Amendment 41

Schools Bill [HL] - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 8:17 pm on 13th June 2022.

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Lord Shipley:

Moved by Lord Shipley

41: After Clause 7, insert the following new Clause—“Geographical spread of multi-academy trusts(1) The Secretary of State must not—(a) enter into an Academy agreement with a proprietor to fund a new Academy school, or(b) authorise the transfer of an existing Academy school to another proprietor,unless the condition in subsection (2) is met.(2) The condition is that the Secretary of State is satisfied that the geographical spread of the Academy schools that would be in the care of that proprietor is appropriate, having regard to, amongst other things—(a) the number of schools that would be in the care of that proprietor;(b) the number of pupils registered at each school that would be in the care of that proprietor;(c) whether the schools in the care of that proprietor predominantly would comprise primary schools; and(d) whether the schools in the care of that proprietor predominantly would comprise secondary schools.”Member's explanatory statementThis amendment is aimed at ensuring that schools within a multi-academy trust must be within a similar geographical area rather than spread across the country.

Photo of Lord Shipley Lord Shipley Liberal Democrat

My Lords, in moving Amendment 41 in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Storey, I will speak also to Amendments 77, 79A and 95. Amendment 41 is aimed at ensuring that schools within a multi-academy trust must be within a similar geographical area rather than spread across the country.

It is important for the close working of schools across neighbourhoods. I recall the noble Lord, Lord Nash, saying on the first day of Committee that one of the advantages of multi-academy trusts as opposed to maintained schools was that they enabled the speedy movement of teaching staff from one academy to another. But, of course, if the academies are located right across the country, it makes it very difficult indeed for that kind of movement of staff actually to happen. The issue is one of accountability and transparency. It is much easier for parents and local communities if multi-academy trusts are located reasonably close to each other, as occurs now, for example, with co-operative trusts.

The amendment talks in terms of the Secretary of State having to be certain

“that the geographical spread of the Academy schools that would be in the care of that proprietor is appropriate”.

It is things such as the number of schools in the care of that proprietor and whether the number of pupils registered at each school is such that the total number is felt to be appropriate. Then, of course, there is whether a majority of the schools would be primary schools or secondary schools. Clearly, there has been a tendency for academies to be concentrated in the secondary sector. My question to the Minister is: what is the overall structure planned in terms of the geographical spread of multi-academy trusts and what limitations might be placed on that?

Amendment 77 requires the Secretary of State to report on the powers of autonomy available to academies and to assess whether such autonomy should be available to maintained schools. The issue is one of a level playing field. Why can academies have much greater powers than maintained schools may be able to have; for example, on issues such as the ability to set term dates, admissions criteria, the ability to depart from the national curriculum and staffing arrangements? The question that we are posing to the Minister is why similar powers of autonomy do not lie with the maintained schools sector. Of course, the date by which the Government would like all maintained schools to have transferred to academy status is still eight years from now, so I think the point is relevant.

Amendment 79A relates to the problem that college groups that sponsor multi-academy trusts have. They face technical barriers that impede them from operating an optimal service. This amendment is intended to enable colleges, academies and multi-academy trusts to work together in a more coherent, efficient and effective manner. I suspect that the Minister may well be aware of the problem but the barriers that exist can include DfE rules that make it harder for an academy and a college to jointly appoint senior staff or rules requiring the academy to put every contract out to tender, even those involving joint services with their partner college. As an example, it can make it harder for colleges and academies jointly to secure IT services. Technical solutions should be possible to solve these problems and enable colleges to offer much more joined-up local processes.

That takes me to Amendment 95, which relates to the need to increase transparency regarding multi-academy trust funding arrangements and expenditure. An example was quoted to me last week of a worry that rural schools have about their budgets being cut when they are part of multi-academy trust and money that was available in the local area being reduced without explanation because the multi-academy trust operates as a single financial unit. The amendment says:

“The proprietor of a Multi Academy Trust must annually publish information setting out the quantum of funding they have reallocated from schools’ budgets within their Trust and for what purpose.”

In other words, there is an annual agreed budget. It is about what changes were made, who lost money and, perhaps, who gained money—and, of course, if the multi-academy trust is operating right across the country as a whole, those geographical differences become very important.

