Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): I think my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) deserves a better answer than he received. Will the Home Secretary confirm whether

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1070

Syrian asylum seekers who arrived before the Government had reached their current position will have their applications for refuge processed swiftly—in weeks, not months? Will she also confirm that if they have had their fingerprints and photographs taken at other points within the European Union, they will not be returned there?

Mrs May: I undertake to consider the points that the hon. Lady makes. We will try to ensure that those who are claiming asylum here in the UK are dealt with properly and within a reasonable timescale. That is why I said to her hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) that I would be interested in hearing the specifics of the case he raised, where somebody had not been dealt with within the timetable.

Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab): The Home Secretary is clearly right to say that we have to do everything possible to tackle smuggling by criminal gangs, and it was useful to get an update on the Government’s work in that area. She will also know that people turn to these gangs only out of utter desperation. Does she therefore accept the concern of the Refugee Council that if we simply stop illegal routes, we will leave vulnerable people stranded in potentially dangerous situations—in Libya, for example—unless we provide alternative safe and legal routes through which to make asylum claims? What is she doing to address that issue?

Mrs May: The hon. Gentleman’s point is one of the reasons why the European Union is looking at working with countries such as Niger to establish centres that will be safe for individuals, so that people do not have to make that journey and are not going through to a country where they might be at risk of exposure to people smugglers and human traffickers—or, potentially, face a dangerous journey across the Mediterranean. The establishment of safe zones in countries such as Niger is part of the work we are doing across the European Union.

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1071

Point of Order

1.49 pm

Andrew Griffiths (Burton) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to raise this point order.

I know that you, Mr Speaker, have long been an advocate of reforming Prime Minister’s questions, and that you have been concerned about the impression it gives the public about Members in this House and the way in which we operate. Today, we saw new politics and a new style of PMQs in operation. We will wait to see how the public view that, but one of the consequences of today’s PMQs was that it was actually 22 minutes before we got on to Question 2 on the Order Paper. As well as being a champion of reforming PMQs, Mr Speaker, you have been an advocate of Back Benchers and of having our voices heard. In fact, I would argue that no Speaker has done more to give Back Benchers their voice. Do you, Mr Speaker, share my concern that in having a new style of Prime Minister’s questions, Back Benchers could be limited in being able to ask their important questions? I had Question 10 on the Order Paper today and we got through to Question 9. If next week the Leader of the Opposition reads out a question from Andrew from Burton, you will know that I have found a new way to get my question across. [Laughter.] Will you bear that in mind, Mr Speaker, and ensure that, in this new style of PMQs, Back Benchers have the opportunity to ask their questions?

Mr Speaker: I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and the very measured and good-humoured way in which he put it. I say two things to him. First, I always have him in mind. It would be difficult not to do so; he is a most assiduous contributor to our proceedings. Secondly, a change of style in Prime Minister’s questions—which is not a matter for me, but is perfectly legitimate and may well be widely welcomed—need not and must not delay progress through the Order Paper.

I think it is fair to say, and the hon. Gentleman will appreciate this, that quite apart from today being a one-off—the first appearance of the new Leader of the Opposition—there is another factor in the equation: the very proper role that the Scottish National party, as the third largest party, plays in Prime Minister’s questions. That role did not arise in the previous Parliament, because the then third party was part of the Government and did not have questioning rights. The SNP, very properly, does have questioning rights, which it uses perfectly properly. I am not criticising it in any way, but inevitably those two questions mean it is more challenging to make progress down the Order Paper. If the hon. Gentleman is asking me for an assurance that I want to see swifter progress down the Order Paper so that

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1072

Members at numbers 10, 11 and 12 as a matter of course do get called, as they did throughout the previous Parliament, he can be assured that I will make my best endeavours, and I hope the House will help me.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I glanced up at the clock when the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition finished their exchanges and it was actually no longer than normal. The time was indeed taken up because of the SNP and it seemed that they were more statements than questions. I wonder what advice you give to Front Benchers, Mr Speaker, on the time they should take to ask those two questions.

Mr Speaker: There is no formal time limit, unlike in some Parliaments. Personally, I sense that colleagues would prefer that we preserve a degree of discretion and room for manoeuvre for the Chair, in the interests of the House. The general principle is minimum preamble and quickest possible focus on the substance of the question, which should then be delivered pithily and with the panache that the hon. Gentleman has characteristically brought to the House since his election 10 years ago.

Bills Presented

Armed Forces

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Michael Fallon, supported by the Prime Minister, Secretary Theresa May, Secretary Philip Hammond, Secretary Michael Gove, Secretary Sajid Javid, Secretary Justine Greening, Secretary John Whittingdale, the Attorney General and Mark Lancaster, presented a Bill to continue the Armed Forces Act 2006; to make provision about service discipline; to make provision about Ministry of Defence fire-fighters; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 70) with explanatory notes (Bill 70-EN).

International Trade Agreements (Scrutiny) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Geraint Davies, supported by Hywel Williams, Mike Weir, Nia Griffith, Zac Goldsmith, Mr Mark Williams, Sir Alan Meale, Helen Hayes, Catherine West, Daniel Zeichner and Jo Cox, presented a Bill to require scrutiny of and enable amendments to international trade agreements, including investor state dispute settlements, by the European and UK Parliaments; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 20 November, and to be printed (Bill 71).

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1073

Basement Excavation (Restriction of Permitted Development)

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

1.54 pm

Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North) (Lab): I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to restrict the application of permitted development rights; to grant local planning authorities powers to restrict the size and depth of basement excavations underneath or adjacent to residential properties; and for connected purposes.

Some may think that squabbles over the construction of home spas and swimming pools underneath a garden do not matter that much, and that neither does the question of who gets to decide whether and how those constructions can go ahead. I do not agree. Quality of life matters. Local accountability matters. The ability of a locally elected council to act fairly and quickly in response to issues of concern matters. The scourge of the monster basement excavation frequently undermines all three. The fact that most of these planning battles are taking place in some of London’s more affluent neighbourhoods is not grounds for failing to act in defence of their residents.

What is the problem? Basement excavations are both a relatively recent and concentrated problem, but problems they often are. For we talk not of the extended kitchen or extra living space for a growing family, but of “icebergs”: projects that have, at the extreme, involved digging down several levels and hundreds of feet out for home gyms and spas, cinemas and gun rooms, and dance floors and the almost mandatory pools. If people have the money and want to build a private underground spa, that is not a choice that I care about. I do care, however, when these works impact so severely on their neighbours and neighbourhoods, as they have done recently. As Councillor Robert Davis says in the introduction to Westminster council’s new planning policy:

“basement development is a matter of considerable concern to many. Some basement extensions are exceptionally large, the construction phases of work can last for a significant period of time and, in some instances, works have brought an unacceptable level of disruption to neighbours, and resulted in damage to adjoining properties.”

Numbers have soared: there have been 925 in Westminster alone in past eight years, with the numbers doubling between 2008 and 2012—although they have fallen off a little, annually, since then. Of those, just 13% have been refused. One in four applications were refused in 2008. Last year, despite a tightening of the policy by the council, it was still only one in five. In Kensington, another borough subject to significant levels of such developments, there were 450 basement applications in 2013 alone—a 500% increase on 2003 figures.

The impact of the size and scale of basement excavations on immediate neighbours is hard to overstate. Soil removal alone on this scale takes time and generates a significant traffic volume, often causing damage to roads and pavements nearby. Noise levels are hellish. One constituent wrote to me this summer to oppose a scheme in the Maida Vale area saying that the works would include excavations to build an underground swimming pool and the erection of a large above-ground condenser

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1074

that would emit noise 24/7. Little or no thought seems to have been given to the plight of nearby residents who would be expected to endure noise, vibration and dust for at least a year. He welcomed a growing recognition of the hardship experienced by ordinary residents, who more and more find themselves in the frontline of such works, but of course we are not there yet.

By no means is it only the construction process that is a problem. In St John’s Wood, a group of my constituents objected to a huge planning application submitted by a developer to demolish an “unlisted building of merit” and then excavate under most of the garden to create a massive two-storey basement and a vast new build above that would be completely out of context with the established neo-Georgian character of the road. Not only would this proposal threaten negatively to transform the street scene and create a very unfortunate precedent, it also threatens heritage assets, namely two Georgian listed properties nearby. An objection to a scheme in Bayswater stressed issues around drainage and flood risk, with

“a whole host of related and very serious technical concerns regarding the physical impact on the neighbouring properties.”

It is extremely difficult to predict accurately how such a large and invasive excavation might affect the water table and the movement of water within the ground around a property, but it seems likely that there is at least some level of risk to the building and any neighbouring structures.

Dr Michael de Freitas, emeritus reader of engineering geology at Imperial College London, told Camden residents that those looking to install a basement often do not invest enough money in engineering expertise to ensure that the work will not cause long-term damage to neighbouring properties. This point is confirmed in a devastating report by the Health and Safety Executive earlier this year, which found that almost half the sites inspected in unannounced visits broke health and safety rules. Of those, 44 were so hazardous that the contractors were served with prohibition notices requiring immediate improvements, while two were shut down completely because of the danger posed to workers. James Hickman, the Health and Safety Executive’s leading inspector in the construction division in the City and south-west London, told the Evening Standard:

“These…figures reflect the rapidly-increasing number of companies entering the basement industry.

Those new to basement construction work are often unaware of the…technically challenging nature of the work or of the standards required to ensure the safety of their workforce.”

Of course there are responsible builders, developers and owners, but all too frequently, concerned neighbours and other residents report a lack of consideration, and company ownership structures with which they cannot deal or negotiate. The cost and complexity of challenging planning applications, especially given some of the stupendously wealthy individuals and companies involved, is far too much for most residents, so they feel largely powerless. They have looked to their local planning authorities for help, but have found in recent years that, even when there is a will to resist, the power simply is not there.

What is needed is greater local autonomy, so that councils can respond to these very local and specific problems. Westminster council has now followed Kensington and Chelsea in drawing up a new, tougher control policy,

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1075

and I welcome it. Like Kensington’s, it will try to bring the monsters under control, limiting the size and depth of permitted excavations. However—and this is my main motivation for bringing the issue back to this House—local authority policies are not the final word. Well-financed developers and owners know that they can often proceed with appeals that are risky and expensive for cash-strapped local authorities. One highly controversial case in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is now being challenged in the courts, despite the council’s ruling and its adoption of a new, tougher planning policy. Westminster Council is therefore seeking an article 4 direction: a notice under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to ensure that a democratically determined local policy is not subject to challenge as a consequence of permitted development rights. That will be a matter for the Government’s adjudication.

Local councils, and the individuals and communities whom local elected representatives are there to serve, are at the mercy of national Government decisions. Although local problems are often below the national radar, they are of major local significance. Local communities want to know that judgments on such matters can be made and enforced by their local councils. Surely councils should not have to go cap in hand to the Secretary of State for the right to set and enforce policies of this kind, in keeping with their local priorities and the wishes of their residents, and that is what my Bill proposes.

Victoria Borwick (Kensington) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I hope that I shall be allowed a quick point of order; I am rather new to this procedure. I should just like it to be recorded that I support the points made by the hon. Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck), because, as she has said, Kensington has significant problems with basement construction.

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1076

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): I congratulate the hon. Lady on that very imaginative and creative way of recording her support for the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.


