Requirements as to Governing Bodies

Orders of the Day — EDUCATION (No. 2) BILL – in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 12th February 1980.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr John Hannam Mr John Hannam , Exeter 7:45 pm, 12th February 1980

I beg to move amendment No. 116, in page 2, line 11, after 'authority', insert 'or for a non-maintained school, namely a school which receives grants under the Special Schools and Establishments (Grant) Regulations 1959'.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments:

No. 119, in page 2, line 13, after 'school', insert 'or non-maintained school.'

No. 117, in page 2, line 15, at end insert— '(2A) The governing body of every such school as is mentioned in subsection (1) above shall include governors appointed by the local education authority by whom it is maintained, or in whose area it is situated.'.

No. 118, in page 2, line 20, after 'school' insert 'or non-maintained school'.

No. 120, in page 2, line 40, after 'authority', insert 'or non-maintained school'.

No. 121, in page 3, line 16, after 'school', insert 'or non-maintained school'.

No. 122, in clause 5, page 6, line 4, after 'school', insert 'or non-maintained school'.

Photo of Mr John Hannam Mr John Hannam , Exeter

All these amendments, in the names of members of the all-party disablement group, relate to an important sector of the special educational system for handicapped children. The amendments have no financial implications. We are seeking to include this sort of special school—the non-maintained school—in clauses 2 and 5, which deal with appointments to governing bodies.

In case there are hon. Members who do not have such non-maintained schools in their constituencies, namely, schools for the deaf, blind and handicapped children, I shall give some brief details. The non-maintained special schools are non-profit-making concerns that may receive grants from central Government funds towards capital projects in return for meeting a number of conditions that are laid down in the handicapped pupils and special schools regulations of 1959.

The running costs of the majority of these schools are met almost entirely by fees paid by local education authorities. There are 112 non-maintained schools in England and Wales. They cater for 82 per cent. of all blind children, 45 per cent. of all deaf children, and 32 per cent. of all handicapped children attending residential special schools.

I cannot speak too highly of the service and the dedication given by the schools and the voluntary workers and governors who serve them. The non-maintained special schools play an important part in the provision of special education, and are unlike independent special schools in that they are almost entirely dependent upon public funds.

It is that which makes them, in the words of the Warnock report part of the national system of educational provision in a way that independent schools are not. Yet, as the law stands, non-maintained special schools are virtually autonomous, and may select their governing bodies subject to their trust deeds under the 1959 regulations.

A number of the schools have no parent governors. Under present regulations, teachers are not allowed to be governors. Some, but not all, have local authority representatives as governors.

Many parents of handicapped children have made representations to Members of Parliament about the lack of involvement in governing bodies. It is true to say that they look to the Bill to bring them more in line with the parents of non-handicapped children.

Only on Sunday the mother of two severely deaf children, Mrs. Winifred Tumim—who served on the Warnock committee and has worked ceaselessly on behalf of the deaf children and the special schools—telephoned me to implore that Parliament should try to ensure that the Bill is amended to provide for the same parental rights as are being granted to those whose children attend county, voluntary or maintained schools.

If the provisions of the Bill become law, the non-maintained schools will become further isolated from the educational mainstream. We, in the House, would be in danger of failing to reflect the public interest.

It is essential that the governing bodies of these schools should be brought into line with those of comparable schools in the maintained sector, if those schools are to become more fully integrated into the special education system as a whole. These amendments would ensure that these schools, financed mainly by local education authorities and Government grants, have parent, teacher and local authority representation on their governing bodies.

The Bill envisages a new partnership for the parents of other handicapped children. It would be particularly sad if the parents of children who go to non-maintained schools were excluded, especially as such parents seldom have any alternative to the particular school for the deaf, blind or handicapped in their own areas. There is no group of parents which takes a greater interest or involvement in their children's education, as we all know from personal experience in our constituencies. It seems silly to exclude such dedicated parents from the much welcomed increased involvement given in the Bill, but I am afraid that that is the case.

Ironically, the Bill as it stands creates second-class citizens to the detriment of parents. A small but important section of the public education system would continue to operate a system within a system, which would make it very difficult to achieve the aim of section 10 of the 1976 Act and the integrated system of special education which that section calls for.

Since the Warnock committee reported in 1978, we have been awaiting Government action. I hope that our waiting will soon be over. I have a great admiration for the special schools in my own constituency, and I know that they have experienced great anxiety about section 10. However, unless we amend the Bill tonight, or in the other place, we shall be only widening the gap.

