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Baroness Blatch: The noble Baroness is optimistic. That is good, for if she is not optimistic heaven help us all. My local authority has over 300 schools. The negotiations with every school should be based on the progress of each child within a school. That is the way the plan is built up. If this exercise is to be meaningful, it will involve considerable work even in terms of getting around the large counties such as Kent, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and my own authority in Cambridgeshire. The negotiations will involve many men and women hours. Then the plans have to be drawn up. That is a relentless process. Plans are sent to the department and if the department does not like them

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they are returned. If the DfEE is turning every development plan round in six weeks, it is not doing its job properly. This exercise must be based on the premise of improving educational standards. Then there is the monitoring of that.

The noble Baroness knows that the financial memorandum contains not one single pound extra for education authorities. The noble Baroness told my noble friend Lord Pilkington that many advisers have provided support to the DfEE. How many staff are now in the DfEE as opposed to the number who were in post on 1st April last year? This measure constitutes work those staff do not do now but which they will have to do year on year in the future.

The DfEE may have the capacity to take this extra work in its stride. If that capacity exists, that is good as it will not cost the state and the taxpayer another penny. However, I can tell the noble Baroness now that local authorities do not have the capacity in their budgets to take on a whole new administrative burden. The noble Baroness may be optimistic about her department, but she has already said today that the costs of the measure will have to be met from existing resources. Every pound taken from existing resources is a pound that is not spent on the education of children in the classroom. If that cost is not met by the Government, a confidence trick is being played on local authorities. I cannot say that they will share the noble Baroness's optimism.

6.15 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone: Much work has been undertaken in the DfEE since the new Government came to power because we regard education as our top priority. There have been many initiatives, most of which I believe have been widely welcomed by the public, parents and many others. I put on record my gratitude to officials in the DfEE for their enormous support in getting this work done. As I said, the early years development plans being turned round in six weeks is a good example of that.

I believe that the noble Baroness is being unduly pessimistic about LEAs. Of course we recognise that this measure constitutes additional work for LEAs. We have reached the end of the consultation period on EDPs. A large number of draft EDPs have already been submitted by LEAs. There is no suggestion that people are dragging their feet and holding back. We have a timetable for completing this work which has been agreed with local education authorities. I am sure that, like us, they will want to keep to that. It is an iterative process in which we are working together. There will also be a two-stage process for submission which will perhaps make things a little easier. I hope that the Members of the Committee on the opposite Benches will have more faith. I am sure that the work that local authorities will carry out on this important task and the work of officials and members of Ofsted will justify having that faith.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: I am puzzled to hear that so much work has been done when the Bill has not yet become an Act. We have been assured by the noble Baroness's colleague that all kinds of measures are to be

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included. Earlier today the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, assured us that the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, would receive a letter. However, that would appear to be of total irrelevance to some authorities. I am sorry about that as I believe there are people in this Chamber, including the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, in particular, who could contribute to the noble Baroness's work. I hope authorities which have submitted plans will bear in mind any subsequent work that is done.

That said, I am not an optimist. I hesitate to say to someone of the noble Baroness's experience, sophistication and power that I think there is a degree of innocence in the way she approaches the matter. She is a poor little innocent in a savage world and she has my sympathy. However, she can be assured that, week after week, I and my colleagues will ask how many education development plans the department has dealt with. Believe me, that galaxy of talent will have its work questioned. I hope the noble Baroness can tell me how the EDPs have been submitted when, as I understand it, the consultation is not yet over. How many have been submitted?

Baroness Blackstone: I did not say that EDPs have been submitted; I referred to draft EDPs which are a totally different matter. The date for submission of EDPs is not until the end of the year. I hope that that is helpful.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: I advise those who submit drafts that if they want a good draft it is best to have all the evidence in front of them or a draft just becomes a dream. I do not wish to continue this discussion any longer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 33 and 33A not moved.]

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 4, line 35, at end insert--
("( ) The authority shall collect such information for the purposes of preparing an education development plan in such form as may be prescribed, and shall make such information available to others subject to such conditions as may be prescribed.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is founded in two sets of experiences. One is in asking schools how they know that their pupils and their teachers are doing as well as they can. The answers fall on a scale from, "We talk about it among ourselves and really chat quite a lot", and at the other end of the scale, "We measure." I have been so impressed by the results coming from the schools that measure that I have become a convert to the use of information within education.

I hope that I may draw a particular example to the Minister's attention. She may have come across Greenhead Sixth Form College in Huddersfield which has taken measurement further and for longer than most other schools, certainly those in the state system. The state system is generally ahead of the private system in this area. I have spent time with the English department in that college. Those in the English department remember being up in arms about this mad, physicist scheme for measuring everything and looking at

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statistics and how a child is doing on one aspect compared with another. However, after a year or two of that, they discovered what an extraordinary difference it made to their experience of teaching their kids. They only have the kids for two years and they could get hold of them early on and see what was going wrong or right with the child and build on it right from the first few weeks that the child was there. That really gave them a feeling of being able to look after the individual children who were coming through their care and achieve much more with them than they were able to do when they did not have the measurements in front of them.

They also found that they could improve their own individual performances as teachers because they could understand what kind of thing they were doing badly and what aspect of teaching one teacher was better at than another. They could help each other to find new ways of overcoming problems and doing better with children who were performing relatively badly. The result is that the college, which has a broad and really very ordinary intake, produces the most extraordinary results at A-level. There is enormous value to be had by using information if you can get the right information in the right way.

The second experience was that of being in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and looking at what had happened with BSE. There, right from the early days of the epidemic, we had a team of excellent scientists doing excellent work. They collected a lot of information but they kept it all to themselves. Their capacity for analysing that information was limited by their numbers and their own intellectual experience and background.

When in the last year or two of our Government we started to release this information to others, we were astonished by the speed and variety of responses and at all the new understandings which suddenly became available to us.

There was a feeling in the department that somehow it would be disrespectful to the scientists to question their judgment in interpreting the statistics or the quality of what they were producing. Indeed, in both circumstances we would have been wrong to do so. Nonetheless, there was a great deal which we could have gained by releasing the information much more widely.

Looking at the performance of the DfEE in that respect, it is a great deal better than the performance of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food ever was, but it is not perfect. In particular, Ofsted has an enormous amount of information accumulating on how schools are performing in relation to each other and what their relative characteristics are. Ofsted produces occasional reports on that. But I do not find reports based on that data coming out of academia generally, and why not? Surely if that information were released we would see a great deal more benefit from it.

As regards the information which may become available from all the efforts which will be made by local authorities to plan for educational improvement, I ask the Government to ensure, first, that the information that is derived from that process is in a form

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which is useful to people who want to compare one system or initiative with another and to draw conclusions; and, secondly, that that information should be made widely available to anybody who can make use of it so that the best possible advantage is taken of all the good work and ideas which I hope will flow from the Government's initiative. I beg to move.

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