I would have thought that in some circumstances the combined authority or the mayor could easily perform the role of the RSC. As we have such a democratic deficit in education now, it would be one way of taking that—and I have listened to what noble Lords have said about the quality of RSCs and the work that they do—but putting it back into some form of local accountability. In the end this accountability issue will have to be addressed. But overall, in trying to ensure consistency of approach and linking RSCs back into some kind of democratic process at local level, the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and I are at one on this.

Lord Nash: My Lords, the two new clauses proposed concern the role and remit of regional schools commissioners, and would be placed after Clause 3.

We introduced eight regional schools commissioners last year to take decisions and provide advice regarding academies and free schools in their regions on behalf of the Secretary of State. These regional schools commissioners will also exercise the new and strengthened powers which the Bill introduces, to intervene in failing, underperforming and coasting maintained schools.

Amendment 11 was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell. It proposes to require regional schools commissioners to use uniform performance standards and criteria when fulfilling the duties and exercising the powers described in the Bill, thus seeking to ensure consistent decision-making across all RSCs.

5 pm

RSCs already operate according to specified uniform performance standards and criteria in their decision-making. All RSC decisions are taken in line with legislation and our published criteria, such as the criteria for sponsor approvals and for free school applications. RSCs’ interventions in underperforming academies must be conducted according to the terms of each academy’s funding agreement, and they identify underperformance on the basis of Ofsted judgments and school performance data. Taking their decisions in line with these set frameworks ensures that they act reasonably and it also gives consistency.

In exercising the new duties and powers introduced by the Bill, RSCs will continue to act according to performance standards and criteria. The Bill is very clear on when maintained schools become eligible for intervention by RSCs: when they are judged inadequate by Ofsted; when they have met the coasting definition; or when they have failed to comply with a warning notice. Further to what is specified in the Bill, we have published revised Schools Causing Concern guidance

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for public consultation. This describes in greater detail how we propose that the RSCs will use the intervention powers in the Bill in practice.

RSCs will have discretion, and be able to use their judgment, in their decisions. For example, in coasting schools RSCs will have discretion to make judgments about whether and how to act, as we have discussed. In making these decisions, they will give consideration to additional information, such as school-level data and what actions the school is already taking to improve. The Schools Causing Concern guidance describes where RSCs have discretion and how we propose they will make their decisions in these cases, as well as the types of information they may commonly take into account.

It is essential that RSCs have this discretion and flexibility when making their decisions in order to take account of the circumstances of the schools and sponsors in question, and in response to regional priorities. This is one of the great strengths of the system. In our public consultation, we are specifically asking for views about how the Schools Causing Concern guidance describes how RSCs will use their discretion in tackling underperformance in maintained schools.

To go further than setting these kinds of criteria and frameworks, and instead, insisting upon uniformity in all RSC decisions, would be completely impractical and inappropriate. Not only would it require the achievement of an unworkable level of bureaucracy but it would mean that RSCs had no discretion to take account of school circumstances—many of which have concerned noble Lords today, as we have discussed in some detail—or to respond to local needs and priorities, completely tying their hands. RSCs are experienced head teachers and system leaders, and we want them to make informed decisions based on their wealth of experience, expertise and local knowledge, not on rules set by bureaucrats.

I also reassure noble Lords that RSCs do not take their decisions in isolation. They are supported and challenged in all their decision-making by their head teacher boards, made up of outstanding academy head teachers and other system leaders. Four members of each head teacher board have been elected by their peers. The RSCs and their head teacher boards review the relevant evidence, including data, Ofsted reports and intelligence from academy visits, and apply their own professional expertise to ensure that a robust decision is reached. We have already committed to publishing more detail than we have at the moment of the records of head teacher boards’ minutes, and these will be available from next month.

RSCs also come together regularly to share practice and provide peer-to-peer challenge, and oversight is provided by the national schools commissioner. By being in close contact with the RSCs and challenging their methods—for instance, at the monthly RSC forum and regular challenge sessions—the schools commissioner ensures consistency in decision-making across the country and helps to share good practice. This close contact also enables him to identify cross-regional issues and encourage the relevant RSCs to work together.

