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In the short period of time that I have I will cover only a couple of areas. I have been involved with the Alliance for Inclusive Education, which has expressed concern about admissions policy and dealing with children with SEN. The alliance wants,
"These forums allowed parents to raise issues of concern which may help to identify particular problems and challenges local schools face in taking their share of children with special educational needs".
The next area interests me especially, and I declare another personal interest. My noble friend Lord Touhig, who is unfortunately not in the Chamber, gave us some interesting statistics on autism. I have a personal interest because I have a granddaughter with Asperger's. It was interesting when I looked at her experience of state education. It was good in primary school where it was a reasonably safe and secure environment, and teachers seemed to know how to deal with a child with those particular difficulties. But in secondary school it has been dire, quite frankly. Teachers seem not to be trained in what they need to do. There is a lot of room for improvement.
That leads me to the question of exclusion and the real concerns about the policies contained within the Bill. Again, I quote from a briefing document from the Alliance for Inclusive Education. It states that:
It is right: prevention certainly is better than cure. It wants all schools to be under a duty not to exclude but required to arrange support provision as soon as possible to prevent the child from being excluded. Clearly, this is an area that we will return to in Committee.
Lastly, on apprenticeships, while I welcome the Government's commitment on funding-we heard the Minister talk about 135,000 places for 16 to 18 year-olds and 300,000 others-this is really about ensuring that those places actually emerge as real apprenticeships. Withdrawing the 2013 commitment to guarantee an apprenticeship to all 16 to 19 year-olds who qualify for one is the wrong decision. If this country was at war and we decided that we needed all young people to be skilled and employed, then we would find the means. We ought to wage war against youth unemployment. We ought to guarantee that opportunity to every young person who wants an apprenticeship and qualifies for it. As I have said before, the Government have the means to show that they lead by example in government contracts and departments, and can also look at the large number of employers who still do not employ apprenticeships or encourage things such as group training associations.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, the other day, I heard the opera singer Alfie Boe say on "Desert Island Discs" something that we do not often hear successful people say: that he had not liked school. Usually, if people want to confess something bad about their school experience, they say that they were not very good at it. I think that is untrue. All children are clever but not all are academic. Alfie Boe said he did not like school because he was not able to study music without being able to play the violin or flute. Apparently, his voice did not count as an instrument. He lived for 3.30 pm every day, when he could escape to his singing and music classes.
I did not like school either and could not wait to be 16 so that I could get a job and start work. Notwithstanding the comments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford about the son of a grocer, for someone like me-a hands-on, get-the-job-done kind of girl-sitting around in a classroom all day reading poetry felt a bit pointless. It was not until I was 14 and attended the local college for half a day every week to do typing at secretarial studies that things started to become clearer. I became enthusiastic for learning. I decided then that, after leaving school at 16, I would try for a place on a two-year secretarial course that included A-levels. To get on that course, I needed to achieve five O-levels. Finally, learning had some purpose and I knuckled down. I succeeded in getting where I wanted to go. My horizons were not that high back then.
I share this with noble Lords because I support the Government's education policies, only some of which are included in the Bill. I applaud the emphasis on standards in behaviour, performance and testing of teachers as well as children. More than anything, I am thrilled that, as part of the academy programme, the Government support university technical colleges-which the noble Lord, Lord Baker, described so powerfully-and studio schools, although the latter do not have the same profile as the UTCs. These schools and colleges are important because they combine academic learning
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The noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, and the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, highlighted what they felt was too much focus on structural change in the Bill. To me, these UTCs send a powerful and important message. They say that we as a country are finally starting to recognise that all children are clever, even the ones who are not academic. In my mind, the purpose of school is to help us be the best that we can be at whatever it is that we are good at. Michelle Obama's visit to Oxford University with a group of girls from a London school was magical in its inspiration. They will not forget that experience and neither should the rest of us who want young people from all backgrounds to aspire to that level of academic achievement. Listening to her that day and watching her with those girls in Oxford really gave me goosebumps.
We must not allow our ambition for more working-class children to attend Oxbridge to distract us from helping all young people to be ambitious at whatever it is they are good at. Some of our best and brightest are not motivated by Oxbridge-and, in any case we need brilliant doers as much as we need brilliant thinkers. Moreover, we need to start showing our brilliant doers that we think they are just as special as everyone else.
The noble Lords, Lord Layard and Lord Young of Norwood Green, mentioned the apprenticeship scheme. I agree that it is of vital importance that such opportunities are available. I am a bit surprised and confused by the remarks they made, because as I understand it the Government have increased the funding for apprenticeships by £180 million in this year alone, which means a further 50,000 places for young people. Perhaps the Minister can clarify that in his summing up.
One thing I believe very profoundly is that if someone is clever at one thing they are probably clever and capable of doing much more. Sometimes we need to help children to discover what that is, but if we recognise the importance of whatever it is they are good at-whether it is singing or typing-show respect for that skill and help them to succeed, we might just give them the confidence to aspire to achieve more.
There is much detail in this Bill, which will be debated in Committee, but as a vehicle to improve our education system and through that the opportunities for all our children it certainly has my support.
Lord Parekh: My Lords, I owe your Lordships' House my sincere apologies for not being present here when the opening speeches were made. Due to a fatality, the train journey from Hull to London took five and a half hours, as opposed to two and a half, as it normally does. So I ended up spending about three hours more on the train than I would normally do, along with the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, who has just walked into the Chamber. I am most grateful to your Lordships' House for your understanding.
If I had had more time, I would have loved to concentrate on a number of issues, such as the institutional bonfire that the Bill intends to make, as well as the
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I want to articulate that anxiety at five levels. First, there is almost complete silence on race equality issues in the Bill, the White Paper and ministerial speeches. Ofsted has normally reported on the ethos of the schools and what they do to encourage better relations between different ethnic groups. Apart from a passing reference to that, there is very little about it in the Bill. Ofsted reports have also graded schools, which is normally done on the basis of what is called "contextual value added". That has been entirely dropped in the Bill. I know that the concept of contextual value-added is complicated; it needs to be refined and can lead to difficulties. But the answer is not to dispense with it altogether as the Bill does, but rather to refine, revise it and make it more applicable.
That is my worry number one. My worry number two has to do with the enormous amount of power given to teachers to search students, confiscate electronic equipment, to delete data on those electronic appliances and so on. This is a disproportionate amount of power. We are dealing with students and not criminals. As Ofsted has said, the amount of indiscipline, which can be a source of worry, is limited to no more than 2 per cent of our schools. More importantly, if we are not careful we might have a situation where the obvious targets and objects of surveillance would be either Afro-Caribbeans or Muslims. One small incident or mistake could easily give a school a bad name or create a scene of nationwide significance. So we need to be extremely careful about how we use those powers.
My third worry has to do with teacher training. It is now going to be in-school training, which has a role but also an obvious difficulty. Think of people coming from shire schools who have never been exposed to ethnic minorities. Where are they to be placed for teacher training? If they are placed in the same sorts of schools-the only schools that might be recognised by the Government-they will never acquire any kind of competence in how to deal with a multi-ethnic society like ours. If, on the other hand, they are placed in inner-city multi-ethnic schools, those schools are under so much pressure that they simply will not have the time or energy to deal with training those teachers. Multiverse played an important role in providing a great many resources for initial teacher training and subsequent professional development but its funding has been withdrawn, which has left a large institutional gap.
My fourth worry has to do with the academies. The academies that the Government are planning are quite different from those that the Labour Government introduced. We now have half a dozen different kinds of academies. It is a mixed bag and it is therefore difficult to generalise, but I suspect what might happen is as follows. Their admissions criteria could be highly discriminatory and if parents have any objection they will have to go all the way to the Secretary of State, which is never going to be easy. There is no local
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It is also the case that academies, so far at least, have few black students but more money. By contrast, the opposite happens in local authority schools, which have more black students and less money, with the overall result that black children and others tend to receive unequal treatment. Hitherto, the black students used to benefit from local authority support services and the help of voluntary organisations, but their budgets have been cut and they therefore have nowhere to turn to.