Photo of Mr Lewis Carter-Jones Mr Lewis Carter-Jones , Eccles

I am present once again to cross swords with the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science. Let me assure him that the implementation of the amendments would not cost the Government a penny. That should be attractive for a start. No public expenditure is involved.

If the amendments are accepted, there might be better government in special schools. The schools will be able to get grass roots opinion. It is unfair to isolate the handicapped child and the parents of a handicapped child. The parents of such children have a vital role to play, not only in caring for their children but also in advising and helping them on the problems that they face as well as in educating those children.

The fact that up to the present such parents have no representation as of right is a disgrace to our education system. I have no doubt that the Minister—my friend outside the Chamber—will think deeply and carefully about this matter, and I hope that he will not give long-term promises. The time to act is now. These are reasonable, reasoned amendments which would give the handicapped child and the parents of such children a much more vital role to play in their education.

Photo of Sir David Price Sir David Price , Eastleigh

As the House will recognise this is the most formidable of parliamentary lobbies—the all-party disablement group—and I should like to support the amendments.

The first question which may be asked by hon. Members who do not follow these things as closely as others of us do is why we are concerned about non-maintained special schools in a Bill which on the whole deals with the public sector of education. The reason was given by my hon Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam). These non-maintained private schools are all private trust, charitable organizations, and although they get income from their various trusts and charities, the education of almost all the children who attend those schools is paid for by their respective education authorities. Therefore, from the financial point of view this is public sector education.

My hon. Friend quoted appropriately from the Warnock report, which said that such schools were part of the national system of education provision in a way that independent schools were not.

Some members of the Opposition may ask why they should be concerned about independent schools. The schools are not, in the classical sense, independent. They are part of the total system—the national system—of dealing with handicapped children.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

It is important to emphasise, even with my namesake, that there is all-party unanimity on this point. The local authority maintained schools could not possibly cope with the needs for special education within their own establishments. It is an absolute all-party point that the independent schools in this sector are to all intents and purposes part of the maintained system as they are necessary for local authorities to carry out their duties to special education under the 1944 Act.

Photo of Sir David Price Sir David Price , Eastleigh

That is right. It is necessary to remind ourselves of the contribution made by these schools to the difficult problem of handicapped children. One type of handicap requires different education from another type.

The Warnock report says: Further, non-maintained special schools in England and Wales catered for 32 per cent. of all handicapped pupils attending residential special schools in 1977 and grant-aided residential special schools in Scotland catered for the same proportion (32 per cent.) in 1976. More specifically,"— this is the key point they made provision for 82 per cent. of the blind (94 per cent. in Scotland), 72 per cent. of the deaf (49 per cent. in Scotland), 49 per cent. of the physically handicapped (80 per cent. in Scotland) and 23 per cent. of the maladjusted (38 per cent. in Scotland) who were in residential special schools. That is the scale of what we are talking about. This is no little periphery of independent education. This is mainstream education for these children. Therefore, I ask my hon. Friend to give a sympathetic hearing to the cause that we are now pleading on an all-party basis. The Warnock report criticised the fact that many of these schools appeared to be unsupervised by the Government compared with the mainstream of public education in this country.

It goes on: Further, authorities are not always represented on the governing bodies of schools in their area. We are now dealing with the question of our schools in the public sector. The report makes a series of recommendations. That which is germane to this debate is this: we recommend that every non-maintained special school should have its own governing body and that this should include at least one representative of the local education authority in whose area it is situated, or of one of the authorities making particular use of it. When we come to the amendments to clause 9 I shall deploy, I hope, an even more formidable argument. I put to my hon. Friend, with his vast experience in the practical running of schools, our exact point. All hon. Members who are concerned with the handicapped child agree with the desire of Mrs. Warnock and her colleagues to integrate the handicapped child into the generality of normal schooling as far as we can, must nevertheless acknowledge that there are those who are so handicapped, or whose disability is so special, that they require a special form of schooling and education. This is where the House will recognise that it is the non-maintained school, above all, that can cater for the need. Our case rests on those figures.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Opposition Whip (Commons) 8:45 pm, 12th February 1980

This is an all-party attempt to persuade the Government that special schools should not be excluded from the provisions of the Bill. There is deep concern that we should not put through the House a major piece of legislation, which will rest on the statute book for some time, without ensuring that where ever possible we have given those in special schools the benefit of its more favourable provisions.

It is not enough to sit around waiting for Warnock. We all know the problems that will be encountered as we try to get the main recommendations of that report implemented. Governments take longer to consider them than most of us think necessary. They consult further and say that the parliamentary timetable is so crowded that they cannot get their proposals through in the current Session, and there is inevitable delay. During all that time schools are denied the benefits of whatever could have been provided under this legislation. I refer to membership of governing bodies of schools serving the needs of handicapped children. Many of these schools are privately run, although the vast majority of their pupils are educated at public expense.