RSCs and HTBs have been in place for just over a year but they are having an extremely positive impact. They are introducing new and different ways of working

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that support increased collaboration, and self-regulation of the system. It is a devolved, localised system run by education professionals with access to excellent local soft intelligence. As I have said, I have spent a considerable amount of time watching head teacher boards and RSCs in action, and I have been most impressed by their level of experience, judgment and soft intelligence. The education system is very lucky to have leaders of such outstanding experience, judgment and ability who are prepared to give up their time in this way on HTBs. I think that all noble Lords who came on Monday were impressed by the quality of their answers and by the way in which they described their varied roles and answered noble Lords’ questions.

RSCs are already operating highly effectively. We have already published for consultation the Schools Causing Concern guidance, which describes how we propose RSCs will make their decisions. Therefore, I do not consider this proposed new clause to be necessary.

Amendment 12 has been tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Watson and Lord Hunt, and the noble Baroness, Lady Massey. The noble Lords propose that the elected mayor or the combined authority of an area should be able to appoint an RSC for their area. RSCs are already embedded in their regions, based and operating within them and building close working relationships with local authorities, dioceses and other local actors. They are fully immersed in the local context, which informs everything they do. RSCs also regularly run events for schools and sponsors in their regions. They operate openly and are available to the public, and parents can and do write directly to them with local issues.

I have already referred to the head teacher board of academy head teachers that advises each RSC to ensure that local knowledge and expertise underpin their decisions. The support and challenge that RSCs get from head teachers from within their regions through their head teacher boards has been working well and adding value. Nick Capstick, CEO of the White Horse Federation and HTB member in the south-west, advising Sir David Carter, said:

“The headteacher boards hold RSCs to account. We are there to challenge and enable them to do their job. As practising headteachers we can bring a sense of normality and reality from the jobs that we carry out day in and day out. Ultimately the headteacher boards create a sense of shared ambition, endeavour and collective responsibility”.

The current regional structure for RSCs, with eight large regions, enables the spread of expertise and experience in improving schools across wider geographical areas. Aligning RSCs with the potentially much smaller areas covered by combined authorities and elected mayors would make this spread of school improvement expertise much more difficult.

RSCs already work closely with local authorities in their regions. The revised Schools Causing Concern guidance describes in more detail our proposals for the respective roles and responsibilities of local authorities and RSCs, and how we propose they should work together to challenge underperformance in schools. We would expect RSCs to work just as closely with combined authorities and elected mayors.

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The eight regional schools commissioners are highly experienced academy head teachers and sector leaders, appointed for their extensive knowledge of the education sector. RSCs are appointed through open competition and are civil servants. They exercise the powers and duties of the Secretary of State on her behalf in their regions, meaning that the Secretary of State remains fully accountable to Parliament for decisions made by RSCs.

If combined authorities or elected mayors were able to appoint RSCs, as the amendment proposes, we would lose this robust accountability to Parliament through the Secretary of State. Having some RSCs accountable to mayors and others accountable to the Secretary of State would create a completely incoherent, mixed system.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: But, my Lords, that is exactly what is happening in health and social care. Clearly, in government as a whole, everyone is behind combined authorities. Why is the Minister’s department opting out of it? If he looks at the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, he will see that not only is there provision for any function of a Minister of the Crown to be devolved to a combined authority but there is a particular provision, because the Lords passed an amendment, to specify that the national characteristics of health and social care should be preserved within devolved health and social care. I do not understand why the education department, of all departments, is not playing in this area when the Government are putting so many eggs into it—I am talking about the northern powerhouse, obviously, with Greater Manchester at the core of it. I do not understand why his department is not involved or interested. If you take the skills agenda, you see that the whole point of combined authorities is economic growth; it must embrace the skills agenda. The Minister and I must share the desire that our schools play their part in making sure that young people are employable. I just do not get it; I do not understand why his department is opting out.

