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Lord Lucas: Why?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: That is a very straightforward question at this hour. We are removing the statutory duty on schools to carry out baseline assessments of children. Baseline assessment will be replaced with the foundation stage profile in the academic year 2002-03. Members of the Committee will be aware that we introduced the foundation stage in September 2000. It defines centrally for the first time that critical period of a child's development from the time when they enter education at three-plus until the end of the reception year.

Under the current system, 90 separate baseline assessment schemes are used in schools. The QCA consulted early years practitioners and experts between November 2000 and January 2001 on replacement arrangements for baseline assessment. That consultation showed strong support for the introduction of a single national scheme to sum up progress at the end of the foundation stage, which is the point at which children are expected to achieve early learning goals.

It is because the purpose and the timing of the assessment will shift from a diagnostic "on entry" assessment to an "end of foundation stage" assessment

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that the name of the assessment has been changed to "foundation stage profile". That provides a fixed reference point for all children at the relevant stage of their education whether in maintained primary schools or other settings. I assure noble Lords that it will be completed over a period during day-to-day classroom activity and it will involve the observation of teachers and practitioners. It will not therefore be a test that children pass or fail. Because the profile will be completed at the end of the foundation stage, children will be assessed by someone who has got to know them well and in a variety of circumstances, thus providing a truer picture of what they can do.

Also, because the assessment will be based on observations accumulated over a period of time, it should be less burdensome than the administration of baseline assessment, which has to be completed within seven weeks of a child starting school. After completion of the first trial of the foundation stage, involving 500 children in November 2001, 103 reception teachers returned completed questionnaires in which they recorded timings and rated various aspects of the profile. That showed that 94 per cent of teachers rated manageability as "satisfactory" or better. The majority of the teachers also considered that the proposed scheme would be an effective summary of their children's achievements at the end of the foundation stage.

The foundation stage profile will provide substantial evaluative information about each child that will be passed on to year one teachers and parents. Ninety per cent of teachers rated the scheme as either "helpful" or "very helpful" in providing information on a child to other members of staff, parents and year one teachers. The signs are that the profile will be warmly received by the early years sector and I therefore recommend that this clause should stand part of the Bill.

Lord Lucas: I am very grateful for that explanation. Am I right in thinking that the assessments will not be published but that they will form the basis for the key stage one "value added" in the primary schools to which children go on? Am I also right in thinking that they will not pay any particular attention to looking for the first signs of special educational needs, such as dyslexia, which, in severe cases, may be showing at that age? If I am right, why not?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The information will be collected but not published. The value of it is to allow year one teachers to look at where children will go. It will play its part, I trust, in the early identification of children who have difficulties. As the noble Lord will I am sure agree, it is very important that children who have special educational needs are identified as early as possible. I hope that the profile will play its part in that.

Lord Lucas: I have had good answers to two of the three questions I asked. The third was: will the

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assessment form the baseline for "value added" in key stage one in primary schools, or will there have to be another measure for that?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I am sorry if I was not clear. Yes, it will indeed form that.

Clause 197 agreed to.

Clauses 198 and 199 agreed to.

Schedule 20 agreed to.

Clause 200 agreed to.

Clause 201 [Recoupment: special cases]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 362:

    Page 122, line 40, leave out subsection (3) and insert—

"(3) The function mentioned in subsection (2) is to be treated as having been transferred to the National Assembly for Wales by an Order in Council under section 22 of the Government of Wales Act 1998 (c. 38); and, accordingly, the transfer may be revoked or varied by an Order in Council under that section."

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 362, I shall speak also to government Amendment No. 366. For the benefit of the Committee, it may be helpful if I indicate the Government's view of the other amendments in the group, Amendments Nos. 367, 367A and 367B.

