Education Bill [HL]

– in the House of Lords at 4:05 pm on 21st February 2005.

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Report received.

Schedule 1 [Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England]:

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I rise to move this amendment to Schedule 1 in the name of my noble friend Lord Filkin. These amendments are technical. They result from changes to government accounting rules and practice. Similar amendments have been tabled to Schedule 13. The amendments remove the express statutory requirement for the Minister for the Civil Service—that is to say, the Prime Minister—to approve the number and conditions of Ofsted staff, the terms under which additional inspectors may be engaged and the remuneration and pension and other payments to the chief inspector.

Schedule 1 re-enacts Schedule 1 to the School Inspections Act 1996. Since then, practice has changed and the matters mentioned in the paragraphs to be amended are covered by government accounting rules. There is therefore no more need for that statutory requirement for the approval of the Minister for the Civil Service. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Perry of Southwark Baroness Perry of Southwark Conservative

moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 67, line 14, at end insert "and a list of such additional inspectors shall be published annually"

Photo of Baroness Perry of Southwark Baroness Perry of Southwark Conservative

I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 5 and 7. I start by thanking the Minister and her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools for their care in trying to meet our concerns about the Bill and their willingness to give time to discuss them with us. I also thank the Minister for having tabled Amendment No. 3 to meet some of our concerns, which is a great step forward. However, Amendment No. 3 simply does not go far enough to meet the requirements that I believe are necessary for really superb quality of inspectors and inspection.

Without trying to make a Second Reading speech, it is important to remind ourselves that the powers of inspectors are quite formidable. They have the power to raise the standards of schools and to reassure parents and the general public that the standard of teaching and of provision in the schools are what we would wish for our children. They also have the power to produce an adverse report, which sends a school into special measures and which is an enormously damaging experience for the school, for the teachers within it and, of course, for the pupils. Therefore, the quality of those inspectors and the quality of the inspection they provide have to be such that the public, the parents and the children themselves—those old enough to worry about it—can have total confidence.

The three amendments that I am speaking to attempt to do three quite separate but related things. First, they ensure that the list of those who are given permission to inspect, who are engaged by the contractors as additional inspectors and who will be inspecting in our schools—as the Bill stands, perhaps on their own from the very first day—will be a public list. The schools and teachers will know who these additional inspectors are and that they have been through the proper procedure for appointment. It is only fair that a secret list should not exist in a way that allows people to be dropped off the list without any recognition that something quite fundamental has happened to them, and that would be ensured by a public list.

Secondly, Amendment No. 5 requires that:

"Every additional inspector must satisfy the Chief Inspector that they have the necessary skills, expertise and experience, to perform their functions in a manner which enhances the reputation of his office"— in other words, which enhances the reputation of inspection.

The amendment does not call for any specific time. It simply says that the additional inspectors, before they acquire the powers of the chief inspector himself in inspecting schools, must satisfy the chief inspector that they have not only the expertise and experience but also the necessary skill. This could be through HMI or in any way that was designed. That skill includes skills with people, the skills of people interaction, because the way in which an inspection is conducted is as important as the formal processes through which it goes. In other words, the confidence of staff, of the parents and of the head must be in the courtesy, thoroughness, honesty and impartiality with which the inspector approaches their job.

Amendment No. 3, which the Government are offering and which we will be debating in a few minutes, does not provide for that. It provides for a list of desirable qualifications, experience and standards, all of which are wholly good and we are delighted to see, but it is still nevertheless ticks in boxes. It is not the same thing.

One distinguished Member of this House once told me the story of how he had been appointed to the company of which he became chief executive. When he was interviewed for the appointment, he was sent out of the interview for a time. After a long interval, a senior member of the interview panel came out and said, "Look, we are sitting here with a whole set of boxes that we have to tick before we can appoint you. You have not a single tick, but nevertheless we think you are appointable. We are going to give you a year's appointment, on probation." As I said, that person ended up, some years later, as a hugely successful chief executive of the company. So, ticks in boxes do not always provide the whole story, either for good or for ill.

I and those who support me in this amendment are trying to say that we want more than a list which somebody goes through before they appoint. We want a way in which the HMI and, through it, the chief inspector can be assured that the personality and approach of additional inspectors will ensure success in the way that they approach their job along with their specific experience and expertise.

Amendment No. 7 offers a way in which this might be done. It suggests "a period of induction" by HMI through at least three inspections. I have to say that on the word processor my fingers hesitated over "three", remembering that HMI in former days used to have six months' mentoring. Inspectors were not allowed to go into a school on their own, without a mentor present, until they had passed through six months of such induction, mentoring and training. Three inspections seems a very modest requirement as a substitute for that six-month period with a full-time mentor. However, given all that we have been told by the Government of the need to get these assistant inspectors cracking as fast as possible—of course allowing that the requirement of three inspections with HMI will cover many of the existing registered inspectors who will become additional inspectors—I hope very much that the Government will feel that they can accept this amendment. It would be an enormous step forward in ensuring the real quality of the people who are performing inspections. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills 4:15 pm, 21st February 2005

My Lords, my name is down among those supporting this amendment. I too would like to pay tribute to the Government for meeting with most of us to discuss these issues. In a sense, there has been a meeting of minds already.

In Committee we argued in favour of retaining the register, because we were concerned about accountability and quality control. In her response, the Minister stressed that the Government were no less concerned about quality. Indeed, the new system, with a greater role played by HMI, was aimed at improving the quality performance and accountability of the inspectorate. I would just like to remind the House of a number of quotes from the Minister's speech in Committee.

"Every additional inspector, HMI or not, and regardless of skill, competence or experience, will have to undergo the same training to implement the new system as HMIs".

She went on:

"There will be no entry test for additional inspectors but there will be a clearer, tighter framework for continuouos professional monitoring".

The register will be replaced

"by the chief inspector who will authorise inspectors who are fit to practise and remove that right if necessary".

So, the chief inspector is to authorise new inspectors. She said that:

"Contractors will [still] have a vital part to play. They will have to recruit inspectors and demonstrate that those recruits meet the criteria defined by Ofsted, matching competencies of HMI. HMI will monitor the process and ensure that they are consistently of high quality".—[Official Report, 11/1/05; cols. GC 153–55.]

Many of the additional inspectors will be employed by contractors and, if dropped, will be able to call on the full range of employment rights. She also mentioned that the Ofsted appeals tribunal had been costly to operate, quoting a figure of up to £100,000 for an individual case.

In the light of these reassurances that we were given in Committee and the subsequent debate, we have changed the emphasis of our demands. We are no longer looking for a formal register of inspectors. We are looking for openness. We now want the list of those named as additional inspectors to be in the open, to be published on a website or annually in the report of the chief inspector. We do not mind which, but we want something like that, so that people know who are the accepted additional inspectors that meet the qualifications required. Their names should be in the public domain. That is the essence of Amendment No. 2.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, mentioned, we also seek a minimum requirement of qualifications and experience of those accepted as additional inspectors. To some extent, the Government have already met us in that regard but we would go further, particularly with the requirement that such inspectors have had experience working with an HMI before being put in charge of an inspection. That is the subject of Amendments Nos. 5 and 7, as well as Amendment No. 11, which is treated separately as it relates to Wales. We have heeded the Government's view about the disproportionate cost of tribunals. Given, as they argued, the likely employment status of additional inspectors and their rights under employment legislation, we have conceded that no formal appeals mechanism is necessary.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector may take a view about who is fit to practise, and he does not have to defend that decision through protracted appeal procedures. We recognise that, in Amendment No. 3, the Government have come some of the way to meet us, but their amendments do not require the chief inspector to publish the list of additional inspectors, nor do they quite meet our objectives, particularly regarding the qualifications and experience of such inspectors. I have attached my name to the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, because they go a little further and would achieve precisely what we seek.

We are delighted that the Government have recognised the need for reassurance on quality control, but in some senses we feel that we have only a half loaf rather than a whole one. I hope that they can come that little bit further.

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Crossbench

My Lords, I support the three amendments, to which my name is attached, and pay tribute to the willingness of the Government and the chief inspector to be available for discussion before this debate. Things have moved on, as the character of the amendments suggests. None the less it is important that the amendments were tabled, because ultimately all three relate to the quality of inspectors. I have no doubt that a significant part of the progress that we have seen in schools has been due to the work of inspectors and the inspection system over the past 12 years. The concern of all noble Lords whose names are attached to the amendments is that a diminution of the quality and the perceived quality of the inspectorate could in the medium term adversely affect standards in schools.

Two or three aspects that have not been stressed also provide a reason to support the amendments. First, it is important to know not simply what the inspectors are—that is to say, their backgrounds and the qualities that they are supposed to have, in which respect Amendment No. 3 helps—but who they are. It is important to know who they are in a public domain, so that any questions would be raised in a public manner, which would give a due sense of responsibility to the work of the inspectors and those who might question their ability.

Secondly, it is important that before any inspections take place the chief inspector is assured of the quality of those who will go into schools. That is the reason for Amendment No. 5. The chief inspector must be assured that inspectors have the required skills, not as a result perhaps of their inspecting well or ill, but in advance of inspection, having ensured equally that training has been provided. That the chief inspector knows that in advance is critical for the children in the classroom. No one should enter schools without having already reached some band or passed some barrier on the basis of the abilities that they have and are seen to have.

I stress the quality of the inspectors, the fact that the list must be public, and that the chief inspector should know the inspectors' qualities and abilities before they go into schools.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Local and Devolved Government Affairs, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips

My Lords, I support the amendments. I associate myself fully with the comments of my noble friend Lady Perry of Southwark, and agree with those made by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, and the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland.

The Bill would remove the requirement of a chief inspector to maintain a register of approved inspectors, an issue that we have debated several times during the passage of the Bill. I join other noble Lords in thanking the Minister and his colleagues for their discussions and involvement in the issue, but I am afraid that, despite his best efforts, we remain highly sceptical that abandoning the current system of registered inspectors would significantly improve the inspection regime. We are not convinced that the amendments, for which we thank the Government, go far enough. As the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said, we have only half the loaf.

A serious concern is that such a change will have an impact on the quality of inspectors and their inspections. The Bill would allow the chief inspector to appoint or,

"arrange for such persons as he thinks fit" as "additional inspectors". There is nothing in the Bill to ensure the accountability of inspectors or their suitability for the role. The previous system provided for the removal from the register of any person no longer fit to be an inspector. Without such a qualifying hurdle and register of inspectors, how does the Minister anticipate removing substandard inspectors?

I thank the Minister for listening to our discussions and concerns. However, we do not feel that the government amendments either address our specific worries or go far enough. Part of the problem is that the Bill still leaves open to doubt whether the necessary safeguards are in place to ensure that the inspectors are adequately skilled and trained to carry out those responsibilities. The creation of a benchmark is all well and good but given the importance of the matter it is imperative that each inspector's skills, experience and expertise are assessed. It would be perfectly possible for potential inspectors to possess the requisite paper qualifications yet be entirely unsuited to the role expected of them. We also believe that introducing a trial period is a sensible and rational measure that would allow both sides breathing space. It is important that a list of inspectors is published. That would add to the system's transparency and openness.

I have tried to highlight our concerns about scrapping the registered inspection regime. I welcome the fact that the Government have listened to a number of our concerns but I am sorry to say that the amendments tabled by the Minister do not go far enough. That is why I have attached my name to the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lady Perry.

Photo of The Bishop of Portsmouth The Bishop of Portsmouth Bishop

My Lords, throughout the debates I have been watching this football match from the touch line. I notice that there has been, not exactly a goal on either side, but some convergence, if I might move to a slightly different image. At this stage it is perhaps incumbent on the Government to explain why they would resist the amendment, as it seems to make a great deal of sense.

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench

My Lords, I wish to press the Minister on the inspection of early-years provision. As he will be aware, many providers in this area are concerned about the quality of the education and the poverty of many staff working in those environments. Unlike mainstream schools, where highly qualified teachers are readily available, in these environments, where children are still developing and so malleable, there is often a need for the boost of a good-quality inspection that a well qualified inspector can provide.

The Birth to three matters guidance that the Government produced provided excellent assistance in this area, particularly in advising provision of key workers. That is very welcome but I understand that the implementation of the concept has been very patchy. It is difficult to implement because workers are loath to form attachments with children. Children will cry when they leave someone with whom they have an attachment. It is painful to separate oneself from someone to whom one is attached, yet it is necessary. That also has consequences for the schedule of workers in the early-years environment, as they must be there all the time that the child is there.

I seek an assurance from the Minister that the quality of inspectors in the early-years setting will continue.

Photo of Lord Dearing Lord Dearing Crossbench 4:30 pm, 21st February 2005

My Lords, I want to be brief. I had the privilege of joining the discussions with Her Majesty's chief inspector attended by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, and the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland. I am grateful to the Government for facilitating that and for their response there and elsewhere in the Bill.

I would like to associate myself with these three amendments for one reason. As I understand it, inspections of primary schools will be conducted not by HMI but by additional inspectors. An HMI will not always be involved in a secondary school inspectorate, so these people have massive responsibilities to us all. Such measures are necessary to give confidence that the system will be as it should be.

Photo of Baroness Carnegy of Lour Baroness Carnegy of Lour Conservative

My Lords, I have not spoken previously on the Bill. I listened to the discussion about the inspectorate with great interest. The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, pointed out that additional inspectors will be inspecting primary schools.

I met a teacher the other day whose primary school had just been inspected. In this age of targets the school had concentrated hard and met all its targets, yet when the report came out it was almost entirely negative. As a result, the staff of the school were enormously distressed, sad, frustrated and, indeed, demotivated. One wonders whether, if an inspector produces a negative report when the staff feel that they have done extremely well, it improves the quality of that school. I do not believe that it does.

I mention this because if additional inspectors do not have the skill to turn any criticisms into positive statements that encourage, particularly when the school has met all its targets—which is the current way in which the quality of the school is supposed to be measured—they are not doing a good job. It is a simple example of how important it is that the right people should be additional inspectors.

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Labour

My Lords, I rise to make a brief point on the wording of Amendment No. 5, which concerns me. We have a shared agenda that additional inspectors should have the necessary qualifications and skills to perform the tasks required of them. The amendment requires each additional inspector to carry out those functions in a way that enhances the reputation of the office of the chief inspector.

I do not understand why the hurdle of enhancement is there. I can see that there might be an argument for wishing to maintain the office's reputation, but to put in a hurdle of enhancement seems unduly harsh, particularly as there could be two additional inspectors each bringing the same degree of skill to the party, but the first one might have an opportunity to enhance and the second only to maintain. Even if one accepted the amendment's thrust, its wording is particularly flawed.

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

My Lords, in standing for the first time to speak on Report I would like to thank those Members who have acknowledged that the Government have been listening hard in our earlier debates on this important area. There are those who say that it is always a mistake for Ministers to listen to the House of Lords and give its Members what they want because they will only ask for more. I have not been of that opinion until now, but the House could persuade me otherwise.

I seek to suggest why—in terms of listening to the House and responding with Amendment No. 3—we have got it right. I share the view of all those who have spoken of the importance of maintaining a quality threshold. I am confident that the measures in the Bill, as enhanced by the amendments, will go further and we will have a better system of quality assurance as a consequence of the changes.

In Committee the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, spoke about the need to ensure that inspection teams have the right knowledge and expertise. We also talked about the blessed lists, to which I shall return in a minute. We have listened and we are at one on the principles. Much of what is proposed builds on and improves the current system.

The chief inspector will engage additional inspectors of an appropriate quality through the contracts with regional inspection service providers. If those providers fail to deliver to the high standards required of them in their contract with Ofsted, they will be in breach of contract.

There is general agreement on the increased involvement of HMI in routine school inspections, which is already one of the benefits of the Bill. The move to make the chief inspector in England directly accountable for all reports is a second major strengthening of the Bill. While that removes one of the reasons for the existing registration process which confers the right on a registered inspector to issue a report in his own name, we need to maintain the assurance that only those who meet particular standards of experience and competence will be allowed to inspect. That needs to be transparent for all to see. I am foursquare with the House on that point.

Government Amendment No. 3 will capture explicitly a number of those important elements. It will require the chief inspector to publish the rigorous standards as well as the qualifications and experience that all additional inspectors will be required to meet. The standards will be published and known. They will be buttressed by the publication also of the code of conduct to which all inspectors are required to adhere, because the way in which inspections are carried out as well as the quality has a bearing on both the feel and the potential quality of the report that comes from the inspection process.

The statement of the qualifications, experience and standards to which new subsection (2A) of the government amendment refers are designed to ensure that additional inspectors perform their functions in a manner that enhances the reputation of the chief inspector's office. In response to the helpful interjection of my noble friend Lord McKenzie, of course we want to enhance the chief inspector's reputation; we want it to be seen as improving rather than remaining static.

The second proposed new subsection of Amendment No. 3 also recognises the new arrangements and requires any contracts or arrangements entered into by the chief inspector to ensure that inspectors comply with the published requirements.

The government amendment will ensure that the standards, qualification and experience that inspectors must meet are transparent, but it will avoid the need for a bureaucratic and costly accreditation process that we believe would at best add no value and at worst get in the way of contracting arrangements for quality management.

The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, said that in the view of some schools inspected there is not perfection in the way that the existing system of registered inspectors operates. No doubt she is right, but I point out to the House that one can be a registered inspector as a result of meeting a quality standard 20 years or so ago, carry out three inspections per year and still stay on the register. There is no guarantee that as a result of being on the register one is necessarily at the cutting edge of quality and standards of registration. When I speak about the performance management element of the changes I hope that that will indicate why we believe that a new system will be better than the present system.

We have examined carefully the arguments in relation to publishing a list of those concerned. We had some vigorous discussions in the department about that. As a consequence, I am pleased to announce that the chief inspector has given an undertaking that he will publish the names of inspectors given to him by the regional inspection services providers that they are using at any one time under the terms of the contract.

That means specifically that the list will be of people to whom those contractors are committed and who meet the published standards of experience and qualifications required by anyone carrying out an inspection under the Bill. The chief inspector has gone further and said that the list of people who meet those standards will be published and made available on the Ofsted website. There will be a debate about how quickly that will be available, but at least every single term that website will contain the list of those who meet the standards. We have listened to Members of the House. If someone comes to inspect, for example, a school, the benefit will be that a parent or anyone else will know that the person carrying out the inspection has met or is claimed to have met the standards, what those standards are and the code of conduct that he or she is supposed to exhibit.

There will be the transparency that the House has asked for, which is right, and transparency with regard to the standards that are expected to be met for qualifications, experience and forms of behaviour. That is essential for public confidence in the inspection process. I assert that that is a substantially stronger system than is currently in operation.

Amendment No. 7 concerns the induction of inspectors. All inspectors will undertake training inspections and will not be allowed to inspect until they have demonstrated that they are able to deliver the new-style inspections to the required standard. We do not believe that specifying in the Bill the precise requirements for induction is helpful. The quality standards built into the new system will ensure that only those who meet the standards will be allowed to inspect.

I have some feeling for the noble Baroness, Lady Perry of Southwark—not as much perhaps as she would like—in her agony about trying to specify whether the number should be three, four or five. Perhaps she will grant that the House does its job better if it asserts certain principles and expects executive bodies to fulfil those principles, rather than second-guessing exactly by what mechanism they should fulfil those principles. Times will change, and standards will change. We need flexibility in legislation while giving clear benchmarks of what is expected. I hope that the noble Baroness will accept those comments.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, admitted that she had changed the emphasis. She was partly feeling my fear at the beginning of what she said; the debate moves on. The list will be published, which I hope will go a long way to meeting the noble Baroness's wishes.

The noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, said that it was important that the chief inspector was assured before the inspection. I agree. The contract and the standards will ensure that any inspection undertaken by a contractor using someone who did not meet that requirement would be in breach of contract. That would not be lightly done.

As regards the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, I would like to say a few words on the performance management of the system—without sending the House to sleep. Ofsted will ask every school that is inspected to give its view of how the inspection was carried out. The contractor or HMI will therefore retain a record of the school's views on each inspection. So evidence will be built up about every inspector, which will feed judgments on the performance management of inspectors.