The amendment aims to increase the transparency of multi-academy trust funding arrangements and expenditure. At present, a multi-academy trust can reallocate an uncapped proportion of funding from schools’ budgets within the multi-academy trust, with no requirement at all for transparency. That appears to undermine the national formula objective to achieve greater transparency. It is one thing to support multi-academy trusts having a degree of flexibility over budgets, but the lack of public transparency over their expenditure should be addressed. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blower Baroness Blower Labour

My Lords, I shall speak briefly to Amendments 50 and 55. Amendment 50 seeks to protect the interests and encourage the involvement of all parties in a school community. It clearly makes sense that the Bill should provide for a procedure for the circumstances in which an individual academy seeks to withdraw from a MAT. The local governing body of such an academy may have very good reason, as outlined in the amendment, why such a step might be considered. Further, consistent with other amendments to this Bill, the amendment specifies that consultation on a proposed change must take place with the parties, including “parents and staff”. Two further elements to this are that the reason for seeking to withdraw, including the benefits that might accrue to children’s education should such withdrawal occur, and a timetable and financial framework for the activity, must be in evidence during the consultation. This is a coherent proposal that provides for the establishment of a clear procedure that is not burdensome or over-elaborate, in order to address a set of circumstances that may well occur.

On Amendment 55, clearly, there are many parents who choose schools with a religious character, whatever that may be. However, equally, there are parents and carers who would seek to avoid institutions of a religious character, believing that for them education should be in institutions with a secular ethos. Nothing in this amendment is designed to undermine, or otherwise interfere with, existing arrangements. However, given the intention that all schools should be part of a MAT by 2030, there should be a requirement that schools that have hitherto enjoyed a secular ethos should be required to consult widely before considering an application to a MAT with a religious character. Such consultation should be carried out in a timely fashion and deal with how joining a religious-character MAT would affect the existing school’s ethos.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

My Lords, this group of amendments was powerfully and effectively introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blower. I just note that I have attached my name to Amendments 41, 50, 55 and 95. I shall briefly make some comments on a couple of them.

On Amendment 41, the geographical spread is absolutely crucial. It ties in with a point that I made on our first day in Committee—the idea of a school being a part of a community, a civic institution. It might be that we have a chain of coffee shops scattered around the nation, and people may like to go into a coffee shop that they are familiar with and are used to going into on their local round, so when they go somewhere else, they go to that coffee shop. But a school is not like that; it is not, or should not be, a commercial operation; it is not something that you skip around to, around the country—it is at the heart of a community. That geographical spread issue really needs addressing.

On Amendment 50, the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, set out what is clearly an unarguable argument. The world is not set in stone: communities change and groups of students change. A new industry may open up in a particular community, and that community may become very interested in a whole different area of study and focus—but then it is still signed up with an academy that has an entirely different focus, ethos and approach. The idea that all this could be set in aspic, permanently, really does not make any sense.

I shall pick up on a point that the Minister made on one of the earlier groups, when talking about how the Secretary of State needed the powers to intervene against a failing MAT. A MAT might work really well for some of its members but utterly fail to meet the needs of others; the idea that they are all going to work perfectly in perpetuity does not add up.

On Amendment 55, since this the first time I have spoken in a relevant debate I feel I should probably make a declaration of interest, if you like, of Green Party policy: we do not believe that any religious institution should be running state-funded schools. That statement of principle is where I am coming from. The noble Baroness, Lady Blower, made the very important point that people, communities and families have to be consulted before they find themselves forced into something that may very much not be what they want for themselves and their children.

Finally, I come to Amendment 95. Again, the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, has done a great job with this, but we are talking about transparency. If you have this lump of money, where is that money being directed? If we have a geographical spread—even if we do not—we know how money is often allocated in organisations: the way organisational structures work is that they often depend on personal relationships and emotion, not on explicit measures of need, so it is really important that people can actually see how the money, if it is given to one MAT, is spread around the members of that MAT.

