Clause 65 - Publication of proposals with consent of Secretary of State

Education Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 22nd March 2005.

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Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Shadow Minister (Education) 3:30 pm, 22nd March 2005

I beg to move amendment No. 22, in clause 65, page 39, line 3, at end insert

‘, including schools wholly rebuilt as part of Building Schools for the Future’.

The amendment would be added to the end of subsection (2) of proposed new section 28A of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. The provision is about the publication of proposals with the consent of the Secretary of State. It states:

“Any persons (referred to in this Part as “promoters”) may with the consent of the Secretary of State publish under this section their proposals to establish (otherwise than pursuant to a notice under section 66 of the Education Act 2005) a new foundation or voluntary school which is proposed to be maintained by a local education authority in England.”

The amendment would add the phrase

“including schools wholly rebuilt as part of Building Schools for the Future”.

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

The hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban) asked on Second Reading whether schools build under the “Building Schools for the Future” programme would be subject to the competition requirement set out in clause 66. Local authorities will be required to hold competitions whenever statutory proposals are required to establish schools, except where the Secretary of State consents to the publication of the proposals under clause 65.

We believe that there is a positive relationship between the diversity of secondary provision and higher standards. We want to extend the opportunities available for alternative providers of secondary education to set up schools. It is particularly important to create increased choice at a time when local authorities are taking a strategic view of their provisions and planning reorganisations as part of the “Building Schools for the Future” programme. The programme offers local authorities an opportunity to reorganise provision in a way that fulfils the long-term vision for education. We expect all authorities, in developing their plans for “Building Schools for the Future”, to undertake a root-and-branch review of the nature and pattern of provision in their area to ensure that it meets the needs of communities.

The programme is designed to drive innovation and transformation in education. To secure their participation in the programme, local authorities, working with other stakeholders, must come forward with bold plans that demonstrate their commitment to those objectives. We therefore expect that local authorities’ plans will entail the closure of some existing schools and the establishment of new ones. As I have already explained, local authorities will normally have to hold competitions whenever proposals are required to establish a school.

More generally, “Building Schools for the Future” guidance requires local authorities to consider how to secure a diverse range of schools in their areas. We expect local authorities fully to explore the options for introducing innovative approaches to school   management, including an evaluation of academy options. Local authorities will also wish to consider other ways of involving new partners in providing new schools. Clause 66 allows local authorities to hold competitions voluntarily, even if they were not required to hold one.

The Department and our delivery partner for the programme, “Partnerships for Schools”, challenge local authorities to show how their proposed capital investment will translate into demonstrable educational benefits. Authorities are not allowed to proceed with their plans until they have done so.

The Government have a joined-up approach to promoting diversity in the provision of schools. The school organisation provisions of the Bill mean that local authorities will not normally be able to set up schools without inviting a range of providers to make proposals. The programme challenges local authorities to reorganise provision in their areas and provides resources to fund new schools. Together, the measures will guarantee that new providers have many opportunities to establish schools and to increase the choice of schools available to pupils and parents.

There are, however, some circumstances in which it would not be appropriate to require a local authority to hold a competition, such as if a local authority, having undertaken the thorough review required to secure inclusion in the programme, decided that an existing school should be rebuilt or transferred to a new site. I hope that hon. Members agree that it should be possible for a good school to be rebuilt without a requirement for a competition. To introduce such a requirement would be bureaucratic and unnecessary.

Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Shadow Minister (Education)

I thank the Minister for that explanation. We on this side—there is the royal “we” again—support the expansion of school provision by a range of providers. As that is, in part, the same aim that the Minister described, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 65 ordered to stand part of the Bill.