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Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I too support the amendment. Coherent sets of statistics running over time are extremely important.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I am one of those people who wince at the word "statistics", not least because one of my notable failures was not completing a university course in statistics. I was overtaken by a statistic that counted—I got more votes than someone else in a general election, so I left the course. That left me bereft of the ability to analyse statistics, which I have never been able to make up. I will therefore confine my contribution to the argument made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and supported by the noble Baronesses.

I accept entirely that public information belongs to the nation and that government must provide the best and clearest information that they can. The Secretary of State shares the desire to see an unbroken statistical time series on education, and endeavours, where possible, to provide consistent information. The new national statistics code of practice requires all national statistics products to produce bridging tables for breaks in time series and recasts of prior years' figures where possible. The intention is that the code will cover not just the Department for Education and Skills but all government statistics. We are at one in terms of objectives.

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The noble Lord is particularly interested in information published in our annual schools performance tables. I reassure him that we shall make every effort to keep changes in the calculation of performance indicators to an absolute minimum.

I hesitate, however, to accept the amendment. There is a necessity to reserve some flexibility to respond quickly to concerns about particular circumstances that might damage an institution's credibility in what are high-profile publications. Given that the tables are based on individual pupil information, a recast of earlier years' results will not always be a reasonable proposition.

When using new information, the collection of data from schools on pupils in the same circumstances over the previous three years would be hugely burdensome and impracticable, as the noble Lord will recognise. For example, in order to reflect the success of the Qualifying for Success reforms, last year's performance tables reported the advanced level results for students at the end of two years of post-16 education. To enable that, schools and colleges had to tell us who the students were. It would not have been reasonable to ask them to identify the equivalent group of students over the previous three years. The noble Lord will recognise that difficulty. However, wherever changes are made to the presentation of information, we will endeavour to provide recasts whenever it is practical to do so without overburdening schools.

I hope that, on the basis of those assurances, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Lucas: I shall certainly withdraw the amendment. The department has all that pupil-level data in its computers. It would not be that difficult for it to regurgitate the information in a different form. It had the entire A-level and GCSE database by pupil many years ago. I remember having access to that and playing around with it on my computer to examine the way in which some exams were harder than others. Doubtless, Ministers play with it similarly in their many peaceful hours in their offices in the department.

It is not that difficult to produce back figures, if the information has been collected. The department has been assiduous over many years in collecting information. I can understand that, with the changes made last year, there may have been some difficulty in going back. However, for the benefit of new policy, I hope that it will be possible to have the quality of information to enable the time series to be recast.

I do not like the idea that statistics cannot be changed. One must keep changing the basis of statistics—first, because there are always better ways of doing things and, secondly, because, if a statistic is left static for too long, the whole school system will be biased towards that statistic. We must keep things moving and keep the basis on which we measure schools changing, so that we are measuring the real school and not just results produced for the purpose of the statistic. To do that and still produce useful time series, we must have enough data to recast at least the

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previous two years' information in the form in which it has been produced for the current year. That is a basic requirement for the collection of statistics, and I hope that we shall see that in future. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff moved Amendment No. 363ZA:

    After Clause 202, insert the following new clause—

Each local education authority may make arrangements for pupils with specific educational requirements which can not be met at their own school to have access to any appropriate teaching and facilities available at other maintained and independent schools within the authority's area."

The noble Baroness said: This is a probing amendment, designed to explore the relationship between the private and maintained sectors. The cessation of assisted places has meant that some gifted and able children have not been able to access some of the superb resources in the private sector. I declare an interest as a member of the governing body of Howell's School, Llandaff, and patron of the Minerva appeal of the Girls' Day School Trust, which funds the education of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Approximately, 20 per cent of the GDST pupils receive financial help through bursaries and scholarships.

There are gifted and able children in many maintained schools whose educational development could benefit from the use of resources other than those that their schools can provide Some schools have better science laboratories, music facilities, sports facilities and so on. For example, some of the GDST schools participate in schemes such as the Liverpool Excellence in Cities initiative. Other examples are science seminars open to children from local comprehensive schools or children invited in to practise for Oxbridge interviews, so actively using the teaching expertise and the resources in those schools.

