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Lord Tope: I intervene again with hesitation. There is clearly considerable concern about bullying on all sides of the Chambers. I understand that the Minister

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cannot concede today, but I hope that he recognises that concern and will agree that the Government will at least think further about it.

I shall relate an experience from my own authority. As it happens, it was in the social services area rather than education, in terms of guidelines. My authority was held, in the courts, on an issue of child minders and smacking, to have had too much regard to guidelines issued under the Children Act. We interpreted the guidelines word for word. The court held that we had had too much regard to them. I have yet to hear of a local authority being held to have had too much regard for an Act of Parliament. That is an important difference.

Lord Whitty: Without interfering in the internal affairs of the Sutton LEA, and not knowing that case, that underlines the difference referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, between guidance and guidelines. The requirement to have regard to guidance would have statutory force and therefore would have, as I said in response to the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, a substantial deterrent effect on the ignoring of those guidelines by authorities.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Rix, the guidance is available to the governing body, and it sets out what should be pursued by head teachers, teachers, pupils and staff within schools. That guidance would be more explicit and clearer than a general phrase on the face of the Bill. Before my noble friend replies to the debate, I take the feeling of this place on this issue. Although I remain to be convinced that it would help one bullied child to have this on the face of the Bill rather than in guidance, there may be something in what Members of the Committee have said, and I ask my noble friend whether she would be happy were I to reflect on this matter and perhaps consult her between now and Report.

Baroness David: I thank all Members of the Committee who have supported me. I have received strong support for these amendments. I have had especially strong support for Amendment No. 184 which is an amendment to Clause 80. It introduces more constructive principles to school discipline.

I have listened with great care to what has been said. It is abundantly clear from all this that bullying is an issue which really has to be dealt with properly. I was very relieved that my noble friend has now said that he will reflect on this matter, because I was afraid that he would turn it down altogether. However, it appears that what has been said has made some impression on him and of course I shall be very pleased to consult with him and others between now and the next stage of the Bill.

However, I think we must have something about bullying on the face of the Bill, and that would be included in Amendment No. 184. It is also important for the general public to see that the Government are facing up to this and appreciating how bad the situation really is. Personally, I would like to see the word "pupil" on the face of the Bill. I think that is important. Whether or not the amendments I have put down are acceptable, I hope that the Government will think about this. I would prefer them to bring forward their own amendments, which would satisfy me. I very much hope

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that that will be done. I am sure that the Government will read carefully what has been said during this debate and of course I will read carefully what my noble friend has said.

The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, with whose amendment I have a lot of sympathy, was really making the same point as I made on Thursday on Amendments Nos. 182 and 189; namely, that bad behaviour can often be caused not just by children being naughty but because their needs have not been recognised. The noble Baroness put forward the medical need, but in these amendments I am talking about special educational needs. In a way, they each cover the same point.

I think I have had support from everybody who spoke, except perhaps for the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, who chided me not for what I had said but rather for what I had not said. I try to speak firmly to the amendments and the clauses on which they are based, which perhaps is a practice that has not always been followed on the other side of the Committee. I think that that is very important if we are to make progress, and I congratulate myself on not speaking for too long on these matters. As I have said, I hope that the Government will reflect on what has been said and bring forward their own amendments at Report stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 184 and 185 not moved.]

Clause 60 agreed to.

Clause 61 [LEA's reserve power to prevent a breakdown of discipline]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 185A:

Page 48, line 19, after ("(2)") insert ("or where subsection (2A) applies").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 185A, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 185B, 185C, 193B and 193C.

Where an LEA wishes to invoke Clause 61(1), as well as one or both of Clauses 16 and 17, we want them to be able to do so without having to invoke two distinct procedures. Amendments Nos. 185A and 185B would therefore allow an LEA which had started the process of intervention under Clause 15(1) to use not only either or both of their powers under Clauses 16 and 17, but also their powers under Clause 61(1). In other words, a warning notice under Clause 15(2) might result in the use of any of those powers. Alternatively, an LEA, after having given a notice under Clause 15(2) that they proposed to exercise their powers under Clauses 16, 17 and 61(1), would have the option of ultimately invoking Clause 61(1) alone. These amendments are designed to allow LEAs to make use of these different powers in a flexible way, without having to serve different types of notices, which could be confusing as well as bureaucratic.

