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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the answer to the first question is, as the noble Baroness said, that there will be a parent representative from each school. With regard to staff, we know that some schools already share staffing. Therefore, it will be for them to decide how they organise their staff representation, and there will not be a requirement for a representative to be available from each school.
The employment of staff would take place as if the governing bodies had come together, and responsibility for employment would rest with the LEA or the school, as appropriate. Therefore, the one governing body would act on behalf of what had been the individual governing bodies. That would be the position.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I shall have to read the answer to that question in Hansard. My understanding is that the employer of staff at a faith school is the governing body and not the local education authority. Where the local education authority is the employer of all the other schools, I can see that continuing; it would not change as a result of federation. However, the single-faith school within that organisation would have different employers. Therefore, the sharing of staff, to which the noble Baroness has just referred, would have some legal and constitutional interests that have not been properly addressed.
Ultimately, what makes for good education is the quality of the teacher in the classroom teaching the children. That is what affects the teaching and the learning. They will not be affected by endless committees and collaborations, with people coming together on joint committees. Ultimately, what matters is that, if it does not add value to the quality of the teaching and learning in the classroom, then it will be to no avail.
In previous debates, I have referred to the fact that I have first-hand experience of federations. We federated quite a long time ago, particularly in rural areas where the schools were very small. We believed that the pain of closing schools could be alleviated by bringing them together in a federation, and, indeed, staff-sharing took place. But we were defeated by our own good idea. We were defeated because, in the end, the logistics of sharing staff and of either moving children to meet staff or staff to meet children became so debilitating and time-consuming and so interfered with the curriculum that the arrangement was counter-productive. In the end, sadly, that federal idea was changed.
Some of the noble Baroness's answers were very well intentioned. I understood, in particular, her response to some of the points raised by the right reverend Prelate concerning what would occur if this happened and what would occur if the other happened. The noble Baroness's constant response was, "We shall make sure in regulations that they will not be able to do this or that". Therefore, we are already creating a federation which will come together to act jointly in several respects. Then, suddenly, caveats are made stating that they are free to do this but that they cannot do that, and that they are free to do something else but they cannot do the other. I can see that a very complicated set of guidelines and guidance will be issued to schools and that regulations will come before Parliament so that the noble Baroness is able to put some flesh on the bones of the pledges made during the course of the response today.
Much of that said by the Minister is not in the Bill and is not even among the subjects that will be covered by regulations. We shall have nothing to fall back on other than the Pepper v. Hart system: "It was stated in Hansard". We will have to wait until some time in the future, to make sure that it happens. There is no legal requirement for some of the safeguards to be in the Bill. We have only the Minister's word for itwhich I do not doubt for a minute. However, the noble Baroness will move on, as will her colleague in another place, and upwards. Good people do not stay in office for ever. We must legislate in such a way that protection is provided for the children, staff and parentsnot for Ministers, councillors or third parties.
There is so much that schools can do now, collaboratively and collectively. The Minister says that the main aim is to enable schools to work strategically together. They can do that and engage in joint curriculum initiatives, and governing bodies can come together, now. No legislation is needed for that.
The Minister also says that there is no need for everything to be written on tablets of stone. My argument is that the federation proposed in the Bill is a tablet of stone. Once entered into, the only way to disengage will be by a legal process that a school may find quite daunting. There is a good possibility that tension will arise.
A great deal of funding does not come through core funding, which is much under threat, but from the departmentwith individual schools having to bid through their governing bodies. It is conceivable that a governing body would take the view that some funds need bidding for in respect of certain schools but not necessarily all. When the governing body has to determine priorities, it may be that some schools within the federation will be preferred and win while others will not be preferred and will lose. A school may feel aggrieved but there will be no one to represent it. The body that is taking decisions in the name of the school will be the federal governing body.
I am more in tune with the notion of a confederation, which offers all the benefits of a federation with flexibility. Where a school wants to use its own sovereign power, it could do that through its own governing body.
The Minister referred to dispute resolution procedures. Because the Bill is so binding, there must be such procedures. A school that feels aggrieved but does not wish to dislocate from the federation will nevertheless want the problem resolved.
I am grateful for the Minister's answer that the federation's governing body will subsume or assume the responsibilities of being the company's shareholder. Under company law, not DfES law, would that count as a takeover or as a salewith the single governing body of the one school selling it on to the federal governing body of a group of schools? There needs to be some procedure whereby a company can be owned by a completely new set of people. It is not only likely but highly probable that all the governors of a school that is a company or part of a company will not become governors of the federal body.
Where a company has been formed with two or three other schools, as the new arrangement kicks in there will be a federal arrangement comprising five schools plus the company. Will it be responsible only for that company as part of the company or will it become a much larger company of five plus three schools? Culpability, liability and all the other responsibilities of being a company come into play.
I like to think that there is support in all parts of the House for Amendment No. 46. The Minister says that the parents associated with each school will be represented on the new governing body. That safeguard is not in the Bill; it should be. I believe that teachers should be represented on the governing body. If teachers at four out of the five schools were represented, teachers at the fifth school would on some occasions feel disfranchised because the school's entire staff would not be represented on the governing body. It will be the governors who decide.
I am grateful to the Minister for saying that the principle in the proposed subsection (3)(a)(iii) would be met, so that a special needs or faith school would be represented. That too is not in the Bill. From what I have heard from the right reverend Prelate, from colleagues on the Liberal Democrat Benches and other noble Lords who have spoken at other stages of the Bill, I believe that to have these measures on the face of the Bill would be popular. By pressing Amendment No. 46, I am saying that the Government have agreed that parents and other specialist categories will be represented and I am adding to that the staff of each school. I seek to test the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
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