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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, Amendment No. 22 would ensure that the local education authority would be consulted on the exemptions or modifications that the governing body chooses to apply for under earned autonomy. The
I made clear in Committee that there were provisions in the Bill for the key stakeholders who may be directly affected by the application to be consulted by the governing body before an application was made. Clause 7 makes clear that the governing body will need to consult with the appropriate parties, including teachers in relation to pay and conditions, parents in relation to curriculum, and other appropriate persons, before making an application. Similarly, the Secretary of State or National Assembly for Wales will not be able to make orders unless proper consultation has taken place.
We also gave assurance that the guidance under Clause 7(2)(c) will make clear that the LEA which maintains the school should be consulted before any application is made. However, there was some uncertainty among noble Lords about the status of the local education authority in the application process. The amendment clarifies the position. I trust that it will address in full the concerns raised in Committee.
Lord Jones: My Lords, I recollect previously questioning my noble friend the Minister about local education authorities. It seems to me that she has come forward with a positive amendment, which should be welcomed. It will certainly reassure the LEAs and the industry, if I may call it that, as one sometimes does in a cynical moment or two.
As to Amendment No. 21 and the National Assembly for Wales, I suspect that already teachers in Wales have excellent lines of communication into the National Assembly. My guess is that Assembly Members and Cabinet Ministers therein feel that teachers and their representatives in the various unions have well-established means and rights already. It may be that my noble friend will be able to tell the House what is the situation in Wales in regard to consultations with the teacher unions. That may be helpful during the course of the debate.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I shall begin by speaking to Amendment No. 20. I agree with noble Lords opposite that every school should deliver a broad and balanced curriculum. In Committee I said that even under earned autonomy this was already a requirement of the Bill. I clearly did not persuade the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, of that, and so I shall try once again to convince your Lordships.
Our proposals for earned autonomy will only give schools freedom from aspects of the national curriculum, not freedom from either the basic curriculum as set out in Clause 76, nor the general requirements associated with the curriculum as set out in Clauses 74 and 75. So while earned autonomy will enable schools to tailor elements of the programmes of study to the needs of their pupils, it will not provide them with any relief from the duty to provide a broad and balanced curriculum.
Clause 6 of the Bill contains the phrase "any curriculum provision"for example, at line 29 on page 4. The term "curriculum provision" is defined on page 4, line 15, in Clause 5(4). It states that "curriculum provision" means any provision of the national curriculum in England or in Wales, as the case may be. I hope that all noble Lords will agree with that. If noble Lords will turn to page 51 of the Bill, they will find, three-quarters of the way down the page, before Clause 77, the heading "The National Curriculum for England". The next heading appears on page 57, after Clause 85. So the phrase "the National Curriculum for England" means Clauses 77 to 85. So the clauses from which exemption may be given under earned autonomy in England are Clauses 77 to 85.
Perhaps I may finally refer noble Lords to page 50. They will see that the general requirements in relation to the curriculum are set out in clause 74 and the duties to implement them are set out in Clause 75. Clause 74(1) sets out the "broad and balanced" definition. Clause 75 means that the Secretary of State, the local education authority and the governing body are required to implement a broad and balanced curriculum. Clauses 74 and 75 are not affected by earned autonomy.
I hope that on that basis noble Lords will agree that the Bill puts in place a duty to provide a broad and balanced curriculum on the Secretary of State, on the LEA and on the governing body even where earned autonomy applies. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, will therefore agree that her concern has been met in full.
Turning to Amendment No. 21, as we have said previously, we want the process by which schools will earn autonomy to be as simple, efficient and unbureaucratic as possible. Unfortunately, the amendment would require a wide range of representative bodies to be consulted, in addition to those individuals and bodies who will have to be consulted by governing bodies under Clause 7.
It cannot be right that the Secretary of State should be required to consult the Local Government Association, the National Association of Governors and Managers, the teacher unions and so on, on a proposal from a single school to take on earned autonomy. If the staff of a school and the relevant local education authorities have been consulted, that should be the end of the matter. In the light of Amendment No. 22, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley will accept that her main concerns have been addressed.
Turning finally to Amendment No. 23, I hope that noble Lords will appreciate that I believe that consultation is an important part of the process by which schools can qualify for earned autonomy. That is why Clause 7 provides that the governing body will need to consult with the appropriate parties, including teachers (in relation to pay and conditions) and parents (in relation to curriculum) and other appropriate persons before making an application.
We also gave the assurance that guidance under Clause 7(2)(c) will make clear that the local education authority which maintains the school should be consulted before any application is made. I have now
In the light of this, I do not believe that Amendment No. 23 is necessary; nor am I convinced that it will always be appropriate for parents to be consulted on changes to teachers' pay and conditions, as this could be a breach of their privacy. Given these assurances, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment and that the other amendments will not be pressed.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, and with the leave of the House, perhaps I may ask one question which has puzzled me from the outset. The Minister constantly tells us that Clauses 74, 75 and 76 are inviolate clauses and that, whatever happens under either innovation or earned autonomy, they will prevail.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, my specific reference was to earned autonomy and not to Clause 1. Indeed, that is why we have included in Clause 1 the reference to the broad and balanced curriculum which noble Lords have sought.
I should say to my noble friend that I am not at this point able to give him details of what happened in Wales in terms of consultation with the teacher unions. I shall ensure that either I write to him or an appropriate Minister writes to him to provide that information.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her patience. My intention in moving Amendment No. 20 was to persuade her to make at the Dispatch Box the very unambiguous statements that she has just made. It is now clear that if any school which had been given earned autonomy were to try to institute a
"(aa) consult the local education authority,"