Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

So I can understand why the GTC became a sitting target in the quango cull, but I am puzzled by the quiescence and apparent complicity on all sides. Are teachers not proud of their status-conferring council? Some say that the annual fee made it unpopular. However, it is only £36. Junior doctors on comparable pay have to stump up £200. Can noble Lords imagine doctors sitting quietly on their hands if what we had before us was a health Bill proposing to abolish the GMC and transfer all its powers and duties to Mr Andrew Lansley? How does abolishing the GTC square with repeated mantras about trusting teachers and giving them more autonomy-a word used by the noble Lord, Lord Hill, several times this afternoon? Not least, I am puzzled why, with the GTC mentioned in the 1997 Labour manifesto and duly delivered a year later, so many MPs are ready to discard it, as shown by the six-hour Commons debate in February, when the GTC was barely mentioned, let alone defended.

Even if this House were content to see the GTC's powers and duties vested in the hands of the able but already pretty busy Michael Gove, we would need to scrutinise very carefully what these powers and duties are. Clause 8, in particular, requires detailed elucidation. It gives the Secretary of State power to deal with a teacher's improper conduct. I wonder whether that applies also to a teacher's incompetence. It surely cannot be the case that, after getting a thumbs up on completing an initial three-term induction period, a teacher is deemed to be fit for the job throughout the next 60 terms.

I wish to make one final brief point. Mr Gove posed a rhetorical question on 8 February:

"Do we want to keep ... the General Teaching Council",

and other education bodies,

Will the Minister say whether this last phrase implies that the Government might consider retaining the GTC in a substantially changed form-for example, with more employer representation?

5.30 pm

Baroness Ritchie of Brompton: My Lords, I must declare an interest, first as chairman of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board and, since the Children Act 2004, as lead member for family and children's services in Kensington and Chelsea. I have seen first hand how local government can make a positive difference to the lives of people locally. As advocates of diversity in school provision and champions of parental choice, councils and councillors really are at the heart of their neighbourhoods. Councils do not run schools, but they make sure that there are enough places for children who need them and that the admission process operates fairly so that every child gets the chance to go to a good local school. Perhaps more importantly, we oversee the distribution of funding in a cost-effective way. Councils also provide the crucial support for children with special educational needs and are the guardians of children in our care.

As the Secretary of State told the Local Government Association conference last year,

14 Jun 2011 : Column 699

and the role of councils in the education system should continue to be one in which we are able to ensure that the local school system is flexible and adaptable to local needs. I agree with the Government's concern that there is too much bureaucracy within the education system. I have met councillors who have been told, "You don't have the power to do that", or, "You can't stray outside the Whitehall guidelines". This has the perverse effect of stifling innovative thinking from councillors and officers.

We know that this also occurs in schools. Too many forms, too much red tape and too many rules have sometimes stopped the system from focusing on educating children. The LGA is supportive of moves in the Bill to give teachers greater freedoms and flexibilities. I welcome Part 7, which abolishes the Young People's Learning Agency-a move that will eliminate an agency which currently acts as an unnecessary middle man in the funding process. This provision will, no doubt, come as a relief to many within the 16 to 19 education and training sector who have felt that yet another burdensome central government agency may have added to the bureaucracy of an already complex funding system.

Councils also support the introduction of a national funding formula for fair and transparent funding for schools pre-16 and the reform of post-16 funding to produce a fairer funding system between different types of providers. The LGA is arguing strongly to retain local flexibility so that councils and schools can work together to adapt to local circumstances-for instance, the needs in rural areas or split-site arrangements. One potential model may be to reconsider the need to introduce an education funding agency to replace the abolished YPLA, as proposed in last year's White Paper on schools. The current approach to funding pre-16 education through the DSG should be maintained and could easily be extended to cover 16 to 19 funding. This would be cost-effective and would eliminate the associated costs and bureaucracy of a national agency, but such a move would have the benefit of the DSG already in effect being a national formula which distributes money on a formula basis.

I also welcome the focus on the apprenticeships offer, particularly for children in care, but I ask the Government to look at other vulnerable groups of young people such as young carers, who often find it hard to access training and employment. Local government has welcomed such moves elsewhere to hand responsibility from central government agencies to local councils as part of the Government's localism drive. It is natural then for councils to have some worries about some of the proposals in the Bill which appear to centralise matters where councils currently have discretion to make choices and react to local circumstances. For example, in Part 5, Clause 43 allows the Secretary of State to direct a council to issue a performance standards and safety warning notice to a school. Research commissioned by the LGA shows that councils, head teachers and school improvement partners prefer a collaborative partnership approach to school improvement. The study found no evidence that the increased use of warning notices would greatly assist processes of school improvement. There was some concern that such notices could be counterproductive where a school is in a gradual or fragile process of

14 Jun 2011 : Column 700

improvement. Equally, I recognise that where these partnerships are not working, then more control may be needed. While the intention may be that this new ability for central government to overrule a local decision is used only sparingly, I urge the Government, in the spirit of localism, to consider carefully the introduction of this power.

Similarly, Schedule 11 introduces new rules requiring councils that are looking to establish a new school to first seek to establish an academy, and introduces a requirement for a council to seek the Secretary of State's approval before proceeding with exploring alternative proposals should an academy not be considered appropriate for the needs of local children and parents. Councils' primary concern when encouraging new provision in their areas should be the needs of parents and children. That will include balancing diversity of provision to expand choice. It is imperative that this new process does not reduce the ability of local parents, education providers and councils to respond quickly and effectively to new demand and that local choice and diversity of provision is maintained. Unfortunately, there is a risk that a potentially burdensome process requiring approval and scrutiny by the DfE could restrict the ability of local communities to decide what type of school is established in their area. Councils support the many excellent academies that already exist in their areas and there is nothing wrong with a presumption that in the future, when a new school is to be established, the option of an academy is actively explored. However, I again urge the Government to apply the spirit of localism to the Bill and consider removing the requirement for councils to go cap in hand to the department for permission to explore alternative models of schools.

The final area I wish to touch on very briefly is the role of local authority school governors, to which my noble friend has already referred. I am pleased that the Minister of State for Schools made it clear that the Government did not intend to diminish the contribution made by local authority governors, and will ensure that governing bodies that reconstitute will be required to have one local authority-appointed governor. I look forward to supporting the Government in amending the Bill in this regard as we move through further scrutiny.

5.38 pm

Lord Touhig: My Lords, children with a special educational need often fail to receive the support they require in school. Sometimes it is because their disability is not identified and at other times the school is simply not aware of how best to support children with special educational needs. Currently there are 88,000 school-aged children with autism in England and the vast majority of them are educated in mainstream schools. Yet parents still have to contend with a system that cannot or, sadly, more often, will not meet the needs of their child. It is not, therefore, surprising that there is a close link between disability and permanent exclusion from school.

The evidence is especially stark for children with autism. The National Autistic Society's report Make school make sense found that 27 per cent of children with autism have been excluded from school compared with 4 per cent of other children. Of those excluded,

14 Jun 2011 : Column 701

more than a third-34 per cent-had missed a term or more of school. One in 10 children with autism missed more than a whole school year in the past two years, and a great number have been excluded many times. We have to ask the question: why is this happening in our schools today? For a child with autism, a lack of social awareness, an inability to express themselves verbally, form friendships, or being socially naïve, which are all key features of autism, can lead to isolation in the classroom, poor behaviour in the playground, and often, because a child with autism can be easily led, getting into great problems and trouble.

A school's response can be variable. The very best schools take appropriate action to support the children, whether that is in the classroom, the playground or the dining hall. A poor school will simply escalate a child through the disciplinary route without considering why they are misbehaving or whether there is a need for alternative interventions.

Earlier this year, the Education Select Committee in the other place published a report on behaviour and exclusions. It recommended a trigger that would be set off by permanent exclusion, which would lead schools to look for the unmet needs of the child. This kind of intervention is crucial for a child with special educational needs. If the child has an undiagnosed SEN, this will be picked up at school. If it has already been identified, the school will have to look again at the support provided.

The Bill contains many provisions that impact on children with autism, not least around the issue of exclusions. It is clear that children with complex and lifelong disabilities such as autism will need a complete package of multidisciplinary support to meet their needs. The recognition of such complex needs in the SEN Green Paper was welcome. However, I remain concerned about one aspect of the Bill: the removal of the duty to co-operate. This point was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and also by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, who is no longer in her place.

In 2010, the duty in the Children's Act to co-operate was extended to include schools and to ensure that local agencies worked together. The Green Paper makes a sound case for the introduction of a single assessment of needs, and an education, health and care plan to replace the statement will be central to the Government's reform of the SEN system. I welcome these proposals. However, it is not clear how, in the absence of pooled budgets between health, education and social care, and of a legal entitlement to any part of the education, health or care plan, save for the element replacing the statement that retains statutory weight, the system will work without the duty to co-operate that the Bill will now remove. Perhaps the Minister will argue that local agencies will work together. While that will be the fervent wish of all of us, I am sure that in our experience over the years we have all seen situations where local agencies have failed to co-operate, to the huge disadvantage of a child or other individual.

It is also not unreasonable to assume that in the current financial landscape, education, the health service and local authorities will look to preserve their budgets and perhaps therefore will not be so willing to work together as closely as we would hope. The Minister for

14 Jun 2011 : Column 702

Children has stated that she believes that personal budgets will play a significant role in developing services and fostering multiagency working. This may be true in some respects. However, the paucity of specialist support services for children with autism is so severe that I doubt that we will ever be able to meet the needs of 88,000 school-age children effectively. That is why the duty to co-operate is so important.

I pose a simple question to the Minister. What evidence do the Government have that the duty to co-operate, which has been in existence for such a short time, does not work effectively? It has not been given enough time for us to assess its effectiveness. The duty to co-operate makes sense. I urge the Minister and the Government to show sense and to leave this in the legislation.

5.43 pm

Lord Edmiston: My Lords, I entered your Lordships' House with some trepidation, knowing that it was full of experts on every subject. For someone who had spent their entire career outside politics, it was a daunting prospect. I thank noble Lords for allaying my fears and for making me so welcome. I thank in particular those who introduced me to this House: the noble Lords, Lord Marland and Lord Howard of Lympne. I also thank the staff who have made it very easy for me to adjust. They have helped to resolve my IT issues, facilitated my introduction and directed me around a maze of corridors.

I am the sponsor of three city academies in the Midlands, with around 3,000 pupils. The schools are each called Grace Academy, and all of them have passed the benchmark of the national challenge since they were opened. They include one that passed the benchmark within nine months of our taking it over, despite the fact that it was in special measures prior to that. Some may point to new buildings and facilities as a reason for their success, but these improvements were made before the school had a new building-in fact it is still waiting to go into its new building. I have found that when you have the right people and they are empowered and motivated, you get the right result. I have a great and dedicated team who have made this happen, and I am extremely grateful to them.

The academies are based on a Christian ethos and have a business and enterprise specialism. It is ironic that I should be an academy sponsor as I played truant from school for six months and was held down for a year. Therefore, I have some understanding of the mind of youngsters who are mischievous and disengaged from education. I left school with a few O-levels and had to study until I was 27 at night school and day release to qualify as an accountant, which made me realise the value of education and wish I had been a little more diligent at school.

The business and enterprise specialism stems from my own experience as a businessman over the past 35 years. I believe that young people need to be prepared for the workplace. I started my first business at the age of 11 when I cut flowers from the roundabouts in Kenya, where I lived for five years, and sold them door to door in aid of the non-existent Kenya Hospital Bedding Fund. This business had the benefit of a

14 Jun 2011 : Column 703

100 per cent gross margin, but came to a sudden and painful end when I knocked on the door of a doctor who knew that no such fund existed. This reinforces the need to train our young people in ethical business practices.

I learnt also from this that closing a business is a very hard and unpleasant affair, and is to be avoided if at all possible. The foundation of my existing business came from the bankruptcy of the Jensen Motors Ltd and my £6,000 redundancy pay. This happened during the oil crisis of 1974. Those were very difficult days, in some ways not dissimilar to those of recent years. It is said that it is not the length of experience that counts but the intensity, and for me that was a huge learning experience. Jensen had a great product but at the wrong time. Building cars with seven-litre engines during an oil crisis was not sustainable. I learnt that timing, strategy and the right product were fundamental to success, and I was able to put that experience to good use in my subsequent business career. Today my businesses include being the sole importer of various Japanese brands-and later this year, some Chinese brands-to the UK and certain northern European countries. I acquired a publicly quoted property company in 1993 that has interests in the UK, USA and mainland Europe. I also have a small finance company.

There is no substitute for the school of life and working alongside very bright people who know their subject. I have been privileged to do that in my business career, and I know that I will similarly learn much in this House, and perhaps have a little to contribute. The reason my academies are based on a Christian ethos is because I believe in Christian values and that young people need a sound moral compass in their lives. I should add they are not faith schools, although I myself have a Christian faith; they are open to pupils of all faiths or none.

I do not restrict our aspirations for these young people to merely academic achievement. Our mission statement is:

"Developing well educated, considerate and caring citizens, with a strong sense of values, who will succeed in and contribute to modern society".

We have five core values: grace, respect, integrity, potential and excellence. I take a personal pride in their achievements, as if they were my own children. They are, in the main, wonderful young people and I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity of being a small part of their lives.

Through donations from my business, I have been able to support a charity that my wife and I founded in 1988. We consider ourselves blessed to be in a position to help some of those less fortunate than ourselves. The charity is involved in a number of schools and Christian projects overseas and we still spend a great deal of time visiting these projects as often as we can. Also, each year we send groups of young people from the academies overseas to visit some of these projects, primarily in Africa-probably to repay my previous transgressions. It has had a transformational effect on the lives of these young people, who think they are deprived until they see others who are in much worse condition. They then start to appreciate the opportunities they have.

14 Jun 2011 : Column 704

While I am in your Lordships' House, I will wish to speak from time to time on business-related issues, but my real passion is based around charitable activities. I thank your Lordships again for the welcome you have extended to me and hope, in time, to get to know some of your Lordships better.