I am also a little worried about voluntary-controlled and voluntary-aided schools, if they become academies. The Bill says that, so far as voluntary-controlled schools are concerned, one-fifth of their teachers can come from within the same religious group. Where voluntary-aided schools are concerned, religion can be taken into account in determining their salary, promotion and appointment. I feel deeply concerned about this. If we are not careful, we might have a large number of Muslim or other denominational schools taking full advantage of those provisions and leading to the kinds of trouble that we might not want. We might then complain that they are teaching the wrong kind of Islam or the wrong kind of Christianity.
My fifth and last worry has to do with the fact that the education maintenance allowance is being reduced. That will particularly affect the ethnic minorities, especially Afro-Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi children. The same thing is likely to happen where English language teaching is concerned; those for whom English is a second language will suffer because the funding is being drastically cut. I very much hope that the Minister will take many of these points into account, because if we are not careful the cumulative effect of this Bill could be pretty dangerous so far as race relations and the educational achievement of our ethnic minority children are concerned.
Baroness Grey-Thompson: My Lords, I am particularly interested in children with special educational needs so will concentrate my comments on those areas where they may be affected by this Bill. In Clause 15, on school workforce training, the current proposal of allowing teaching schools to oversee teacher training could result in a lack of consistency in how SEN is delivered. If teacher training schools will be required to be graded as "outstanding" by Ofsted, we must ensure that this requirement includes the teaching of children with SEN so that best practice continues.
I would also like to see it as a requirement for all trainee teachers to learn how to work inclusively with all children, in mainstream school settings, so as to ensure a sound understanding of disability equality principles. I also believe that this should be across all areas. I am sure that noble Lords will expect me to be an advocate for the teaching of PE. However, many teachers are inadequately trained in how to work with SEN children in that area, either through their initial teacher training or in their continual professional development. This is particularly the case at primary level.
When we talk about exclusions we think in terms of permanent exclusion, but more needs to be done to ensure that SEN children are not excluded from strands of their education due to lack of training or health and safety fears. If more young disabled people are exposed to good physical education in schools in an inclusive environment then they are fitter, healthier, and more able to contribute to society in myriad different ways, including in the workforce-perhaps even going back into teaching themselves.
I believe that it is positive to encourage international comparison for our education system, bearing in mind what the noble Lord, Lord Low, said about statistics. However, we must recognise that the treatment of children with SEN varies considerably around the world and strive to deliver the best for our children. SEN provision should be included in any comparison.
I strongly welcome independent careers guidance and advice in Clauses 26 and 27. Advisers need to be well informed about what mainstream education opportunities are available for young disabled people, as well as understanding the full range of opportunities in the workforce, apprenticeships and higher education. I would welcome more information on how this will be achieved.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission's Staying On report has highlighted how careers advisers tailor their advice to what people with a particular impairment should do, rather than basing it on an individual's aspirations. It notes that disabled young people are not receiving information about opportunities in work-based learning and apprenticeships, and that the information received on further education options is often negative. The EHRC report attributed this lack of information and inadequate guidance to professionals not believing that young disabled people could cope with certain choices as a result of viewing disability through a medical model. This resulted in a "damage limitation exercise". It is an important time to challenge the stereotyped and limited learning opportunities that are on offer to disabled young people.
If discrimination starts at an early age, it is with that person for life and they grow up believing that this is the norm. I clearly remember my early careers advice. I was told not to bother with university as I would never get a proper job-that is a probably a matter of further debate among my family right now.
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has already covered the issue of fines relating to outcomes of independent review panels, and the noble Lords, Lord Low and Lord Lingfield, covered some of the points that I should like to have made on exclusions. What I am concerned about is that the Bill makes it no easier for schools to avoid working with SEN children and our reverting to special schools by a different route. Exclusions should surely be the last resort. While they may be appropriate as an end point for a tiny percentage, more must be done to avoid them.
I am particularly pleased to see that parents have a right to request an SEN expert to attend exclusion panels. To make this work, parents need to understand the system, which is incredibly complicated. It is therefore essential that the experts are independent and have
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On school inspection standards in Clause 40, I welcome the intention for school inspections to focus on what is genuinely important in schools, but I would like them to be inspected on how well they comply with the disability equality duty provision as set out in the Equality Act 2010. This sets not only a tone for staff but a level of expectation and understanding for all children.
I have no great difficulty with children being searched in certain circumstances, but it has to be a safe environment for all. I would have concerns if a child with SEN had their communication devices removed and was searched without appropriate support being in place. I look forward to the next stages of the Bill.
Lord Blackwell: My Lords, like other noble Lords, I welcome the Bill, especially the focus on helping with discipline, the greater freedoms for academies and the emphasis on measuring ourselves against international standards. However, I want to focus on one area which is ignored in the Bill and has been neglected in government legislation so far, and I should like to explore whether it could be added to the Bill as it passes through the House.
My concern is around the provision of high-quality education tailored to the needs of the most able pupils. It is of course important to raise standards across the board and to focus attention on raising standards in those schools covering disadvantaged areas where high standards are most difficult to achieve, and I fully agree with my noble friend Lady Stowell that we need brilliant doers as well as brilliant thinkers. But the most able children also deserve special attention. We should not forget that it is the most able children from whom the leaders of the future will often be drawn-the scientists, engineers, artists, business leaders and politicians who make the breakthroughs and create the wealth and social advance that the nation as a whole benefits from. Not only that, we need to ensure that very able children from less advantaged backgrounds are able to get top-quality education and rise to the top of their chosen field as a crucial aspect of encouraging social mobility-providing role models to raise aspirations in their local communities as well as delivering on our shared ideal of a fair and meritocratic society.
I fear that over time we have moved to a situation where the highest quality education is no longer open to all children based on merit, but is increasingly the preserve of wealthier families who can pay for private education or a house in an affluent area. That is neither fair nor a good development for society as a whole, so I would like to explore a number of possible amendments to this Bill to support the aims of fairness and access to high-quality education for all, regardless of their background.
First, I would like to explore whether it is possible to apply admission arrangements collectively to a group of schools, a group of academies or others in a
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Under this arrangement, there would be no admissions criteria based on ability to get into the school or schools, and the decision to refer a pupil to the fast-track classes could be taken at any age rather than at one fixed point. As well as making it economically possible to provide specialist teaching for a group of high-ability children by aggregating them together across a number of schools, this arrangement would recognise the well established benefits that high achievers gain from being taught in a class with other high-ability children. In one study at York University, for example, the achievement of children in the top 5 per cent ability range was shown to be significantly higher when they were in a year group with 20 or more other high-ability children than when they were in a year group with fewer than 10 other very able students. There may already be more flexibility to move in this direction under existing legislation, but I would like to explore whether amendments to the Bill could help achieve this aim.
Secondly, and with the same objective, I wonder whether we might not have a general requirement on all schools, particularly academies, to make adequate provision to enable pupils of high ability to achieve their potential, whether through setting, streaming or other tailored teaching methods. We put other general requirements on schools, so why not a general requirement to provide a fair opportunity for high-ability pupils? We could then perhaps also amend Clause 52 regarding Ofsted inspections, to require the Ofsted inspector also to consider whether the education provided by the school meets the special needs of high-ability pupils.
Thirdly, we do have some very high-quality academic schools that in past years were open to all as direct grant schools, but which chose to convert to private status when the direct grant status was abolished. I myself was a free-school-meals pupil at one such direct grant school, and I have no doubt that I owe a lot to the opportunities opened up by that completely free, state-funded education. What those schools provided was not only academic excellence but-just as important -the social constants that children from less advantaged backgrounds need to believe that they can aim for the top. We now have, through the Academies Act, the framework to welcome such schools back into the state-funded sector. However, to make that possible, I believe we would need to amend the restrictions on admissions policy so that these schools, like existing grammar schools that switch to academy status, can retain their existing admissions policy based on merit. I cannot see why, given that these excellent schools exist and continue to deliver some of the best academic
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Finally, the most wide-ranging change would be to allow academies to opt for a specialism as a selective academic school. That may be a step too far for many, but again I think it is something we should consider. So I welcome this Bill and I look forward to my noble friend's response to the debate. I will then reflect on how some of these points may be advanced as the Bill proceeds through this House.
