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Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that very detailed response. I am glad that, in principle, a lot of what has been said on the topic both in Grand Committee and today has been accepted by the Government. I wait with interest for the letter she says she will write to me, and I am glad that consultation is proceeding with Save the Children, which has of course been responsible for research upon which we have based the amendments. In the circumstances—I know that time is a problem at the moment—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 5 [Sixth forms requiring significant improvement]:

Lord Filkin moved Amendment No. 56:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Filkin moved Amendment No. 57:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 47 [Inspection of religious education: England]:

Lord Filkin moved Amendment No. 58:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this group of amendments is tabled in response to the representations made by the right reverend Prelate in Committee. I am pleased that we are now able to table government amendments to meet requirements set out by him and others and to provide for other faith groups. The amendments will enable the Secretary of State, for England, and the National Assembly, for Wales, to specify the appropriate body for each faith group that must be consulted by the foundation governors or the governing body when choosing the inspector for religious education. Officials are currently engaged with other faith bodies to determine the appropriate body, where applicable, for each group. I beg to move.

The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, we are grateful to the Minister for his response to the points made by my colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth, who, unfortunately, is unable to be in his place today. The amendments extend to the authorities responsible for all faith schools the powers
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that the right reverend Prelate's amendments would have given to Anglican and Roman Catholic schools. We welcome that.

The lawyers who advise us on educational matters have expressed concern about the force of the term "consult", as opposed to our earlier formulation, which would have required governing bodies to have regard to the advice that they receive. I understand that government lawyers have suggested that "consult" is stronger in force and therefore more appropriate. We have our doubts, and would welcome assurances that guidance and regulations will make it absolutely clear that diocesan authorities and other appropriate religious bodies will be able to have a strong influence over the appointment of inspectors and the raising of the quality of the inspection system, and thus of the education offered in Church and other faith schools. If the Minister can give assurances about regulations and guidance, we shall welcome the amendments unhesitatingly.

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I am happy to give that assurance. I am strongly advised that "consult" is legally stronger and that the measures that we have tabled will achieve what the right reverend Prelate seeks: that the relevant diocesan authority will have a good and proper influence on those issues. That is exactly what we want to achieve.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Filkin moved Amendment No. 59:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 48 [Procedure for inspections under section 47]:

[Amendments Nos. 60 to 61 not moved.]

Clause 49 [Inspection of religious education: Wales]:

Lord Filkin moved Amendments Nos. 62 and 63:

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 9 [Further amendments relating to school inspection]:

Lord Filkin moved Amendment No. 64:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, these are technical amendments consequential on an amendment by Order in Council of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Filkin moved Amendments Nos. 65 to 72:

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"1A In Schedule 4 to the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967, omit the entry beginning "Registered Inspectors of Schools Appeal Tribunals"."
Page 96, line 7, leave out "subsection (2)" and insert "subsection (1B)(a)"
Page 96, line 23, leave out "section 12(2)" and insert "section 12(1B)(a)"
Page 96, line 34, leave out "subsection (2)" and insert "subsection (1B)(a)"
Page 97, line 5, leave out "section 12(2)" and insert "section 12(1B)(a)"
Page 97, line 8, leave out "section 12(2)" and insert "section 12(1B)(a)"
Page 97, line 16, leave out "section 12(2)" and insert "section 12(1B)(a)"
Page 97, line 24, leave out "section 12(2)" and insert "section 12(1B)(a)".

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 73:

Sections 63 to 65 do not apply in England to proposals about three or more schools in the same local education authority area when published simultaneously by the local education authority and the governing bodies of aided and foundation schools or the promoters of new aided or foundation schools."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 77. We now move to Part 2 of the Bill and to some of the more contentious clauses that concern school organisation. The purpose of the amendment is to exclude new school proposals from the competitive requirements when they involve proposals for reorganisation resulting from falling rolls. The management of falling rolls was one of the major educational debates in the late 1970s and 1980s. There was then a 25 per cent fall in the number of secondary school pupils and the loss of almost 800 secondary schools out of a total of about 3,000 between 1984 and 1994.

Secondary school rolls have been rising steadily since 1990, but the DfES website states that the number of pupils in secondary schools peaked last year—in 2004—at 3.33 million and is expected to start falling again. The DfES website does not estimate the speed or depth of the decline, but the Scottish Parliament website states that the fall is likely to be about 15 per cent during the next 10 years. That is substantial and it is therefore clear that the country needs to plan for significant falls in secondary school rolls.

