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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: It does not mean any more than it said before.

Clause 135 agreed to.

Clause 136 agreed to.

Clause 137 [Health and fitness]:

Baroness Walmsley moved Amendment No. 313:

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 313, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 314. The purpose of these amendments is to ensure consistency in the Bill in relation to the fitness requirements of employees working for all employers in education. Currently, the wording of the Bill is inconsistent. Subsection (2) of Clause 137 allows for fitness requirements to be imposed on anyone employed at a school regardless of whether they are employed by the LEA or whoever else. Presumably, this includes staff under contract to an employment agency. However, the requirements in subsection (3), which refers to staff providing education at somewhere other than a school, and subsection (4), which refers to staff not providing education, extend only to those employed by LEAs or governing bodies. This seems to leave out staff recruited through employment agencies and businesses with no contractual relationship with the LEA or governing body. There seems no obvious reason for that inconsistency. I hope that the Minister will be kind enough either to commit to putting it right or to explain why it is necessary. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I rise to speak to government Amendments Nos. 315, 318 and 320 which are grouped with the two amendments to which the noble Baroness has just spoken. I shall, of course, address those amendments in due course.

However, I turn first to government Amendments Nos. 315 and 318. These are technical amendments to ensure that we have a consistent and accurate definition of education for these clauses. As the Committee will be aware, Clauses 137 and 138 are two of a number of clauses which replace and re-enact

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Section 218 of the Education Reform Act 1988. Clauses 137 and 138 apply to the provision of education in both further education institutions and schools. The amendments insert an extended definition of education into both Clauses 137 and 138 to incorporate the widest definition of education, (that used for further education), and to create maximum flexibility for the operation of the clauses. I hasten to add that that definition is also consistent with other Bill clauses. Therefore, I trust that the Committee will accept these technical improvements to the Bill.

Amendment No. 320 is a little bleaker as it seeks to correct an error in the Bill. Clause 140 is an overarching clause applicable only to the exercise of the Secretary of State's power in Clauses 128 to 136 to make provision by reference to specified qualifications, courses of education or training or specified programmes. The inclusion of Clause 137, which concerns the health and fitness of teachers, is a simple mistake. We apologise for that mistake and I hope that Members of the Committee agree that it should be corrected by Amendment No. 320.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 313 and 314, which were spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. Clause 137 is a wide-ranging provision and covers teachers, agency teachers, home tutors and support staff among others. They will include persons employed under a contract of employment or for services with local education authorities, governing bodies of schools or further education institutions.

Clause 137 as drafted provides for the increasing flexibility of the teaching workforce and that provision will apply to those providing education—I stress that—whatever their employment circumstances. The problem with Amendments Nos. 313 and 314 is that they would extend Clause 137 to a potentially unlimited group of persons and the Secretary of State would be unable to control, monitor and enforce the provisions. The amendments would, for example, extend the health and fitness requirements to gardeners, bus drivers and builders, and the Secretary of State would have no ability to enforce the provisions. It could also be argued that extending the provisions in that way would be unduly onerous for those sections of the community. We are always told of the burdens laid on people pursuing their legitimate livelihoods through existing red tape. The danger of the amendments is that they would extend to people we should not wish to bring within the framework of the clause's provisions. The amendments would take Clause 137 outside the scope of the Bill and into territory that may be entirely unrelated to education or the education environment. That is the principal reason why we oppose the amendments.

As Clause 137 stands, the Secretary of State can effectively impose the health and fitness requirements and ensure compliance by LEAs, schools and FE institutions under the existing legislative framework. Clause 137 is aimed at ensuring that those persons who have responsibility for children are fit for that task. The issue of who should have access to children is dealt with elsewhere. I reassure the Committee that the current provisions provide adequate protection for

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children and young people being educated under the auspices of the LEA, schools or further education institutions.

I recognise and share the concerns that the noble Baroness raised in relation to the amendment. However, I hope that she agrees that we should limit Clause 137 to those categories of persons who are involved in the education of young people in order to have a clear line of control—and clear powers—for the Secretary of State to monitor the whole process. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Walmsley: I thank the Minister for that reply. If the consequences of the amendment would be as he described, that would perhaps be somewhat bizarre. I reserve the right to read Hansard, to study his remarks in detail and to decide what to do in the long term with these proposals. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 314 not moved.]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland moved Amendment No. 315:

    Page 84, line 24, at end insert—

""education" includes vocational, social, physical and recreational training,"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 137, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 138 [Prohibition from teaching, &c.]:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland moved Amendment No. 316:

    Page 84, line 42, leave out paragraph (c) and insert—

"(c) providing education under a contract of employment or for services where the other party to the contract is a local education authority or a person exercising a function relating to the provision of education on behalf of a local education authority, and"

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this group of amendments is to ensure that we have provided additional safeguards in our schools. Perhaps I may go through the amendments to explain what we are attempting to achieve with them.

Amendment No. 316 seeks to introduce a drafting change that clarifies the scope of the Secretary of State's powers as set out in Clause 138. It replaces the phrase "local authority contract" with an explanation of what is meant by that type of contract. The new words make it clear that the Secretary of State's power to bar applies to people who are employed to provide education by an organisation that exercises functions on behalf of a local education authority as well as people employed to provide education by the local education authority itself.