No school which caters for handicapped children and has had parent governors has ever had cause to regret the experience. Quite the contrary. I speak from experience as a governor of a special school in the maintained sector. In my experience, parent governors have a contribution to make which is far in excess of that of other governors. They speak from experience of the hard toil of looking after a severely handicapped child and with the dedication and enthusiasm to be found only among those who have brought up handicapped children. They have taken the lead in bringing together other parents in voluntary efforts in support of the school. It is they who have been most ready to take all the children out on trips. Their contribution is one which no one else can make. Schools have been slow to recognise it. As in every other sphere where we think it right to lay down that there should be parent governors of schools we should do it in this sphere where their contribution is so great.

Photo of Mr Jack Ashley Mr Jack Ashley , Stoke-on-Trent South

The hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) has put the case that it is daft to exclude non-maintained schools from this provision, and there is no point in making long speeches about it. I presume that it is a ministerial oversight, because I can see no reason for excluding non-maintained schools. We expect the Minister not to prevaricate, but to say that he will take action. Much of the Bill is highly controversial, but this provision is not, and I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I appreciate that the amendment is non-party political, because two Tories, two Labour Members and one Liberal Member have spoken in favour of it. When the 1976 Education Bill was going through the House, I remember the work done on clause 10 by my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam). The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) is renowned in his constituency, and in the country, for the work he does for the handicapped. In Committee the hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Mr. Beith) paid special attention to the handicapped. I do not need to refer to the knowledge of the Warnock committee's report possessed by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Price) and the great work for the handicapped that has been done by the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley).

I appreciate the genuine concern of parents of handicapped children who wish to see their children have the same rights as children attending schools in the maintained sector, including maintained special schools. The Bill includes maintained special schools but the question of non-maintained special schools has been raised this evening. It has been made clear by hon. Members over the last few days—I am sure we appreciated it previously—that in most cases parents of handicapped children will be even more concerned than ordinary parents because they wish to ensure that their children are given the fullest opportunity in life that is possible.

There is no question of a difference of principle here. We should ensure that handicapped children attending schools inside or outside the maintained sector are given equal opportunity, bearing in mind that a great deal of State money maintains them.

There are two or three problems that I should like to bring to the notice of the House. The first is the catchment area. My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter gave the percentage of blind and other handicapped people who attend non-maintained special schools. But one problem with the election of parent governors of non-maintained special schools is that, unlike maintained special schools, the governors often serve not just a local or regional need but a national need. The method of election enshrined in the Bill would seem to be inappropriate if elections have to be made on a national basis.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that the parent governors of a school are such whether they represent a national interest or a local one? It is possible to bring parents together in one way or another. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that this specific difficulty will break the principle which he has already conceded?

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I take the point. There are special problems. Parents can elect other parents only when they know them and presumably, if it is not a postal ballot, it can be done at the same place. I am not saying that this difficulty cannot be overcome but it is different from the election of governors of schools where people come from a particular area or a small locality.

Photo of Mr Lewis Carter-Jones Mr Lewis Carter-Jones , Eccles

That problem will remain whether we talk about it now, next year, or in 10 years' time. I wish that the Minister would net give us that wiffle-waffle from the Dispatch Box. That is padding. He knows full well that there are better reasons. What the hon. Gentleman is saying is waffle.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

As the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) said, I con- ceded the principle. But the question is whether the right place for the election of parent governors for non-maintained special schools is in the Bill or elsewhere. That is the only argument. I accept the principle completely. Those parents must have the same rights. I make it perfectly clear that the battle is not about the principle. I do not doubt that those putting this matter forward are motivated by total concern.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

Is it not also an equal difficulty in maintained schools that are boarding schools? That would be a difficulty under the Bill as it stands. Why not adopt those methods in respect of special schools?

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

The number of boarding schools within the State sector is not large. We shall be interested to see the methods those boarding schools adopt to elect a parent body. Presumably we will learn something from that. However, this is a problem that must be overcome one way or another.

Photo of Sir David Price Sir David Price , Eastleigh

We can obtain a little help from the private sector because in independent boarding schools there is no difficulty in producing parent governing bodies, particularly in the non-maintained special schools. These are active, concerned parents. It is only a matter of adding a little technical democracy to what is already happening.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I turn to the second paragraph of my brief. Before doing so I shall give way to any hon. Member in the Chamber who has not yet expressed his opinion on this matter.

