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The Lord Bishop of Ripon: Before the noble Lord sits down, may I press him on the powers of adjudicators and on how the issues with which they will have to deal and the representations to which they shall have to pay attention will be spelt out? Where will that appear?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: We considered the powers of the adjudicator on Clause 24 and I do not think that at this time of night the Committee will be grateful if I go over that ground again. However, if I think that I can helpfully say anything new to the right reverend Prelate, I shall gladly write to him on that point.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: I agree with the noble Lord that this is not permissive; it is direct. I accept that it would give a right of veto to denominations. This is well within the tradition of English education. It has been done on many occasions before. In not allowing it, Her Majesty's Government are making quite a departure. Historically, the Churches have not used their considerable power to question state plans. For example, when comprehensive education began, the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches accepted it as state policy. They believed their task to be to maintain their denominational schools. They are not just one group among many. The Roman Catholic Church both here and in America has always regarded parochial, denominational schools as a very important part of its work. The Anglican Church is somewhat different but in many areas it takes the same view. I do not believe that the noble Lord has addressed the problem. It was one that Mr. Butler addressed in 1944 with greater sensitivity. Unless we have particular regard to church schools, this is a secularising measure.

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I do not press the amendment now but shall return to it with some force at Report stage. Like the right reverend Prelate, I have spoken to both Roman Catholic and Anglican authorities. I do not speak here as a Tory Front Bench spokesman. I never wear my dog collar in this House because I do not feel that I can attach the Almighty to many of the policies that I espouse, unlike some other people. However, on this issue I am metaphorically wearing my dog collar. I feel quite strongly about this and believe that many noble friends support me. This issue falls well within the history of English education. I hope that the noble Lord will rethink his rather secular approach. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 agreed to.

Clause 26 agreed to.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No.113:


After Clause 26, insert the following new clause--

Review by Secretary of State

(" . The Secretary of State shall keep under review all aspects of the new framework for maintained schools established by this Part of this Act, and shall report annually to Parliament on the new arrangements for the supply of school places and admission arrangements, with a view to bringing forward revised arrangements should it be found that the new framework unfairly discriminates against any category of school.").

The noble Baroness said: This is a very simple amendment which draws attention to the desirability of a parliamentary annual review of the new framework for maintained schools established by this part of the Bill. It is undeniable that there has been considerable unease in your Lordships' House about these new measures. I do not intend to refer to any of the arguments that have been deployed. I hope that no one else will use this particular amendment to go through those arguments all over again. However, there was considerable unease. The amendment would require Parliament to review whether the arrangements were acceptable, and any significant trend in the closure or amalgamation of church schools, special schools, grammar schools and so on could be challenged or prevented through revised arrangements.

I hope that the noble Lord will consider the amendment and will be willing to return to it at a later stage. I am particularly encouraged in that hope as a result of the reply of the noble Baroness to my noble friend Lady Maddock during the debate on whether Clause 24 should stand part of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: If I understand correctly that the issue is parliamentary scrutiny, I believe that the amendment is unnecessary since the Government will monitor how the new framework is bedding down as part of the normal evaluation process of any major policy. It is always open to any noble Lord to ask a Parliamentary Question about any aspect of government policy. I see no need for an annual report to Parliament on these specific aspects of the Bill. I give the noble Baroness, and Opposition spokesmen

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generally, credit when I say that they will get a lot more mileage in parliamentary terms other than through an annual report.

The new categories of school will be different, with distinctive characteristics to match the aspirations of schools. There is no question of unfair discrimination in favour of or against any particular category, if that is the thrust of the amendment. The new arrangements on school places, planning and admissions will contain safeguards to ensure that all categories of school are treated fairly.

Each school organisation committee and adjudicator must behave reasonably and lawfully. Every case must be considered on its merits. While members of the school organisation committee will be organised in and will vote as groups, all members must be able to show that cases have been considered properly. Reasons for decisions must be related clearly to the case put and the view expressed upon it. There can be no question of a school organisation committee taking a policy decision to treat a particular category of school differently from others.

Those are more effective safeguards than that intended by the mover of the amendment. I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that with those inbuilt safeguards there will be no need for the Secretary of State to police the new framework for cases of unfairness. On that basis, I hope that she will agree to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I must confess to being not entirely satisfied with that response. There is a great deal of difference between relying upon an individual Member in the other place to ask a Question and requiring the Government to make a report to the other place. The two things are completely different. I shall consult my noble friends. I shall read Hansard. I may well write to the Minister on this subject. I do not preclude bringing it back again at the next stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 27 [Proposals for establishment or alteration of community, foundation or voluntary school]:

Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No. 114:


Page 25, line 27, at end insert ("and
(ii) to the requirements of schools with a different character").

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 14l. The amendments are grouped together as they both concern pluralism, but two different kinds of pluralism. One is the pluralism of individual schools, and the second--a more familiar theme of mine--is the pluralism of the governance of the countries and nations of these islands. I shall not speak at any length on that, because that is a subject that will entertain us tomorrow and Wednesday.