That is not to say that what a school says is automatically gospel—clearly, it is not—but it is relevant information. There will be an active system of performance management of every inspector, either by HMI or the contractor. Of course, HMI will be able to ask for such evidence from contractors if it so wishes. Therefore, there will be active management of the performance of each inspector and of whether the standards and code of practice are being adhered to, as well there should be.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, asked about early-years inspections. Almost all such inspections are likely to have HMCI's direct involvement. In the early years, there will also be a degree of specialisation by inspectorates around particular areas of expertise. That may not last for ever, but that certainly is how it will start.

With what we have put down in our later amendment and with the clear assurances that I have given and the commitment given by the chief inspector, I hope that the House will feel that we have fully met the points that were well put in Committee to probe us on this important part of the Bill. I hope that noble Lords will share my view that we will have a stronger system of quality assurance than we have at present as a result of the proposed measures for which the House has pressed.

Photo of Baroness Perry of Southwark Baroness Perry of Southwark Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for that full and detailed reply. I have no quarrel with him that the system, as proposed, is better than what we have at the moment. I fear that he has not convinced me that the amendments are not necessary. The sole protection being offered against a faulty—if one can put it that way—or inadequate inspector is that the contractor that has produced such a person or group of persons would be in breach of contract.

That may seem fine: the contractor would then presumably be taken off the list of contractors and those people would no longer be inspecting. That is small comfort to schools and teachers who may have been damaged in the mean time and who may have been through a desperately painful experience with those "faulty" inspectors. Our amendments are trying to produce a guarantee of quality before the inspections take place—not after, when the damage has already been done.

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions) 4:45 pm, 21st February 2005

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, for giving way. It is fundamental to the contract between HMI and an experienced inspection contractor that schools can be inspected only by people who meet a clear published standard. I find it implausible that they would act in breach of that. Therefore, I do not find the fear that the noble Baroness is theoretically advancing remotely plausible.

Photo of Baroness Perry of Southwark Baroness Perry of Southwark Conservative

My Lords, however plausible or implausible, that can happen, as we know. Even under the current system of registered inspectors there have been some very poor experiences.

HMI inspectors were put through a much more rigorous selection, appointment and induction process, with mentoring and so on. In my years as chief inspector, I think that the only difficulties I ever had were with individual HMIs who were bossy boots and went into schools saying, "I'm the Secretary of State's inspector. I can do what I like, and you've got to do what I tell you" or who were incredibly cruel and judgmental to individual teachers, thereby on occasions causing them acute mental and psychological distress and so on.

It is the way in which an inspection is conducted, not the checklist of the experience and qualifications that those people have. Some of the worst mistakes were made by people who were very well qualified and experienced. Perhaps they were too well qualified and too experienced because they thought that their experience, their way of teaching and their judgment of how things should be done were the only right way. They were unable to look with compassion at how other people were achieving success in teaching.

To continue with the Minister's arguments, I am delighted at the performance monitoring proposed by the chief inspector. I cannot therefore understand why we have to take the word of the chief inspector that he will do all of those things, but not have it in the Bill. The current chief inspector has made those commitments and promises, which is wonderful. In 10 years' time, another HMCI might produce plausible reasons why it was not a good idea to publish the list every year, why it did not work very well and why she or he wanted to change it. It may be said that there are perfectly good reasons why such detailed monitoring will no longer be necessary—experienced contractors may be doing splendid things, and so on. If all of that is so good, let us put it in the Bill. Let us ensure not just that the qualifications and experience are there but that the interpersonal and people skills are also a part of what the chief inspector approves.

Will the Minister look again at paragraph 2(4) of Schedule 1, which states:

"An additional inspector acting within the authority conferred on him by the Chief Inspector has all the powers of one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools in England".

If that additional inspector is acting on the authority of the chief inspector, is it not reasonable to say, as Amendment No. 5 does, that:

"Every additional inspector must satisfy the Chief Inspector that they have the necessary skills"?

Otherwise, why will the chief inspector give such inspectors his authority to have all the powers that he himself has?

I agree entirely with the Minister on Amendment No.7 that the reference to three inspectors is perhaps a little too precise. If the amendment were accepted and the Government came back with something that referred to a period of induction, I should be more than happy to concede that three is an arbitrary figure. Some people might need 10, while others need one. Those who have already been successfully inspecting as registered inspectors might need none.

I think that it is necessary to have something on the face of the Bill that insists on a period of induction, so that no newly appointed additional inspector is brought in because the contractor has had good reports of Miss Jones or Mr Smith as a head or senior teacher in a school. New inspectors must not go off on their own to inspect without prior monitoring of their performance in a school. I am not worried about their qualifications and experience, which are easy to check, but I am concerned about their behaviour in a school.

Therefore, it is essential to have a period of induction with HMI present. I am sorry to say that, although I am delighted with all that the Minister and the Government have done in tabling Amendment No. 3, I do not believe that it is enough.

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, I shall respond to two of her specific probing questions. First, she was concerned that there would not be a process whereby a school could flag up things until it was too late. As part of the new system, there will be a hotline for schools to ring a separate senior inspector to bring any issues immediately to his attention. That directly addresses the issue of the behaviour as opposed to the qualifications and experience of inspectors.

Secondly, the noble Baroness said that Ofsted and the chief inspector are saying that a list will be published. Let me be clearer and stronger: the chief inspector is saying that, and I can also say that the Government think that the publication of such a list is right, proper and necessary.

Photo of Baroness Perry of Southwark Baroness Perry of Southwark Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister. Starting backwards from his remarks, if the Government think that it is right for a list to be published, what is wrong with putting that in the Bill?

A hotline is an excellent idea. Some schools will be brave and articulate enough to use it. However, inspectors are very intimidating people. To ask for a hotline when an inspector has already been pretty intimidating and unpleasant might be more than many small schools would feel able to do. We need protection for teachers, schools and, above all, for our children on the quality of inspectors who decree whether the education being provided is adequate, and we need it to be on the face of the Bill. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 149; Not-Contents, 133.

Division number 1 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Education Bill [HL]

Aye: 147 Members of the House of Lords

No: 131 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions) 5:03 pm, 21st February 2005

moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 67, line 14, at end insert—

"(2A) The Chief Inspector must publish in such manner as he thinks fit, and may from time to time revise, a statement of—

(a) the qualifications or experience (or both) that are to be required of additional inspectors who are not members of his staff, and

(b) the standards that such additional inspectors are to be required to meet in the exercise of their functions.

(2B) Any arrangements which provide for assistance by persons who are not members of the Chief Inspector's staff must be made on terms that require the person with whom the arrangements are made to secure compliance with any requirements that are from time to time published under sub-paragraph (2A)."

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

My Lords, as I outlined earlier, this amendment aims to provide transparency and assurance about the quality of inspectors under the new arrangements. The amendment will require the chief inspector to publish rigorous standards as well as the qualifications and experience that all additional inspectors will be required to meet. The statement of these standards will be specific and meaningful, both to inspectors and to schools.

The amendment will require any contracts or arrangements entered into by the chief inspector to ensure that inspectors comply with the published requirements, which will be monitored using the strict key performance indicators to be built into all contracts.

The overall effect of the amendment will be to ensure that the standards, qualifications and experience that inspectors must meet are transparent while avoiding the need for a system of accreditation which can be bureaucratic, costly and unnecessary. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Local and Devolved Government Affairs, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips

My Lords, we have just passed Amendment No. 2 which will have an effect on this government amendment. I suspect that a composite amendment will now have to be brought forward. Would the Minister like to comment on that? Obviously, the amendment on the Marshalled List was written before the House agreed to the previous amendment.

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

My Lords, I do not particularly want to make a comment at this point. I am still reflecting with surprise on what happened on the previous amendment. However, of course we shall consider the conformity of the Bill at the end of the Report stage.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 67, line 14, at end insert—

"( ) The Chief Inspector shall ensure that those additional inspectors assigned to inspect any school shall between them possess the necessary specialist knowledge, including, where appropriate, knowledge relating to children's affairs as defined in sections 10(2) and 11(2) of the Children Act 2004 (c. 31), in order to complete that inspection satisfactorily."

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, I welcome what the Government have tried to achieve with Amendment No. 3 and what the House has decided on Amendment No. 2. My amendment seeks to ensure that those persons inspecting schools have the relevant knowledge and understanding necessary properly to evaluate how the needs of children under the Children Act 2004 are being met by schools.

It is vitally important that inspectors are really up to date on recent legislation, and the Children Act 2004 is very recent. At lunchtime I talked to some teachers attending an event run by the Parliamentary Education Unit about the workings of the Houses of Parliament. I was horrified when one of them told me that his school had recently been inspected by someone who had not taught in a school since 1965. I have not taught in a school since 1987 and I would not consider myself competent to judge the classroom environment in the schools of 2005. So, reflecting on the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, a few moments ago, there are issues both of quality and of being up to date—if I may put it that way.

The amendment now before us was tabled in Committee. At that stage the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, considerably reassured me when she responded by saying:

"The most helpful thing that I can say to the noble Baroness . . . is that the current trials are looking at the aspects of the framework which capture the outcomes as set out in the Children Act in terms of the process of development. From the pilots, we have good and early evidence that that job is being done through the inspection framework, and it can certainly be developed and enhanced through the new training which will be available for the additional inspectors as they come on stream. The new inspection training will reflect that and all inspectors will have to demonstrate it fully through the training inspections".—[Hansard, 11/1/05; col. 166.]

Here I echo the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry. If it is so desirable, and knowing how committed the Government are to the outcomes for children set out in the Children Act 2004, why not put it in the Bill?

In Committee the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, went on to say:

"Where inspection covers extended schools or children's centres, we shall certainly be looking to include specialist inspectors for the early years and elements of childcare in extended schools . . . We shall be using a common evaluation that will cover the foundation stage, primary, secondary and post-16 education . . . Teams will be configured to ensure that appropriate skills exist in the way that the noble Baroness wishes".—[Hansard, 11/1/05; cols. 167–68.]

That response appears to negate the Government's stated aim that every child in every school matters, and that school inspections should be one of the levers for that. The Government have said more than once that they will ensure that this happens. According to the DfES document, Every Child Matters: Change for Children in Schools:

"New inspection arrangements currently under discussion in Parliament mean that the criteria for school inspection would in future cover the contribution schools make to pupil well-being".

The fact that the Government intend to have specialist inspectors in children's centres and extended schools is welcome, but how can we be certain that accurate judgments will be made during an inspection, for example, of a secondary school if those inspectors have no knowledge or understanding of children's affairs as defined under the Children Act?

While the government amendment that was previously debated is very welcome, I feel that we need to go just a little further, particularly in the light of the Government's commitment to the outcomes in the Children Act 2004. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

My Lords, the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Sharp, are seeking to ensure that inspectors have the necessary specialist knowledge to conduct inspections, particularly in relation to children's affairs as defined in the Children Act 2004.

In setting out the standards and experience he requires of inspectors, the chief inspector will have in mind clearly the legal requirements he has to meet in particular kinds of inspection. In school inspections, he will be required to cover the Every Child Matters outcomes and he will need to ensure that the training of inspectors covers these issues, although it is fair to say that many of these are covered in existing inspections. It will not be completely new territory for school inspectors to examine what the school does to contribute to these wider well being issues.

However, to ensure that there is no complacency, training materials which are being developed for the new style inspections will have the Every Child Matters outcomes woven through every aspect of the training. In other words, there will not just be an add-on section at the end—I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, would agree there should not be—because those outcomes ought to be embedded in every aspect of a school's work, thinking and performance. In addition, of course, there will be a specific module on Every Child Matters outcomes to give a final focus.

The ongoing monitoring of inspections and reports will ensure that the Every Child Matters outcomes are being covered and reflected in reports. This is an important part of the trialling that is currently taking place and will form an important part of the quality assurance that will have to be in place from day one in the early years of development of the new system.

Without going into great detail, the draft guidance for inspectors conducting inspections of schools—which we have shared with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley—already starts to give a flavour of the embedded nature of the five outcomes and how schools will be inspected by the inspectors for evidence not of processes but of the outcomes being attained. As is absolutely right and consistent with statute, as part of that the inspectorate will have to look particularly at the contribution that the school is making to vulnerable children, and particularly to two of the most vulnerable groups of children—looked after children and those with learning difficulties and disabilities. As this was part of the Children Act, I am sure the noble Baroness would expect to see it being echoed in the guidance and duties of inspectors carrying out functions.

I agree with the spirit of what the noble Baroness is seeking to achieve. I assert strongly that it will be met through the obligations placed firmly on the chief inspector to ensure that the training, development and quality assurance he has to bring to the implementation of this new system, building on past practice, properly meets the objectives and that there is no need for specific legislative emphasis.

Buttressed by the words of assurance I have given from the Dispatch Box today, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, will feel inclined to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, I thank the Minister for those words of reassurance, which have helped to set my mind at rest. I welcome in particular the fact that the inspections will be looking not only for process but for outcomes. That is vitally important.

We shall have to look carefully at how this works through into the inspection framework. The outcomes that we all seek under the Children Act 2004 will take time and if the inspections are to be a genuine lever for change the quality of the training and the framework outlined by the Minister will be vitally important. I am not inclined to press the matter further today. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Perry of Southwark Baroness Perry of Southwark Conservative

moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 67, line 14, at end insert—

"( ) Every additional inspector must satisfy the Chief Inspector that they have the necessary skills, expertise and experience to perform their functions in a manner which enhances the reputation of his office."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Perry of Southwark Baroness Perry of Southwark Conservative

moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 67, line 20, at end insert "once a period of induction by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools in England, lasting not less than through three inspections, has been completed"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

My Lords, we have brought forward these amendments in response to the concerns expressed at Committee stage about the impact on schools of inspection judgments, especially where they have been found to be causing concern, and the need to ensure that these judgments are sound. We have again—although I hope I will not feel it was quite such a fruitless exercise—been listening to the House on this matter.

The group of amendments makes two important changes. Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 would ensure that any decision that a school requires special measures is taken personally by the chief inspector or by one of Her Majesty's senior inspectors whom he has directly authorised to do so. Amendments Nos. 36 and 37—with the rest of the amendments in this group being consequential on these amendments—would require the chief inspector, on completion of a Clause 5 inspection which concluded that the school required special measures or significant improvement, to send a draft of the inspection report to the governing body of a maintained school, and to the proprietor in the case of any other school, for comment. They would place a duty on the chief inspector to consider any comments made on the draft report by the governing body or proprietor within a prescribed period.

We had an interesting debate at the Committee stage about the procedures for schools to complain about inspection judgments. Noble Lords were particularly concerned that there should be a clear opportunity for a school to do so where the judgment was that the school required special measures or significant improvement, again for good reason. These amendments are designed to respond to those concerns.

I recognise that a designation that it requires special measures is an extremely serious matter for the school and I understand the argument that any mistake could have grave consequences for the reputation of the school and the head. During our debate I explained that under the new arrangements publication of all inspection reports is the responsibility of the chief inspector, which is not the current situation.

I explained also that the new moderation and quality assurance procedures have been devised with Ofsted to ensure consistency and reliability of inspection judgments. Under these procedures any decision that a school requires special measures will be carefully made in the light of the inspection evidence. The duty we propose under Amendment No. 10 would provide an additional step to ensure that the chief inspector himself authorises the report in those most serious of cases where a school requires special measures. I hope the House will welcome that.

The school will have opportunities throughout an inspection to provide evidence to the inspectors and to comment on the findings that are emerging. Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 would give the school an opportunity to see and comment on the draft of the inspection report. They would require the chief inspector to consider any comments made by the school before finalising the report.

All schools will in practice be sent a copy of the draft inspection report. But where the judgment is that special measures or significant improvement is required, we are proposing that the school should have longer to consider and offer any comments on the draft report. We intend that, where the draft report states that special measures or significant improvement is required, the school will have five working days to respond—I emphasise, five working days to respond—and this will be prescribed in regulations.

Where the draft inspection report concludes that no designation is required, the school will be expected to respond to the draft report quickly, normally within 24 hours, and we have found from the pilot evidence that the schools themselves want that rapidity. This will not place an undue burden on schools. In future, inspection reports will be shorter and more focused and the school will have an opportunity to offer comments to inspectors throughout the inspection.

We believe that the amendments provide further assurance of a fair system of inspection while at the same time ensuring that schools have a full opportunity to comment, particularly in the most serious situations. I hope the House will find them helpful. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Dearing Lord Dearing Crossbench

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the amendments and for the clarifications that he has given. They meet very well and precisely the representations that I have made on this part of the Bill. It is very important, in justice, when so much is at stake, that schools should have an opportunity for the matter to be referred to the top before anything is published. I am grateful.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Local and Devolved Government Affairs, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips

My Lords, we have had some interesting debates in this House. I thank the Minister and the Government for responding to the detailed discussions in Committee and to the representations from teachers and schools. They feared that they would not have the chance to make representations at the right time, so I thank the Government for the amendments, which add greatly to the Bill. I also thank everyone who contributed to the debate in Committee.

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Crossbench

My Lords, I simply want to reassure the Minister that he was not listening in vain and his response has not been in vain. The amendment is helpful, and we appreciate it very much.

Photo of Baroness Perry of Southwark Baroness Perry of Southwark Conservative

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister. The amendment goes all the way, as we all wished it to do. We are grateful for that. I am sorry that the Minister's other amendment did not go quite as far as we wished, but this one certainly does. I thank him very much for listening.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills

My Lords, we are also extremely grateful to the Minister. We are very well satisfied with the amendments, which go a considerable way towards providing the sort of complaints procedures for which we were looking.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 68, line 13, at end insert—

"(3) The making of any report of an inspection of a school under section 5 which states the opinion that special measures are required to be taken in relation to the school must be personally authorised by—

(a) the Chief Inspector, or

(b) one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools in England who is authorised by the Chief Inspector for the purposes of this sub-paragraph."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Perry of Southwark Baroness Perry of Southwark Conservative

moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 69, line 25, at end insert "once a period of induction by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools in England, lasting not less than through three inspections, has been completed"

Photo of Baroness Perry of Southwark Baroness Perry of Southwark Conservative

My Lords, I recognise that there is an error in the way in which the amendment is drafted. The words "in England" should, of course, not be there. It is intended for Wales to require the same period of induction by HMI for new inspectors as England, although the Welsh have had the great wisdom to retain their registered inspectors.

I do not wish to push the amendment to a vote. I simply hope that the Minister can say something about the necessity of a period of induction for registered inspectors in Wales in the same way as the House has required for England. My apologies to all those in Wales that the words "in England" remain, but I hope that they do not take deep offence. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

My Lords, I shall respond to what we thought the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, meant, as I think she would wish.

The amendment would require an additional inspector to complete a period of induction by HMI, lasting not less than through three inspections, before undertaking any of the chief inspector's functions. In Wales, school inspections are undertaken by registered inspectors, supported by team inspectors. Registered inspectors select and lead inspection teams and allocate work to team inspectors. They have overall responsibility for the conduct of the inspection. The registered inspector is also charged with the compilation of the inspection report.

The chief inspector in Wales is required to establish and maintain a register of such inspectors and give guidance to inspectors on inspection and the making of reports. It is therefore for the chief inspector to determine the conditions for registration. Registration is for a set period and may be refused if the chief inspector is of the view that the individual is not able to conduct an inspection competently and efficiently.

All inspectors are required to undertake and complete training provided by Estyn before being able to join an inspection team. Team inspectors must have teaching experience in the phase they wish to inspect and appropriate professional qualifications. They must also complete training provided by Estyn before being allowed to join an inspection team. Team inspectors also attend updating courses each year.

Experienced team inspectors who have performed successfully are able to apply to become registered inspectors. They are required to have taken part in at least five previous inspections as a team inspector and to have led an assessment of at least three elements of the school inspection framework. Applicants must satisfy the inspectorate that they can meet the full range of requirements set down by Estyn. In particular, they have to submit a portfolio of evidence from inspections, which, if successful, leads to an assessment day. If successful on the assessment day, they become registered inspectors.

Team and registered inspectors are required to undertake training annually to update and develop their knowledge and skills. Such training is provided and monitored by HMI. Furthermore, HMI quality assures all inspection reports and visits schools to monitor one in five inspections undertaken by registered inspectors.

The vast majority of schools inspection work is undertaken by registered and team inspectors. There may be occasions when the chief inspector employs an additional inspector to lead or support an inspection, but such occasions are few and far between.