Lord Nash: I am afraid that the noble Lord has lost me with a lot of political theory. I am interested in—

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords—

Lord Nash: If I may finish, I am interested in a practical system which actually works. We believe that we have devised one which is working extremely well. As I made clear in response to the Constitution Committee, this is maximum devolution to the front line. We trust teachers and head teachers to be responsible for their own system, and that is exactly the system that we have designed.

As I said, I am interested in a system that works, rather than one in the cause of some political theory. If combined authorities or elected mayors were able to appoint RSCs, as the amendment proposes, we would lose that robust accountability to Parliament and would have a system which is, frankly, totally incoherent, mixed and unworkable. I would rather have a system that works. Even those small MATs which operate

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across the regions that this would create would be working with multiple RSCs, which would add the complication of operating under multiple accountability structures. That would be confusing and chaotic.

Having additional RSCs appointed for combined authorities, further to the existing eight RSCs, would lead to significant additional costs. Overall, such a system would be confusing to schools, inconsistent, highly expensive and be adding unnecessary bureaucracy without bringing any tangible benefit to children’s education, which is what we on this side of the House are concerned with. Our current system of eight regional schools commissioners supported by a head teacher board is all about bringing decisions about schools closer to the front line. It ensures that experienced school leaders are the ones making and implementing decisions in their areas. They know what works best in their schools, how to address local needs and what the local priorities should be. This is therefore completely in keeping with the Government’s devolution agenda, and I urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, that was a quite remarkable speech by the noble Lord. He accuses me of political theory. His department has written a speech which essentially undermines the core purpose of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill. I do not think his department has read the Bill. He is saying that what the Government are doing with the setting up of combined authorities will lead to a completely incoherent approach. His answer is complete nonsense.

Clearly, I am not going to get an answer on this. I still do not understand why, when this will have massive implications for the devolution of central government powers, the education department seems to have completely opted out. I am absolutely speechless.

Lord Nash: As I said, we believe that this is not just devolution but devo max, if you like, to the front line.

Lord Addington: My Lords, enjoyable as that little bit of hack and thrust was, to go back to my amendment, it was basically tabled to seek information and clarification. There is a framework and I wanted to look at it.

I was interested to hear that there is a degree of judgment to be used. I was wondering whether we could work into that judgment whether a school has a decent sports policy, arts policy or something like that. It might be an interesting place to include whether the Government’s sports policy is being implemented properly. I am sure that we will discuss the arts later. Once again, one is trying to get all bits of government singing at least the same tune, if not the same words; that would be a step forward. However, I think I have enough information to be going on with and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 11 withdrawn.

Amendment 12 not moved.

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Amendment 13

Moved by Lord Watson of Invergowrie

13: After Clause 3, insert the following new Clause—

“Governing body appeal against warning notice

(1) The Education and Inspections Act 2006 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 60A insert—

“60AA Governing body appeal against warning notice

(1) The Secretary of State must by regulations make provision for reviews of, or appeals to the First-tier Tribunal about, decisions relating to warning notices by the relevant authority under section 60 or the local authority under section 60A.

(2) Regulations under subsection (1) must enable the First-tier Tribunal to revoke a warning notice.

(3) The revocation of a warning notice under subsection (2) does not prevent the relevant authority or local authority giving a revised warning notice.””

Lord Watson of Invergowrie: My Lords, the Bill removes the right of the school to make any representations against the issuing of a warning notice. The consequences of a warning notice are now much more significant than they have been, because they open the door to possible—perhaps that should be likely—academisation.

To deny school governors the right to make any kind of appeal against such a semi-judicial decision is, I suggest, nothing less than a denial of natural justice. The amendment provides a procedure for a school to appeal against a warning notice.

I must say that I chuckled at the Minister’s reference to devolution, not least devolution max, which in Scotland of course means something slightly different. The Bill is about centralisation. It is about the Government taking a grip. Whether it is really central—in London—or in the regions, it is government control. It tells anybody who does not happen to share that vision—some might say, political philosophy—to shut up and go away, because the Government have made their decision and that is that. That is very much the impression that was given about the Bill when it was in another place—when all those amendments were submitted and discussed and none was successful. This afternoon, apart from one small, but very welcome, concession by the Minister, we are doing the same here. I hope that that is not going to be how we will proceed in the remaining two days in Committee, because noble Lords are putting forward serious points to try to improve the Bill, which some of them have grave concerns about. I hope that they will be taken seriously and that the Minister will at least agree to think about some of them.

