Education and Inspections Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm on 9th May 2006.

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Powersof local education authority in respect of supportservices

‘(1) A localeducation authority in England may make such provision as it thinks fitto ensure the availability to schools maintained by it of education andchild-related supportservices.

(2) Services madeavailable under this section mayinclude—

(a) servicesfor children with special educational needs, looked after children andchildren educated otherwise than inschool;

(b) behaviour supportservices;

(c) educationalpsychology services;

(d)curriculum advisory services;and

(e) such other services asthe authority may consider desirable.'. —[Mr.Chaytor.]

Broughtup, and read the First time.

Photo of David Chaytor David Chaytor Labour, Bury North

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Secondtime.

The new clauseis straightforward. Both the Bill and the original education WhitePaper published last October place considerable emphasis on the newstrategic role of local authorities as champions of parents and pupils,and as the agents by which standards in schools will be improved.However, nowhere in the Bill is there a description of the precisefunctions of local authorities. New clause 18 would do that. It wouldenable each local authority to decide, as it thinks fit, whether itshould provide facilities for children with special educational needs,behaviour support facilities, educational psychology services, curriculumadvisory services or other support services to schools.

There is an analogy to be drawnwith the original provisions in the White Paper on local authoritiesnot being able to promote new community schools, and the finalagreement that was reached, under which they would be allowed topromote them subject to a quality threshold—exactly the samearguments that applied to the debate on their powers to promotecommunity schools are applicable to their powers to offer the variousadvisory services. I should be interested to hear what the Minister hasto say about incorporating those specific functions of localauthorities into the Bill.

Photo of Greg Mulholland Greg Mulholland Shadow Minister (Education)

The new clause issimple but important. The Bill does not put enough emphasis onsupporting schools in the areas that it covers, and the provisionaddresses the lack of detail with a comprehensive list of the relevantservices. We support it, because it clarifies and strengthens thestrategic role of local authorities that we think is soimportant.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State, Department for Education and Skills, Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Schools and 14-19 Learners)

Local authorities are central to the vision thatwe set out in the White Paper, as the champions of pupils and parentsand through their role as strategic commissioner and guardian ofstandards, which are all within their new duties to promote choice anddiversity and high standards, and the fulfilment of the potential ofall children in their area. The Education and Skills Committeerecognised that in its report when itsaid:

“It isclear that local authorities will continue to have a vital role in theorganisation of education in their areas. Rather than having their rolereduced, local authorities have significant and even increasedresponsibilities.”

Given that new role, Iunderstand why my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North wants toensure that local authorities have the necessary powers to carry outtheir challenging agenda. It is our opinion that local authoritiesalready have wide powers to do that, including in those areas ofactivity specified in the new clause. They have wide powers to supportschools as they see fit, and to respond effectively to local needs.Those can be found in the Education Act 1996, the Local Government Act2000, the Children Act 2004 and the School Finance (England)Regulations 2006.

Ihope that what I have said is sufficient to reassure my hon. Friend.Although I sympathise with what he is trying to achieve, it is notnecessary and might fetter the ability of local authorities to providesupport services tailored to the individual needs of their localschools and children.

Photo of David Chaytor David Chaytor Labour, Bury North

I am grateful for those reassurances and beg toask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave,withdrawn.