That Ms Karen Buck, Mark Field, Andy Slaughter, Tulip Siddiq, Ruth Cadbury, Clive Efford, Matthew Pennycook and Emily Thornberry present the Bill.

Ms Karen Buck accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 29 January 2016 and to be printed (Bill 72).

Education and Adoption Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order 83A(9)),

That the Order of 22 June 2015 (Education and Adoption Bill (Programme)) be varied as follows:

(1) Paragraphs (4) and (5) of the Order shall be omitted.

(2) Proceedings on Consideration shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table.

(3) The proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.

ProceedingsTime for conclusion of proceedings

New Clauses and new Schedules relating to education and amendments to clauses 1 to 12

4.45 pm

Remaining proceedings on Consideration

6.00 pm

(4) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 7.00pm.—(Mr Gibb.)

Question put and agreed to.

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1077

Education and Adoption Bill

Consideration of Bill, not amended in the Public Bill Committee

New Clause 1

Schools where pupils do not fulfil potential

‘(1) The Education and Inspections Act 2006 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 59 (meaning of “maintained school” and “eligible for intervention”), in subsection (2), at the appropriate place insert—

“section 60B (Schools where pupils do not fulfil their potential)”

(3) After section 60A insert—

“60B Schools where pupils do not fulfil their potential

(1) A school where pupils do not fulfil their potential is one where the performance of pupils in aggregate on leaving is not as high as might be expected from their performance on entry to the school.

(2) A maintained school or an Academy school is by virtue of this section eligible for intervention if the governing body or proprietor of the school—

(a) have been notified that Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills, in consultation with the local authority, considers the school to be one where pupils in aggregate do not fulfil their potential, and

(b) have not subsequently been notified that the Chief Inspector no longer considers the school to be one where pupils do not fulfil their potential.

(3) In determining whether a school should be notified, the Chief Inspector will consider the following in consultation with the local authority and, in the case of an Academy school, the person with whom the Secretary of State has made Academy Arrangements—

(a) the availability of qualified teachers in the area of the local authority;

(b) the number of pupils on roll and the unreliability of drawing conclusions about aggregated pupil performance when the number of pupils is small;

(c) the age range of pupils in attendance at the school;

(d) the handling of data about pupils with special educational needs or a disability;

(e) information about the socio-economic characteristics of pupils on roll and the area in which the school is situated;

(f) the balance of boys and girls in the school.

(4) If an Academy school is found to be eligible for intervention under this section, then the school is to be treated as a maintained school for the purposes sections 63 to 69, and the governing body is the proprietor of the Academy school. For the avoidance of doubt, an intervention under sections 63 to 69 takes precedence over any provision of the Academy arrangements made between the Secretary of State and the proprietor.

(5) The Secretary of State must not make an Academy Order under section 4 (Academy orders) of the Academies Act 2010 for a maintained school which has been notified that it is a school where pupils do not fulfil their potential under this section.””

This new clause updates the concept of coasting schools; it covers all publicly provided schools where pupils do not fulfil their potential and introduces a local professional assessment of factors that can only be assessed with local knowledge.

(Kevin Brennan.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1078

2.9 pm

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 2—Schools with an inadequate Ofsted judgement

‘(1) Where, in a report of a school made under section 5 of the Education Act 2005, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills states that in his or her opinion—

(a) special measures are required to be taken in relation to the school, or

(b) the school requires significant improvement

the following actions will be taken.

(2) The Regional Schools Commissioner must consult with the local authority, any trustees or persons representing foundations associated with the school and, in the case of an academy school, the person with whom the Secretary of State has made Academy arrangements, about the school’s governance arrangements.

(3) If the school is a local authority maintained school, then the Regional Schools Commissioner may determine that section 5 (consultation about conversion) applies.

(4) If the school is an Academy school, then the Regional Schools Commissioner may consult with the Secretary of State about whether or not to terminate the school’s academy arrangements with a view to the school being established as a local authority maintained school or by the Secretary of State making Academy arrangements with another person.

(5) For the purpose of this Act, the Regional Schools Commissioner is an official appointed by the Secretary of State, except in the area of a combined authority, and if so requested by the combined authority or mayor, the Regional Schools Commissioner is a person appointed by the combined authority or mayor under arrangements made under Part 6 (Economic Prosperity Boards and Combined Authorities) of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 as amended by the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016.”

Schools which receive an inadequate Ofsted judgement may require changes to their governance arrangements. The new clause addresses weaknesses in the Bill by inserting a new clause 7 which removes the assumption that there is only one form of governance suitable for such schools by requiring a local discussion about what is best for such a school and the area the school serves.

New clause 3—Schools causing concern: involvement of parent

‘(1) The Education and Inspections Act 2006 is amended as follows:

(2) After section 59 insert—

“59A Duties of Secretary of State, local authorities, and proprietors to parents when a school is eligible for intervention

When a school is eligible for intervention, the Secretary of State, the local authority, school governing body and proprietor must exercise their functions with a view to involving parents of registered pupils in decisions relating to the school under this Part and the Academies Act 2010.”

(3) In section 59 (Meaning of “maintained school” and “eligible for intervention”)—

(a) in subsection (1) after (c) insert—

“() an Academy school”

(b) after subsection (2) insert—

“(3) In this Part, references to the governing body of an Academy school are to be read as references to the proprietor of an Academy school.

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1079

(4) If an Academy school is found to be eligible for intervention under this Part, then the school is to be treated as a maintained school for the purposes sections 63 to 69, and the governing body is the proprietor of the Academy school. For the avoidance of doubt, an intervention under sections 63 to 69 takes precedence over any provision of the Academy arrangements made between the Secretary of State and the proprietor.”

(4) In section 60 (Performance standards and safety warning notice) in subsection (6) at end insert—

“(e) the parents of registered pupils”

(5) In section 60A (Teachers’ pay and conditions warning notice) in subsection (6) at end insert—

“(c) the parents of registered pupils”

This new clause requires parents be involved in decisions about the future of their children’s schools.

New clause 4—Consultation with school community about identity of Academy sponsor—

After section 5A of the Academies Act 2010 insert—

“Consultation with school community about identity of Academy sponsor

‘(1) This section applies where an Academy order under section 4(1)(a) or (1)(b) has effect in respect of a maintained school.

(2) Before entering into Academy arrangements in relation to the school the Secretary of State must consult the following about the identity of the person with whom the arrangements are to be entered into—

(a) the school’s governing body;

(b) the local authority;

(c) the Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Schools;

(d) parents of registered pupils at the school;

(e) the teaching and other staff of the school, and

(f) any other such persons as he thinks appropriate.

(3) As part of the consultation, the Secretary of State must publish all correspondence held by her relating to her choice of the proposed Academy sponsor.”

The new clause would require consultation with a school’s community before a decision on the Secretary of State’s preferred choice of a school’s sponsor is made. This new clause also requires publication of full information about the reasons for the Secretary of State’s choice.

New clause 5—Inspection of Academy sponsors

Before section 9 of the Academies Act 2010, insert—

“8A Inspection of Academy sponsors

(1) The Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills may inspect the proprietor of an Academy school in the performance of the proprietor’s functions under the Education Acts, the Academy agreement entered into by the proprietor, and any ancillary functions.

(2) When requested to do so by the Secretary of State, the Chief Inspector must conduct an inspection under this section in relation to the proprietor specified in the request.

(3) Such a request may specify particular matters which the Chief Inspector must inspect.

(4) Ancillary functions shall include any function that may be carried on by a local authority.

(5) Before entering into Academy arrangements in relation to a school to which an Academy order under section 4(1)(a) or (1)(b) has had effect with an Academy proprietor with whom the Secretary of State has existing Academy arrangements in relation to one or more other schools, he must receive a report from the Chief Inspector on the overall performance of the proprietor in performing their functions.”

The new clause would make provision for the bodies which run Academy schools to be inspected. This new clause also requires Ofsted to report on the performance of an Academy chain before the Secretary of State uses his powers to make an Academy order.

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1080

New clause 6—Information on performance of academy proprietors

‘(1) The Academies Act 2010 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 11(1)(b) of the Academies Act 2010 insert—

“(c) the performance of Academy Proprietors and academy chains in regards to their management of academy schools, including the impact of this management on educational performance of such schools.””

Section 11 of the Academies Act 2010 requires the Secretary of State to prepare and publish an annual report on academy arrangements and on the performance of academies. The new clause aims to require the report to cover the performance of academy proprietors and academy chains in regards to their management of academy schools.

New clause 7—Performance of academy proprietors

‘(1) When deciding whether to make an academy order in relation to a particular school, the Secretary of State shall have regard to any information on the proposed academy proprietor and, if applicable, the academy chain to which it belongs, which has been gathered—

(a) in order to prepare reports under subsection (1) of the Academies Act 2010, and

(b) in the course of any Ofsted inspection of any school run by the proposed Academy proprietor or of the academy chain to which it belongs.

(2) The Secretary of State shall only appoint an academy proprietor for a new academy if the proprietor, and if applicable, the chain to which it belongs, has a proven record of success in improving schools which are comparable to the school to which the proposal relates.

(3) The Secretary of State shall by regulations define “proven record of success”.”

The new clause would require the Secretary of State to have regard to the information about an academy proprietor and its relevant academy chain before appointing it as an academy proprietor for a new academy.

New clause 8—Inspection of academy chains in England

‘(1) The Education and Inspections Act 2006 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 136 insert—

“136A Inspection of academy chains in England

(1) The Chief Inspector may inspect the overall performance by an academy chain in England.

(2) The Secretary of State may require the Chief Inspector to conduct an inspection in relation to a particular academy chain.

(3) When requiring an inspection under subsection 2, the Secretary of State may specify matters which the Chief Inspector must inspect.

(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations define an “academy chain”.

(5) Regulations under subsection 4 may set out the activities of academy chains that may be subject to inspection under this section.”

(3) In section 137(2)(a), after “authority”, insert “or academy chain”.

(4) In section 137(3), after “authority”, insert “or academy chain”.

(5) In section 137(4), after “authority”, insert “or academy chain”.

(6) In section 137(5), after “authority”, insert “or academy chain”.”

This new clause would permit the Chief Inspector of Ofsted to inspect academy chains, and give the power to the Secretary of State to order such inspections. It would also entitle academy chains to receive the report following an inspection, and require them to prepare a written statement setting out the action they will take in light of the report.

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1081

New clause 9—Right of appeal against an academy order

After section 5 of the Academies Act 2010 insert—

“5A Right of appeal against an academy order

(1) An academy order appeal committee shall be established to hear appeals against decisions of the Secretary of State to make an academy order in a particular case.

(2) The following persons shall have the right to appeal to the academy order appeal committee:

(a) parents of children at the school, and

(b) staff of the school.

(3) The Secretary of State shall by regulations define the powers and remit of the academy order appeal committee.”.”

This new clause would provide for a right of appeal against an academy order.

Amendment 1, page 1, line 1, leave out clause 1.

Clause 1 to be replaced with new clause (Schools where people do not fulfil potential).

Amendment 12, page 1, line 1, leave out clause 1.

This amendment would remove the clause that establishes that “coasting” schools shall be eligible for intervention.

Amendment 8, page 1, line 16, clause 1, at end insert—

‘(3) The governing body must inform the parents of registered pupils that the school has been notified that it is coasting.”

The amendment extends the duty to inform parents to those whose children attend the new category of coasting school.

Amendment 13, page 2, clause 2, leave out line 42.