5.15 pm

I suspect that the Minister is going to tell the Committee again that he is unwilling to tolerate people who are seeking, in his view, to obstruct the will of the Government because it is in the interests of pupils, which must come first. I think we have established that the interests of the pupils must come first, but at the same time, governors of schools are there for a reason. Part of that reason is to look after the interests of the

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children. If they are not allowed to do that, what is the purpose of governors? The Minister will be well aware that there is a shortage of governors: many schools do not get enough people to fill the positions. For instance, my wife is a governor of a school in London, and even when the governor positions are filled, in some cases it is difficult to get them to turn up to meetings. This casting aside of views of the importance of governors is not going to do anything for the management of schools or oversight of the way in which schools are run.

Yes, the Government have the right to implement their manifesto. At the same time, they have to be willing to accept that there are different views about the way they do that. Surely, there is a balance to strike. In a democratic society people have the right to challenge government actions and, unless the stakes are extremely high, governments have to put up with it, listen and, at least on occasion, accept what is said to them. I would say that that was a lesson that the Chancellor of the Exchequer learned in your Lordships’ House last week and it seems that, to his credit, he has thus far taken it on board.

There surely cannot be any suggestion that the procedure outlined in Amendment 13 would be too time-consuming or burdensome or would disrupt the process, either in terms of Ministers achieving their aim of getting as many schools as possible to academy status or, indeed, of the tribunal system itself.

I have a question for the noble Lord. I see that he is taking advice at the moment, so perhaps the noble Baroness can help me. I think I am right in saying that in the previous debate in 2014, the noble Lord said that 58 formal notices had been issued by regional schools commissioners to academies and free schools trusts. Will he clarify whether he was talking about the same warning notices? I did my research, and came across a figure that only 12 had ever been issued to academies by the DfE. That may have been before the regional schools commissioners were established; I do not know. It does not matter that much, because it does not deflect me from my argument that between 2010 and 2014, local authorities issued 221 warning notices to maintained schools. If we aggregate the figures of 58 and 12, that is still out of proportion with the number of academies in special measures, which is twice that of maintained schools. As I mentioned on Amendment 10, there are more pupils in inadequate academies than in inadequate maintained schools. As the Minister said, a third of local authorities did not issue any warning notices between 2010 and 2014; but, equally, there is no evidence that the performance of schools overall in those local authority areas is any different from those that have issued notices. That is not to say that that is not an issue: warning notices are there for a purpose and I believe that they should be used where appropriate.

As noble Lords may recall, Labour revised all the administrative non-judicial tribunals some time ago to bring them within a single system. In education, appeals on education, health and care plans go to the First-Tier Tribunal, as do some appeals on the suitability of staff to work with children, particularly childcare. It is telling that parents can now appeal—following, let it

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be noted, a Government amendment to the Childcare Bill—to the First-Tier Tribunal on access to the additional 15 hours of free childcare a week that they are to become entitled to. If that is the case, then I say to the Minister: why should governors be denied the option of appealing against a warning notice, on which the very future of their school might depend? I suggest that that is not right on a number of levels and I hope that the Minister might be persuaded to say that she will reconsider this issue and return with a proposal on it at Report. I beg to move.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: In relation to this amendment, while we have some sympathy with the notion that there should be an appeal when a warning notice is issued, we are by no means convinced that the First-tier Tribunal is the right place to go.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 13 and warning notice appeals. The Bill proposes that the governing body of an underperforming school should no longer be able to make representations to Ofsted about being given a warning notice. The amendment would restore an appeal route, although not the same route. The amendment would require the Secretary of State to make regulations that would allow a school to have a warning notice reviewed, or allow it to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal, which could then revoke the notice.