5.50 pm

Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, it is a genuine pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Edmiston and to congratulate him most warmly on his excellent maiden speech. Not only was it sympathetic, inspiring and humorous, but my noble friend's passion for education and for helping others shone through his words. My noble friend is an extraordinary entrepreneur and a hugely successful businessman, having built up major motoring and property companies from the £6,000 redundancy payout he received from Jensen Motors. It is what he has done with his wealth that is truly amazing.

One of the meanings of "philanthropist" is "a good-hearted person" and my noble friend has a very good heart. His charitable works are extensive and range from helping children in Africa and sending full-time youth workers into some of the most deprived areas of the UK to, as we have heard, the opening of his three Grace academies, which are built on the Christian ethos. It is this country's good fortune that the well-being, nurturing and educating of children and young people is at the heart of my noble friend's philanthropy. He has demonstrated today that he is down to earth and not in the least pretentious and that despite his great and deserved success he understands what drives ordinary people. He will be a great asset to your Lordships' House, and we look forward to many more speeches from him on these topics, which are of such profound importance.

It is with some satisfaction that I support this Bill today. When I had the privilege of sitting on the opposition Front Bench as a shadow Minister for Education, I spoke frequently on the issues covered by this legislation. Indeed, speaking was all I could do, as anyone in opposition knows only too well. However, much cross-party consensus was achieved, and however many times our scrutiny helped improve a Bill, there was never any getting away from the fact that, as Tony Blair once put it, we could only say, we could not do. So it is a real pleasure to rise in support of a Bill that seeks to put the fine words of opposition into action in government. As I do so, I declare my interests as a governor of Bolton school, a trustee of the Transformation Trust, which supports extracurricular activities in schools, and as chancellor of the University of Bolton.

This Bill deals with a wide range of vital issues-discipline in the classroom, investment in early years education and cutting back the forest of bureaucracy that has grown up in the sector-but at its heart is a commitment to the scale of reform necessary to improve standards and give our young people the best possible start in life that we can provide for them. That objective is by no means limited to this side of the House, and the desire to raise attainment is strong on all sides. It is simply a question of the means towards that end, but it should be clear by now that a new approach is needed. As my noble friends the Minister and Lady Perry of

14 Jun 2011 : Column 705

Southwark reminded us, in the last years of the previous Government, stark evidence emerged that our children were falling behind their peers in other countries. The international PISA study, which compares the achievement of pupils around the world, showed a profoundly worrying trend. By 2007, we had moved from fourth to 14th in world rankings for science, seventh to 17th in literacy and eighth to 24th in mathematics. By last year, we had slipped still further to 16th in science, 25th in literacy and 28th in mathematics-I see a shaking of heads, but that is how I read the statistics. Those are frightening statistics not just for the students but for the country. For our future competitiveness as a nation, we have to do better.

It is not just the global comparison that matters. Increasingly, it is the comparison and, more importantly, the gap in attainment between pupils here at home that should concern us. Our schools should be engines of social mobility, but despite all the worthy intentions of the previous Government that mobility has stalled and may even have gone into reverse. We cannot allow that to remain unchallenged. Every life unfulfilled is a waste of potential and a personal tragedy. Spreading opportunity and raising aspirations for all are essential matters of social justice.

Education, as the Prime Minister has said many times, should be the ladder up which all can climb, and I am pleased to see this Bill strengthening the bottom rung, with the proposed entitlement to free early years provision for disadvantaged two year-olds. I think that is a move that will be widely welcomed. Can the Minister reassure me that this initiative comes after wide consultation with early years providers? I ask this because when the previous Government introduced free nursery provision and then, at a later date, increased the hours, the effect was to drive many excellent providers in the private, independent and voluntary sectors out of business and to cause others to drop, very reluctantly, their provision to those on free places. I had much correspondence and many meetings with the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, who was then the Children's Minister, and I know that that was never her or the Government's intention, but it was, unfortunately, one of the consequences. I hope my noble friend agrees that it is vital that we retain mixed provision and real choice for parents in the nursery and childcare sector.

The measures to extend teachers' powers to deal with violence and intimidation are also important and go a long way towards rebalancing a relationship that had tilted too far in favour of disruptive pupils. In that regard, the replacement of exclusion appeals panels is an even more significant reform that will have a profound impact by putting head teachers back in charge of their schools, as they should be. It has been a Conservative pledge for many years, and I am delighted that its day has come. It is also right that there should be better mechanisms for overseeing standards, more effective inspections and fewer quangos diverting money away from the classroom.

All those things alone are worthwhile and will make a big difference, but the backbone of the Bill is the vital opening up of choice and innovation in schools. With the Secretary of State and his team

14 Jun 2011 : Column 706

having accelerated the academies programme, we are already seeing the seeds of a revolution in the provision of new high-quality schools. Some critics suggested that there would be no demand for free schools, but with several hundred applications having been made already, that is clearly not the case. Parents across the country have embraced the idea that a lack of good school places is not something they have to put up with; it is something that they can change.

This is an exciting agenda, and it is not without its supporters on the Benches opposite, as we know. Tony Blair, whose modest attempts at introducing choice through the academies programme were heavily obstructed by opponents in his party, once famously said that every time he introduced a public service reform he wished in retrospect that he had gone further. I think the Bill before us today does indeed go further; it goes further towards creating more good schools for children from our poorest estates, further towards helping them up that ladder of opportunity and further towards helping them realise the better life that too many of them are denied today. That is why this Bill is so important, and why it has my enthusiastic support.

5.59 pm

Lord Morris of Handsworth: My Lords, I, too, wish to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Edmiston, on his maiden speech. He brings much experience to this House, and we look forward to hearing much more from him.

While I have some concerns about various aspects of the Bill, there are some worthwhile proposals within it. For instance, I welcome the restrictions on the reporting of allegations made against teachers until they are charged with a criminal offence. Other aspects of this Bill cause me deep concern. Under the Education Act 1973, all young people up to the age of 19-whether they are in school, college or employment-have a right to receive impartial careers advice and guidance from appropriately qualified practitioners provided by local authorities. Under this Bill, it is the Government's intention to create an all-age national careers service for people over the age of 18. However, it is not possible to judge whether it will be appropriate to the needs of today until we have further information about what form the proposed service will take.

All research shows that adults and young people place a high value on the face-to-face careers guidance interview. Will the new service provide only for a call centre helpline and a website, as many people fear, or will those seeking advice receive proper support for a face-to-face interview with a trained careers adviser giving impartial advice on the basis now provided by the Connexions service, which will be closed next March? Sadly, the national all-age careers service will not be available to young people under the age of 18, and we must ask why.

As I understand it, schools will be encouraged to provide careers guidance, but the Bill leaves to the discretion of the school the quantity and quality of what is to be provided. Many of us fear that most schools with a sixth form will simply channel young people into courses, irrespective of whether they are appropriate to their needs, their ability or to their

14 Jun 2011 : Column 707

career aims. That is no way to achieve social mobility. The only way to ensure that young people are able to raise and to attain their aspirations is through a first-rate education alongside access to independent and impartial careers advice and guidance that supports them to make the best decisions and helps them to apply for appropriate post-16 learning opportunities.

My second point of concern is in regard to the proposals that deny basic rights and justice in the context of the proposed exclusion process. I recognise that schools must have the means and the support to exercise discipline, but I am disappointed that some schools deal with their problems in a disproportionate manner by excluding pupils, sometimes permanently. Such exclusion can affect the life chances of pupils for the rest of their lives. Many will have special educational needs, and for some those needs are not being met.

Today, I have grave concerns that under this Bill there will be no fair or just remedy for excluded pupils. The current independent panels will be replaced by a review panel with no power to order reinstatement. At best, the review panel can ask governing bodies only to reconsider their decision. I fully accept that governing bodies and heads need to be supported, but they cannot be put above the law and above the rights of the child. With experience to guide me, I cannot accept that the child is always wrong and the governing body is always right, which is the conclusion of the proposals in this Bill.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights-I declare an interest as a member-has considered the many options for the appeals process. The committee is not persuaded that the evidence provided by the Government shows the necessity for abolishing independent appeals panels. The committee is against the Government on the lack of access to some form of tribunal to consider the merits of permanent exclusion. It has concluded that the Government's proposal is contrary to Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Unsurprisingly, the committee is not alone in its conclusion on this issue; the governing body should be subject to some test and the Government have got it wrong. The Joint Committee is supported in its conclusion by the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council, which recommended that all exclusions should be referred to a first-tier independent tribunal with powers to provide effective remedies. I strongly urge the Government to heed that advice.

6.05 pm

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I join in the congratulations which have already been expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Edmiston, on his powerful and impressive maiden speech. I should also like to congratulate him on the wonderful example that he sets as a successful entrepreneur to others to engage in charitable works, something which I think is less common here than it is in the United States. I share an interest with the noble Lord in wanting to improve the lot of children in Africa, a subject which I look forward to discussing with him in detail, and to hearing him on on many future occasions.

I declare two interests: as chair of the Department for Education's Gypsy, Roma and Traveller stakeholder group and as president of the Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and Other Travellers. I am

14 Jun 2011 : Column 708

concerned by what this Bill does and what it does not do for Travellers, who are the most deprived educationally of all communities in England, as the DfE statistics demonstrate. Nine per cent of GRT children achieve good GCSE grades compared with 50 per cent for white British. Less than half of GRT children remain in school beyond primary education. Absence rates are 20 per cent compared with 5 per cent for white British. One in four boys is excluded for fixed periods. These figures help to explain why two out of three Irish Travellers in prison, where they are the second largest ethnic minority, cannot read or write, as a report by the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain demonstrates. The education system has simply let them down.

In spite of these facts, the White Paper's emphasis on local authorities' role as champions of vulnerable pupils is not reflected in the Bill. This is critical for children in families that have become disengaged from the education system through exclusion, racist bullying, high mobility or inability to navigate the admissions process; but there is no definition of vulnerable children in the Bill or, indeed, in the White Paper. It is said to include the disabled, those with special educational needs, looked-after children and those outside mainstream education-categories which include many, although not all, GRT children. Is there to be a new clause defining vulnerable pupils and the relevant duties of local authorities towards them, as the Minister, Nick Gibb, implied at the meeting last Wednesday with colleagues?

I was unable to attend that meeting because I was asking a Question about the eviction of 50 Traveller families from the Dale Farm site at Basildon in Essex. The 100 children in those families will be dispersed all over Essex and beyond on to unauthorised sites where there is no access to water or electricity. The first priority of their parents will not be to find the children places in the local schools but how to avoid further eviction from their emergency stopping place. The children will drop out of mainstream education, becoming the responsibility of a champion local authority that has just kicked them off the site where they had been living peacefully for years. Should not the duty to vulnerable children take priority over the enforcement of planning laws?

The noble Lord, Lord Morris, mentioned the reductions of the right of appeal against exclusion, which has been criticised by the JCHR as contrary to Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, mentioned that exclusions apply primarily, but not entirely, to SEN children. It applies also to GRT pupils, who have the highest rates of exclusion of any ethnic group. But the Improving Outcomes research conducted for the DfE last year found that in the respondent schools, the great majority had no exclusions at all. Those and other results of the survey were in marked contrast to the national data, and the authors suggested that the respondent head teachers were those most likely to have an inclusive ethos. Without further research, cutting appeal rights could make a bad situation even worse. Will my noble friend undertake that regulations will not be made under Clause 4 until there has been further research to identify the reasons for the low

14 Jun 2011 : Column 709

rates of exclusion in the respondent schools and to let other head teachers know how those results were achieved?

Vocational education is valued highly by GRT parents and its availability has encouraged many young people from these communities to remain in education beyond school. But many local authorities had abolished the Connexions service and privatised careers advice, and that process continues to the point of extinction. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Morris, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that young people need personalised face-to-face advice, and with the reference by my noble friend Lady Sharp to the collapse of all the help given to young people in career planning.

The offer of an apprenticeship to any suitably qualified young person who applied for one has been replaced, as remarked, by what Ministers claim is a more robust deal-a duty placed on the chief executive of Skills Funding to,

That means that applicants have to thread their own way through the choices available, get through the process of applying, and then go through the hoops of being funded, without the help and encouragement that would formerly have been available from Connexions and the Traveller Education Service. The Government say that they will ensure that vulnerable and disadvantaged young people have equal access to the redefined offer, but that again is not in the Bill but in regulations. Will my noble friend at least say in general terms how this is to be realised?

Clause 28 repeals the entitlement of key stage 4 pupils to follow a course of study in an area specified by the Secretary of State, which would have led to the proposed 14 to 19 diplomas. These pupils are now merely to be entitled to study the subjects listed in an obscure reference but not in the Explanatory Memorandum. It would be useful if my noble friend would publish consolidated versions of the earlier legislation referred to in the Bill so that we could understand what it means.

All these changes, exacerbated by the withdrawal of the EMA, are likely to undermine the commitment to proper vocational education by the Secretary of State that must have found a response in the homes of many GRT families.

Finally, as my noble friend Lady Sharp said, Part 5 abolishes various duties that schools currently have to co-operate with local authorities. The aim is to reduce the bureaucratic burden on schools, but there could be a loss of joined-up working that would affect vulnerable children. How can these provisions square with the Every Child Matters approach and with local authority oversight of school improvement?

My fear is that over this and the whole range of issues dealt with in the Bill, and in the face also of cuts having to be made in the voluntary sector, the axe will fall most heavily on the most vulnerable children, particularly those who are mobile and disengaged from the education system. Good intentions have done little for GRT children in the 50 years that I have been concerned with these problems, and the coalition, like all its predecessors, has yet to match its deeds to its words.

14 Jun 2011 : Column 710

6.14 pm

Lord Collins of Highbury: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Edmiston, on his excellent maiden speech. As a newcomer myself, I know how stressful that can be.

