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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 7th July 2010.

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Photo of Lord Blackwell Lord Blackwell Conservative 5:00 pm, 7th July 2010

My Lords, briefly, I ask the Minister to consider Amendment 10A in the name of my noble friend Lord Lucas. The whole purpose of academies is to enable good schools to become even better schools. The benefit of good schools in an area is that they ought to be able to provide such opportunities for as many children as possible.

One of the problems of the current admission system is that it ends up, in practice, turning into selection by house price. In other words, the good schools that become better schools tend to be in areas where parents move in and house prices rise. In that situation, poor schools and their pupils who live in neighbouring areas do not have the choice of getting the benefit of being able to apply to the better school next door. Indeed, schools in poorer and often disadvantaged areas have no incentive to improve. They do not have any competition, because they have in effect a monopoly of access in the local catchment area. There is a wholly beneficial argument for saying that if we allow good schools to develop by becoming academies, it would be socially desirable to allow all children from within a feasible area around that school who chose to apply to gain the benefit of being able to go to that school, rather than only the children of parents who happened to be able to afford to live nearby. It is wholly in favour of social mobility to widen admission as far as possible.

I would go further, as I argued at Second Reading. Contrary to the noble Lord, Lord Knight, I believe that there should be a place for selective education in the state system. That, too, would help social mobility. I accept that that is not the spirit of the Bill or the policy of the Government, and unfortunately there is nothing in the Bill that would allow that to happen. Therefore, I certainly would not support the amendments that try to go further in restricting admissions freedom, although Amendment 10A merits consideration.