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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I thank the Minister—as I have done several times this afternoon—for the work that has gone on between the last stage and this. I also

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thank all those who, in the earlier stages, fought hard for what we appear to have achieved today. It has been acknowledged that many more schools are well able to manage curricular flexibility and pay and conditions. I take the point that those are different issues. The management of pay and conditions must fall to schools that are able and well led; otherwise there will be tension among staff in schools in which management of questionable quality is left to manage pay and conditions. Teachers must have confidence in the quality of leadership and management in the school.

We have come a long way, but there are one or two questions that I must ask. The chief inspector will now be brought into the process, something that I argued for in Committee. Will it be on his say-so and on the basis of the inspections that a school will become able to exercise earned autonomy? Given that earned autonomy is permanent, unless it is revoked for one reason or another—maladministration or misadministration—by the Secretary of State, will the process allow the chief inspector to agree to it? When the Minister replied to the amendment which I tabled in Committee proposing that change to the Bill, she argued that the chief inspector will be involved in advising the Secretary of State. However, now that he is being placed on the face of the Bill, will he have powers to agree that a school should qualify to be an applicant for earned autonomy?

Finally, the Minister said that there would not be an automatic trigger point but that there would have to be a legal process in order to convey qualified status on an applicant. What will the process be because the Minister's comments today render redundant the chapter in the policy papers on earned autonomy? Who will ultimately be empowered to award earned autonomy status, other than the Secretary of State? We are talking about 60 per cent of primary schools and 30 per cent of secondary schools, which represents a great deal of work for the department. Where a school qualifies on criteria set out by the Secretary of State, if a trigger cannot be automatic it should be on the say-so of the chief inspector.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the decision could potentially be taken by either or both and we are looking for the point at which we could allow a decision to be taken primarily on the advice of the chief inspector. I took the noble Baroness's amendment back after I had listened to what she said in Committee.

We intend to consult on the precise detail and to carry out public consultation on what the process will involve. I want to ensure that noble Lords recognise that we have moved considerably. In terms of the bureaucracy, we have deliberately started with the process of short inspection. That process is on-going and does not have extra bureaucracy. We would enable schools which were not in the process of the cycle of inspection to come forward and ask whether they qualified—that would be reasonable—for a cycle is involved. It means that when the chief inspector is satisfied that the school has qualified, it will be entitled to earned autonomy. That will be that.

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If we want to expand the scheme beyond the 30/60 per cent of schools in order to deal with issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, about being able to move quickly, we will not force Ofsted to review its procedures. We will look for new ways of being able to judge without adding to the bureaucracy. I hope that noble Lords will be pleased to hear that and that it answers the questions raised by the noble Baroness.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, that reply is helpful. I hope that there will not be a percentage target. The Minister said that the Government would expect about 30 per cent of secondary schools and 60 per cent of primary schools entering the scheme on the basis of "those who qualify qualify". If a school qualifies, it qualifies, and that should be the case. The scheme should not be subject to arbitrary percentages.

I want to speak briefly to my Amendment No. 18—

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, perhaps I may pose a question to the Minister. Is the aim to start the programme at the 30/60 per cent mark but to roll it out to as many schools as possible?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we are moving far away from Report stage procedure if those who do not have the ear of the House ask questions of the Minister.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I believe that the Minister gave an affirmative nod in the direction of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. I hope that there will be no targets in that sense and that schools which qualify qualify. I am receiving an affirmative nod on that point.

As regards my Amendment No. 18, I am grateful for what the Minister has done since the Committee stage. We have done what we set out to achieve; that where a school qualifies it should be free to do so. If that is so, the criteria will be critical. The framework which surrounds a school managing its own pay and conditions and the curriculum flexibility, with all the safeguards that will need to be put in place, should be considered by this House. The position has changed from what was contained in the original chapter of the policy document and we are grateful for that, but I may return to Amendment No. 18. In the meantime, with warmest thanks to the Minister for what she has done, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]

5.45 p.m.

Clause 5 [Interpretation of Chapter 2]:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland moved Amendment No. 14:

    Page 4, line 6, leave out from "to" to end of line 7 and insert "one or more of the following—

(a) the performance of the school,
(b) the quality of the leadership in the school, and
(c) the quality of the management of the school."

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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 14, I want to speak also to Amendments Nos. 15 and 19 in the group. Amendment No. 14 would allow for judgments on a school's management to be included in the criteria set out in regulations for earned autonomy.

We have made clear that it has always been our intention that the school's management should be included in the criteria. It is an intention that we set out in the policy statement placed in the Library of your Lordships' House. However, I have considered further the concerns expressed by my noble friend Lord Peston as to whether primary legislation would enable us to make judgments in this area. In addition, we have made clearer distinctions elsewhere in the Bill in Schedule 16 which makes minor amendments to the School Inspections Act, to distinguish between leadership and management. It has always been our intention that the two areas of leadership and management should be used together in making judgments in this area and I trust that this amendment will remove any doubt as to whether primary legislation will enable us to do so.

As regards Amendments Nos. 15 and 19, noble Lords will know that during the debate in Committee I agreed that we would give further consideration to the qualifying criteria by which schools can earn autonomy. We are of course also committed to a full consultation on these criteria after Royal Assent.

We have discussed the issue and I know that there is a feeling on all sides of the House that we need to do more to ensure that schools are able to qualify for earned autonomy and that there should not be an arbitrary figure—a concern expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. As the noble Baroness said in our discussion of the previous amendment, those schools which qualify should qualify.

We have had useful discussions with Ofsted about the best approach to adopt in this area. As I have said, we are proposing to place greater emphasis on the judgments from Ofsted about the leadership and management of the school to decide whether a school is suitable for earned autonomy. As I have said, we expect at least 30 per cent of secondary schools and 60 per cent of primary schools to qualify over time.

Ofsted's judgment about whether a school qualifies for short or standard inspection will include factors related to a school's performance as well as judgments about leadership and management. That means that we will continue to rely on all three types of criteria; those related to a school's performance, management and leadership. I beg to move.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendments Nos. 16 and 17. Before doing so, I want to ask the Minister a couple of questions about Amendments Nos. 14 and 15. Am I correct in believing that the three criteria which appear under the words "one or more of the following" could be taken together but it is not necessary that all three should be judged? The Minister said that leadership and management could be taken together but one alone could be considered.

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Secondly, in relation to the insertion of "the Chief Inspector" in subsection (2), "or" is the operative word. Is it to be the opinion of the chief inspector, or the Secretary of State, or, in the case of Wales, the National Assembly for Wales, as distinct from the Secretary of State and the chief inspector?

Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 again address the question of special educational needs and the needs of disabled pupils. A problem which arises in particular in relation to specialist schools and city technology colleges is that such schools—those with a special status—do not have a good record in regard to their provision for special educational needs. I know that some do, but some do not. The proportion of disabled children and those with special educational needs attending such schools is often rather low.

The Minister has responded to our concerns with regard to innovation in the context of special educational needs, but I am not sure that we have had the same kind of response in this area. Among the criteria used to judge whether a school is performing well and thus would be eligible for a degree of earned autonomy should be that it can demonstrate high standards of achievement for its disabled and special educational needs pupils. The purport of these amendments is to ensure that that is the case.

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