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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: To get a potential problem out of the way, I did not say that we would be accepting the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, in Clause 25. I said that we would be properly debating these issues at that stage.

I am surprised that the noble Baroness should raise the point that she did. She is absolutely right to say that the £83 million extra for school building work in 1997-98, the beginning of the new deal for schools, is remedial. It is remedial because of the neglect over many years under the previous government, not by local authorities. It was lack of support from central government for local authorities in providing the necessary capital authorisation and finance for school buildings. If that has to be got out of the way first--and it does--it is the previous administration which should be taking responsibility. I am surprised that the noble Baroness should seek to lead with her chin in that way.

What I said about the future is that capital expenditure on school buildings will be affected by the demand for those schools. When we are talking about schools which are in demand we are talking about successful schools. When we are talking about successful schools we are talking about schools that achieve the necessary standards. That is the relationship between school building expenditure and standards and that is what this

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Government are determined to proceed with after they have remedied the shameful neglect of school buildings by the previous government.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: Perhaps I can intervene in this fascinating debate to say how glad I am that the Minister has not accepted the amendment. However, I am not particularly reassured by what he said following his declaration that he was not going to accept it. Looked at from the point of view of an education authority, one might well--with great justification--decide to improve, for example, the laboratory availability at schools in order to improve the performance of that school in terms of education of its children. It is not sensible, in many places, to concentrate on improvement in one site or one school which is deemed at that time by parents to be the best school, often on faulty information. From the point of view of the education authority and the children who are being educated within that authority, it is better to concentrate expenditure where it is most needed--not just in replacing outside lavatories, but also for first-class equipment or as near as one can get to first-class equipment across a wide range of the curriculum. I hope that when this kind of matter is reflected in the discussions between the Secretary of State and the local education authorities, that kind of approach will be adopted.

Baroness Byford: The noble Baroness slightly beat me to it. I understood the Minister to say that the money would only go to schools which were achieving. We will read Hansard tomorrow, but if that is what he said, it is very strange. The development and help we need is often for schools that in many cases are not achieving. I was standing up to raise that issue; it may be that I misunderstood the Minister. I shall certainly read Hansard tomorrow unless he wishes to clarify the situation. I reacted in the same way as the noble Baroness.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I agree with every single word that the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, said. Therefore, if I said anything in my previous remarks which confused the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, I apologise. They are both saying what the Government are saying and the opposite of what the Opposition Front Bench is saying. They are both saying that the applications for expenditure on school buildings should not be linked to this part of the Bill, which is concerned with school standards. We are certainly not saying, and have never said, that capital expenditure should only be provided for those schools which are successful and attracting more pupils. However, the element of demand must be one element among all the others referred to in deciding where capital expenditure should be allocated. That is all we are saying.

Baroness Blatch: The Minister misinterpreted what I was saying. I was trying to obtain clarification from the Government who claimed that this policy was being

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pursued. I was simply saying that the money bid for so far in this past year has been on the basis--I believe rightly--of local authorities' priorities.

A policy that I would support--my local authority did this to great effect--is that when buildings are refurbished and schools reorganised, it is done on the basis of trying to root out of the system the buildings that are beyond repair or more expensive to repair. To get the best value for money and the best provision for children, the capital programme can be dovetailed into doing just that. That makes sense in local authority terms. I still say that the best people to determine how to spend the money and what the money should be spent on are the local authorities.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: So do the Government.

Lord Lucas: I shall read with great interest this debate in Hansard. If it seems appropriate to return to it in the proper place in the Bill, I shall. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 31:


Page 4, line 21, after ("otherwise;") insert--
("( ) in the case of the second and subsequent such plans, a statement in prescribed form of the outcome of the previous plan;").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 31 merely asks the Government to make sure that when a local authority draws up its second or subsequent plan, it should include an analysis of what went right or wrong with the first or previous plans.