Lord Puttnam: My Lords, this Bill is not wholly bad but it is flawed, and in my judgment may be fatally flawed. At its heart it lacks authenticity in that it claims to embrace the concept of greater professionalism, but in willing the ends it effectively destroys the means.
I declare two interests. The first is as the inaugural chair of the General Teaching Council for England. The second is as someone who over the past 14 years has spent a vast amount of time in schools talking to pupils and teachers. That has been a privilege, not a burden. I have always tried to bring back what I have learnt to the department, to your Lordships' House and to anyone prepared to listen to what I have seen and heard. I have also tried to be strictly non-ideological. What has come back has not always been either comfortable or welcome, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, and my noble friend Lady Morris of Yardley will confirm. My overwhelming message, then and now, is that none of the improvements that we may wish for will happen without total buy-in from the whole profession. The Bill in its present form will not achieve that.
My appointment as the first chair of the General Teaching Council was, as someone put it the other day, the ultimate hospital pass. The 1998 Act that created it was, I say somewhat cynically, inadequate. Some of the unions that claimed to want a GTC backed off the moment they realised it might involve power-sharing, and the Government of the day were extremely ambivalent about how much power they were prepared to give away. It, too, in essence, was an inauthentic piece of legislation.
After 40 years of working in public bodies, I would say that every single public body that I have worked in could at some point have been a candidate for being abandoned. Every one of them had a flaw; every one of them needed improvement-sometimes significant improvement. However, making something that is essentially worth while into something that is truly excellent is very hard work. The cheap and easy option is to scrap it and walk away. This is a point that I was eager to make but was not able to during the passage of the Public Bodies Bill. What could be more worth while than a teaching profession that sees itself as exactly that-a profession, with all the challenges that come with professional status? The embryonic GTC tried to be that. It was an opportunity for teachers to re-evaluate themselves and the vital role that they play in society, just as doctors, lawyers and nurses did before them. I will not go down that road; the noble
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I put it to noble Lords that the teachers of Scotland have their General Teaching Council. The teachers of Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, where I was last week, have all confirmed the status and need for a general teaching council. Indeed, Scotland has added to its General Teaching Council's responsibilities. What is it about the teachers in England that makes them less deserving of professional status? I look forward to hearing the Minister explain why the teachers of England are being treated in this way.
At present the Bill is misleading. Teachers will see through it and through the honeyed words of the Secretary of State in introducing it at the other end of the Corridor on 8 February. Make no mistake; the Bill diminishes teachers. It diminishes their role and removes some of their freedoms.
My second point, which I shall make quickly, is on something that is almost ignored in the Bill: the role of technology in teaching and learning. The Secretary of State has been fulsome in his admiration for successful comparator countries. However, the Bill, which sets out a vision for education a decade ahead, barely mentions the possible role of technology. Consider this; if you took a surgeon from 1911 and popped him into an operating theatre today, he might as well be in a spaceship. He would have no idea of what was going on and none of his competencies could add to the process of an operation.
If you took a teacher from 1911 and put her into a classroom today, she-and it probably would be a "she"-would make a real fist of teaching a lesson, for a very simple reason; none of the technological advances, and none of the knowledge we have gained of the way that the brain works, have, as yet, been fully applied to teaching and learning.
This is a grievous mistake. It is an omission from the Bill. I argue that this iPad is as vital to the education of a young person today as was the slate on which our forebears learned to scratch their names. To ignore that fact, not to take advantage of that possibility, is a major omission from the Bill.
Lord Willis of Knaresborough: My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest, first, as chair of the e-Learning Foundation, about which the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, will be delighted, and, secondly, as having spent 20 years as head teacher of some of the north of England's largest, and I would say poorest and most demanding, comprehensive schools.
I begin my comments by saying that there is much to commend in the Bill, which, like most legislation in the education field, is brimming with good intentions. I also commend the way in which my noble friend introduced the Bill, leaving out the wild, implausible claims of the Secretary of State in another place
My starting point for the debate must be the 13 years of the Labour Government, which put education at the heart of their agenda, which spent more of our national resource than any other Government since the war and introduced more initiatives, targets and
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Ironically, much of the policy succeeded. Our best schools compare with the best in the world. Our universities and college students compete and win against global competition, particularly in science and engineering. However, the Bill will be judged not against our high-fliers, against those with aspirant parents or against those in high performing schools but against what it does for the habitual underachievers.
Today, as we debated the Bill, 64,000 children voted with their feet and played truant. Today, 3 million children live in poverty-about 1.5 million, according to Action for Children, in severe poverty. The correlation between poverty and educational underachievement is well proven.
The influential 2009 IFS report, Drivers and Barriers to Education Success, could not have been clearer. Only 20 per cent of our poorest children attain five GCSEs, including English and maths at above grade C, compared with 74 per cent of the richest 20 per cent. Fifteen per cent of our poorest children become NEETs at the age of 17, compared with only 2 per cent of the richest. Twenty-four per cent of our poorest children play truant, compared with 8 per cent of the wealthiest. We know, too, that poverty breeds a lack of ambition, of self-belief, to get out of the poverty trap. Crucially, evidence from around the world tells us that access to education remains the golden key that can unlock the potential of our young people. It is the silver bullet.
We should not judge the Bill on how many irrelevant quangos are axed or how many new powers the Secretary of State can take unto himself. The Bill should be judged on how it gives our poorest children opportunity and hope. There are some good elements: early years places for two year-olds, the pupil premium, raising the participation age, access to more apprenticeships, comprehensive all-ages careers service, greater freedom and autonomy for heads and teachers. All those are really positive things in addressing that issue, but that is not enough.
Far too much of the Bill is about rewarding those who can take advantage of the new freedoms. The new baccalaureate is a case in point. If it is handled badly, it will become a stick with which to beat the poor and the less able and will challenge those with special needs. I want the Minister to recognise that reaching the hard to reach is about more than giving primary children an additional dose of synthetic phonics; it is about starting from where a child is and designing a curriculum that is relevant to that child and its parents. It is about building confidence in basic aspects of learning and rewarding success, not punishing failure. As the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, rightly said, it is also about recognising that the most potent 21st century medium for learning is information technology and that children, no matter where they are born or how
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In today's learning world, having access to a computer and broadband is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity, yet 1 million children in England do not have access to broadband or the internet. It is no coincidence that the north-east has the lowest educational attainment of any region of England. It is the poorest region and has the lowest uptake of broadband and digital inclusion. According to the IFS, having a computer at home at the age of 14 strongly correlates to educational attainment at the age of 16. It means an increase of 14 GCSE points, whereas lack of access means a drop of 20 GCSE points. Access to the internet is a crucial factor in explaining the gap in educational attainment and combined with poverty is a double whammy for our poorest children. I appreciate that there is little spare cash to support digital inclusion. That is where charities such as the e-Learning Foundation can help. However, access to the pupil premium would do much to bridge that digital divide.
Michael Gove said in another place that the Bill will prepare children for the technological challenges of the 21st century. If that is so, some mention of ICT in the Bill before it completes its passage is absolutely crucial. After all, the iPad which the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, can afford would give access not only to the works of Shakespeare, which the Secretary of State desires, but to half the world's knowledge at the touch of a fingertip. That is what I call giving children a real opportunity.
Baroness Flather: My Lords, I listened to the Secretary of State at the Cross-Bench meeting last Wednesday and was charmed by him. Perhaps my fellow Peers who were there would agree that he charmed us. He is charismatic, charming and intelligent. However, when you think about the Bill more clearly, you can see very divisive aspects hidden in it which will emerge as time goes on and lead to division rather than cohesion. The noble Lord, Lord Willis, put his finger on some of those factors.