Photo of The Bishop of Chichester The Bishop of Chichester Bishop 8:30 pm, 13th June 2022

My Lords, I shall speak on behalf of my colleague, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, and declare his interest as chair of the National Society. I shall speak against Amendments 50 and 55. Amendment 50’s proposal to give power to local governing bodies to withdraw from a MAT may inadvertently trigger fragmentation of MATs that are growing, an erosion of strong MATs that are reliant on academies within the MAT for sustainability and, as a result, wider instability in the system. The proposal does not reflect the company structure of the MAT or the remit of a local governing body as a committee of the board. Where there are concerns about the quality of provision, or the ability of a school to flourish and grow, these things should be discussed at a strategic level with the relevant regional director and, where appropriate, religious authority, so that together we can shape and develop an educational landscape that works effectively across communities of schools.

The language used in Amendment 55 is unhelpful. It should be noted that church academy trusts are based on church model articles which have a religious object, but that does not make them religious trusts. Church model articles provide a commitment to supporting the individual ethos of the school, whether it is a designated school or not. The requirement for additional consultation would add an unnecessary level of bureaucracy.

Photo of Lord Knight of Weymouth Lord Knight of Weymouth Labour

My Lords, I shall speak principally to the amendment in my name, Amendment 79B, about regional boards. This is part of my ongoing quest—our ongoing quest, as a Committee —to stimulate thinking on what an all-academy school system might look like in practice, and flush out a few thoughts to inform the Minister’s reflections as she seeks to improve the Bill as it goes through its journey in Parliament. In particular, what I am interested in in this amendment is the accountability of MATs.

One of the main criticisms I have of academies generally and, to some extent, multi-academy trusts, is that they are insufficiently accountable. We have heard that in the context of this debate now. I am also interested in the accountability of the Secretary of State, particularly if they take on a lot of powers through the Bill. The most appropriate body, or set of bodies, to hold the academy system to account are local authorities, because they are locally elected and have that legitimacy of election—he said, speaking in the House of Lords. Currently, the system has advisory boards for what, up until just after I tabled this amendment, were called regional schools commissioners; they are now regional directors. My sense is that the system does not actually regard the current RSC advisory board that highly. They are elected by the CEOs of MATs in the region and they elect some of their number to serve and advise the regional schools commissioner in her or his job.

I think we can do better than the current construction, so I am not giving up on a structure that already exists. If you can make something that already exists work, that can often be quite a helpful way forward. It is important to focus accountability at a regional level, rather than at a local authority level. We have local authorities of various sizes, from Rutland to Birmingham—in terms of the number of schools; I am sure there are local authorities with larger geographical sizes than Birmingham. But that we might want a set of local authorities within a region covering multi-academy trusts, given their catchments and the geography that they are drawing on, seems to make sense to me.

I am suggesting that the local authorities within a region form the majority of such advisory boards that now would have a statutory basis; and that they would be required to publish an annual report, so that they would be reporting on the way that the powers had been used by the Secretary of State in that region, and by the regional director. It was notable that the Minister, in response to the previous group, confirmed that in practice some of these functions will be performed by regional directors. This is an attempt to make those civil servants accountable for some of the decisions they are making in the name of the Secretary of State. In essence, it is the accountability of transparency that I am after—that, by asking those boards to publish and make publicly available an annual report, we can all see how the powers are being used and how the needs of the children in that area are working, and how local authorities would function as the voice of parents and pupils in their areas.

As I think the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, was just talking about, in the end this is rooted in the importance of schools as part of a community. I do not think anyone in this House, from the Government Benches through to this side, disagrees with that. It is important that the community is reflected in the work of an academy, that the community as a whole is there to attract and retain teachers, that the school understands how to engage parents on the basis of the parents in that community, that it is able to develop engaging learning by making it relevant to that community, and that it is able to adjust the curriculum according to what is going to create the relevance to its community. That is my suggestion, and it is merely a probing amendment to see if anyone thinks it is a good idea.

There are just a couple of amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, that I would comment on. Amendment 41 talks about a “similar geographical area”. I chair a multi-academy trust that is national and works across a bunch of regions, which by and large works pretty well, and some of the other national trusts work pretty well. The overall direction of travel of policy from the Government and elsewhere is that a more regional, localised approach is probably on balance better, but we are where we are with those large national trusts. We need to understand what is a viable footprint within a region to have a good relationship with a local authority, with its duties to SEND, and with its duties to children generally. If those national trusts have a mere smattering of a presence in a region, it might be as well for them to between them work out how to be more focused on a geographical basis. But if they already have a substantive footprint, and a substantive relationship with the local authorities, I do not think that it should be disrupted. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, might want to think about that.