Estyn has clear and rigorous standards for both registered and team inspectors that must be met in undertaking inspection. The inspectorate would apply the same requirements—the requirements linked to professional background and experience of inspection—to anyone appointed by the chief inspector to act as an additional inspector to inspect a school. On the basis that tried-and-tested systems are in place and that they are sufficiently robust, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, will feel comforted and not press the matter further.

Photo of Baroness Perry of Southwark Baroness Perry of Southwark Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that full reply. I can only say how wise the Welsh are, and I hope that in England we are moving much closer to an equally robust system. With those assurances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 [Functions of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England]:

Photo of Lord Dearing Lord Dearing Crossbench

moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 2, line 21, after "social" insert "physical"

Photo of Lord Dearing Lord Dearing Crossbench

My Lords, on this occasion I have the support of the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Sharp, for which I am truly grateful. Perhaps I might apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for something that I said in a previous debate on an amendment. On that occasion, in supporting the Government, I happened to mention that in my home town, Hull, results had been bumping along the bottom of the league table for GCSEs. I also said that the local authority's aspirations were not high enough. I have since learnt that its aspirations are now high. I am delighted to acknowledge that, and I am sorry that I did not know it at the time. Congratulations to my local authority.

On the amendment before us, I have reduced my aspirations. Previously, I argued that the words "physical" and "mental" should be added to that well hallowed phrase,

"the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils" as was the case in the 1988 Act, going back to the 1944 Act. On this occasion, I am limiting myself to "physical" because that is where I think there is a specific problem.

In advocating the inclusion of "physical" in the list, I have the support of the CCPR. It has asked to be associated with the proposal and says that "physical well-being" is a very broad term, the outcome of which is difficult to measure.

Since I became excited about the issue, I have quoted in the House some well established and well regarded research about obesity among our young people. After putting down the amendment, I read a report that there had been a further investigation that came to different conclusions, as is often the case in academic research. Although that further research acknowledged that obesity had been increasing, the level had been assessed on a different and, arguably, better measure from that which the Government use. It showed that it was not as high as before. Nevertheless, the Department of Health came out fighting after that report, saying that there was a problem and there needed to be action as proposed in the White Paper on health at the end of last year. So there is an issue, and it is best attacked in schools by looking at the physical development of our young people and at their diets.

I have no great ambitions to change the world, but I would like the Minister, if he is so minded, to confirm that Ofsted will concern itself specifically with the physical development of children and young people and with the way in which schools are responding to the Government's initiative to have games and physical education for two hours a day. Will he exemplify how the physical side of pupils' development is to be examined by Ofsted and confirm that the quality of school meals will also be covered? I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 5:30 pm, 21st February 2005

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, for his very gracious apology. I assure him that it was not required. I believe that he needed to apologise to Hull rather than to me, and he has done that very graciously.

I and my noble friend Lady Sharp were very happy to put our names to this amendment—in my own case, for two reasons. The first was illustrated by a TV news item last week which referred to the specialist schools and the results obtained by them. The piece featured a physical education school, specialising in sport, and showed how additional participation in physical activity during the day improved alertness. The educational attainment of those children was very marked. We all know that people who are physically fit are also more mentally alert. That is one reason why it is so important that schools should attend to the physical well-being of children.

The other reason for my support relates to my membership of the Science and Technology Select Committee of your Lordships' House, of which Sub-Committee I, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, who is present in the Chamber, is considering the scientific aspects of ageing. It has occurred to me that a great many of the aspects that we have been hearing evidence about relate to diseases and problems, the interventions for which are coming 60 or 70 years too late. What we really need to do is to look at the diet and exercise regime and lifestyle choices made by children. This is not simply about getting fat—it is about developing strong hearts and lungs by taking aerobic exercise regularly and developing good muscle tone that can be easily renewed after a period of passivity by the right sort of exercise. That is so important to the balance of elderly people, as it prevents them falling over and fracturing bones and so on.

All the things that the committee has been hearing about—muscle tone, having a strong heart and lungs, as well as not smoking at all and having a good diet so that you do not clog your arteries with cholesterol and other fatty substances—are so much affected by habits laid down in childhood. It is so important that schools should pay particular attention to those things, not just for the short-term educational attainment of the children but for their long-term health, and for the economic benefit of the country, as not paying attention to such things costs us all a very great deal in terms of money and human distress.

For those two major reasons, I am very pleased to support the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench

My Lords, briefly, I should like to support the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Dearing and the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. Although we have heard that research can come to opposite conclusions, there is little doubt that we have a growing problem with obesity. Both exercise and diet play a large part in that.

I am sure that noble Lords will all have been pleased to see that there will be a series of four programmes on Channel 4 in which Jamie Oliver will address the whole question of school meals. It looks as if there may be a little problem with the amount of funding per child per school meal. That may be something that we have to look at at a later stage—but at least the programmes will raise people's ideas and expectations. If the media are good for anything, they are certainly good for doing that. So perhaps we shall debate that later.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Local and Devolved Government Affairs, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips

My Lords, I support the spirit of the amendment. I was fascinated to hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that, after several years of sitting on these Benches, with a bit of exercise we shall all be able to revert to our youth.

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, for giving us an opportunity to have this short debate again. It is clearly a subject that he and the whole House are passionate about, and of course it reflects public concern. It is particularly typical of the noble Lord's integrity that he acknowledges that academics disagree. However, the Government, whatever academics say, are convinced and will definitely act. Having said that, although the noble Lord has reduced his aspirations, I cannot meet them in full. But I hope that I can convince him that in three different ways we are actually meeting the full scope of what he wants to achieve.

I turn to those three ways. First, there is the Bill itself; secondly, there is the inspection process and what it will cover; and, thirdly, there are the wider aspects of policy—and the noble Lord raised the issue of school meals.

The noble Lord has asked us to insert "physical health" into the Bill, but that is not strictly necessary. Clause 2, when taken together with Clause 11, provides that the chief inspector will have a general duty to keep the Secretary of State informed about the contribution made by schools to the well-being of children, having regard to physical health and recreation, among other things. That is because Clause 11 reads across to Clause 10(2)(a) of the Children Act 2004, which specifies physical and emotional well-being. So in effect we have a commitment through that relationship.

Clause 5, when taken together with Clause 11, provides that when conducting an inspection of an individual school, the chief inspector must report on the contributions made by schools to the well-being of children, having regard to physical health and recreation, among other things. So that explicit statutory relationship is established. Furthermore, no one should be in any doubt what that means. Following the debate on the five outcomes during the passage of the Children Bill, the more detailed descriptions of those critical outcomes are now set out in Every Child Matters: Change for Children in Schools, which is our executive statement about what we are doing and is available in the House if Members want to read it. On page five we define "be healthy" very clearly as including physical and mental health. Each of those is defined as a separate element; indeed, physical health is broken down into categories such as sexual health and healthy lifestyles. My noble friend has answered two debates recently which involved the role of parents in promoting health.

It is against that set of statutory descriptors that Ofsted will have to prepare its framework for inspection. Specifically, Ofsted will examine how well schools foster links with other organisations to promote the well-being of pupils as well as the extent to which schools contribute to the learner's capacity to stay safe and healthy. I take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, about how activity during the school day energises learning. Indeed, that is something that we could all learn from.

The chief inspector is the least complacent of people, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, knows. Last September, he presented a report on physical health represented by outdoor activities, which is something to which he is tremendously committed. He said:

"Outdoor activities both at school and on residential courses enable pupils to enjoy challenging and unfamiliar experiences that test and develop their physical, social and personal skills".

Amen to all that, because we know from experience how much that generates motivation and affects learning.

The Government are not complacent, either. Ofsted will already meet the challenge laid down by the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, but that happens only on a three-year cycle. What we need and will provide are the additional policy initiatives and infrastructure which themselves will involve inspection. I shall briefly describe those to satisfy the noble Lord.

I referred in Committee to the role of the new school improvement partners, which will challenge and encourage schools in all areas where they consider that there is room for improvement to see how that can be achieved. One area will be the healthy schools programme, which we have debated in this House several times, with a holistic approach to health and learning that the school community will develop through everything that it offers pupils. That, indeed, will link into strong external partnerships regarding how that can be achieved more effectively. Ofsted will inspect that.

The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, welcomed extra funding for sport. Our aim is that by 2010 all children will have at least four hours of sport every week—two hours of high quality PE and sport at school and the opportunity for another two or three hours beyond the school day, when so much else can be achieved. Ofsted will report on those activities.

The public health White Paper sets out our firm expectation that all primary and secondary schools will develop over time to become extended schools. One of the most exciting developments is the way in which healthy communities and good schooling will be able to come together. There will be more opportunities, for example, to provide health centres on school sites, and we shall seek to inspect their effectiveness as they develop.

The noble Lord asked about diet and school meals. I do not want to go into too much detail but the Secretary of State has already made clear her very profound views on what we need to do to improve school diet. Those key messages include parents being in the front line of a new drive to improve the quality of school dinners and new minimum health specifications for processed foods to reduce their fat, sugar and salt contents ahead of the introduction of tougher standards for school meals in 2006.

We are also calling on the food industry, caterers, nutritionists and food interest groups to work with the Government to develop a new school food trust, which would give independent advice. Parents are absolutely vital in that. Again, Ofsted will play a key role in that issue. It will examine how the school fosters healthy eating through the new regimes and through the inspection system. Ofsted will look for evidence of how the school engages with parents.

I take the opportunity to put on record our position on school trips. We had a very good debate on that in Committee in the context of the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on extra-curricular activities. We utterly applaud everything that she said about extra-curricular activities being enriching. In Committee we said that the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs is looking at how to deter unnecessary litigation. We have made progress. The Secretary of State for Education and Skills announced on 15 February that we will publish more detailed guidance later this summer which will seek to improve quality and quantity while focusing, critically, on improving staff confidence, cutting bureaucracy and enriching outdoor provision.

I hope that all those initiatives will more than satisfy the noble Lord that we have gone beyond what he wanted, and that we are very much en route to achieving better outcomes for physical health.

Photo of Lord Dearing Lord Dearing Crossbench

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness for her acknowledgement of my apology. I am very grateful for the Minister's very full reply to the points I raised. I am well reassured that all will be well. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills 5:45 pm, 21st February 2005

moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 2, line 24, at end insert ", and

"( ) the degree to which schools are developing rigorous internal procedures of self-evaluation"

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills

My Lords, I have returned to this amendment, which we discussed in Committee at some length, because both at that time and when rereading the debate in Hansard, I found myself wholly unpersuaded by the Minister's arguments. The Minister has also written to me—I thank him for his letter—enclosing the guidance which is being issued to schools on self-evaluation. The Minister wrote that he hoped that that would be helpful,

"in demonstrating why we remain convinced that self-evaluation should not be statutory".

I can tell him immediately that, on the contrary, the more I read of the guidance, the more convinced I became that it would be very useful to make it a statutory duty on the inspectorate to make sure that schools are developing capabilities in self-evaluation. I shall come back to that point in a moment.

Clause 2(1) lists the issues on which the chief inspector has a duty to keep the Secretary of State informed in relation to schools. They range from the general issue of,

"the quality of the education provided by schools in England", to the more specific,

"the quality of the leadership in and management of" schools. In Committee I argued that since the whole shift towards short, sharp inspections and the new relationship with schools—we on these Benches applaud that shift—was predicated on the development of robust self-evaluation procedures within schools, it seemed to me appropriate that, as with such issues as leadership and management, some mention ought to be made of that on the face of the Bill.

The arguments were very well summed up by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, in his brief intervention in Committee, when he said that the reasons for supporting the amendment were,

"first . . . that the philosophy of the inspection system that this Bill encapsulates requires a confidence in the capacity of schools to evaluate themselves . . . The Secretary of State needs to know that self-evaluation is working; otherwise, he will have to change the inspection system".—[Hansard, 11/1/05; col. 221.]

I remind noble Lords that Clause 2(1) concerns issues on which the chief inspector must keep the Secretary of State informed.

In Committee the Minister said in response that,

"the reason why it is not necessary, is that the assessment of the school's self-evaluation will take place partly through the inspection itself, which will test the school's judgment . . . against the evidence that inspectors have gathered".—[Hansard, 11/1/05; col. 223.]

What he is saying here is that the whole inspection is looking at how far a self-evaluation system is being developed. The Minister went on to say that,

"the school that is clearly not performing well, but which owns up to it and accepts it—in other words, it has an honest and realistic self-evaluation of where it sits and the commitment to do something about it—could find that it is in a different category from a school that is in denial".—[Hansard, 11/1/05; col. 223.]

That in itself illustrates how important self-evaluation is as it will affect the categorisation within the inspection itself. Finally, the Minister said:

"The inspector will compare the outcomes of the school's own self-evaluation with the outcomes of the inspection. How successful the school has been in identifying its own strengths and weaknesses will be an important test in the inspection and will be reflected in the reports".—[Hansard, 11/1/05; col. 225.]

It seems to me that all of this reinforces the whole notion that self-evaluation should be included in the Bill as one of the issues to be considered, and on which the chief inspector should keep the Secretary of State informed.

What about the guidance that has been issued to schools on the self-evaluation procedures? The guidance contains a very useful question; namely, is self-evaluation integral to our key management systems? The guidance states:

"Self-evaluation is not an activity carried out just once, before planning starts. It is continuous and is at the heart of the school improvement process. School leaders will want to ensure they have effective, non-bureaucratic systems in place which allow them to collect appropriate evidence over time as part of the cycle of development and review. In this way rigorous self-evaluation and the judgements derived from it can be integrated within their day-to-day management, especially in relation to: the performance management of staff", and so on. I emphasise the words "rigorous self-evaluation" procedures. That is what we want to see included in the Bill.

The guidance further states:

"One of the principles of the NRwS"— the New Relationship with Schools, the White Paper underlying this Bill—

"is that schools should have a single, integrated development plan which maps out the actions needed to bring about improvement. It should have regard for and incorporate previous plans that have an impact on the work of the school. It must be based on an objective assessment of the needs of the school and should set out the priorities for development. It is all too easy to identify a weakness and include that area for development without diagnosing exactly what needs to be done and why. An intelligent self-evaluation will identify the precise issue that needs tackling and what to do about it. In this way action can be targeted to have the greatest impact".

I conclude, just as I did on the last occasion, that, since development of capabilities in self-evaluation is crucial to the success of the new relationship with schools, the growth of that capacity in our schools is of vital concern to the Secretary of State and the chief inspector, who should be keeping the Secretary of State informed about the matter. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Local and Devolved Government Affairs, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips

My Lords, we support the amendment. I know that the Minister will say that it does not need to be on the face of the Bill because it is going to happen anyway, but we are entering a new era. We all support the concept of having much more self-evaluation, whether it is for schools, local authorities or whatever. This needs to be on the face of the Bill to stress its importance as an integral part of the new regime.

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Crossbench

My Lords, I do not need to repeat comments that I made in Committee, because the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, has done that well and succinctly. I wish to add a further comment.

This clause refers to the duties of the Chief Inspector. In the process of keeping the Secretary of State informed, a list is provided. A large part of that list properly concerns the outcomes of education and the kind of education that is being provided, but there is also reference in the list to how well the process of education is being managed. This is one of the big changes that have taken place over the past 15 or 16 years. Those of us in the business of education have been made aware of—and, I hope, have taken on board—the importance of managing the process of education in the most effective and efficient way.

The Bill and previous Acts also refer to the importance of the quality of leadership in, and management of, those schools, including the management of financial resources. Schools have changed and taken this on board. The amendment identifies another exceptionally important aspect of managing the process of education: being aware of what is going on in the schools for which you are responsible. Since we last debated this matter, I have reread the relevant sections of Plato. Socrates was quite right to say that self-knowledge is a source of true wisdom. This is self-knowledge for schools.

Photo of Baroness Perry of Southwark Baroness Perry of Southwark Conservative

My Lords, I also support placing the amendment on the face of the Bill. As has been cogently said by others, the whole process of short inspections depends on the school having a rigorous system of self-evaluation. We used to talk about such matters as the "reflective practitioner" or the "thinking school". This is being reified in the new system of inspections. The main object of the short inspection is to ensure that the school is performing self-evaluation in a way that is more than paying lip service and putting ticks in boxes. It is too easy for self-evaluation to become purely routine with no real reflection or growth of learning among the school community.

The Minister will probably say that the amendment is not necessary. It would be a strange Bill if it did not include this provision, because short inspections would make nonsense of the huge list of outcomes that the chief inspector had to report to the Secretary of State if it were not made clear that she or he should rely on the self-evaluation of the school for much of the judgment that would be made. Can we please have the amendment in the Bill? It would not be a major concession for the Government to make and it would cheer us all up immensely.

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I am all for cheering up noble Lords, and the amendment provides an opportunity to expand on the arguments that we made in Committee. It is not that we are just saying that this matter does not need to be in the Bill because it would happen anyway. There are other arguments.

It pleases me that there is a consensus around the House that self-evaluation is a positive and progressive development which is very much about schools having self-improvement and self-knowledge at the heart of all the processes that they undertake as they engage in teaching. We welcome that. However, we believe, not out of perversity but because we are intellectually persuaded, that putting the amendment on the face of the Bill would create problems.

First, the amendment presumes that self-evaluation is an outcome in itself, rather than a means to raising standards. Logically, that is not consistent with inspection functions, which essentially relate to the way that a school is delivering. Self-evaluation is a means to an end; it is not an end in itself. It is about how a school is achieving. It is a process. Secondly, the amendment would undermine the autonomy that is reflected in the new relationship with schools. This is a matter which all noble Lords have welcomed, because it puts schools in charge of much more than has been typical in the past. That autonomy would be threatened by putting an amendment such as this into the Bill. I shall explain why. Thirdly, yes, I shall refer to the way that inspections are carried out, but more strongly to our provision of support for self-evaluation as part of that process.

Regarding the first argument, noble Lords made part of my argument for me, because the point of self-evaluation is that it is a dynamic and developmental process. In principle and in practice it has been developed by people such as Professor John McBeath over many years in Scotland and England and has been about schools finding the confidence to discover what is and is not going well and to find out ways of measuring, reflecting and auditing that. It has been a long academic process and we have arrived at a position where many schools are carrying out self-evaluation as a matter of course. But they are at very different stages. Some are confident because they have been involved in pilot schemes, in academic work and research projects. Others are very much at the beginning of the process and need to learn from others. It is work in progress and that is a reason why we took a conscious decision not to have a model for self-evaluation—such as the Lloyds TSB model or many others in the field—but that it was a matter that schools had to decide for themselves.

Accepting the amendment would contradict the notion that this is a matter that schools will own, can test and grow in confidence over. We could not police in detail every activity that might contribute to how the outcomes are achieved. I understand the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, but we need to recognise what self-evaluation means in the context of the classroom.

Turning to the second argument—this is a new, brave and important expression of our new relationship with schools. It establishes a partnership that we wish to have with schools, based on a high degree of professional trust and confidence. It is to the credit of the Government that they have moved in that explicit direction. We want schools to have more autonomy to manage themselves, to have their own improvement priorities determined by what they know and how that can be done better. We sincerely believe that the amendment cuts across that principle and basic common sense in terms of the role of evaluation.

Thirdly, how are we supporting schools to develop robust and effective systems? How will Ofsted contribute to that? Every school is different, is at different stages of development and needs different types of help. That is why the guidance that we are developing will be full, sensitive and comprehensive. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, has already quoted from it. Yes, it does pose acid questions, against which schools can test themselves to check whether their evaluation is effective. But we will also provide strategic guidance on how to complete a self-evaluation form.

Quality control must take place partly through inspection. It will be tested against the external, objective evidence that inspectors gather, but it will also be promoted by the advice and support given by critical friends, the school improvement partners. Their important role is to challenge the self-evaluation process, examine it, support it and help the school to obtain advice. If schools are failing to manage, the school improvement partner will report that to the governing body, which can be expected to try to address deficiencies. So there is a process for developing the best system.

The final safeguard is that the framework requires inspectors to evaluate the quality of leadership and management, including, specifically, how effectively performance is monitored and improved through quality assurance and self-assessment. Leadership and management are critical. It is one of the areas about which the chief inspector already has a duty to keep the Secretary of State informed. The chief inspector already regularly comments on the extent and quality of self-evaluation and, as I have said, there is a whole process in place now.