I and many of my noble friends have concerns about provisions contained within the Bill and the impact that they may have on the future life chances of children in this country. However, I begin by commending the Government for their stated focus on ensuring discipline in our schools. Ministers have made it clear that they see provisions in the Bill as vital to tackling school bullying. It is right to recognise that the attainment levels of pupils can never be detached from providing all students with a safe and secure space in which to learn. Consequently, I warmly welcome the commitment represented in the Schools White Paper to address the serious issue of homophobic bullying in schools.

It is clear that this type of bullying affects young people regardless of sexual orientation in all schools, including faith schools, academies and free schools. Stonewall recently published disturbing polling evidence revealing that nine in 10 secondary school teachers say that pupils, regardless of their sexual orientation, currently experience physical homophobic bullying, name-calling or harassment in their schools. One in four teachers says that this happens often or very often. The White Paper stated that tackling bullying is an essential part of raising attainment. However, while debating provisions within the Bill giving teachers the power to tackle bullying when it happens, we should not forget that schools must be in no doubt that they have a fundamental responsibility to prevent such bullying from happening in the first place. They actually need to be environments in which young people feel comfortable in reporting homophobic bullying.

I will also address proposed changes to the inspection framework to schools. The Bill intends to focus inspections to schools on four core areas: achievement, teaching, leadership and management. The White Paper stated that Ofsted should be tasked to,

In order to inspect schools in this respect, it is essential that all Ofsted inspectors in future have an understanding of all types of bullying within schools and what schools can do to prevent and tackle it. That will assist them in asking schools the appropriate questions about homophobic bullying and in identifying the processes that need to be put in place to measure, prevent and respond to it. I hope that the Minister will be able to give an assurance that this important function will not be diluted in any way by the changes to the inspection framework the Government are proposing.

Furthermore, the Bill sets out how certain categories of school-those rated outstanding, for example-may be exempt from routine inspection. It is not clear how these schools will remain accountable for their academic performance and for their efforts to tackle and prevent all forms of bullying once they are exempt from the scrutiny.

I also comment briefly on provisions within the Bill for the abolition of the General Teaching Council for England and the Training and Development Agency

14 Jun 2011 : Column 711

for Schools. Raising standards within our schools and tackling bullying is clearly reliant on ensuring that Britain's schools have the highest standards of teachers in the world. However, the Stonewall research that I cited also showed that nine in 10 teachers and non-teaching staff in schools report having never received training on how to prevent and respond to homophobic bullying. I have real concerns that the Government have not adequately outlined how they intend to train teachers to the highest standards and with the required skills to tackle all forms of bullying, which underpins the very aims of this legislation.

Finally, I express my concern that the provisions in the Bill should apply to all educational establishments across the country. I hope that the Minister will make it crystal clear that no school, whether academy or state, faith or free, will be exempt from the responsibilities outlined in the Bill.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, I apologise for intervening but, with no reflection on the noble Lord who has just spoken, we are drifting quite a bit beyond the original recommended time of six minutes and shall rise late. It is simply for your Lordships to decide whether to curtail the six minutes or rise rather later than 10 o'clock.

6.20 pm

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, like other noble Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Edmiston, on his maiden speech.

Tucked away at the back of the Bill are two clauses that deal with higher education-namely, the regulations that deal with interest on student loans and the fee regime for part-time students. Given that we are shortly due a White Paper on higher education, this seems rather odd. Clause 72 amends the powers given to the Secretary of State in the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 to make regulations setting interest rates. At present, the 1998 Act provides for interest rates to be no higher than needed to maintain the value of the loan in real terms. The Bill repeals that provision and the new regulations will permit interest rates to rise to several percentage points above base. This will surely act as a major disincentive to students from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter higher education. It may also impact on diversity and equality issues.

It is clear that the Government have got the fee levels likely to be charged in higher education courses plain wrong. They had assumed an average fee of perhaps £7,500 but some 80 per cent of institutions that have already announced their fee levels have plumped for £9,000 per annum. The combination of the higher than predicted fees and the introduction of a penal rate of interest will cause a massive problem to our public finances as well as being a disincentive to students.

The cost to public funds is the face value of the loans in any one year less the present value of future repayments. I know that that is a bit technical and I might have to repeat it if noble Lords did not get it. It basically means that if fees are higher, the loans will be higher. If the interest rates are 3 per cent or more above base, the likelihood that graduates will repay the debt in full is reduced. The present value of future payments goes down. According to figures from the

14 Jun 2011 : Column 712

Houses of Commons Library, if the assumed fee loan averages £8,500, there will be an additional cost to public finances of about £870 million per annum. To keep public spending constant, you would have to apply a real interest rate of 4.1 per cent. If the loan is £9,000, as it is turning out to be, real interest rates would need to rise to 5.2 per cent.

Your Lordships will recall that the recent Browne report recommended a real interest rate of 2.2 per cent-a lot less than is now being contemplated by the Government-for those earning above the threshold and a safeguard to ensure that those making relatively small repayments did not see the balance of their loan increase. It is striking that no such protection is offered in the Bill. Allowing tuition fees to rise to £9,000 a year at the same time as cutting teaching budgets is bad enough but designing a system of loans and repayments that increases the cost to the Treasury while justifying it as an austerity measure is a scheme surely worthy of an episode of "Yes, Minister".

Unfortunately, it gets worse. According to a report in the Guardian this week, almost a quarter of a million fewer overseas student visas are to be issued in the next five years as the result of changes to the student visa system. The Home Office estimates that this will cut overseas student numbers by 25 per cent, putting a clear message out to the world that foreign students are not welcome here and putting at jeopardy a quarter of the estimated £40 billion of student fee income which currently flows into our universities.

Clause 73 introduces capping of part-time fees payable by higher education students. I have two points on this. Traditionally, fees from the part-time sector were always set rather late in the year. This will have to change. Part-time students often already work and many have family commitments, so they surely need to know what the fee arrangements are going to be at an early point in order to decide whether they can afford to go ahead with their studies. Also, the prospect of loans being available in this sector-which we welcome-means that the Student Loans Company will need the new regulations to be provided early enough for it to process applications alongside full-time loans. With loans comes the problem of repayment. Many part-time students may face the prospect of repaying their loans before they finish their courses. At present, they have to start repaying after three years if their income is above the required level. This seems very unfair as no full-time student needs to start repaying until their course has finished.

Many of the points on higher education that I have made today will need to be discussed again when we see the imminent White Paper. These clauses are but one aspect of future policy. We seem to get this in chunks. We now know, because of statements made during the discussions on the Bill in another place, that the White Paper will,

What does that mean? It is a trailer. It is interesting because it raises issues such as the length of courses, contact time, remit of institutions and the possibility of private providers entering into higher education. I

14 Jun 2011 : Column 713

hope that the Government will make available a serious amount of time to discuss the White Paper when it comes along. We certainly need it.

6.25 pm

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: My Lords, I thank the Minister for a characteristically humane and civilised introduction to the debate today. That is always appreciated. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Edmiston, on his maiden speech. It prompted me to recall my own days playing truant from schools. Mine were nothing as prodigious and ambitious as his six months, just the odd day to see the Australian cricket team play at Mannofield cricket ground, Aberdeen.

I have another relevant moment of nostalgia. Some 49 years ago, at more or less exactly this moment, I would have been on the top of a number 17 bus in Aberdeen, returning home from what was a very hard day's work as a supply teacher of mathematics. The school in question was what we then called a junior secondary-there was nothing as ambitious as comprehensives in those days. It had certain characteristics such as a high turnover of teachers. I was the fifth supply teacher that term. There were difficulties in classroom behaviour and doubtless that was the reason for the one-and-a-half-day tenure of my predecessor before he went back to driving buses. There was some violence, orchestrated as well as random. On the last day of school the previous year, at least 100 pupils who were leaving school paraded out in front of it, took out stones and broke at least 100 windows. This was a school with some real interest.

There were of course low aspirations on the part of many parents. There were low expectations on the part of many teachers. When I arrived to take up my post, I was given one instruction: to keep them quiet for the rest of term. That was a good six weeks away. There was low academic attainment. One pupil in the whole school took an exam at the equivalent of GCSE level-one pupil. Some of this has been dealt with since and there are ways in which things have improved. There was a need to revisit the curriculum. The same textbook that I used for these pupils was one from which I had to study at school in a class that produced two teachers of mathematics who became professors and two atomic physicists. It was a crazy piece of curriculum design. I have two footnotes to that. First, I survived all six weeks, three days, five hours, and 18 minutes. Secondly, by coincidence, the school was in the home city of our Secretary of State-Aberdeen. I have reason to believe he did not attend it.

So what is new five decades later? Are we any better? We are in a number of respects but there are the same residual problems. There are the expectations and aspirations, that dual downward weight on school attainment. There are still problems of attainment, most disgracefully in the basic skills of literacy and numeracy. There are difficulties in providing properly for special education needs, as we have already heard about so eloquently in the debate. The curriculum is once again to be revised-I think reasonably so.

Will the Bill help in dealing with these residual problems? Yes, in certain important respects but-this is the most important thing-as we have been reminded

14 Jun 2011 : Column 714

by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, the changes are essentially structural. We have had structural changes decade after decade. They have brought some improvements-I am not a total cynic-but unless there are some measures against which we can check on progress, we will not know whether these structures have made much difference. I challenge the Government, although I doubt they will respond positively, to tell us now what the signs will be in three, five or 10 years' time that these structural changes have borne fruit and dealt with some of the endemic problems that we still find in education.

None the less, all that seems rather negative. I agree with and support the extension of academy status. It is the right direction to go. There were many siren calls against it when the previous Bill was debated, but good progress has been made. I warmly support the idea of pupil premiums as a first step in a positive direction. In relation to teachers, I support the right to anonymity in the context of accusation of improper behaviour. I support the classification of context for search powers-and I know that many teachers will support the clarification of where their responsibilities and powers lie. I would wish for further progress in teacher education, but I support in principle the provisions on exclusions. However, I would like to know more about what plan B is for those pupils who are not allowed to return to the school from which they have been removed-perhaps justifiably.

I warmly support the clarifications given about the structures of Ofqual. But one final point to which I give notice that I shall return in Committee is to give further examination to the provision for schools with a religious character. This relates to previous legislation that we had here about five years ago. In particular, there is the role of Ofsted in reporting on these schools, especially on the quality of staff-not least those admitted according to criteria that are not the same for reserved members of staff as those that apply to non-reserved members of staff. There is a real issue there in ensuring that quality is maintained across all categories of staff. I see Ofsted as the way to give us the relevant reassurances.

I look forward with great interest to forthcoming reports on SATs-and I see my noble friend Lord Bew sitting in front of me-and the curriculum. They will bear significantly on the intentions of the Bill, and I wish good luck to those writing the report.

6.32 pm

Lord Lingfield: My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Edmiston, on his excellent maiden speech today. If I may, I shall touch on points made by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Handsworth, about the rights to education of those children who have been excluded from school. The vast majority of children and schools for the vast majority of the time actually behave rather well. But, of course, we have excluded every year some 5 per cent, usually for abusive behaviour or violence. It is well to remind ourselves that every year a considerable number of teachers are hospitalised after attacks by pupils. Last year it was 44.

The Minister told us that 360,000 young people last year were excluded from school. The majority of them are boys of 13 or 14 years old. But we have to

14 Jun 2011 : Column 715

remember that 97 per cent of those exclusions are in fact for only one week or less. For permanent exclusions, the figures are very different, with some 6,500 young people permanently excluded last year; 650 of them appealed and of those who appealed 150 won their appeals, but only 70 or so were returned to their schools. As the Minister says, that is a tiny number-and presumably it was against the wishes of the schools concerned.

If this is a very small percentage, nevertheless those pupils cause mayhem out of all proportion to their tiny numbers. The teachers' unions and associations tell us that not only do these young people endanger their own rights to education but, of course, they very seriously destabilise the right to education of all those children with whom they share their classrooms. Additionally, of course, they cause stress to teachers and lead to teacher absenteeism and, eventually, resignation.

If we are talking about very small numbers, we are actually sending out a very big message to teachers and others who work in schools that they will be backed if they are dealing with violent and difficult behaviour in the classroom. This particular reform-that is, replacing tribunals with those panels that may ask a school, once again, to reconsider its decision, but not insist on it-agrees with the general thrust of our education reforms, which are to return decisions on education, on who is finally on the register of the school, how a school funds itself, what it does in shaping the curriculum and what its priorities should be, not to Mr Michael Gove, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, implies, but to the professionals on the spot. In other words, it gives them once again the authority to match their countless responsibilities. I believe that many parts of this Bill will help those people enormously. The new aspects dealing with discipline, detention, search and anonymity give a sound message to teachers out there.

Nevertheless, the noble Lord Touhig, and others are right in that the rights of that tiny number of children who are finally excluded from school must be respected. It is very important that we have a plan B, as the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, said. If we have that plan B, all the advice that I have from human rights lawyers is that the difficulties that the noble Lord, Lord Morris, identified will be avoided. The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, reminded us that the vast majority who are excluded almost by definition have special needs. Indeed, you are eight times more likely to be excluded if you have special needs. It is hugely important therefore that we have alternative provision for them.

In this country, we have some very fine pupil referral units, but we also have some extraordinarily mediocre ones. Some pupil referral units are run by well experienced and trained teachers, while others are seriously not. The other problem is that in initial teacher training courses special needs are usually given one afternoon in the year. As for professional development courses, they sadly hardly exist. We have to improve in that regard. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will reassure us that he will encourage the growth of more good PRUs and that training for teachers, both initial teacher training and in-service training, for special education needs, will improve.

I shall return to these points in Committee.

14 Jun 2011 : Column 716

6.39 pm

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port: My Lords, what a pleasure to hear the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Edmiston, to this House. I look forward to many more such contributions. I am probably the only person in this Chamber who had a 100 per cent attendance record at school from the age of three and a half to 18 and a half-so that puts us on different sides of the House for a start. In 1974, when my wife and I came back from a period of service overseas and wanted to cash in our savings, which had been invested for us during our absence, what I hoped would be £6,000 because of the stock market at that time turned out to be about £1,000, which bought a three-piece suite, two beds and a roll of linoleum. Even if our business careers also started off on different trajectories, it is so nice to welcome the noble Lord to the House and to speak after him in this way.