How can you say that autonomy is not good? It is wonderful to run your own institution, appoint your own governors and choose your own teachers. However, if the autonomy has a religious basis, you could discriminate against people who are not of your faith in admissions, employment and the appointment of governors. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, asked the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford whether Church of England schools admitted 25 per cent of pupils from other faiths. The bishop replied that he did not know because it was a decision for the governors or the diocese. Autonomy is wonderful but somebody has to keep an eye on it as it cannot be total. That is what worries me. We are going to have religious-based academies which will have a lot of powers. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, has already mentioned some of
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If the academies start to make decisions on the basis of faith, where are we going? We are living in the 21st century, yet we are going backwards into an increasingly faith-based society. What do we want this country to be like in 20, 25 or 30 years? Do we want little groups of faith-based communities springing up here, there and everywhere? We already have faith schools, not just Church of England and Catholic schools. As the right reverend Prelate rightly said, the Church of England was the only institution that began to educate the poor. We have to accept that historical fact. Every country has to live with its history, but why all the other schools? They do nothing but segregate children. Do we really want segregation in this country? The more faith schools we have, the more segregation we will have. It stands to reason. If a Muslim school is there, non-Muslims will not attend it. Even if the school said, "We will have 10 per cent or 20 per cent non-Muslims", who will go there? Would you send your child or grandchild to a Muslim school? I doubt it. This is my worry; we are creating all this superstructure of faith schools. Will we one day have creationist schools? Why not? Creationists say they are a faith. Will we have some other slightly strange religion? It is a worry and we ought to think very carefully about where we want to be.
We already have segregation. The Cantle report on the riots in the Midlands said clearly that they occurred because of segregation. If we keep on segregating our children, at what stage will we have community cohesion? If children are not educated together, they will never know each other. They will never get together. Even if you are grown up and at university, you find that the Muslim girls and boys stick together. They do not mix with the others. When I went to university, there were very few Indians there, but we never even thought about it. We were at university. Everyone was the same. It was the first time in my life that I felt that I was just a person. I was not a woman. I was not Indian. I was not this or that. This is what we need to be feeling-not feeling Indian, Muslim or Hindu. This is what we should be working towards.
I see that my speaking time is coming to an end. You cannot really consider some parts of the Midlands as part of this country any more. They look more like the countries of origin from where the people have come. Nursery schools for two year-olds should really concentrate on the children from such areas, because they do not speak English when they go to school, and that automatically sets them back. They lose two or three years while they are learning English. You might ask why the third or fourth generations still do not know English. It is because they marry in the village and one parent is therefore always without English. All the time it is one step forward and one step back. I cannot understand why Ofsted's power to look for community cohesion in schools has been taken away. It is the most important aspect of this issue. A school is not just for itself but is also about providing for the whole community, not only for the governors or the pupils. Ofsted's power to look for community cohesion is fundamental and should never be removed. Amendments to the Bill will come.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am grateful at this late stage to be following two such good speeches, because I have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Willis, and the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, have said.
The Minister may recall from the debate on the Academies Act that I am somewhat opposed to the general direction of government educational policy-in particular the writing out of local authorities from their oversight of education. That is not to say that I believe that local authorities did a fantastic job, but I do believe that that is the point where there is democratic and community oversight of what is happening to our future generations. In particular, it is the failsafe and the default protection of the kind of kids to which the noble Lord, Lord Willis, was referring, and the protection from the kind of community segregation to which the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, was referring. Indeed, I have another example. In terms of educational attainment, the schools of Northern Ireland are actually pretty good; in terms of their contribution to community cohesion, they are absolutely a cause of many of the problems of the last 100 years. Some of the roads we are going down in terms of the autonomy of schools' decisions on admission policy are moving in that direction. It may not be dramatic but it is the logical conclusion.
That does mean that I have severe hesitations about the principle of academies opting out of local authority oversight. I did with the last Government, I do with this Government. I have retreated to what is probably a more defensible line on that: I recognise academies are going to happen. However, I am still not clear whether the Government's policy is for a significant number of academies with the resources and protection and so on that could lead to a two-tier structure-which is what I was worried about during the Academies Bill-or whether their aim is that every school should be an academy and therefore that every school should have opted out from local authority control. The consequences of that objective seem to be in the area of lack of community cohesion, serious segregation by catchment area and by admissions policy, and a downgrading of the support functions in relation to special needs and to other functions that are essential for the more disadvantaged pupils.
On academies, the Minister referred to a "critical role" for local authorities, but in practice he is writing out any significant role for local authorities from this whole approach, and that I still deplore. Instead we are getting a system in the name of devolution and of localism but which is actually about centralisation-centralisation of funding and to some extent centralisation of control of what goes into schools-by and large not to independent regulators or independent bodies but to the Secretary of State. That is extremely dangerous and probably ultimately unworkable. The Government should rethink and redress the balance in favour of a strong local authority participation.
I said I had retreated a bit. My main complaint tonight is actually about free schools. Free schools are taking even the Government's philosophy one stage too far. An article in the Observer at the weekend indicated exactly those areas where free schools were going to be established. They were in areas of very
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I will not say more about that now but I will no doubt return to it and indeed to the consultation process on academies. Noble Lords who are veterans of these debates will know-the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, in particular-that it took us some time to get any recognition of consultation procedures in the Academies Act. I do not think that the changes in Clause 55 of this Bill take us much further down the line but we need to tighten that up as well and I will return to it.
I wish briefly to make two other points. My noble friend Lord Puttnam has said quite a lot about the GTC. I find it very odd that in this country the one profession that guarantees, or does not guarantee, the future generation does not have a professional register or inculcate professional standards and, for example, allows for free schools not to employ qualified teachers. That is a downgrading of the teaching profession, whereas the lesson of the past few years is that we must upgrade the whole status of the profession in terms of competence.
My final point relates not to teachers but to the rest of the staff. The abolition of the support staff negotiating body seems to be an unnecessary act of spite. The body had not got round to setting standards in this area but it recognised that there was a real problem regarding those who support, and provide increasingly important support for, the teaching staff. One danger of the autonomy of schools is that, with the abolition of that body and with the freedoms that we are giving academies, those schools will be able to cream off the best teachers, paying them the better salaries and offering them the better terms and conditions. At the same time, they will be able to pay the lowest salaries and offer the worst terms and conditions to the support staff. That is not a recipe for schools to operate well; nor is it a recipe for social cohesion. The Government, who speak a lot about localism, social cohesion, good society and the big society, need to consider the long-term implications of measures such as this, and I hope that at various points during the passage of the Bill I shall be able to point that out again to the Minister.
"Every effort should be made to help parents to send their children to schools of their own choice. The status of technical
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Those words appeared in the Conservative Party's manifesto for the general election of 1950. Parental choice, high-quality teaching and a diversity of provision underlined in the manifesto by the reference to technical schools surely all remain essential if an excellent education is to be available for every child in our country. Yet, 60 years on, those great objectives still await full and effective implementation. This important Bill is designed to hasten their accomplishment and I welcome it warmly. I give it a much higher rating than my noble friend Lady Jolly, who marked it so harshly, although as I was once a mere university lecturer she is likely to be singularly unimpressed by that.
Some malign social trends have made the Government's task infinitely more difficult. The Tory manifesto of 1950 was written by a wise and humane man, David Clarke, in the Conservative Research Department, where I have worked more recently. It would never have occurred to him, or to others of his generation, that in some schools 60 years later classrooms would come to resemble battlefields. It was a different world then, when 100 windows might be broken in an outburst of high spirits, as we heard so amusingly from Michael Gove's fellow Aberdonian, the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood. In 2011, a comparatively small number of children cause a great deal of trouble over and again. As we have heard, every school day, nearly 1,000 children are excluded for abuse or assault against staff and fellow pupils. Long gone are the days when, in Winston Churchill's well known words, headmasters possessed powers with which Prime Ministers had yet to be invested.
At the moment, severe disruption cannot be readily curtailed. Heads and their colleagues must be put in a position where they can take swift and effective action to restore order and discipline in the classroom in the interests of their pupils as a whole. Part 2 of the Bill provides the measures that are needed and they deserve emphatic support.