The amendment would not preclude the local authority or regional schools commissioner from issuing a revised notice to that school, but we believe that it oversteps the mark and builds into the process delays and arguments that are a distraction from the important business of getting the school to improve. Indeed, appeals to the First-tier Tribunal would lead to the clock stopping and months of delay ensuing while all avenues for appeal are exhausted. During this time, children will be in a school that is causing serious concern and they will not be given the education that they deserve.

To clarify, any complaints about the decision made by a regional schools commissioner may be directed to the schools commissioner. If a formal complaint is lodged, it will be dealt with in accordance with the department’s formal complaints procedure, which involves an independent officer, an official, investigating the complaint and making a recommendation. One formal complaint about a regional schools commissioner’s decision has been made so far and has been considered but no evidence was found to uphold it. Ultimately, the process for appealing a decision made by a regional schools commissioner is to apply for judicial review via the courts.

The noble Lord, Lord Watson, referred to warning notices. Our figures indicate that we have issued 112 formal notices to underperforming institutions. Ninety eight of these were issued to academies associated with 53 individual sponsors. We have also changed sponsor arrangements for 100 academies and free schools where there has been underperformance.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie: What period does that cover? Is it just since the regional schools commissioners were established or does it go back to 2010?

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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: It is since the academies came in, so it applies to a wider period than since the regional schools commissioners have been in place. I reassure the House that we believe the process as set out in the Bill is fair and reasonable and that there are appropriate safeguards built in where schools have concerns. Regional schools commissioners and local authorities already have to act reasonably in carrying out their functions on behalf of the Secretary of State. The revised Schools Causing Concern guidance, on which we are currently consulting and seeking views, also sets out clear processes and expectations for the giving of warning notices. This is guidance which local authorities and regional schools commissioners will follow. The Bill requires the local authority to notify the regional schools commissioner if it issues a warning notice and vice versa. Regional Schools Commissioners can therefore already review a local authority’s warning notice and, if they believe that it is not appropriate, they can issue their own that would render the local authority’s notice redundant.

Although I understand the sentiments behind the amendment, it builds in additional process in primary legislation which is unnecessary and time-consuming and is not helpful in supporting schools to improve in the best interests of children. In the light of this, I urge the noble Lord to withdraw their amendment.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie: If this is all just a distraction, will the Minister tell me what she thinks the role of school governors is?

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: Obviously, the role of school governors is to hold head teachers to account to ensure that the school is providing the high-quality education that they are looking for. They have an oversight role and have to be involved in the school by going to visit and making sure that they know what is going on.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie: But do they have no right to comment in situations where warning notices are being issued? This seems to me to be saying that they have no meaningful role, as it is being taken away from them. Surely that cannot be a positive step.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: No, as I said, any complaints about a decision made by the regional schools commissioner can be directed to the schools commissioner. If a formal complaint is lodged, it will be dealt with through the process that is in place. Ultimately, the end process is judicial review.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie: I noted the noble Baroness’s remarks that delays and arguments are a distraction to the process of bringing about change in a school. The whole underlying ethos of the Government’s approach to the Bill is that people who might not agree with the proposal are simply to be sidelined. They are to be silenced—gagged—and to have no input, because they might delay the process. I do not think anybody has said anything other than that change needs to be brought about as quickly as possible. But at the same time the Government must

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consider the fact that some people have different views from those they may have. Those views should be considered.

The Government do not have, despite their victory on 7 May, the right to ride roughshod over people’s views, particularly those of local people, on such important issues. It does not serve the Government’s case to suggest simply that complaints can be made to the regional schools commissioner or the schools commissioner, or through judicial review. Yes, of course judicial review is open to anyone anyway in any situation, but that is not the point. This is a specific proposal that relates to the role of a school’s governing body, which is being taken away from that body. As I said earlier, it is difficult to see why anybody would want to be a school governor, because they are being disfranchised and disempowered, and basically being told that what they say does not matter. I am disappointed that neither Minister is willing to consider this. We may return to this issue on Report, but at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 13 withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed.