Amendment 95 is about reporting on funding. Some multi-academy trusts do something called GAG pooling, which is nothing about keeping people quiet; rather, it is pooling the general academies grant to then distribute money across the map where it is deemed to be needed. As an example, I was in a meeting today to discuss an academy in Walsall that is the last one in the E-ACT group that is struggling. We put a considerable amount more funding into school improvement in that case than it would get through its general academies grant. It is that redistribution of wealth—to use an old-fashioned phrase that we like on this side of the Chamber—that is at the heart of the flexibility that the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, is questioning. I think he is basically saying that it is fine but that we should have some transparency about this. I am not afraid of transparency, and if the Government choose to move to get more transparency about things, so much the better. We have to publish in our annual report quite a detailed amount of financial information, and that is all publicly available. I hear criticism that more information should be easily available on an academy-by-academy basis. I do not think any of us should be afraid of transparency if that is what people would like.

Photo of Lord Davies of Brixton Lord Davies of Brixton Labour

My Lords, I have two points. My tendency is to support Amendment 41 but, after hearing what my noble friend just said about the direction of travel, maybe that is sufficient. I find the idea of widely dispersed academies problematic. In the White Paper that came before the Bill, in paragraph 131 on the size of trusts, the Government say:

“we will limit the proportion of schools in a local area that can be run by an individual trust.”

This is a genuine question: how does that fit together with the debate we have just had?

My second point relates to Amendment 55. I heard what my noble friend Lady Blower said, raising the issues of parents being faced with a decision about which they have not been consulted. We sort of had an answer from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, speaking on behalf of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, but the Church needs to take a more understanding approach to this issue. We have a case in point: a group of parents were faced with the reality of their school being moved from an academy into a multi-academy trust with a Christian ethos. In principle I am against Church schools, but that is not the point here. The point here is whether those parents should have some input before that decision is reached. I find it impossible to believe that someone would argue in principle against consulting parents about this major change in the way that their school is run.

Photo of Baroness Wilcox of Newport Baroness Wilcox of Newport Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

My Lords, this is a wide group of amendments. I shall speak first to Amendment 49, which says that, within a year, the Secretary of State must consult on whether the Bill is adequate enough a mechanism to enable schools to either de-academise or leave their trust. Once a school joins a MAT, it is trapped. We need to empower schools to leave failing MATs or those it has irreconcilable differences with. Where else in society would it be impossible to get out of an unsatisfactory agreement? No other organisation would be tied in this way to a compulsory contract with no get-out clause.

In our Amendment 94, we ask that the Secretary of State must report yearly on the financial health of academies, including any measures necessary to address disparities, especially over financial reserves, and that academies must state their intentions for the use of reserves over £250,000. Too many academies are sitting on reserves of millions of pounds. Notwithstanding the points made by my noble friend Lord Knight about reallocation and GAG—I had not heard that acronym before, but I will not forget it now—we need to encourage academies to be transparent about this. If they are saving for a huge capital project and can justify it, it is an acceptable way forward, but these institutions cannot be cash cows. Money needs to be invested for pupil benefit.

When I was cabinet member for education at Newport City Council, we set up a fair but far-reaching review of school balances to ensure that such practices could not continue. It was justifiable carrying over from one financial year to another for specific projects, but this needed to be accompanied by ongoing reviews by the financial team with the head teacher and chair of governors. It was my first opportunity as poacher turned gamekeeper—boy, did I enjoy interrogating those head teachers. We did not want to stifle innovation and capital projects—indeed, I could not be prouder of the new schools we built, constructed in partnership with the Welsh Government’s 21st century schools project—but we carefully monitored balances and reserves and we audited in order for pupils to be at the centre of school spending commitments.

On Amendment 157, within a year, the Secretary of State must consult on the merits of the functions of the Education and Skills Funding Agency and regional schools commissioners—they are called something else now—being combined and given to one entity. Duplication of services has always been a poor feature of bureaucracy and this amendment would go some way to avoiding the issue. Managing the finances and performance of schools is not well joined up. The ESFA, commissioners, LAs and Ofsted all have a role. This needs to change if schools are to be well run.