From the past, we know that there will be a different effect in different areas because of the variable rates of economic growth in different regions. The south-east is still expecting growth and there has been much debate in the south-east about the need for extra housing, and often extra schools. That is partly as a result of people moving to the south-east from other areas, rather than because of an increase in demand in the south-east itself. Therefore, there are knock-on effects and a further decline in other areas when people move from there to the south-east.
24 Feb 2005 : Column 1351

The purpose of the amendment is to exclude from the competition rules those LEAs that have to manage wholesale secondary school reorganisation. Typically, an LEA may have to reorganise between three and 10 secondary schools at any one time. It is interesting to contrast the approach taken in the 1970s and 1980s with today's approach. In the late 1970s, the Government funded a study on falling rolls in secondary schools, which was published in 1980 by the NFER. The principal author was a former chief education officer with long experience. An advisory board for the research was chaired by an HMI, with representation from the then Department of Education and Science.

The study considered how the school staff and LEA managed the change in 20 secondary schools in a dozen LEAs. It was clear that, for no difference in the quality of education, schools could lose significantly different numbers of pupils. Two of the schools' intakes halved in three years, and half of the schools lost a quarter of their intake. The effect on schools of such a sharp drop in roles can be devastating, and even more so today, when we have shifted to the "money following the pupil" funding policy.

The present Government's answer to the problem of falling rolls is to make secondary school reorganisation even more difficult by lengthening the process and introducing competition over who should run the schools emerging from secondary reorganisation. That is mainly because the Government have signally failed to understand the difference between the requirements of the Education Act 2002 involving additional schools where new schools are required to meet growing numbers, and the arrangements involving replacement schools proposed by the Government in this Bill. Additional schools do not involve a living school with staff and pupils; replacement schools do.

As soon as a school reorganisation is mooted and becomes inevitable, staff want to know whether they have jobs and parents want to know about the continuity of their children's education. They really do not want to be involved in a lengthy competition, the result of which will be unknown in terms of the religious character, or not, of the school and whether the staff and pupils will be able to continue with the existing provision. If they have any sense, teachers will leave, which will increase the anxiety of parents and students.

I regret to say that it appears at present that the Government are going to wash their hands completely of the consequences of the Bill. In a Written Answer on 4 February 2005 to my noble friend Lady Walmsley, who inquired about the effect of such delays, the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, stated:

In other words, the Government are pushing through the legislation to suit their ideological ends, and they expect local authorities to pick up the pieces. Where is the consideration of the effect of the new arrangements on increasing the time to complete secondary school reorganisation? Where is the consideration of the effect on children's learning or on staff cohesion? At the
24 Feb 2005 : Column 1352
moment the answer is, "Nowhere". A responsible government would at least have gone to the trouble of thinking through the issues and would have worked with the LEAs and teachers to map the effect of their policies. By restricting competitions to small-scale reorganisations, the amendment should limit the damage caused to schools.

I turn briefly to the second amendment in the group, Amendment No. 77. The amendment would require the Government to publish guidance for school organisation committees on matters to be taken into account in making decisions on competitions for new or replacement schools. I remind the House that Schedule 10, referred to in Clause 65, sets out details of how the competitions required under Clause 65 will be run. Schedule 10 paragraph 4 sets out the procedures to be followed by the school organisation committee when considering the proposals, and paragraph 4(6) says that, in taking decisions on the proposals, the school organisation committee must heed the advice from the Secretary of State.

We say that, as this is a new situation—school organisation committees have not had to consider issues of competition before—and in those circumstances the Secretary of State should set out his guidance. The Bill makes provision for the school organisation committee to have responsibility for decisions on proposals in competitions for a new or replacement school, instead of the old situation in which the Secretary of State made those decisions. That is new territory for the school organisation committees, which previously have considered school organisation plans, school closures and some new school proposals in relation to the local authority.

As the school organisation committees are untested in the expanded process of having to judge the competitions between the proposals, the amendment would ensure that they were sufficiently robust in the role, with guidance setting out the matters to be taken into account when making decisions. We are looking for robust guidance from the Secretary of State on how those decisions should be taken. I beg to move.

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