Clause 5: Appointment of interim executive members

Amendment 14

Moved by Baroness Sharp of Guildford

14: Clause 5, page 5, line 4, at end insert—

“5B (1) Where a school has been designated by order under section 69(4) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, the interim executive board shall be under a duty to secure that—

(a) the religion or religious denomination of the school is preserved and developed, and

(b) the school is conducted in accordance with the school’s instrument of government (except in relation to the composition of the governing body) and the foundation’s governing documents, including, where appropriate, any trust deed relating to the school.

(2) In exercising any powers under this Schedule, the Secretary of State shall comply with any agreement between the local authority and the appropriate diocesan authority, if any, and person or persons by whom the foundation governors are appointed, in relation to the membership and operation of the interim executive board.”

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, Amendment 14 replicates the current agreements that local authorities and churches have about the membership of interim executive boards of church schools. This amendment has been put forward partly as a result of representations made to us by the Catholic Education Service, which is worried that powers that are now very rarely used by the Secretary of State will become much more widely used by the regional schools commissioners and that the regional schools commissioners may, unknowingly, cut across existing working practices with local authorities. In written evidence to the Commons Public Bill Committee, included in a briefing to us, it wrote:

“We are concerned that the powers given to the new RSCs may cut across existing working practice. Local authorities and Department for Education officials who currently make decisions

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about school support understand the dioceses’ legal duties to preserve and develop the Catholic character of their school … In particular we are concerned about new powers granted to RSCs under Section 5 of the Bill. Usually an IEB is put in place following discussion between the local authority and the diocese, with carefully considered agreements as to its operation, including in relation to its members. To do this the diocese and local authority agree a memorandum of understanding … This enables the school to continue to comply with its trust deed through a Church appointed majority on the IEB”.

Should the regional schools commissioners intervene and appoint their own members to an interim executive board without regard to the church-appointed majority, the Catholic Education Service says that the school might then cease to be a Catholic school. Once a school is no longer recognised as Catholic by the bishop, it is no longer complying with its own trust deed, presumably forcing the closure of the school that ultimately undermines the intention behind an interim executive board, which is to prevent the closure of the school, as well as to bring about the necessary improvements. I beg to move.

5.30 pm

Lord Watson of Invergowrie: My Lords, I support Amendment 14. We recognise that church schools have an integral role in the education system, comprising, as they do, around one-third of all maintained schools.

One of the reasons the church academy model has been a success is because dioceses are at the forefront of decisions concerning these schools, which means that decisions are made at a local level after consultation with communities. But as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, mentioned, the Bill is at risk of cutting across this local decision-making, and this amendment addresses one of the areas where changes are necessary to ensure that adequate safeguards are put in place.

If decisions about the people who are nominated to interim executive boards are not acceptable to a local bishop, they do not carry his support. Therefore, that could undermine the whole raison d’être of the school. It would also, I suggest, undermine the whole raison d’être of an interim executive board, which is to prevent the closure of the school as well as to bring about necessary improvement. The amendment ensures that the appointment of an interim executive board does not undermine the faith character of a school. Surely the Government do not intend to affect faith schools in any way that would be seen as damaging and I hope the Minister will be prepared to recognise this in the Bill.

We believe the amendment provides the safeguards that the churches are seeking, without detracting from the process of school improvement that everyone wants to see.

Lord Nash: My Lords, Amendment 14, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Storey, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Pinnock and Lady Sharp, concerns where the Secretary of State makes directions about an interim executive board in respect of a school with a religious character. I believe I will be able to offer considerable reassurance on this point. The churches and other faith bodies are

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important partners in our education system but sometimes schools with a religious character fail, so we must be able to respond decisively and robustly in such cases.

Proposed new Section 5B(1)(a) and (b) propose a duty for IEBs in schools with a religious designation to ensure that the religious character of that school is preserved and developed. They would also be placed under a duty to ensure that the school is conducted in compliance with the school’s instrument of government and the foundation’s governing documents, including any trust deed.