This amendment would retain the right of a governing body of a school to make representations to the Chief Inspector at Ofsted in response to a warning notice, and the obligation of the Chief Inspector to consider such representations and give to the governing body and the local authority notice of his decision whether or not to confirm the warning notice.

Amendment 2, page 6, line 2, leave out clause 7.

Clause 7 to be replaced with new clause (Schools with an inadequate Ofsted judgement).

Amendment 14, page 6, line 2, leave out clause 7.

This amendment would remove the duty on the Secretary of State to make an academy order where a school is eligible for intervention because it requires significant improvement or it requires special measures.

Amendment 11, page 6, line 8, clause 7, at end insert—

‘(A2) If requested by a relevant—

(a) local education authority, or

(b) local admission forum,

The Secretary of State may include in such an order provision for the school to adopt selective admission arrangements such as would fall under section 104(2) and sections 105 to 109 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (“SSFA 1998”).

(A3) Section 104(1) of SSFA 1998 is amended as follows—

For subsection (1), substitute “If requested by a local education authority or local admission forum, the Secretary of State may by order permit a school to adopt selective admission arrangements falling under subsection (2) and sections 105 to 109.”

This amendment would allow the Secretary of State to provide for new academies established under this part of the bill to have selective admissions arrangements but only in circumstances where a local education authority or local admissions forum had requested it.

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1082

Amendment 15, page 6, line 16, clause 8, after “consult”, insert

“parents of children at the school, staff of the school and”.

This amendment would ensure that parents and staff of the school are consulted before a school is converted into an academy.

Amendment 16, page 6, line 16, clause 8, after “such”, insert “other”

This amendment is consequential to amendment 15.

Amendment 9, page 6, clause 8, leave out lines 18 and 19 and insert—

‘(3) If an Academy order under section 4(A1) or (1)(b) has effect in respect of the school, the Secretary of State must convene a meeting of parents of registered pupils to explain the implications for the school being subject to such an order and take account of the views of parents in respect of the future governance of the school.”

This amendment requires the Secretary of State to convene a meeting of parents where the Secretary of State determines, or is required to, force Academisation.

Amendment 3, page 6, line 19, clause 8, leave out “4(A1) or”

A consequential amendment to new clause (Schools with an inadequate Ofsted judgement).

Amendment 4, page 6, line 26, leave out clause 9.

A consequential amendment to new clause (Schools with an inadequate Ofsted judgement).

Amendment 10, page 6, line 39, clause 9, at end insert—

“(d) the parents of registered pupils”

This amendment requires the Secretary of State to consult parents on the identity of an Academy sponsor where forced Academisation is proposed.

Amendment 17, page 6, line 39, clause 9, at end insert—

“(d) the parents of children of the school,

(e) the staff of the school.”

This amendment would require parents and school staff to be consulted about the identity of an academy sponsor prior to academy arrangements being entered into.

Amendment 18, page 7, line 16, leave out clause 10.

This amendment would remove the clause that provides that where a school is the subject of an Academy Order, the governing body and its relevant local authority must facilitate the school’s conversion into an academy.

Amendment 5, page 7, line 20, Clause 10, leave out “4(A1) or”

A consequential amendment to new clause (Schools with an inadequate Ofsted judgement).

Amendment 6, page 7, line 33, clause 11, leave out “4(A1) or”.

A consequential amendment to new clause (Schools with an inadequate Ofsted judgement).

Amendment 7, page 8, line 5, clause 12, leave out “4(A1) or”.

A consequential amendment to new clause (Schools with an inadequate Ofsted judgement).

Kevin Brennan: I apologise in advance for my slightly croaky voice.

It is good to return to the Bill, which we considered in Committee before the summer recess. We tabled more than 80 amendments, none of which was passed, despite the cogency of our arguments and the excellent drafting. We therefore find ourselves having to submit further

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1083

new clauses and amendments on Report, given our continued view that the Bill is badly drafted and ill thought through.

Before I deal with the details of new clause 1, let me take this opportunity to welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) to her new position. We have worked together before, and I look forward to her term of office first as shadow Secretary of State and then, in the not-too-distant future, as Secretary of State. She is the fifth Labour Secretary of State or shadow Secretary of State for Education under whom I have served, in government and in opposition.

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): You are coasting.

Kevin Brennan: I have been accused of coasting. We shall come to that later. Either I am doing something very right or I am doing something very wrong; it is hard to work out which. Perhaps the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate is right. But, like the Schools Minister, I am still here after all these years. “Still Crazy After All These Years” was, I think, a song by Paul Simon. Anyway, we are still here, the two of us, facing each other across the Dispatch Box.

Let me pay particular tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt). I am glad to see that another former shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), is sitting next to him: it is a wonderful reunion. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central has decided to take a sabbatical from Front-Bench politics, I really enjoyed working with him. I wish him well, and thank him for the hard work and passion that he brought to his role. I look forward to reading the book which I am sure will form one of the fruits of his new-found free time. If it is any sort of political memoir, I do not care what it says as long as I am in it.

New clause 1 deals with

“Schools where pupils do not fulfil potential”,

and should be read in conjunction with amendment 1, which proposes to leave out clause 1. The new clause replaces clause 1, which is entitled “Coasting schools”. The House will recall that when the original clause 1 was drafted, the Government were unable to provide a definition of “coasting schools”, even on Second Reading. In Committee, we were given some draft regulations which made it clear that what the Government had in mind was a purely data-driven exercise.

We believe there is a need to do something about schools that are doing well superficially but are failing to fulfil the potential of their pupils, hence our new clause. In government—my memory is long enough for me to remember what we did in government, as is clear from what I said earlier—we wanted local authorities to identify coasting schools whose intake did not fulfil earlier promise, and whose pupils lost momentum and failed to make progress. That often applies to pupils with special educational needs, or children who get left behind and may become disengaged from their education, but it is equally applicable to able pupils who are not stretched or challenged enough. We wanted coasting

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1084

schools to benefit from the support of other schools and leaders forming trusts and federations to formalise the benefits of collaborative learning.

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op): I rise to support my hon. Friend’s argument. One of the best achievements of the previous Government was the London challenge, and also the black country and Manchester challenges. Will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming the decision of the mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, and his cabinet member, Nick Small, to establish a Liverpool challenge precisely to address some of these issues of standards in our schools?

Kevin Brennan: I join my hon. Friend in welcoming that, and of course he is too modest to outline his own part in the London challenge. I am sure the fact that Liverpool is the part of the country he represents has been influential in the idea being taken up so readily there. I congratulate him and the mayor on that initiative.

We recognise the concern to which I referred, but we are not at all convinced that the way the Government are dealing with this issue in the Bill is the best way forward. They are attempting to legislate on coasting schools in the Bill and then set up regulations that rigidly seek to define them in a way that produces significant anomalies and a whole new way of judging schools outside of Ofsted. By cutting out Ofsted, they are muddying the waters considerably.

The concept of coasting schools has been around for quite a while. It was first used formally by the last Labour Government in 2008 in “Gaining Ground: improving progress in coasting secondary schools”, in which we said:

“Coasting schools are schools whose intake does not fulfil their earlier promise and who could achieve more, where pupils are coming into the school having done well in primary school, then losing momentum and failing to make progress.”

So it is a useful concept, but the Government’s clumsy attempts to translate that directly into legislation has made the term toxic in the space of a few months. Our new clause goes back to the original definition of pupils not fulfilling potential so as not to confuse it with the Government’s rigid data-driven approach.

We accept that schools that need improvement might not be picked up in an Ofsted inspection. Every framework cannot meet every eventuality, but the answer is not to use the definition as proposed by the Government based on a crude formula from raw pupil data. A much better approach is one that involves both the professional judgments of Ofsted and the local authority—or the academy trust, because why should academies escape this measure? Our new clause would create a new section 60B in the Education and Inspections Act 2006 and put into its new subsection (1) a definition of a school

“where pupils do not fulfil their potential”

and in subsection (2) make it clear that a school has to be notified following a professional consideration between Ofsted and those with local knowledge. This would apply to both a local authority-maintained school and an academy.

In our proposed new subsection (3) we outline the sorts of issues that should be considered prior to that notification, including “the availability of…teachers”.

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1085

In other words, schools should not be penalised because the Government have mismanaged the supply of qualified teachers, particularly mathematics teachers, which could affect, for example, EBacc performance in a school. I will return to the question of teacher supply in a moment.

Secondly, while a comparison of pupil progress statistics is important, it must take account of the size of the school and standard errors, and not crudely interpret and apply data. Thirdly, age range is important, especially where there is not a standardised assessment of performance on entry to the school. For example, some areas have middle schools. Fourthly, there is the question of special educational needs. A professional assessment should be made of the progress of pupils with SENs and disabilities. Fifthly, a school may be recruiting pupils from a more advantaged area where, for example, there is the widespread use of private tuition, which can be impossible to discern from raw data. Education Datalab and others have noted that it is virtually impossible for a grammar school to be coasting under the Government’s initial floor standards in the draft regulations.

Gender is important, too. For example, under- achievement of girls in STEM subjects needs to be identified and acted upon, rather than lost in raw statistics.

Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the major challenges in respect of coasting academy schools for this Bill is a massive overdependence on the role of regional schools commissioners? In my constituency and across the west midlands, there simply is not the capacity of regional school commissioners and their staff to deal with underperforming and coasting academy schools, and what we have here in this Bill is once again an over-concentration on the maintained sector while not doing enough for children in underperforming academy schools.

2.15 pm

Kevin Brennan: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There seems in the Department to be an in-built bias against facing up to failure in academy schools while exaggerating problems when the school is a maintained school. All we are calling for is a level playing field. We are just saying that every child should have the right to be taught in a good school, whatever that school is, and the Government should not be a propaganda department for a particular type of school structure.

I can see the hon. Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond) leaning forward. Does she wish to intervene?

Mrs Flick Drummond (Portsmouth South) (Con) indicated dissent.

Kevin Brennan: The hon. Lady is just very enthusiastic and very keen. I appreciate the attention she is paying to what I am saying.

Our proposed new subsection (4) treats maintained schools and academy schools equally as far as intervention is concerned, which picks up on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central. It is right that the same forms of intervention can be used for both types of school—for example, working with an

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1086

outstanding school or working with a school improvement provider or replacing the governing body with an interim executive board.

Subsection (5) prevents the Secretary of State from making a forced academy order simply on the basis that a school has been notified that its pupils are not reaching their full potential. This should be about taking the right steps for a school, not arbitrary academy targets.

I said I would return to subsection (3)(a) of proposed new section 60B, which deals with teacher supply. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) is not here at present, but he said on Second Reading that

“the real crisis in education is in teacher recruitment and the quality of headteachers”

and that the Secretary of State’s proposals and speech

“have absolutely nothing to say about that.”—[Official Report, 22 June 2015; Vol. 597, c. 642.]

My hon. Friend was absolutely right. This is the real crisis and that is why we are addressing it. We cannot judge a school if it is not able to recruit the right teachers because of a failure of Government policy in relation to teacher supply.

Teacher recruitment has been falling since 2010. Some 10% of teacher training places remain unfilled this year, and one in 10 teachers left the profession last year, the highest rate in a decade. An extra 800,000 students will have entered England’s secondary programme by the next decade. It is predicted there will be a 7% shortfall in teacher training recruitment for next September, the third shortfall in a row. Also, Department for Education published statistics show that for the secondary programme 91% of the target, or 12,943 student teachers, were recruited; that is a shortfall of 2,278 teacher trainees against the target for this term.