The Minister, in the short time that he has been at his post, has won the affection and respect of noble Lords on all sides of the House. He is a good listener, which makes it all the more difficult to direct the kind of fire and brimstone that this legislation evokes against his person. He is an honourable man but behind him lurks a lean and hungry man who thinks too much. Such men are dangerous. We are on the verge of implementing measures that will change the educational landscape of our country for generations, and in a radical way. It is deeply ironic that this debate has been interrupted by the Statement on the NHS. Would that we could take two months out for consultation on these educational measures too. I am reasonably certain that, after appropriate consideration, we might well come back with as big a U-turn on this front as we have witnessed on the other. While we are not going to have that, it is a fond hope.

The money to pay for the various provisions described in this Bill, as I understand it, has been snatched from a number of pockets and there are serious consequences to expect from all of them. First, there was the abandonment of the Building Schools for the Future programme which, I remind your Lordships, was intended to renew or rebuild every secondary school in the land. I remember the long period of Conservative government in the 1980s and 1990s when a previous round of budget cuts and financial stringencies-all at a time when the North Sea was bringing us huge revenues that were largely squandered-led to the near-dereliction of school properties as well as a dereliction of duty on the part of many people in power. Now the BSF programme, intended to reverse these depredations, has been brought to an abrupt end and the money wrung from the wreckage has been poured into the measures before us.

Secondly, local authorities are being asset-stripped to finance the freedoms of the new academies. I fear that we will one day rue this emasculation of local and accountable government and I was delighted to hear a real exhortation of the role of local authorities in our contemporary world from the Benches over there by the noble Baroness, who is no longer in her place. I have witnessed too much inefficient and inappropriate activity on the part of local authorities during my years in public life for me to become a bland advocate

14 Jun 2011 : Column 717

for them. They need constant revitalisation to respond to local needs in effective ways but emptying their coffers is not a way to achieve it. Babies, or at least our schoolchildren, are as likely to be thrown out with the bathwater as anything else. For school governors, charged with ever-mounting responsibilities, the loss of this source of knowledge, wisdom and experience will weigh heavily on us. I am delighted to hear that we may have a government amendment that will perhaps correct some of my thinking on this area, but I became aware of it only at the beginning of this debate.

Thirdly, the drive to train teachers on the job is replete with danger. We already have a mixed economy in the area of training-why change it? There is plenty of research to show that teachers who are given a formation which combines theoretical and practical elements turn out to be the most rounded and suitable for the classroom. After all, a PGCE itself involves 18 weeks' classroom experience. If the measures before us are implemented it will be to the detriment of universities and other institutions which have accumulated long experience in this area, constantly shaping the curriculum to the changing needs of our society and forging links with thousands of schools where they send their students and evaluate their work. Mention was made by the right reverend Prelate of the University of Roehampton, which I had a big part in helping to shape in its early years. I can bear witness to that story too. Money taken from this sector will of course be channelled towards those schools identified as training schools.

For the past 30 years, I have been a governor of schools of all kinds. Governors have not been mentioned enough in this debate so far but they are Britain's "unsung heroes", says the White Paper. So they are; but there is a real cause of concern. As schools take charge of their own activities and head teachers become chief executive officers-buying in services currently provided through local authorities, shaping the learning experience of their pupils and selling their product in the marketplace-so we governors will have to be a check and a balance on the way a quite considerable financial responsibility is exercised. We are all volunteers who have to go to courses and night school to refresh our ability to keep up to date with things. These are multi-million pound businesses but all of us come from various walks of life. In schools in poorer areas, such as the ones I help to look after, we are going to find it more and more difficult to gather the competences and skills necessary for managing these complex and increasingly autonomous enterprises. There are going to be casualties in this area.

As I prepared these remarks, I resolved that even if I were drawn 51st out of 51 speakers and even if the points that I wanted to make had already been made 51 times, I was going to repeat them anyway. This Bill marks a turning point in our national system of education and will have consequences that we will have to live with for a long time. I hope there will be scope in the remaining stages of the passage of this Bill to improve it and that the Government, like their Minister, will have a listening ear and a competence for change.

14 Jun 2011 : Column 718

6.47 pm

Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, I am afraid that I missed the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Edmiston, which was obviously a big loss for me. On the other hand, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, albeit with a form of fire and brimstone which is likely to be rather more anaemic.

While the previous Government tended to measure the success of their education policy by reference to inputs, the present Government prefer to focus attention on outcomes. Thus they make great play of the fact that the UK is declining by reference to international comparisons of performance, but the Government's use of the OECD's so-called PISA rankings has been criticised. The number of countries included in that survey doubled between 2000 and 2009, with an obvious impact on rankings. You can get the UK up as high as 8th or as low as 36th if you try, depending on how you manipulate the statistics. While the emphasis on outcomes and international comparisons in relation to schools' participation in surveys and Ofqual's objectives is welcome, we will need to watch the Government's presentation of them like a hawk if we are to have a true accounting of the success of their education policies.

This Bill does not contain any big idea but rather seeks to put the coalition's stamp on our education system. That can perhaps be seen most prominently in the extension of the academies and free schools programme and the provisions on discipline and professional autonomy, with their emphasis on decentralisation and cutting bureaucracy. However, the latter possibly sit rather uncomfortably alongside the abolition of five arm's-length bodies, with over 50 new powers being acquired by the Secretary of State, so we are told, including that to determine the curriculum by order-French Minister of Education-style.

Great concern has been expressed, by a wide range of organisations representing children's interests, on the proposed extension of powers to search children in schools without their consent that are contained in Clauses 2 and 3-at their breadth, at the relaxation of safeguards and at their possible conflict with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Human Rights Act. That is despite the lack of evidence to show that the measures are necessary and proportionate and in the absence of any review of the use of existing powers, which were extended only as recently as 2009. I hope that we will hear more from the Minister on this point when he responds to the debate and as we go through the Bill in Committee. On the other hand, the decision to maintain the previous Government's policy of seeking to combat the inequality of opportunity, which we know takes root almost from birth, by extending free early-years provision to children from disadvantaged backgrounds aged two is welcome.

In the remainder of my time, I want to flag up a few concerns which have been expressed about the potentially adverse impact of some of the Bill's provisions on provision for children with special educational needs. We will want to explore these more fully in Committee, but I know that the Minister will be concerned to take these issues on board from the positive way in which

14 Jun 2011 : Column 719

he responded to the concerns of those representing the interests of children with special educational needs when we discussed the Academies Bill in this House last year.

Perhaps most surprising are the provisions in Clauses 30 and 31, which remove the duty on schools to co-operate with children's trust arrangements, the requirement on local authorities to promote schools' involvement in local co-ordination of services, and the requirement for schools forums and the governing bodies of maintained schools to have regard to the children and young people's plan prepared by their local children's trust board.

The duty to co-operate has its origin in the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbié carried out by my noble friend Lord Laming when he was chief inspector of social services. It found that there had been a complete breakdown in multi-agency child protection arrangements and that vulnerable children needed local services to work together to meet their needs and to communicate and co-operate in doing so. He had wanted to be here tonight to express his misgivings about the proposal to remove these duties, but unfortunately he is not able to be present. However, he asked me to place his reservations on the record and he will no doubt wish to expand on them when we get to Committee.

A key priority for the Government's SEN and disability Green Paper is the improvement of partnership working. It proposes the development of a single assessment process and an integrated education, health and care plan. This is clearly right, but the removal of the co-operation and allied duties by Clauses 30 and 31 would seem to run completely counter to this whole policy thrust. The organisation Sense, which speaks on behalf of deafblind people, argues that the duty provides an important framework for agencies to work together in the interests of vulnerable children, particularly children with conditions that require the involvement of health, social care and specialist education services. It is particularly concerned that the removal of the duty on schools will undermine efforts proposed elsewhere, in the Health and Social Care Bill-I think that we still have a Health and Social Care Bill-to bring agencies together in an integrated planning process.

The Secretary of State, when he addressed Cross-Bench Peers last week, deployed a subtle and sinuous argument to justify removal of the duty; namely, that agencies could co-operate if they wished but that being prescriptive would not make them if they did not want to. However, I am inclined to think-and this is the lesson of the inquiry of the noble Lord, Lord Laming-that partnership in the interests of the single assessment and integrated planning will require the duty to co-operate if it is to be optimally effective.

There are also concerns that changes in the procedure for excluding pupils will impact disproportionately on children with special educational needs and disability. The Government have expressed their intention of addressing this in guidance, but I am inclined to think that some modification of the Bill would inspire greater confidence in parents, as would provisions to guarantee the independence of SEN experts appointed to advise review panels.

14 Jun 2011 : Column 720

Finally, there are concerns about the ability of parents and carers to hold schools to account if local authorities no longer have to establish admissions forums; about removal of the power of the Local Government Ombudsman to hear complaints, only just introduced, leaving parents to the much less robust remedy of complaining to the Secretary of State; and about changes to the provision of careers guidance. So there will be plenty for us to get our teeth into in Committee.

6.54 pm

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I support the Bill thoroughly. I am delighted that we are showing the wisdom to trust teachers, and to believe that they have wisdom and have things to teach us as legislators and not just their pupils. So I suspect that I shall not give my noble friend too much trouble in Committee, though I did find myself listening perhaps rather too closely for his taste to my noble friends Lady Walmsley and Lord Lingfield. Are we really saying that removing people's right to appeal is based on 6,000 cases a year, of which 600 are appealed and 60 are granted? Are we saying that this system is so perfect that a 1 per cent error rate is unlikely and that it is unlikely that 60 pupils deserve readmission to their school? I hope we will hear some serious evidence on that from the Front Bench if we are to proceed with the relevant clause.

Otherwise, this Bill having been likened to a Christmas tree, I intend to try to hang a few baubles on it. The Localism Bill is going through this House at the same time as this Bill; I certainly want some more localism when it comes to the selection of governors. I want us to revisit the question of how teachers who are not up to teaching get moved-we will clearly revisit that when it comes to bad nurses and bad doctors. I am not saying that I have any conclusions, but I certainly want us to discuss it.

We should look at cyberschools. Thirty-eight states in America now have state cyberschools where pupils can study all or some of the time somewhere other than the school. We should make sure that the legislation allows us to consider such developments.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, in her saying that Ofsted did not inspect good schools. An Ofsted report is an essential part of a parent knowing what a school is like. You cannot judge a school on what it says about itself and on a few independent statistics. How will all that bit of what a school does that is not measured by statistics be reported to parents? How will we know whether a once-good school is starting to go off the boil? It happens all the time. Little schools can go off the boil in a matter of a term. I can think of schools that I once thought were great that took only a year or two to die. That is an area where I might give my noble friend some serious trouble in Committee.

Turning to the less serious side of things, I shall try to persuade the Minister that we should exempt schools from the requirements on music licensing and trust them to put on live music without having to refer to local authorities. I shall try to persuade him that we should encourage Ofqual to assign point scores to qualifications commonly used by UK schools, particularly independent schools, so that they can be properly

14 Jun 2011 : Column 721

included in the performance tables without any assumption that the qualifications then go on to be available to state schools. I shall try to persuade him that we should disclose to pupils and more generally actual marks in public examinations. My noble friend was complaining about grade boundaries. These are totally artificial creations. In Switzerland, there are no grade boundaries; people get marks out of 100, or whatever it is there. One thing just grades seamlessly into another. Forty-nine is not different from 50 because there is a grade boundary in between; it is just a point's difference. That would have great advantages in what the Minister is trying to achieve.

We will revisit admissions to faith schools. I was much inspired by what my noble friend Lord Edmiston said in his superb maiden speech on what he has done with his academies. The point of having faith schools in the state system is to let people go to them; it is so that our parents and people like me-I am not a believer myself-can say, "I want a Christian education, or indeed a Muslim education, for my child because I like what is going on in a certain school". It is not to create little ghettos for people who happen to share the same faith. If they want to do that, they can be independent schools.

I want to make it easier for schools to allow their teachers to hug children, to put plasters on them, to teach them in physical ways when that is required, such as in learning the violin or how to use a saw properly on a piece of wood, and to make sure that those cases do not end up in teachers being suspended while they are investigated.

Much to the pleasure of very few people, I turn to private universities. My right honourable friend David Willetts got into considerable trouble over them. I think I am less vulnerable than him to the tabloids and to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, so we shall visit that subject. We are getting private universities. It is clear that Anthony Grayling will not be the first since others are seeking to do the same thing, albeit in different ways. Why are we going to such lengths to ensure that we disadvantage our own people while we advantage pupils from overseas?

Last of all, perhaps I should confess that a hashtag-#educationbill-is available on this debate, and there certainly will be for Committee. Noble Lords who are equipped with iPads or similar will find, I hope, that people outside this Chamber are interested in and willing to comment on our deliberations.

7 pm

Baroness Howells of St Davids: My Lords, in recognition of the number of speakers, I think it would be helpful if I just list the concerns of the black community about the Education Bill and home in on my particular concerns. There is a lack of explicit reference to race inequality issues in the Bill and in the White Papers published so far by the coalition Government since May 2010, and well as a lack of reference in speeches made by Ministers. The emphasis is on sanctions rather than prevention, including the withdrawal of guidance for countering racist bullying in schools. This withdrawal of detailed guidance, combined with an emphasis on reducing prejudice-related bullying

14 Jun 2011 : Column 722

through sanctions and exclusions rather than through prevention and education will have a negative impact on equality issues in teachers' education and development.

On academy status, granting academy status primarily to schools that happen to have low numbers of students from minority ethnic backgrounds troubles us.

On the powers to search pupils, judging from experience over many years in the criminal justice system, those powers are likely to have an adverse impact on young black people and on relationships between students and teachers. Let us remember that those students are British subjects, although they may come from different roots.

