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Baroness Blatch: Having been involved in the early formulation of the ten-level scale, I have to say, "Save me from experts!". Having made that rather flippant remark, however, I do agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, that whatever judgment is come to should be on the basis of proper consultation and taking into account professional advice. I still believe--this is what I think the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, was saying--that in order for the schools to understand what it is they are going to be judged upon and in order for them to make sure that there is consistency throughout the country--because it would be very unfair to have an ad hoc system built up, with one LEA measured against one set of criteria and another LEA measured against another set of criteria. Whatever the Government may intend, it should take the form of regulations and be introduced only after a great deal of consultation.
I agree with my noble friend when he says that the criteria should be set out in regulations. Perhaps I may also say to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who said a moment ago that this is not about the attainment of an individual child, if it is not about that then it is about nothing. The performance of a school must inevitably be based on the attainment of the children within it and so, if the attainment of those children does not count, then how on earth can a school's performance be judged? It has to be judged on what the school achieves on behalf of the children within that school. Of course it is an aggregate and an amalgam, but the basis of that amalgam is the attainment of the children within a school, which adds up to what that school can achieve, through its teachers, head teacher and the governors and what they add in terms of value to the education of the children.
Lord Desai: Perhaps I may, as someone who has done a lot of work in this field, say a few words. The questions back and forth tell us why it is very complicated even for experts to give a simple answer. It is not an easy problem to which to give a simple answer. The noble Baroness is quite correct in saying that the performance of a school is an aggregation of individual performances, but it is not a simple aggregation: you cannot just add it up. One problem, both at the individual pupil level and at school level, is to be able not only to measure value added to initial achievement
Lord Walton of Detchant: I wholly agree that it would be totally unsatisfactory to attempt to put any definition or specific criteria related to value added on the face of the Bill. It would be a sheer impossibility. As the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, said, and there are experts who have examined this matter and developed formulae of tremendous complexity.
At the risk of repeating myself, perhaps I may return to the briefing by the National Commission on Education published by Andrew McPherson in 1993. On reading that briefing, a Member of this place said that it alone would have justified the existence of the National Commission on Education. It set out a number of clear, simple, specific statistical criteria upon which this whole issue could be judged.
This is a circumstance where it is not necessary to have the criteria on the face of the Bill, but where one would hope that ultimately the Department for Education and Employment would be prepared to publish recommendations that would be implemented nationwide for the application of such simple criteria.
Perhaps I may pose a question to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. It relates not merely to this amendment, but to the next two tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. It is a well-hallowed principle of education that one defines what we may wish to call targets or, as some would prefer, goals and objectives. Once those are defined, one must be able to implement mechanisms to determine whether or not those targets, goals or objectives have been achieved. That requires specific techniques of assessment. Will the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, tell us in relation to this clause on education development plans--which in general terms I greatly welcome--in what way it is clear that the objective of assessing whether or not targets have been achieved will be fulfilled under the provisions of the Bill?
Lord Peston: I am totally mystified by much of this debate. I take it that we are still discussing Clauses 6 and 7 dealing with education development plans. Most of the remarks from noble Lords opposite do not seem to bear any resemblance to the Bill as I read it. Perhaps they have not noticed the subsection stating that the authority shall consult, or the subsection stating that the documents will be submitted to the Secretary of State. I assume that all the documents will be in the public domain. The notion that this will be some kind of esoteric or closed area, ad hoc and lacking in consistency, seems to me to be about as far from the Bill as written as one could possibly imagine. The problem is
Perhaps I may remind noble Lords, as my noble friend Lord Desai prompts me to do, that value added is not a concept in education; it was a concept invented in economics before the Second World War following on the economics of Lord Keynes. Essentially, it had to do with how we measured national income and what firms achieved in terms of output relative to the inputs that they had. It was taken over by people in education, often because they lacked any notion of educational theory. But the concept is still much the same. One is comparing what goes in with what comes out--the difference being the value that the organisations have added. It is essentially a concept to do with the organisation, not to do with what happens to a specific individual child. Noble Lords opposite ought to understand that, if I may go into professorial mode.
While in such mode, perhaps I may deal with one other matter. A great deal of educational research has been and will continue to be undertaken to examine the performance of schools and ask questions such as: why does this school achieve that and another school achieve something different? One examines a number of variables and, to use the word used by my noble friend, one comes up with an explanation. But certainly none of us on this side of the Chamber would misunderstand "explanation" to mean "justification", which is what troubles the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. So one might find one or two variables--ethnicity is one which has been established as correlating with, I am afraid, lack of educational performance. But that is an explanation; it is not remotely a justification. There are those of us who are saying that we must determine the causes. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, does not then go on to say that because we want to determine the causes we are trying to justify poor performance. I, for one, am certainly not, and I am sure that my noble friend on the Front Bench has no intention of doing so. We are not advancing the subject of education by pursuing this argument in this form at this time.
I was pointing out to the noble friend of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that in this debate we might even be able to contribute something to the part that value added could play in contributing to improvement in performance. That is what this debate is about: how we judge a school.
Now the professor may not think that we should debate these matters. The professor may doubt our brain. But the fact is, we are going to debate these matters, and we are going to carp on, because two years from now when this Government are in a much weaker situation, we shall be asking them why the performance
Lord Lucas: It may be helpful if I retaliate now so that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has the advantage of dealing with all his opponents at once. I find myself greatly enlightened by the remarks of the noble Lords, Lord Dearing and Lord Walton of Detchant.
The discussion has fallen into two parts, the first on value added. I was heartened by the opening reply of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh; namely, that the measure of value added published by the Government would not include any biases in relation to underlying factors such as economic or ethnic circumstances. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that these are explanations, not justifications. If one takes, for instance, my daughter's school, the boys there do as well as the girls. That is not common. If one were to examine value added nationally, one would apply a discount to schools with more girls because they would be expected to do better. It is right to examine the matter on an even basis and then say, looking at the matter nationally, that boys do worse and we must find some way of dealing with that and improving matters. Let us examine the schools where that does not happen and learn from them. So we examine the explanations and try to work out from them what has been going right in those schools and transfer that to other schools.
In order to undertake that wholly admirable process, systems of measurement are needed which are common to the nation as a whole. As the Bill presently stands--and as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, wishes it to be--one LEA can state that it will use one measure of value added; another may say that its measure of improvement in school performance is whether or not the children are happy, how many are excluded, or whether or not they are fighting. But we hear a whole variety of disparate measures in relation to school performance. The matter could be treated on an ad hoc basis within individual LEAs, with the Government saying, "Oh, that looks all right", and Ofsted waving its hand over the matter and saying, "Yes, we accept that that LEA's programme is an interesting one and at the end of the day it will produce some sort of measure of its own as to whether or not it has succeeded", and the Government again saying, "Well, that looks all right".
However, what I hope we shall arrive at is what the noble Lord, Lord Detchant, asked for; namely, some kind of nationally measurable, consistent system. I see nothing in the Bill, nor in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, which enables the Government to say, "You will measure performance in a way that is consistent; you will produce your figures--targets against which you can be judged--in a way which is consistent across the country and can be judged by common measures". It is very important that the Government should do that. Even if they do not want to do so, it is important that this Bill should contain sufficient powers to enable a future, better-informed government to do it. I hope the noble Lord will reassure
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