At first sight, it seems strange that such changes designed to improve conditions for high-quality teachers should be accompanied in Part 3 by the abolition of a body established just 11 years ago to help to raise professional standards-namely, the General Teaching Council for England. At the time of its creation, I was general secretary of the Independent Schools Council. Its constituent bodies, representing some 1,300 independent schools which could have remained entirely outside the GTC, decided to support it. A fine, enduring partnership seemed in prospect, thanks to the effusive response we received from the GTC's founding father, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, who has explained his position and view so powerfully this evening, evoking an equally powerful response from my noble friend Lord Willis. It is sad that the GTC failed to fulfil its early promise and I mourn its passing.
In these circumstances it is the united view of independent schools-which do not always reach a united view-that the GTC's register of qualified teachers should remain in being in a format that is readily accessible to employers and other interested parties.
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That spirit of partnership should be developed further and this Bill could provide the means. Part 3 transfers the functions of the Training and Development Agency to the Secretary of State. The process could be usefully accompanied by a re-examination of all forms of provision for training and for professional development with the aim of ensuring that the independent sector enjoys equality of treatment wherever possible. That matter might be explored in Committee. So, too, might the contribution that independent schools can make to the academy movement-a point so well understood by my friends, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and Mr Graham Brady in another place. We shall find some common ground with my noble friend Lord Blackwell.
Parents can look forward to higher standards and greater choice as a result of this Government's legislation but, at the same time, vigilance is needed in protecting choice and rights which parents have long enjoyed. I have recently drawn one specific cause of concern to the attention of my noble friend the Minister in my role as a patron of a campaign organised by parents of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in London. Parents with children at the school are being denied their proper role on its governing body by the Roman Catholic diocesan authorities. This is a case which has implications for all 4,000 voluntary-aided schools in England. The law needs to be clarified. I hope that, either in Committee or through some other means, the Government will be able to set out their view.
The Bill touches briefly but very significantly on the education system in Northern Ireland, the part of our country which means most to me. Under Clauses 21 and 22, the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation-Ofqual-will work with the Northern Ireland Assembly to equip the Province with the high-quality system of vocational education which it has lacked for so long. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister stressed in his speech at Stormont last week, the Province must have,
The partnership between Ofqual and the Assembly will make a vital contribution to its development. It symbolises the continuing importance of Britain in Ulster's affairs in the new era of devolution. It also provides a fine example of brisk action to those politicians in Northern Ireland who have failed for years to resolve crucial issues, such as the transfer arrangements from primary to secondary school.
Churchill's wartime coalition conferred on this country the inestimable boon of a free secondary education for every family that wanted it. Yet an excellent education has not yet become everyone's birthright. This coalition Government have an historic opportunity to complete their predecessor's achievement-which owed so much to one of the greatest modern Tories, Rab Butler, who was also one of the greatest administrators, with a healthy dislike of quangos, particularly in education.
Lord Knight of Weymouth: My Lords, I start by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Edmiston, on his fine maiden speech. He should be as proud of it as he is of the Grace academies. When I was schools Minister, I was very pleased to visit the Grace academy in Coventry, which I remember well as a very fine school. I also refer noble Lords to my entry in the register, in particular in respect of the work that I do for TSL Education and Apple Europe, and my roles as a trustee of the e-Learning Foundation, with the noble Lord, Lord Willis, and as chair of the Institute for Education Business Excellence.
The Bill has some measures that are old, that turn back the clock and that go against the grain of educational change around the world. Other aspects are borrowed from the vision that we had in government of school autonomy and parental choice; and there are elements that are clearly blue, such as the biggest centralisation of power in the hands of central government anywhere in the western world, a watering down of fair admissions and a reckless dismantling of what works in teacher recruitment and retention.
A core feature of the Bill is the centralisation that goes with the abolition of half a dozen arm's-length bodies. The Minister told us that this increases ministerial accountability, and of course it does. That is all very well if it is accompanied by ministerial responsibility; but when will this Secretary of State take responsibility for his mistakes? As the Chancellor has done on the economy, Mr Gove is going too far, too fast in his cuts, and has had to U-turn, often after legal action or the threat of it. We saw this over BSF, over school sport, over Book Start and now over schools funding. Like the Health Secretary, the Education Secretary makes a decision, announces it, then thinks about it, listens and has to back-track. It is no wonder that he has lost the confidence and support of the teaching profession-and yet he wants to grab all the power in the Bill. That might be fine if he were willing to take full responsibility for his mistakes. Perhaps the noble Minister can tell us if increased accountability means that the whole ministerial team knows that when serious mistakes are made-and I know that they are-they will be the ones who will take responsibility?
There is much in the Bill that I want to talk about. Most issues will have to wait until Committee, such as the abolition of the GTC and of the school support staff negotiating body, 14 to 19 education, free schools, apprenticeships, the role of technology and the future of careers education and work-related learning. There is much to talk about and much that needs amending. However, I will focus now on two issues: admissions and the teaching workforce. The abolition of the TDA and the GTC are stunningly retrograde steps. It has
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Until the last election, teacher training in England was rising in status. Recruitment was buoyant even in the enduringly difficult subjects such as maths and science. The quality was at its highest ever in terms of both entry and product, and rising every year. The standards of the providers themselves had never been higher. Even Mr Gove, the Secretary of State, said on the radio-I almost choked on my muesli-that the new teachers being produced were the "best ever". The recruitment crisis that had been inherited in the late 1990s was a distant memory.
Is the coalition's response to build on success? No, it is to use the Bill to sweep away the carefully constructed and proven systems that other advanced countries so admired and to replace them with centralising control, taking us back to the bad old days when the Whitehall machine tried to manage teacher recruitment and professional development from the centre, and did it so badly that the TDA had to be set up. If this Government have their way and the provisions of the Bill reach the statute book unamended, the TDA and the national college will become executive agencies. They will be creatures of the Government and constrained by an Administration who have proved themselves at least questionable in aspects of competent delivery.
How long will it be before they have to admit their mistake and recreate the freedoms needed to attract the very best into teaching? How many great teachers will be lost to the profession because the Government will not admit that successful recruitment requires a professional marketing approach, which the TDA has managed with distinction for the past decade? How many children will suffer in the mean time because there will not be enough good, well trained teachers in front of classes?
Then there are fair admissions. As a Minister, I significantly tightened up the admissions code, and now this Bill loosens it. Ed Balls and I decided to do this because it is an essential safeguard, alongside school autonomy, choice and accountability. We should be clear that if you ramp up competition, and funding follows the pupil, you have to ensure fair admissions. If, as this Government say, they are serious about tackling social mobility, they must give all children, regardless of background, an equal chance to get into the best schools. While the Government propose keeping some of the important requirements that we inserted, they have removed the most important element: the teeth to allow enforcement of the rules by the regulator, the schools adjudicator. I acted on this when in office following a survey that revealed that a significant number of schools were inadvertently or otherwise breaking the law on admissions. The repeal in the Bill of Section 88P of the 1998 Act removes the requirement
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I look forward to Committee. This is, I am afraid, a flawed Bill. We need to draw on all of the talents of your Lordships' House to scrutinise it, and I hope our noble Minister does a better job of listening than his colleagues did in another place.
Lord Bichard: My Lords, if you are the last of 50 speakers, you can at least be reasonably sure that some members of the audience have been looking forward to your contribution, which, as we all know, is not always the case. As a former Permanent Secretary in the Department for Education and Employment, as it was then, I know only too well how many different and strongly held views there are on how to improve our education system. It was my privilege to listen to them for six years, and it has been my privilege to sit in on this excellent debate this evening.
