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Baroness Blatch: It does partly, and I am grateful for that. However, when I was a Minister I had a response for every single amendment that came before the House. I simply wish to know from the noble Baroness whether or not all my amendments to which officials have given

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a response are consistent with the proposals of the scrutiny committee, or whether they are subsumed by the noble Baroness's amendments.

Baroness Blackstone: The advice that I received was that the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness give effect to the recommendations of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. If that advice is wrong, I shall be happy to write to the noble Baroness on those amendments which are apparently different. I hope that reply is helpful.

Lord Lucas: I should be grateful if the noble Baroness could explain to me what dangers of hybridity arise under Clause 100 which she is seeking to evade.

Baroness Blackstone: Perhaps I might write to the noble Lord. I cannot answer that question at this time of night.

Baroness Blatch: This is positively the last time that I shall speak tonight. Perhaps I may thank the noble Baroness, as I promised my noble friend Lady Young I would, for acceding to her request that she might go home earlier--she was not feeling too well and she has a heavy day tomorrow--and for accepting that the last amendments tabled for debate tonight might become the first amendments for debate on Thursday. There was another point that I wished to make; however, I shall leave it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 37 agreed to.

Clause 38 [Additional functions of governing body]:

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 153A:

Page 32, line 31, at end insert--
("( ) The governing body of a maintained school shall have a duty to facilitate and give reasonable assistance to parents who wish to establish an organisation within the school to represent parents.").

The noble Baroness said: The aim of this amendment is to clarify the role of governors to assist parents who want to set up an organisation for parents based on the school. This section in the Bill which confers additional powers on the governing body provides an opportunity to clarify what has been a confused situation.

Although the 1986 Education Act gave the right to parents to elect parent governors to the school governing body, the right of parents to set up an organisation to meet together in the school is not clear in law. If parents are to be treated as partners, it is essential that, if they wish, they should be able to form an association based on the school. This subsection would clarify the right of parents to form an association if they wish. It would not require such organisations to be set up, but would establish a climate so that such organisations would be encouraged.

Governors have an overall duty for the running of the school. It seems sensible that it should be the role of the governing body to assist parents if it is clear that the parents want to have such an organisation. It would give the governing body a clear role in encouraging parental participation.

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This change would not be by any means a cure-all to ensure perfect home-school relationships. Parent involvement involves individual parents working with individual teachers to help their child learn. It also has a wider perspective which includes how a representative parental voice can be heard in the governance of schools.

This subsection is based on one which will be included in a Irish Education Bill. The Irish Bill will also enshrine the right of parents to be consulted on education policy.

This clause also reflects one of the functions of Scottish school boards, which is to promote contact between the school, parents and the community and to promote the formation of parents associations. Surely we do not want to be left behind other parts of the UK.

Also, many European countries have class meetings and parents' councils in schools. Parents' councils or associations allow parents to consult and be consulted on school policies in a democratic way. They establish an expectation that parents will be, and should be, involved in schools. Are we to do less?

Despite the great deal of rhetoric about parental power in recent years, so-called power is in fact limited almost entirely to parental choice at the time of choosing a school. In fact, it is not always parental choice; it gives the parents the chance to name their preference, but they may not get their choice. Parents do have rights to information through the prospectus, the annual report from governors and an annual meeting. Influence within the school once the "choice" is made can in fact be fairly minimal. Parents do not want power but to be consulted and to have their views taken seriously.

The amendment has the support of the PTA for Wales, the UK Education Forum, Family Education and Playwork in Devon, which has been doing splendid work in involving families, and the Alliance of Parents and Schools. In response to a letter to my noble friend, Lady Blackstone, from Mrs Tulloch, the chairman of CASE, the civil servant responding for my noble friend said in her letter:

    "Parents' associations can provide an important underpinning for effective partnerships and the Government would certainly encourage governing bodies to ensure their school has one".

I am now giving the Government the opportunity to do that. I beg to move.

1.30 a.m.

Lord Whitty: I am grateful to my noble friend Lady David for raising this important issue at this late hour. The Government believe that parents should be more involved in the education in their schools. We have brought forward in the Bill proposals for home-school agreements in Clauses 103 and 104. We are increasing parental representation on governing bodies and parent representatives on education committees. We are providing better procedures to protect parents by ensuring that governing bodies take their complaints seriously, and that will be laid down in regulations. We also propose to retain the annual parents' meeting.

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The amendment clearly goes further than that in requiring governing bodies to facilitate the establishment of a parent representative committee in some form, leaving it to the parents as to what form that representation would take. I am aware that, as my noble friend said, this proposal has widespread support. We are mindful that existing arrangements at school level are not always very satisfactory. However, I ask my noble friend to allow us to reflect further with colleagues on the issues raised and to return to the matter, I hope, at Report stage. I hope that in the light of my remarks, which are intended to be positive, my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment at this stage.

Baroness David: I thank my noble friend the Minister for his response, which, on the whole, was fairly satisfactory, although it did not go the whole way in saying that governors would have the possibility of having parents' associations in the school. However, it was quite a decent response and I hope it means that the Government will come back with an amendment at Report stage. On that assumption, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 154 not moved.]

Clause 38 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 154A to 154G not moved.]

Clause 39 agreed to.

Schedule 13 [Control of school premises by governing bodies]:

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 155:

Page 152, line 43, at end insert ("and shall reimburse the governing body for any expense necessarily incurred by the governing body solely as a result of such directions and not otherwise recoverable by the governing body").

The noble Lord said: Paragraph 1(3) of Schedule 13 gives the local authority an absolute right to,

    "give such directions as to the occupation and use of the premises of a community or community special school as they think fit".

The kind of things I would expect to see happening under this provision are the after-hours use of theatres or other premises within the school for the local community, youth clubs or other groups. I do not seek to raise any objection in principle to that but simply to say that, if that does happen, a school can face considerable costs in terms of security equipment and other provisions to ensure that its premises are secure at a time when there are not pupils and staff to keep a watch on what is going on in the place. I can think of several examples where large sums have had to be expended to accommodate the results of such a decision and to deal with the problems of vandalism and theft which would otherwise arise if the school was not properly secured.

It is not reasonable that a school should have to meet from its own resources the costs of providing the security which is only required because the local authority gave a direction that the school should be used out of hours. The purpose of the amendment is to make sure that the local authority bears the costs of its

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decisions in that regard. I am comforted by the Government's decision to group some of their amendments with this one and by the response of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, to the last amendment. I hope that this may be similarly greeted. I beg to move.

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