On curriculum changes and equality, we regret the non-publication of an equality impact assessment of the proposal to introduce the English baccalaureate and the lack of information about how the curriculum content will provide for diverse communities and prepare pupils to live in a diverse society. The equality assessments of the Education Bill and The Importance of Teaching White Paper are inadequate. There is a lack of clear proposals for monitoring the outcomes of new procedures, combined with the possibility that the drive to reduce bureaucratic burdens on schools may result in vital and valuable sources of information for monitoring, evaluation and planning being lost.

I intend to raise these issues individually as we go through the Bill, but the most important point on this list for me is the new exclusion procedure, which has already been identified by two or three noble Lords. It is likely to have a disproportionately negative impact on black pupils; we know that. The aspiration of Caribbean immigrants to Britain in the late 1950s was to get what they saw as a good education for their children, an education that would open their minds as well as their hearts. It was expected that the children would learn how to think and fully to feel, as described by Dr Anthony Seldon in his lecture to Sir John Cass's Foundation in 2010. That was the intention of those immigrants when they submitted their children to the schools system. Alas, it soon became evident that schools were not equipped or, worse, were unwilling to meet those children's needs.

Schools became extremely good at excluding black pupils or sending them to ESN schools. Bright children went to those schools from the age of five. Sometimes they were put into the ESN category because they had a brother or even a cousin in the school, so it would make it easier for the parents if both were there. It was not based on the child's ability to acquire knowledge. Expulsions were used and the reasons given could not be justified. The exclusion of black boys became headline news in this country. This Bill seems to negate all the work that has been done to change that.

It was up to the black community to examine what was actually happening in schools. It was found that the destruction of self-image was perhaps an unintended consequence that made young men feel frustrated and, worse still, dislike themselves. I am sure that we can all point fingers at what we are reaping from that generation of young people. Research pointed to the fact that institutional racism in society was the main cause, a conclusion strongly denied by professionals. However, perseverance by the black community led to a deeper

14 Jun 2011 : Column 723

understanding that the reasons given for exclusions and suspensions revealed the possibility that decisions to suspend children were based on factors other than behaviour. Due process has generally been denied to suspended pupils. They are not allowed to present their side of the story. They are not allowed to face their accusers or to bring witnesses of their own to corroborate their testimony. They are never able to question the person bringing the charges.

The Bill will take away the right of any child even to have so much as an inch of power in the classroom just to say, "This did not happen in a vacuum". I am sure the House will agree that this is a perversion of the right to due process. Patience and guidance through racism awareness training has made some difference, but we all recognise that there is still a long way to go. By removing the right to appeal, this clause in the Bill has the potential to reverse all the gains made. The Government's Bill appears to be more concerned about the risk of undermining the authority of head teachers than that of pupils. That cannot be right. Can the Minister say what real power the review panel will have if undermining the head teacher is foremost? Can he also tell me how the points I listed at the beginning of my remarks will be dealt with in the schools curriculum?

I hate to suggest that with possible malice aforethought this Bill is aimed at further disenfranchising the black community, although many of my peers feel strongly that that is what is about to happen. I should like some assurance from the Minister that ways will be found to show the community that it is wrong. Many of my generation have been engaged in the battle to bring about changes in the system and to see their children get equity. The Bill has many good points, but it also has the capacity to make black people lose out. I well remember the "rivers of blood" speech. Each time the education system is tweaked or tinkered with, a greater sub-class is created. I ask the House to consider British children whose skin colour is different and who have suffered immeasurably from the system.

7.09 pm

Baroness Brinton: My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Edmiston, on his maiden speech. He and his schools demonstrate the importance of ensuring that education really prepares pupils for the world of work-a matter very close to my own heart. I warmly support the comments made by my colleagues on these Benches on the Bill's focus on decentralisation, which will give schools and colleges more autonomy. I also echo my colleagues' concerns today. I shall focus particularly on the further and higher education issues covered in the Bill, and the Careers Service proposals, with which I shall start.

We on our Benches welcome the Bill's intention to move to an all-age careers service, but we have some concerns that the Bill in its current form will not provide that, especially for the under-19s. I confess that I was cynical in the mid-1990s when we moved to an independent Careers Service outside county council and metropolitan council control. However, it heralded the professionalisation of staff and removed the temptation from schools to encourage students to stay on at school whether it was appropriate for them or not. The Labour Government's creation of Connexions

14 Jun 2011 : Column 724

certainly had its strengths, but it also had some weaknesses. While it is right that we move on from Connexions, I am concerned that we shall lose the strength of the inverted pyramid, which provides for children who are at risk of becoming NEET-not in education, employment or training.

The problem with Connexions was that it was sometimes at the expense of brighter children, who still needed advice about the right course for them when they went on to sixth-form and further education college so that they could then make the right choices for their higher education. The real strength of both Connexions and the previous Careers Service was their independence from schools and the statutory right of careers advisers to go into schools. Will the Minister consider why the Bill proposes the removal of the duty on a local authority to provide careers guidance, while also giving local authorities the duty to look after NEETs and vulnerable students and to address the apparent contradiction therein? We also have considerable concerns about the lack of quality assurance in the new Careers Service proposals. I ask the Minister to consider a statutory professional qualification for careers advisers as well as QA arrangements to protect this.

Others have mentioned worries about the loss of a face-to-face service. This seems to be a case of the baby being thrown out with the bathwater, especially for the 14-to-19 age group, many of whom need proper conversations to explore and draw out their interests. With the best will in the world, that cannot be done either by a call centre or online unless the young people know what they are looking for. I suspect they face a Donald Rumsfeld moment: "They don't know what they don't know". Professional advisers can guide them through this maze. We on these Benches echo concerns about the loss of expertise as current careers advisers lose their jobs. Will the Minister please provide a transition plan, with funding to bridge the imminent loss of the old service, prior to arrangements for the new one coming in next year? The future choices of our young people currently considering their prospects are too important to be lost by this mistake.

On Clause 15, I echo the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry of Southwark, and the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, about ensuring the widest possible arrangements for teacher training, especially the involvement of higher education institutions. Their record, as has already been noted, is better than those of teaching schools. We need a wide range of training, including traditional pedagogic courses.

In Clauses 28 and 29, I regret the loss of the diploma if it means the vocational offer to our 14 to 16 year-olds is either reduced or lost. I sat on the east of England diploma gateway. We began to see some very effective and popular vocational courses, which pupils and employers valued. Our educational system must be able to offer both a vocational and an academic curriculum to meet the needs of all our pupils and students.

As a founding chair of the Cambridgeshire Learning and Skills Council and deputy chair of the East of England Development Agency, I have learnt that public bodies come and go. However, it is important not to lose appropriate and effective functions. Therefore, following the abolition of the YPLA, will the Minister

14 Jun 2011 : Column 725

confirm that the very effective stakeholder board-an exemplary body within the YPLA-will continue once the YPLA's successor emerges within the Department for Education?

We on these Benches also have concerns about the further education level 3 fees for those aged over 19, with the shift to loans. Will the Minister please examine whether certain courses can be exempt-for example, access courses that help non-traditional mature students to get the right qualifications to go on to university?

On Clause 73, we welcome the proposals that should ease the way for part-time students. However, the proposals that-inadvertently, I hope-force part-time students to start repaying their loans after three and a half years, often before they have finished studying, are short-sighted and, frankly, against the principles of the higher education offer in the agreement. Those principles stated that all study-fees and living costs-should be free at the point of study. Will the Minister please discuss this with BIS as a matter of urgency?

There are many items in the Bill. I shall return to these issues and others in Committee.

7.16 pm

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, despite criticism, there is much in the aims of the Bill to be applauded, particularly the desire to see children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with SEN have a far greater chance of reaching their educational potential than has been the case in the past. The two reports by Frank Field and Graham Allen, emphasising the need for early intervention, have set a clear background against which the success of these aims will be judged. The Government's problem in these difficult times will be to guarantee that the necessary money and expertise are made available in these difficult times to ensure that Allen's estimated saving of £24 billion a year is achieved.

The continuation of nursery provision for every three and four year-old also benefits disadvantaged children. However, it is the Bill's further extension of the entitlement to nursery education to two year-olds that will be particularly important for their later progress at school and beyond. It is an assurance of the quality of this early years education that Save the Children and others want-not unreasonably, because provision is generally of poorer quality in deprived areas. I hope the Minister, when he replies, will spell out how this will be achieved.

Other proposals in the Bill are equally worth supporting, particularly the emphasis on quality teaching. Raising the status and qualifications of teachers is a clear priority. That, combined with the proposed Teach First and Teach Next programmes, will have the advantage of bringing into teaching the experience and leadership gained in other careers. Improved careers guidance is much needed, particularly for girls. It is vital for encouraging qualifications in science and engineering, for example, which will be needed for the UK's continued world competitiveness.

The Government's belief in the importance of good discipline in schools to deliver successful academic outcomes is clearly right. Here we have Church of

14 Jun 2011 : Column 726

England schools as excellent examples. It is right, too, that teachers should have protection against malicious charges. However, the proposals in the Bill for forcibly searching pupils when it is suspected that they might be carrying weapons or other disruptive items have, as we have already heard, produced quite a hostile reaction from children's charities, including the Children's Society. I hope the Government will think very carefully about these proposals, especially when considering the likely impact on children who have previously been subjected to physical and/or sexual abuse, or indeed on children with SEN.

On the tougher rules proposed for exclusions, the same concerns are even more important. We have to remember that 40 per cent of children with autism have been bullied at school, and those with SEN are nine times more likely than their peers to be permanently excluded. I hope we shall have some news of the proposed pilots, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, under which a school that excluded a pupil would be required to pay for the alternative forms of education needed. There is a temptation for schools to rid themselves of difficult pupils without persevering to meet their needs within those establishments. If they fail at that, surely it is only just that they should bear the continuing cost of that child's education.

Academies are clearly a key part of the Government's education policy. We need to hear rather more about how academies are to play a decisive role in giving opportunities to children from the poorest areas. The UTC academies of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, and, indeed, the excellent business-centred academies of the noble Lord, Lord Edmiston, will clearly be helpful here. I, too, applaud the noble Lord's maiden speech, which was both excellent and amusing, which is always a great help during debate.

Should not the Government be planning a requirement that all academies-the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, suspected, as I do, that every school will be an academy-all state schools, take a proportion of children from the most deprived backgrounds? It would be helpful to learn from the Minister how the Government see that vital aim being achieved.

I end on the subject of governing bodies and declare an interest as president of the National Governors' Association. It was certainly reassuring to see the White Paper, The Importance of Teaching, recognise the invaluable voluntary work that school governors undertake, describing them, as it does, as unsung heroes. Here, I pay a particular personal tribute to the Minister, because I am pretty certain that it was he who managed to achieve that recognition in the White Paper.

I am sure noble Lords will remember the battles with the previous Government, which centred on the importance of parent governors for academies, with the eventual agreement that a minimum of two should be the requirement. With this Bill, it is the size of governing bodies and the range of skills required that has been the subject of discussion in the White Paper and elsewhere, with a smaller rather than larger governing body more generally favoured. Equally, with the size and grouping that some academies plan, it is clearly important that governing bodies reflect the work and

14 Jun 2011 : Column 727

responsibilities involved, so I hope we will not end up with too rigid a number being prescribed. With the emphasis now rightly being laid on the UN and European legislation on the rights of the child, I hope we may even see pupil governors emerging in some academies.

It is very good news that the White Paper proposes that the National College for School Leadership should run a training course for all chairman of governing bodies, a crucial role. Indeed, it is because of the increased responsibility and accountability of head teachers and chairmen of governors that more thought needs to be given to the role that head teachers should play on the school governing body. What should the head teacher's role be in future: that of attending meetings and reporting to governors, or of remaining as full members of the governing body? The most important issue is that the head teacher and the chairmen have a good working relationship and respect each other's roles, but it will be important to hear from the Government how they envisage the relationship developing. I look forward to the Minister's reply.

7.23 pm

Lord Haskel: My Lords, I would like to speak about Part 7. This part deals with post-16 education and training, and apprenticeships.

I start by saying that the Government are absolutely right to feature the training and employment of young people in an Education Bill. I am not sure how many NEETs, or young people not in education, employment or training, there are. Experts have estimated 750,000. We cannot afford to lose any of this generation. That is why in the Bill there has to be a strong focus on helping all young people succeed in skills and training.

My first problem with the Bill is that the guaranteed entitlement to skills and training by 2015 provided by the previous Government has been watered down. As my noble friend Lord Layard explained, instead of guaranteeing access for every young person, the chief executive of Skills Funding will be obliged only to fund an apprenticeship for anyone who secures one. I put it to the Minister that by watering down the offer, the Bill will not only exclude those on the fringe, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, but reduce the need for the chief executive of Skills Funding to find and encourage training and apprenticeships. It reduces the need to raise the profile of apprenticeships. It reduces the need for advocacy and engagement. All this at the very time when the need is most urgent for both the economy and society. I am sure that the Minister can expect amendments along those lines-and why not? As the noble Lord, Lord Layard, said, it does not seem to be a matter of money. The Treasury has agreed the funds to make it happen.

I have other concerns about Part 7. The Bill abolishes the Young People's Learning Agency and transfers its duty to the Secretary of State. I agree that the system could do with some tidying up, and many arrangements have been tried over the years, but why transfer the duties to the Secretary of State? The Minister spoke of political accountability, but when the Secretary of State takes over powers, he or she becomes the customer. The training providers need to satisfy the Secretary of State, not the young person. We all know that if the

14 Jun 2011 : Column 728

scheme is to be successful, the customer must be the person, the young apprentice. They are the ones who must be satisfied. If the Minister is the customer, there is less need for the training organisations to do that.

The corollary is that the Government will have to supply good quality careers guidance. The Minister promised that, but I share the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and my noble friend Lady Jones that during the overhaul, staff, expertise and continuity will be lost. Without that guidance, the chances of failure increase. By guidance, I do not just mean online frequently asked questions. Like my noble friend Lady Morris and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, I mean proper, face-to-face professional examination of possibilities and professional advice. There will probably have to be an amendment about that, too.