With the first amendment we are dealing with the whole issue, which was debated in another place, of the Government's attitude towards schools which have a different form of curriculum. It is important to raise this issue in the Bill, because we need to state a case that

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schools that deliver the equivalent of the standards of the national curriculum in other forms of schooling can, indeed, form part of the maintained system.

In the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship they have established over 75 years 26 autonomous schools in the UK; 44 kindergartens; 730 schools worldwide; 1,500 kindergartens; and 60 teacher training institutes. They have an impressive track record of educational performance. It is educational performance which is dedicated to international principles and to a specific and proven form and method of teaching.

The pursuit of an international curriculum by these schools is at least the equivalent of what is pursued in terms of the national curriculum in the UK. As someone who was involved in various stages of the Education Reform Act l988 which introduced the national curriculum, I have always been unhappy about the adjective "national" as applied to school curricula, because school curricula should be about the development of pupils; it should not be about the imposition of state standards, to use the national parlance.

The whole methodology of the Waldorf schools, with the extended teacher/pupil relationship over many school years, and, in particular, the emphasis on the greater integration of curricula which has always been a feature of those school, is now becoming more accepted throughout the school system. We realise the weaknesses of the artificial boundaries between the humanities, language, mathematical skills and science that we have imposed within the existing national curriculum.

For those reasons, it is important to recognise that there should be a method by which such schools can find their way into the maintained sector. Such issues as the integrated curriculum approach, the emphasis on different forms of pedagogical approach to educational provision in schools are relevant. They are issues which the Government addressed when in Opposition, and should address in the context of the Bill.

I do not make a special case for those schools. I emphasise the importance of breadth of curriculum. We need to move away from the forms of national curriculum which are prescriptive into a form which provides for the greater breadth for the development of concepts, attitudes, values, experiences and skills within the educational provision. In debating those issues, we wish to emphasise that the Government have an obligation to indicate to schools which provide for a different curriculum, and are pluralistic schools in themselves within the education provision, how they can progress their position.

We have debated, and will debate again in the Bill, the categories that the Government propose. What ways are open to schools which have a different form of provision within a pluralist education? In what ways can they progress their position within the maintained sector? That is what I seek to discover in moving the amendment.

I refer again to guidelines and the provisions on the face of the Bill. I am concerned that they will be set out in terms of the criteria for the provision of schools

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within the maintained sector. Those guidelines should be flexible enough to ensure that schools which achieve the equivalent of national curriculum standards by other means should be recognised as equally valid. The department will be aware of the recent statement on the aims, methods and curriculum of the Steiner Waldorf foundation edited by Martin Rawson. The document sets out clearly the way in which that specific curriculum attains the standards of the national curriculum in different ways. I emphasise that the Government should take seriously the issue of pluralism of school provision. Pluralism and the related issue of diversity are not just about religious provision; and I speak as a Welsh Anglican. They are also about the alternative forms of curriculum presentation which is not on a selected basis, but provides a genuine pluralistic structure within the school system.

The second amendment is simpler. If the Minister can give me a satisfactory answer on this amendment, he will have disposed of Amendments Nos. 161, 163, 167, 176 and perhaps a few others. That should provide the noble Lord with a little inspiration. The amendment relates to the role of the Secretary of State in relation to the Bill. I understand that for the words "Secretary of State" in the Bill, I shall read the words "national assembly" when those wonderful transfer orders, of which we have recently had the second draft, are implemented. With the exception of Clause 76 on employment law, everything else relating to the Secretary of State in this Bill relates to the national assembly. If the Minister agrees that that is correct, he will satisfy me. I beg to move.

10.45 p.m.

Baroness Maddock: I support the noble Lord on Amendment No. 114 for several reasons. The amendment has been put forward by the Steiner Waldorf group. No doubt the group hopes that it will open the door to its schools which have a specific character. It would like the opportunity for such schools to become part of the state system. Perhaps there should be some possibility for schools with a different philosophical framework to come into the state sector where local authorities feel that this would enhance their local provision.

The amendment is presumably proposed within this clause because this clause deals with local determination. Although the county would actually have to have this imposed on it, it just extends their possibility to choose to include schools with a different character.

When I was a Member in another place I had in one corner of my constituency Steiner Waldorf schools and also a community that looked after children who had extreme special needs. I know what wonderful communities they are and what a terrific quality of life children have in those communities. I remember going along with perhaps not a positive view of the organisations, and I came away changed by the experience of the whole approach that they have to the human person.

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It is interesting that in a country that I left because I found conformity too great--Sweden--for some time there has been the opportunity for pluralism within its schools. It seems to work well, and it has been a great incentive to teachers to give of their best in schools. It is worth looking at and I look forward to hearing what the Government have to say about it.

I conclude by saying that in other areas of life we are looking at alternatives and looking at a more pluralistic approach. We do this in the health service, and perhaps we should look at whether this is the right time, given the nature of this Bill, to look at the possibility of having a more pluralistic approach to the different types of education available. I look forward to hearing what the Government say. There is something behind this that we should not dismiss too lightly. I hope that the Government will not do that.


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