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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, if the Government believe in imposition, duplication, incurring greater cost and unnecessary time and energy being used on the proposal, so be it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland moved Amendment No. 26:

After section 85A of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (c. 31) there is inserted—
(1) Regulations may authorise or require an admission forum established by a local education authority under section 85A to give advice to the governing body of any Academy in the authority's area on any matter corresponding to a matter prescribed under subsection (1)(b) of that section.
(2) The governing body of an Academy shall have regard, in conducting the Academy, to any relevant advice given to them by an admission forum by virtue of subsection (1).""

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, it has always been our intention that academies should be required to take part in statutory admission forums and to have regard to their advice by their funding agreements. As I described, we have already put in place robust arrangements to ensure that academies will be inclusive schools and that they will agree their admission arrangements in partnership with education authorities and other admission authorities.

On Report, some noble Lords favoured putting those arrangements on an even more formal basis. As I said, this would in any case be covered in schools' funding arrangements, but we agreed to make the provisions more transparent and to strengthen them by introducing the amendment. It will place a statutory duty on admission forums to promulgate their advice to academies as well as to maintained schools within their area. It will also place a statutory duty on the governing body of an academy to have regard to such advice, which will be in addition to its contractual duty to have such regard through its funding agreement. I hope that noble Lords accept the amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for tabling the amendment, which substantially meets our concerns about the role of academies in relation to admission forums. As she said, it makes it absolutely clear that academies will participate in admission forums and take their advice. We are delighted about that. Although we understand why, we are sorry that city technology colleges cannot also be included. We understand that they are totally independent schools, but we should have liked them to have been included. We understand that the Minister will encourage them where possible to participate in

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local admission forums as though they were members. We are delighted by the amendment and thank the Minister very much.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 70 [Proposals relating to sixth forms]:

Lord Davies of Oldham moved Amendment No. 27:

    Page 48, leave out lines 8 and 9 and insert—

"(b) with a view to promoting one or more of the relevant objectives, or
(c) if—
(i) they are made in addition to proposals relating to education or training other than in schools, and
(ii) the combined proposals are made with a view to promoting one or more of the relevant objectives."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 28 and 29. This group of amendments fulfils the commitment that we made during debate on Report on the Learning and Skills Council's powers in relation to school sixth forms. On Report, I explained how the powers in Clause 70 will help to support the Government's agenda for a flexible, coherent and diverse 14 to 19 phase of learning. In particular, it will ensure that a single body—the LSC in England or the National Council for Education and Training in Wales—can lead local discussion and consultation on developing local patterns of 16 to 19 provision to ensure that all young people have access to a wide range of high quality provision that meets their needs and aspirations.

On Report, I also acknowledged that the broad terms in which Clause 70 is drafted reflected too little of the Government's clear intention that the new LSC powers should be focused on improving achievement and opportunity for young people. The amendments address that concern.

Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 remove from the Bill the delegation to regulation of the circumstances under which the LSC and the NCETW can make sixth form proposals, other than in following up an area inspection. In its place, the amendments substitute a condition that proposals may be published only if, either on their own or when combined with other proposals relating to education or training, they are made with a view to promoting relevant objectives.

Amendment No. 29 specifies those objectives. They are: an improvement in achievement of 16 to 19 year-olds; an increase in 16 to 19 participation; and an expansion of the range of teaming opportunities open to 16 to 19 year-olds. Taken together, the amendments provide a description of the objectives that must underpin any proposals for local 16 to 19 provision that include reorganisation of school sixth forms in the absence of an area inspection. They meet the Government's intention of ensuring that the LSC may act to improve the quality of and access to 16 to 19 learning in an area.

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At the same time, they also reflect the concerns of, and give a clear reassurance to, those who have feared that the power might be used primarily to pursue other purposes, for instance relating to the relative costs of otherwise effective provision or the management of surplus. I beg to move.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendments Nos. 30, 31 and 32, which are amendments to Amendments Nos. 27, 28 and 29.

The purpose of the three amendments is self-explanatory. They are intended to ensure local accountability in relation to sixth forms. The government amendments do not go quite far enough in that sense, although we are extremely grateful to the Government for the degree to which they have listened to the points that we made in Committee and, in particular, on Report. We are grateful to them for tabling the amendments but should like to tease the matter a little further.

The amendments are intended to ensure that the planning of the Learning and Skills Council or the National Council for Education and Training in Wales is consistent with locally agreed plans—in particular the education development plan and the school organisation plan. The aim is to ensure that the Learning and Skills Council will not close a school sixth form solely because of its subjective views about the quality of post-16 provision. It is also important that the voice of the sixth form is heard in discussion about future provision.

The relevant objectives in the government amendment introduce an element of subjectivity. It is a matter of judgment whether provision is improved if it is provided in a school or in a further education college. The LSC proposals must take account of locally consulted plans—plans agreed by people who know the students and their needs. Local people will know what is suitable to the requirements of post-16 students and will have already debated and agreed plans through their education development plan and school organisation plan. It is important that there is not another level of planning that is not tied into the main local education plan. Obviously, one cannot expect the Learning and Skills Council's plans to be tied all that well into local plans. They exist at a higher regional or national level. There must be a link between two such important plans, stemming from the work of teachers and the LEA. We need a little more linkage between the work going on locally and the decisions made by the LSC.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am sorry that the original amendments have not satisfied the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford. I share her concern to ensure that local 16-to-19 planning is coherent and that the LSC works in partnership with LEAs, school organisation committees and other local bodies. To achieve that, it is vital that any LSC proposals for 16-to-19 provision work with the grain of existing provision and school planning, if that is the best way in which to deliver better opportunities and

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higher achievement. There is not a great deal between the Government and the noble Baroness on that issue. I can assure your Lordships that, in the guidance and regulations that will accompany the new LSC power, we will set out a framework to guarantee that those concerns are met. We will ensure that all local interests are fully consulted in the development of LSC proposals. The noble Baroness said that that should happen.

I differ from the noble Baroness, however, inasmuch as I think that her amendments would introduce a degree of rigidity into the situation. We recognise, of course, that there should be reference to the local situation and a relationship to the school organisation plan. However, the amendments are misguided in seeking to tie the purposes for which the LSC may make proposals so closely to the plans for school provision already put in place by the LEA or the school organisation committee. That goes well beyond the obligations placed on the proposers of other types of school reorganisation and on SOCs. Our guidance to school organisation committees specifically allows proposals to differ from the school organisation plan to reflect, for instance, unexpected circumstances. It seems a little odd that the obligations on the LSC should be more restrictive and more onerous.

The Government's amendments will ensure that any proposals from the LSC must improve achievement, opportunities or participation for young people. The amendments would qualify those objectives and stifle local innovation by requiring any LSC proposal that involved school sixth forms to conform to the existing plans, no matter what changes in circumstances or fresh thinking might have taken place locally since those plans were drawn up.

My case is straightforward. I understand, of course, the noble Baroness's emphasis on local consultation. We share a view of what the LSC is meant to achieve, but her amendments to my noble friend's amendments would restrict the LSC unnecessarily. I hope that, on the basis of those assurances, the noble Baroness will decide not to press her amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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