However, it is important to remember that sometimes the better resources reside in the maintained sector. Examples include information technology, language and arts teaching. It may be appropriate for a child whose parents pay fees for the bulk of his or her education to be able to move across to the maintained sector for some lessons, particularly at advanced stages of his or her schooling. In my own school zoology A-level was not an option so I went to the local secondary modern school to take it. My education benefited from taking my A-levels in three different schools rather than just one.

I want to probe whether that inter-relationship and the commitment that has been shown in earlier discussions on the Bill to public/private partnerships is being supported within the context of this Bill. I should be grateful if the Minister could explain whether such

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flexibility will be possible to ensure that each child can meet his or her educational needs and hence his or her full potential. I beg to move.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: As my noble friend Lady Finlay said, Amendment No. 363ZA was designed as a probing amendment. I hope that it will give the Minister the opportunity to say how the Government see the role of the independent sector in helping government to achieve their educational objectives once this Bill has become law. Although sadly I have not been able to be present on every occasion when this Bill has been debated, I have read Hansard fairly assiduously. With the exception of nursery school provision, I do not remember seeing any reference to the role of educational public/private partnerships in helping to deliver government policy objectives. However, as the Minister will know, in almost all other areas of government policy, such partnerships are given a high public profile indeed.

Educational partnerships are, of course, in existence and have been for many years, as my noble friend has indicated. I can remember the same kind of situation when I too was at school. I believe that as recently as 7th May the fifth round of the independent-state school partnership was announced, a £778,000 package. This round was being designed specifically to benefit gifted pupils, music and citizenship. As I believe Stephen Timms the Minister said, all projects so far funded have the common aim of benefiting pupils and staff in both independent and state schools. The aim is to break down barriers through that kind of a partnership.

Interestingly, in the light of the previous discussion on language teaching, I gather that one of the successful applicants was Monkseaton Language College, North Tyneside, in partnership with the Church High School, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the Open University in the North. That project will create exceptional provision for gifted and talented pupils in modern foreign languages. It will provide university-level studies delivered by the OU in the north. A support system will also be created for extending provision of language learning to pupils in local Excellence in Cities schools.

As we have also heard from my noble friend, the Girls' Day School Trust is collaborating very actively in such partnerships with both primary and secondary maintained schools, sharing best practice and joint extra curricular activities. They have even developed long standing links with international schools. I believe that Notting Hill and Ealing High School are examples with a rural school in Tanzania. I hope that we can hear endorsement of these kinds of public-private partnerships and that they should continue to be mutually beneficial to both the maintained and the independent sector. I mention this because occasions will arise when the desired expertise or facilities which it is hoped will be shared will be provided by the maintained sector.

A current example where there are doubts as to whether the process will be truly beneficial to both sides is whether the remit of the new National

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Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth will include access for suitably qualified children from the independent as well as from the maintained sector.

It would be reassuring to everybody to have it confirmed that educational public-private partnership will continue and remain mutually advantageous, as my noble friend Lady Finlay has said, in meeting the needs and aspirations of individual young people and the Government's overall educational priorities.

2 a.m.

Baroness Blatch: I confess that I was remiss earlier when I did not thank the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, for her support on the drugs amendment. I meant to do so, but I did not.

I support the amendment. It seems to me that for children with special educational needs the statement should include the appropriate provision to meet the needs of a pupil. But whether children have learning difficulties or children at the other end of the spectrum are highly academic, and everything in between, including those with physical needs, appropriate education should be made available. There are many young people who fall short of the criteria for having a statement of special educational needs. For them it is sometimes the case that the host school cannot always meet their needs. Therefore, this amendment would provide for transferring to a school where the needs of the young person can be met. It must be the ambition of all of us to see that the particular educational provision for any child, whether of high ability or otherwise, suffices.

The Minister will not be surprised to hear me supporting this amendment. It would provide a real opportunity for bright young people from low income families to have an education which, according to the amendment, cannot be provided in the host school. It is only under those circumstances that this amendment kicks in. The direct grant and the assisted places schemes both addressed the particular needs of bright young people from low income families.

It needs to be said that the Girls' Day School Trust and many of the schools which benefited from the direct grant system became independent at the time and that was phased out. That incredible tradition has continued of going out of their way to raise money to help young people from low income families. If this amendment were on the face of the Bill it would go a very long way to making sure that the educational needs of all children, whatever their abilities, will be properly met. I warmly support the amendment.

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