Amendment No. 317 simplifies and clarifies the definition of the type of work, in addition to providing education and managing an independent school, to which the Secretary of State's powers apply. The new definition makes it clear that her powers extend to any

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work, whether paid or voluntary, which is done for or on behalf of a local education authority or for a school or further education college and which involves regular contact with children.

Amendment No. 319 introduces a new clause that strengthens the arrangements for ensuring compliance with directions made under Clause 138. That clause gives the Secretary of State power to make directions that bar a person from providing education or doing any work that involves regular contact with children in the education service. It also gives her the power to put restrictions on such work that a person can undertake. As Clause 138 is drafted at present, LEAs, schools and further education institutions are required to ensure that they do not use the services of a person who is subject to a direction in a way that would contravene the terms of that direction. Consequently, local education authorities and those other establishments must check the new staff whom they take on to ensure that they are not barred.

However, not all staff are directly employed or appointed by local education authorities, schools or colleges. Teachers and other staff can be supplied in a variety of ways. Supply teachers may be employed by teacher employment agencies. Other staff may be employed by organisations that are contracted to provide services such as school meals. And, in some cases, staff may be supplied by voluntary organisations; for example, to assist pupils who have special needs.

We believe it is right that organisations that provide teachers and other staff have a responsibility to ensure that the people whom they propose to supply to local education authorities, schools and colleges are not barred from doing the work that they are being supplied to do. This new clause will ensure that by placing those organisations under a duty not to arrange for a person to undertake work if it would contravene the terms of a direction by the Secretary of State under Clause 138.

It will also enable the Secretary of State, or the National Assembly in relation to work in Wales, to take action to enforce the duty. For example, if the Secretary of State has reason to believe that an organisation is not making the checks that will enable it to determine whether the people whom it proposes to supply to work in schools are barred, she will be able to direct the organisation to undertake those checks. And, in the very unlikely event that an organisation did not heed a direction by the Secretary of State, she would be able to seek a mandatory order from the court requiring the organisation to comply.

I fully recognise that this is a "belt and braces" approach. But I believe that it is a worthwhile extra safeguard that will reduce even further the possibility that a person who has been barred might be able to obtain the kind of work that he or she has been barred from doing.

Amendment No. 329 is a technical amendment to Clause 164. Clause 138 prevents people from working in a school, including an independent school, or from

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taking part in the management of an independent school on grounds that make them unsuitable to work with children or relate to their misconduct or health.

Clause 164 provides for an independent school to be removed from the register if any person is working there in contravention of a direction under Clause 138. The amendment makes the description of persons to whom Clauses 138 and 164 apply consistent.

Amendment No. 330 is a consequence of Amendment No. 329 and avoids unnecessary repetition by removing words which Amendment No. 329 inserts earlier. Amendment No. 372 tidies up the new version of Section 15 of the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 which is put in place by the Bill. The amendment removes a definition of the term "child" that is redundant because that term is not used in this section.

Amendment No. 373 introduces a new section into the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 in order to strengthen the arrangements for reporting cases to the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales and the general teaching councils for England and Wales in circumstances where it may be appropriate for the Secretary of State to consider taking action to bar or restrict a person's employment or for the General Teaching Council to consider taking action under its disciplinary procedures.

Section 15 of the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998, as amended by the Bill, will place a duty on local education authorities, schools and further education colleges to make reports in appropriate circumstances, and gives the Secretary of State power to make regulations specifying to whom reports should be made in different circumstances. The amendment places a similar duty on organisations such as employment agencies and contractors that provide teachers and other staff to schools and colleges.

The effect is to ensure that such organisations—where they decide to terminate the arrangement whereby the teacher or worker with children is provided to a school or college, or decide that they may have terminated the arrangement had the teacher not ended it himself or they decide not to make new arrangements in respect of the teacher—are under a duty to make a report if the reason for that decision is one that would give the Secretary of State grounds for considering barring the person under Clause 138.

In most cases the report will be made under Section 15 by the LEA, school or college by the whom the person is employed. The amendment will ensure that reports will also be made by the body that arranged for the person to be employed by the LEA, school or college.

In some cases, the provision may result in separate organisations each having a duty to report. For example, if a school decides to cease to use the services of a supply teacher employed by an agency on grounds of misconduct and the agency also decides to cease to use that person's services, both the school and the agency will have a duty to report—the school under Section 15 and the agency under Section 15A. If an

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agency decides to remove a teacher from its books on grounds of misconduct at a time when the teacher was not working at a school, the duty would fall on the agency alone—but in all cases there will be a duty to report.

The new provision also gives power to enforce the duty to report. It provides for the Secretary of State or the National Assembly to direct a person to comply with their duty to make a report and if necessary, for those directions to be enforced by way of a mandatory order. Taken together, the amendments provide helpful additional safeguards and clarify the Bill. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: I rise not to oppose the Minister because I believe that anyone working with young people should be fit for the purpose. Anything that can be done to ensure that is important. I will read carefully the Minister's complicated explanation. What are the Government doing about the log jam? There is an enormous backlog of applications for checks on potential recruits. I understand that valuable staff are being lost because it is taking so long to get a reply. If this part of the Bill is to work, something must be done quickly to deal with that backlog.

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