What that experience taught me is that there is probably only one thing on which everyone agrees: that the key to better education lies in the quality of teaching. All the available research confirms that, Ofsted inspections confirm that and anyone who has spent any real time in our schools knows that. Whatever the kind of school, whatever the structure, what counts is the quality of the teaching. So, when the Government entitled their education White Paper last year The Importance of Teaching, I was greatly encouraged, even more so because in their foreword to that White Paper, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister proclaimed that:
That seemed to me to herald a move away from the previous emphasis on structure, which I believe had become excessive, and back towards the need to improve the capability and quality of classroom teachers. So I came to this Education Bill hoping to see further evidence that, taking the White Paper, the Bill and other ministerial statements together, we were really developing a comprehensive strategy that would take teaching in this country to new levels. After all, the Secretary of State himself said that:
As other noble Lords have said, there is much in this Bill to commend and to agree with, but I am disappointed that there is little to suggest that there is yet a real strategy to drive up teaching quality. It is true that there are a number of initiatives. The abolition of the Training and Development Agency for Schools might not seem to be sending out quite the positive
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The Government are also committed to developing a national network of teaching schools to lead the training and professional development of teachers and head teachers, which in itself is an interesting idea. But we urgently need more details to reassure ourselves that this can be implemented while avoiding the danger of recycling mediocrity and while achieving the necessary consistency that the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, pointed to earlier, without losing the generic understanding of how you adapt your teaching style to different situations, which on the face of it you are more likely to achieve through a national system.
The Government are also committed to reforming initial teacher training, not least to increase the proportion of time trainees spend in the classroom focusing on core teaching skills. Again, I can support that. But relying on initial teacher training to transform the quality of teaching will take several decades to achieve. Our focus needs to be on how we help to support existing teachers to improve their performance. Of course, reducing the bureaucratic burden on schools, and affording schools and teachers other freedoms as described in this Bill, will remove some of the constraints which can prevent good teachers realising their potential.
They do not of themselves create good teachers or turn average teachers into world beaters. That requires the very best possible continuing professional development and the effective use of the available research on best teaching practice here and abroad, taking account not least of the role of new technology. It also requires us to recruit and retain high calibre people in the profession. I for one would have liked to see a little more of that kind of content in the Bill and a little less about the structure. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure the House that a convincing strategy on teacher professional development will be published shortly, that that strategy will be vigorously implemented and that its success will be independently assessed.
Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My Lords, it is a privilege and, I have to say, a somewhat daunting challenge to respond from the opposition Benches to such a comprehensive debate with so many outstanding contributions from all sides of your Lordships' House. It has been testimony to the commitment of noble Lords to the well-being of children and young people, and to our collective belief in the central importance of education in shaping their futures. That was particularly exemplified in the entertaining and insightful maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Edmiston. His speech was strong on positive values, with an evident commitment to helping young people achieve their potential. He clearly has an enormous contribution to make to the work of this House.
We all feel a great responsibility to do all that we can to secure the best possible prospects for the generations coming behind us, including children of all abilities, as
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There are some welcome provisions in the Bill. We are pleased to see the Government building on the entitlement for early-years education, for the under-fives, established by the Labour Government. I thank the Minister for his kind remarks in that regard. We progressively extended the entitlement to disadvantaged two year-olds and, of course, we support the principle of putting that on a statutory footing. However, we want to see the current entitlement for three and four year-olds in the Bill; a much more radical approach to ensuring maximum take-up, particularly from disadvantaged children; and assurances on the quality of provision, as the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, rightly demands.
We welcome the restrictions on the reporting of alleged offences by teachers up to the point of being charged, but will the Minister explain why the same restrictions should not apply to college lecturers and other school staff? We welcome the measures in the White Paper to build on the outstanding progress in the quality of teaching achieved over the past decade, some of which was just mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Bichard. However, noble Lords have raised a number of serious concerns that we share and I will focus on four of those tonight.
The first is the shift in the Bill towards school autonomy and away from accountability. A strong strand throughout the Bill is the aim of increasing freedom for schools to make decisions across a wide range of issues such as excluding pupils, admissions, how they carry out searches and how they will provide careers guidance. However, the Government have been much less clear about how those freedoms will be balanced by strong accountability, particularly to parents. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, pointed out that parents are noticeable only by their absence from the Bill.
We are not opposed to the principle of more freedom for schools. However, the international research that the Minister himself referred to suggests that giving individual schools more freedom can lead to improved results, but only in the context of a system that is strong on accountability, collaboration and fairness-a comprehensive intake. While the Bill strengthens schools' independence, it significantly weakens accountability, the potential for partnership and fair admissions. This selected and untested application of the international evidence is dangerous. It is an experiment, as my noble friend Lady Massey termed it.
Moreover, the greater freedoms for schools come at the expense of the rights and entitlements of children and parents, because the necessary checks and balances that should accompany those freedoms-the processes of natural justice-are being stripped out of the system. A child permanently excluded will no longer have access to an independent appeals panel with the authority
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The schools adjudicator's power to enforce fair admissions will be restricted and, while the White Paper sets out a strategic role for local authorities to ensure fair access for every child, the Bill dismantles the apparatus for doing so. Is the Minister not concerned about the consequences of removing those reasonable checks and balances that ought to be the counterweight to greater school autonomy? Does he not agree that the Secretary of State, maybe with the best of intentions, has aligned himself too much to the providers-the schools-and not sufficiently with children, parents and local accountability?
The second issue concerns the shift towards central control and away from local determination. As well as diminishing the rights of individual parents and children, the Bill also sweeps away the collective views of parents, communities and local authorities in shaping their local schools. If a new school is required in an area now, the Bill presumes that it will be an academy, whatever the views of local people. My noble friend Lord Griffiths cautioned against the severing of links between schools and local authorities. The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, outlined the role of councils in protecting parental choice and urged the Government to apply the principles of localism. However, despite the Localism Bill, the Education Bill, as we have heard, is taking more than 50 powers away from local or independent bodies and transferring them to the Secretary of State.
This is the most centralising Bill that I have seen in all my time in government. It will give the Secretary of State the power to close schools and colleges without consultation, instruct local authorities to issue warning notices to schools and instruct schools to discipline and dismiss teachers. It transfers to the Secretary of State the functions of the TDA and the General Teaching Council for England, the wisdom of which has been questioned by the noble Lord, Lord Quirk, and my noble friends Lord Puttnam and Lord Knight, who pointed to the damage to the professional reputation, development and recruitment of teachers. That therefore jeopardises the quality of teaching that the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, rightly pointed out is the most critical factor.
The Secretary of State will have the power to change the national curriculum, investigate complaints about individual teachers and keep an accurate register of teachers, although the Minister said in a letter to me today that the Government do not intend to keep such a register in the future, so I do not know how schools will undertake their recruitment. Has the Minister's department got the capacity to fulfil these demands effectively? The evidence is not terribly good on that score. More fundamentally, does he really think that such centralisation is right in principle and feasible in practice?
This brings me to my third concern: the erosion of children's rights and entitlements. The Bill's proposals for both school autonomy and central control together significantly erode many of the reasonable rights and entitlements that children currently have and that many Lords have referred to tonight. Furthermore, the Bill
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The proposals for career guidance are nothing short of a disaster at the moment. The careers service is crumbling as we speak because local authorities are cutting their service in anticipation of the Bill's proposals. Schools are to be given the duty to provide independent advice to under-19s by whatever means they choose. There is no guidance from government, no common standard and no requirement for the face-to-face contact that we believe-I gather so did Mr Simon Hughes, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, in a speech this week-should be an entitlement for every pupil. I am pleased that my noble friend Lord Morris of Handsworth and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, also supported this. The children who will lose out if there is no face-to-face contact will of course be those who most need good careers advice: the youngsters without strong family support, children in care and those on free school meals.
The powers in the Bill relating to behaviour and discipline deserve particular scrutiny. They epitomise some aspects of the Secretary of State's approach here, which is more concerned with headlines than substance. Ofsted reminds us that behaviour is outstanding or good in 89 per cent of primary and 70 per cent of secondary schools, but we on this side are in no doubt that schools should have the powers to deal effectively with bad behaviour when it occurs. The disruption caused by even a tiny minority can blight the school experience for the rest of the class. That is why the Labour Government brought in statutory powers to enforce discipline: the use of reasonable force, search, confiscation and so on, subject to reasonable safeguards.
The Bill removes those safeguards, which are no more than the reasonable requirements one would expect to accompany such strong powers. The Bill will enable a child to be searched by a teacher of the opposite sex, conducted without a second member of staff as a witness. A pupil can be detained after school without giving parents any prior notice at all, let alone 24 hours. Many noble Lords across the House, including the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, the noble Lord, Lord Low, and my noble friend Lord Parekh have expressed their concerns about the possible consequences of abolishing those safeguards.
