Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Davies of Oldham: Although I shall give the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, an encouraging reply, I have learned from long experience of debating these issues with him that unless the reply is 100 per cent to his satisfaction, he will come back at me with a further request. I anticipate that this reply will not satisfy him totally, but I shall go as far as I possibly can.

28 May 2002 : Column 1280

Amendment No. 327 seeks to ensure that every inspection report on an independent school is published. We accept that parents of all pupils in independent schools should have access to published reports on their child's school. We also propose that every report following the regular six-year cycle of inspections will be published. However—and this is where I know I shall disappoint the noble Lord—we believe that there may be occasions when we request a rather limited inspection to be undertaken against just one of the standards we have set out in Clause 152 and the policy statement or seek interim reports as part of a follow-up to a previous inspection. In these circumstances, we wish to retain the freedom to decide whether to require each individual report to be published. However, I hope that the noble Lord recognises that we accept his case in relation to the substantial inspection reports on independent schools.

I shall not go all the way with the noble Lord in relation to his second amendment either. However, I hope that I shall go far enough. It is our intention that reports of inspections of independent schools will be published on the appropriate inspection body's website, as the noble Lord suggested. But we intend that this requirement should not be set out on the face of the Bill in primary legislation; we shall do it through secondary legislation. However, the objective which the noble Lord seeks in the two amendments—that is, that full inspection reports which tell the public where a school is at in terms of its performance as regards the six-yearly cycle of the inspections—will be published and will be available on the Internet.

11 p.m.

Lord Lucas: I find those replies entirely satisfactory. I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he said. I shall do him the further courtesy of writing to him to set out exactly what I hope that he will require in regulations. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 328 not moved.]

Clause 158 agreed to.

Clauses 159 to 163 agreed to.

Clause 164 [Unsuitable proprietors and employees]:

Lord Davies of Oldham moved Amendment No. 329:

    Page 99, line 6, leave out from "that" to end of line 7 and insert "any person who, in relation to the school, carries out any work to which section 138 applies"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Davies of Oldham moved Amendment No. 330:

    Page 99, line 8, leave out from "out" to "in" in line 9 and insert "that work"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 164, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 165 to 170 agreed to.

28 May 2002 : Column 1281

Clause 171 [Training and education provided in the workplace for 14 to 16 year olds]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 331:

    Page 101, line 29, at end insert—

"( ) In section 6 (financial resources: conditions), after subsection (6) there is inserted—
"(7) Regulations may be made under this section making provision requiring any person to whom resources are provided under section 5(1)(ea) to satisfy conditions relating to any matter referred to in subsections (3), (4) or (5) of this section or to any other matter as the Secretary of State may consider appropriate.""

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 331, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 332. The amendments deal with slightly different issues, although they are connected. Amendment No. 331 is aimed at improving the quality of work-based experience. Section 5 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 allows the Learning and Skills Council to fund education or training for pupils in the last two years of compulsory schooling. Clause 171 extends that to enable funded provision at the premises of the employer.

The purpose of Amendment No. 331 is to help ensure that any such provision is properly resourced and of sufficient quality. Any employer seeking to provide education or training for pupils in the last two years of compulsory schooling must satisfy the conditions laid out in regulations. The experience of the modern apprenticeship programme is not necessarily reassuring. The Cassels report, The Way to Work, found modern apprenticeships to be peripheral to education and training. Young people do not choose apprenticeships; parents do not see them as a worthwhile route; careers advisers see them as a last resort; and employers do not notice them at all. Worse still, completion rates are poor. Current attainment rates, defined as gaining the associated NVQ, are 49 per cent for advanced and 41 per cent for foundation apprenticeships. Far too many of those who start apprenticeship courses get a minimum acquaintance with what they are supposed to be doing and then leave the course for paid employment. That is not satisfactory.

The introduction of inspections in 1998 highlighted problems with work-based training such as weak initial assessment and induction, poor tackling of key skills, a rather hit and miss attitude to off-the-job training and poor monitoring rates. Interestingly enough, the programmes that were inspected and found to be wanting also recorded a substantial increase in performance once they had been inspected. Some 90 per cent of those were able to put things right by the time they were re-inspected. That shows that it is important to monitor and inspect.

The point of the amendment is that where we propose to provide work based training for 14 to 16 year-olds who are still in compulsory education, it is vitally important that we make sure that those employers who participate in it know what their obligations are and provide the proper basis for training so that they do not put the young people off

28 May 2002 : Column 1282

or, preferably, that they actually help them—as the proposals for 14 to 19 year-olds want us to do—forward towards a proper vocational qualification.