Pat Glass (North West Durham) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that the figures are actually worse than that because they are being masked? School Direct is failing to meet anywhere near its targets in subjects such as mathematics and physics and is making up the numbers in non-shortage areas.

Kevin Brennan: My hon. Friend is right. We only have to speak to headteachers to know the difficulty of recruiting in those subject areas. Again, the Government have failed to face up to this crisis and schools cannot be judged if they cannot recruit the teachers because of a failure of Government policy. According to Professor John Howson, a shortage of more than 6,000 teachers has built up in the past three years. A report from London Councils says there is a need for 113,000 extra school places in the capital in the next five years.

I could go on and on, but I will not detain the House for too long with those statistics. It would, however, be interesting to hear from the Minister in his reply about what the Government are doing to meet this crisis in teacher training recruitment and retention, because that is the real issue out there and they are not addressing it adequately.

That is why we have made teacher supply one of the factors in judging how a school is performing under new clause 1. Ignoring teacher supply as a factor in influencing whether a school is doing well enough in helping its pupils to reach their potential is simply

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1087

burying one’s head in the educational sand. That is exactly what the Secretary of State is doing in the Bill, and in her wider role. She remains obsessed by her pet projects of free schools and forced academisation, and is diverting ever more precious and scarce resources in the Department to them while failing to address the mounting crisis in teacher training, recruitment and retention. She cannot say that she has not been warned about this.

Tristram Hunt: As always, my hon. Friend is making a persuasive case. Is not the situation even starker than that? Schools are facing a 10% cut to their budgets over the course of this Parliament, yet funds are being allocated to opening free schools in areas where they are not needed. Courses for young people are being cut away and pupils’ choices are being eliminated in order to fund those free schools.

Kevin Brennan: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. If we project the figures over the course of this Parliament, the position is even starker, especially when combined with the reality of the cuts to 16-to-19 education, which even Conservative Back Benchers are now complaining about because of their impact on sixth forms—

Tristram Hunt: And grammar schools.

Kevin Brennan: Indeed. I recently participated in an interesting Adjournment debate on this matter with Conservative Members. We know that a funding crisis is building up as we speak, and alongside the problems with teacher training and supply, these are creating a perfect storm. There are going to be real problems over the course of this Parliament, and I put on record that we are pointing that out and that the Government should be acting more urgently to deal with the problems that are going to emerge.

New clause 1 would mean that schools could not be blamed for problems that had been initiated by policies of the Secretary of State for Education that had led to a lack of teacher supply in their area. Teacher supply would be a reasonable factor to take into account, rather than simply looking at raw data that tell us nothing about the struggle that a school might be having to recruit high-quality, well-qualified teaching staff.

New clause 1 would also bring academies into the scope of the provision. The Government appear to believe that maintained schools that are experiencing difficulties need a fundamental change of structure, but that that does not apply to academies. They seem to think that academy status is right for failing maintained schools, but it is also right for failing academies. That seems to be the Government’s policy. The Secretary of State’s position is that if an academy fails, the obvious solution is to turn it into an academy. That simply makes no sense.

Peter Kyle (Hove) (Lab): My hon. Friend recently guided me through my first Bill Committee experience, for which I am grateful. As a novice, being mentored by someone of his experience will no doubt stand me in good stead. During the evidence session, Malcolm Trobe, a former secondary school headteacher and now general secretary of the Association of School and College

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1088

Leaders, was asked about the distinction between academies and maintained schools and whether they should be treated differently. He replied:

“No. All schools should be judged effectively on the same range of indicators.”

He went on to say:

“I think we believe in fairness and equality and, therefore, all schools should be treated the same, whether they be academies or maintained schools.”––[Official Report, Education and Adoption Public Bill Committee, 30 June 2015; c. 15.]

Does my hon. Friend acknowledge that expertise and agree that Malcolm Trobe was right?

Kevin Brennan: I thank my young apprentice for his intervention. He is a very quick learner, as he has just shown. He is absolutely right. The central point of our new clause 1 is that academies and maintained schools should be treated equally. There appears to be a presumption by the Government that academies are always superior to maintained schools, even when they are failing academies. In Committee, however, the Schools Minister, referring to me, stated:

“The hon. Gentleman is also wrong to say that we see schools as a hierarchy with academies at the top and maintained schools at the bottom. We do not.”––[Official Report, Education and Adoption Public Bill Committee, 7 July 2015; c. 220.]

He denied it, but I am afraid that no one believes him. Every time Ministers open their mouth, they give the clear impression—through the frequency of their praise of academies over maintained schools, the frequency of their visits to academies and their singling out of one type of school over the other for legislation—that they do not see schools in the way that the Minister described. They see them arranged in a hierarchy by type, rather than by quality of education and performance.

Ministers’ powers over academies are to be found in the various funding agreements, and there is no consistency in those powers. There is also no mention of coasting in any of those funding agreements, so it is unclear how the Minister’s right to intervene in a coasting school, under his proposed definition or any other, could be applied to a coasting academy. People might start to believe his words denying a ministerial hierarchy if he were to accept our proposal to include all schools in this provision.

The Minister for Schools (Mr Nick Gibb): The shadow Minister will be aware that we inherited the structure of academies from the previous Labour Government. This is an extension of the Blair-Lord Adonis structural reforms to education. Is he now saying that he opposes the reforms that those two individuals introduced?

Kevin Brennan: This is not an extension; it is a dilution of what was an effective, limited and targeted intervention using scarce resources where nothing else had worked before. The Minister knows full well that he is trying to say that the only solution for school improvement, everywhere and on every occasion, is to academise a school, even if there is not a good sponsor available in the area. That is a ludicrous position, and we shall return to this matter later.

Presumably the Minister is going to have to renegotiate thousands of individual funding agreements to ensure that coasting academies do not escape the scrutiny and investigation that he believes to be so important for our

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1089

schools. Alternatively, he could admit that the coasting schools provisions in the Bill will not apply to academies. The Government cannot go on pretending that academies can continue to exist outside public law on this scale. The previous Government acknowledged that fact, when special educational provision in academies was legislated for in the Children and Families Act 2014 in relation to the duty of an academy trust to admit a pupil with a statement of special educational needs. So it can be done, and such a provision could have been introduced into this Bill. Similar acknowledgement was made under the provisions on pupil admissions in the Education Act 2011.

New clause 2 covers schools with an inadequate Ofsted judgment. This is to be read in conjunction with amendment 2, which would remove clause 7 from the Bill, and with amendment 3, which would stop the ban in consultation on schools judged inadequate, ahead of forced academisation. The new clause also relates to amendments 4, 5, 6 and 7.

New clause 2 would replace clause 7, which covers the duty to make academy orders. The concept of forced academisation when a school is found to be inadequate must rate as one of the most grotesque uses of statute law to control schools ever to be invented by any Government of any political description. The Secretary of State will be required to issue an academy order to approximately 250 maintained schools and then let the school and the local authority argue about when the order should be revoked under clause 12, but that is a waste of time and effort.

According to Ofsted’s management information on inspection outcomes up to 31 July, there were 258 maintained schools and pupil referral units, excluding the three maintained nursery schools that cannot, by law, be academised. There were 287 academies, which is a significant over-representation. Thirty-three of the maintained schools received their inadequate judgment in 2013 and can confidently be predicted to be on their way out of special measures. Forced academisation will disrupt the improvements that are being made. This will not be the case for the 35 academies on the list, which can presumably have their improvements supported in a less public and punitive way. For 2015, only 77 maintained schools have been found inadequate, but 95 academies have received that judgment. This is another example of the academy programme failing, which the Minister refuses to acknowledge. We need a full independent review before any more schools are treated in this way.

As clause 7 stands, the Secretary of State has pretty much an absolute duty placed on her to academise a school that has an “inadequate” Ofsted rating. As we have said, in particular circumstances, with particular sponsors, the academy model works well, but it does not always work well and other models have worked better in some cases. We examined some of those cases in Committee, particularly those that were brought to us by the Catholic Education Service, which is deeply concerned about the rigidity and, dare I say it, the assumption of infallibility on the part of the Secretary of State, as illustrated by clause 7.

In Committee, we discussed some of the alternative approaches to school improvement, and the CES gave us some good examples. I will not go into them in great

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1090

detail, but it told us about the use of an executive headteacher as a means of school improvement at St James the Great Catholic primary school in London. Despite pressure to academise, the diocese wanted to use the executive headteacher, resulting in the implementation of a school improvement plan with an executive head and teachers from other local schools coming in. The school was re-inspected in June 2013 and whereas it had been grade 3 for three categories and grade 4 in leadership and management, with an overall grade 4, by then it had improved to an overall grade 2. That arrangement continues, with overwhelming support from staff and parents of both schools. That alternative intervention would, in effect, be banned by the Bill, because of the Secretary of State’s delusions of infallibility.

2.30 pm

Stephen Twigg: My hon. Friend is making a very important point, because the evidence shows that the most important element in educational improvement is the quality of leadership and of teaching. The example that he gave from the CES is probably about that executive head and his or her ability to lead, and much less about the structures, which tend to dominate debates in here.

Kevin Brennan: My hon. Friend is absolutely right about that. There was a resource available locally of an outstanding executive head to take on the role, but the Bill would require the school to be academised and taken over by sponsors, who may have nothing to do with the local area, the local diocese and the wishes of local people and parents.

We also highlighted how partnership is another alternative way of going about school improvement. The case study sent to us by the CES was that of the Corpus Christi Partnership and the St Joseph’s Catholic primary school in Crayford. Members may have seen that the CES highlighted this case in the briefing for the remaining stages. The school had had a section 5 inspection in May 2012, when it got grade 4 for attainment, teaching and leadership, and grade 3 for behaviour and safety. Overall, it got grade 4 and was in special measures. The diocese brokered a support programme led by the headteacher of St Catherine’s Catholic school in Crayford and the expertise of a number of local schools in Bexley was used to improve the school. It was re-inspected under section 5 in June 2013 and graded 2 in all areas, with an overall grade 2. It was so successful that all the Catholic schools in the area formed a partnership—a school improvement and support board—through which all schools are committed to collaborative working and supporting schools in areas where support is needed. This was about a partnership, instead of automatic academisation, working successfully. Again, that approach would, in effect, be banned by this Bill because of the Secretary of State’s delusions of infallibility.

What about federation as a way of trying to bring about school improvement? Let us look at another case study, that of the Regina Coeli Catholic primary school in south Croydon. Again, a “poor” inspection led to intervention, whereby an interim executive board was put in place. There was pressure from an academy broker, probably on £1,000 a day from the Department—we know from parliamentary questions that that was what some of them were paid—to join a multi-academy

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1091

trust. The diocese did not agree that that was the best thing for the school and arranged for the headteacher of St James the Great Catholic primary school in Thornton Heath to become executive headteacher for both schools until a permanent arrangement was agreed, which was to join a local federation of schools. Key staff from the other school were used—this included using its deputy to become the head of school—and a federation was joined in 2014. Again, the re-inspection showed much improved performance in the school, with it being graded 2 in all areas and overall. That was an example of a federation being used, instead of automatic academisation, and working successfully. Again, that approach would, in effect, be banned by the Bill because of the Secretary of State’s delusions of infallibility.