It is always the wish of those involved in forecasting--I am sure that economists are not exempt from this--that previous forecasts should be forgotten if they are wrong and trumpeted if they are right. It is a bad practice to allow local authorities to behave in that way. It is important that everyone is honest about what did not work as well as what did. I hope that the noble Lord can confirm that this sort of analysis will be included in the plans to be specified by the Government. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: If I may get in before the economists do, after that temptation! The noble Lord is certainly ahead of the game. We are still struggling with education development plans in the first round. Now he is trying to prescribe what we should do in the second round.

The education development plans will be three year plans subject to annual monitoring against targets and the implementation of the LEAs' school improvement programme. This will inevitably involve consideration of the outcome of the plan each year and their contribution towards the overall progress of the plan. LEAs will be required to submit information annually to the department to support this monitoring. Approval of the education development plan can be suspended or withdrawn if an LEA has not shown satisfactory progress. The details of all of this are set out in the draft education development plan guidance and will be

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reflected in subsequent regulations. This will allow flexibility over the precise details and timescale. In addition, it will provide the chance for us to see how the whole process works in practice before the second round of EDPs and to learn from the experience. It will also avoid adding unnecessary detail to the Bill and creating further bureaucracy, a point I rather think the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, supported when he was in government. On that basis, I hope he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Peston: It is important that we should not confuse the word "plan" with the word "forecast". I speak as a notoriously bad forecaster. Indeed, if I may say to the noble Lord, if he ever hears me forecasting anything, I suggest he backs the opposite. I am much worse than random.

These are plans. One of the things we have to bear in mind, much as we do not like it, is that some of the plans will be ambitious--we hope they will be ambitious--and therefore they will achieve less than they are saying. Yet, having done that, they will still have achieved a great deal of good. I am totally with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and with my noble friend. When it comes to assessing outcomes, which is vital--there is no point in having plans if one does not assess outcomes--we should not take it for granted that the only acceptable outcome is one that hits the plan's target. Sometimes an ambitious plan will not be met. Equally, sometimes an unambitious plan--I hope that the Secretary of State at the time will say that the plan is not ambitious enough--will hit the target but it is still not good enough in terms of performance. To go back to the point made earlier about the difficulty involved, we should not jump to too easy a conclusion on any of this.

One thing I would say in favour of the previous government--I say it most sincerely--is that they suggested that we should not accept poor performance as being inevitable in the system. Some of their philosophy, much as I disagreed with other parts of it, was that we should be ambitious over what we can achieve in schools, and in the worst of circumstances their philosophy was that we could still do better. I agreed with that very strongly. But in trying to do better, we may not do as well as we would like. We must not then undermine schools by saying, "You did try to do better; you actually improved; but you did not do as well as your plan". I hope that the noble Lord is not preparing a frame of thought--I am sure he is not--for saying that, "You did not hit the target. Therefore, you are like those stupid economists and their forecasting and we are going to tell you off". I do not think that is the way we should approach the matter.

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: Before the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, responds to the Minister, perhaps I may say how much I agreed with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Peston, said. I think it is important that people should have ambitious plans, if I may use that as a basket phrase; not ludicrously ambitious but not just saying, "We can achieve this and therefore this will be

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our target". One of the merits of the noble Lord's amendment is that it would bring to people's attention what has worked in areas.

The whole of the development plan approach is based to some extent on good practice in certain education authorities. Some education authorities are doing this already. Other education authorities have had extremely interesting plans afoot as to how to bring the lowest performing schools and pupils up to a more average standard. They have undertaken extremely interesting and varied plans and activities to achieve that result. If the approach suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, was adopted it would enable this learning from good practice to continue. I am sure that the Secretary of State would not slap down local authorities which had made a genuine attempt to achieve a good deal. Therefore, whether or not the requirement remains on the face of the Bill, I hope that the approach suggested by the noble Lord will be adopted. It bodes well for sharing good practice.


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