It is unlikely that a failure to evaluate effectively would be the sole factor in any judgment which would place a school in an Ofsted intervention category, though, clearly, inspectors would look closely at how the school's self-evaluation matches their own findings. That, we believe, is an additional and sufficient incentive for schools to carry out self-evaluation robustly.

I hope on those three grounds that the noble Baroness will think again. We are deeply committed to the process of self-evaluation—getting the best out of schools. We do not reject the amendment out of perversity but because we are not intellectually persuaded by it.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills 6:00 pm, 21st February 2005

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response but I am not convinced by what she said. First, we ask for the amendment to go in Clause 2 but not in Clause 5. In other words, it requires the chief inspector to report to the Secretary of State on how far self-evaluation procedures are developing satisfactorily within the body of schools. It is not an issue that we are asking to be reported on for each individual school. Originally I thought that perhaps we ought to have added it to Clause 5, but as the Minister spoke, it struck me that perhaps it was good that we had not added the amendment to Clause 5 as well because there is a very strong case for making self-evaluation a general issue on which the chief inspector reports as distinct from a specific issue in relation to each school.

Secondly, the Minister argues that self-evaluation is about process, not about outcomes. Yet, when one looks at the issue of,

"the quality of the leadership in and management of those schools", is that not a process issue rather than an outcome issue? Clause 2(1)(d) even goes on to say,

"including whether the financial resources made available to those schools are managed efficiently".

That is the heart of a process issue. So the process issue is already in the list in Clause 2(1) and there is no reason why the process issue should not be included with the development of the capability and capacity for self-evaluation.

Thirdly, the Minister said—I found this very odd—that the amendment would undermine the basis of trust and confidence in schools. But asking schools to develop the capability of self-evaluation is indeed putting more trust and confidence in the school. That is one of the reasons why we applaud the development of the short, sharp inspection and of the whole process of putting the emphasis on self-evaluation. We like it. But the Minister has to recognise that developing the capacity for self-evaluation requires training and the development of ideas within the school, which take time and resources, but schools generally have to move down that pathway. By putting the amendment on the face of the Bill we are flagging it up as an important issue.

Noble Lords may remember that in the Education Act 2002 the fashionable idea was innovation. That Act was created around innovation. In this Bill we have fashionable ideas—the new relationship with schools, the single conversation, the school improvement partner. These new words are fluttering around. I ask the Government to put on the face of the Bill a little bit of the philosophy behind these fashionable ideas that they want. So I cannot see why the Government object. The amendment is thoroughly sensible. I do not accept the Minister's arguments and I should like to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 13) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 144; Not-Contents, 125.

Division number 2 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Education Bill [HL]

Aye: 142 Members of the House of Lords

No: 123 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Local and Devolved Government Affairs, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips 6:15 pm, 21st February 2005

moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 2, line 24, at end insert—

"(g) the behaviour and discipline of pupils and levels of truancy in those schools."

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Local and Devolved Government Affairs, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips

My Lords, Amendments Nos. 14 and 23, in England, and Amendment No. 49, in relation to Wales, will introduce a new category to the inspection regime on which the chief inspector would report and be expected to keep the Secretary of State informed; namely, on the behaviour and discipline of pupils and the levels of truancy in each school. Similar amendments were moved in Committee. However, we have returned with a slightly refined amendment which will incorporate the level of truancy in each school which Ofsted will be expected to report on and assess.

As was argued in Committee, in recent years we have seen a very real and genuine concern about the growing levels of indiscipline and classroom violence in our schools. Such a development is simply unacceptable. Pupils have the right to expect to be taught in an environment free from intimidation and fear, while teachers deserve the right to get on and do their crucial jobs without a similar threat. It is indeed one of the key worries consistently identified by teachers. It is one of the main reasons—along with red tape—why teachers leave the profession.

Furthermore, we know that school standards and behaviour in the classroom are closely linked. Children learn best in a safe, secure and structured environment. They cannot learn in classes where loutish behaviour and disrespect for others is the norm.

In recent weeks we have seen further concern about the inability to contain the levels of truancy. The report published by the National Audit Office on 4 February concluded that truancy in England had not fallen despite numerous government schemes and that nearly £1 billion had been spent on attempting to redress the problem. The report concluded that the school truancy rate is exactly the same as in 1997: 0.7 per cent.

Truancy, as we all know, is linked to crime and general disorder. Clearly, it is a serious problem and one which governments have failed to address. It is hoped that by incorporating this new Ofsted category, we will at least be attempting to bring a better understanding and knowledge of the issue. Indeed, in establishing it as a category, it will be possible for parents to identify which of their local schools have concerns relating to particular problems of discipline and truancy and will allow the relevant education authorities to identify the schools that are particularly affected and to target resources more effectively.

The noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, commented in Committee that he reckoned that discipline and truancy rated virtually as highly as academic standards when parents choose a school for their children. Clearly there is a need for such information to be assessed and made public if necessary. At present there is no category within the inspection regime that deals specifically with the concerns about school discipline and truancy. As concerns about the problem evolve, so must the inspection regime.

These are amendments that the vast majority of parents would support and welcome. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, I rise to support the amendment. We on these Benches would like to be tough not just on bad behaviour and truancy but on the causes of bad behaviour and truancy. We believe that there are two major causes of bad behaviour. The one stems from situations within the school, but the other very often stems from situations outside the school.

On the latter, we have today tabled an amendment, which will be published tomorrow and your Lordships will see, about support, help and information for parents, which we believe is a terribly important factor in helping children to learn how to behave well and helping parents to teach them how to behave well and to reinforce the messages that they are getting from within the school.

But the first of those two causes is something that happens within the school. Very often, bad behaviour is an indicator that teachers do not have good classroom management skills and/or that the curriculum is not relevant and suitable and interesting to some of the children who then become bored and do badly. The inspectors should be inspecting both of those two things anyway. However, where schools identify that they have a problem with bad behaviour, it is important that they look carefully at what they are or are not doing themselves that causes the situation to arise, and that they then do something about it. We think it perfectly reasonable that the inspectors should hold schools to account for what they do in that respect.

Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench

My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, and supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. Bad behaviour and truancy have certainly been a problem during the 50 years or so that I have been involved with schools and juvenile courts. There does not seem to have been enough effort over a consistent period of time to deal with it sufficiently. We know that in schools some of the truant children tend to have parents with little belief in the value of schooling. Equally, it can be shown that where teachers and the school take a consistent attitude the schemes are beginning to have an effect—there are a number of examples in the National Audit Office report. What is worrying is the lack of any consistent pattern throughout schools, or throughout local education authorities. Sometimes a school complains that it does not get the backing of the local authority, and sometimes it is the other way round and due to the quality of the teachers.

The final paragraph of the executive summary of the National Audit Office indicates why it is essential that this should be on the face of the Bill. Being on the face of the Bill reaffirms the importance of a particular issue, even though, as the noble Lord will tell us, it is is happening already. The National Audit Office comments that Ofsted inspection teams have a unique insight into how schools are run, yet attendance plays a very small part in most inspections. We have a unique opportunity to put it on the face of the Bill, among the issues being considered by inspectors when they conduct their inspections. I hope we are not going to be put off by the fact that it is already covered and already happening. We know the Government have already taken a lot of steps, and the new Secretary of State for Education is clearly very concerned and firm about the things that have to be done. So why not reinforce the good work already undertaken by writing it into the Bill?

Photo of Lord Dearing Lord Dearing Crossbench

My Lords, I have no idea whether the Government will accept this amendment. If they do, so be it, but I have some comments.

I supported the proposal on self-evaluation by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, because it is new and central to the whole new approach to inspection. There is no track record and therefore it seemed to make sense to get it on the face of the Bill in Clause 2, not Clause 5. When we come to behaviour, we are not talking about something new. As has been said, it has been a problem for a long time and has not been getting any better. The issue is, specifically, do we need to tell the inspectors, "Hey! Behaviour: get into it", as opposed to other policies to deal with the issue?

I have said it before, but as far as the inspectors are concerned, since I think 1999—but over the past few years—there have been three special reports by the inspectorate on the issue of behaviour. It is dealt with in the annual reports. For example, the last report— which caught the national headlines—drew attention to the fact that there had been no improvement on that figure of around 10 per cent of schools where behaviour is not satisfactory, and pointed out that the percentage of schools that could be graded good or better in behaviour had fallen from about 75 per cent to two-thirds. Clearly, there is no need to tell the inspectors that this is important or that they need to look at it. They are indeed looking at it. The issue is not whether the inspectors are doing their job, but whether the policies are adequate to deal with the problem.

I have said before that if you are going to address the problem effectively it is through the teachers. I have been glad to see that the Government have inserted into the clause—is it Clause 72? I forget—that this is to be the specific job of the newly defined Teacher Training Agency, along with the moral, social and cultural—not physical—behavioural development of pupils. The Government have gone to where it really matters. As for policy, they are spending money—£250 million over the past three years, which is real money.

We also have the speech by the Secretary of State on 1 February in Blackpool. I cannot recall a Secretary of State devoting so much of a major speech to one issue, nailing her colours to the mast and acknowledging that there needs to be a new look at this problem:

"I believe we must redraw the lines of what is acceptable behaviour".

So I am seeing a realisation by a Secretary of State that there is a major issue, that we have not got it right yet. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, spoke some time ago about the findings by Professor Elliott, then of Newcastle University, that, by world standards, our standards of behaviour in schools are not good enough. I will not say exactly what he said because he may have gone a touch too far in relation to the evidence.

If the Government want to accept the amendment, fine. However, I do not think it is the issue. The inspectorate are doing the business.

Photo of Baroness Warnock Baroness Warnock Crossbench

My Lords, I am in sympathy with one of the things said by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, about the need to look at the causes of problems which have been with us for such a long time. One thing that the inspectorate perhaps should look at, which is why I am inclined to support the amendment, is the policy of the school with regard to children who might be classified as having special needs, particularly in the behavioural and emotional area. Children who, for various reasons, are incapable of concentrating or of not disrupting other children are put in the ordinary classroom as a matter of government policy. These children may cause other children to behave as badly as they do themselves. It is important for the inspectorate to address whether there is enough support for children who are being included in the mainstream because of the Government's well-intentioned policy. I have had letters from numbers of teachers who say that the policy of inclusion causes immense problems in the area of behaviour in the classroom.

It would be within the scope of the new relationship between the inspectorate and the schools—which I greatly welcome—to comment on the inclusion policy of the school: whether it is well implemented, or can be made to work, or is too ambitious for the resources of the school. That has an enormous effect on the behaviour of children in school and on the ethos of the school. It is very difficult to manage children who are designated unmanageable in a large school and a large classroom. The inspectorate could comment on that in its inspection.

Photo of Baroness Perry of Southwark Baroness Perry of Southwark Conservative 6:30 pm, 21st February 2005

My Lords, I had not originally intended to intervene in this debate, because the arguments have been so cogently made and the noble Baroness has just added her weighty voice arguing for the importance of the amendment. However, I was so surprised by the arguments advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, against the amendment that I had to intervene.

The noble Lord's argument seemed to be on two counts: first, that the inspectorate should not be told to do something that has previously existed. If we look at the list of things that the chief inspector has a general duty to keep the Secretary of State informed about, we cannot think that any of them are new. The quality of education? I would hope that it had been considering that for some time. Do schools meet the needs of pupils? Do they reach a satisfactory educational standard? What is the quality of their leadership? All of those duties have existed for a long time, and I hope that the inspector will continue to report on such things, which have been and will continue to be important in the provision of education.

The noble Lord's second argument seemed to be that because the Government were doing something about that and spending £250 million it did not matter whether anyone looked to see whether that money was being well spent. Surely to goodness, if we have a huge range of government initiatives, which we all welcome, to do something about misbehaviour and unruly behaviour in schools, it is terribly important that the inspectors ensure that those initiatives are working and that the money is being well spent. Any Secretary of State would want to know that. It is one of the great advantages of having an inspectorate that it can report back to the Secretary of State on the efficacy of the initiatives that she or he has introduced.

So there is no possible argument against including that in the Bill. It is such a major issue of public concern. A few children misbehaving in a class can deny the right to be educated to the rest of that class. I have been in classrooms where two or three children were misbehaving and the educational structure was simply breaking down. The teacher could not get on with her lesson, and the rest of the class could not get on with learning. That is a crucial, central issue, and I hope that, whatever the civil servants have said to Ministers about the provision being already there, Ministers will use their own considerable wisdom and say that, yes, that is a good thing to have in the Bill.

Photo of Baroness Carnegy of Lour Baroness Carnegy of Lour Conservative

My Lords, I re-emphasise what my noble friend just said. I was astonished by the reply that the Minister read out to the previous amendment about self-evaluation. When that is read, it will look pretty peculiar. I am glad that the House has changed that part of the Bill, and I hope that the Government will see fit to leave it thus.

If parents discovered that the Government had said that they did not want to include in the Bill the obligation on the inspector to inform the Secretary of State about behaviour, discipline, and levels of truancy, they would be absolutely astonished. Those are considered to be among the major problems in education. If we are to hear the argument that it is not fair to do that, as I suspect we may, most parents would think it very fair. It is all about how a school is run, the ethos of the school, the leadership of the school and the general atmosphere in which children live in the school. I hope that the Minister will give us a nice, friendly reply and either accept the amendment or at least say that the Government will consider it.

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

My Lords, I hope that I always give nice, friendly replies. As noble Lords would expect me to say, I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, put his finger on it. Behaviour, discipline and attendance are fundamental to educational attainment and the achievement of the five outcomes. If we thought for a second that we would improve those by one jot by underlining what is already happening, we would do so, but I am afraid that, irrespective of the advice that one receives from civil servants, Ministers should not legislate when they think a provision otiose or that it does not serve the purpose. That would be kidding the House; that would be fooling the House.

Let me make it absolutely clear that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, was gracious enough to acknowledge, you could hardly find an issue higher up the agenda of the new Secretary of State for Education and Skills than this one. She has absolutely cited that behaviour, attendance, the ethos of the school and the discipline of pupils are fundamental to the learning of all pupils and to parental confidence in the education system. She is absolutely right in that respect; that goes to the heart of the matter.

So would the amendment make a difference? The chief inspector has reported on behaviour and attendance in every one of his annual reports since the creation of Ofsted in 1992. If the House feels that in some way he is about to stop doing that, no doubt it will vote for the amendment, but the chief inspectors, present and past, are not foolish. They understand the centrality of the matter, and the Secretary of State wants advice from the chief inspector about how he views the behaviour, attendance and discipline in the schools that he has inspected during the past year. It is central for him to express his responsibilities in that way. Whether or not that is in the Bill will not stop or hinder him or make the slightest difference one way or the other.

Why will the chief inspector be so clear on that? He has already made it clear that, as part of the framework for schools under the new inspection arrangements, inspectors will evaluate the behaviour and attendance of learners. No child can learn if he does not attend school or is in a disruptive or rowdy atmosphere. Attendance and behaviour are fundamental to the inspection process. He has therefore made it clear that inspectors will in every school that they inspect consider how behaviour, discipline and attendance affect the extent to which pupils are achieving and the school's contribution to the children's well-being.

Going further than that, we have set out the process of joint area reviews, whereby Ofsted, as the lead inspectorate, will consider the arrangements in a local authority area and see how all the bodies collectively contribute to good outcomes for children. The draft framework for inspection of children's services through joint area reviews, which is currently out for consultation, will explicitly identify where behaviour, discipline and truancy can be captured in relation to the impact on those outcomes. So it will find expression not only through individual school inspections and the annual report of the chief inspector but through the fundamentally important joint area review processes.

Going further, as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, acknowledged, we have already tabled our own amendment to ensure that the new teacher development agency will, in securing a well trained workforce, ensure that it is able to promote good behaviour in our schools. Much of that provision will be inspected by Ofsted.

As I said, behaviour and attendance are already a major aspect of what inspectors consider. Reference was made to the Secretary of State's speech on 1 February, to which I shall briefly refer. It would be wrong to believe that the problem is in any respect getting out of control. That does not mean for a second that we do not think that there is an enormous need to have a much stronger push for better behaviour and attendance in our schools. She said in that speech that getting it right meant making it clear that there were clear boundaries and that crossing them would lead to consequences.

First, local authority directors will review schools where behaviour is rated unsatisfactory by Ofsted. Secondly, Ofsted will follow up visits to every school where behaviour is rated as unsatisfactory within 12 months to check on progress and ensure that improvement is under way. Thirdly, there will be a new drive by local authorities to use parenting orders to enforce parents' responsibility to enforce discipline and attendance at school. Fourthly, schools will pool their experience in new foundation partnerships, with resources devolved to their control to enable them to buy support to remove disruptive pupils from classrooms and nip their bad behaviour in the bud.

A key element of the package of changes relevant to this Bill is that the chief inspector has agreed to revisit those schools where behaviour has been judged unsatisfactory. So the inspection process will reinforce it.

On attendance, inspectors are directed through the guidance to look at pupils' levels of attendance and the efforts schools are making to ensure it. It is therefore self-evident that inspectors must consider school attendance as part of their inspection.

I will say a few words on Wales. The amendment refers to an explicit duty on the chief inspector to inform the Assembly. The Assembly already recognises the difficulties faced by teachers and staff dealing with disruptive pupils and is committed to improving attendance. The fall in absenteeism in Wales in 2003, for the third consecutive year, is encouraging. For this very reason, in meeting the requirements of Clause 19 to keep the Assembly informed about,

"the educational standards achieved in schools", the chief inspector gives specific attention to these areas. To reflect and discharge this duty the new common inspection framework introduced in Wales from September 2004 makes explicit reference to behaviour, discipline and attendance. With specific reference to such developments, inspectors will be required to assess how well learners achieve and to include judgments on how pupils behave, on how they achieve high levels of attendance and on their motivation. Estyn requires inspectors in every instance to evaluate and report on standards of behaviour from direct observation.

I could not make it clearer how strongly the Government believe that improving behaviour, attendance and discipline in schools is in the interests of children. It is in the interest of parents who want their children to have good outcomes. Fundamental will be getting parents to work with schools in recognising that they have a role to play in supporting discipline and learning in schools, and the schools to support those parents in doing so. I have signalled some of the measures that we will be taking to drive this forward powerfully. Our commitment could not be stronger. We do not want to fool the public into thinking that putting the words into the Bill will make any difference one way or the other. We will drive these changes, not through this measure but through the other measures that I have signalled. Our commitment and the chief inspector's commitment to this could not be stronger.

Photo of Baroness Carnegy of Lour Baroness Carnegy of Lour Conservative

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, with the greatest respect, this part of the Bill is not about all that, but about whether the chief inspector reports to the Secretary of State on how it is all going—the overall picture.

The noble Baroness on the Liberal Democrat Front Bench made that point about the previous amendment. This is a general requirement. If, after all that the Minister has said, the chief inspector is not obliged to report to the Secretary of State on that matter, where are we? It is a very strange reply that he has given.

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

My Lords, I want to respond to the noble Baroness—briefly, because I do not think we have a meeting of minds on this.

If we thought that there was the slightest doubt that the chief inspector would not see that behaviour, attendance and discipline were not central to learning and the ability of schools to teach, we would put such a duty on him. It is obvious that he sees that. I have reinforced and explained that for all the procedural guidance. The killer, in summation, is that he has been doing that for every one of the past 13 years. Thank heavens that he has. He will continue to do so in the future.

Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench

My Lords, of course it was extremely reassuring to hear what he had to say about the future. What is really worrying me is this same quote from the National Audit Office, to the effect that Ofsted inspection teams have had a very small part in most inspections. There is a risk that the most is not being made of inspectors' wide experience to help schools and authorities improve.

The Minister is talking about the future—we are all impressed with the extent to which the Secretary of State has laid out plans and the noble Lord has reiterated them—but it has not been happening in the past. Clearly, if one has taken note of what the National Audit Office said, why not reinforce the whole thing by putting it in the Bill?

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Local and Devolved Government Affairs, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips

My Lords, it has been an interesting debate. I am going to use some of my experience as, apart from being on the Front Bench here, I am leader of the authority with the most schools and most pupils in the whole country—600 schools.

I have seen things at first hand for many years. I do not often agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, but in this case I do. Schools need help. They really need help.

