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Lord Henley: My noble friend Lady Young cited the evidence produced in the LSE report--I do not know whether the Minister has read it although the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, claims to have done so--which showed clearly that pupils in the assisted places scheme were doing better then they would otherwise.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There is plenty of evidence in the other direction. I acknowledge straightaway that I have not read the LSE evidence, but there is plenty of other evidence showing not only that such schools do not perform better but, much more importantly, that small class sizes for those aged five, six and seven make a substantial difference to educational out-turn. We should concentrate our minds on that when looking at added value.

Lord Henley: Perhaps I may intervene again. We accept that smaller class sizes are a desirable aim, but the evidence of the advantages of smaller class sizes is the evidence from LSE which shows that smaller class sizes are, indeed, better, but only when there are significant reductions and when the class size falls to below 20 pupils, not when there is mere tinkering around the 30-pupil mark.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: That is not the evidence that I have. The 1995 Ofsted report on class size said that small class sizes are of benefit in the early years of primary education. Once pupils have achieved competency in basic learning, particularly in literacy, they are more able to learn effectively in larger classes. That is why we have concentrated on the early years. I would willingly enter into a debate or correspondence with the noble Lord on the effects of the assisted places scheme, but the evidence that I have is that there is no statistical difference in A-level out-turns between pupils in the assisted places scheme and those who remain in state schools.

The noble Lord referred earlier to the LSE research. I am now informed that that does not provide convincing evidence of the success of the scheme. Although wider studies showed an overall benefit of two A-level grades from an assisted place, the main part of the study--the matched pairs analysis--showed that in only one of the three indicators used did the difference in results reach statistical significance.

The previous government spent over £1 billion on the assisted places scheme. We believe that that money could have been better spent on educating young children. The money released by phasing out the assisted places scheme will, as my noble friend Lady Blackstone, said, be sufficient--at £100 million by the year 2000 and a further £100 million a year thereafter.

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That will enable us to meet our pledge to reduce class sizes for infant pupils. As my noble friend said, £100 million a year is equivalent to 4,000 teacher hours. Redirecting such resources to the early years of a child's education will reap large benefits in the long term. We believe that the most crucial years are at the ages of five, six and seven. That is where the foundation for future learning is laid.

The noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, referred to the objectives of the original scheme in 1979 and said that it was triggered by what he described as the "destruction" of direct grant grammar schools which were forced into the independent sector. The noble Lord then quoted a Labour Party document which stated that we will never force the abolition of good schools. That is correct. We will never force the abolition of good schools. Indeed, the noble Lord confirmed that later in his speech when he said that such schools will survive. We can confirm that our evidence is that they will survive because, overall, only 7 per cent. of pupils in the independent sector have an assisted place. Even in participating schools, the average is only 14 per cent. It is therefore most unlikely that any such schools will fall by the wayside.

The noble Lord referred to Chetham School in Manchester. That school is a special case, as the noble Lord will recognise, because it is a specialist music school. There are other specialist music schools, such as the Yehudi Menuhin School and the Purcell School. We recognise that there is a need for specialist provision which is not available in the maintained sector. The scheme that provides that, the music and ballet scheme, will continue and we shall continue to maintain it. I hope that that will set at rest the noble Lord's fears--

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: I asked about Chetham School because I was heavily involved with it at the time with regard to the provisions which the previous government had provided for the Yehudi Menuhin and the Purcell schools but had not provided for Chetham School. At that stage, Chetham School was being financed by means of the assisted places scheme. All places in the school were open to such funding. If the noble Lord is saying that it will now come under another fund, I am glad to hear it, but I am concerned to hear that it has a secure future. I am sure that the noble Lord is similarly concerned.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The specific assurance that I am giving is that the music and ballet scheme will continue. That is the most important assurance that I can give. If there are particular problems relating to Chetham School in Manchester which I do not know about, I shall be pleased to write to the noble Lord about them.

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: I am grateful for that assurance. I asked out of ignorance of the present situation.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: On a number of occasions the noble Lord quoted Labour Party statements about partnership and about seeking to

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reduce the divide between the public and the private sectors in education. As the noble Lord, Lord Henley, recognised, the White Paper is particularly concerned with partnership. The White Paper will set in motion consultation with local education authorities and individual schools to see how the partnership can be made effective where it can only be made effective on a local basis. Partnership is not encouraged by a national assisted places scheme but by local education authorities dealing with the independent schools in their areas and seeking to make better overall provision for those pupils.

I believe that fundamentally this is a wrecking amendment. This was a manifesto pledge. To seek to take out Clause 1 of the Bill would destroy that pledge. We gave the electorate five key pledges, of which this was the first to show that this was the top priority. I ask whether it is acceptable to oppose the question that Clause 1 stand part of the Bill when it is such an essential part of the legislation.

Lord Henley: To spare the noble Lord's righteous indignation at this stage, I assure the Committee that I have no intention of pressing this amendment. It was merely a device to raise certain subjects. Perhaps I should have made that clear earlier. I am not in the business of tabling wrecking amendments. I recognised at Second Reading that this was a manifesto commitment. However, that does not prevent us from asking questions relating to our legitimate concerns about the Bill.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I occupied the noble Lord's position on the Opposition Front Bench for nearly 14 years. I took it to be my responsibility not to table amendments that I did not mean simply for the sake of hearing an excellent speech from the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle. Sometimes one tables probing amendments for further information but no one can say that this is a probing amendment. This is an excuse for not examining the Bill closely enough and dealing with issues that deserve to be dealt with.

Lord Henley: If the noble Lord would like the odd little example I could refer him to the previous Education Bill, now an Act, with which I was concerned before the election. I recall that certain amendments were tabled by the party opposite, who were then in opposition, which suggested that certain clauses should not stand part, despite the fact that noble Lords opposite supported those particular clauses. This is a perfectly legitimate device to engage in discussion on certain generalities. I see the noble Lord, Lord Peston, nodding his agreement.

5.45 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The noble Lord has misunderstood me. I did not say that it was wrong to table a clause stand part amendment. That is a perfectly legitimate device, but normally it is tabled to extract

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information or a commitment from the Government. Neither the noble Lord, Lord Henley, nor the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, has done that.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: As the noble Lord has expressed a desire to be probed, can I ask him about one of the statistics to which he referred relating to the kind of background from which children in assisted places come? He referred to working class backgrounds. Can he inform the Committee how working class backgrounds are defined for the purposes of these statistics?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is a very common equivalence between socio-economic groups C2, D and E and working class. It is very commonly used. C2 is regarded as skilled working class. I shall be tempted into making market research explanations before long. I am grateful to the noble Baroness opposite for at last making a probing point.

We have made it clear that Clause 1 is essential to the Bill. I have not been given any questions to answer. I hope that the Committee will agree that Clause 1 should stand part of the Bill.

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