With Amendment 159, schools must maintain a digital record for pupils, updated quarterly, which may include an assessment of grades, effort, behaviour and any work experience completed. Parents need more information—and information that is relevant to them. Paper reports can easily be lost. All information needs to be centralised so that parents can track progress. Many, if not most, schools in the maintained sector have moved to online systems. If anything came out of the pandemic, it was a shift to online recording of student attainment and parental access to the whole spectrum of teaching and learning resources for their child. Notwithstanding that, I put in a cautionary note. I had a discussion with my noble friend Lord Knight earlier today about the confidential use of data and not selling data to commercial companies.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education 8:45 pm, 13th June 2022

My Lords, I will now respond to this group of amendments, which relates principally to the academy legal framework. Amendment 41, proposed by the noble Lords, Lord Storey and Lord Shipley, pertains to the geographical spread of multi-academy trusts. I share the noble Lords’ view that this is an important matter.

The Government’s published guidance on building strong academy trusts states:

“When considering whether to grow, an academy trust will need to consider the geographical fit of schools”.

Many trusts operate successfully only in their local area, but others spread their expertise beyond local boundaries, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Knight, establishing clusters across England. This amendment risks restricting this sort of innovation, which can enable effective school support and improvements in performance, with clear accountability and strong governance. If I understood rightly, the noble Lord, Lord Knight, suggested that it was an either/or choice between regional clusters and national MATs. I do not think it is either/or; it can absolutely be both/and.

The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Brixton, asked why we would not have only one MAT in an area—for example, having a single multi-academy trust in one local authority area. We believe that there should be parental choice. MATs will have different styles. There is obviously a particular risk profile if all schools in an area are in the same MAT. We think it makes for a healthier ecosystem if there are several MATs in an area. I have certainly seen examples in local authority areas where a number of MATs are collaborating extremely constructively to address some of the entrenched issues that they find in those areas.

Amendment 49 from the noble Baronesses, Lady Chapman and Lady Wilcox, and Amendment 50 from the noble Baronesses, Lady Blower and Lady Bennett, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, relate to an individual academy leaving its multi-academy trust. As we stated in the schools White Paper, we will consult on the exceptional circumstances in which a good school could request that the regulator agrees to the school moving to a stronger trust, but we do not want to pre-empt the outcome of that consultation by legislating now, not least as we expect the process to be administrative rather than legislative. I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester for his reflections on the risks of destabilising the system through schools moving from one trust to another. I gently reflect back to the noble Baronesses who spoke on this that it is important that this measure works for the individual school, which both of them pointed out, but it also needs to work for the multi-academy trust, which I did not hear either of them refer to directly.

I turn to Amendment 55. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, for her amendment relating to academies without a religious character joining a MAT with a majority of or all academies with a religious character. The process by which an academy joins another trust is a matter for agreement between the two trusts and is subject to the approval of the Secretary of State in the person of the regional director. When considering any application for a stand-alone academy to join a trust, the regional director will consider what stakeholder engagement has taken place and take account of views expressed. It is neither necessary nor appropriate to provide specific consultation requirements in legislation. I again thank the right reverend Prelate for his clarification about church model articles.

I also thank the noble Lords, Lord Storey and Lord Shipley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden of Frognal, for Amendment 77. As the noble Lords pointed out, academy autonomy is a core principle of the academies programme. For the past decade, such powers and freedoms have been available uniquely to academies, providing them with greater freedom and flexibility in how they operate and promoting innovation and diversity in the system. As set out in the schools White Paper, our intention is that by 2030, all children will benefit from being taught in a strong multi-academy trust or with plans to form one. Therefore, all schools will be able to benefit from academy status and its associated autonomy in the near term.

Amendment 79A concerns the relationship between further education colleges and multi-academy trusts. Further education providers and academies are different types of organisation founded on different legal frameworks. Although that prevents them joining as a single legal entity, FE providers are still able to play a valuable role supporting academies, and this includes forming a multi-academy trust and sitting on academy trust boards. We are committed to considering what more we can do to minimise any existing barriers when further education providers work alongside academies, and we have established a working group with a group of FE providers to explore this in more detail.

