Clause 88

Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 28th February 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

Determination of applications for approval

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

I beg to move amendment No. 128, in clause 88, page 52, line 2, at end insert—

‘(2A) Any such other evidence referred to in subsection (2)(B) must be made available to the independent educational institution.’.

Clause 88(2) contains a phrase that is of concern. Paragraph (a) states that in coming to a decision the inspector must take into account

“the findings of any inspection carried out under section 87”,

but paragraph (b) then states that the inspector must also take into account

“any other evidence relating to the independent educational institution standards.”

The amendment would ensure transparency because Ofsted would have to make such evidence available to the school. Again, it is a probing amendment, and if the Minister could provide a little more light on the meaning of that phrase, to alleviate any concerns that might exist in the independent sector, that would be very helpful.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

In deciding whether or not to approve a material change, the chief inspector must take account of the findings of any inspection carried out to consider the institution’s readiness to make the change, and any other evidence available. To help reassure the  hon. Gentleman, the evidence may include previous inspection reports, information from fire and rescue authorities about fire safety, information from the Health and Safety Executive and the environmental health authority about the suitability of the premises, confidential information received from parents or others, matters referred to in a criminal background check on the proprietor of the institution, and any other evidence received from police or social services departments relating to the unsuitability of any person working at the institution.

Where the chief inspector is satisfied that the institution is likely to continue to meet the regulatory standards once the changes are made, she must approve the change. If she is not satisfied, she must refuse approval for the change to be made. The chief inspector must inform the proprietor of her decision. Information received from bodies such as the fire and rescue service, the HSE and the environmental health agency would routinely be shared with institutions. The amendment would not change current procedures, which would then reasonably allow those institutions to make the necessary changes to conform. However, confidential information from parents, the Criminal Records Bureau, social services or the police would not routinely be shared for obvious reasons. Disclosure to the relevant institution would be determined according to the circumstances of the case. In some cases it would appropriate; in others, it would not.

I do not think we should fetter the discretion of the chief inspector by requiring her to disclose all the available evidence, regardless of the circumstance. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

This was a probing amendment and the Minister has been very helpful in his response. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 88 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 89 to 91 ordered to stand part of the Bill.