include access to computers, IT and that kind of thing. First, I want reassurance that innovation does include them. Secondly, I would like reassurance that that has nothing to do with the department. I take quite a specific example. Teachers may decide that they would rather teach using Powerpoint than blackboard and chalk. I would regard that as highly innovative. It was suggested to me at university that I might use that method, particularly as I never wrote legibly on the board and it was thought that the students might learn something if I used computer methods. It would never have occurred to me to ask for permission at the university to do that. I would like to be reassured by the Minister that no teacher would ever have to ask permission to do so.

More generally, as regards IT teaching, I believe that most of the methods for teaching languages in our schools are out of date and highly ineffective. The

2 May 2002 : Column 829

result is that many students get very good marks in what was called the General Schools Certificate in my day, but have no facility with the language at all. Modern teaching methods would use modern computer methods. For example, I am trying to learn Italian. I do not do that by looking for a teacher to teach me. I have got tapes, CDs and videos. I interact with the whole system and I learn. I agree that at my age, every time I learn to ask how to get a train from Orvieto to Rome, I forget how to ask what is the price of a room. If I can order a first course in a restaurant I forget about how to order wine. So it is always one step forward and one step back, but at least I am learning something.

My point here is that if teachers wish to use that kind of computer method in schools, it is clearly an innovation. But in what sense do we need legislation for that kind of activity and in what sense do we need the department to be involved? Similarly, as a book addict, of course I use books for all kinds of things. But I know full well that if I wish to acquire information my method is now on-line in many cases and via the computer, and a search engine. It is quite a good way of teaching oneself different things.

If schools began to do that as the norm, in my ordinary use of English I would regard it as an innovation. But what it has to do with legislation is beyond me. I accept that I may be wrong: legislation may be required, but I cannot remotely see why that should be the case.

I put to the Committee the general question whether I am right in believing that these areas are innovative in the correct use of the English language. Am I not also right that this is something that should be happening or ought to happen, and does not require the Minister, the Secretary of State herself or even my noble friend, excellent though she is, to get involved? Am I not right in saying that we ought to stay out of these matters rather than the other way round?

We might well be interested in the diffusion of best practice, which is quite a different question. My best method for improving diffusion would be to get rid of Ofsted, which is unfortunately one of the biggest disasters to hit the education system of our country, introduced by Members of the House opposite. I would restore Her Majesty's Inspectorate at a shot. Indeed, if my noble friend would like a little advice, an amendment to this Bill in one clause to get rid of Ofsted and bring back Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, plus others, would do more good for education than almost anything else I can think of.

To summarise the position, I am simply looking for what counts as innovation, using this amendment as a specific example of whether I am right that it counts and then ask why it requires all the parts of the Bill to let it happen. I beg to move.

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I am delighted that the noble Lord is making these inquiries. If he made a few more of schools he would discover that they are doing

2 May 2002 : Column 830

precisely the kinds of things that he is suggesting that they should do. It is a very good idea to probe, as the noble Lord is doing, to get at the root of what is meant by innovation here.

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