Clause 2 relates to the terms of the instruments of government that are unique to maintained schools. We do not believe that we can achieve what the proponents of the amendment want by amending the clause. The House may wish to enforce statutory provision for the appointment of parents and teachers—I presume that that is what it would want the Government to do on the bodies responsible for non-maintained schools. Hon. Members will be familiar with the list. I asked for it today. It includes many charities—for example, the Royal National Institute for the Blind with 11 schools through to Dr Barnado's with six, to quite a few with one.

If the House wants to enforce a statutory provision for the appointment of parents and teachers, it will be necessary to deal with complex trust deeds based upon voluntary foundations. That is different from that which is being dealt with in the Bill. I am not saying that it cannot be done, but I repeat that the voluntary foundations have complex trust deeds. Action will have to be taken if we are to achieve what some hon. Members say the House wants. I am not doubting that it needs to be achieved.

It is strange that many voluntary bodies, or voluntary charities, have not moved to the election or some form of appointment of parent and teacher governors. Presumably some of them have done so.

Photo of Mr Lewis Carter-Jones Mr Lewis Carter-Jones , Eccles

The Minister has pin-pointed one of the problems that has concerned the all-party disablement group for some years. It is endemic in his Department. It has taken us years to make society accept that the handicapped have a full place in society. The fact that they are not included is a measure of the problem.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I take the hon. Gentleman's point. The Warnock report deals in part with integration within our society. There is the approach of integrating if there is any possible means of so doing instead of starting on the other side. As I understand the Warnock report—many hon. Members who are now in the Chamber understand it very much better than I do—it contains a total switch of emphasis. That was welcomed by the House. I accept it myself and I am sure that the Government do so as well.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

Is the Minister saying that he accepts the recommendations of the Warnock report? Is that what he said?

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I was dealing with the principle involved in the Warnock report. I was not dealing with its recommendations, which are numerous. I was answering the hon. Member for Eccles. The hon. Gentleman said that there had been a fight for integration and acceptance instead of division. I said that the Warnock report was involved with that—namely, integration within our society. I was not taking on board all the recommendations of the report.

Photo of Mr Lewis Carter-Jones Mr Lewis Carter-Jones , Eccles

Special schools have not yet received the message that parents ought to be among their governors. That is why such provision does not yet appear in the articles.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

If any special schools receive copies of the report of the debate, the message might percolate through. I do not think that anyone is fighting the principle. It is merely a matter of how one does it and where one does it.

We have not yet dealt with the special conditions of the trust deeds. Basically the Bill is intended for the maintained sector. Clause 2 is concerned with how to elect governors in the State sector. Following the Warnock report there are many problems that will have to be considered—for example, the integration of the handicapped within our society.

I have been asked whether the Government are to make a long-term promise. I hope to make a short-term promise. We intend to do something, though not in the long term. It is two years since the Warnock committee reported and we shall look at that report and see what we can achieve despite current controls on resources.

9 pm

The Government, while not opposing the principle of these amendments, believe that they should be dealt with in the setting of a full consideration of the Warnock report which deals with the integration into society of non-maintained schools. Under that system parents and teachers would be involved. We do not oppose the principle. However, we do not believe that this Bill is the right vehicle for the amendment. Clause 2 deals with the issue properly and the matter will require close and special study.

Photo of Mr John Hannam Mr John Hannam , Exeter

We understand the complexity of the law governing charitable bodies. My hon. Friend said that the Warnock report would come before us in the short term rather than in the long term. Is he able to give a clearer indication of when the Government are likely to be dealing with Warnock since that will affect our attitude to these amendments?

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

I had intended to deal with that matter later. Charities are a complicated issue and there has been a long-standing arrangement in the House that in many cases neither the Government nor the Opposition have interfered with charities. They need to be looked at most carefully in order that they should not be undermined. As a trailer for clause 9 which we shall hurry on to without need of a guillotine, I was going to say that I realise the understandably deep feelings of many hon. Members on this matter and that my right hon. and learned Friend expects to make an announcement before Easter on the Government's response to the Warnock report. This is not a political point, but the Government feel that this issue should not be catered for in clause 2 but should be part of a total consideration of the problem.

Photo of Mr John Hannam Mr John Hannam , Exeter

The Minister has been batting on a sticky wicket and he lost two of his wickets before he was able to sustain his third argument. We acknowledge that he has accepted the principle of the arguments we put forward in these amendments. His statement about Warnock is of great significance and it was important that we heard of it at this stage rather than be left in doubt.

I understand the complexities of charitable trusts and the way in which they administer non-maintained schools. I hope that my hon. Friend will take account of the points made on both sides of the House and that an even fuller explanation of the Government's position will be presented when the Bill is debated in the other place. I am sure the issues will be raised even more vehemently by their Lordships.