What we are doing by putting this in the Bill is raising its profile in Ofsted inspections. I very much support what the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, just said. For years we had the same problem. I have seen a school turned round very rapidly by a new head teacher—the same school, the same pupils. It can be done. Therefore, we raise the profile.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that we need to tackle the problems to get the cure. What we are trying to do is to give a little help. I want to repeat that it is probably our biggest problem in the whole education world at the moment. I support what the Secretary of State says, but one swallow does not make a summer and one speech does not cure the problem. We need the problem cured at the roots, which is in the schools.

In my own county there are different problems in different schools, different solutions for different areas. It is not easy. I have tried to tackle it and am very much one of the ones concerned about it. I sincerely believe that this is one of the most important amendments that I am putting forward. As the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, just said, we must raise the profile and use the Ofsted inspections and inspectors to help the whole system, to help schools solve it. Every school needs a different solution. There is no national solution. By putting it in the Bill we are raising the profile. I know that all the good work will continue but this amendment is needed if we are going to get the education system to work in this country. I must test the feeling of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 14) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 127; Not-Contents, 120.

Division number 3 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Education Bill [HL]

Aye: 125 Members of the House of Lords

No: 118 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Local and Devolved Government Affairs, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips 6:57 pm, 21st February 2005

moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 2, line 24, at end insert—

"( ) The Chief Inspector must keep under review the contribution made by schools in England to working with the children's services authority for the area in which the school is situated and the authority's relevant partners to improve the well-being of children and relevant young people within the authority's area."

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Local and Devolved Government Affairs, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips

My Lords, these amendments pursue the intention that the Every Child Matters principles at the heart of the Children Act 2004 are not lost in the Bill. Although we agree that details of process are not necessarily required in primary legislation, we are concerned that aspects of the Bill are being agreed to on the back of a policy whose thinking is not 100 per cent developed. Currently, the policy development of A New Relationship with Schools shows the "single conversation" and the role of the school improvement partner to be about educational attainment.

That will not change if the Bill does not place a duty on the chief inspector to inspect schools' contribution to the whole policy. Given that shorter, sharper inspections will be the future of school inspections, Ofsted will not have the resources to judge non-statutory outcomes. It is not consistent or equitable for local authorities, as the champions of children's services, to be judged on the performance of schools—through the proposed joint area reviews, to which the Minister referred in his previous answer—without a reciprocal duty on schools. Having the wider school contribution specified but not prescribed in the Bill will aid local authorities, which value legislative clarity in the face of policy confusion.

Amendment No. 15 and Amendment No. 50, which relates to Wales, would ensure that it is a HMCI function to check how schools engage with other institutions responsible for the well-being of children and young people within the authority's area. Amendment No. 26, and Amendment No. 52, on Wales, would add schools' contribution to working with the children's services authority and other agencies to the criteria upon which the chief inspector must report.

The joint area reviews will be very important from the local authorities' point of view. Schools must be told that they will have to contribute and that it will not be for only local authorities to do so. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 7:00 pm, 21st February 2005

My Lords, Amendment No. 25, which is tabled in my name, is almost the same as the noble Lord's amendment. I associate myself and these Benches with the words of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, in introducing this group of amendments.

My amendment is very similar to one tabled in Committee, when the Minister very patiently responded at length to my long list of questions. Despite his patience and thoroughness, I still wish to see concrete provision in the Bill to ensure a role for Ofsted as a "lever of influence", to use the Government's words, under the requirements of the Children Act 2004.

In his reply to me the Minister began with something with which I strongly agree:

"Earlier in our proceedings we stated that the well-being objectives are not separate from, in conflict with or irrelevant to the tradition of educational attainment. I think that there is a broad consensus in the Committee on that point".

Indeed there was and there still is. Unfortunately he went on to say something with which I do not agree:

"The amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, attempts to include the contribution made by the school to working with the children's services authority and its relevant partners to improve the well-being of children and relevant young people within the authority's areas. That represents a substantial loss of focus away from the school and the work it does for its own pupils".

The words of the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, earlier this evening are to be taken into consideration here. She said that the outcomes in relation to well-being of the Children Act 2004 are integral to every aspect of a school's work. I disagree with the Minister's suggestion that it would be removing the school's focus, because its focus is in fact on every aspect of children's well-being as it goes through its educational work with those children.

The Minister went on to illustrate his point by talking about the links with the wider community that Ofsted inspections already explore in several ways:

"first, the extent to which the curriculum meets the external needs; secondly, the way in which schools work with other services to guide, care for and support their pupils, and, thirdly, how well resources are managed and the effectiveness of any links with other providers of children's services".

He continued to talk about extended schools:

"In schools with extended services, which have been included in pilot inspections, inspectors report on how the services were selected to meet the needs of the community and what impact they have on the children's development".

That is all very well but extended schools are not the only way in which schools are broadening what they do in the community. There are, in particular, more and more links of one school with another. That is one of the aspects that the inspectors need to consider. In introducing the Education Act 2002, on which I worked with my noble friend Lady Sharp, the Government were keen on clusters of schools working together for innovation and various improvements.

Those partnerships are the sorts of things that the inspector needs to be looking at to see how well schools are engaging. The Minister talked about the school improvement partner—SIP—

"who will act as a critical friend. The school's engagement with the wider community and its effect on educational outcomes will feature in this single conversation between the SIP and the school".—[Hansard, 11/1/05; cols. 214–215.]

It occurs to me that the SIPs will have an awful lot of work to do; they have been mentioned four or five times this evening already. They are new. Therefore, we cannot rely on whatever they think they might be going to do. The matter is so important—and we all know how important it is to the Government as well as to these Benches and the Conservative Benches—that I cannot understand the Government's resistance to putting it in the Bill.

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 15, 25, 26, 50 and 52 together, although as I signalled earlier I do not necessarily see that some of the later amendments are consequential on the first.

The key publication Every Child Matters: Change for Children in Schools set out the implications for schools of the Children Act 2004 and the wider programme of change we are introducing to improve children's well-being. I know that in large measure we share a common view on the importance of that, and these are broadly relevant processes to achieve better outcomes.

That document makes it very clear that success depends on services working together. The local context in which schools are working will change as local authorities in England develop children's trust arrangements. I can assure both Benches that schools must play an active role in the wider community and cannot work in isolation from one another or other agencies.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 15 and 50, which require the chief inspector to keep under review the contribution made by the school to working with the children's services authority. We believe that in practice that is rendered unnecessary as a result of the remit he has in relation to the development of integrated arrangements for inspecting children's services through joint area reviews in England. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, finds that helpful and clarifying.

Noble Lords will be aware that we are introducing joint area reviews which will draw together for the first time a range of inspection findings determined by a common approach through an overall framework for inspection of children's services. This framework will draw on and be informed by school inspection findings for schools within the area. It will also include additional surveys of pupils in the area to seek their views about their experience of the services provided.

The joint area reviews to which the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, rightly referred will then assess what it is like to be a child in a local authority area. They will report on how effectively the local partners work together to improve well-being for children and young people in the locality. The new arrangements will be introduced in September 2005. Ofsted and the nine other relevant inspectorates are consulting on a draft of the framework and on arrangements and criteria for joint area reviews.

Through that requirement to inspect children's services, the joint area reviews will achieve what is intended by the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. They will serve to keep under review the contribution made by schools and other services to working with children's services authorities. We can expect the chief inspector to report his findings in his annual report as well as in reporting on the outcomes from individual reviews.

The joint area reviews will look at how organisations are co-operating and the chief inspector will expect his annual report also to report on that. In Wales a children's services authority's functions under the Children Act, including the contribution made by partners at all levels, will be inspected by the Assembly, and in so far as relating to education, training and youth support services, by Estyn.

Amendments Nos. 25, 26 and 52 relate to the contribution made by the school to working with the children's services authority. I shall speak to amendments for both England and Wales here.

It is right that a central aspect of school inspections should lie in assessing the contribution made by schools to the well-being of their pupils. School inspections already explore links with the wider community through judging the extent to which the curriculum meets external needs and the way in which schools work with other agencies to guide, care for and support their pupils and how well resources are managed.

In Wales work is in hand to cross-reference the five elements of well-being as defined in the Children Act to the new common inspection framework. Inspectors therefore assess in Wales whether the school,

"has clear, well-documented procedures for assuring pupils' well-being and health and safety when in the school's care".

I will say a little more about extended schools. We are looking to all schools over time to provide a core of extended services either on-site or across a cluster of local schools and providers. In schools with extended services that have been included in pilot inspections inspectors report on how the services were selected to meet the needs of the community and what impact they have on the children's development and how effectively they are used as a resource.

The amendments seek to have school inspection address the contribution made by the school to working with the children's services authority. As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, knows, that goes back to debates that we had in the Children Act. Those debates were well-ventilated in another place and in this Chamber; and Parliament decided that the duty to co-operate should sit at a strategic level. There were plenty of other mechanisms for ensuring that schools were motivated to work co-operatively with others.

I do not believe that we should repeat those debates. The Government have not changed their position since the Children Act in thinking that a specific duty on schools in that respect is unnecessary, because there are other mechanisms for doing so. The other mechanisms being developed draw together a view on the provision made by a children's services authority, including the contribution made by partners at all levels.

A children's services authority's functions under the Children Act will be inspected. The part played by schools in promoting well-being and in working with the wider community will be inspected, but schools were deliberately not identified in the Children Act as relevant partners required to work with the local authority to improve well-being because arrangements were seen as relating to strategic service planning, which is not the prime function of schools.

If implemented, the amendments would divert attention away from the purpose of school inspection. That is my central point. When an inspector goes into a school, the parents are expecting the inspector to tell them what the school is doing to improve the education and other well-being attainments of its own pupils. The inspector is not expected to report on whether a school is assisting pupils in other schools in other parts of the authority. The parents want the focus to be clear, sharp and strong on that individual school. Parents are right in that respect. Surveys of parents tell us that what a school does as regards the achievements of their own children is what matters—for proper, good parental reasons.

A duty on an inspector to consider how much a particular school contributes to the educational or other well-being attainments of children elsewhere in the authority will do a range of things. We will lose parental confidence that our focus is right. We will increase the burden of the inspection process and will distract it from its fundamental focus, and it will add to the scale of inspections. For all of those reasons, it is not desirable.

As I have signalled, through joint area reviews there are strong processes for Ofsted and the other inspectorates to see how the agencies are co-operating to address the children's outcomes. Nothing is lost as a consequence. In other words, we should keep the joint area reviews looking at the wider co-operative arrangements, but there should be a tight focus by Ofsted looking at how a school serves its pupils in raising their attainments. That is why we believe that we have got it right. We do not want to go back to the Children Act debates that we enjoyed so much in months gone by. I hope therefore that that is helpful to the House.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Local and Devolved Government Affairs, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, parts of which were helpful. However, there should be more duty on schools to play their full part under Children Act provisions. I accept the joint reviews, and I am supportive of them, but I hope that they will identify progress as regards both the social support of children and the education of children.

As I see it, because of the competitive nature of schools trying to improve their standards, some schools might not want to play the full part in the Children Act provision that we all want. Therefore, I do not see some of the answers given by the Minister working in practice. We will come on to that debate later, when we talk about funding in schools. If one has real vision about what will happen to the school campus over the next 10 to 15 years and how extended schools will work, there will be a great deal of activity. The school is a valuable investment by the community—the taxpayer—which is not used enough.

If extended schools are properly developed, there will be all sorts of people on the school campus at different times, with money coming into the school from different sources. The school will have to play its full part in that, which is very exciting. If we could get that to work, we might solve some of the problems that we have talked about. The amendment might edge a few schools towards that, even if some are a bit reluctant. I shall not press the amendment, and I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 2, line 37, after "teachers" insert "and other staff involved in providing support for teaching and learning"

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, in speaking to Amendment No. 16, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 17. The amendment probes whether or not Ofsted will have a role in inspecting training and professional development for the school workforce more widely than just teachers.

I tabled the amendment in Committee. In response, the Minister said:

"The noble Baroness proposes that Ofsted should now be given a power not only to examine the work of support staff in schools, but also the training that they receive and for which Part 3 of the present Bill provides.

That would parallel exactly the powers that the chief inspector already has in respect of teachers. On the face of it, it seems a sensible suggestion. Although this will shock the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, with noble Lords' permission the Government would like to reflect further on it".—[Hansard, 11/1/05; col. 236.]

Indeed, the noble Lord has reflected further. I have here an excellent letter from the Minister, which is extremely helpful and for which I thank him very much. The Minister referred to two substantive issues. He states:

"First, it is clearly right that the new Agency should be able to call on the expertise of Ofsted and, if appropriate, other inspectorates where that would be of value in reaching decisions on whether or not to make financial support available. Second, it is also clearly right that there should be a clear distinction in practice between those matters for which Ofsted is responsible and those which fall within the remits of other bodies, such as ALI"— the adult learning inspectorate—

"or the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA). As I have explained, the inspection of some of the training for school support staff which the Training and Development Agency for Schools will sponsor is likely to fall more obviously to ALI rather than Ofsted. There are also potentially some varieties of training for teachers and other members of the school workforce which would be the preserve of the QAA".

It seems that the matter was perhaps a little more complicated than I might have indicated in Committee.

Towards the end of the letter, the noble Lord states:

"I do concede that there is a legitimate argument in favour of widening Ofsted's legal powers to some extent beyond the training of teachers and specialist teaching assistants (despite the fact that these are the only groups of staff involved in delivering teaching for whom there are currently national vocational standards in place) in order to ensure maximum flexibility for the future. I have therefore asked officials to discuss this issue again with Ofsted and other stakeholders and to identify a more suitable form of words that goes further towards meeting the intentions behind your amendment with a view to Third Reading".

I thank the noble Lord very much for that. I want to say no more today than to give him an opportunity to perhaps say a little more about his thinking in that direction and what we might expect to see at Third Reading. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 7:15 pm, 21st February 2005

My Lords, I am glad that the noble Baroness found the letter from my noble friend helpful. As she said, we agreed in Committee to consider the matter further. The correspondence was the next stage. This is an important issue, which we have acknowledged. The work that the Teacher Training Agency and Ofsted have carried out together in recent years has shown what an essential role inspection of provision can play in assuring and improving the quality of teacher training. The amendment would extend that role in a logical way.

As the noble Baroness said, we have been at great pains to consider how the substance of the amendment might be reflected in the Bill. We have discussed it widely with the TTA and Ofsted. However, the closer that we have looked at the issue, the more potential difficulties have arisen, which I hope I will explain to the satisfaction of the noble Baroness.

The chief inspector's powers as regards the inspection of school workforce training are set out in Section 18A of the Education Act 1994. Schedule 14 to the Bill re-enacts those provisions as Section 18B. That allows for the inspection of initial and in-service training for teachers and specialist teaching assistants only. I need to make it clear that the performance of the wider school workforce is an entirely different matter and one that already falls within Ofsted's general functions of informing and advising the Secretary of State about the quality of education.

My right honourable friend has already asked the chief inspector to examine how well prepared support staff are for the roles that they are asked to play and to report on that by autumn 2006. So it is a live issue. But the scope of the chief inspector's functions in inspecting training covers only the three groups of staff working in the classroom for whom there is training to national standards; namely, head teachers, teachers and higher-level teaching assistants. Ofsted already inspects or has the necessary powers to inspect those in the future.

As the noble Baroness is aware, other sorts of staff are involved in teaching in schools for whom there are currently no national standards. The functions of a teaching assistant, classroom assistant or learning support assistant all vary from one school to another. The source of training goes as wide as their functions—from washing paint pots to supporting teachers. Much of it involves courses funded by the Learning and Skills Council leading to an NVQ. Some training involves HEFCE-funded courses leading to a foundation degree. We are looking at a very fluid picture, which will develop in the future. As the noble Baroness said, some of those functions would fall, quite rightly, to the adult learning inspectorate and the quality assurance agency, which is precisely where the difficulty occurs.

Extending the chief inspector's powers in the way proposed, given the very broad and dynamic sweep of training that is currently available, would create a real danger of confusion between the respective roles of Ofsted, ALI and, to a lesser extent, the QAA. That sort of confusion would not help to raise the quality of the different forms of workforce training and would work counter to that by confusing the roles and responsibilities of the different inspectorates.

Let me stress that we have given this very detailed consideration. I know that the noble Baroness has been grateful for these exchanges. She will know that officials have tried really hard to accommodate her but we cannot find any practical way of resolving the issues on the face of the Bill. To an extent, that is because the future direction that the training of the wider school workforce will take after it comes within the Training and Development Agency is still relatively unknown. As I said, it is very dynamic. The agency will be obliged by virtue of Clause 76 to consider whether there are assessments of quality of provision that it should take into account in exercising its funding functions, but whether the most appropriate source of advice on that quality will be Ofsted, ALI or another body will probably be decided on a case by case basis. If necessary, the Secretary of State can even direct the agency to have regard to quality assessments. Existing legislation offers some flexibility because both Ofsted and ALI may have new functions conferred on them, subject to certain limitations, by regulations made under the Learning and Skills Act 2000.

It may be that we will need to revisit at some point in the future the primary powers of all the inspectorates with an interest in this field. However, let me assure the House that the training of the wider school workforce will be subject to quality inspection by one or other of the agencies active in the field. As an additional safeguard, the Training and Development Agency for Schools will have power to appoint suitably qualified evaluators on its own initiative, as the TTA has sometimes done in the past on pilot initiatives.

I turn now to Amendment No. 17, to which we were unable to respond as fully as we wanted in Committee. In response to the question whether the current wording of Clause 2(5) limits the potential role of the chief inspector of schools to function with respect to initial teacher training at the expense of teachers' continuing professional development, I can confirm that it does not.

The chief inspector's powers to inspect teacher training were initially assigned to him under Section 2(5) of the School Inspections Act 1996. However, since 1998, he has had express power to conduct those inspections under Section 18A of the Education Act 1994. That section was inserted by Section 20 of the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 and is re-enacted in Schedule 14 to this Bill. It gives him the power to inspect and report on initial and in-service training of teachers and specialist teaching assistants. Clause 76(7) places a duty on the Training and Development Agency for Schools to have regard to any assessment of the quality of provision made by the chief inspector, which includes in-service provision when exercising its funding functions.

To cut a long story short, in practice that means that Ofsted will be able to inspect CPD, but its judgments will be taken into account in determining the funding of CPD provision by the Training and Development Agency for Schools. Ofsted's findings will also be available to inform decisions about CPD for its staff.

I have gone into this in some detail because it is technical. However, it is important and the question raised by the noble Baroness was important. I hope that she will be satisfied and will withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her reply and apologise that I did not go into detail about Amendment No. 17. I was so overwhelmed by the wonderful letter that I had about Amendment No. 16. However, on Amendment No. 17, I am grateful for the Minister's confirmation that the situation is as she said and that CPD is covered as well as ITT.

On Amendment No. 16, we were looking for some kind of co-ordination by asking whether Ofsted would be responsible. The situation that the Minister described is complicated. There is a diversity of provision. I admit that the amendment did not really achieve what I was looking for, which was for somebody to oversee the quality and delivery of the in-service training for the wider school workforce who, as the Minister rightly said, are extremely important to the learning experiences of children in the class room. That is perhaps not quite as important as the issue of qualified teachers, and so on, but is important all the same.

I thank the Minister for what she said. It is regrettable that we cannot achieve the sort of co-ordination for which I was looking. However, we shall watch what happens with the new agencies and arrangements. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 17 not moved.]

Clause 3 [Annual and other reports to Secretary of State]:

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills

moved Amendment No. 18:

Page 3, line 5, at end insert ", and

( ) must be available to respond to scrutiny by Parliament of reports made under this section including scrutiny of financial matters raised by such reports in accordance with the relevant Parliamentary procedures"

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills

My Lords, we discussed an amendment in Committee that eliminated the reference in Clause 3(a) to the Secretary of State on the ground that we were asking that the chief inspector should be directly answerable and accountable to Parliament. I was surprised to learn that that was already the case and that as a Crown appointment, he is directly answerable to Parliament. The reference to the Secretary of State in Clause 3(a) was because it was the established mechanism whereby reports from such public servants are laid before Parliament.