As we have established, the Secretary of State holds an ideological position, which says that private sponsors are always better than public authorities and, in particular, better than any local authorities, regardless of the party in control, be it Labour or Conservative. We believe that decisions should be made according to the circumstances of the particular case, based on the evidence—it may well be that an academy solution is the best in some circumstances. The Secretary of State does not believe that, even though she already has the powers at her disposal to issue an academy order, if she wishes to do so. Under the Academies Act 2010 she can make an academy order in relation to any school that has received an adverse Ofsted finding. All she is doing with clause 7 is tying her own hands to one particular course of action, and academisation has to happen even if there is no high-quality sponsor available, even if the local authority has a strong record of improving schools and even if the parents and school or local diocese propose a credible, proven alternative approach. We know from the evidence that we have been given that that is the case.

I wonder how the Secretary of State is going to find all these sponsors to manage the 1,000 more academies that the Prime Minister has committed himself to during this Parliament, given that in the past five years the Government have struggled to convert all the schools that they could have, often because of the shortcomings of the Secretary of State and the Department, rather than because of any opposition locally. There will be circumstances when the academy route is clearly not the best one, but through this clause Ministers have tied themselves to it, regardless of whether it will do the school any good or not. We are all fallible, Madam Deputy Speaker, even you, except when you make a ruling from the Chair, but the Secretary of State should have the humility to renounce her attempt to legislate for her own infallibility and she should accept our new clause 2.

The final proposal the Labour Front-Bench team has made is new clause 3, which relates to schools causing concern and the involvement of parents, and has to be read with amendments 8 and 9. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), who is not here this afternoon, put it well on Second Reading, when she said:

“Amazingly, the Bill says that parents should not be consulted, so the very people who know about a school will not be allowed to have a say. In this country, we consult, we do not dictate, and that is one of the key areas that judges will look at in considering whether a decision is lawful.”—[Official Report, 22 June 2015; Vol. 597, c. 684.]

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1092

In new clause 3, we are showing that we are on the side of parents; it would put parents back in the picture when the Secretary of State would purge them from the process. That is why the press release from the New Schools Network about parents’ rights today is so ironic; it comes on the same day as the Government are pushing through the Commons the remaining stages of this Bill, which obliterates the chances of parents to have any say in the future of their local school. Although the Government protest that parents are, from time to time, foremost in their thoughts in their education policies, that is patently not true. In fact, the Government treat parents who want to have a say in the future of their child’s school with thinly disguised contempt—that is probably a bit unfair, because it is not thinly disguised at all. The Minister makes it clear that any parent who expresses concern at how Government policy affects their school is deemed to be an ideologically motivated individual. This Bill sweeps away any pretence that the Government care about what parents think.

New clause 3(2) would insert a new section 59A in the Education and Inspections Act 2006 that sets out the principle that the Secretary of State, local authority, school governing body and academy trust must do everything possible to involve parents in decisions about schools in difficulties. It would bring academies into the Act’s remit as well. Parents at all types of publicly funded schools should be treated equally, and that is what the new clause would achieve. Subsections (4) and (5) would require parents to be informed if a school received a warning notice about its performance, its safety or its teacher conditions.

There is a loose duty under the 2010 Act to consult on an application for academy status. It puts the duty to consult on the school governing body, and the consultation can happen after or before an academy order is made. The consultation is only about whether the school should be an academy. There is no duty on the Department for Education, despite the fact that, in many cases, it will be the Department that has required the conversion to happen. There will be no consultation either on who should be the sponsor. In relation to schools eligible for intervention, clause 8 removes the requirement to consult.

We know what the Secretary of State thinks about parents. On 3 June on Radio 4, she said that this Bill would

“sweep away the bureaucratic and legal loopholes previously exploited by those who put ideological objections above the best interests of children.”

The objections she was referring to here are most commonly those held by the parents of the children affected. Parent Teacher Association UK recently commissioned a YouGov poll of 1,000 parents. Some 85% of them told the pollsters that they want a say in how their child is educated, and 79% want to support their child’s school. PTA UK calls for parents to be involved in a timely way with any developments in the school, but the Bill would sweep away any opportunity for that to happen. Again, it is another example of the infallibility complex that the Secretary of State seems to have. We live in a democracy. Governments do not always know best in every circumstance. She is removing the democratic right of parents and others to influence the future of local schools. It goes against the Government’s purported support for localism where local people have a say on local issues. The Bill would introduce even more centralised

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1093

control than we already have. It is an extraordinary departure from the normal decision-making processes of Government.

The Secretary of State would make a decision without the need to make any attempt whatever to listen to parents, pupils, teachers, governors and employers—in fact anyone at all who might be thought to have some knowledge of the situation locally. As we heard earlier, we know what the Secretary of State thinks about other people’s views. She justifies that on the absolute presumption that her solution is always infallible, but—as has been demonstrated over and again—that is not true.

Mr Gibb: Does the hon. Gentleman think that it was the parents’ wishes that a school should fail or that it should be put into special measures by Ofsted? Was that school adhering to parents’ wishes when that happened?

Kevin Brennan: No parents wish for a school to be put into special measures under any circumstances, but that does not mean that they wish to have their right to express their view about the future of the school ridden roughshod over by a Bill that does not even allow alternatives to be considered, even when those alternatives have been proven to be successful. That is the point. Under the Bill, the Secretary of State will be tied to one single course of action, even when other alternatives are available locally that are supported by parents. We want to ensure that parents have that opportunity. It is clear from the Minister’s attitude—in fairness, he has always been clear about this—that he views any objection to anything the Government propose with regard to academies as being ideologically driven by troublemakers, which is his definition of a parent.

To put it generously, there is no evidence that academy conversion is more likely to lead to improvement in an inadequate school than the adoption of other school improvement measures, which is why we should use evidence to determine the best way forward in what I would hope is a shared desire and passion to improve the quality of education in our schools.

There is a case in general terms for consultation. There is also a case for consultation in particular. Parents should not have particular solutions imposed on them without having some say in the matter. We know from Ofsted—this is despite the efforts of Ministers to prevent Ofsted getting at what is really happening in chains—how inadequate some academy chains can be. Parents are entitled to say that that is not a particular regime that they want for their local schools.

Schools are not gifts that can be dished out to Ministers’ friends, supporters and party donors. Government should not leave themselves open to the charge that they have favourites and will support them regardless of any evidence that has been put forward, because that is what this Bill does. Ultimately, it may be that, after consulting the Government, schools may decide that it is right to follow the initial path that they propose, but not to consult at all is wrong in principle.

Finally, I have a few words to say about amendment 11. I do not have time to comment on many of the other new clauses and amendments, but I will comment on amendment 11, tabled by the hon. Member for Altrincham

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1094

and Sale West (Mr Brady) and others. It is about the creation of new selective schools, albeit in the form of academies.

2.45 pm

I wish to make it clear that it is the Opposition’s view that a system of selection at 11 is not the way to raise school standards or to promote social mobility. I think that that is also the Government’s policy—I am sure that the Minister will tell us whether that has changed. Instead we should focus relentlessly on supporting schools to raise standards for all pupils regardless of their backgrounds. As my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby said, the most effective way to do that is through high quality teaching and leadership.

Clear evidence internationally, particularly from the OECD and Andreas Schleicher—whom the Government often quote and who oversees the OECD programme for international student assessment scores—shows that school systems with selection for children at the age of 11, and all that that entails, perform less well than non-selective school systems. Far from promoting social mobility, selective systems entrench social division. The difference in the average domestic wage between the top 10% and bottom 10% of earners is much wider in selective areas than it is in non-selective areas.

Schools that select at age 11 are also highly socially selective institutions. Almost all of the remaining 164 grammar schools in this country have fewer than 10% of pupils eligible for free school meals. In 2010, 96,680 year 7 pupils received free school meals from a total of 549,725 pupils in state schools. Of the 22,000 grammar school pupils in that age bracket, only 610 were receiving free school meals. It is undeniable that the poorest children lose out, and that is partly because, in some areas, almost everyone who passes the 11-plus has had private tuition of one sort or another.

I will not go into great detail about the evidence from the past: suffice it to say that the rose-tinted view of the selective system in the past is not true. At its height, at the beginning of the 1960s, a third of grammar school pupils got only three O-levels, and only 0.3% of grammar school pupils at that time with two A-levels were working class. It is therefore a myth that grammar schools were great engines of social mobility. There are many reasons for the great surge in post-war social mobility, but selection at 11 is not one of them. That is why the current Prime Minister was absolutely right in 2007 when he said that those who wanted to expand the number of grammar schools were

“splashing around in the shallow end of the educational debate.”

He went on to say that if his party got into this area, it would be in danger of becoming “a right-wing debating society” rather than an aspiring party of government. That is why the current Government have largely held on to the policy of not allowing more schools that select at the age of 11, although they have permitted a loophole to those that he said were

“clinging on to outdated mantras that bear no relation to the reality of life.”

The Government created a loophole to allow the expansion of selective provision by stealth to locations many miles away from existing grammar schools. We wait with interest to see whether, as the press has speculated, the

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1095

Secretary of State intends to use that loophole. Given the damage that it does to children’s education overall, we oppose selection at 11 and amendment 11.

Mr Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale West) (Con): I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), who gave me a cue to speak at this point to amendment 11, which stands in my name. I have debated this subject with him on more than one occasion, as I have with my hon. Friend the Minister, and I suspect that we will do so again on future occasions. I therefore do not intend to detain the House for long.

The hon. Member for Cardiff West spoke at length about the experience of selection in the 1960s as though it was something that no longer existed, and of which we have no experience today. Of course, I come to the subject precisely because my constituency is in the borough of Trafford in Greater Manchester, which is still a selective local authority area. Furthermore, the state schools in my constituency are probably the best in England and Wales, by any objective measure, and that goes for the grammar schools, the high schools—my hon. Friend the Minister has visited some of the excellent high schools in my constituency—and the primary schools, which are at the top of the table. We maintain high standards throughout, whereas in many areas high performance in primary education then dips at the beginning of secondary education. We also have an outstanding further education college, Trafford College. Whatever it is that the hon. Gentleman thinks might have gone wrong in the past, I submit that it is not going wrong in the borough of Trafford, at least at the moment.

Stephen Twigg: I have great respect for what the hon. Gentleman is saying and for the record in Trafford, but does he agree that the record on standards in schools is rather different in Kent? What he describes for the secondary sector in Trafford is rather different from what we see in another local authority that maintains selection.

Mr Brady: Kent is obviously a very big county, and there is a lot of diversity in performance there. I believe very firmly that if we are trying to improve a system, we should look at the bits that are working less well and try to raise standards there, rather than removing the parts that work best. I think that the tragedy of the comprehensive revolution in the 1960s and ’70s was that often the people who suffered most as a result of the destruction of so many grammar schools were working class people in areas where very little of quality was put in their place. The hon. Gentleman will have heard me quote from the pamphlet “A Class Act”, written by Lord Adonis and Stephen Pollard, who was then at the Fabian Society, in which they made that very point.

I am a strong supporter of what this Government and the Government immediately before did to try to raise standards in all schools. I am a strong supporter of academies and free schools. In fact, when I was shadow Schools Minister—the job that the hon. Member for Cardiff West now has, has had for some time and might have for many years to come—I was able constantly to praise the efforts of the then Labour Government to increase the autonomy of schools and create the academy model, building on the grant-maintained schools that went before them. It is regrettable that the Opposition are starting to move away from that bipartisan position.