All of that depends on employers and jobs. There are plenty of young people anxious to work. The struggle for the National Apprenticeship Service is to find the jobs. As somebody-perhaps it was the noble Lord, Lord Edmiston-said, Whitehall does not create apprenticeships and jobs, employers do.

Can the Minister tell us precisely what the Bill will do to encourage more training and apprenticeship opportunities? Of course, the real way to increase them is to get more growth into the economy and encourage more employers to provide training. Those who do are still in a minority.

Clause 68 deals with apprenticeship certificates and who can issue them. The clause states that the chief executive of Skills Funding will no longer be the certifying authority; it will be the Secretary of State. In its follow-up report on apprenticeships in 2008, HL 137, your Lordships' Economic Affairs Committee was concerned that the removal of technical certification from the sector skills council would be perceived as dumbing down. Presumably, that is because the sector skills councils know the standards required by employers, whereas the Secretary of State's concern is just to achieve the numbers. I share the concerns of your Lordships' Select Committee. Can the Minister explain how this clause takes into account these concerns?

I also share the concerns of my noble friend Lady Jones and other noble Lords, and right reverend Prelates writing in left-wing magazines, that this Bill, like many other recent government Bills, takes powers back to the Secretary of State-all this despite the Government's fine words about decentralisation. These kinds of changes create political turmoil for absolutely no good reason. We will certainly improve the Bill in Committee if we can reverse that direction of travel.

Quite rightly this Government have put a lot of emphasis on rebalancing the economy and getting young people into training and skills. These two elements, social and economic, come together in Part 7 of the Bill. They are central to our future. That is why Part 7 needs very careful scrutiny by your Lordships.

7.31 pm

Viscount Eccles: My Lords, in his splendid maiden speech my noble friend Lord Edmiston referred to the expertise of this House. Of course, we are all educational experts because we have all been to school, but I go

14 Jun 2011 : Column 729

back to the point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford when he looked for an overall educational vision. I am not very good at visions; they always seem to appear rather mistily in the distance and then to fade away.

Where do we begin with education? There are three providers. As the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, said, parents come into the picture first-the concept of parents needs to be expanded to include family or whoever the child lives with when very young-then the teachers and the children join in. Teachers and parents look at each other and, one hopes, have a dialogue. They ask themselves the question, "What have we got here?". The child, who comes in somewhat later but has a very real presence pretty early on, tends to respond, "Never mind that, who am I?". These are complicated questions involving many variables. There are no statistical ways of measuring these variables. Indeed, the mathematical and statistical answers tend to become almost insulting to the individuals concerned because education is not something that is put into people-the Latin word for education means to draw out. What the providers and the child who becomes a young person and then a young adult are trying to do is to find out somebody's talents, interests and shortcomings-that is, the mixture which makes up an individual. Each person is on an individual journey; some take very much longer than others to complete that journey. Indeed, it is a commonplace that education never ceases.

I give two examples to illustrate some of the complexities. I have told the House before that for some time I was allegedly in charge of a steel foundry. A crane driver came down for his break. I happened to be there and asked him, "How are you going on, Charlie?". He replied, "Not too badly, but I've had some rather strange news. The headmaster of my son's school has rung me up and told me that he's been offered a place at a university". I said, "You must be very pleased". He said, "I'm not so sure. It couldn't be me, you see, but I suppose it might have been the milkman". He was, of course, delighted.

My next example is a sort of parent-child illustration. I wrote to my father who twice held the post of Secretary of State for Education. I think that on the first occasion he had a slightly different title, but that was what he was doing. It was at the time of Suez and I said that I thought we would probably find that that did not work. He wrote back in a letter which started, "The trouble with you is that you read the Guardian; you should read the Times". That is an example of a journey during which a dialogue about education was going on between the parent and the child.

Governments are not comfortable with these messy, complicated individual journeys; they cannot cope with them. The Bill is very welcome because, in part at least, it recognises that. It is saying that this is a matter for parents, family, teachers, children and pupils; that is where the outcomes will be determined. It is true that the outcome will be determined in every case by the players in the front line and not by the Government or local government. Indeed, Government, local government and all the other agencies are only enabling mechanisms. The game is played and won or lost or

14 Jun 2011 : Column 730

comes out as a draw by the parents/family and the teachers. I would prefer us to talk about teachers rather than schools-if your Lordships think back, they will remember individual teachers as well as schools-and about the children or young persons themselves. As we go into the detail of the Bill, I hope that we do not forget that fundamental fact.

7.37 pm

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, I want to focus on the importance of a balanced school curriculum and on the rights-the entitlement-of the child to that curriculum. A balanced curriculum is one which enables a child to thrive academically, spiritually, emotionally and socially, and which fits her or him with the skills to find productive work and enjoy leisure. It encourages self-respect and respect for others. I like what the noble Lord, Lord Edmiston, said about grace and integrity in that regard. Such a curriculum involves the arts, IT, economics, sport, culture and life skills as well as academic learning.

I am concerned about how the rights of the child are reflected in the Bill. I do not mean any legalistic definitions of rights or permission for a free-for-all; I mean fairness, respect and justice for children while also teaching them about responsibilities. My experience as a parent and teacher convinces me that when children are treated with fairness and respect they thrive and that when they are not they may become stultified and problematic. These problems may translate themselves into problems for future generations. I do not think that the Bill addresses these concerns.

As regards early years provision, good experience of play and socialisation are vital to a child's future success-academic and otherwise. I agree with Frank Field's report that poverty is not the only thing that defines a child's future, but that if poverty and lack of opportunity to develop in the early years coincide, a child has a poor chance of social integration and mobility. Such children may go on to be punished by systems into which they do not fit and over which they have no control, so the Bill's recommendation for free early years provision for two year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds is welcome. I wonder how it will be funded. The Bill allows maintained nursery schools and classes to charge for provision over the 15 hours for three year-olds and four year-olds. This will widen gaps in provision between areas. Is the future of Sure Start yet clear?

I now turn to the Bill as it relates to discipline in schools. Of course none of us condones bad behaviour. Bad behaviour in schools has to be tackled for the benefit of pupils and teachers. However, there are better and less intrusive ways of combating bad behaviour than those suggested in the Bill. Taking away the appeal possibilities of permanent exclusions is also fraught with child and human rights issues for parents and pupils. I hope that the repeal of the duty on schools to give 24 hours' notice of detentions will be looked at again.

The issue of young carers has been raised in another place and assurances have been given. I hope that they will be enshrined in the Bill. Every pupil is different and does not necessarily fit into a one-size-for-all curriculum. Like others, I have concerns about the

14 Jun 2011 : Column 731

proposed English baccalaureate. Survey after survey of industry has recommended that students need far more than simply academic qualifications or knowledge to perform well in the workplace; they need social skills and the ability to be creative thinkers. I am not going to go on again, except for a minute, about the importance of personal, social and health education, but it is important and I will return to it at later stages.

The inspection criteria report reflects neither the importance of schools supporting and promoting well-being nor the importance of community cohesion. Evaluation of the UNICEF Rights Respecting Schools programme found that it had,

Two-thirds of schools saw improvements in attainment over the period 2007-10. I should declare an interest as a trustee of UNICEF.

Other issues in the Bill that affect the child's rights have been talked about. They include the diploma entitlement, careers education, admission arrangements, vocational qualifications, apprenticeship schemes, the powers of parents and so on. The new centralising power of the Secretary of State could permit religious discrimination in employment in academies that convert from being voluntary controlled schools. Prospective pupils can be discriminated against on the basis of their parents' religion. Staff can be discriminated against on the grounds of religion or belief. In 2008, the schools adjudicator found that 3,500 faith schools were in breach of the admissions code. There will be no repeal of the duty on schools to participate in a daily act of worship which is "broadly Christian" in character, despite the new freedoms proposed for schools.

We now know the nature of some of the applications to run free schools, which include a high proportion from faith groups in the broadest sense. Among the approved applications are, apparently, a school that teaches "consciousness-based education", an Islamic boys' school, and a school run by a group set up by an "ordained minister of the free church". I know that free schools have been labelled by some as a side-show; however, they still have children in them-or they will. The Secretary of State will have the ability to make land available for free schools. They are not obliged to have qualified teachers. How does this sit with a child's right to a broad and productive education? Evaluations of free schools have shown them to have many problems. Why are we bothering with this experiment?

I return to my concerns that this Bill does not favour or encourage a child's right to a broad and well balanced school experience. There are dangers in the Bill that will resound over many years and will have a negative and dysfunctional effect on many of our children. Children have rights, too. I hope that the Government will take notice of this debate.

7.44 pm

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I am not going to talk about offender education, although I have to say to the Minister that I was extremely disappointed that at the heart of the recent paper on offender learning was the suggestion that the Government would change the arrangements for the delivery of learning by bringing

14 Jun 2011 : Column 732

together into clusters prisons that regularly transfer prisoners between them. That is a practical impossibility. The clustering of prisons was laid down by the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking, when he was Home Secretary in 1991. It has never happened, and prisoners are sent round nationally. For example, a boy was sent from Feltham on the eve of taking A-levels 18 months after he had started work on them.

Instead, I want to concentrate on something that echoes very much what the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, was saying. I have always believed that the only raw material that every nation has in common is its people. Woe betide it if it does not do everything it can to identify, nurture and develop the talents of its people-all its people-as individuals. Unless it does, it has only itself to blame if it fails. Individuals are individuals.

I am glad that the Bill starts at the beginning of the learning process with early-years provision. Clause 1(2) states:

"An English local authority must secure that early years provision of such description as may be prescribed is available free of charge ... for each young child in their area who ... is under compulsory school age, and ... is of such description as may be prescribed".

I am interested that paragraph 57 of the Explanatory Notes mentions a section being added to the Education Act 2002 to enable the Secretary of State to set by regulation the nature of early education. That contrasts starkly with the Minister's statement at the start of the debate that the Government were intending to move away from prescription, and from top-down prescription in particular. Early-years provision is too important to be left unprescribed, not least because prescription is a vital ingredient in financial resource planning and allocation. I am very concerned that one should start on such an important journey without making absolutely certain that all the necessary resources are in place.

I am also very concerned, and have been for a long time, that at the heart of any provision should be assessment. I should like to concentrate for the remainder of my time on some elements of assessment. I have mentioned many times on the Floor of this House that at the heart of everything in the educational process is the initial assessment of whether or not a child can engage with the teacher, because if not there is no connection with the educational process. That is why we have recommended the appointment of speech and language therapists to carry out compulsory assessments of every child before they begin school-something that has already been picked up and is being run with in Northern Ireland for every child at the age of two.

I realise, because my noble friend Lady Howe, spoke at length about it, that there is a planned pathway for those with special educational needs, but it is not only those with special educational needs who need this assessment. Every child needs it to start along the way. Furthermore, the lack of communication is the scourge of the 21st century. In the past two years I have visited Walsall, where there is regular assessment of children during the secondary school phase, because it has been found there that some children who can cope with primary school cannot cope with secondary school. That suggests that following on from the initial assessment there needs to be regular assessment throughout the school career.

14 Jun 2011 : Column 733

While I am on that subject, I should like to draw attention to two other subjects that are not mentioned in the Bill but deserve assessment. One is attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, which on balance, I am told, is detected only after the second exclusion for bad behaviour. This is an extraordinary phenomenon. I once discovered in a young offender institution a young boy who had been excluded from his playgroup at age four, and was thereafter never allowed to attend education. It strikes me that the sooner we get ADHD looked at, the better. Four per cent of boys and 1 per cent of girls in school suffer from ADHD, while 48 per cent of all those in young offender institutions suffer from it. Because it is treatable, it is avoidable.

The second subject to which I wish to draw attention for assessment is gifted children. I declare an interest as patron of an organisation called Tomorrow's Achievers, which funds master classes for gifted deprived children. I am sorry that the Government have ended the gifted and talented budget and schools are cutting back on their enrichment programmes, because extra provision for gifted children seems to be needed more than ever. I do not want a catalogue of things that I am unhappy about because there is a great deal in this Bill that is positive and admirable and that I support strongly. However, again taking note of individuals as individuals, we must give them this early provision, and the assessment of what they need-and what they may be failing in-needs to be carried out throughout the learning journey, otherwise we will not be identifying, nurturing and developing their talent.

7.51 pm

Lord Black of Brentwood: My Lords, I want to address Clause 13, which introduces reporting restrictions on alleged teacher misconduct and has serious repercussions for freedom of expression and the rights of children. In view of some of the contributions this evening, I fear I may be a lone voice but I will have a go. As this matter involves the media, I declare an interest as executive director of the Telegraph Media Group.

The Bill creates a new offence of publishing anything which might lead a member of the public to identify a teacher alleged to have committed a criminal offence against a pupil until he or she is charged with an offence, and unless a charge is made the ban on publication lasts indefinitely. The effect of that will be to give teachers accused of crimes against pupils unique rights of anonymity that no other group enjoys and it will remove from vulnerable children the right of every other citizen to publicise a grievance or a complaint.

It will be argued that there are exemptions in this Bill-if the teacher gives consent to identification or if a successful application is made to a court to lift the restrictions. Given that this legislation impacts on free speech, remarkably there is no public interest defence. Let us dispatch these exemptions. The prospect of a teacher who has done wrong voluntarily consenting to identification must be next to zero, and the chances of a court lifting restrictions will be low, especially in the absence of a public interest defence. Furthermore,

14 Jun 2011 : Column 734

applications to the court are likely to be rare: they are expensive and local newspapers facing serious commercial pressure may not be able to go down that route. Those exemptions are worthless.

