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Baroness Blatch: If the Minister is arguing, as he seems to be doing, that the only problem is that Bill is not the vehicle for such a provision, then he has not spelt out what the vehicle is for achieving the aims of the amendment.

Secondly, as a reason for rejecting the amendment the noble Lord cited the fact that post-19 young people go to different educational institutions and that it would therefore be a matter for the colleges. But this part of the schedule refers to a statement of the transport needs of such young people up to age 19. Therefore, including a reference to those aged 20 to 25 would not seem to present many problems.

Where the funding falls is a separate issue—whether it falls with sixth form colleges or further education colleges is a secondary issue. If the noble Lord is saying that he is supportive of what the amendment is trying to achieve but that this is not the appropriate vehicle, it would be helpful, first, if he were to say what is the appropriate vehicle—then the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, could attend to that on Report. In addition, it is a fallacious argument to say that the fact that post-19 students are scattered among the

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institutions is a reason for not stipulating this in the statement that would be prepared by either the LEA or the local learning and skills council.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I sought to identify, as is my obligation, why the Government cannot accept the amendment in this piece of legislation. I also indicated in the most positive terms the fact that the Government shared the concern expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, about support for students with disabilities and learning needs, and that we are in the process of carrying out a review of those provisions with the possibility of an enhancement of the position.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is absolutely right. The issue comes down to funding heads, and that must be taken into account by the Government. We are consulting on the best ways in which we can effect this. I cannot identify the piece of legislation to which the noble Baroness should address her mind at this point. It would be inappropriate for me to do so. I am seeking to assure her that she and the groups of people whom she represents will be in the position of being consulted on how we can enhance provision under the auspices of the review.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: First, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, for her intervention. It was very helpful. She has a huge and detailed knowledge of this area. I also thank the Minister. At first, I thought that we were not getting anywhere. I thank him in regard to all the help that is available, but I felt that we had not progressed very far with the real issue in the amendment. Then, his mention of the review sent my spirits rising. I hope that we shall get somewhere. Making courses and buildings accessible is all for nothing if disabled people and people with learning difficulties cannot get to the classes. I shall go back to SKILL and then consult with him. Perhaps we can have some talks outwith the Chamber about what is the best piece of legislation in which to address this issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 350 to 358 not moved.]

Schedule 19 agreed to.

Clause 193 [Remission of charges relating to residential trips]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 359:

    Page 117, leave out lines 25 to 32 and insert "of a prescribed class"

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 360. These amendments are intended to be entirely helpful. This is information which should be in secondary, not primary legislation. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: Appropriately, I shall be brief, but I shall take a little longer than the noble Lord—if only to thank him for his attempts to improve the flexibility of the legislation. I appreciate the sentiments behind the amendments.

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We have considered this possibility very carefully. However, the adult allowances in income support and income-based jobseeker's allowance are fundamental qualifying benefits. There is no need to have the flexibility to change them. We are unlikely ever to want to take away entitlement to remission of charges or free school meals from families in receipt of these benefits. Should there ever be a change to the benefits system affecting these benefits, then the primary legislation amending that would consequentially change this. Additionally, the Bill also creates flexibility in allowing the Secretary of State to be able to prescribe in regulations additional qualifying criteria, and this is likely to be sufficient to enable us to respond to the foreseeable changes to the welfare system.

I very much appreciate the intentions of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. However, on the basis of the arguments that I have put forward, I hope he will recognise that we are confident that the way in which these benefits are dealt with will guarantee that there will be only improvement and not deterioration in the position.

Lord Lucas: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 193 agreed to.

Clause 194 [LEA functions concerning school lunches, milk etc]:

[Amendment No. 360 not moved.]

Clause 194 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 361 not moved.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 361A:

    After Clause 194, insert the following new clause—

"Drugs and alcohol policies

(1) The governors of every maintained and independent school shall determine the drugs and alcohol policy for that school.
(2) A school's drugs and alcohol provision shall provide that where a head teacher takes disciplinary action against a pupil under the terms of his school's drugs and alcohol policy, the parent of the pupil concerned may appeal to that school's governing body.
(3) No appeal shall lie under subsection (3) save on procedural grounds.
(4) On such an appeal, the governing body may—
(a) confirm the head teacher's action, or
(b) direct the head teacher to take such other action as they consider appropriate in the circumstances.
(5) The head teacher shall comply with any directions of the governing body given under subsection (4)(b).
(6) The governing body shall notify the appellant and the head teacher in writing of their decision on such an appeal."

The noble Baroness said: These days schools are receiving mixed messages from the Government about drugs and alcohol abuse. There is a relaxation of some drugs laws, relaxation of enforcement in some areas and downgrading of some drugs, but at the same time there is a wringing of hands over the incidence of drug taking and alcohol abuse among young people. It is a fact that drugs are now much cheaper and increasingly

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within the financial reach of many young people. My amendment seeks to support schools that in concert with parents determine policies on drugs and alcohol abuse, and where action is taken against a pupil who is in breach of the school's policy.

All too often, the head teacher is undermined by an appeals panel which reinstates an excluded pupil by second guessing the merits of the decision and not confining itself to procedural matters. Procedural matters are important, and I believe that the case should be reconsidered on that basis if necessary. When a case is found wanting on procedural grounds, rather than exonerating a pupil, the head teacher must reconsider the case properly using the procedural rules that apply.