In view of the explanation given by the Minister and the assurance about the implementation and introduction of Warnock by the Government, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Opposition Whip (Commons)

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 34, delete 'two' and insert 'three'.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

With this we are to take amendment No. 2, in page 3, line 4, leave out 'two' and insert 'three'.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Opposition Whip (Commons)

For those who have not compared the Amendment Paper with the Bill, I should explain that this amend- ment is about parent governors and teacher governors. The main amendment is about parent governors, and amendment No. 2 deals with teacher governors. I tabled these two amendments to draw attention to the fact that the Government have moved far from the principles of the Taylor report. That report set out the basis for the representation of parents and teachers on the governing bodies of schools.

Perhaps the most powerful underlying pressure for the reform of school government has come as a result of bitter experience in various kinds of authorities. That pressure has come particularly in authorities where political considerations have loomed far too large in the selection of governors and where those authorities have believed such considerations to be essential to sustain a political majority—usually of councillors—on every school governing body. That applies to the extent of turning out effective governors, depriving them of their position on bodies of governors, when there is a change in political complexion in the town or county hall. We have seen examples of that in Kent and of the long term stranglehold of one party on governing bodies in County Durham.

There has been a perversion of the purpose and nature of school governing bodies. They have been lowered in public respect at a time when we should be trying to enhance their status and the job that they do. Even in authorities which have not followed the party political tradition, and have not perverted the purposes of school governors by packing them with political nominees, the real value of such bodies has not been used because they have remained remote from the world of the school.

When I first became a governor of a secondary school, not one member of that body had either been to a secondary modern school or had sent, or contemplated sending, a child of his to a secondary modern school. Virtually all of them had had no part in the State education system. They were well-intentioned people who by their lights, were playing a useful role in the community, and it was part of their social status to become a member of a school governing body. The result was that, with the best will in the world, the governing body was miles away from the realities of life in the school and the concerns and expectations of the parents. The discussions of that and many other governing bodies reflected that fact.

Governors have often failed to get to grips with the issues that should be concerning them, not least because they are so far from the concerns of parents and teachers. I am not sure that there would have been the need for this great debate on education—limited though its outcome has been so far—if there had been more effective school governing bodies. If on every governing body there were three or four parents pointing out that they had children coming out of the school who were unable to read properly or to do simple calculations, we should not have needed the apparatus of papers and inspectors from the DES to bring home that point.

A governing body that was made up effectively of the parents and teaching staff of the school could have played a larger role without jeopardising the professional independence of teachers. That was the spirit in which the Taylor committee was born. Evidence was drawn from a variety of bodies, including the Liberal Party, arguing for major change in the composition of the bodies. Such change would have swept away the idea of a local authority majority body and brought in a partnership between the community, parents and teachers. Although the recommendation of the Taylor committee on partnerships differed from the one that we proposed, none the less we were prepared to commend and encourage its recommendations. The report said: As a matter of principle, membership of governing bodies should consist of equal numbers of local education authority representatives, school staff, parents with, where appropriate, pupils and representatives of the local community—an equal partnership between those who are most concerned with the education system. That idea gained some ground and found favour among Conservative Members who were in opposition at the time. That was one of many causes which they were happy to take up when they were in opposition. Let me remind them that in Committee they became firmly committed to the idea that parents should not only account for one or two members of the governing body—two, as it has emerged in the Bill—but should have a substantial place on the body.

The Leader of the House, the then Shadow Education. Minister, said: I do not think that one parent governor should be isolated among officials, education experts, from which may heaven deliver us, and teachers…One parent alone faced with such fierce competition cannot be an effective influence. The question of numbers, proportion and percentage is of vital importance."—[Official Report, 1 July 1976; Vol. 914, c. 732.] I entirely agree with that, and that is why I believe that it is insufficient to raise the minimum from one to two. The Bill presents us with two parent governors and one or two teacher governors. I do not believe that to be sufficient. I do not believe that two parents can be immune from the difficulties, problems and isolation to which the former Education Minister attached such importance when he was in opposition.

The Government have hopelessly watered down the excellent principles established by the Taylor report. They have left a situation which retains all the evils of the worst authorities. If any expectations have been generated by the Bill, they are misplaced. Any local authority that wishes to retain the idea of political domination over a governing body, may do so. It will have a majority at its disposal.

Any governing body that wishes to retain parent or teacher representation at a minimum or token level will be able to do so quite easily. Authorities vary widely. Several authorities are way ahead of the Bill. Many of them already carry out the Bill's suggestions. A few are not even prepared to have one or two parents, or one or two teachers, on the governing body.