The purpose of this amendment is to probe a little further and explore a possible extension of the Select Committee role in relation to the chief inspector. In Committee the Minister said that the chief inspector,

"will be accountable, both to the Public Accounts Committee and to the Education and Skills Select Committee, for the quality of inspections and for the judgments in all inspection reports"—[Hansard, 11/1/05; col. 169.]— accountable to Parliament, in other words.

This statement is perhaps a little disingenuous. A quick piece of research through the Public Accounts Committee website seems to show that the chief inspector has only come before that Committee once since 1997. That was to give evidence in December in 2003 to an inquiry about the performance of maintained secondary schools in England. However, the Education and Skills Select Committee does look closely at the work of Ofsted on an annual basis; indeed, it has done so biennially for the past couple of years. In 2002, the committee reported on the appointment of Mr David Bell as the new chief inspector.

In its fourth report of 1998–99, the then Education and Employment Select Committee recommended that the chief inspector should continue to be appointed by the Crown on the advice of the Prime Minister, but that before the appointment or reappointment was confirmed, the Select Committee should be given the opportunity to take evidence in public from the nominee and to report to Parliament on the proposed appointment. In its second report of 2001-02, the Education and Skills Select Committee once again stated its belief that Parliament should have a role in the appointment of the chief inspector and that such a role would contribute positively to perceived and actual transparency in the public appointments process and the accountability of the chief inspector to Parliament. In response, the Government stated:

"We have not closed our minds to further change but we are not persuaded by your proposal for involvement in the appointment of HMCI".

The probe that I want to put to the Government is whether they have had any further thoughts on this issue and whether we might be seeing the future appointment of chief inspectors brought before the Select Committee in the other place on a regular basis. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Crossbench

My Lords, I do not feel that I can support either this amendment or the suggestion at this point that the Select Committee should be involved in the appointment of the chief inspector. I can think of many good reasons for involving parliamentary committees in major public appointments but, to put it in terms, I would not start here. If this were a general provision regarding appointments, it would be a very different debate, although again I am not sure that this would be the best place to start such a debate.

More specifically, however, I do not think that the amendment as tabled is necessary for various reasons. First, Ofsted is a non-ministerial government department. One might ask what that is, as I did when I was first appointed as chief inspector. I thought to approach the fount of all knowledge to find out. I arranged an appointment with the Cabinet Secretary who told me that he was not quite sure and that he had rather hoped that I would tell him. However, the nature of the department evolved in my mind, and part of what it is justifies the reason for including Clause 3(a), which provides for a non-ministerial government department to report to Parliament.

However, that having been done, it is clear that the ball is in Parliament's court. It must ask or summon as appropriate the chief inspector to appear before the relevant committees. As the chief inspector is a Crown appointment, Parliament already has the mechanism for doing that, and rightly so.

As has already been pointed out, Select Committees do summon the chief inspector to appear before them. Indeed, in my time as chief inspector the several summonses I received to appear before Select Committees were some of the more formative experiences of my life. Perhaps I may give noble Lords a quick score. Some 30 per cent of the time was spent on perspicacious questioning, from which I learnt a lot. Around 30 per cent of the time was spent on grandstanding, from which I also learnt quite a lot. Another 20 per cent of the time was spent on party political ping-pong, from which I did not learn very much at all, and on at least one occasion there was an element of downright silliness—from which I learned a great deal because you can expose yourself in asking questions and making comments.

However, the point is that such exchanges do take place and the constitutional provision is already in place. It is a matter for Parliament to exercise the powers it already has and which are set out in this Bill.

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, we have had a wonderful contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, and I cannot improve on anything he has said. Although I am tempted to leave it at that, I have a brief speaking note to address one or two points that will help to reinforce the Government's position. HMCI carries with it the responsibility of being the head of a non-ministerial government body, which is different from the role of a non-departmental public body. It marks one of the ways in which the chief inspector is independent of the Secretary of State. Also, as head of Ofsted the chief inspector is designated as the accounting officer for government accounting purposes. That means that the chief inspector is required to appear before the Public Accounts Committee.

However, I take entirely the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, that it is for Parliament to take the initiative and summon the chief inspector to appear before its committees. He has been summoned regularly to appear before the Education and Skills Select Committee. However, the most recent appearance by the chief inspector, David Bell, was before the Public Accounts Committee in December 2004 following the NAO report on school performance. Like the noble Lord, I suspect that the current chief inspector would rather appear less frequently, but he does not have the choice; he has to turn up when he is summoned, learn what he can from the experience and contribute as openly as possible.

The chief inspector regularly appears before the Education and Skills Select Committee to discuss the progress recorded in the annual report and plans for the future. The last report was published in September 2004. In November 2004 David Bell appeared before the committee to discuss issues such as the staffing and operation of Ofsted, children's services inspection, education outside the classroom and juveniles in prison.

Turning to the comments of the noble Lord about the independence of the chief inspector and the appointments procedure, it would be ill advised of me to respond to the noble Baroness by saying that we have had any further thoughts. She knows that there is a longstanding convention that the government of the day advise Her Majesty early about appointments, but we believe that to involve the Select Committee in the process leading to a decision on appointment would raise issues of accountability precisely along the lines raised by the noble Lord in his remarks.

I am sure that the noble Baroness will understand why we cannot accept her amendment. In the face of such overwhelming evidence, I hope that she will feel able to withdraw it.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. The amendment is probing in nature and I have to say that, on looking at it again with a view to arguing the case, I thought that it rather states the obvious. If truth be known, this is precisely what Parliament is already doing. The notion that Parliament might possibly extend its powers towards the process of appointments is not covered in the amendment as such, but I thank the Minister for responding to the issue. It is useful to clarify the relationship between the chief inspector and Parliament, although this is certainly not a matter which I intend to press to a vote. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.35 to 8.35 p.m.]

Clause 5 [Duty to inspect certain schools at prescribed intervals]:

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

moved Amendment No. 19:

Page 3, line 42, after "prescribed," insert—

"( ) in the course of any inspection of a school, to consult and have regard to the views of the head teacher, staff, parents, pupils and governors of that school,"

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, Amendment No. 19 prescribes that in the course of any inspection of a school the inspectors must consult and have regard to the views of the head teacher, staff, parents, pupils and governors of that school. It is the same amendment that we tabled in Committee.

During that debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, started her response by saying that her noble friend had already told her to stop nodding—I remember the moment well—so clearly there is considerable consensus across the House about the importance of consulting interest groups—or "stakeholders", which is the fashionable way of referring to them. The disagreement is about whether it is necessary to put the phrase,

"consult and have regard to" into the Bill.

In Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, also said that,

"the School Inspections Act 1996 places a requirement on schools to arrange a meeting with parents and inspectors, and requires inspectors to consult the appropriate authority about the inspection. However, there is nothing in the statute about consulting pupils, head teachers or staff. That is something on which we shall reflect".

Perhaps the debate today is an opportunity for us to hear the results of that reflection.

The noble Baroness continued,

"However, we know that in the past inspectors have consulted widely with all the relevant parties. That has always been extremely important. Without that, we would not now have a school inspection system. However, the question of why we should put certain provisions into statute has been raised".

I contend that the reason we need to put this into statute is that we are laying the legislation for a new system of inspection, a system that is shorter and lighter of touch. However, in some way or other, the legislation we are discussing today needs to be no less rigorous and should involve everyone who has an important opinion to give to the inspectors about a school.

The noble Baroness then said,

"During the course of the event, there will be similar engagements with pupils and parents. The aim is to verify the evidence set out in the self-evaluation summary, ensuring that it accords with what people without any vested interests tell the inspectors about their experience of the school and how it is delivering".—[Hansard, 13/1/05; col. 373.]

Of course, the parents and the pupils may not have the same vested interest as the governors or teachers, but they have a vested interest in the success of the school. They have a particular perspective—an inside knowledge, you might say—of how well the school is performing.

The noble Baroness then referred to,

"100 pilot inspections in which the head, staff, parents and governors have each had a full opportunity to take part in what is after all a defining moment for the school".—[Hansard, 13/1/05; col. 374.]

By that she meant the inspection. But I noticed that the noble Baroness did not include pupils in that list—and she knows how keen I am that we should listen to the voice of the child.

I have again tabled the amendment to give the Government an opportunity to express their further reflections and to indicate the strength of our feeling that all the various stakeholders must be consulted. In order to preserve the rigour of the consultation in the new light-touch system, it is important to specify that those vital stakeholders groups are consulted and their views taken into serious account. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Massey of Darwen Baroness Massey of Darwen Labour

My Lords, I support Amendment No. 32, rather than the others in the group. There always has been interest in consultation, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, so eloquently said, and this has been discussed a great deal in Committee and outside the Chamber.

I have always supported meaningful interaction with parents, pupils and teachers in schools, but these relationships must be appropriate and must form real consultation. In my view, that takes place best in informal discussion between parents, staff and pupils.

The Government have moved a long way on this matter. Amendment No. 32 covers the involvement of the school community but does not require formal consultative meetings. The notion of having to arrange one of those parents' meetings where no one turns up to be consulted is chilling; such meetings are also very time-consuming.

In the school where I am a governor—I have been a governor there for 15 years—we have experimented with how best to involve parents and young people, and I think we have reached some workable solutions. We have felt that involving staff, governors, parents and pupils should not be time-consuming for anyone, especially staff. We have a school council to represent pupils, and it receives feedback on concerns and consultations. We have parent representatives for each class, who negotiate and are involved with other parents, staff and the head. That is much more effective than formal annual parents' meetings.

Of course inspectors must talk to the school community, but such discussions must be focused. Information must be gathered from those who represent groups and must not involve bureaucracy, valuable time or disruption of the school's functioning.

I know from a recent inspection at my school that far too much time—mainly staff time—is consumed by arranging consultations. The Bill is trying, rightly, to cut down on bureaucracy and staff time, which we all agree is a good idea. Amendment No. 32 supports the spirit of involvement without time-consuming procedures.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Local and Devolved Government Affairs, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips

My Lords, Amendment No. 31 in the group is in my name. I thank the Minister for listening to our concerns and putting forward amendments which cover the issues about which we are concerned.

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, and my noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for inviting me to show how we have moved in this respect.

We have listened. Amendment No. 32 is significant; it will ensure that when parents are notified of an inspection, they will also be informed about the arrangements Ofsted has made for them to make their views known. So they will be told how to do it.

Amendment No. 30 guarantees an opportunity for parental engagement by inviting their views. It does not prescribe the method by which parents' views are sought, which we think is for good reason.

Amendment No. 32 gives statutory structure to spreading the net wider than parents in ways that I would expect the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, to welcome, given how closely it echoes many of the issues she raised in her amendment. It covers head teachers, staff, the governing body, and all who are notified of inspection. That includes the local authority in the case of maintained schools and, in the case of a looked-after child, the person designated as an appropriate officer for the local authority. For voluntary aided schools, it means the diocesan authority and for secondary schools the Learning and Skills Council. Governors should have a say, and we have added them to the statutory list of those whose views Ofsted should have regard to.

We have not included the word "consultation", not because we are being churlish, but because it implies a legal duty on the inspector to try to engage with virtually everyone, and enters difficult legal territory. Instead, there should be a process by which people can express their views and Ofsted should be under a duty to listen to them. Putting in the word "consultation" would undoubtedly put considerable burdens on the process, while what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, is aiming for—we agree with her—are clear methods by which those stakeholders can express their views without getting trapped in the legalities.

The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, generously signalled that he was largely comforted about our new position, so I shall not labour the point about why we do not want to specify the meeting. It is not because we believe that the meetings are always hopeless, although I believe that they often are, but because we want the process to be more creative.

I shall say a few words about Ofsted's thinking on the matter, as it is relevant to the debate. Ofsted is trialling mechanisms for deepening parental engagement. They include holding a one-hour meeting with parents at the end of the school day and giving parents' views more prominence in inspection reports as a lever to encourage schools to take more responsibility for gathering parents' views, which we believe to be right. It also includes sharing best practice with schools in gathering parents' views. But Ofsted is looking further than that—for example, at the possibility of a web page for parents in each regional office; a questionnaire to be sent to all parents of schools that have been inspected in each region, which would be followed up a year later with a questionnaire to find out what differences they had noticed as a result of inspection; a parents' or users' focus group in each region; inviting parent governors to be part of the inspection process; and a national survey of parents to seek their views on how they could be involved more closely in inspections. Ofsted will continue to use focus groups of parents in the trials to evaluate the mechanisms for involving parents and to see what parents find works best for them.

We are pleased to see that Ofsted has been creative about the process, rather than simply considering one mechanism. Those mechanisms sit in the wider context of the Government's policy towards parents. We discussed that in a good recent debate in the House. Because time is pressing, I shall not go into much detail on that, but we are looking very widely at how to establish a relationship of trust between schools and parents, how to empower parents and respect them as customers of educational services and looking across public policy to see how the role and contribution of parents can be more powerfully engaged with public service delivery and public policy development.

There is much more to be said on that, as I signalled at the end of the debate to which I referred. For now, perhaps I can leave the signposts there. I appreciate the positive response that I sense from opposition Front Benches to the significant moves that we have sought to make to address the concerns of the House. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, will be minded not to press her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 8:45 pm, 21st February 2005

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response and, in particular, for Amendment No. 32. It is an example of positive reflection taking place on the government Front Bench in response to the House's concerns.

I leave aside the issue of the meeting, which we shall discuss later. The system and structure that has been put in place by the Minister's amendment addresses the concerns that I and others raised in Committee. I am glad that I have been able to give the House the opportunity to hear the Minister's explanation of his amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Turner of Camden Baroness Turner of Camden Labour

moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 3, line 44, after "inspection" insert "(including a summary report and recommendations in language capable of being readily understood by, or explained to, pupils registered at the school)"

Photo of Baroness Turner of Camden Baroness Turner of Camden Labour

My Lords, in moving the amendment, I shall speak to the other amendments in my name in this group. In doing so, I declare an interest, as I did in Committee, in that I am a former trustee and executive council member of the well known and highly respected charity, Save the Children. The amendments that I am sponsoring today are a result of a briefing supplied by that charity.

I tabled rather similar amendments in Grand Committee and return to the same issue today with a slight rewording, which I shall explain. The amendments all relate to aspects of the inspection process. Save the Children believes that children should have the right to be involved. That includes receiving information about when an inspection takes place and having access to inspection reports written in a form that is reasonably accessible to them.

The full and meaningful participation of children and young people in the inspection process is necessary for inspection teams to gain a full understanding of how a school is performing and the needs of the community that it serves. This involvement should include direct contact with members of the inspection team and an input into the school self-evaluation.

Article 13 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that all children have the right to obtain information and to express their opinions as long as this is not detrimental to others. It is now widely recognised that involving children and young people fully in issues that affect them has a number of benefits. Every Child Matters, which was produced by the Department for Education and Skills in 2003, outlined key areas for children, one of which was "making a positive contribution". Involving children in the inspection process could make a very valuable contribution to the way in which their school is run, but to do so they must have information relating to the scope, purposes and findings of an inspection.

When I spoke on similar amendments in Committee, I had the impression that there was some sympathy with the point of view I expressed. However, my noble friend the Minister did not accept the wording of those amendments, and in particular thought that the reference in the amendments to the production of age-appropriate reports meant that the wording lacked clarity. I thought she was right and I said that I would take the amendments away to see whether I could come back with better wording at Report. So instead of proposing that children should receive "age-appropriate" copies of reports, this has been altered to read,

"a summary report and recommendations in language capable of being readily understood by, or explained to, pupils registered at the school".

The other amendments in the grouping all deal with very similar issues and it seems sensible to have them grouped together in order to have one debate.

I hope the Minister will agree that an attempt has been made to meet her criticisms of the wording last time round and that she will feel a little more inclined to accept the wording which is now being put forward. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, I should like to speak to Amendment No. 28 in my name, which is grouped with Amendment No. 20 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Turner.

It is one of the smallest amendments and seeks to replace "of" with "and", but its effect is that the notification to the parents of registered pupils also goes to the registered pupils themselves. We have just debated the government amendment which includes pupils in the list. In view of that, I am perfectly happy to say no more. We tabled this amendment slightly before we saw the government amendment, even though it was actually published the day after ours—in fact, the two crossed. We are very happy with the Government's Amendment No. 32 which covers the base.

Photo of Baroness David Baroness David Labour

My Lords, I should like to support the amendments of my noble friend Lady Turner on helping children have a role in the new school inspection arrangements and to support the Government's Amendment No. 32, which requires the chief inspector to have regard to any views expressed by registered pupils at the school when conducting an inspection. That, of course, was discussed with the previous group.

I am very pleased that the new inspection framework places children at the heart of school inspection. The old inspection framework attempted to assess the quality of teaching; the new framework asks questions about how well the school meets the needs of learners and why. Schools are for children primarily, and not for teachers, and I welcome this change in the framework.

Having made the decision to change the framework, it is necessary to consider how children should be involved in the inspection process. The government amendment requiring views of children about their school to be considered is most welcome but I am concerned about how children can be involved once the inspection has taken place and schools consider how they can develop their provision to meet the comments made in the inspection report.

Requiring a summary report to be written in a language that children can understand is important. My noble friend explained the change that she had made. I think it is right that the inspectors should write the report rather than the school write the report once it is received. If inspectors are really going to understand what it is like to be a child at the school they are inspecting, writing a report in language that children can readily understand will, I believe, be of enormous benefit to the inspectors and the children. This is a very happy change that has taken place and I congratulate my noble friend on having changed the wording of the amendments that she tabled previously.

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, particularly to my noble friend Lady Turner for the way she has represented the views of Save the Children and has attempted to meet some of our concerns. There are three noble Baronesses who are major champions of the voice of the child, and I am grateful that they have responded so warmly to Amendment No. 32, which underpins so much of the subject matter of the amendments. I welcome the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, about her amendment, to which I shall briefly refer.

Amendment No. 32 changes the landscape of the debate in important ways. It requires the chief inspector to have regard to any views expressed by pupils. The new inspection framework will say that inspectors should seek the views of groups of pupils about their experiences of teaching and learning, about how the school contributes to the five outcomes set out in Every Child Matters, and importantly, about the degree to which the school seeks and acts upon their views.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 20, 43, 48 on pupil access to reports and ensuring that pupils can understand what has been reported about the school in their interests. We discussed it at some length in Committee. I sent examples of reports that are pupil-focused to a number of Peers and to the House Library. I believe that my noble friend Lady Turner and Save the Children were reassured by the descriptions that we gave of Ofsted's practice in providing inspection reports to pupils. I also believe that the assurances that I can give about inspectors and schools and how they will make such reports available will find favour with my noble friend and Save the Children.

I hope that this will also meet the point raised by my noble friend Lady David. Ofsted's guidance will be explicit about the outcomes of an inspection. Inspection reports must comment on pupils' views of the school, and a letter must be provided as an annex to the report for pupils in a language that is accessible to pupils. That will be a clear requirement. Ofsted's guidance is binding for inspectors, because it sets out expectations, and their work will be quality assured. Their adherence to guidance is part of that process.

Regarding Amendments Nos. 43 and 48, the framework will also specify that the chief inspector will expect schools to ensure that all pupils are made aware of the findings of the inspection. That is important. Failure to follow that framework will result in adverse reports, so it provides a real incentive for schools to implement good practice. I hope that putting that on the record will provide the reassurance necessary.

As I said, Amendment No. 32 deals with many of the issues regarding notification, and we believe that we have the mechanisms right and that we do not need a further amendment in primary legislation for that. The children who have been outside school, about whom the noble Baroness was concerned, will be notified through their parents. It would be a difficult burden on schools to provide two separate letters of notification.

One of the reasons why we have resisted the notion of a summary report is that that would mean yet another report. At a time when we are so anxious to reduce the burdens on schools and to streamline the system, we believe that the writing and publication of a single inspection report is integral to that. However, I assure my noble friend that we are entirely committed to the involvement of pupils, and the proposals are significant steps towards that. We will not stand still. We will evaluate and continue to review those matters. Clause 10 is wide enough to enable a move towards the publication of pupil-focused reports in future, if that is found to be desirable.

I hope that we have moved towards the intention of my noble friend's amendment and that she will feel able to withdraw it.

