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The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 112 is a simple amendment. It seeks an assurance that a copy of the new school profile will be sent to all registered parents. As the Bill stands, it appears to be left to regulations to determine to whom the governing body shall provide a copy. That does not go far enough for our liking. We feel it is crucial that parents have the full facts available to them about how their child's school is currently doing. It is a simple amendment. I beg to move.
Lord Filkin: My Lords, we too want to make sure that all parents receive a copy of the school profile. The guidance accompanying the profile will make this clear to schools. The guidance will provide for all schools to give a hard copy of the profile to parents, except where parents have requested information electronically.
I should make clear that the regulation-making power in Clause 101(2) is intended as a reserve power, to be exercised only if the Secretary of State considers it necessary to prescribe by regulation. The reserve power is intended to ensure that there is a legislative safeguard for parents' rights to information; we use this power if evidence shows that schools are not providing the information in an appropriate manner and at an appropriate time. That is consistent with the discussion we have had on bureaucracy and minimalisation; in other words, it is there to be enforced, but we will make clear what we expect should happenand hope that we never need to use it. The central point is that every school will be expected
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to send every parent a profile physically, except when they want it electronically. I hope that that gives the noble Lord the confirmation that he wants.
Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. We would have preferred to see a provision in the Bill, but his assurances will be in Hansard that one can be made by regulation. We all agree that it is important that that happens. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 102 [Provision and funding of higher education in maintained schools]:
[Amendment No. 113 not moved.]
Baroness Andrews moved Amendment No. 114:
"ADMISSION ARRANGEMENTS TO MAKE SPECIAL PROVISION FOR LOOKED-AFTER CHILDREN
In section 89 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (c. 31) (procedure for determining admission arrangements) after subsection (1) insert
"(1A) Regulations may require the admission authorities for maintained schools to include in their admission arrangements such provision relating to the admission of children who are looked after by a local authority (within the meaning of section 22 of the Children Act 1989) as may be prescribed, which may in particular include provision for securing that, subject to sections 86(3) and (3A) and 87 (cases where duty to comply with parental preference does not apply), such children are to be offered admission in preference to other children.""
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment will allow for regulations to make it a requirement for admission authorities to set admission arrangements that give priority for a school place to children who are looked after by a local authority. In effect, such children will, in most cases, have preference for admission over other children. Outside the normal admissions round, when many schools would already have offered places up to their published admission number, we would expect local protocols on placement of hard-to-place children to ensure that looked-after children were placed quickly. Regulations will spell out that duty and specify how it will apply to each admission authority, including faith and grammar schools.
Noble Lords will be aware of the recommendation made by the Education and Skills Committee that priority to children in public care in the school admissions process should be given statutory support. The Government consider that to be in the best interest of such children. On the first day of Committee, we listened very carefully to the concerns of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, about children in local authority care. I am sorry that he is not in his place at the moment; he would take pleasure in what we are doing. I pay tribute to his work, in the course of many debates on many Bills, in keeping our eyes fixed on the problem of looked-after children. We agree that there are particular challenges for those children. They are disadvantaged in many ways and the Government consider that the amendment goes some way to addressing those disadvantages.
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Amendment No. 132 is consequential on Amendment No. 114 and makes it clear that the regulation-making power is exercisable in relation to Wales by the National Assembly. I am sure that noble Lords will give a warm welcome to the government amendments. I beg to move.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I want briefly to welcome the amendment. I know that the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, would do so as well, because I have discussed it with him. He was very pleased when he saw it tabled on the Marshalled List by the Government. Children who are looked after often move around and find themselves at a disadvantage when trying to get into the best schoolsas do children of service personnel, who have a similar problem. That matter may not be so well dealt with; perhaps we should come back to it at some other time. However, we warmly welcome this amendment.
Lord Dearing: My Lords, I know that the noble Earl would wish to be here, but I believe that he is at this moment campaigning elsewhere for looked-after children. I am sure that he will return to the issue. Meanwhile, I give grateful thanks.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I merely add to everyone's praise for the amendment. I am absolutely certain that the noble Earl would be beaming with delight about it. It is a step in a direction for which he has been campaigning. I would love to think that it might be followed a little later by there being a special duty on a particular school governor to keep a friendly and beneficial eye on such children. In the mean time, everyone is very grateful.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 104 [Supply of information: education maintenance allowances]:
Baroness Walmsley moved Amendment No. 115:
Page 55, line 3, leave out "providing" and insert "who by virtue of any contractual obligation or by or under any enactment provides"
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 115, I shall speak to all the amendments grouped with it up to Amendment No. 121, which are all very similar. I have given the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, advance notice of why we tabled them, and I shall cut directly to that to give the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, the opportunity to give me the reassurance for which I am looking.
There is a great deal of sensitive information that might fall within Clauses 104 and 106 and the concern was that from the way the clauses are worded the obligation might fall on teachers. The relationship between teachers and parents can be a very delicate one. One would never want teachers to be accused of "telling tales" because that might upset that relationship, which is so important to the educational attainment of the children.
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I am therefore looking for reassurance that teachers are not the people envisaged as being obliged to give this information to agencies who, we all accept, have every right to the information. I hope that the Minister can reassure me. I beg to move.
Baroness Andrews: Yes, my Lords, I can give the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, the assurance. I can assure her that the intention of the term "providing services" in Clauses 104 and 106 is to cover those persons who are providing particular services to this department, the Inland Revenue, or the Department for Work and Pensions by a legally binding contract; for example, IT contractors, or those who provide those services under appropriate legislation.
The term "providing services" has been used by draftsmen to achieve this effect and reflects other legislation in the same respect. For example, both the Finance Act 1989 and the Social Security Administration Act 1992 use the phrase "providing services" and it makes sense for this legislation to be consistent with that. I hope that will help and clarify.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 116 and 117 not moved.]
Clause 106 [Supply of information: free school lunches etc.]:
[Amendments Nos. 118 to 121 not moved.]
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