I hope that the Minister will agree that nothing is more dispiriting for a head teacher who is fighting, with parents, against drug and alcohol abuse among school pupils than for his decision to be undermined by an appeals panel which requires reinstatement when there has simply been a technical hitch in reaching the decision. I think that this issue should be addressed, and I beg to move.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: I support the amendment because there is such a problem with discipline in schools and it is often so difficult to identify the pupil who is supplying drugs to other pupils. Although the exclusion of such pupils is often based on a high index of suspicion, it is extremely hard to produce definitive proof. I feel quite strongly that the headmistress or headmaster deserves support.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I think that all noble Lords agree on a desire to support head teachers who are dealing with these very difficult problems. I therefore agree with the intentions behind Amendment No. 361A. I believe, however, that drug and alcohol issues can be, and are best dealt with under the existing legal principles plus specialist guidance. Section 61 of the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998 places a duty on school governing bodies to ensure that there are policies to promote good behaviour and discipline, of which drug and alcohol policies are clearly a part. Existing departmental guidance—"Drug Prevention and Schools"—already advises that all schools should have drug and alcohol policies, and evidence from Ofsted confirms that schools are complying. Beyond that, the standard of discipline and disciplinary measures are otherwise determined by the head teacher acting in accordance with the governing body's policies. We believe that this is the right approach.

The existing provisions for exclusion and exclusions appeals panels are also perfectly satisfactory to address these issues. However, I shall, of course, pick up the noble Baroness's point in a moment.

The noble Baroness's amendment, were it carried, would place additional burdens on schools' governing bodies by insisting that they review all disciplinary cases involving drugs and alcohol. As the Committee will be aware, currently discipline committees should

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review the use of exclusions within school, and decide whether or not to confirm exclusions of more than five school days or where a pupil would miss an opportunity to take a public examination. Under proposals elsewhere in Clause 49 of the Bill it is proposed to extend this five day period to 15 to cut the burden on governing bodies.

The noble Baroness's amendment would create enhanced rights of appeal to particular categories of pupils in breach of a school's behaviour and discipline policies. I do not support that. I do not think that pupils disciplined for drugs and alcohol offences should have greater rights than those disciplined for other reasons; for example, for violent behaviour.

I should though like to assure the Committee that we are taking a hard line on the issue of drugs dealing in school. Decisions on whether to exclude pupils are the responsibility of head teachers. Where a child is permanently excluded for dealing in drugs, for example, we fully support that head teacher's decision and would not expect an independent appeals panel to reinstate that child. That is what our revised guidance on exclusions says.

In addition, we are making sure that an appeals panel cannot reinstate on technical grounds. Within our guidance we look to ensure that the appeals panel would rehear the case and would not look at the issues in terms of a technical difficulty as regards the way in which the school handled it. We believe that those two measures of being supportive of head teachers on the basis of exclusion for drug dealing and making sure that technical hitches are not the reason for it are important.

We have also wanted to take a number of other steps. We are providing training for all new teachers in drugs education by September 2002. We are introducing new powers for Ofsted which will be tasked formally to assess the standard of drugs education in secondary schools. We are providing support for teachers with practical guidance and a new website for teachers to be launched in the summer. We are taking a new look at how different tactics, including shock tactics, on drugs can be effectively used when targeting certain age groups and within the wider educational framework. We are discussing with the Home Office new measures to tackle drug dealing in the vicinity of schools and which is targeted at young people of school age. We are producing new guidance for parents with emphasis on supporting head teachers in behaviour and drugs policies for young people of school age. Alcohol education will be given a higher priority, tackling the issue of under-age drinking which can often contribute to anti-social behaviour.

I hope that on the basis of all that I have said and the assurances I have given the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

1.30 a.m.

Baroness Blatch: The noble Baroness started by saying that she was concerned about additional burdens on appeals panels as they would have to reconsider so many cases. However, the only cases that

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I envisage they would have to reconsider under my amendment would be those where a decision was taken that was contrary to that taken by the head teacher. The noble Baroness was concerned about a level playing field and thought that somehow or other I had singled out drugs and alcohol abuse and ignored violence. I should like to include violence. Teachers are battling against all the odds. Head teachers are fighting in concert with parents against drugs, alcohol abuse, violence among pupils and even violence among parents. I should be happy to include the full range of abuses that can take place. I refer to a situation where all the action that a head teacher has to take preceding an exclusion has failed, he or she takes a decision to exclude and that decision is reversed by an appeals panel.

The noble Baroness made a further point which, frankly, I do not accept. She said that the Government would not expect an appeals panel to take a contrary view. I am sorry but appeals panels do take contrary views. Often a head teacher is undermined and his or her authority is damaged by that. Such a head teacher feels that he or she is trying to fight against the odds but some streetwise young people are returned to the school and make life absolute hell.

We shall have to return to this matter. The noble Baroness's response missed the point that I made. I shall withdraw the amendment now but I shall return to it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 195 agreed to.

Clause 196 agreed to.

Clause 197 [Baseline assessments]:

On Question, Whether Clause 197 shall stand part of the Bill?

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