Amendment 94, in the name of the noble Baronesses, Lady Chapman and Lady Wilcox, and Amendment 95, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, relate to financial reporting in academy trusts. The Government hold academies to account for their financial health through the academy trust, which is the accountable body that signs the funding agreement with the Secretary of State. The department publishes a full report and consolidated accounts for the academy sector annually. It is right that academy trusts hold appropriate levels of reserves to enable investment in initiatives that will improve pupils’ educational experience, as well as supporting them to meet challenges.

This year, the Department for Education will collect information from trusts holding reserves equal to 20% or more of their overall income to assure us that there are robust plans in place to use them, as the noble Baronesses suggest. There is a split in reserves between what we might call core reserves, investment reserves and those that academies will need if they take on failing schools with low pupil numbers to manage the lag in their funding as those pupil numbers increase, and we need to understand that picture fully.

I really do not recognise the example given by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, of rural schools feeling that they lose funding. I recognise much more the example that the noble Lord, Lord Knight, gave the Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, may have a specific example that he would like to share. Often, we see exactly the reverse—that small schools are made sustainable through the MAT.

Photo of Lord Shipley Lord Shipley Liberal Democrat

I can clarify that for the Minister. I simply picked up a view that rural schools may feel that they could lose money and that, as a consequence, such a school may feel that it has become less viable. It was a worry about what might happen as opposed to the case if everybody had to become part of a multi-academy trust; that was the concern. If the Minister could allay those fears, that would be helpful.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

I thank the noble Lord for that. I will endeavour to find some examples that he can share with those who have expressed such concerns of where smaller rural schools have benefited from being part of a trust with the unattractively named GAG pooling, which the noble Baroness opposite will be dreaming about tonight.

Multi-academy trusts must publish their annual audited accounts online, including details of their objectives, achievements and future plans. They must set out what they have done to promote value for money in support of those objectives as part of their accounts. We currently publish funding allocations for each individual academy. School-level income and expenditure information for schools that form part of a MAT is also available online. If noble Lords are not familiar with that information, it is extremely comprehensive and useful. Parents and others are able to see not only what their child’s individual school receives and spends but how this compares to the income and expenditure of other similar schools, whether they are academies or maintained schools. I will put the link to that website in my letter to noble Lords after this debate.

Turning to Amendment 157, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, I am pleased to say that we have launched a new regions group in the Department for Education. It brings together the ESFA and the former regional schools commissioners to address some of the issues that the noble Baroness pointed to. We are confident that this new group will deliver the singular role of scrutiny that is set out in the noble Baroness’s amendment.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Knight, for his Amendment 79B, which proposes a regional schools commissioner advisory board. He will be aware that, as he alluded to, regional directors—formerly regional schools commissioners—are currently supported by their own advisory boards. We believe that it is beneficial that those board members are made up of a mixture of head teachers, trust leaders, trustees and business leaders who bring specific expertise and experience to decisions that directly affect academies, in particular approving academy conversions and matching schools to strong trusts. It is important to note that advisory board meetings are transparent: agendas are already published in advance and records of meetings are published. The noble Lord, Lord Knight, referred to an annual report, but an annual report is already published by region.

Last but by no means least, I turn to Amendment 159, tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Chapman and Lady Wilcox, opposite me. It requires that academies and maintained schools keep digital records on pupils’ grades, effort and behaviour. I am pleased to reassure the noble Baronesses that the Education (Pupil Information) (England) Regulations 2005 state that schools are required to keep and update pupils’ educational records. The Government’s updated behaviour in schools guidance, due for publication very soon, proposes to strengthen the expectation that schools should have robust systems to record and evaluate behaviour data and that schools should maintain positive relationships with parents.

With that, I conclude this group. I hope that I have provided responses that are sufficiently clear for the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, to feel able to withdraw his Amendment 41 and for other noble Lords not to move theirs.

Photo of Lord Shipley Lord Shipley Liberal Democrat 9:00 pm, 13th June 2022

I thank the Minister very much indeed. We have had a very helpful debate. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 41 withdrawn.

Schedule 2 agreed.

Clause 8: Termination of Academy agreement with seven years’ notice