Amendment No. 332 is about inspection. It would ensure that schools were not over-inspected. Clause 171 will extend the age range for Ofsted/adult learning inspectorate area inspections from the 16 to 19 group to the 14 to 19 group. The adult learning inspectorate would be able to inspect those work-based schemes. In its recent consultation document, Improving Inspections, Improving Schools, Ofsted stated that it was keen to reduce the burden of inspections on schools and set out a number of proposals to ensure that schools were not over-inspected. The amendment places such a safeguard in the Bill.

Ofsted has proposed that primary schools that were subject to a Schedule 10 inspection should be exempt from other inspections, evaluations or surveys for a period of at least nine months. It is unclear why the exemption is not being applied to other schools. That is particularly necessary when there are overlapping responsibilities, as there may be in this case between Ofsted and ALI when pupils in the 14 to 16 group are subject to Ofsted in relation to their school work and to ALI in relation to their work-based programme. The idea therefore is that, once inspected, there should be an interval between inspections of at least 18 months. That is the purpose of the amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: I support much of what the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said. We predicted that there would be confusion and some duplication. The last thing that we want now is duplication. Over-inspection will kill the enthusiasm of schools to comply and get on with the work that they do best. The rationality that we were promised has not entirely come to fruition.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: I support the amendment, particularly Amendment No. 331, which involves a subject that has been close to my heart for a long time. It involves a realistic way of ensuring that the approach reaches a successful reality.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I have to say that we do not believe that the amendment is necessary. The section of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 that the amendment seeks to change gives the LSC the power to ensure proper accountability for the public funding that the council disburses each year. The mechanism for that involves conditions that the LSC may attach to its funding—to ensure, for instance, that it can recover money that is not used for its intended purpose.

In passing the 2000 Act, Parliament considered that an LSC condition-making power was the right requirement for the funding of every college, every sixth form and every training provider that receives LSC funding. That involves billions of pounds of funding for thousands of providers—all are covered by the LSC conditions. Yet the amendment suggests that in the case of the very small amount of funding that the LSC may decide to put into workplace

28 May 2002 : Column 1283

training for 14 to 16 year-olds the full weight of regulation by the Secretary of State is necessary. We do not consider that to be the case.

The Secretary of State has all the levers required to ensure that the LSC acts in accordance with the Government's policy priorities—for instance, through the annual grant letter and other forms of guidance. That could be backed up by directions from the Secretary of State under the Learning and Skills Act to the LSC relating to the achievement of objectives.

Ensuring that any funding given to training providers is used properly and in accordance with those priorities is clearly the job of the LSC to secure through conditions of grant that the 2000 Act already allows. I do not see any circumstances in which the Secretary of State might lack the levers needed to ensure that funding for workplace learning for 14 to 16 year-olds was used effectively and properly and that it complemented the vast bulk of provision for 14 to 16 year-olds that is funded by LEAs. That is why I hope that the noble Baroness recognises that the amendment is not acceptable, although we recognise the importance of proper accountability for public funds.

On Amendment No. 332, I wish to echo the sentiments expressed by my honourable friend the Minister of State for School Standards during the debate on this amendment in another place. The aim which underpins this amendment is, of course, a sound one and one which the Government and Ofsted share.

Under the leadership of the former chief inspector, Mike Tomlinson, significant progress was made in reducing the burdens associated with inspection, including the introduction of guaranteed periods of exemption following Section 10 inspections. There are also provisions elsewhere in the Bill which will reduce the number of inspection visits. I believe that that was the burden of the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy of Knayth. The current minimum exemption period for secondary schools is 12 weeks, but for most schools the interval between inspections will of course be considerably longer.

It is for the new inspector, David Bell, to take this important work forward and, in particular, to explore the possibilities of linking some secondary school inspections to the programme of area-wide inspections. The extension of the scope of area inspections to cover provision across the 14 to 19 age range must not, and will not, result in a significant increase in the overall inspection burden on secondary schools. I take seriously the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, about the pressure on schools to undergo inspection. I want to reiterate the assurances made by the Minister of State that:

    "Schools will be visited during area inspections only where it is necessary to enable inspectors to obtain the evidence they need, and that would not otherwise be available to them. Those visits will be as brief as possible, and certainly much shorter than the full Section 10 inspection".

28 May 2002 : Column 1284

There is a problem in relation to the amendment which the Minister of State in another place recognised and explained. The amendment would have the unfortunate consequence of constraining the ability of inspectors to do their job efficiently. Perhaps I may give an illustration. Tower Hamlets was subject to an area inspection in the spring of 2000. In the following term—the summer term—a secondary school, Stepney Green, was found in a Section 10 inspection to require special measures. Had there been an 18-month interval between the inspections, there would have been almost a year's delay in triggering the action necessary to ensure that the school's pupils received at least a satisfactory standard of education.

I understand the intention to ensure that inspections are properly spaced out. But I believe that the above case illustrates why it would be wrong for us to have a statutory 18-month separation period. That would mean that effective and immediate action in difficult circumstances could not be taken. Therefore, on the basis of that argument, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page