Any legislation must establish a firmer basis so that parents can insist on fairer representation. Teachers and staff should be able to use that basis to gain representation on governing bodies. The Bill will leave the worst authorities—those that are determined to use governing bodies as a device for political patronage—virtually unrestricted. That was not the motive behind the Taylor report. Nor was it the motive behind the demand for legislation on school governing bodies. I cannot understand why the Government are prepared to include such provisions if they do not care about reforming school government. They should make effective provisions, rather than token provisions such as these.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

I have had considerable experience of serving on school governing bodies that have incorporated parent and teacher governors. It is valuable to have such governors. Parents are consumers, and therefore they represent the consumer angle. That is extremely important. Teachers are deeply involved with the school and with achieving quality. They will attempt to put across the aspirations of the school's teaching force to other governors. Their views will balance those of parents and pupils.

I believe that there should be a limit on the number of parent and teacher governors. There should be a balance between teacher governors and parent governors. That is fair. Parents will generally take a greater interest in the school if they are allowed some representation on the governing body. Parent governors will discuss with parents the work of the governing body. That is valuable. Naturally, they do not pass on the confidential business of the governing body. It would be wrong if they did. However, they can do much by explaining to other parents the purpose of the governing body. They can also put forward the wishes, thoughts, aspirations and worries of parents.

It is a two-way process, which is what education is about at almost every level. It should be two-way between teachers and pupils, teachers and parents, and so on. That typifies the process of education. In a philosophical sense, the concept of parent-governors is fulfilling that aspect of education.

9.15 pm

Parents gain a wholly new perspective of what a school is about when they have representatives on the governing body. They no longer receive information only from their children or in formal interviews with teachers. They have a new and deeply valuable involvement.

I do not see a need to push that representation beyond two. I worked in a large school of over 2,000 pupils, and we had only two parents on the governing body. I sometimes thought that we could do with more, but in a governing body of about 20 those two made a positive and reasonable contribution when they had strong feelings. With two representatives, one can always support the other and, where necessary, second a motion.

The same applies to teachers. In welcoming parents on governing bodies in the strength laid down in the Bill, I also welcome teachers. It is of great importance to maintain a balance. The consumer—parent—should not move ahead of the teacher aspect of education.

The two teacher representatives can support each other in meetings and report back to colleagues on non-confidential matters. There can be a dialogue between teacher governors and the remainder of the teaching staff that would not exist at formal or informal staff meetings, with the head, deputy head and hierarchy of the school present.

Teacher representation has existed in areas that I know of for a long time. It is emancipating for teachers to elect their representatives to the governing body, and, in a sense, call them to account or listen to what they have to say about matters discussed in meetings.

The balance is important. We also need representatives of the local community and the local authority on governing bodies. Representation from parents and teachers is of crucial importance, but, if it becomes too large, undue weight will be placed on their points of view.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Opposition Whip (Commons)

I am following the hon. Gentleman's remarks with great interest. Does he agree that everything that he said supports the Taylor principle of trying to get a balance between the component parts, as his right hon. Friend clearly felt when in opposition? Any pattern that involves equal distribution between the various components, rather than the pattern set out in the Bill, is right.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Movement is in that direction, and it is not unreasonable. However, I do not believe that we shall ever get quite the equality that is sought. It is not truly attainable. In the end it will come down to personalities. One or two rather forceful parents may be able to push for more than their weight of two places. The community may have weak representatives who, although greater in number, count for little in the body's decision making. In all bodies of people, it is weight of personality that will count in the end. The weight carried by parent governors, teacher governors and other representatives will depend more on the knowledge, experience and determination that they bring to their views than upon the numbers involved. It is important to remember that.

Photo of Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) referred to the report of Lord Taylor, who I believe comes from Blackburn, which is in the the next valley to mine in Lancashire. We sometimes see his fleeting figure in the corridors of the House.

I believe that all hon. Members accept that parents and teachers should be on governing bodies. The parents have committed their children to the school, and therefore they have an intense interest in the standard of that school. Similarly, the teachers have their professional future and their daily satisfaction involved with that school.

It is a question of numbers and getting the right balance. The Taylor report advocated equal numbers. However, we felt that the important thing was not to make the governing body too big, because if it were too big it would lose its sense of being a close entity. Also, on a large body people feel that if they do not attend they will not put the proceedings of that body at risk.

We also feel that in so far as the local education authority is still largely responsible for the school, and is totally responsible for its financing, it is wrong to divide the responsibility for financing from that for running the school. Such a division could be dangerous and could turn a governing body into a talking shop, passing resolutions demanding more money and more resources which would have little effect in county hall.

