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Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 139:

Page 31, line 13, after ("categories") insert (", and
(b) in certain circumstances, requiring proposals to be published for a voluntary aided school to become a school within another of those categories;").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 140 and 142 to 146 inclusive and to Amendment No. 146P. I am sorry that I have not sent a letter in advance about these amendments. I would like to confirm what my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey said that in future we shall try to get out a letter in advance which explains any group of government amendments, whether technical or otherwise, because that is very helpful.

These amendments adjust the change of category provisions in the Bill in three ways. Amendment No. 146P makes clear that the approval of proposals to change category does not authorise the school to change its character in any way.

Amendment No. 146 enables regulations to be made preventing an LEA from disposing of or changing the use of land currently used by a community school which wishes to change its category. This power will enable the Secretary of State to prevent LEAs frustrating a school's wish to change category by, for example, disposing of some of the land it uses. However, regulations under this provision might enable an LEA to dispose of land in these circumstances with the permission of the school and, where appropriate, the Secretary of State.

The remaining amendments ensure that if the governing body of an aided school is unable or unwilling to meet its financial obligations, it must publish proposals to change category. It is in no one's interests if a school is unable to afford essential repairs and maintenance. In these circumstances, a voluntary aided school may need to change to a voluntary controlled school. We are therefore putting it beyond doubt that in that situation the governing body of a voluntary aided school must publish proposals to change category. This reflects the current position set out in Section 57 of the Education Act 1996, under which the governors of an aided school must apply to the Secretary of State to become a controlled school if unable or unwilling to meet their financial obligations. That section is a provision with a considerable history, dating back to the 1944 Act. The amendments introduce an updated version of the provision for the new framework. I commend them to the House. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 140:

Page 31, line 16, leave out from ("Except") to ("that") in line 17 and insert ("in relation to a change of category from voluntary aided to voluntary controlled school for which proposals are required to be published by virtue of paragraph 2A of Schedule 8,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 141 not moved.]

Clause 34, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 8 [Changes of category of school]:

[Amendment No. 141A not moved.]

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendments Nos. 142 to 146P:

Page 137, line 8, at end insert--

("Mandatory publication of proposals for voluntary aided school to change category

2A.--(1) If at any time the governing body of a voluntary aided school are unable or unwilling to carry out their obligations under Schedule 3, they shall publish proposals under this paragraph.
(2) If the proposals are published during the period mentioned in section 34(2), they shall be proposals for the school to become a voluntary controlled school.
(3) If the proposals are published after the end of that period, they shall be proposals for the school to become either a voluntary controlled school or a foundation school, as the governing body may determine.
(4) Sub-paragraph (2) of paragraph 2 shall apply in relation to proposals published under this paragraph as it applies in relation to proposals published under that paragraph.").
Page 137, line 21, leave out from ("able") to end of line 22 and insert ("to carry out their obligations under Schedule 3;").
Page 137, leave out lines 23 and 24.
Page 137, line 31, after ("2") insert ("or 2A").
Page 137, line 34, after ("property") insert (", rights and liabilities (including such a transfer to or from a foundation body),").
Page 137, line 36, at end insert--
("(1A) Regulations under sub-paragraph (1) may, in particular, make provision with respect to--
(a) restricting the disposal of land by a local authority which is used or held for the purposes of a school in relation to which proposals to change category are, or may be, published under paragraph 2, as from--
(i) the date of publication of such proposals; or
(ii) such other time as may be prescribed;
(b) restricting the taking of action by virtue of which any such land would cease to be so used or held to any extent;
(c) the consequences of any contravention of any such restriction;
(d) conferring on any prescribed body such functions as may be prescribed with respect to any such contravention.").
Page 137, line 41, at end insert--
("5. A school's change of category under this Schedule shall not be taken as authorising or requiring any change in the character of the school conducted by its governing body (including, in particular, any religious character of the school).").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 8, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 35 [Governing bodies]:

Baroness Seccombe moved Amendment No. 146A:

Page 31, line 22, at beginning insert ("Subject to section (Grouping of community, voluntary aided, voluntary controlled and community special schools under a single governing body),").

1 Jun 1998 : Column 140

The noble Baroness said: Even at this late hour, I am in an optimistic mood. It gives me great pleasure to move this amendment and to speak to Amendments Nos. 154A to 154G inclusive. The amendment concerns a straightforward administrative matter and I hope that the Minister will be able to accept it. I admit that it appears complicated, but it is really a very simple issue.

All that I am doing is proposing that the Bill maintains the provisions of the 1996 Act to enable two or more schools to continue to appoint a single board of governors. The best way that I can explain this is to give the Committee the background of the school which has enlisted our help and the situation in which it would find itself if the Bill were not amended.

The school in question is the Church of England-aided school of St. Alphege, the church where my husband and I were married many years ago. Therefore, I understand only too well its standing in the area as a centre of excellence. Parents from all over the borough are anxious to get their children accepted in the knowledge that they will receive the very best start in their academic life.

The school has been administered by a single governing body probably since Elizabethan times and certainly since 1862. During its history there have been separate schools for boys and girls while at other times they became amalgamated again. But in 1973, due to its popularity, the school wanted to expand but was unable to do so as the original one-form entry site was too small to cope with a two-form entry. As a consequence, the junior department moved to another site half a mile away. Throughout these changes, there has been one governing body maintaining that essential ingredient, continuity, and highlighting the fact that it is the school attached to St. Alphege Church. The governing body therefore wishes to remain one single body, albeit on two sites, so that it can retain that continuity but also because any child who enters at nursery stage is given the right of attendance through to the end of junior school. The admission rules are administered as for one school. It is felt that any action in the nursery and infant school has a knock-on effect on the junior school. At present due to more parental pressure consideration is being given to a three-form entry. That will obviously affect the junior school that must follow suit.

I have spoken to both the rector and chairman of governors who feel strongly about this matter. They believe that there would be a duplication of duties for those who had to be on both governing bodies. They also feel that the two schools may drift apart; that there will be increased administration costs; and that as it is the school of one parish it should be administered as one. The governors of an aided school are responsible for 15 per cent. of certain costs. As a single body it administers moneys that it has accrued for projects. Their concern is that they will have to set up a foundation or trust to administer that money. In the school there is one parent-teacher association.

The school accepts that change is necessary from time to time but only if it is for good reasons. It is a very successful school whose pupils achieve the highest results. It is also rightly proud of the way that it looks

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after children with special needs. I believe that such schools--there must be others in the same position--deserve consideration and support. I beg to move.

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