Government Amendment No. 362 concerns Clause 201. Section 494 of the Education Act 1996 enables regulations to be made to govern the transfer of funding where an excluded pupil moves to a new local education authority. Clause 201(2) transfers the regulation-making powers to the National Assembly for Wales where they relate to Wales. This amendment seeks to ensure that the making of such regulations is governed by the procedures of the National Assembly for Wales.

Government Amendment No. 366 is a technical amendment to a technical clause. It deals with the powers of the National Assembly for Wales to make subordinate legislation and provides that the new powers conferred by the Bill will be exercised in accordance with National Assembly procedures and will not be subject to UK parliamentary procedures. With those explanations, I trust that the Committee will agree to accept the amendments.

Amendment No. 267 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, proposes to leave out subsection (4)—

Baroness Blatch: Perhaps I may help the noble Baroness in relation to this amendment. Had he been here, my noble friend would have said that he would not press this amendment or even speak to it because it has been subsumed in other amendments. Therefore, the noble Baroness is relieved from the fag of having to address it.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch.

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Perhaps I may pass on to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. I am grateful to her for raising this very important issue. I wrote to the noble Baroness on the matter and sent a copy of my letter to the noble Lords, Lord Roberts of Conwy and Lord Thomas of Gresford. In the letter, I indicated that I could happily give her my assurance, in the same way as I did during debate on a similar concern that she raised during the Committee stage of the National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Bill, that we intend to amend the Explanatory Notes accompanying the Bill, subject to the approval of Parliament, to include a table setting out the effects of the Bill in relation to Wales on a part-by-part basis.

I completely accept, as I did on a former occasion in relation to the National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Bill, that the noble Baroness has raised an extremely important point. I am happy to reassure her that the Government will be able to meet her concerns in the way that I have explained. I beg to move.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, for having written to me and for her kind words at this late hour. I am also extremely grateful that my suggestion has been taken up by the Government. I have already received feedback that that has caused delight to people in Wales. Therefore, I shall not be moving my amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 201, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 202 agreed to.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 363:

    After Clause 202, insert the following new clause—

After section 496 of the Education Act 1996 (c. 56) there is inserted—
The Secretary of State may publish such statistics as she deems appropriate to inform the general public of the progress made by any element or elements of the statutory system of education, and shall ensure that, as far as reasonably practicable, such statistics are provided on the same basis in every year and that when changes are made in the basis of calculation, restated statistics are provided for the previous three years.""

The noble Lord said: As a user of statistics in this House to help to hold the Government to account, and as a republisher of many government statistics in the course of my business for the Good Schools Guide, I have a great interest in the quality of the statistics which come from government. The amendment is in large measure unnecessary because the Secretary of State already has the power to publish statistics. I am seeking to impose that, when the Secretary of State changes the basis of calculations, restated statistics for previous years are provided where it is sensible and possible to do so.

A cause of immediate irritation to me are the changes made last year to the ways in which A-level performance tables and figures for 16 to 18 year-olds

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were presented. When that was done in Scotland, a three-year history was produced to provide a time series. In England, we had a change of basis but no time series. Time series are particularly crucial in respect of performance tables. A single year's figures tell one a great deal less than a three or five-year series—which will give a picture of consistency or progress. At any rate, a series provides much more data than one can obtain from one year's statistics— which may be considerably biased in one direction or another in relation to a school's average performance.

It is important to my business that the figures are right and that every other user can see how the statistics vary from year to year. Government should care about producing statistics that are usable by the public. I am sure that the Minister knows of other examples where the basis of statistics has been changed and the figures have not been restated. That is a bad principle because statistics become useless. Sometimes changes are necessary for political purposes—both parties have done that with unemployment figures as a necessary way of disguising bad news. Performance statistics are not a political plaything and government should take responsibility for providing quality information. I beg to move.

1.45 a.m.

Baroness Blatch: Historical information and the reporting of trends is important, so that parents can make judgments about their children, the classes and schools that their children attend and even educational progress within the area in which they live. The information in question is for parents with a lay understanding of educational jargon and could be improved.

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