I know that the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed does not agree with us on this matter, but we have left in the Bill the right of local authorities to have a majority on the governing body if they so wish. Once we did that, the rest followed on the limitation of numbers. I know that if the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed had his way the first restraint would not have been inserted.

I think that it is particularly important that there should be two parents on a governing body. If there is only one parent he may not feel that he can take part in the debate, and he may feel isolated. At least if there are two parents there is a mover and a seconder and a debate can go ahead.

Subsection (8) enables the head teacher to decide whether he will be a governor automatically or whether he will attend the governing body as a school official. If he decides to attend as a member of the governing body, which is his right, there are three teachers present. Obviously the head teacher will have some degree of communication with his staff. If he does not, no governing body can save that school. Thus, there will be three members of the teaching profession at the meeting—two staff members plus the head teacher. It is important to remember that if the head teacher wishes to attend as a voting governor he may do so.

If one looks at the Bill, one sees that it says "at least" two teachers. No limitation is put on enlightened authorities which might wish to have more than two parents and two teachers on the body. We have legislated for a bare minimum. In the Bill we have tried to enhance good practice. Many governing bodies already have bodies of teachers and bodies of parents, but we are picking up those who have not yet caught up with the main stream. We are laying down a minimum of two parents and two teachers.

Governing bodies are very important. Basically, they should keep an eye on the curriculum and the arrangements of the school. In my experience I have found that parent governors are most useful because they have committed their children to that school. When one is making political appointments, one should look to see whether there is among the members of one's party a parent with a child at that school. The most effective parent governors whom I have known have not been elected but have been nominated by their political party because their children were attending that school. That is better than nominees joining that body whose children attend schools elsewhere. They also have political influence outside in county halls and centres of power.

There is no means whereby that could be put in the Bill, even if I could persuade my own party. The Bill is an improvement on the existing situation. It is a question of extending good practice. We feel that the two plus one situation—the two teachers plus the headmaster, who can attend, if he wishes, as a full voting member of the governing body—is a big improvement.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Opposition Whip (Commons)

I was interested to hear the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the party political parent. It would be an improvement on the practice of some authorities if, in appointing political nominees, they were chosen with some qualification to exercise the task. The approach suggested by the hon. Gentleman would only contribute to the cynicism about political parties that prevails among people who do not belong to them, or do not know much about them, and who take the view that one cannot get anywhere unless one belongs to the right group. I am thinking of areas where one political party has a prevailing influence.

The strategy recommended by the hon. Gentleman would not do his friends much good in County Durham. He will not get many parents on school governing bodies there. A different story would apply in some other parts of the country. We want to ensure that parents can become governors of schools without having to show the right party card and that parents placed on governing bodies are recognised not as token representatives but as equal partners. The hon. Gentleman did not make out a strong case against that. He made clear that what has determined the size of parents' representation has been the decision that the local authority should have the majority on the school governing body.

The tide of reason flowed up the beach of Conservatism a little further in the last Parliament but ebbed back in time for them to get into office. By that stage—I do not know under whose counsels—the principle of parity between these component parts had been lost. I do not think that the situation is satisfactory. We should increase the proportion of parent governors. I should have liked to go back to what Taylor wanted and what my party wanted, which was equal partners with guaranteed equal shares. At the very least, the parent representation should be three and not two.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 14, Noes 254.

