Academies Bill [HL] — Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 7th July 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Hill of Oareford Lord Hill of Oareford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education 4:30 pm, 7th July 2010

I believe that I apologised yesterday to the noble Lord for the lack of notice and do so again. I think I am right in saying that those letters were circulated at an earlier date, but if I am wrong I will put that right.

Regarding the placement of challenging pupils, including those who have been excluded, which I know is a matter of concern across the House, academies are required through their funding agreements to participate in in-year fair access protocols, which ensure that all schools in a local area take their fair share of hard-to-place pupils, including those who have previously been excluded. Academies are equal partners in those arrangements. The requirements envisaged by Amendment 48 in relation to the decision-making process surrounding an exclusion are already part of academy funding agreements and the departmental guidance is very clear about who can exclude a pupil, and in what circumstances the decision to exclude needs to be reviewed by the governing body.

Amendment 50 would require academies to follow the law and guidance on developing and implementing their behaviour policies. Academies are independent schools and are therefore covered by the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2003. These state that an academy must have in place, and must implement effectively, a policy on promoting good behaviour that outlines what sanctions will be taken in the event of any misbehaviour.

As for the specific questions raised by my noble friend Lady Walmsley, we accept that academies are obliged to follow the Human Rights Act and, if they were not following it, we would expect the YPLA as the academies' monitoring body to identify that. As for exclusions, academies are treated in the same way; the main difference from maintained schools is that the academy trust, rather than the local authority, is the body responsible for setting up an appeal.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, did not speak to the amendments on teacher quality, and there was an amendment that was to have been spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. I confirm for the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, the point that I made earlier, on which, fortunately, I was right. The annexes on exclusions were circulated on the second day of Committee, on 23 June; I should be happy to dig them out and circulate them again.

I hope that that provides some assurance on exclusions on the overall points. My noble friend Lady Walmsley made some specific points; if I have not responded to them, I shall follow them up with her separately outside the House or in writing. On a general point, which links to some of the discussion that we had yesterday, I hope that the suggestion that there should be an annual report to Parliament on the whole of academies policy will provide some further reassurance to noble Lords that these important issues relating to the development of policy will be kept firmly under review. I hope that that picks up on some of the points made by my noble friend Lady Walmsley. I ask her in light of that to withdraw her amendment.