Photo of Baroness Turner of Camden Baroness Turner of Camden Labour 9:00 pm, 21st February 2005

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that response. I agree with her that Amendment No. 32 has changed the landscape of the debate, for which I am grateful, as are other noble Lords. What the Minister said about the Ofsted guidance is very useful, and that puts it on the record. I shall have pleasure in consulting Save the Children to see what it thinks. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills

moved Amendment No. 21:

Page 3, line 44, at end insert ", and

( ) to establish a complaints procedure by which the appropriate body for a maintained school or the proprietor of a non-maintained school may complain about the conduct of any section 5 inspection or the findings of the report of a section 5 inspection"

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills

My Lords, we return to complaints procedures, on which we have had some discussion. We had a lengthy discussion in Committee, when two separate issues emerged. One was the short-term issue of complaints about procedures and factual errors in the inspectors' report that would need to be dealt with quickly before the report was published. Then there was the longer-term issue about the conduct of the inspection and judgments reached in the published report that could be damning for a school and might be contested by the school.

In Committee, the Minister explained how the new procedures—especially the change involved in making the chief inspector responsible for inspection reports—would enable the short-term issue to be dealt with quickly and with minimal bureaucracy. The Minister also explained how a helpline would be set up where schools could discuss their concerns with a professional who was independent of the inspection team, and how the managing inspector might visit the school and try to resolve disputes quickly on the spot where they arose between the school and the inspector or inspection team. Making the chief inspector ultimately responsible for the final report strengthens the hands of the HMI in any dispute with contract inspectors.

Amendments Nos. 9, 10, 36, 37 and 40, which we have discussed, reinforce those verbal assurances from the Minister in Committee. In Amendments Nos. 9 and 10, we have the assurance that any inspection report that places a school in special measures will be personally signed off by the chief inspector or by one of his senior colleagues authorised to act on his behalf. In Amendments Nos. 36, 37 and 40, we have the commitment that schools will have a chance to see the draft report and to comment on it and that their comments will be responded to within the prescribed period. In addition, we have had a clear commitment that, where a decision is taken that the school requires special measures or significant improvement, the report itself will say so clearly.

The amendments are welcome and answer our short-term concerns. However, we are no nearer solving the longer-term problems of needing an easier, fairer and less bureaucratic procedure than the present adjudication process. That issue is addressed by Amendments Nos. 33 and 53. In Committee, I quoted the opinion of Elaine Rassaby, the complaints adjudicator in 1999, who stated publicly that the procedures were so burdensome that many teachers gave up and did not bother to pursue complaints, even when the complaints were justified.

I say that we are no nearer solving those problems, and yet there are two significant moves. The first, incorporated in the Bill, is the assurance that HMI will play a more significant role in inspections and that the chief inspector will take responsibility for inspection reports. We now have, in addition, the commitment that the chief inspector will take personal responsibility for signing off any report that puts a school into special measures or requires significant improvements.

The second improvement, not incorporated in the Bill, is that we have the Minister's assurance that the independent adjudicator will be independent, not, as she is at present, appointed by Ofsted, but appointed by the Secretary of State and operating wholly outside the Ofsted machine. Both those moves are welcome.

Nevertheless, the Minister also said in Committee:

"We very much accept that the quality and credibility of the complaints process and the ability to resolve disputes, which is ideally what the complaints process should be about, is integral to the development of the new system".—[Hansard, 13/1/05; col. 392.]

The Minister has come back with the amendment to Clause 12, which appears to go some way, but we are seeking something more specific. In particular, we are worried that the adjudicator will still not be able to investigate the content of the report or the judgments made.

This issue is covered in subsection (1)(c) of our Amendment Nos. 33 and 53. As is well known, a teacher's reputation can be irreparably damaged by a bad Ofsted report. Is there to be no chance of restoring such an injustice when it has been shown to be unjustified? It is all very well assuring us that the chief inspector personally will sign off any reports putting schools into special measures, but—to be totally cynical—what happens when the chief inspector is Chris Woodhead and the school is Islington Green?

In relation to Wales and the complaints procedure there, the Minister again responded very positively. He said:

"There must also be opportunities for formal challenge to both the professional judgments and opinions expressed. Again, Estyn has such procedures which are published and made widely available. Ultimately, the professional opinion of the inspectorate has to be recognised and accepted . . . Those dissatisfied with the conduct of an inspection or with how Estyn has managed the complaint can approach the Welsh Administration ombudsman".—[Hansard, 13/1/05; col. 396.]

The Minister also said:

"Initial consideration has been given to the appointment of an independent adjudicator in Wales akin to the post put in place by Ofsted in partnership with the Adult Learning Inspectorate. However, given the relatively small number of complaints received each year alongside the ready access to the Welsh Administration ombudsman, we do not believe that such an appointment would improve current procedures or provide value for money".—[Hansard, 13/1/05; cols. 395.]

Estyn is, I gather, currently reviewing its complaints procedures and has published a consultation paper which asks for comments by Friday 25 February. A footnote to this consultation document states:

"It is proposed that an independent complaints adjudicator is appointed for Estyn. This mechanism has been adopted successfully by some other inspectorates".

That implies that a decision has indeed been taken to appoint an independent adjudicator in Wales. Is that the case? Can the Minister fill us in on that point? I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Shadow Minister, Local and Devolved Government Affairs, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips

My Lords, I support Amendments Nos. 33 and 53. I shall not go into the detail that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, has just covered, but I think that we are all concerned. We have all supported the speeding up of the inspection processes; there is complete unity on that. Consequently, however, issues could, if you like, fall between the guidelines. Sometimes that could be a factual matter and sometimes it could involve a misinterpretation by an inspector during a visit. We are not sure that there are adequate safeguards to protect a school or an individual teacher. As the noble Baroness said, given that an adverse report could damn a school or ruin an individual teacher's career, we want to make certain that safeguards exist to ensure that schools and teachers receive the right support. Perhaps the Minister can clarify the situation. We support these amendments.

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, did a better job than I could to signal the considerable number of different points at which the Government have moved to try to ensure that processes exist to enable schools which have been inspected to be a participant in the process of trying to ensure that they believe that the judgments and conclusions are fair, without allowing them to go as far as negotiating judgments, which clearly cannot happen.

I should start by emphasising how fundamentally important informed complaints resolution has to be in such systems. It is right that there are formal complaints procedures, and I shall talk about those in a moment. However, we know from very many other sources that the more you can have effective informal complaints procedures which resolve the issues informally and fast, the more you will get better justice and a better perception of justice and the more people will make use of those processes. I will therefore not talk at length about the processes being put in place as part of the Bill and its implementation, but I will check subsequently with my officials that we have already put all those issues in a clear form to you.

I shall refer to two headlines. First, Ofsted has issued a draft complaints procedure for consultation with teacher and governor representative bodies. The National Association of School Governors has already indicated that it is broadly content with them. The NUT has issued a press release saying that it is delighted about the helpline. I will double check that we have got all of that on the record with both Front Benches.

The draft procedures that Ofsted are consulting about will make it clear that inspectors should try to consider and to resolve any concerns a school raises about an inspection or judgments as part of the process. There should not be a stand-off process, there should be active listening and engagement because that is both decent and efficient.

Schools will have opportunities throughout the inspection process to respond to emerging findings, and to draw attention to any evidence that they think points to different conclusions from those to which the inspection process is minded to reach. They will receive a draft report: an opportunity to comment on factual accuracy. Later on, in our amendment to Clause 12, we will signal and discuss where we think we have made a significant shift in terms of schools requiring major improvement of special measures, through the care with which the process is tested with the school before those issues go into the public domain. Given the time, I will not go into detail now.

I also want to double check that the draft guidance on the moderation procedures for schools causing concerns has also been shared with Opposition Front Benches, because they are again part of this picture. Without labouring the point, when I prepared my notes I saw five separate stages that the inspectorates had to go through to try to ensure that the school and its governors were given opportunities to engage with them, before the inspectorate came to a conclusion that special measures were appropriate. These of course included a process for a second pair of eyes, totally separate from the inspectors who had made those judgments, to see whether the evidence and the representations made by the school supported them. For those cases, the moderation process is again building a strong double layer of protection. It is not just the judgments of the inspectors themselves; other inspectors with seniority and experience have to look at that to see whether they consider the conclusions valid. In doing so, they would also be looking at the views that the school might have given—for example, that it felt that the evidence did not merit the conclusions that were being reached by the inspectors.

Again, without labouring the point, I am signalling that this is part of the overall picture of trying to ensure that the conclusions reached are ones that are fair, that are supported by the evidence, and are reached through a process which makes those who are being inspected feel that they have had every opportunity to put their part of the story, and that they have been listened to. That is the background. The more that that works, the less formal complaints procedures are required. We know from the work of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and others, that that is the sensible way to get justice, rather than rushing off into formal processes.

Having said that, there is an adjudicator in place, who does substantially what is asked for in the amendment put down by the Opposition Front Bench. The independent adjudicator is completely independent of Ofsted. She has the remit to examine a complaint about any of the issues covered by subsection (1)(a) to (c) of the proposed new clause. She is not able to overturn professional judgments, nor should she be for reasons that I think we understand—otherwise the independent adjudicator would become the inspector. However, she is able to make recommendations if she considers there is no evidence for a judgment, or if a report does not adequately explain the link between the evidence and the findings. The adjudicator can recommend that the chief inspector reconsiders a complaint in the light of her comments, and if he rejects her recommendations, he must make a public statement of his reasons. The powers are very strongly there.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, was concerned that the adjudicator should not be appointed by Ofsted or the Adult Learning Inspectorate. I can set her mind at rest. The adjudicator is not appointed by either of those bodies, but by the Secretary of State. Therefore, there is a proper separation of the appeal process from the decision-maker. For these reasons, we believe that the chief inspector will be able, without limitation, to play a proper part in the formal complaints process, in what we hope will be the relatively few cases that the informal processes have been unable to resolve.

I turn to Wales and Amendment No. 53. Again, this would add a duty on the Assembly to make regulations appointing an independent adjudicator. Estyn, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education and Training, has detailed some transparent procedures for the handling of complaints. In Wales, under the common inspectorate framework, there will be a school nominee attached to each inspection team who can bring additional evidence to the team at any point during the process.

On the production of reports, regulations already provide for reports to be made within 35 working days. Within this period Estyn's guidance requires the registered inspector to give the school a late draft of the report, to help with checking factual content. The school has five working days in which to consider it. An inspector has to take account of the comments offered and correct factual errors. Beyond this, any complaint on the professional judgment made would initially be considered by the lead inspector and, if not satisfied, the complaint may be considered by a senior HMI or the chief inspector.

On processes and procedures, during an inspection such provision is already made. Those dissatisfied with the conduct of an inspection can approach the Welsh Administration Ombudsman, who is empowered to investigate complaints of injustice due to maladministration by the Welsh public bodies, including Estyn. The ombudsman has powers to investigate complaints about the administrative action taken by Estyn or those acting for the inspectorate. If, in the opinion of the ombudsman, a complaint was justified, the inspector would be required to take action to meet any recommendation set out by the ombudsman within a set period. There are already accepted and accessible procedures for a challenge to be made to the professional judgment registered in an inspection report.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, asked about the ongoing consultation by Estyn and whether a decision has already been made to have an independent adjudicator in Wales. I am going to have to rely on head signals rather than paper, but I am assured that no such decision has been made. I will probably want to send her a letter with a little more detail than is available from telegraphy at this time of night.

I hope that has been helpful in signalling that in both England and Wales there will be powerful processes for informal resolution, but long-stop processes for formal resolution as well.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills 9:15 pm, 21st February 2005

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his lengthy explanation. We are happy with the informal procedures. I now feel more reassured about the formal procedures. Making the adjudicator completely independent of Ofsted is an important step. We appreciate that this is taking place.

We also appreciate that, in the guidance, the Minister will have the opportunity to suggest that the chief inspector takes another look at reports, if something should be looked at again. The Minister will not overturn the judgments, but may question them on occasion. This is important and I thank the Minister for the explanation, because it is helpful to have it on the record, so that people understand that these procedures are moving forward and are openly fair.

We also accept his assurances on Wales, and I would be pleased to have a letter to pass on to my Welsh colleagues. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills

moved Amendment No. 24:

Page 4, line 46, at end insert—

"(g) any provision supportive of the education of pupils at the school which is made at the school or elsewhere for the benefit of its pupils by persons not directly under the control or supervision of the head teacher of the school or the appropriate authority"

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills

My Lords, the amendment is intended to probe issues concerning the inspection of out-of-school provision for over-eights and to tease out issues concerning responsibility for the quality of provision.

The amendment refers to such things as breakfast clubs, daytime or after-school sports clubs, pre-school clubs and other activities, which are increasingly arranged by school authorities, notionally, often, as "lettings" of premises to enterprising people within their school communities who operate, in effect, as small businesses. Those people derive an income from the charges that they make to parents for the provision that they offer and pay a letting fee to the school funds for the rooms made available to them.

Although notionally an arm's-length letting operation, in reality those projects are often part of the whole school community operation and are considered contributory to the whole education provided at the school. All of us welcome the notion of the extended school, which is not necessarily provided by the school itself but can be the result of the community coming together and providing those facilities.

Although many such projects are subject to examination and inspection from the point of view of safety and the suitability of the operators to work with children, they are not subject to inspection for their educational value and practice within the framework of Ofsted. The purpose of the amendment is to highlight that trend and to promote its better regulation.

The question of the regulation of childcare has a very long history, and there has always been controversy about where the boundary of state concerns should be drawn. Since 2001, Ofsted has taken over all registration and inspection of childcare and early-years services, creating a more streamlined approach. However, recent developments raise philosophical and practical questions about the continuing system, which allows care for children aged eight or over to be unregulated.

The move to integrate education and care services, both through integrated inspection and related Every Child Matters reforms, is breaking down the traditional distinction between education and care. The increasing move towards co-locating services through extended schools, including schools providing or at least "hosting" childcare services, further blurs those lines. Those changes highlight the anomalies in the current system. For example, schools could theoretically be inspected for the education that they provide while services solely for children aged eight and over taking place on their premises or under their management would not require registration, inspection or regulation.

The general justification for not extending regulation to over-eights has been a desire not to place unnecessary burdens on providers, often with few staff and little turnover. It is certainly an issue. However, as the childcare market has expanded over recent years—a process that will only continue—this case looks weaker, especially given the increasing role of schools and their additional capacity and experience of regulation. Clearly, though, given the pressures that providers are already under, moves towards removing the age criteria for childcare registration and inspection would have to be handled very carefully.

Are there any plans for moving the matter forward and for considering how to deal with the anomalies arising as a result of what is happening through the extended schools and the move into wider provision? I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, certainly we support the general intention expressed in the amendment. We agree entirely that Ofsted should consider the contribution of the extended number of services that schools provide. We are delighted that so many schools are taking up the childcare option within the learning context and so on. So many other things are happening in schools: in addition to breakfast clubs, which the noble Baroness mentioned, a huge range of before and after-school provision has been developed in the past five years. That is to the credit of schools, teachers, support staff and many others, not least the providers who have come forward—

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills

My Lords, perhaps I might draw attention to the fact that the noble Baroness herself was involved in creating an organisation—it used to be called Education Extra; ContinYou is its name today—that has done an enormous amount to extend this area. We are all grateful to her for what she achieved in that position.

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I was not fishing for compliments, but I am grateful to the noble Baroness for placing on the record the credit of those organisations. It is gratifying to see the modest ideas that we started off with 10 years ago becoming a normative influence on the way that education is delivered. I am delighted that she said that. I wish that I could now accept her amendment; sadly I cannot.

There are two reasons: first, the amendment goes wider and has greater implications than was probably intended. Secondly, within the terms of learning, the areas addressed are already covered by the inspection framework. However, as the noble Baroness addressed the integration of care and education in such detail, I would rather write to her specifically about the mix of inspection frameworks. I do not want to improvise from the Dispatch Box, as a great deal is happening to bring together inspection frameworks. I would like to reflect and write to her about that.

Schools arrange for a wide variety of out-of-school and after-school clubs. Many are delivered by other organisations outside schools. In those cases, where such provision is planned by the school for the benefit of the pupil, even if it is delivered by another organisation the school takes responsibility for the contribution that it makes to the education and well-being of its pupils.

Even when the school provides a care service, there is a learning environment and a learning setting integrating care and learning for young children. There are exciting possibilities for what we can offer now. In those cases, Ofsted will ensure that it inspects the impact that such provision has on the statutory purposes of inspection; particularly the quality of education and the educational standards achieved.

In terms of the amendment's narrow point, Ofsted is there working away. It has the power to assess the contribution in three ways: first, assessing as part of the overall effectiveness of a school links with other organisations to promote well-being; and, secondly, evaluating the quality of the provision, assessing how well programmes and activities meet the interests of learners. That includes in particular enrichment activities and extended services. The third is evaluating leadership and management and assessing the effectiveness of links made with other providers, services and employers to promote the integration of care, education and extended services in schools.

That provides for the narrow point. I should refer to the Ofsted report on outdoor education and, more recently in December 2004, on out-of-school education.

The amendment presents serious difficulties. It would require a report of a school to include an assessment of services over which it has no authority or control; that is inconsistent with the institutional assessment. For example, a youth club operating out of hours or the Scouts or Brownies might fall into the category of services that the amendment would capture. They are not educational organisations in the sense that we are using the term. Ofsted would have the power to inspect the youth club but no power to inspect the Scouts or Brownies; and nor should it.

The amendment would mean that schools were held to account for something that was not within their control. Given that we are trying to reassure and support schools to continue with school trips, the amendment could be retrograde when it comes to calming nerves and ensuring that more schools provide greater opportunities for curriculum enrichment.

Furthermore, some of the services that might be supporting the education of pupils at a school will already fall within the remits of other inspectorates. Extended services might include health services, so we have to consider which is the most appropriate body. It is clearly not Ofsted; it would be the Healthcare Commission or the children's social care inspectorate.

The amendment takes us into very much uncharted water, but I take the point that the noble Baroness has made. I hope that I have reassured her about the role of Ofsted in this growing field. We will write to her in more detail about the particular instances that the noble Baroness raised about care settings.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills 9:30 pm, 21st February 2005

My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for her response. As the noble Baroness realises, this was a probing amendment. The answers given are extremely reassuring. I am very glad that Ofsted does not have powers to inspect scouts and brownies, nor should it. When looking at the degree to which Ofsted's empire has been extended to, for example, childminders, there are times when we feel that its tentacles will reach into every part of the world. I am not sure that they should. It is right, as we discussed regarding out-of-school trips, that there are parts of this life where Ofsted does not reach.

Nevertheless, as regards over-eight year-olds there is the issue of activities taking place on school premises even while staff are still around. Some after school clubs are organised by outside organisations where a charge is made. Perhaps some linking has to be done. I look forward to hearing from the Minister. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 not moved.]

Clause 6 [Duty to notify parents of section 5 inspection]:

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

moved Amendment No. 30:

Page 5, line 11, at end insert—

"(1A) Any notification given under subsection (1)(a) must include a statement, in a form approved by the Chief Inspector, inviting the registered parents of registered pupils to inform the Chief Inspector of their views on matters relating to the school."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 31 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

moved Amendment No. 32:

After Clause 6, insert the following new clause—

"DUTY TO HAVE REGARD TO VIEWS OF CERTAIN PERSONS

In conducting an inspection of a school under section 5, the matters to which the Chief Inspector must have regard include any views expressed to him by any of the following persons—

(a) the head teacher,

(b) in the case of a maintained school, the governing body,

(c) in the case of any other school, the proprietor of the school,

(d) any person prescribed for the purposes of section 6(1)(b),

(e) members of the staff of the school,

(f) registered pupils at the school, and

(g) the registered parents of registered pupils."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 33 not moved.]

Clause 12 [Duties of Chief Inspector where school causes or has caused concern]:

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 7, line 7, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert—

"(a) that additional support is required by or under the direction of the local education authority, or

(b) that additional support is required at the initiative of the appropriate authority"

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 34, I shall speak to all the other amendments in the group, which are a development of amendments laid in Committee. The purpose of the amendments is to change the designation of schools in "special measures" and those "requiring significant improvement" to two more positive categorisations.

In Committee, we argued for the terms, "special measures" and "significant weaknesses" or "notice of improvement" to be replaced by the term "schools in need of additional support". We accepted the Minister's argument (at col. 424 of the Official Report for 13 January) that it would not be good policy if we,

"sought to put everything into one category . . . and did not make the differentiation", as it would mean,

"either the schools needing significant improvement would be put into the very heavy sin bin category or we would compromise on the very heavy intervention sin bin category because we had many [schools] that needed significant improvement", which is not anywhere near so serious.