Turning to Amendment No. 185C, this new clause gives the Secretary of State the power to require governing bodies of maintained schools to set targets for reducing unauthorised absence. A school's target would be published in the governors' annual report

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alongside its current unauthorised absence rate. This new power will be applied where a school has an attendance record significantly below average, as specified in accordance with regulations and drawing on the annual absence returns made to the department. A letter will be sent to the governing bodies of all schools so identified, informing them that the duty to set a target applies to them and for how many school years it will have effect. If, however, there is a strong reason why the governing body of a particular school should not have to set an attendance target, subsection (2)(c) provides for a waiving of the requirement.

The actual target will be for the governing body to decide in the light of local circumstances and in discussion with their local education authority. The department will be consulting on arrangements for attendance targets shortly. The aim will be to work towards a significant reduction in truancy through a partnership approach, and school-level targets will clearly need to reflect, and contribute to, LEA targets. This amendment will, if enacted, help to focus minds and resources on a key area of school improvement and will contribute to the Government's agenda for reducing youth crime and disorder, which, as we all know, so often happens when large numbers of young people are truanting from school.

Amendment No. 193C is designed to ensure that all schools follow the Government's detailed guidance on the use of exclusion. While most schools follow the existing guidance carefully, it is clear that a fairly small minority do not. At present the guidance is non-statutory, so there is little that parents can do if, for example, a school excludes their child for a quite trivial reason, or fails to follow the correct procedure. These amendments will mean that the head teacher or the governing body will be required by law to have regard to the new guidance on exclusion which will accompany this legislation, strengthening a parent's case when it comes to an independent appeal.

We intend to make regulations requiring the governing body's functions in relation to exclusion to be carried out by a discipline committee, as is currently the case in grant-maintained schools. The purpose of Amendment No. 193B is simply to ensure that the discipline committee, too, must have regard to the guidance on exclusion. I commend these school discipline and attendance amendments to the Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Peston: In rising warmly to support these amendments, perhaps I may make a slightly acid comment. Of course, they are quite prescriptive and if we were worried about matters of this sort I would rather have a prescriptive amendment on bullying than anything else. I say this to make quite sure that people have not forgotten my acerbic approach to these matters. I would like to ask my noble friend with regard to Amendment No. 185C in particular--because this is immensely important and it is an amendment I strongly support--whether she could clarify, in this context, what is meant by,

    "to secure that annual targets are set".

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I take what she said to mean that not merely should targets be set in the sense of objectives--in other words, this is what we are going to do apropos truancy--but implicit in that is "this is what we shall do to achieve those ends".

In economics we always distinguish means from ends and we use the word "targets" just to mean ends and therefore we would not include in that the concept of means. However, my noble friend has interpreted this to mean both means and ends. Therefore can she confirm that the Secretary of State has in mind that the school et al should say, "this is our objective; we assume the objective to be 100 per cent. attendance unless there is some extraordinarily good reason for children not being present, and this is how we intend it should happen". Is my interpretation of this amendment correct?

4.30 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone: I thank my noble friend for the acid comment. As my noble friend Lord Whitty has already said, we shall look again at bullying to see whether there is a sensible way in which we could put something on the face of the Bill.

In regard to reaching particular targets, this amendment is designed for those schools that have significantly below average attendance records and where the Government feel that something should be done. It would be common sense that where a school is asked to specify its targets for a particular goal it would need have to have some idea as to how it could reach that goal. It would be pointless if the school, including its governing body and head teacher, were only required to publish the target and did not have to spend some time indicating how it was going to get there.

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