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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 7th July 2010.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Crosby Baroness Williams of Crosby Liberal Democrat 7:15 pm, 7th July 2010

My Lords, I follow the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, with one other thought. School governing bodies are related not only to the community responsibility for schools but to the whole fundamental concept of democracy. In many ways the idea of a governing body of a school is a simple, low-level neighbourhood concept of what democracy is about. It is about fulfilling one's obligations to society and recognising that society has responsibilities that it carries out for all its citizens.

I am worried about reducing the importance and significance of governing bodies. I hope the Government will feel that they can support the idea of strengthening them, albeit with the legacy of the one parent governor in the case of a limited number of academies. In doing so, they would bear out one of the central issues that the coalition has repeatedly said it believes in, which is the decentralisation of power to ordinary people. Many people find their first step towards responsible democracy when they first become a governor of a school, particularly a primary school. There are powerful constitutional as well as educational arguments for recognising that the role of governing bodies is a crucial element of what one might call a mature democracy. I hope the Minister will bear that thought in mind.