Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Dearing: I wish to offer a further thought. Schools are little places. Four thousand schools have five or fewer teachers; they are not sophisticated analysts. They need objectives that are clear and simple which primary school teachers can understand. If the objectives are complex, they will be meaningless and useless.

The reality is that the teacher can understand the absolute level of performance and the increment from A to B, stage 1 to stage 2. That is it. Anything beyond that is an explanation or contribution to the understanding of what is happening. But one cannot set targets which are complex and where teachers must anticipate, such as how many schools meals will the school offer in X years' time? How many parents will be unemployed? That is meaningless. The targets must be simple and the rest should be explanation and interpretation.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, kindly offered me the opportunity to reply to all my opponents at once. That was the way he described it. I do not see the debate in that way at all. It has been a helpful debate. I am grateful to Members of the Committee who have taken part.

I start by saying to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that of course there is no such thing as an aggregate assessment of a school's achievement or under- achievement in relation to targets except that which is built up on the basis of individual pupils. That seems to me self-evident and it is helpful to set it out. However, the use of that information is not related to individual pupils. As I am sure the noble Baroness will recognise, the use of it is related to the school as a whole. That is what the review mechanism referred to in Clause 7(5) means. When we talk about implementation, we are talking about it at the school level.

The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, in the course of two interesting and helpful speeches, made the valid point, first, that whatever the measure used it must be simple and understandable to individual schools. As I understand it, he also made the point that any measures must be comparable and that the same message must go to all schools. The noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, confirmed that point.

In the light of the correct observation by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, that it would be impossible to put such a measure on the face of the Bill, I suggest that I write to him or that Ministers in the department write to him, with copies to all Members of the Committee who have taken part in the debate. The letter will set out the Government's thinking on what elucidation will go to local education authorities and individual schools.

I am quite clear in my mind, and I hope that the Committee will be clear, that we have planned adequate means of checking against targets. We have regular

19 May 1998 : Column 1472

monitoring by the standards and efficiency unit of the DfEE, as set out in the draft EDP guidance. We have the annual review of the EDP performance by the standards and efficiency unit and the periodic inspection of the LEA by Ofsted. So I am in no doubt whatever that there are adequate provisions in place, without further regulation as proposed by the amendment.

However, we have enough time between now and Report stage for further explanation to be given for which Members of the Committee on all sides have called. I suggest that I do so in the form of a letter to the noble Lord, Lord Dearing. Meanwhile, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will not press his amendment.

Lord Lucas: That was an enormously gracious and helpful reply by the noble Lord. I am delighted to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 30:


Page 4, line 20, at end insert ("or
(iii) improving or enlarging school premises (particularly in successful schools),").

The noble Lord said: At Second Reading the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, was kind enough to say that she thought that additional cash going to schools to deal with the necessary expansion to reduce class sizes in early years should be biased towards successful schools and those which were popular and in demand. The guidance or regulation sent out by government would reflect that.

In the amendment I ask whether the Government agree that that principle should be applied also to later years where again additional capital expenditure should be biased towards schools which are successful and in demand. If so, how is that to be reflected in guidance or regulation? Anyone who has visited the enormously successful state schools in the north of London will be astonished at the state of dilapidation and decay in some of them. Over many years they have been neglected by the local authorities. The attitude seems in many cases to be that the money should go in other directions and towards schools which are less popular rather than more popular. One has the extraordinary situation of some of the most famous schools in the land existing in portacabins, with buckets strung out along corridors and no hope or prospect of improvement, let alone rebuilding, which is what should happen.

I hope that it is not too much to ask that the Government give a gentle push in the direction of suggesting to local education authorities that success should be supported and celebrated and that such schools deserve good premises, not just those schools which find themselves failing. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The noble Lord asks what we plan to do in the future about improving or enlarging school premises, particularly in the case of

19 May 1998 : Column 1473

successful schools. Perhaps he will allow me to start by saying what we are doing now and what we have done in the past 12 months. I think it is relevant.

In 1997-98 we provided £83 million extra for school building work through phase 1 of the new deal for schools. That was an increase of 12 per cent. over the existing plans. We expect the new deal for schools to result in £2 billion being spent on repairing, renewing and improving school buildings, security and information technology facilities by the end of this Parliament.

Central government allocations for capital work at grant-maintained, voluntary aided and LEA schools in 1998-99 will be £1.012 billion. That is a 50 per cent. increase on previous plans. So I hope it is on record that we are attacking the problem extremely seriously. Of course, we want to encourage popular and successful schools to expand. Parents naturally want to send their children to schools that are doing well and we want them to be able to do so. I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to say this and for his support, as I understand it, for the approach we are taking. However, I do not think that education development plans are the right place for that. They relate to the achievement of standards rather than school buildings.

Clause 25 would be an appropriate point to discuss this matter. The clause provides for each local education authority to prepare a school organisation plan which will set out how to secure provision of education to meet the needs of pupils in the local authority's area. As the statement on school organisation that has been placed in the Library makes clear, we do not intend to be over-prescriptive about the content of the plan. That is a decision to be taken at local level. But we expect the plan to include statements of the authority's policy for the provision of places that make a specific link to raising standards. I hope the noble Lord will agree that Clause 25 is the right place to discuss the matter. I shall be glad to consider it at that time.

We should also consider asset management plans on which we have recently consulted. We hope to issue guidance later in the summer. The plans set out the process through which LEAs and schools determine school premises priorities. They might also include LEAs' proposals for improving school premises.

Education development plans, which are the subject of Clause 6, rightly focus on raising standards of pupil performance through school and LEA targets and LEAs' school improvement programmes. That specific focus is the most effective way in which LEAs can make their contribution to the standards agenda.

There may be scope for LEAs to make reference to their school organisation plans and their plans for improving school premises in the supporting evidence part of their EDPs if those contribute directly to raising standards in schools. The draft guidance already proposes that any relevant outcomes from the plans, alongside other plans, should contribute to LEAs' audit and self-review and feed into the process of identifying priorities for action in the school improvement programme.

19 May 1998 : Column 1474

I hope that the noble Lord will feel that we take his concerns seriously and that the Bill will provide the information he needs. On that basis, perhaps he will withdraw his amendment.

5 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: Perhaps I can ask the Minister a question. He talked about the money that has been put in since 1st May last year in relation to this amendment. I have seen some of the applications that have come in bidding for some of that money. I do not remember anywhere, in either the bidding advice or the applications that came in, where there has been a link with popular and successful schools.

My understanding is that local education authorities have apportioned money consistent with their priorities; in other words, schools needing new roofs, buildings with outside lavatories and buildings needing new heating systems. Nowhere in the information that came from the DfEE has there been a link to my knowledge with the provision of extra capital for expanding and developing successful schools.

Linked with that point, is the noble Lord saying that in the future, if my noble friend's amendment is accepted at the appropriate place in the Bill--I believe that that is what he said--there will be capital which will be ringfenced for the expanding of popular and successful schools and which will be additional and ancillary to the money made available to meet the statutory duties of local education authorities and their own local priorities in terms of refurbishing and expanding their buildings?


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page