First, I offer reassurance that while we are committed to tackling failure swiftly and robustly wherever it occurs, we fully recognise the importance of ensuring that the ethos of schools with a religious designation is preserved. I really think that the Catholic Church’s concerns on this are unfounded. I look forward to being able to reassure it on this point. I believe that I have already reassured the Church of England on this point, and I look forward to engaging further with both churches as we develop our memoranda of understanding, which the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, referred to. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Watson, that we have no intention of damaging or affecting church schools in any way. To support that commitment, as I said, we have already begun discussions with the churches about reviewing and updating the memoranda of understanding that set out the roles of dioceses and government as they relate to the academy programme, in order to reflect the changes in the Bill and the wider evolving policy landscape.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie: The Minister says he has had discussions with the Roman Catholic Church. Does he recognise that it is not satisfied with the outcome of those discussions? Certainly, the Catholic Education Service is making it quite clear that it supports this amendment because it is not satisfied with where the discussions with the Minister have led.

Lord Nash: If the noble Lord would let me finish, he would understand that these discussions are at a very early stage. We have just issued a draft of the memoranda of understanding and I believe that the churches are considering the detail. I will refer to this in more detail in a minute.

Under paragraphs 3(3), 10(2) and 13(2) of Schedule 6 to the Education and Inspections Act 2006, IEBs are already required to comply with the same duties that applied to the previous governing body, which includes any duty to comply with a trust deed. Members of a church or faith school’s IEB are therefore already bound to preserve and develop the school’s religious character. This is the case even where the new powers under Clause 5 of the Bill have been used to direct the local authority to appoint specific IEB members. The first part of the amendment is therefore unnecessary because it is simply restating a requirement that already exists in law.

Additionally, we are currently consulting on the revised Schools Causing Concern guidance, which describes how we propose that the new and strengthened powers in the Bill will work in practice. This includes how we propose IEBs will operate in practice, and it sets out

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the role and duties of an IEB. To avoid any further doubt on the matter raised in this amendment, we have specified in the guidance:

“Any obligations on the governing body in relation to maintaining the religious ethos of a school will also apply to the IEB”.

The second part of the amendment proposes that RSCs, where they are exercising the Clause 5 power to direct the local authority to alter the make-up of an IEB in a church or faith school, would be required to protect the continued involvement of the relevant diocese or faith body. That would mean that they would have to comply with an existing agreement between the local authority and the diocese about the membership and operation of the IEB. Such agreements between local authorities and dioceses about the membership and operation of IEBs are not required by legislation, nor are they legally binding. It would therefore be inappropriate to require RSCs to comply with such agreements through this amendment.

However, we are currently working with the churches to agree a memorandum of understanding. We are fully committed to agreeing these MoUs; it will enable dioceses and RSCs to work together for the benefit of pupils in church schools. In particular, we want to make sure that, as the draft MoU states:

“Where RSCs wish to exercise their power to establish an IEB to a church school, they must consult the diocese”.

We would expect the consultation to provide an opportunity for the diocese to nominate one or more IEB members and for RSCs to accept the diocese’s nomination, providing they agree that the proposed member has the capacity and skills required to fulfil their role on the IEB.

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Where any IEB established by either the local authority or the RSC is established in a church school and the RSC has concerns about the capability of an IEB member to fulfil the role, the diocese will be asked if it wishes to nominate a replacement IEB member. Our expectation is that RSCs will accept such a nomination, provided they agree with the diocese’s assessment that the individual has the capacity and skills required to fulfil their role on the IEB.

Furthermore, the purpose of the power in Clause 5 is to enable the RSCs to intervene swiftly where they are not convinced that the IEB constituted by the local authority will secure necessary improvements in the school. Accepting the amendment proposed here would require RSCs to endorse an IEB whether they had confidence in it or not. That would undermine the purpose of the clause and may prevent RSCs from acting decisively to address underperformance.

In view of what I have said about making sure that we preserve the faith status of any church schools—which we are absolutely determined to ensure, and I am sure that we will be able to satisfy the churches on this—I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I am very grateful to the Minister for giving these assurances. I was fairly confident that in fact they would be in discussion with the churches about these issues and that some system would be found to relieve their fears. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 14 withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed.

Committee adjourned at 5.37 pm.