Let me deal with the substance of the issue. The truth is that Clause 13 is unprecedented, unnecessary and unworkable. First, it is unprecedented because it gives to a particular group of professionals a right that no one else enjoys. Yes, it is appalling if a teacher is falsely accused of a crime-and I take to heart the comments of my noble friend Lady Perry-but that happens in other careers involving children too. If this reaches the statute book, who really believes that the move towards greater secrecy in the justice system will stop there? We had a glimpse of that in the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. The GMC has already started a campaign arguing that doctors called before its disciplinary committee to answer charges of abusing a patient should not be identified. Interfering with the media's ability to report in this way is therefore profoundly dangerous-the thin end of a wedge that will lead inexorably to much wider reporting restrictions that will undermine the long-held principle that, for justice to be effective, it must be open and transparent.

Those principles exist for good reason because not all criminal misconduct is prosecuted. Teachers accused rightly of assaults might never be charged by the police due to lack of evidence or because of failure to take a whistleblower seriously. A teacher might be dismissed from a school and, for whatever reason, the school and those involved want no publicity. Allowing him or her indefinite anonymity has frightening implications for the welfare of children. As I understand it, it would also be an offence to name a teacher accused of a crime even if he or she were identified at an inquest or in a civil court action. The media or a parent would have to apply to another court to lift the reporting restrictions, as would anyone who wanted to publish the findings of an official inquiry. In an open society, that cannot be right.

We are legislating to introduce an era of silence where children are concerned, when all the evidence of the last few years has underlined the pivotal role of a free press in uncovering scandal and abuse, a point the NSPCC has consistently championed. Publicity often helps others to come forward with evidence. Instead, we are saying to children: "Unlike any other group in society, your complaints are treated as false until a charge is made".

My second point is that this ban is unnecessary and disproportionate. Where is the evidence that media reports generate false accusations? Newspapers have consistently pressed the Government for evidence of such a link but none has been forthcoming. Perhaps that is because it was only in 2009 that the Department for Children, Schools and Families said there was no case for teacher anonymity, when giving evidence to the Select Committee inquiry into allegations against school staff. In the same inquiry the NASUWT confirmed that the biggest issue is not anonymity but the management of complaints and CRB practice-something the Government are rightly taking action on.

14 Jun 2011 : Column 735

A vital principle in a parliamentary democracy is that Governments should only interfere with rights to free speech as a last resort. Here we are embarking on an insidious course, without evidence of the need for it and without any attempt to see if there are other ways to deal with this problem short of draconian legislation.

The evidence the NASUWT gave to the Select Committee also highlighted that this legislation would do nothing to stop the problem of innuendo at the school gates, which leads me on to my final point. This legislation is unworkable because in 2011 chatter among parents and gossip among pupils does not stay as that but is retailed on the internet and in social media. In dealing with this issue, Facebook and Twitter are extensions of the school gate, and this legislation will be powerless to stop that. Have the Government not learned from the fiasco of the super-injunctions that it will be impossible to stop internet rumours that are likely to be far more damaging than a responsible media report? Indeed, if the name of a school appears on an internet site, but without the teacher being identified, totally innocent individuals could be maligned.

For that reason this ban might actually make matters worse. Newspapers and broadcasters are strongly constrained by what they report about allegations by the laws of libel, contempt and malicious communication. Schools and the police are bound by rules of confidentiality. If newspapers cannot report these matters, parents may take them online where few effective constraints exist. The Government will be replacing responsible journalism that takes care before reporting allegations with the potential anarchy of the internet. Is that what teachers really want?

Everything about this clause is wrong. It will not work. It could actually make matters worse for teachers. It undermines the rights of a vulnerable group, and it has profound implications for open justice. I cannot put it better than the noble and learned Lord, Lord Justice Steyn, who said in his High Court ruling in the case of Reynolds v Times Newspapers:

"Freedom of expression is the rule and regulation of the speech is the exception requiring justification ... if it is underpinned by pressing social need".

No such evidence or justification exists here and I urge the Government to think again. If the Government intend to press ahead, key amendments need to be made, including the provision of a public interest defence and the exemption of courts and other statutory bodies from the automatic restrictions. I hope we can deal with these points in Committee.

7.57 pm

Baroness Morgan of Huyton: My Lords, I declare an interest as the chair of Ofsted. In that context, I would like briefly to talk about the proposals in the Bill to reform the school inspection system and to explain a little of the new inspection framework that accompanies them.

Of course, inspection will never be an uncontroversial process. Few schools actively welcome an inspection, though most understand the accountability that inspection brings. Around nine in 10 heads responding to post-inspection surveys are satisfied with how their inspection was carried out and, crucially, that the inspection had

14 Jun 2011 : Column 736

identified clear recommendations for improvement. In the weeks I have been at Ofsted, I have been struck by the HMI mantra of "doing good as you go". Inspectors should leave schools after inspection better placed to improve-something I have discussed at length with the noble Baroness, Lady Perry.

Moreover, changes to school inspections since 2009 that have been welcomed include more classroom observation and better discussion with school leaders at the end of the inspection. However, I readily acknowledge continuing concerns about the balance between data, dialogue and observation, and the extent to which schools are judged on their core responsibilities. The changes in the Education Bill respond to this criticism and should strike a better balance.

Clause 40 details that future school inspections will report on four key areas: achievement of pupils, quality of teaching and learning, leadership and management, and behaviour and safety. They must also consider spiritual, moral, social and cultural issues within these areas, and the extent to which education enables pupils with disabilities or special educational needs to achieve.

Ofsted is consulting on a new inspection framework at the moment, with time in the autumn to ensure that by the time it is fully introduced in January 2012 we will have listened and learnt as much as possible from schools and school leaders. Her Majesty's Chief Inspector has characterised the new framework as aiming to deliver inspection reports that tell more of the story of a school, give parents a stronger feel of a school's strengths and weaknesses, and describe more clearly the path to improvement. More accessible reports are needed too and we are working on this.

The new inspections will also place greater emphasis on individual subjects, how they are taught and how pupils are learning. Even in the Google age, there is a strong correlation between poor subject knowledge in teachers and poor teaching. Inspectors will also want to see pupils with the skills that are vital to individual subjects-the tools of historical assessment, scientific experimentation or mathematical manipulation, which are so crucial to a deeper subject knowledge and inquiry for the future.

The new framework will use value-added data, rather than contextualised value-added data, or CVA. I know that some schools fear the removal of CVA, but value added will show actual progress between the end of primary school and GCSE results.

It is marked that there is a wide gap in attainment between schools with similar social characteristics. Value-added data should illustrate genuine progress without assuming that poorer pupils will underachieve, focusing schools on narrowing the gap for pupils from poorer backgrounds. This measure is a key part of the new inspections and I passionately support it.

I believe that the combination of legislative change and the new framework will help to bring a clearer focus to inspections and will be more valuable to school leaders and parents as a result. However, Ofsted is still listening to outside views, as we want to get this right.

I also caution the Minister to be vigilant about keeping the focus he is striving to deliver in this Bill. Let us take the recent announcement that inspectors

14 Jun 2011 : Column 737

will be trained in spotting putative extremism in schools. Of course, it is right that inspectors understand these issues and can report what they find. Inspectors have a part to play, along with parents and pupils, teachers and the school's management. There are always perfectly good reasons to add to an inspector's remit but personally I make this plea. We are about to train inspectors to hear individual children read using synthetic phonics. Do not let us collectively agree to focus on the absolute priorities, such as literacy, and then gradually allow extras to be added in the future without the most rigorous appraisal.

Clauses 39 and 41 propose that outstanding schools and colleges will in future be inspected only where there is cause for concern. This might, for example, be as a result of a significant change in results, a request from a local authority or the Secretary of State, or a series of parental complaints. The trigger mechanism is being developed now but will always present more of a risk than inspecting itself and we should collectively understand that.

In the new Labour Government's first education White Paper in 1997, the phrase "intervention in inverse proportion to success" was used to describe the extent to which local authorities should engage with schools. It was a good principle then and it remains a good principle now.

The Secretary of State has maintained floor targets or standards, with the recent White Paper stating that secondary schools will be below the floor if fewer than 35 per cent of pupils gain five good GCSEs, including in English and Maths, and fewer pupils make good progress between key stage 2 and key stage 4 than the national average. This builds on earlier targets that since 2000 have seen the number of schools below the 30 per cent level fall from 1,600 in 1997 to fewer than 100 today. Schools not achieving those targets are rightly the subject of intervention with additional powers in Clause 43, and they may be replaced by academies.

Therefore, I welcome the continued challenge that underpins this principle in the Bill and its focus on schools that most need attention and intervention. My personal concern is whether the department has yet demonstrated fully how the removal of school improvement partners and local authority support-both of which I readily acknowledge were variable-as well as challenge leaders will be replaced in the near future in a comprehensive way. I recognise that in time teaching schools and peer support will play a big role.

Of course, change is not without its dangers. In the new regime, inspectors may not see excellence often enough and, at the same time, a few outstanding schools may rest too much on their laurels. There is a measure of reassurance in that Ofsted produces regular reports on individual subjects and important educational themes, but I still have questions-clearly shared by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas-about how we maintain a sufficient level of scrutiny of outstanding schools. I notice the time and think that we will have to return to that matter in Committee.

There is one other issue on which I should touch very briefly before I conclude. The Education Select Committee recently recommended a break-up of Ofsted into its separate education and children's services functions.

14 Jun 2011 : Column 738

This is obviously a decision for government. I have thought about this very carefully and I believe that this would be a mistake. The reasons outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Laming, for merging education and children's social services at a local level remain strong. A child's life is holistic and what happens in their home or care affects their educational achievement as much as their personal development. Ofsted inspections should reflect local and national structures.

Ofsted now has strong leaders from both education and social work backgrounds and there is more confidence at local authority level about the consistency and quality of inspections. However, Ofsted recognises that it may need more of a public face for each of these sectors in the future, and that is something to which we will return.

At its core, Ofsted remains very much our national guardian of standards. I hope that these legislative changes, and the new frameworks now being developed, will reconfirm that in the future.

8.05 pm

Baroness Jolly: My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, some 30 years or more ago I, too, was a maths teacher. I guess that, using the marking conventions of that time, I would give the Bill B+ for effort and C+ for achievement. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, said that she thought the intention behind the White Paper was very good but that not all of it had transferred itself to the Bill.

I shall concentrate on some issues in the Bill that fall within Parts 3, 5 and 6. There are some areas that confuse and contradict. With the localism agenda there is a distinct move to push decision-making to the lowest appropriate level. We see that through the desire to involve parents but not allow local authorities to make strategic decisions. As a Government, we are committed to reducing quangos but maintaining their functionality elsewhere. In the Bill, the first aim is achieved but not always the second.

The abolition of the General Teaching Council for England and the absorption of its functions into the department get rid of the quango but do not retain its full functionality. The decision to retain a register only of those who are prohibited for misconduct or for failing their induction period may serve as a quick check for a head teacher but it is of no use when looking at demographics of the teacher population for strategic and workforce planning, which the present extensive database allows. It does not satisfy the public that teachers are registered. Here, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Quirk. Would the Government consider moving the GMC into the Department of Health and then only recording doctors who had been struck off or had otherwise failed?

We welcome the move to restrict the reporting of alleged offences against teachers. It is foolhardy to assume that teachers do not offend, although it is rare. I taught for 15 years and, although not all teachers with whom I worked were good teachers, I was not aware of any who committed any criminal offence against a child. There were such instances of false accusations and their impact cannot be underestimated. I should be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could give an assurance that all forms of published

14 Jun 2011 : Column 739

media are covered, including the use of mobile phones, the internet, e-mail, websites and social networking sites, such as bebo and Facebook. I should be grateful, too, if he would consider extending this provision to teaching assistants and other employees, and indeed to staff in colleges. Perhaps in the light of the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Black, a pause on this clause will be needed.

In the Bill four categories are flagged up for inspection by Ofsted. It strikes me that they seem quite restricted, and there could be some variability in their interpretation. We need clarity on Ofsted's duty to examine the progress of children with special needs, as well as those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Will Ofsted have the duty to inspect schools according to the well-being of their pupils? We all know that a stressed child is not a good learner. Schools need to play their part in ensuring that their pupils are in the right mindset to learn, and that means paying attention to their well-being.

Are we to make the assumption that exempt schools are those with an outstanding report and that they will be inspected in future only as a paper-based desk exercise or if an inspection is triggered by the local authority or parents? Here, two issues arise. First, inspectors' benchmarking becomes skewed if they do not see the proportionate number of outstanding schools and, secondly, Ofsted inspectors would be unable to pass on current examples of really good practice in outstanding schools to other schools that are in need of development.

Moving on to academies, the Bill introduces a requirement that when a council identifies the need for a new school, it must first seek to establish it as an academy and must then seek the Secretary of State's approval for its establishment. Then there is a requirement for the Secretary of State's approval before a local authority publishes proposals for a competition for the establishment. But the Secretary of State is allowed to terminate the process of seeking to establish a new school before the final date specified for receiving bids for the proposals. There is a presumption that in the future any new schools will be established as academies. We must ensure that this process does not reduce the ability of local parents, education providers and councils to respond quickly and effectively to new demand, and that local choice and diversity of provision is maintained. This, I fear, is another case where the centralisation of decision-making is flying in the face of local preferences, which is contrary to the localism agenda currently being debated in your Lordships' House.

Looking briefly at finance, with the growth in the number of academies, I would like the Minister to look again at the funding of central costs, and honour the pledge to councils that they will not be out of pocket as a result of the academies programme. The Bill has some points that will improve the quality of education for our children but I hope that the Government will listen to the areas of concern and consider amendments to allay them.

8.11 pm

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, I want to focus on two aspects of the Bill which are generally not addressed in education debates. They do not figure in current proposals for education reform very much, and I think that will cause problems.

14 Jun 2011 : Column 740

The first is the educational significance of the design of school buildings. We have heard of the Secretary of State's remark that:

"We won't be getting any award-winning architects to design new schools".