Fourthly, many noble Lords across the House have expressed their concern about the regrettable absence in the Bill of any consideration of the accumulative effect of its proposals on the outcomes for vulnerable children. There are those with special educational needs or disability, looked-after children, those on free school meals and children whose life circumstances make it more difficult for them to make the best of their education without additional help and support-
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It is the proposal to remove from schools the duty to co-operate with other children's and health services that is the most worrying for the prospects of vulnerable children. As the noble Lord, Lord Low, pointed out, that appears to contradict directly the Government's Green Paper on SEN disability, which envisages bringing together,
The level of concern across the House, from the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Sharp, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and my noble friends Lord Touhig and Lady Morgan-as well as from the noble Lord, Lord Laming, who could not be here-mean that we will return in some detail to the matter in Committee.
The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, about the importance of assessments is relevant here because to be effective those assessments need to be interdisciplinary and based on agencies working together. Can the Minister explain how the repeal of that duty will help the most vulnerable children?
Finally, let me make it clear that we are not opposed to the extension of academies, albeit the Government's model is fundamentally different from ours, as my noble friends Lord Parekh and Lord Whitty pointed out. Our vision embraces diversity of schools, provided that there is a level playing field and within a collaborative, inclusive and accountable framework. My noble friend Lady Morris of Yardley, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford and the noble Lords, Lord Sutherland and Lord Low, prompted us to look beyond the detailed provisions of this Bill and to ask what the Government's vision is. What do they think the system will be in five or 10 years? How can we have a valid and incontestable set of data that will tell us whether it has improved?
My noble friend Lady Jones sketched out vividly at the start of this debate the spectre of the education system that we believe could emerge from this Government's measures, with thousands of atomised academies cut loose from local councils and communities and other children's services, free to do pretty much as they like-left to get on with it, as the Minister said-directly managed, or not, by the Department for Education, tied into private companies managing them in chains, in a sink or swim culture that could leave schools floundering and the children in them to fail. The danger is a two-tier system that will eventually emerge with disabled and disadvantaged children predominantly in the poorest schools.
We want to avoid that spectre becoming a reality. Therefore, we will seek changes to the Bill. The debate here tonight has demonstrated the commitments of Members across this House to ensuring the Bill reflects the best interests of all children and families. We are confident, given his deserved reputation for reasonableness, that the Minister will be genuinely open to constructive suggestions for its improvement.
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, said, we have had an excellent debate. The number of speakers alone shows the great concern that this House has in improving education and extending opportunity. Expertise, knowledge and passion have been shown in equal measure this evening, and I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. I particularly congratulate my noble friend Lord Edmiston on his excellent maiden speech and on all that he is doing as a sponsor of the Grace academies in the West Midlands. He reminded us all that academic education is not the be-all and end-all, as, rightly, did the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, and that routes to success come in all shapes and sizes. He is also living proof of the importance of people having second chances.
With more than 50 speakers, I hope noble Lords will forgive me if in the time available I do not respond to every point that has been raised. However, I undertake to write to noble Lords when their points require a more detailed reply.
I am glad to say that I think there was a broad consensus on a number of the principles underlying the Bill. First, I welcome the support that the Bill has received from a number of my noble friends, including my noble friends Lord Baker, Lady Perry of Southwark, Lady Ritchie of Brompton, Lord Lucas, Lord Blackwell, Lord Lexden and Lord Willis of Knaresborough, about the importance of increasing school autonomy and trusting professionals. The evidence of the desire of school leaders to take greater control of the future development and success of their schools is clear, as we see thousands of schools seeking academy status.
I am grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, and my noble friend Lord True for the academy programme, which shows that it is possible to have greater autonomy, which is widely accepted, without the isolation and fragmentation which I know some noble Lords feared when we debated the Academies Bill a year ago. Indeed for me, one of the most exciting developments of the academies programme is the way in which chains and clusters of schools are joining together to increase opportunities across their schools for school improvement and career development. On free schools, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, may in time revise his views a little-as he has on academies, a little.
Many noble Lords, in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, spoke about the importance of teachers. I agreed with much of what she said, as I often find myself doing. It was no accident that we called the schools White Paper The Importance of Teaching. It reflects the evidence that teachers make a critical contribution to the achievement of pupils and
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Some of the debate, however, highlighted some of the tension that seems to exist between our ambition to treat teachers as professionals who know best how to meet the individual needs of their pupils and wanting to require all schools to act in particular ways. My own view is that most teachers and school and college leaders are far better placed than Ministers to know how best to inspire, educate, and indeed discipline pupils. That brings me to the proposals on behaviour and discipline, about which it is fair to say there was a range of views.
Many noble Lords, including my noble friends Lady Perry, Lady Morris of Bolton and Lord Lingfield, supported the additional powers in the Bill on discipline, which build on those introduced by the previous Government through the ASCL Act 2009. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, spoke about bullying, in particular homophobic bullying, while the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids, spoke about racist bullying and the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, mentioned Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children in that context. We are working with external organisations, including those such as Stonewall, in helping schools to develop best practice on these issues, but it is important that the measures that we want to take to help entrench discipline will help to deal with the problems of bullying, in particular cyberbullying.
I recognise that other noble Lords, including my noble friend Lady Walmsley and the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids, had reservations about our measures and wanted to ensure that adequate safeguards are in place. The Government believe that the extension of powers are proportionate and necessary, and that they strike the correct balance between the rights of pupils and students and the powers that those running schools and colleges want to secure a safe environment for all-including, perhaps above all, the most vulnerable-in which to learn.
I am grateful to the Joint Committee on Human Rights for its scrutiny of the Bill. I see that its report welcomes the changes that we are making to extend free early years education and to improve behaviour and discipline in schools as they help children exercise their right to education. They are an important part of this Bill and our wider education reforms. I am confident in the rationale for the changes we are making and their compatibility with convention rights, but we are obviously considering the detail of the JCHR report and will clearly go on to debate the issues that it gives rise to as the Bill passes through Parliament. The department's new expert adviser on behaviour, Mr Taylor, will be working with teaching schools to help ensure that best practice is shared both through initial teacher training and through school-to-school support, while working with existing initial teacher training providers to ensure best practice.
If I may, I shall say a few words on exclusions, concerns about which were expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Handsworth, my noble friend Lord Avebury and the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker. A number of concerns were raised about the changes to the exclusion process made by Clause 4. I agree with those who argued that avoiding problems escalating to the point where exclusion is necessary at all is in the best interests of all concerned-the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, made that point particularly persuasively. That is why we are trialling a new approach to exclusions aimed at encouraging exactly that. A similar approach in Cambridgeshire has had excellent results, cutting the number of children in PRUs from 700 to some 150. The Government intend to take forward trials to help deal with exclusions and give schools the budgets in the way that was suggested. Moreover, by ensuring that behaviour and achievement are core elements of the more focused Ofsted inspection framework, we will hold schools to account for ensuring an orderly, safe environment in which all pupils achieve.
Unfortunately, we cannot avoid exclusion in every circumstance. Schools must be allowed to make these difficult decisions in the interest of all pupils and staff. The revised process will provide an independent review in every case of permanent exclusion where a parent requests it. The panel's decision will give governing bodies a clear indication that the exclusion has been unreasonable and return the case to them for consideration.
I reassure noble Lords that the statutory framework in place for the education of permanently excluded pupils ensures that their right to full-time, suitable education is protected, and we are also determined to increase the quality of alternative provision available for excluded pupils, including by legislating to create alternative-provision academies through this Bill. That relates to important points made by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, and my noble friend Lord Lingfield about how we can improve the quality of provision for the children most at risk.
One theme running throughout many contributions was schools' accountability and the impact of the changes on the role of local authorities. This point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, and I am glad that I was able to meet at least one of his concerns about local authority governors. We are keen to have a system where schools look to parents and their locality for their accountability, with better information available to enable schools to be held to account, including international comparisons, as my noble friend Lady Perry and the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, argued. I was grateful for the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Huyton, about Ofsted and her reminder about the need to keep inspection focused. I can reassure my noble friend Lady Jolly that, in addition to risk assessments to trigger inspections of outstanding schools, we expect Ofsted to include outstanding schools in thematic inspections.
