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On Amendment 35 tabled by my noble friend Lord Lucas, I shall reiterate my opening remark. We are not seeking to use the academies programme as a back-door way of deliberately increasing or changing the balance that we currently have in our education system. We do not think it appropriate to limit the number of faith admissions to 50 per cent when an academy is replacing an existing faith school; we think that the school should be able to carry across its current arrangements. That would not add or change the current situation. I hope that this provides some reassurance to noble Lords that we think it right that for the new academies-the new free schools-the requirement of limiting the number of faith admissions to 50 per cent should be in place. New academies would not be able to go beyond 50 per cent, as that would reduce choice. We think that it is important to have that balance and I am happy to make that clear tonight.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Minister is being very helpful, but can he clarify that? Whatever assurance is given, some schools will have pupils of one faith only. That is the reality of the schools to which the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, referred. What will happen in that situation? It is likely that you will end up with students from only one faith or culture going to the school.
Lord Hill of Oareford: These are difficult and complicated matters and I do not have a simple and straightforward answer for the noble Lord now. I have said that it is an important matter that we can debate further outside this House. Let us do that by all means.
As I was saying, we think it important to ensure that local children of all faiths or none-I take the point that has just been made-have access to new academies. We will ensure that there is the balance that I discussed between community and faith places. All academies will have to have admission arrangements.
Lord Adonis: The noble Lord has just made an incredibly important statement of policy in respect of new schools. After this debate, will he clarify whether the 50 per cent provision that he mentioned in respect of new academies covers existing independent schools that transfer into the state system by means of academy
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Lord Hill of Oareford: That is an extremely good question, which I will need to follow up separately with the noble Lord either orally or in writing, in which case I will circulate the letter. The principle of independent schools coming in is that academically they should be not selective but open in their admissions. I will need to follow up that precise point and come back to him.
We expect that in most cases the relevant religious body would be represented on the governing body of the school that converted. I am talking about existing religious schools converting. Therefore, those people would be informed of the Secretary of State's decision not to issue an order. The relevant religious foundation or trustees would obviously be closely involved in the process and could veto any academy application. In many cases, they would be the people signing the funding agreement as the academy trust. They would be closely involved in all stages of the application process and fully informed of all decisions.
Where there is currently an existing foundation or a trust associated with the predecessor school, we expect those bodies or their representatives, if they wish to, to become members of the new academy trust. That academy trust, once established, would appoint the majority of academy governors. That mirrors the current arrangements for both academy sponsor appointees and the appointment of governors to voluntary aided schools. As members of the trust and as signatories to the academy's memorandum of association, they would be fully involved in the process of a school becoming an academy. The governance arrangements will be agreed between the Secretary of State and the academy trust and set out in the articles of association. As I explained earlier, the articles cannot be changed unilaterally by either the Secretary of State or the academy trust.
The Bill does not change the required processes in respect of consultation, objection and adjudication on admission agreements for religiously designated academies. A school will continue to be required to consult its religious authority on any changes. Neither will it be affected by our policy on the provision of new non-faith places that a new academy is required to provide at least half of available places to the broader community. The Government's intention overall is to maintain the current relationship between religious bodies and their schools. My letter to the churches set out that commitment.
If the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln would like to discuss this further, I shall be happy to do so. More generally, as I have said on those other important points that have come up, I will do my best to provide further clarification. I hope that I have dealt with the broad issues of what has been a long and interesting debate and I ask the right reverend Prelate to withdraw his amendment.
The Lord Bishop of Lincoln: If I had known what I was embarking on one and a half hours ago, I might have thought twice. However, I am glad that I did not think twice, because we have had a stimulating debate. As the Minister said, we rather drifted away from the
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I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Baker, that we in the Church of England-and, we believe, the Catholic Church-have made a commitment to an extension of what our community expects when widening the business of educational reform. I reassure the Committee that that remains the case. On community cohesion, as has been mentioned, church schools received a good bill of health not long ago. We need to hang on to that fact.
I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has dealt with these matters, not least in his gracious summing up. I want to reassure noble Lords that I do not think that my amendments are asking for anything less than what is currently the case. They are certainly not asking for anything more. I sensed in the debate that there was a feeling that more was being asked for on behalf of church schools and other faith schools than is currently the case. That is not so.
I shall withdraw my amendment, but the debate has shown that there needs to be clarity to ensure that those of us who are uncertain of our position can be made more certain. Those who have fears about the place of religious affiliation in education might have those fears allayed if something more were included in the Bill. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Greaves: I shall also speak to Amendment 58. In doing so I am conscious that we are about two and three-quarter hours into day 2 and still on page 1 of the Bill. I shall try to be brief, which is always difficult for people like me. I am also conscious that we are moving from matters of deep philosophical and religious belief on to the meaning of words, where some of us are a bit more at home perhaps.