I prefer his earlier remark, in 2006, that,

Of almost no building is this last point more true than schools, so I hope he will return to his former view. There is plenty of evidence about the powerful effect of school building and design on attainment, behaviour, including bullying, security, ease of supervision, efficiency and economy of use, and even crime reduction in the neighbouring area. But these are the product of award-winning architecture. Standardisation of an oversimplified kind is not the answer, any more than it was in the discredited SCOLA system-building of schools in the 1970s. I think that Mr Gove is interested in history, so I recommend to him Schools of Thought, by Richard Weston, on this subject.

The lack of requirement for new schools to be well designed is particularly disturbing in conjunction with the department's consultation document on lifting planning permission for change of use to school buildings. I am not saying that a new school could not be set up in a sandwich bar or a hairdresser's or a funeral parlour-some of the document's examples-but those engaged in the education of our children should have to ensure that the design of their school is conducive to education in all its aspects. They are likely to need advice. So I ask the Minister how it is to happen that new schools have this advice, and what is the department's capacity, after the capital review, to provide it? I wonder if we should not also think of an Ofsted duty to report on the effect on education of the schools' buildings.

The second aspect of the Bill is those neglected children from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. In education we look now at aggregates, percentages and averages of attainment. But in our society we still pride ourselves on valuing the individual. We should not ignore small numbers where the injustice to individuals is very great but does not show up in the wider picture.

The Minister is, I know, familiar with and concerned by the distressing facts so poignantly set out by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, about the educational fate of these children and the consequent devastating impact on their capacity to earn a living. But is he aware of the recent research by the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain on the huge extent of bullying which is almost certainly part of the cause? Will he add that to the fact that, in his department's study last year, a large proportion of these children opted not to identify themselves as Gypsy, Roma or Travellers, obliged, you might think, to deny their heritage to escape stigma and victimisation? These completely unacceptable findings point exactly towards the 1967 Plowden recommendations of special attention and planned action, now falling into abeyance.

In the Bill we have some provisions which reverse such targeting as there was, and others which make matters worse. The abolition in Clause 30 of the duty on schools to co-operate with local authorities to improve children's well-being-which means, of course, also with all the local agencies which deal with health, social problems and justice, so relevant to truancy-is

14 Jun 2011 : Column 741

one such; the abolition of an appeal against exclusion, the removal of the right to reinstatement and the replacement of independent review panels are others. Between a fifth and a quarter of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children, usually boys, are excluded from school, an astonishing and far higher proportion than any other minority ethnic group. It has not been paid much attention hitherto because it was not identified. There is no disaggregation to reveal it, for instance, in the Academies Bill equality impact statement. One cause is likely to be response to bullying. There is little home teaching arranged either. So any blanket diminution of appeal rights without a thorough examination of the justice of it is very risky. The Bill's equality impact statement rightly commented on the low attainment of these children. But it does not seem to make any connections-it does not mention any impact of exclusions. I echo the concern already expressed on all sides of the House and ask the Minister what account was taken of the duty to provide education for Gypsy, Traveller and Roma children when considering the exclusion provisions.

We do have, finally, one good targeted service to help these children through the transition so many fear to secondary school, and to support them once they are there: the local authority-run Traveller education service. It is credited with securing a small but steady improvement in attendance last year. It is also a pan-European exemplar, recommended by the newly adopted EU framework for national Roma integration. But its lack of statutory backing has made it an easy target for cuts and it is rapidly declining. I think that we should look at some form of obligation to identify and support children who have become disengaged. It would take some of the burden off schools if it remained with the local authority, just as it has done with looked-after children-local champions of social justice, as the Minister put it. I look forward to his response.

8.19 pm

Baroness Coussins: My Lords, I will raise briefly two or three issues connected with modern languages in relation to some of the Bill's objectives. I declare an interest as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages.

The case for languages is key to the underlying drive to improve the overall quality of school education. There are cognitive, educational, social and economic benefits; but the UK is failing badly, with fewer pupils in the state sector taking language GCSEs every year. The English baccalaureate has provided a modest boost for languages, but only about 15 per cent of pupils are covered, and take-up of languages in state comprehensives is less than half that in independent and selective schools. Modern languages degree courses at university are vulnerable, partly because the Government have not heeded the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Browne, that languages should be a strategic priority for public investment, and instead have changed the funding system in a way that threatens the survival of modern languages degrees. The UK will be put at an even greater disadvantage-not to mention embarrassment-by our failure to produce sufficient graduates interested in careers as linguists.

14 Jun 2011 : Column 742

Last month I visited the director-general for translation at the European Commission and met Commissioner Vassiliou, who is responsible for multilingualism in the EU. The UK is, if not quite a laughing-stock, then certainly the object of some disbelief at how and why we are content to be so bad at languages when patently it would be in our own self-interest to produce more people qualified to move into the enormous variety of jobs and careers available for native English speakers who can also work in other languages.

The Bill includes a requirement for schools to take part in international education surveys. I applaud the Government for placing importance on this type of measurement, which could point us in the right direction of how to do things better. We should be acting already on the OECD survey finding that put England joint bottom of the league table of 39 developed countries for the amount of classroom time spent on languages by 12 to 14 year-olds. However, I am encouraged that England-although for some reason not the rest of the UK-is one of the participating member states in the new EU survey that will produce a new European indicator of language competence. This aims to measure the general level of foreign language knowledge of pupils in member states. The first findings are due to be presented in 2012. Will the Minister tell the House, or at least write to tell me, how many English schools have participated in this survey, and how many more he expects will participate as a result of the measure proposed in the Bill? Will he also say what criteria will be attached to participation in other international education surveys?

The Bill also aims to achieve more focused Ofsted inspections, as we have heard from a number of speakers. I hope that this will be an opportunity for Ofsted to reclaim some of its influence on the teaching and learning of foreign languages. In the past few years, Ofsted inspections have paid less and less attention to languages. By contrast, its three-year thematic report on modern languages highlighted weaknesses in secondary schools, with far too much teaching to exams and not nearly enough opportunity for pupils to practise speaking the language. The same Ofsted report noted good progress in primary schools, yet because of the U-turn on the primary languages curriculum many schools are now winding down their language teaching, and LEAs are laying off primary language specialists. Can we have an assurance that if Ofsted is to produce more focused inspections and reports, as the Bill wants, the Government will not negate that focus by adopting policies that go in exactly the opposite direction, as we have seen in relation to languages? We might also be about to compound our poor national performance with a serious shortfall of language teachers. The TDA estimates that we will need an extra 660 MFL teachers by 2015, rising to an extra 1,550 by 2017. Will the Minister say what the Government are doing to address this shortfall?

The final issue I want to touch on is careers advice, which the Government seek to strengthen through this Bill. Having one or more languages in addition to English is a huge benefit when it comes to getting a job. The CBI education and skills survey, published about three weeks ago, revealed that only a quarter of UK businesses say they have no need for foreign

14 Jun 2011 : Column 743

language skills among their employees, so it is very important that careers advice dovetails with advice that children are given in school about option choices at GCSE, AS-level and A-level. Research undertaken by the charity Education and Employers Taskforce has highlighted the information gap that exists in schools, with young people simply not understanding the labour-market value of languages.

This is an area that would also help the Government achieve what they have said they wish to achieve in terms of closing the gap between pupils in the state sector and those in private education. The task force's research notes how access to language learning has become socially determined, with young people in schools with high proportions of free school meals having significantly less access to language learning than their peers in wealthier areas.

I appreciate that this Bill is not directly about any subject in particular but about the structures and context in which better teaching and learning can take place. I simply ask the Government to ensure that where a new measure is introduced, be it independent careers advice, providing data for surveys or more focused inspections, schools are always and explicitly encouraged to take account of the potential of any new measure for making a positive impact on modern languages. They will be short-changing their pupils and their life chances if they do not.

8.25 pm

Lord True: My Lords, this is an excellent Bill. I declare an interest as a trustee of a grant-giving charity that supports catholic education, although unlike my noble friend Lord Edmiston, I have to regret that I did not make the money that we so enthusiastically give away. I am also leader of a London borough that welcomes academies and free schools. Indeed, I believe that the freedoms that come with academy status would be best for all our local schools, but local partnership and involvement remain important. A successful school must carry the confidence of local people. It should be at a community's heart, so I ask my noble friend to guard against the emergence of large chains of schools that are remote-managed to standard formulae. I would like to see local boards to guide, or even, eventually, to manage academies, particularly if school chains reach a certain size; otherwise, we may have in time to return to break up the largest of those chains.

I also support the reduction in the number of quangos. Indeed, if there were a True's law of education, it would probably be that general quality declines in inverse proportion to the growth in the size of education bureaucracy, but I dare not add in inverse proportion to the size of my noble friend's department as well. In my No. 10 days, if I was not a creator of Ofsted, I was certainly a rather fumbling assistant midwife. At that time, we envisaged, naively, that Ofsted would shrink itself: after a Domesday Book survey, it would focus on the weakest, rather than remorselessly grinding down every staff room across the land. It did not turn out to be quite like that, so I welcome the direction of travel in this Bill and the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Huyton.

14 Jun 2011 : Column 744

The point I want to make is about Part 1, not for what is in it-an extension of nursery provision to disadvantaged two year-olds is hugely welcome-but for what is not in it. Here I declare another interest as my wife is a qualified Montessori teacher, a nursery school principal and a tireless advocate of Montessori education. Through her, I have come to know many people in private and voluntary nursery schools, notably in the Montessori sector. It is sad how disillusioned many of these outstanding, dedicated women-and they are mostly women-have become at growing state interference and what they perceive as lack of sympathy.

Many problems flow from the good intentions of Section 7 of the Childcare Act 2006, which is amended, providentially, but not enough, by Part 1 of this Bill. The issue revolves around the tension between a well intended, populist political slogan-free nursery education for all-and the realities of economic life. If I have learnt anything from a life in the wings of the political theatre, it is that usually a populist slogan will eventually jump up and bite someone. Sadly, it is now biting many early years providers. It is therefore biting parents who want to exercise diverse choices and, worst of all, it is biting children who are disadvantaged by the closure of private and voluntary settings.

In the 1990s, I worked on John Major's original vision to bring nursery education to all. That was intended to be done bottom-up by empowering parents to choose the best support for their children, but local councils and others cavilled about loss of control. Under the previous Government, it was changed to a grant paid out by government via local councils to schools and then indirectly to parents to offset costs, with hosts of people along the way to administer this top-down system.

Under the slogan, "free education for all", that state transfer system evolved into what are, under all the euphemisms, old-fashioned price controls on private and voluntary nursery schools. Nursery schools in receipt of nursery education grant are not allowed to charge above arbitrary price caps for the 15 so-called free hours a week, even if the costs of providing quality education exceed the price limit. There is too little income and too much cost-Mr Micawber knew the effect of that. Private and voluntary settings therefore close or go entirely private, thus closing their doors to parents needing financial help to access them, and so creating a two-tier structure in nursery education that no one wants. The paradox is that in the name of equality and wider access the reverse is happening. Something really is going wrong.

A third way is offered around closure or going private to those schools but this third way is rather an illusion as well. To sustain the claim of free education in the 15 hours, there has emerged a climate of deliberate deceit where a blind eye is turned to settings charging disproportionate amounts for services or time outside the theoretically free 15 hours a week to cover their costs and simply survive. I consider that to be dishonest. I consider dishonesty not to be a sound basis in policy or ethics for educating the young, particularly the youngest of all. I question for how long it can evade the attention of the courts. My hope is that, as we can

14 Jun 2011 : Column 745

consider Part 1 in the coming stages and amend Section 7 of the 2006 Act, the Government will seriously reconsider the imposition of price controls as a condition of parents at a school having access to nursery grant and bring realism to a worthy policy ideal which we all share; namely, access to nursery education for all.

To conclude, I also think that justice is needed on qualifications, on which the Children's Workforce Development Council, another very costly quango, has standardising aims that threaten Montessori education. In Committee, I should like to return to that issue and Part 3. Like my noble friend Lady Morris of Bolton, I hope that my noble friend will show an open mind to ideas to address these problems. Part 1 is an opportunity to do so. If we do not use it wisely, I must tell the noble Lord that people will notice, and life and diversity may continue to drain from a private and voluntary nursery sector that young children perhaps need more now than ever before.

8.33 pm

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I declare an interest. As I have said before, I am a school governor at my local Three Bridges Primary School, which recently got an "outstanding" assessment from Ofsted, of which we are immensely proud. It took something like 10 years to move from "satisfactory" to "outstanding", which was a long and interesting journey. I maintain my interest as a school governor because it gives me an insight into what is happening in primary school education, rather than just theorising about it.

This has been a fascinating debate with, probably, the House of Lords at its best. It brings a huge range of experience and expertise into this debate. I am sure that, had the Minister been here, he would have been listening, but someone is listening on his behalf. Whether he has the freedom to compromise and accept necessary improvements will be revealed in Committee. A lot of people have said that they are enthusiasts for the whole of this Bill but it is a bit like the curate's egg and will need significant amendment. I would not want to be derogatory about it because a number of good parts of this Bill have been referred to in this debate.

The record of the previous Government bears mentioning. In the past decade, the Labour Government put a huge investment into schools-into the fabric and structure of them and into support for teachers. We attracted record numbers into teaching and made teaching a top destination for Oxbridge graduates. The numbers entering the profession are already starting to fall because of this Government's cuts to teacher training. Ofsted's assessment was that we had the best generation of teachers ever thanks to Labour's reforms. We set up the Teach First scheme to encourage high-performing graduates to take up a career in teaching and recent studies have shown that schools with Teach First teachers saw pupils boost their grades by an average of a third of a GCSE in every subject that they studied. Important progress was made during those 10 years.

An area that we have not heard referred to much in this debate is the role of head teachers. In my experience, they are crucial in the ability of a school to succeed in

14 Jun 2011 : Column 746

achieving its objectives of improving the educational experience. We should not lose sight of that. It was good to hear my noble friend Lady Morgan talk about the strategy for improving the role of Ofsted. That is now an important area. Just because a school has achieved an outstanding assessment, you cannot leave it to its own devices. That is a little too complacent, and I hope that we will give further thought to it.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page