Local authority children's services continue to play a critical role in the early years, special educational needs and child protection in particular. There are, however, two areas in which changes are necessary. The first is in relation to commissioning school places.
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We want to see swifter and more decisive action by local authorities to address underperformance, but, as my noble friend Lady Ritchie of Brompton argued, that is best achieved where local and central government work together. However, where authorities fail to act, Clause 43 gives us a reserve power to require action.
A number of noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, characterised the Bill as centralising powers to the Secretary of State. I look forward to discussing that during detailed scrutiny of the Bill in Committee. In the vast majority of cases these powers are simply existing powers transferred from a quango, which will lead to increased accountability -yes, through Ministers-to Parliament. There are few areas where the Secretary of State can reasonably be described as having taken substantive new powers rather than powers to give effect to the legislation. These new powers-they are new powers-include the reserve powers to direct sample schools to take part in international surveys, to require local authorities to address underperforming schools and to intervene in underperforming colleges, which has been welcomed by the Association of Colleges. One of the other areas is a power to cap fees for part-time higher education so that the new loans the Government are introducing will cover the course fees. I think that that measure commands broad support. I do not accept that these powers can be used to characterise the Bill as centralising, especially as it also removes a significant number of requirements currently imposed on schools, colleges and local authorities by central government.
Concerns have been expressed about the practicalities of major reform of the arm's-length bodies, some of which were raised by my noble friend Lady Sharp of Guildford, and particular concerns were raised in connection with the General Teaching Council for England. I always listen to the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, with great care, but I do not agree that the Bill diminishes the role of teachers. However, I was particularly struck by what he had to say about technology, as I was by the remarks of my noble friend Lord Willis of Knaresborough. In response to a question put by my noble friends Lady Jolly and Lord Lexden, we are considering whether to make available to employers information on individuals who have qualified teacher status to make their recruitment checks easier. I hope that I will be able to reassure noble Lords during the passage of the Bill of how the changes being made to the arm's-length bodies are being managed.
Specifically on the abolition of the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, the Government of the day, not the QCDA or its predecessor bodies, have been responsible for the national curriculum since its inception. The QCDA's current role is only advisory. Decisions about the national curriculum are already taken by the Secretary of State and it is of course the aim of the Secretary of State, with his national curriculum review, to slim it down.
On teacher anonymity, I welcome the support of noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, my noble friends Lady Brinton and Lady Perry, and the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Handsworth, on the provisions for reporting restrictions about allegations made by pupils against teachers. A number of noble Lords asked us to consider extending these provisions further, although by contrast my noble friend Lord Black set out his concerns in that he felt the measure is an unwelcome interference with the freedoms of the press. The Government are proceeding cautiously in this area, reflecting the need to balance these competing rights. I look forward to more detailed consideration of this measure in Committee, and I want to make clear that we will consider carefully the arguments that are made.
I was pleased to see that Clause 1 has commanded so much support across the House. A number of noble Lords, including my noble friend Lady Walmsley, who has done so much to champion early years development, along with my noble friend Lady Perry, the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch and Lady Massey of Darwen, and the noble Lord, Lord Low, spoke eloquently about the importance of greater support for children from disadvantaged backgrounds so that they can have the best start in life. That links to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, about the importance of parenting. We have implemented the extension to the 15 hours of free early years education for all three and four year-olds last September, and through this Bill the most disadvantaged two year-olds will also have an entitlement to 15 hours by 2013.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Howe and Lady Grey-Thompson, for raising issues related to children with special educational needs and disabled children. I was pleased to meet representatives from the Special Educational Consortium last week to discuss how specific clauses in the Bill will work for this particular group of children and their families, whose needs the system, as we know, can sometimes struggle to meet. I look forward to continuing that dialogue as we go forward with the Bill.
There was much interest in vocational education, and I share the concern of noble Lords to strengthen what is on offer to young people. I agree with my noble friend Lady Brinton about the importance of vocational education, and with my noble friend Lady Stowell about university technical colleges and studio schools. The Government's response to the excellent Wolf review and our investment in apprenticeships shows our commitment to improving the position, and I should like to reassure the noble Lords, Lord Layard, Lord Haskel and Lord Young of Norwood Green, that there is no diminution in this Bill of the Government's commitment to apprenticeships. It is just that we think that the entitlement is not one that the Government can deliver since only employers can offer apprenticeships. My noble friend Lady Sharp put a specific question about preparing young people for apprenticeships, and perhaps I can write to her about the access to apprenticeships scheme which the Government are taking forward.
Several comments were made about the reforms to careers guidance. I believe that we have made the right decision: schools, rather than local authorities and the Connexions service, should be responsible for securing independent and impartial guidance. Although there were some dissenting voices on that, I think it was broadly accepted. The destination measure is more important than being prescriptive about precisely how careers education should be provided. It is also the case that young people themselves often prefer to get information online. Schools will be able to secure face-to-face advice if they think it is right for the children in their care. However, I understand the concerns about how we will move to the new arrangements in practice. I have no doubt that we shall return to this in Committee.
The theme of admissions was raised. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, slightly overstated the extent of the changes that the Bill makes to admissions. We are making changes to the role of the adjudicator, making schools and local authorities responsible for implementing his decisions. However, his decisions remain binding and the Bill extends his remit to academies and free schools, a development that I would have expected noble Lords to welcome.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, raised the issue of grammar school expansion. The Bill and the code do not allow for an increase in school selection. However, as has been the case since the Education Inspections Act 2006, a maintained school can increase the number of places that it offers, subject to consultation. We want and need good schools to be able to expand, and it would be wrong to exclude grammar schools from this.
I understand the concern raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, about the timing of the package of major reforms to higher education. On the fiscal context, our desire to let potential students know the financial arrangements that will apply next year as early as possible has required us to take the change forward in stages. The increases in tuition fees were settled at the end of last year. The Bill makes necessary changes to primary legislation to enable progressive interest rates to be charged.
Noble Lords asked about the forthcoming White Paper on higher education. I reassure them that it will be published shortly. My noble friend Lord Henley will seek opportunities to brief those noble Lords who are interested in the subject before we come to the relevant clauses.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I briefly offer the Minister a constructive suggestion from my noble friend Lord Phillips. He pointed out that the Bill contains amendments to 15 other statutes; indeed, there are 42 amendments to the Education Inspections Act 2006 alone. It may therefore be for the convenience of the House, and would aid noble Lords in scrutinising the Bill, if the Government place in the Library of the House all the statutes that are to be amended, with the amendments clearly marked. Noble Lords could then photocopy the relevant parts of those Acts so that we could more easily understand what the amendments would do.
Lord Hill of Oareford: That seems a sensible suggestion. My noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury, assiduous as he is, has already written to me, having failed to intervene on me earlier. I shall see what I can do about that. Like all noble Lords, I find that the way that the Bill is drafted makes it difficult to navigate one's way through it.
At the heart of the Government's coalition programme are the principles of greater freedom and fairness. These principles underpin the Bill. In many areas it takes forward the reforms of the previous Government in early years, greater school autonomy and powers to improve behaviour and discipline. In others, it strips away top-down legislative controls, which can stifle the professionalism of those working in schools, colleges and local areas. It tries, as my noble friend Lord Eccles argued, to put decisions more in the hands of teachers, parents and pupils, and moves us towards an education system that the international evidence shows characterises the highest-performing education systems in the world.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I very much regret the decision of the usual channels that this Bill should be committed to a Grand Committee. It is an important
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Can my noble friend at least give me the assurance that we will not have Committee on this Bill on any day when, in this Chamber, there is Committee on the Localism Bill? Many of us take an interest in both matters, and it would seem to me quite unreasonable to try to run the two in parallel.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, I assure my noble friend that the business planning of the House will try to take into account, as far as we possibly can, that there are no major clashes between Bills and discussions in that way.
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