However, we are still concerned about the punitive language that is being used to label schools. "Measures" are done "to" a school and not "with" a school. All the research into school improvement shows that the most positive results are gained when all the staff, parents and pupils feel supported in their efforts to improve rather than the school being labelled as a failure.

In 1999, the NUT commissioned Margaret Scanlon and Barbara Lee at the NFER to conduct research into the impact on schools of special measures. In their report, The Human Cost of Special Measures, they described the,

"Feelings of public humiliation and reduced confidence experienced by both teachers and pupils as a result of negative press attention and stigmatisation".

Six years on, teachers and pupils still have that experience. It is those negative and unhelpful perceptions that our amendment is trying to avoid. I know that the Minister cannot have an effect on the press, but he has control of what is in the Bill to a great extent. I am hoping that he might think again about how we express those things.

Our amendments have tried to differentiate between schools where the measures to bring about improvements can be taken internally by a school against those where external help is brought in by the LEA. We have done that by the way in which the amendments are worded. For example, we have said,

"by or under the direction of the local education authority".

We have also said,

"that additional support is required at the initiative of the appropriate authority".

Therefore, we have made it clear that we appreciate that there are two categories of schools: those that the inspectors believe can help themselves and achieve improvement using their internal resources; and those for which a great big package of external support is required—fresh eyes, fresh pairs of hands and even fresh faces.

I look forward to hearing the Minister's response to this reworking of a similar idea, which I hope takes into some account the remarks that he made in Committee. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Labour

My Lords, I have a few comments to make about the wording which troubles me.

I understand the issue, and if it were just a matter of semantics, I would have more sympathy with the amendment. As drafted, references to additional support being required could cover a whole myriad of things that might come from a school inspection. There is probably hardly a single Ofsted report that does not make reference to some things needing to be improved a little, whether that is extra support on recruitment or retention, SEN, data, HR, or capital programmes. All those would be routine follow-ups into any inspection report or analysis that an LEA makes on an on-going basis. If you switch the emphasis to that which the governing body would require, it could cause problems as governing bodies often reasonably make all sorts of demands on LEAs, which are not unreasonable in themselves but which must be balanced in terms of available resources.

Although I understand the intent of the amendment, the wording opens it up to a generalised category, which covers too many circumstances, and far more than the Bill was intended to cover.

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

My Lords, I was glad that the noble Baroness accepted that it was not right to have just one category. I thought that she had been ingenious in coming up with two categories of additional support. But that is probably as far as we shall meet on this.

I shall not speak at length as it is one of those issues when our position is pretty clear and strong. We believe that we are right.

As we said before, it would be misleading to parents and others to change the provision in the way proposed. The special measure designation covers the most serious cases of failure and triggers urgent and radical action to turn a school round. Referring to a school where,

"additional support is required by or under the direction of the local education authority", would send completely the wrong signal to parents and the wider community. It would not make clear the seriousness of the situation.

I agree with the noble Baroness that additional support is necessary and the Bill already ensures that schools will receive additional support. It provides that when a maintained school is considered to require special measures or significant improvement, the LEA must prepare a statement of action that it proposes to take. There is no disagreement between us on the need for additional support.

But it is not always a matter of providing additional support. Sometimes intervention requires a change of weak leadership; that is a fact of life. It would send completely the wrong signal to refer to a school as in need of additional support when in fact it may need new governance, a new head teacher and perhaps new staff. That is the reality of it. Therefore to suggest that the one solution of additional support would fit all cases is, we believe, wrong. The Bill provides both for urgency and flexibility in addressing the problems of schools placed in the cause for concern category.

This is not the first time that we have heard the NUT argument powerfully promoted by Members on the Liberal Democrat Benches. I am sure that it is true that there is a human cost to being placed under special measures. There is a human cost in being part of any failing organisation. That is a reality of life. However, there is a much more significant human cost to those who are feeling the consequences of a failing school—the pupils. That is where our central focus has to be, on ensuring that those pupils are provided with a better education as rapidly as possible. Fudging the issues or pretending that just a little more advice, support and love will be enough—I do not say that flippantly—will not do for some of the most serious cases.

As I recollect, around half a million children in our society are now benefiting from a better education as a consequence of the special measures designation having led to really tough action to improve their schools. I pay tribute to all who have helped to bring that about, including staff, teachers and parents in those situations.

The intention is not to be punitive for its own sake, but in the worst situations the reality that change is necessary must be faced. I do not think, therefore, that to imply that such situations can be rectified simply by more support is true or would be an adequate response to children's needs. I hope that that is helpful to the noble Baroness.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, the noble Lord has been helpful and it is clear that there is no meeting of minds on this. However, it was useful to hear the Minister assure us once again that the package of support or the changes required in the interests of pupils and schools will be forthcoming when the inspectors have identified that they are needed.

The noble Lord is right to point out that on occasion we do air within this place the concerns expressed by the NUT as well as other teaching unions such as the Secondary Heads Association and the NAHT and, on other subjects, the NSPCC, Save the Children, UNICEF and many other organisations. That is one of the good things about this House. We have the opportunity to take Bills apart, to go through their provisions with a fine-tooth comb, and to reflect the concerns expressed to us from many different areas. I believe that Bills benefit from such scrutiny.

I appreciate the Minister's patience in addressing this issue for a second time. I can assure him that he will not have to do so for a third time. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 35 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

moved Amendments Nos. 36 and 37:

Page 7, line 10, leave out "(2) and (3)" and insert "(1A) and (1B)"

Page 7, line 11, leave out subsections (2) and (3) and insert—

"(1A) The Chief Inspector must—

(a) send a draft of the report of the inspection—

(i) in the case of a maintained school, to the governing body, and

(ii) in the case of any other school, to the proprietor of the school, and

(b) consider any comments on the draft that are made to him within the prescribed period by the governing body or proprietor, as the case may be.

(1B) If, after complying with subsection (1A), the Chief Inspector is of the opinion that the case falls within paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1)—

(a) he must without delay give a notice in writing, stating that the case falls within paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1)—

(i) to the Secretary of State,

(ii) in the case of a maintained school, to the local education authority, and

(iii) in the case of any other school, to the proprietor of the school, and

(b) he must state his opinion in the report of the inspection."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

moved Amendment No. 40:

Page 7, line 24, leave out "(3)" and insert "(1B)(b)".

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 not moved.]

Clause 13 [Destination of reports: maintained schools]:

[Amendment No. 43 not moved.]

Clause 14 [Measures to be taken by local education authority]:

[Amendment No. 44 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 9:45 pm, 21st February 2005

moved Amendment No. 45:

Page 8, line 28, after "must" insert ", after consultation with the appropriate body for a maintained school and the head teacher of that school"

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, the amendment was also tabled at the Committee stage. In response, the Minister stated:

"We totally agree that the LEA should consult with the school in preparing the statement. It is essential that the head teacher is involved from the outset. That already happens without any legal requirement. It must and will continue in the future".—[Hansard, 13/1/05; col. 434.]

If it must and will continue then why not place it on the face of the Bill to guarantee that it does?

The Minister went on to say:

"I think that we have to resist cluttering up primary legislation with detailed specifications of process. That is what guidance is for. I repeat: Hansard is for ever. If we have given a commitment, we have given a commitment".—[Hansard, 13/1/05; col. 435.]

Circumstances change and we all have bitter experience of Hansard not always meaning for ever. If the Minister is prepared to include on the face of the Bill an amendment about consultation after Clause 6—an amendment we warmly welcome—then why not here? I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions)

My Lords, I find it extremely unfair to have my flexibility on one part of the Bill prayed against me on another. But let us put that to one side.

We made clear in the earlier debate our understanding of these concerns. We agree that turning a school round is very much a team effort and not only a matter for the local authority on its own. As a matter of practice the governing body and the head teacher will be consulted by the local authority in preparing their statement.

But I am afraid that what I said on the previous occasion has not changed. We do not believe that it is appropriate to specify such consultation on the face of the Bill. These matters are more appropriate for guidance. We do not need to set out in the Bill who must talk to whom at each step of the way. But I repeat with absolute clarity the assurance that the guidance will make clear that the local authority should work closely with the head teacher and the governing body in drawing up its statement of action.

I cannot envisage circumstances in which this Government or any other government—were such an unhappy day to come—would consider it appropriate to change from that position. One would expect that the local authority would want to engage in a dialogue with the school about turning it round. For that reason, we think it is right.

The early notification of the inspection findings, to which we referred earlier, would enable the governors and the head teacher to start to consider how to address issues identified by an inspection. The Bill requires an action plan to be prepared by the local authority and it requires the school to revise its current development plan to take account of inspection issues. The school improvement partner will and must work closely with both the school and the LEA, providing advice on what support is required.

All these procedures will be covered explicitly in the guidance. The Bill is intended to simplify existing procedures for follow up action by the LEA and school following the designation of a school as requiring special measures or significant improvement. We believe the amendment is not appropriate because these are properly matters for guidance. I hope that the clear commitments I have given are helpful.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. It is helpful that he has referred to such matters from the Dispatch Box. The amendment reflects the concerns of more than one organisation. The NAHT, the LGA and the NUT have all come to us about the matter and so it is helpful to have a reiteration of the position by the noble Lord from the Dispatch Box. I trust that it will set a whole range of minds at rest on the issue because it would be a nonsense if all this went ahead without such consultation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 46 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills

My Lords, Amendment No. 47 relates to Clause 15, which concerns the destination of reports for non-maintained schools. It seeks to amend subsection (1)—

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, I am sorry. We have just discovered that the first name on the amendment is that of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. We must have all tabled it together. That is probably what happened.

Photo of Lord Lyell Lord Lyell Conservative

My Lords, the names of the noble Baronesses are on Amendment No. 47.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, will speak to the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Morris of Bolton Baroness Morris of Bolton Conservative

My Lords, I have been waiting a long time to speak.

Photo of Baroness Morris of Bolton Baroness Morris of Bolton Conservative

moved Amendment No. 47:

Page 9, line 7, at end insert "and the local education authority in which the school is situated."

Photo of Baroness Morris of Bolton Baroness Morris of Bolton Conservative

My Lords, I have been waiting a long time to speak.

Amendment No. 47 is relatively simple and straightforward. It would ensure that local authorities automatically received a copy of a report covering any institution in the children's services authority area in which they had a strategic role. For local authorities not to receive such a report automatically is at odds with central government's acknowledgement of the overarching leadership role that they play, as set out in the DfES five-year strategy and the Children Act 2004.

I hope that this is not the start of a trend in bypassing the sharing of information with local government which, after all, will be judged on the inspection's content in so far as it affects children's and young people's activities undertaken in their area. We hope that the Minister could lend his—or her—support to what we judge to be a sensible and rational amendment. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Lyell Lord Lyell Conservative

My Lords, I confirm that we are discussing Amendment No. 47.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Shadow Minister, Education & Skills

My Lords, I apologise to the House. The amendment was in all our names, and, rightly or wrongly, we believed that we were leading on it.

I endorse the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Morris. In such circumstances, it is important for LEAs to know what is happening to the schools that are independent of them although often dependent on them for finance. An increasing number of academies established as independent schools nevertheless play and will continue to play an increasingly important part in the provision of education in the local community. If the LEA is to retain its strategic role, it is vital that it has first-hand knowledge of what is going on in those schools.

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for setting out a beguiling definition of something simple and straightforward. The amendment is not quite that simple and straightforward, however.

Clause 15 requires the chief inspector to send his report to the proprietor of a non-maintained school. In the case of a non-maintained special school only, the proprietor must also send a copy to the local authority where fees are paid by that local authority. The proprietors of all non-maintained schools must, however, make their report available to all members of the public and take reasonable steps to make sure that parents receive a copy.

The amendment would require the chief inspector to send reports for each non-maintained school to the relevant local education authority. I take the noble Baroness's point that local authorities need to know what is going on in the non-maintained sector and in academies. However, noble Lords will equally understand that an LEA's interest in a non-maintained school is, because of the difference in funding, different from that in a maintained school.

Let me stress that there is no question that the reports on non-maintained schools are not available to be read. All reports from the chief inspector are available on his website. Indeed, if a local authority has an interest in the outcomes of an inspection of a non-maintained school, there are mechanisms whereby the LEA can be alerted, notified and directed towards that report. Through Ofsted's website, users can select what information, including reports, they would like to be kept informed about. They can choose to be alerted that an inspection has taken place in a particular area. They can choose to be automatically informed when the reports are published and about how to access those reports. The area that can be selected could be as big as three LEA areas.

For academies, we are at the beginning of the process of inspection. The department can and does encourage academies to let the LEA know when they will be inspected when Ofsted informs them that it is about to inspect. We already have in place a protocol with Ofsted about making publicly available the dates when it is going to inspect academies. That is best practice; it is proportionate, and we hope that both noble Baronesses will feel that their concerns about LEAs not being able to have access or being informed are satisfied. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Morris of Bolton Baroness Morris of Bolton Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her answer. I understand what she means about best practice, but I should have thought that in these days of partnerships between all sorts of institutions it would not have been a difficult thing to do. With local authorities, it is rather like devolving power to where "the rubber meets the road", as the Americans say. We feel that they should be involved and have an understanding about what is going on in all the schools in their area where they cover a strategic and leadership role. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 48 not moved.]

Clause 19 [Functions of Chief Inspector]:

[Amendments Nos. 49 and 50 not moved.]

Clause 21 [Power of Assembly to establish advisory panel]:

Photo of Baroness Morris of Bolton Baroness Morris of Bolton Conservative

My Lords, Clause 21 would allow the Welsh Assembly to establish an advisory panel to advise on any functions or responsibilities of the Chief Inspector of Schools in Wales. I thank the Minister for writing to me and to my noble friend Lord Hanningfield on this issue following Committee stage. However, we found the Explanatory Note was somewhat vague, and highlighted the fact that many of the panel's powers would be determined later by regulation. That is no criticism of the Minister, who, I suspect, is probably as much in the dark as the rest of us and has undoubtedly provided as much information as possible. However, once again, we are expected to give the green light to yet another quango with scant knowledge of its functions or powers. Indeed, the Minister's letter remarked that the powers of the panel would be decided following a consultation exercise conducted at some unknown date in future. The matter is left to guidance or regulation, like so much of the legislation that we scrutinise nowadays.

We are raising this matter once again for both general and specific reasons; generally, because we believe that it is imperative that we guard against the creation of unnecessary quangos or bodies that add very little to the effectiveness of public service delivery; and, specifically, for a number of reasons. We simply do not believe that the case has been adequately made for such a panel.

I remind your Lordships' House, as my noble friend Lord Roberts of Conwy did during Committee, that the Assembly already has a committee of Assembly Members dedicated to education. It also has Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, a Crown appointment, on which the Assembly is consulted. One would have thought that the chief inspector and the education committee would provide sufficient advice. Indeed, it could be argued that further advice from a panel would be superfluous and could even cause confusion in decision-making.

On reading the clause, it is noticeable that the Bill is uncertain on the functions of the advisory panel other than its own appointment, fixing remuneration and allowances, ensuring co-operation with HMCI and making reports to the Assembly. The proposed panel gives the impression of being superfluous from its inception. There is little that it can do that HMCI cannot do better or with more authority.

Despite the valiant attempts of the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, in Committee and the letter from the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, we on these Benches remain unconvinced of the merits and necessity of such a panel. We cannot see that it would be anything more than an unnecessary quango that would add little and yet take significantly in terms of public costs and time. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, I shall say a very brief word. I believe in devolution and I believe that the Assembly wants the panel. In that case, as far as I am concerned, it should have it.

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, on that note, I shall start at the back of my speaking notes and reinforce the point that the noble Baroness has just made. This is indeed something that Welsh Assembly Ministers and everybody in the Assembly—and there has been wide consultation at every stage—wants and has asked for. It is firmly of the opinion that such advice that it has sought is needed. The chief inspector has been kept fully informed of the proposals at all stages and has met with the Minister. The proposals have been welcomed inside the Welsh Assembly and by practitioners and, as the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, mentioned, the NUT is very much of a mind to support them.

The new body is welcomed by all parties in Wales. It is a very modest body. It will help Estyn to formulate part of its strategy. Unlike Ofsted, 15 per cent of Estyn's work constitutes a strategic power which helps to inform the pattern of provision and the way in which education policy is developed. That is one of the very clear reasons why this new and modest body is necessary.

The noble Baroness said that much of this matter will be left to regulations. That is the way things are done under devolution. Regulations are made in full consultation with all interested parties and in accordance with the Assembly's own procedures for making subordinate legislation. Indeed, those procedures involve at least as much scrutiny as in Parliament. Draft regulations are open to scrutiny and debate. There is no negative procedure so everything is debated. They are laid before the Assembly and they may be considered by the relevant subject committee. They will be scrutinised by the legislation committee. It is a robust and rigorous process.

I wish to address a few issues that the noble Baroness raised. The new panel will, indeed, provide the Assembly with an informed and independent view on the range of duties and responsibilities it is required to discharge with regard to Estyn. Currently there are no mechanisms to provide the Assembly with independent advice on such matters. There is no question that the body does not know what it is going to do, as the noble Baroness implied. It is anticipated that its role would include, for example, provision of advice to the Assembly on the handling of any complaint lodged against the chief inspector and advice in meeting the Assembly's statutory obligation to approve Estyn's annual plan. We addressed some of the relevant issues in our letter. It is worth putting on the record that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, gave the proposal a modest but warm welcome on Second Reading, provided the constitution met his very high standards.

We confirmed in our letter that although the exercise of the power and decisions on the detail would need to be framed in the light of consultation, it is very much anticipated that the panel will draw together experienced practitioners from across the field of education and training, and perhaps from the business sector due to work-based learning. This body is not a quango; it has only six members. Membership is likely to comprise approximately six people with appointments made by Ministers in accordance with the Assembly's code of practice for public appointments.

It is anticipated that the panel would meet three or four times a year although there may be a requirement for further meetings. The secretariat for the panel would be provided by officials from the Assembly's Department for Training and Education. Costs would therefore be limited to travel and subsistence expenses for panel members. It is not anticipated that members will receive a salary or fee for their contribution to the panel. It would be a modest, expert and very useful body.

However, there is a necessity to create further accountability. Questions were raised about why a complaint registered against the chief inspector could not simply be referred to the Welsh administration ombudsman. I must emphasise that there have been instances where the Welsh administration ombudsman has ruled that she is not in a position to consider a complaint lodged against the chief inspector. It has, therefore, fallen to the Assembly to consider such matters. To date this has been managed through ad hoc arrangements. There is, therefore, clearly a gap that needs to be filled in that respect and the panel will ensure that there is a standing body with a range of experience that will be extremely useful in that regard.

In that context the powers to provide access to people and papers will be central in ensuring that the panel has unfettered access to papers and can provide an informed judgment. It will be able to draw advice from other bodies but its role is not the same as that of the Education and Lifelong Learning Committee. That body's role is very much one of scrutiny. The committee is part of the National Assembly and it is quite separate from the Assembly government. The Education and Lifelong Learning Minister is a member of the committee but he is not in a position to commission the committee to undertake particular pieces of work or to provide advice.

So the panel will have a new function. It will be different from that of the Education and Lifelong Learning Committee and will be completely consistent with the First Minister's recent paper, Making the Connections. Delivering Better Services for Wales. So it will not be a decision-making body and it will not have executive powers. It will be a critical friend that will be able to fill a gap that we need to be filled and will be able to make a contribution when the Assembly needs advice on specific issues. It will have been achieved in the spirit of devolution and I believe that it is the feeling of this House that the Assembly, having welcomed the proposal, should be able to achieve what it wants.

Photo of Baroness Morris of Bolton Baroness Morris of Bolton Conservative 10:00 pm, 21st February 2005

My Lords, I thank the Minister for bringing some focus to the slight vagueness that we received in the letter. Being my own critical friend, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 27 [Duty to arrange regular inspections of certain schools]:

[Amendment No. 52 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 53 not moved.]

Clause 43 [Categories of schools causing concern]:

[Amendment No. 54 not moved.]

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at six minutes past ten o'clock.