This amendment seeks to delete the description of an academy as "an independent school" in subsection 5(a). Subsection (4) refers to financial agreements and academy financial assistance requiring undertakings from the persons setting up an academy, or converting. Subsection 5(a) states:
My eyebrows raised a little when I saw "independent" because I think that it is the wrong word. My noble friend Lady Walmsley suggests that I said that "autonomous" was a better word. I am sure that she is right although I do not remember doing so. Independent schools are a well established and well understood part of the education system. Most people who go to those schools pay fees and they are within the independent sector.
I do not believe that academies will be independent schools because they are a sector of education on their own. They are different from local authority-maintained schools and from independent schools. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells suggested that schools becoming academies would enter the independent sector. I do not believe that that is true-academies will not be the same as independent schools as we know them, whether they are small and local or places like Eton and Harrow. It therefore seems to me that "independent" is the wrong word. I notice that the Labour Party has tabled a similar amendment which appears in a later group. It suggests that the term should be deleted and another put in its place.
The truth is that academies will be schools with considerably greater freedoms and abilities to run their own affairs-their own finances, staffing and curriculum-than existing maintained schools have. However, they will be directly funded by the state, so to that extent they will be state schools. He who pays the piper has the ability to choose the tune. The intention is that these academies will have a great deal of freedom to make decisions for themselves, but the state will always have the ability to step in if for whatever reason it decides to do so.
That relates to academies and to individual schools. Indeed, if there are to be a large number of academies, there will be occasions-perhaps quite a few-when the state in some way or another will have to step in to sort things out when they go wrong. There is absolutely no doubt about that because, however excellent and well run academies may be when they are set up, they will be run by human beings who make mistakes. Collectively, human beings sometimes make big mistakes. Academies will not be responsible directly to local authorities, but they will be responsible directly to the Secretary of State or through whatever mechanisms are set up to inspect, monitor and supervise them and to step in when things go wrong. To that extent, they will have a completely different regime from independent schools. I therefore think that "independent" is being inserted not as a name for the schools-it is not suggested that they are independent in the way that true independents schools are-but as a description. However, it is a wrong description and it ought not to appear.
Amendment 58 is a probing amendment about primary schools. It suggests that primary schools should not at this stage be included in the dash to academies. It seems to me that in many ways primary schools are different in kind from secondary schools. Usually, secondary schools are much bigger and much more capable of running their own affairs. They are usually under Local Management of Schools, which has in my view been a considerable success. They are already
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As we are talking about names, I quibble a little about "academy" as a name for primary and infant schools. The word is wrong. I believe that words matter and should be used sensibly and that another word should be used here. "Academy" suggests a level of academic involvement and attainment which, although appropriate for a secondary school, is not appropriate for much younger children.
There is also a problem in allowing primary schools in many areas to have academy freedoms from the local authority in a willy-nilly sort of way. Many primary schools, particularly in urban areas, are still in old buildings. There have been programmes of replacement and modernisation-many of them were in wonderful Victorian buildings, many of which are no longer appropriate for their modern use. If a local authority is to have a serious programme of replacing buildings and considering the provision of primary schools, allowing some of them to float off before the programme can be fully examined across an area, town or city seems to carry problems. Furthermore, because primary schools are small they are much more prone to the vagaries of falling and increasing rolls than are secondary schools. These problems have to be managed carefully. Although there are problems with academies being set up in areas where reorganisation in response to changes in rolls has taken place, or is likely to take place, the issue is likely to be much greater in relation to primary education.
It seems to me that there are many worries in relation to primary schools and the academies programme which ought to be looked at seriously. The greatest of all is that primary schools are small institutions, often ones that live in a world of their own. When the head teacher and the staff are successful and the governing body works well, it is wonderful; but if things go wrong, they often will go wrong in a very big way indeed. If the head teacher goes off the rails in some way or other, the governing body, having been hand-picked by him or her, may not be in a position to step in and do something drastic about the management of the school. It is a fact of life that nowadays people are arm-twisted and persuaded to serve as governors-it is the way that many governing bodies are put together. The school might go wrong educationally, financially or in terms of staff management. That happens.
Anyone who has followed schools in an area over a period will know of instances where a school has gone wrong. If it is a big secondary school, one can understand that the system of monitoring and supervision of
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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: In this group of 22 amendments, I shall speak to Amendments 22A and 23, with which my noble friend Lady Walmsley is associated. The first amendment would insert the little word "and" at the end of Clause 1(5)(b). The purpose of that is to make it plain that the undertakings which must be given for an academy agreement to be entered into are both of the matters referred to in subsection (5)-paragraphs (a) and (b). The word "and" would fulfil exactly the same purpose there as it does in subsection (3), where paragraphs (a) and (b) are linked. It is as simple as that.