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1096

To return to amendment 11, my campaigning on the subject aims to bring better schools and more opportunity to more children in state schools across the country, as well as to champion the obvious success that is evident in my constituency and in the borough of Trafford. Having been educated at Altrincham grammar school, which is in my constituency, I do not just believe that selective education can bring wider opportunity and social mobility; I know it.

I am not seeking to impose a different model of education on places or communities that do not want it, but I believe in wider choice for parents and a greater diversity of schools. I cannot see why every specialism under the sun should be welcomed today, except for a specialism in teaching the more academic. It is absurd in today’s pattern of educational provision that the law still holds that the man in Whitehall knows best, especially if he celebrates the success of existing grammar schools but seeks to prohibit any new ones, however much parents and communities might want them.

Mr Burrowes: I congratulate my hon. Friend on this welcome amendment. We have heard from the Opposition in another context about the need to encourage partnership and collaboration and to provide consultation. His amendment provides for selection admission arrangements but only if

“a local education authority or local admission forum”

requests it, so it goes down that very route.

Mr Brady: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who makes an important point. Of course, I was deeply disappointed, if not entirely surprised, that the hon. Member for Cardiff West, having lauded the benefits of localism and urged more reliance on what communities and parents across the country want, then sought to dismiss amendment 11 out of hand, despite the fact that it seeks to ensure that the proposed changes would be possible only in the event of significant levels of local support, as evidenced by the request from a local education authority or a local admission forum.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to the current situation in Kent. It is ridiculous that parents in Sevenoaks are having to wait to see whether an application for an annex to an existing grammar school can fit through the Department for Education’s hoops. Kent has a pattern of selection that is popular and well established, and the problem is that demographic changes have led to a mismatch between the location of schools and the location of the communities that depend upon them.

Amendment 11 has widespread support, including from three parties represented in the House, two well respected members of the principal Opposition party, at least two Conservative former Education Ministers, a former shadow Education Secretary, a former shadow Schools Minister—that is me—and at least three former Cabinet Ministers. It also enjoy the support of the current Mayor of London, my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), although sadly not in time for his name to appear on the amendment paper. There is therefore a breadth of support across the House for these changes.

Contrary to what the shadow Schools Minister implied, that breadth of support is hardly surprising. In fact, the surprising thing is that there is not more support for selection evidenced in the House, given that opinion

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1097

polls—they do not get everything right, but they do give some indication, when they are consistent, of strength of opinion—suggest that over 70% of the public, and indeed the majority of voters for all the main parties, would like to see more grammar schools.

Pat Glass: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that when the question is reversed and the public are asked whether they would like to see secondary moderns reinstated, more than 70% say that they would not?

Mr Brady: I do accept that, but I think it is a false choice to offer people, given the advances we have since made in the genuine diversity of school provision. We have so many different types of schools, with so many different specialisms, that it really is not a binary choice. It seems particularly odd to tell people that they are allowed to have schools that specialise in the creative arts or in maths and computing, but not schools that specialise in teaching those on the more academic part of the spectrum.

It is 17 years since the introduction of ballot arrangements for the removal of existing grammar schools, but not a single challenge has succeeded—one took place many years ago in North Yorkshire, but it was defeated by more than 70% of the local population. In areas that benefit from grammar schools, almost no one wants to change that. I find myself going through general election campaigns looking for candidates from other parties who do not agree that the local schools are so good that they should remain as they are.

This amendment is modest in scope. I am almost embarrassed at how modest my aspirations have become in this regard. All the amendment seeks to do is give a power to the Secretary of State and, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes), only when the Secretary of State was requested to exercise that power by a local authority or by the local admission forum. It would not force any community to have new grammar schools if it did not want them, nor would it force a Secretary of State to approve any such schools if she did not wish to do so. Local support would be a given under my proposal.

3 pm

Amendment 11, in its modest scope, would begin to resolve the very real problem of areas such as Sevenoaks, which have selective schools but where changes in the population have impacted on the balance of selection in a particular area. This problem has long been understood. The hon. Member for Cardiff West quoted extensively some of my favourite dicta of the then Leader of the Opposition and current Prime Minister on this subject, but the hon. Gentleman omitted to say—far more pertinent to the subject of amendment 11—that at the same time as that policy position was being set out in relation to selective education generally, it was accepted that there was a significant problem in some selective areas where the pattern of population had changed, and therefore the balance of selection might be affected. It was accepted that perhaps in Buckinghamshire, Kent and other selective areas it might be appropriate to have a new grammar school in order to address that problem.

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1098

That was accepted a decade ago. In the previous Parliament the Government were held back by the difficulties and rigours of coalition. Now that we are free of that constraint, I hope the Minister will give me some hope that we might look at ways to return to tackling that difficulty. As I said, this amendment is modest in its scope. As an incurable optimist, I hope that when the Minister responds he will indicate that the Government will welcome my amendment, accept it and see it as an additional important but modest tool in the armoury available to the Secretary of State. But if he does not, I hope he will undertake to look at what can be done by the Government as the Bill passes through the other place, and to look at other ways in which this very real problem might be addressed.

It is clear that there is real demand, both here in this House and in the country more widely. It is time the Government agreed to assist parents and communities in achieving the wider choice of schools that they want. There is a live debate about this subject always, and there will be at least as long as we still have areas like mine which have selective schools that perform so well and deliver for parents, both in the grammar schools and the high schools. I end by making it clear again that I do not seek to impose different schools and different models of education on any community in the country, but it is time we recognised that where communities want to have selective schools, they should be free to have them.

Stephen Twigg: I shall resist the temptation to respond in detail to the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Mr Brady), who made his case very powerfully. I disagree with it, for the reasons that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), the shadow Minister, gave. The grammar schools debate is one to which, I am sure, we will return, but I want to focus on supporting the new clauses proposed from the Opposition Front Bench.

The case that my hon. Friend made is extremely powerful. It is about looking at the evidence of what has worked in this country and in other parts of the world. When I intervened on him earlier, I spoke about our experience in government with the London challenge. I want to talk a little about the London challenge, because it shows a different way of doing things from the one which the present Government are following. Academies started in London. A number of academies were created as part of the London challenge. To this day I am proud of those academies that we created in London, in places such as Hackney, which had been badly let down in the past by the education system, and I celebrate the success of schools such as Mossbourne and many others across London that have done so well as academies.

We know, however, that the evidence on academies is mixed. We have to acknowledge that. In Liverpool the schools that are struggling the most at secondary level are the sponsored academies. I do not therefore condemn them for being academies, but I recognise that they face big challenges. They tend to serve some of the areas of greatest social and economic need in the city. Simply making them academies did not, on its own, ensure that those schools would be transformed and do brilliantly. That is why I warmly welcome new clause 1, which my hon. Friend moved. The approach that was taken in the

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1099

London challenge, very much under the inspirational leadership of Tim Brighouse, was to look at the evidence, broker relationships between different schools in London, recognise the diversity of social and economic conditions in different communities across London, and not to have a one-size-fits-all approach.

As a Minister I spoke to local government leaders in London about academies. Some of those councils were Labour but many were Conservative or Liberal Democrat at that time. There were different views about academies. In local authority areas in London such as Camden and Tower Hamlets that did not want to have academies, we did not take the view that they should be imposed. In both those cases, we have seen real improvement in schools over recent decades. Other authorities, such as Hackney, Southwark and Lambeth, were more open to the creation of academies and that was part of the route that we pursued.

I welcome the fact that new clause 1 recognises that we have to take a sophisticated approach that looks at all the evidence. Data are extremely important. I never have any truck with those who suggest that we can simply ignore the data about a school, but data are only one aspect of the judgment that we have to make. We must look at context and at progress, as the Government have acknowledged—the value that is being added by the school. We have to look at the history of the school and, crucially, at the quality of leadership, teaching and learning in the school. The emphasis on that in the new clause is hugely welcome.

I urge the Government to reconsider an approach which is so highly centralised from London, does not take sufficiently into account concerns in local communities, and regards academy status as the be-all and end-all, when the reality is that we have some great successes from academies and we have some wonderful schools that have chosen not to go down that route. We should celebrate those schools equally. Ministers should visit those schools equally and their role in raising standards for all in our education system should be celebrated by all of us on a cross-party basis.

I look at the primary schools in my constituency, in West Derby in Liverpool, many of which do a fantastic job. I have spoken previously of Ranworth Square school in Norris Green, which has one of the highest levels of deprivation in the country but consistently delivers good results for the children at 11. It is not an academy, it has fantastic leadership and it works well with other schools and with the local authority. Changing that school’s status would make no fundamental difference. Why does the school succeed? It is because it has great leadership, great teaching, and great relationships with the community and with other schools. Sometimes the change that comes through academy status can be transformational. I referred to some of the brilliant examples in London, and it is important that we remind ourselves of them.

Much analysis has been done of the London challenge. It was not all good and all successful, but the main feature of the analyses that I have seen, with which I certainly concur, is that the London challenge worked because it was collaborative and based on evidence. It was collaborative across schools and across communities. Local authorities were involved, but the schools were very much in the driving seat, working with us in central

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1100

Government. We need that kind of approach elsewhere. Something that works in a capital city cannot be replicated in every part of the country.

That is why the mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, and cabinet member Nick Small have decided that we are going to have a Liverpool challenge. They have asked me to chair it. I will be working with schools, business, the further education college, the universities and others. This will be across the piece. Academy schools, local authority schools, faith schools and church schools are a particularly important component of education in the city. The aim is absolutely to raise standards for all young people in the schools. We have seen a big improvement in many of our cities, including Liverpool, over the past two decades, but in recent years we have had a drop-off in our secondary results, with Liverpool falling a bit behind some other cities. The mayor of Liverpool recognised that and has asked for this piece of work to happen.

I mention this because that kind of approach still has value. It is rooted in the community and in local democratic leadership, but it is also rooted in recognising that we have a big challenge on standards. There is no denial of that in the approach being taken.

The Minister for Schools (Mr Nick Gibb): I genuinely wish the hon. Gentleman every success in his chairing of the Liverpool challenge. Does he accept, though, that the approach taken in the multi-academy trust system is designed specifically to replicate that kind of approach but within a chain of academies, not necessarily inner-city, up and down the country?

Stephen Twigg: I do recognise that. A number of multi-academy trusts have proved hugely successful, and I praise their work. However, we must also recognise that some academy chains have not been successful. That is why I support the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) advocating inspection of academy chains on the same basis as Ofsted inspection of local authorities. That is a really important principle. The good or outstanding multi-academy trusts have nothing to fear from my hon. Friend’s amendment, but in the same way that we have challenged local authorities that have not succeeded in education in the past, we must challenge academies and academy chains.

The evidence now shows that we have seen some real improvement in our schools, particularly in cities and notably in London, but we still have some enormous challenges in coastal areas. I encourage the Government and my own party to look at this. Many coastal areas that have faced serious economic decline and big social challenges now have some of the poorest-performing schools; they may be coasting schools or schools with some of the poorest results. It is vital that we tackle that in the same way that the previous Labour Government sought to tackle underperformance in schools in our cities.

I hope that we can do that as this debate moves forward. It will be best done in a collaborative way that challenges the schools and works with them, because that is the way that works. It has worked with the London challenge, and the black country and Manchester challenges, and I hope it will work with the Liverpool challenge in which I am so pleased to have been asked to play my part.

