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Page 10, line 7, at end insert ("parents of pupils at every school and").

The noble Baroness said: I am deeply saddened that the noble Lord has dismissed parents as a bureaucratic irrelevance. His words were "an unnecessary bureaucratic process". Those parents are likely to have children in schools with a formation which is not yet properly set. These systems will be up and running in a matter of 12 to 14 weeks' time. Parents are not aware of what is going on and are not party to the consultation. Governors are discussing the detail of the proposals without any consultation with parents.

If a school is about to become part of an education action zone where the national curriculum might be disapplied, do parents not have a view about that? Do

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parents not have a view as to the pay and conditions of the teachers who may or may not be pleased about that? The parents are the most important key. This very radical proposal will take schools out of local authority control and place them in the hands of third parties, some of whom the parents do not know and have never met. They do not know the background and are not party to the consultation. They should be formally consulted.

This proposal is not very bureaucratic. We are talking about a group of schools where the parents could be asked to give their consent, which could easily be done by means of one ballot box resting in the school for one day when the parents can vote on the proposition. It should be put before them in some sort of detail so that they know what to expect over a three-year and/or a five-year period. Some of these applications exist because there is money on the table. There is no secret whatever about that. Many more include European money, and DfEE project money, with the emphasis on the action zones and not, sadly, on some of the schools in the area whose needs may be just as great.

There will be endless publicly funded bodies. There will be business enterprise organisations. Lottery funding forms part of the bids. There will be training and enterprise councils. Single regeneration budget moneys, work-related learning programmes--all are involved. And there are contributions in kind. Is it not fair that the parents should have some understanding of the proposition for their particular action zone? If the noble Lord considers that a bureaucratic irrelevance, then a very distressing message is being sent to parents. Where an LEA is known to be hostile to an application, the DfEE already knows very well the views of that LEA.

[Amendment No. 54A not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 54B:

Page 10, line 13, after ("Chapter") insert--
("(a) references to a governing body shall be read as including the temporary governing body of a new school;

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 53. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 54C:

Page 10, line 15, at end insert--
("(6A) In this section "new school" has the meaning given by section 69(3).").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 55 not moved.]

Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 11 [Establishment of Education Action Forum for zone]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 55A:

Page 10, line 20, at end insert--

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("( ) An Education Action Forum shall be the employer of all teaching and non-teaching staff at all schools within the education action zone.").

The noble Baroness said: The third parties are being given the power to take over a group of schools, to disapply the national curriculum, to substitute another innovative novel curriculum and the power to disapply pay and conditions of service for their teachers. Why should they not be trusted to employ the staff, both teaching and non-teaching? I think the case is very powerful and I beg to move.

The Earl of Lauderdale: I am unaccustomed to joining in an education debate and I shall try to intervene peacefully. I wonder whether the Minister can answer one or two queries about Clause 11(3)(b). It concerns a new animal called an education action forum. I understand from reading the Bill that the Secretary of State can appoint two members, while others will be recruited from the LEAs.

Are we to understand that these are to be LEAs in miniature, minuscule LEAs or will they embrace outside experience as well? For example, will the education fora simply be the current LEAs in miniature or will they have some fresh air let in from faraway experience, possibly of an unusual kind? I notice that scattered in the Times Educational Supplement last week is a whole batch of ideas on new non-local experience. In one case a teacher of phonics and word/sound association was mentioned. Another was a Scottish Office staffer with experience of school standards and effectiveness and of premier football club study centres.

Also mentioned in the Times Educational Supplement was a former ILEA chief inspector who was used to investigating institutional cultures. Are those new bodies, the education action forums, simply the LEA in miniature or are they to be LEAs plus outside experience that might enrich them? I ask this in a peaceful way, I am not trying to stir up trouble, I do not usually join in this kind of debate anyway. I hope that in the circumstances we may be given information by the Minister.

Baroness Blackstone: I am grateful for the opportunity afforded by this amendment to clarify further the employment aspects of education action zones. That said, I must admit that I have some reservations about the effect of the amendment.

The amendment seeks to make all education action fora the direct employers of staff in the zone. This means that any governing body joining the zone does so in the knowledge that it loses its employment powers. This may be appropriate for some, but not for others. As I said earlier, it is better to give a choice of routes through which to enter.

In anticipation that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, may wish to come back with a further amendment offering this choice, perhaps I should say that it is not necessary. It is already dealt with in Clause 12(2). Under paragraph (a) of the subsection, governing bodies can use the forum as an agent, with the governing body retaining the legal responsibility. Under paragraph (b)

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of the subsection, governing bodies can decide formally to pass all their powers to the forum. That would include employment powers. This flexible menu of options is perhaps better than the proposed set meal which, I think, would deter many governing bodies from wanting to become zones.

In reply to the noble Earl, the legislation allows each governing body to put forward a member and the Secretary of State can appoint members. Other appointees may come from business or voluntary organisations--all those the applicants feel can contribute. They are not local education authorities in miniature in any way.

I have considered each of these amendments, but, for the reasons I outlined, I do not believe that they are an improvement and that the policy will be better for them. In the light of that, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Swinfen: Before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps she can help me. I understand that in an education action zone the contracts of the teachers can be changed in relation to salaries and various other aspects. However, I also understand that the teachers are employed either by the school or by the local authority and that therefore their contracts are with the local authority or with the school.

If the education action zone can change that contract willy-nilly, and the teacher wishes to go to court in order to enforce the contract to which he or she agreed with the original employer, against whom does the teacher take the action? Is it the school, the local authority or the education action zone?

The teachers have no contract with the education action zone but, as I understand it, the EAZ will have the power to change the contract whether or not the teacher likes it. There is therefore a great deal of merit in the amendment. I go further. When an education action zone takes over the contracts of the teachers they should take over the existing contract, otherwise they would have to negotiate a completely new one with every single teacher.

Baroness Blackstone: I hope that no teacher who is involved in an education action zone will want to go to court about the changes that the education action zone may want to make in relation to his pay and conditions. After all, the whole purpose of the zone is to give teachers greater freedom and to give the education action zone the opportunity, if it so chooses, to pay higher salaries.

The contracts will remain either with the local authority or with the school, but it is the governing body which has employment powers. The forum does not have power over that unless the governors cede that power or the teacher takes up employment with the forum. Whoever the employer is will obviously be the agency with whom the teachers, if they wish to go to court--as I say, I hope that no teacher would want to do so--will be in dispute.

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