That would mean that the undertakings require the undertaker to carry on the school, rather than to delegate the running of the school to someone else. It would be a bit of a hole in the carapace of the Bill to allow anyone to take over the carrying on-the running-of a school from the charity which had negotiated the academy arrangements with the Minister. I cannot believe that the intent is to permit that, because it would mean that there was no control by the Minister over the ultimate organisation running the school. One could envisage-because it does not seem to be prohibited by that wording-a profit-making entity running the school. That would run counter to the whole culture of the Bill, and state schools of whatever type. I would be grateful if my noble friend would respond sympathetically to those amendments.
Baroness Morgan of Huyton: I shall speak to Amendment 25 in this group, which probably should have been taken with an earlier amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas-I do not know why they have been separated. The aim of the amendment is simple, and I shall be brief: it is to get a little more push in making sure that we have a little more than warm words about outstanding schools that become academies, that we have a little more clarity and a little more than general good will about them giving genuine support to poor, disadvantaged and failing schools in the same area. I have heard what the Minister said and I generally share the approach that schools want to help each other, but if we think back to the reality of grant-maintained schools, that was not the case and they were separate from the local school community.
Noble Lords know that over the past 13 years, there has been a lot more co-operation and collaboration between schools. That has been for the general good and has led to improvements in all schools. Many head teachers of outstanding schools believe that their staff gain from helping disadvantaged schools. The learning is both ways: it is not all going in one direction, it genuinely moves both ways. However, that has happened with support. It has happened through things such as London Challenge and the Greater Manchester Challenge; it has happened through the national leaders' programme, which has done some of the brokerage to ensure that people are working together, and has put some oil in the system to make that happen. I am anxious to ensure that we do not lose that lesson-that it does not happen spontaneously-and that there is genuine partnership and proper movement of curriculum leaders and senior leaders between schools. Otherwise, with the best will in the world, it will not turn into reality on the ground.
Lord Adonis: I shall speak to my amendments, Amendments 45, 48 and 49, which are in this group, although they raise issues distinct from those raised under the other amendments. They go to a point of overall principle in terms of the scope of academies, but I wish to raise two specific practical consequences of that principle. The overall principle is the wording of Clause 1(6)(d), which states that academies must be schools which provide,
This is one of the few cases in which I think that the Bill may be genuinely over-regulating academies. I query whether that provision is necessary. As we said in the previous debate in respect of schools with a religious character, we do not anticipate that schools will change their character by taking on academy status, and of course schools are bound by the admissions code, unless there are specific reasons why not-and I shall come to one specific reason in a moment. Therefore, the huge generality of schools will provide for pupils who live wholly or mainly in the area which the school serves.
The reason why the formulation is here is that, unless you want to bring about a change of policy, statutes tend to replicate previous statutes. The phrase "wholly or mainly" goes back right to the beginning of academies. The Education Reform Act 1988 was the first legislation providing for city technology colleges, which were independent state schools-the name to which the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, takes such exception, but that is what they were called even then. Section 105(2)(b) stipulates that city technology colleges should be,
The purpose behind that is that the noble Lord, Lord Baker, wanted to establish independent state schools with a strong technological focus which served the broad area in which the school was located.
The noble Lord, Lord Bates, who is not in his place, said in our debates on Monday that the catchment areas of some of the original CTCs had contracted.
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However, I wish to raise two categories of school in this debate which are covered in my Amendments 48 and 49, which sit very uncomfortably with the notion of schools whose pupils must be admitted wholly or mainly from the area in which the school is located. The first is boarding schools, and the second is schools which provide for pupils with exceptional talent in music, dance and the arts.
Let me start with a statement of principle. It is very important for a genuinely comprehensive system of state education that it provides for pupils in those categories. Indeed, we should be expanding the provision of state boarding schools. I am glad that a number of academies are opening boarding houses. It is important that the state system provides for pupils who have a boarding need-those with family circumstances caused by family breakdown or by the nature of parental occupation, for example parents who are in the military-in a way that, let me be blunt, those who have the means can obtain by accessing private schools. It is also vital for a genuinely comprehensive system of education that it can provide for those with exceptional talents in the arts, music and dance. By the nature of those disciplines, that will require attendance, wholly or partly, at separate educational establishments.
The state recognises that at the moment. There are 35 state boarding schools which, for the most part, are excellent schools. Local authorities often pay for pupils to attend wholly private boarding schools. A local authority paid for me to attend a wholly private boarding school because I had a boarding need. I would like to see the number of such places expanded. Through the music and dance scheme funded by the Department for Education, the state also provides for 2,000 exceptionally talented children to attend private schools, including Chetham's School of Music in Manchester, Elmhurst School for Dance in Birmingham, the Purcell School in Bushey, the Royal Ballet School, Wells Cathedral School and the Yehudi Menuhin School, because they have exceptional talent in music, the arts or dance.
Where do boarding schools and schools for those with exceptional talent in these areas sit in relation to academy status? I shall ask two questions and make a suggestion. If the Minister cannot answer my first question tonight, I would be grateful if he will write to me.
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