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1101

Mr Burrowes: It is a pleasure to take part in this stage of the debate on this important Bill. I, too, support the Government in their intolerance of failing and coasting schools, and their continued restlessness for improvements. Young people have been let down by the system and by their schools, particularly in disadvantaged areas where mobility is being stifled.

I want to speak to new clause 2. I welcome the comments by the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg). In many ways my comments will chime with what he said. From his experience of my constituency as my predecessor, he will know of the example I am going to use.

We need to look carefully at the assumption that there is a form of governance that is right for every school. We all no doubt agree that any good school needs strong leadership and supportive governors who are there to be critical friends to help to develop its character and to produce, through the quality of the teaching, the results that every child across our nation deserves. Certain types of governance and structure are needed at certain times to be able to provide initiatives, interventions and the rapid improvement that is required, and others are needed at other times to support and complement all the basic skills.

3.15 pm

I want to talk about the example of Broomfield school. I declare an interest as a governor of the school at the time when it went into special measures in October 2011. I am now an associate governor—just hanging on, but still maintaining a particular interest in the school. The Ofsted report of October 2011 said:

“The leadership and management of teaching and learning are inadequate…Leaders and managers, including governors, have had insufficient impact in addressing weak provision and poor outcomes in science…Self-evaluation is wide of the mark and the school has an unrealistic view of the quality of provision.”

I could go on and on. Unfortunately it was a damning report on the leadership and the quality of teaching throughout the school. It left the school on its knees, with morale very low. The head teacher resigned and we wondered what to do next. The governors recognised that they too had been criticised for their leadership and needed to take action. They came to me and said, “Can you do something about it?” I looked around at the evidence from the London challenge and other ways in which we could try to bring about rapid improvement. The Department was breathing down the neck of Broomfield school, saying that it might need to intervene and there needed to be an interim board. The LEA was extremely concerned. Indeed, Ofsted was probably concerned, because six months before it had given a “good” classification to the school that hid what was underneath, which was some systemic failures that needed to be addressed.

I looked around and saw that in order to do all that we wanted to do in trying to make rapid improvements, we needed to change the leadership to make it strong. We also needed to see what was around locally and collaborate to try to provide quick advice and support on excellence. I initiated a so-called rapid recovery group that I chaired during the time that we sought to come off our knees and help the school, along with the teachers who wanted to stay and be part of the senior and middle leadership—to be part of the future rather than consigned to the past.

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1102

When we looked around we saw that there were outstanding heads in Enfield. At Southgate school—the old school of the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby—and others there were excellent governors who were able to get involved; we had excellence on our doorstep. They became part of the rapid recovery group, along with the local authority. We tried to see what we could do without outside intervention, because we could move more quickly than if we went into a longer process that would also have been more destabilising for Broomfield. We were able to take prompt action on appointments and to provide some degree of certainty for the teachers who remained to try to make improvements.

That was the Enfield approach. It worked for Enfield but it would not work everywhere; we had the excellence on our doorstep that enabled us to do it. We benefited from the time that we were given to do it and from bringing on board, not least, the parents, as well as the remaining governors, to look to a brighter future.

In May 2015, Ofsted rated Broomfield as a good school. It said:

“The headteacher provides strong leadership and is ably supported by his senior team...Most students now make at least expected progress or better in most subjects…School leaders work with professionalism and care to support all students, particularly those who are more vulnerable”—

the school has a very challenging intake to deal with. It continued:

“The quality of teaching has improved significantly. A relentless focus on teaching and learning is supported by a programme of high quality training for all staff…Students’ behaviour is good in lessons”—

which certainly was not the case in 2011. It continued:

“Governors are knowledgeable about their school. They effectively support and challenge school leaders to ensure they remain focused on whole school priorities.”

It took us longer than we wanted to get to that stage—the rapid recovery group was not quite so rapid—but we got there. Step-by-step improvement brought the school along, together with the excellent support from within Enfield. It was a good example of collaboration and partnership. We have reached a point where we are good and need to make still further progress. Obviously, as soon as possible we want to be an outstanding school.

I have some sympathy with new clause 2 and the comments made by the Opposition. I want some reassurance from the Minister, who I know from his great experience is relentless in wanting improvements for all young people and to ensure that we are intolerant of failure and coasting schools. I am with the Minister on the broad thrust of the Bill, but I want him to reassure me that there will be time for consultation on the changes and that there will be the opportunity to work with local excellence and to draw on that support—yes, of the multi-chain academies that understand the model of the London challenge and, more locally, the model of the Enfield challenge. We were able to bring that change about through the rapid recovery group. Other schools that have been in special measures around my patch, such as the De Bohun school, have used the collaborative partnership model of the rapid recovery group to use the excellence on our doorsteps to improve. That seems to be working for Enfield, and I want us to benefit from that and set a good example so that schools from across the country can benefit from that excellence.

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1103

Pat Glass: I was never wholly convinced by the academies programme of the previous Labour Government, but as an educational professional—who worked under London challenge, on which I echo with many of the points raised by the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) but would add that the relentless refusal to accept failure was a major part of it—I understood that there were schools that had consistently failed where everything had been tried and where something new was needed. Ultimately, I took the view that it was important for the children, parents and communities that had been consistently failed that I gave the programme the benefit of the doubt. I at least understood the rationale behind it, but the policy of the coalition Government and this Government of wholesale academisation and the establishment of free schools where there is no basic need and purely on the basis of ideology is both damaging and a colossal waste of public money.

I was a member of the previous Select Committee on Education, and we carried out a major piece of work on academies and free schools. We found absolutely no evidence whatsoever that academies improved standards more than maintained schools or improved standards faster. When I say that we found no evidence, I mean that we looked for it. We looked really hard, but it simply does not exist and it is wrong of the Prime Minister, Education Ministers and Conservative Members constantly to over-claim and exaggerate on behalf of academies.

We have seen a wholesale change in the educational structure of this country and if there is no evidence to back up such an approach, it must be based purely on ideology. In what seems the Government’s rush to academise at any cost, schools have been handed over to any academy chain, although some are beginning to fail and are having to be handed on again. The views and wishes of parents, staff, pupils and communities have counted for nothing. A number of high-profile campaigns against academisation by schools and communities in which there is clear evidence, backed up by Ofsted, that those schools were improving and had the capacity to improve further, have simply been swatted away by the current Secretary of State and the former Secretary of State, now the Lord Chancellor, as though they counted for nothing.

I know a number of things as an educationalist who worked in education for 25 years, and schools will not thrive without the support of their communities, yet the Government have simply disregarded the views of countless communities because, as we all know, the current and former Secretaries of State have such a breadth of knowledge and experience in education that they clearly know best. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) when he talks about the sense of infallibility that seems to exist in the Department for Education.

The Government are taking away even the pretence of any need to consult local communities when academisation is proposed. I believe that that is wrong on all kinds of levels. Some of our academies and academy chains are doing a fabulous job, but I have concerns about academy chains, as the Schools Minister knows because we have debated them many times. Some of them are doing a really good job, but there is

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1104

something dark and mysterious in many of these organisations. They exist on public money but there is little public transparency and very little public accountability.

As a member of the Select Committee, I tried really hard to follow some of that money. We were told constantly that the chains publish accounts once a year, but there was very little detail in them. I tried to find out how much money is being skimmed off the top of the funding given to schools to cover matters such as administration or to go into contracts linked to the members of those boards. I tried to find out how much was being paid on salaries, but with the exception of one person—the one who earns the most, which can mean more than £350,000—I could not find out anything. I could not find out how many people were paid more than £100,000, more than £200,000 or more than £300,000. I could not find out how many were paid a penny less than the one person whose salary had to be reported on. Local authorities are under a duty to transfer public money to schools and only hold back a tiny percentage of funding for the delivery of statutory education duties. There is no such legal duty on chains and it would appear to me, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, that they are making large with it.

As a member of the Select Committee, in 2013 I visited the Netherlands, where the former Secretary of State got many of his ideas on academies and academy chains. At the time, the Netherlands were reeling from a scandal involving one of their school boards, which are very similar to our academy chains, that had gone bankrupt. What was causing the concern was not just the bankruptcy of the school board but the slow recognition that when a school board, like an academy chain, goes bankrupt, the assets of the school do not return to the public purse. They belong to the creditors. That means the school, its whiteboards, its laptops and, more importantly, the land on which it was built—and this is really important in places such as London where land is short. Creditors would rush in quickly, knock the school down and sell the land. The children and the community were left with no school and had to fall back on local authorities that did not have the resources to deal with them. The failure of an academy chain in this country is not a fantasy; I think it will be just a matter of time. The assets of those academy chains—of those former public schools that were paid for with money from our taxpayers—will drift off and belong to whoever the creditors are.

I am therefore asking the Government to think again and to consider the whole premise on which their academisation programme is built, the legal and financial basis, and the links with local authorities, children, families and communities. I ask them carefully to consult local communities when they are thinking about changing the nature of the school. A school is really important to a community, as we see when we try to close them down. Communities care about their schools and we ought to give them at least the opportunity to be consulted.

I would like the Government to give the local community the right of appeal to an independent body against the Secretary of State’s decision rather than just assuming that the Secretary of State is infallible. I want only sponsors with a proven record of educational success to be allowed to run academies—now there is a new and

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1105

great idea. I want to give the chief inspector of schools the explicit right to inspect not only academies and free schools but the chains that manage those schools. This is public money, and to do anything else is not only foolish in the short and the long term but a waste of public funding.

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for inviting me to contribute to this very important debate. I supported the academies programme long before the last Government were elected. I thought that the Labour Government were right to create academies, and it is also right for the current Government to continue with that programme. It is my firm belief that a system that encourages autonomy, focuses on good leadership and draws attention to the ability of schools to work together is all about self-improvement and improvement in general. We should salute and welcome that, and my comments on the proposed new clauses and amendments should be seen in that context.

The current direction of travel is to create more academy trusts and to make sure that each one contains a range of schools that, first and foremost, meet pupils’ needs. My vision of a multi-academy trust is one that has a university technical college, ordinary secondary schools and a group of primary schools. In short, a MAT should offer a wide range of support so that a pupil can move around it, getting the education he or she needs and, above all, deserves. That is the very important direction we should be heading in.

3.30 pm

On new clause 2, the fact is that if a school is failing, action needs to be swift. We cannot sit back and watch things get worse. That is the essence of why a Secretary of State should be able to intervene, and they should do so constructively so that the right kinds of governors can be found for the struggling or failing school.

It is essential that we understand that a day wasted getting a school back on track is a day lost for a pupil at that school. If we do the maths and realise how many pupils are at an individual school, we will see that the situation could become terrible. I have seen for myself schools floundering and the local authority, while knowing that something should be done, not having the courage or capacity to intervene. That is why I support the thrust of the powers of intervention by the Secretary of State and do not agree that new clause 2 should stand part of the Bill.

I would go further. Oddly enough, the Education Committee today discussed leadership and governance in schools. We asked the chief inspector of schools about his views and he repeated his belief that leadership and governance are paramount. He is absolutely right, and that is why I set up the all-party group on education leadership and governance five years ago. Yesterday we launched a report about moving governance on to the next step, which is a combination of more skills, greater focus on strategy, and a more federal approach so that one governing body can look after several schools. The National Governors Association, the Secretary of State, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the other place and governors themselves welcome that approach.