Division No. 173]AYES[9.28 pm
Alton, DavidHeffer, Eric S.Wigley, Dafydd
Canavan, DennisLyon, Alexander (York)Wright, Sheila
Cryer, BobPenhaligon, David
English, MichaelPrice, Christopher (Lewisham West)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Field, FrankRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)Mr. Alan Beith and
Flannery, MartinRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)Mr. Russell Johnston.
NOES
Alexander, RichardFinsberg, GeoffreyLoveridge, John
Amery, Rt Hon JulianFisher, Sir NigelLyell, Nicholas
Arnold, TomFletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)McCrindle, Robert
Atkins, Robert (Preston North)Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMacfariane, Neil
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)Fookes, Miss JanetMacGregor, John
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Fox, MarcusMacKay, John (Argyll)
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyFraser, Peter (South Angus)McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)
Bell, Sir RonaldFry, PeterMcNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Bendall, VivianGardiner George (Reigate)McQuarrie, Albert
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)Gardner, Edward (South Fylde)Madel, David
Best, KeithGarel-Jones, TristanMajor, John
Bevan, David GilroyGlyn, Dr AlanMarland, Paul
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnGoodlad, AlastairMarten, Neil (Banbury)
Biggs-Davison, JohnGorst, JohnMather, Carol
Blackburn, JohnGow, IanMaude, Rt Hon Angus
Blaker, PeterGower, Sir RaymondMawby, Ray
Body, RichardGrant, Anthony (Harrow C)Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Bonsor, Sir NicholasGray, HamishMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Boscawen, Hon RobertGreenway, HarryMayhew, Patrick
Bowden, AndrewGrieve, PercyMellor, David
Boyson, Dr RhodesGriffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)Meyer, Sir Anthony
Bradford, Rev. R.Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)
Braine, Sir BernardGrist, IanMills, Peter (West Devon)
Bright, GrahamGrylls, MichaelMitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Brinton, TimGummer, John SelwynMoate, Roger
Brittan, LeonHamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)Monro, Hector
Brocklebank-Fowler, ChristopherHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Montgomery, Fergus
Brotherton, MichaelHampson, Dr KeithMoore, John
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)Hannam, JohnMorris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)
Browne, John (Winchester)Haselhurst, AlanMorrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)
Bruce-Gardyne, JohnHastings, StephenMudd, David
Bryan, Sir PaulHawksiey, WarrenMurphy, Christopher
Buck, AntonyHayhoe, BarneyMyles, David
Budgen, NickHeddle, JohnNeale, Gerrard
Burden, F. A..Henderson, BarryNeedham, Richard
Butler, Hon AdamHaseltine, Rt Hon MichaelNelson, Anthony
Cadbury, JocelynHicks, RobertNeubert, Michael
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Newton, Tony
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hill, JamesOnslow, Cranley
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)Osborn, John
Chalker, Mrs LyndaHolland, Philip (Carlton)Page, John (Harrow, West)
Chapman, SydneyHooson, TomPage, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham
Clark, Sir William (Croydon South)Hordern, PeterPage, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Parkinson, Cecil
Cockeram, EricHunt, David (Wirral)Parris, Matthew
Colvin, MichaelHunt, John (Ravensbourne)Patten, John (Oxford)
Cormack, PatrickHurd, Hon DouglasPattie, Geoffrey
Corrie, JohnIrvine, Charles (Cheltenham)Pawsey, James
Costain A.. P.Jenkin, Rt Hon PatrickPercival, Sir Ian
Cranborne, ViscountJohnson Smith, GeoffreyPink, R. Bonner
Critchley, JulianJopling, Rt Hon MichaelPorter, George
Crouch, DavidJoseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithPrentice, Rt Hon Reg
Dean, Paul (North Somerset)Kershaw, AnthonyPrice, David (Eastleigh)
Dickens, GeoffreyKing, Rt Hon TomPrior, Rt Hon James
Dorrell, StephenKitson, Sir TimothyProctor, K. Harvey
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesKnight, Mrs JillRaison, Timothy
Dover, DenshoreKnox DavidRathbone, Tim
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardLamont, NormanRenton, Tim
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Lang, IanRhodes James, Robert
Durant, TonyLangford-Holt, Sir JohnRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Dykes, HughLatham, MichaelRost, Peter
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnLawrence, IvanSainsbury, Hon Timothy
Elliott, Sir WilliamLee, JohnShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Emery, PeterLe Merchant, SpencerShelton, William (Streatham)
Fairgrieve, RussellLonnox-Boyd, Hon MarkShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Faith, Mrs SheilaLester, Jim (Beeston)Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)
Farr, JohnLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Shersby, Michael
Fell AnthonyLloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)Silvester, Fred
Fenner, Mrs PeggyLloyd, Peter (Fareham)Sims, Roger
Skeet, T. H. H.Thornton, MalcolmWatson, John
Spence, JohnTownend, John (Bridlington)Wells, John (Maidstone)
Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd A Stev'nage)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)Trippier, DavidWheeler, John
Sproal, IainTrotter, NevilleWhitney, Raymond
Squire, Robinvan Straubenzee, W. R.Wickenden, Keith
Stainton, KeithVaughan, Dr GerardWiggin, Jerry
Stanbrook, IvorViggers, PeterWilkinson, John
Stanley, JohnWaddington, DavidWilliams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Stevens, MartinWakeham, JohnWinterton, Nicholas
Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)Waldegrave, Hon WilliamYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Stokes, JohnWalker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)Younger, Rt Hon George
Stradling Thomas, J.Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Tapsell, peterWaller, GaryTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)Walters, DennisMr. John Cope and
Temple-Morris, PeterWard, JohnMr. Peter Brooke.
Thompson, DonaldWarren, Kenneth

Question accordingly negatived.