Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Monkswell: Perhaps I may intervene. My understanding was that Amendment No. 148C was moved but not called by the Chairman of Committees,

1 Jun 1998 : Column 163

so that the Committee did not have an opportunity to make a decision on that amendment. I appreciate that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, spoke on whether the clause shall stand part, but I wonder if the Committee could prevail upon the Chairman of Committees to call Amendment No. 148C. That would enable the Committee to make a decision on that amendment, prior to the Minister responding to the argument of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, on whether the clause shall stand part.

Baroness Blatch: Amendment No. 148C had already been debated and I simply said "not moved".

Lord Monkswell: My understanding was that the government response to Amendment No. 148C being called was that it had already been spoken to, and by implication that they were moving it. The difficulty we are placed in is that, for fairly understandable reasons, the amendment was not called in terms of a Division, so it would seem to me that it would put matters right, if I can put it like that, if the Chairman of Committees could ask whether Amendment No. 148C is agreed. The Committee could then make a decision on that and the Minister could then respond to the arguments that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has made about the clause stand part.

The Chairman of Committees: Perhaps the matter can be resolved in this way. I understand that the question on Amendment No. 148C was not put. Perhaps I may put it now. I believe it can be moved formally.

Baroness Blackstone: I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty: Returning to the Question that Schedule 12, as amended, shall be agreed to, the noble Baroness has spoken against the Motion. Perhaps I could reply to her before we take a decision on it.

As the noble Baroness said, much of this was debated in the amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington. The noble Baroness claims that the abolition of articles of government and the provisions relating to the instruments of government form a straitjacket. The instruments of government are not a straitjacket; they are a modernisation. They provide for certain core information that will be required, detailing the name of the school, its category, the composition of its governing body and, where applicable, those entitled to appoint foundation governors, and, for schools with a religious character, a statement of the school's ethos. As I said in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, there will be additional provisions to those provided by individual schools, which will build in the flexibility to those instruments of government.

As far as the old articles are concerned, I understood the romantic notions of the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, that these often archaic documents were great defences of freedom. Nevertheless, they were very outdated in

1 Jun 1998 : Column 164

many cases, and schools as well as local education authorities found them difficult to work to, requiring regular updating as legislation or regulations changed.

If Schedule 12 were deleted it would delete all reference to instruments of government. The instruments of government are necessary. Some uniformity of part of those instruments of government is necessary; other parts will be agreed between the governing body and the local education authority; and other parts can be added by the individual school. I think that gives adequate flexibility, and I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her opposition to this schedule standing part of the Bill.

Baroness Blatch: That is a deeply disappointing answer. There is one set of regulations for all 25,000 schools in the whole country, with no flexibility for idiosyncratic characteristics to be reflected. I would like the noble Lord to point to where in the Bill, either in Schedule 11 or Schedule 12, it is spelt out that governing bodies can be additionally flexible.

Lord Whitty: It sets out the basic information that is required. It then requires that the instrument will be completed by the governing body using a model pro forma. But it will be possible to complete it in the light of the circumstances of that school.

It is interesting that few GM schools wanted the amendments to the standard instruments because it was so difficult to keep them in line with regular updatings of the regulations. That will be even more true with community schools, as we will be calling them.

We are not imposing a straitjacket. We are tidying up the situation and making it a little more modern than the manor house of the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington. Nevertheless, we are preserving the essential ethos of that manor house in a new context. I trust that the destruction of the schedule, which would remove all statutory backing for instruments of government, would be regarded as a deregulation too far, even by the noble Baroness opposite.

Baroness Blatch: It would not remove the need for instruments or articles of government; it would insist that all schools need to have instruments and articles. It would leave flexibility for them to determine their nature. The noble Lord has wheeled out the old chestnut that because not many schools do it none should do it. That is a policy of despair. Regardless of how few schools want to do it, if they have good reason for doing so they should be supported.

The school which the Prime Minister's children attend cedes powers to the head under articles of government which are agreed by the governors. Under the Bill, that will not be allowed. If the noble Lord is saying to me that under the Bill powers can be ceded over and above the regulations set out in Schedule 12 I shall be a much happier bunny as I go to bed tonight--or this morning.

Lord Whitty: The basic provisions cannot be altered because they are standard provisions. But there can be flexibility over and above those standard provisions

1 Jun 1998 : Column 165

relating to the particular ethos of the school. That is the context in which my honourable friend Stephen Byers was speaking in another place.

Baroness Blatch: I am not talking to the honourable gentleman Stephen Byers, I am talking to the Minister in this House. I am not talking about the basic regulations. They are already here and the noble Lord has made it clear that they cannot be altered and will apply to all schools. Beyond that, can he assure me that over and above the regulations in Schedule 12 powers can be ceded within the governing body to the head? Can matters over and above what is in regulations be ceded? Accepting that Schedule 12 stands part of the Bill, will there be flexibility to exercise some of the powers which are now exercised under present statutes?

Lord Whitty: I do not believe that the term "over and above" is correct. It is in addition to what is provided; they cannot alter what is laid down as standard provisions. There can be additional provisions, but they cannot alter the standard provisions.

If the noble Baroness wishes, I will clarify the matter in writing. However, I am suddenly advised that they can build in extra procedures and rules, but not ones which contradict the basic requirements of the instrument. I repeat that if the noble Baroness requires further clarification I shall be happy to provide it in writing.

Baroness Blatch: I certainly do need further clarification. If I remove my words "over and above" and say "additional to", so that I use the same language as the noble Lord, can he assure me that the powers that are used by, for example, by the Oratory School under its present articles of government can be translated under the new Bill? In other words, can the things it does not do, which are not included in Schedule 12, be done in addition to what is laid down in Schedule 12

Lord Whitty: I regret that I am not sufficiently aware of the precise provisions of the London Oratory School. What I am saying is that schools can provide, under their own standing orders and procedures, additional arrangements for how they conduct their affairs. What I am also saying is that they cannot contradict what are the basic requirements for the instrument itself.

Schedule 12, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 37 [General responsibility of governing body for conduct of school]:

[Amendment No. 149A not moved.]

Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 150:

Page 32, line 7, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment and Amendment No. 151 were moved by the Liberal Democrats in another place. We want to see, not that regulations may set out terms of reference, but that they shall set out the terms of reference for governing bodies of schools and define the respective roles of governors and head teachers, etc. Amendment No. 151 also provides for them to make standing orders to regulate

1 Jun 1998 : Column 166

the conduct of their business. I think it is important to stress that although we want to ensure that their respective functions and relationships are spelt out, we are not setting out to prescribe from the centre what they should be.

I shall quote from my honourable friend in another place, Phil Willis. I think he put the case very well from his own experience in saying:

    "The relationship between the head teacher and the governing body is crucial to the effective running of a school. Nothing is more important, particularly if we consider the relationship between the head and the chairman of governors."

I can say that from having been chair of governors in a school.

    "Most head teachers would value knowing exactly where their operational responsibilities lay. ... It is crucial that each school should know exactly where it stands. We want to see that enshrined in regulations."

He went on to say:

    "The governing bodies in all GM schools have operated under standing orders. Again, head teachers value enormously a good relationship with the governing body".--[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee A, 10/2/98; col. 438.]

The Minister, Estelle Morris, in another place, understood the point of what we were saying and pointed out that they were in the process of consulting on the regulations and that they were happy to include these ideas in the consultation. If the Minister has anything to report tonight, we should like to hear it. If not, perhaps we shall have to wait for a further stage. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page