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1106

The all-party group has managed to attract huge support for and interest in making sure that governors are well placed to govern, and the Bill should take that into account. I reject new clause 2.

I can see the logic of new clause 8, but the Education Committee heard this morning that the real issue is the accountability lines between governance and leadership. It is about how a school is run, how it should be led and how it should be held accountable. I do not think that new clause 8 adds anything useful to the actual process of finding out where accountability lies; checking how it works and making sure that governance feels, and is, responsible; and that it ultimately holds a school to account through not only the head, but in other ways. For me, new clause 8 does not make a serious contribution to this debate.

I feel bound to comment on amendment 11, because my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Mr Brady) made a persuasive case. I shall confine myself to these comments. I think that existing grammar schools should certainly be allowed to expand—two in my constituency want to do exactly that—but I do not think that going down the selective route beyond where we now are would be right for our children or, indeed, for our education system as a whole. For the sake of all children who go to school, we must ensure that the thousands of schools we have can become much better than they are now, rather than focus on just a few schools. Amendment 11 would lead us down the track of focusing on just a few schools.

James Berry (Kingston and Surbiton) (Con): In Kingston and Surbiton, we have the two Tiffin schools. One is just outside my constituency, and one is in it. They are excellent examples of grammar schools, and I would certainly support maintaining them. Does my hon. Friend agree that schools can create a variety of educational models, albeit non-selective ones, within the free schools system? Those models follow the traditional academic grammar school route without the selective element, which is a successful way of preserving the grammar school ethos without the problems of selectivity.

Neil Carmichael: I thank my hon. Friend for his very helpful intervention. That point justifies the free schools programme, which is all about bringing in choice and making sure that parents and staff can make decisions about their school, including about having a school of that type.

On that point, the shadow Minister quite rightly referred to what the New Schools Network has said about parent involvement. I have written about that in the past, and I am pleased that the idea has now been given more traction. On the particular proposal of empowering parents to take action about the leadership of a school, I would say that they should do so only if the very highest threshold is met.

Kevin Brennan: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments about parents. Is he at all concerned about the way in which the Bill sweeps away the right of parents to have a say on the future of their local schools?

Neil Carmichael: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, because it goes to the heart of the Bill. The Bill is largely about schools in which action needs to be taken to get them to a better place. Such action has to

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1107

be taken urgently, it must be about leadership and governance and, where necessary, it must take the form of intervention. As I have said, the principal focus should be on whether pupils benefit from delay or from action to take their school to a better place.

I do not want to say that parents should not be consulted, because I think they should. For example, there is a strong role for parent teacher associations to play in the interface with the community about a school’s future. I spoke to the chief executive of PTA UK just a few days ago, and I was struck by the role that PTAs can play in such dialogue. When a school is failing, however, we must take action. That is implicit in the Bill. Action is absolutely necessary for any failing school.

Peter Kyle: The hon. Gentleman mentioned meeting a representative of PTA UK, but is he aware that it submitted evidence to the Public Bill Committee? It stated that the Bill

“signals to parents that their views aren’t to be considered and positions them as unimportant despite the prevailing research that confirms their engagement as important to their child’s education.”

I invite him to comment.

Neil Carmichael: It is absolutely right for there to be engagement, but I think that we are confusing two different things. I would have thought that PTA UK was talking about engagement with the school more generally. I am referring to the issues in the Bill and the specific question of whether intervention should be swift and effective, and the degree of consultation that should be involved.

Of course there should be consultation and the Bill makes clear the role of regional schools commissioners, who should consult fairly widely. The Education Committee will look into the role and capacity of the regional schools commissioners. One question that we will ask is how that consultation process is undertaken. I do not think that that point is at variance with the spirit of the Bill.

On amendment 12, we cannot have coasting schools and when we see them we must act. In the last Parliament, the chief inspector produced a powerful report about the long tail of underachievement, which detailed the problem that many schools carry on coasting without being noticed. It is striking that many of those schools are in rural and coastal areas. That tells us that the mechanism is not in place to properly check what a coasting school is doing. I therefore believe that amendment 12 would take us in the wrong direction.

A coasting school is a very bad place to be. If a school is coasting along then, even if everybody thinks it is doing okay, it is not doing its job properly. It is therefore a real challenge for the teachers and governors to move it forward. Of course, we need to discuss in some detail the definition of a coasting school, but if the teachers and governors of a coasting school are not moving it forward, we must act. I therefore do not believe that amendment 12 is appropriate.

Kevin Brennan: Just for clarity, amendment 12 is consequential to new clause 1, which would replace the Government’s version of a coasting school with the

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1108

Opposition’s provision. The amendment would not sweep away the need for action to be taken when schools have problems of that kind.

Neil Carmichael: According to the “Member’s explanatory statement”, amendment 12 would

“remove the clause that establishes that ‘coasting’ schools shall be eligible for intervention.”

That is what I read, and I do not think that that should be the direction of travel. However, I take the hon. Gentleman’s point about its connection to new clause 1.

The important point to make about amendment 13 is that if a school is in trouble, appeals from the governing body, which is probably responsible for a large part of those difficulties, ought to be put into perspective. Instead, a governing body should recognise that it has a duty and responsibility to participate in improving the school.

The Bill has a lot going for it. We need to address the issue of school leadership. In my judgment, we need more multi-academy trusts because they provide the right framework for schools to help each other and pursue self-improvement. It is critical that we focus on coasting schools and use powers to ensure that they stop coasting and, instead, do what they are supposed to be doing, which is raising the standard of delivery for pupils.

John Pugh (Southport) (LD): I rise in support of new clauses 3 and 9, and to make a few remarks about amendment 11.

What bothers me about this legislation is the issue of consultation, which was alluded to by the hon. Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael), and parental consultation in particular. That is a long-term anxiety for me, because I am aware of local schools in my constituency that have been subjected to horrific bullying by academy brokers to convert to academies, and I would not wish that replicated anywhere else.

3.45 pm

Despite having been a member of the coalition Government, I have general reservations about the Academies Act 2010, which I consider inferior to Mrs Thatcher’s legislation on grant-maintained schools. That gave parents a decisive vote on the destiny of the school. Members may recall that during the passage of the Academies Act, I divided the House, with the help of Mr Ed Balls, to try to get parents a better vote in the decisions on the structure, character and governance of the school. The answer of the House at the time was clearly no—parents were not to have such a voice—and this legislation would serve to further reduce the power of parents. Indeed, some of the witnesses who gave evidence in Committee stated explicitly that parents were not the best judges, or any kind of reasonable judge, of their children’s educational destiny.

In the Bill the powers of the local education authority, governors and diocesan authorities are reduced, as well as those of parents. Even interim executives are subject to constraints that they did not have before. Throughout, the common theme is that the powers of the Secretary of State increase, or those of the Secretary of State’s agents, the regional school commissioners, do, although those commissioners were something of an afterthought to the academies programme.

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1109

In the Bill rights of appeal are diminished, the duties of consultation are tokenistic and not spelled out, and timescales can be telescoped. We have to ask why the Secretary of State needs to accumulate any more power than they already have. It has been pointed out—including by the Secretary of State and in Committee—that the only real restraint left on the Secretary of State is the duty to act reasonably and the fact that they can be challenged under common law. If we ask why this is happening, the main reason is that we are all identifying poor and mediocre education which, it has been argued, requires immediate action. No day should be wasted as it is precious time that pupils will not get again. There is no dispute about that, but immediate remedial action is not the same as immediate academisation, and that is where the Government appear confused.

It is indisputable—I do not think anybody disagrees—that academisation is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for progress, and as has been agreed across the House, some academy chains are not very good. Some schools get better and improve significantly through effective LEA or diocesan intervention, or some process other than academisation, and many examples were mentioned by those on the Opposition Front Benches.

The Government must be asked why they are such a one-club golfer. One plausible argument might be that despite there being other remedies, the academy route is simply the more probable, or probably effective, way of addressing coasting or failing schools. That is an arguable case if we are going to go by the evidence, but I see no evidence that the Government want to do that. The Prime Minister and the top of the Government give us targets and goals for turning ever more schools into academies, regardless of whether that is appropriate: it must happen.

Let us suppose that we are going to decide policy on the basis of evidence, and that ideology and prejudice will have no serious influence. Nobody—I am sure the Chair of the Education Committee will agree—would dispute that all educational research shows that the biggest factor that influences children’s outcomes and their overall educational destiny is the involvement, support and participation of their parents. If the level of consultation, communication and participation declines, it is not only regrettable but, as evidence shows, unproductive. The Government have a case to answer there.

I turn briefly to amendment 11, on grammar schools, tabled by the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Mr Brady). I went to three grammar schools, two of which were founded round about 1550, and for part of my education I went to the same grammar school as the Minister—Maidstone grammar school in Kent. He started his secondary education there; I finished mine. I have read that he applauds it for its rigour. I have to say it was not always rigorous when I was there. I was taught by a head of French who was going deaf, and bright boys in L stream, as it was called, were encouraged to give up science as quickly as possible in order to concentrate on arts subjects, if that was their bent, so there was evidence of occasional coasting there.

I will not dispute, however, that grammar schools have had an impact on social mobility among the pupils attending them, and I will not dispute that they perform well on all evidential bases. I have another experience, however, apart from the one I share with the Minister. I

16 Sep 2015 : Column 1110

started my teaching career in a secondary modern in Bootle which, one year after I started, merged with Bootle grammar school and became a comprehensive school. I taught mixed classes of ex-grammar school pupils and ex-secondary modern school pupils, and I honestly could not always tell the difference in terms of their ability and potential.

In the years before, however, pupils who went to the secondary modern, as opposed to the grammar school, had very different outcomes and saw themselves quite differently. When the comprehensive developed into a high school, it was not an immediate success, as much had been unpicked, and I learned that restructuring was not always wise—when something works in an educational environment, it is best to leave it in place. I am therefore actually pretty agnostic about structures, and I have extensive experience of almost every kind of structure, having also taught for a long period in an independent school. There is good and bad in all types of school. What is crucial in any type of school are leadership, morale and parental support.

Mr Graham Brady: I wholeheartedly agree with the hon. Gentleman on that last point, as I am sure would most Members who take an interest in education, but may I bring him to the precise point of the amendment? As an agnostic on structures, does he accept that if the population distribution changes in an area that is selective, an additional grammar might be needed to maintain the existing balance of selection and not drive existing grammar schools to become more selective?

John Pugh: I will consider the hon. Gentleman’s comments carefully. I am certainly happy with the idea of local decision making—I just wish the Government were more comfortable with it—and I think that we as politicians can do little to improve the educational landscape. We can change structures all the time, but they are not what makes a substantial difference: what makes a difference are the things that we normally cannot control or create but which, if we introduce the wrong kind of legislation, we can certainly frustrate.

Louise Haigh (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab): I rise to speak in favour of my new clauses 4 and 5 and the new clauses and amendments in the names of my hon. Friends on the Front Bench and of my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns).

We need to make a wealth of important changes to the Bill. It is a great honour to follow excellent contributions from hon. Members who are clearly passionate about educational standards. I do not doubt that the Government share that passion, but the problem is that none of the measures in the Bill will improve those standards. The Bill is based on an overriding assumption that academisation will automatically drive up standards and that the centralisation of power is the way to deliver it. Unfortunately, the Government have been simply unable to evidence that assumption at any stage of this Bill.