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Baroness Blackstone moved Amendments Nos. 189A and 189B:

Page 49, line 40, leave out from ("representations") to end of line 41 and insert ("about the exclusion made to the governing body--
(i) by the relevant person in pursuance of section 63(1)(c) or (2)(b), or
(ii) by the local education authority;").
Page 49, line 42, leave out ("the relevant person") and insert ("each of the following, namely--
(i) the relevant person, and
(ii) an officer of the local education authority nominated by the authority,").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 190 to 191A not moved.]

Lord Archer of Sandwell moved Amendment No. 192:

Page 50, line 10, at end insert ("and the grounds on which it is based").

The noble and learned Lord said: It may be convenient for the Committee to discuss Amendment No. 193 with this amendment. Earlier my noble friend Lord Whitty spoke to Amendment No. 193A and it may be convenient to discuss that with this grouping.

These amendments address a narrow point, but they seek to introduce a requirement which is at the very foundation of natural justice. This part of the Bill, as we know, deals with exclusions. It is a difficult enough subject in all conscience. The Council on Tribunals has found it necessary, in successive annual reports, to criticise the provisions which previously existed. I welcome the Government seeking, in this Bill, to address some of those problems.

I hope that the omissions that these amendments seek to rectify were simply because it was intended to deal with the matter subsequently in regulations, but I believe that it is of sufficient importance to appear on the face of the Bill.

Clause 63(1)(b) says that, where the head teacher decides to exclude a pupil, he must inform the parents or other relevant person of the reasons for the exclusion. Quite right, too. It would be monstrous if a child were excluded and those concerned were not told the reasons. When the governing body is informed of the exclusion, it is under a duty to decide whether to uphold the exclusion or to order reinstatement. Yet the Bill imposes no obligation to give the reasons why the governing body agrees or disagrees with the head teacher.

One would have thought, in any event, that those most concerned were entitled to know the reasons for an exclusion and what subsequently happened about it. The case goes further. If there is an appeal, the matter may have to be considered by an appeal panel. The appeal is specifically stated to be against the decision of

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the governing body--not, the Committee will observe, against the initial decision of the head teacher to exclude. Is the appeal panel not to have the advantage of knowing the reasons for the decision against which it is hearing an appeal? So far, I believe that my noble friends agree with me, as my noble friend Lady Blackstone has set down Amendment No. 193A and my noble friend Lord Whitty has spoken in support of it.

I am grateful to my noble friends for taking note of my amendments and conceding 50 per cent. of them. I am bound to say that that is a higher response rate from the Front Bench than Back Benchers have been accustomed to in the past.

Amendment No. 193A would require the governing body to tell parents or other relevant persons the reasons for upholding the decision to exclude a pupil, if they uphold it. My gratitude to my noble friend Lady Blackstone is augmented by the fact that she took the trouble of writing to me to explain what she proposed to do. I hope it will not appear churlish, in the light of such generosity, if I point out that it meets only half of my amendments. I was proposing that the governors should be required, if conversely they overturn the decision of the head teacher and direct that the pupil should be reinstated, to tell the head teacher the reasons for their conclusion.

Earlier we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, of the concerns of the staff at the possible return of a pupil who has been excluded. It is a matter of great concern if a thoroughly disruptive pupil is permitted to return to the school, notwithstanding the decision of the head teacher to exclude him. No doubt, there will be occasions when parents and child will demonstrate an element of triumphalism: "There you are, you see, we were treated unjustly".

Surely the governors could be required to say that they were not persuaded that the allegations against the pupil were true; that they think there may be room for a mistake; or that they think there was an over-reaction and they agree that the complaint was justified, but they think that the child could be offered counselling and, in the light of that, could be given one more chance.

It would be important for everyone to know the governors' reasons. The staff would have to live with the decision. There have been occasions when, in the case of an exclusion panel, the staff have been so far affronted by a decision to reinstate a child that they have discussed strike action. I am sure that my noble friends will agree that it is of the greatest importance that all the decisions provided for in this part of the Bill, at every stage, should carry authority and be accepted.

While I thank my noble friends for their generous response to my amendments, I hope that they will feel able to extend their response one stage further. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: As my noble and learned friend said, it probably would have been more convenient if the government amendment were considered here. I shall refer to it in my remarks. These amendments concern circumstances in which the governing body must give

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reasons for its decisions on exclusions. I am grateful to my noble and learnd friend and the Council on Tribunals for bringing this to our attention.

As currently drafted, the Bill requires governors to notify parents of their decision, but the governors do not have to give reasons. The government amendment, as I have said, rectifies that omission to the extent that it requires the governing body to set out a statement of its reasons for upholding a permanent exclusion when notifying the parents of the outcome of its consideration of the case.

My noble and learned friend's amendments go further than that in two respects. They place a requirement on the governing body to give the parents reasons for upholding a decision to exclude a pupil for a fixed period, as well as permanently, and requires the governing body to give reasons when it is directing reinstatement--in other words, overturning the initial judgment as my noble and learned friend has just mentioned.

We do not consider it necessary to put this on the face of the Bill. While it is clearly the practice for the governing body to give reasons for all its decisions, and in practice it is inconceivable that the governors would not tell the head teacher why they had overturned an exclusion, the reason this is dealt with on the face of the Bill is because it is only in the case of a decision to exclude permanently that there is a statutory right of appeal for the parent. That is why we have tabled just this one amendment to the schedule. However, we intend to cover the other aspects of notification in the guidance, to which governing bodies and others will legally be required to have regard. In practice, it would be inconceivable that the guidance and practice of governing bodies would not require them, for example, to tell the head teachers why they had overturned an exclusion.

On the understanding that those points would be covered by guidance, and that the main point as to whether there is a statutory right of appeal is dealt with by the government amendment, I hope my noble and learned friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: Of course, I am grateful to my noble friend for meeting me perhaps a little over half way. He has persuaded me that he has gone a little over the dividing line. I am grateful for that.

As for providing an appeal when a child is excluded for a fixed period, I say at once that that was an oversight. I drafted my amendment in something of a hurry, late at night, and I had forgotten that that would be a consequence. That is not what was in my mind. However, it seems to me that if the governors reinstate a child whom the headteacher has purported to exclude he is entitled to know why. Although in 999 cases out of a 1,000 they would tell the head teacher why they disagree, sometimes relations are strained or the school is unhappy. Sometimes governors are unreasonable, but not for the most part. Why not provide for such circumstances? I can see no reason.

My noble friend says that the issue will be dealt with in guidance. We have already had several exchanges about the status of the guidance. I would much rather

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provision appeared on the face of the Bill, but at this stage and in view of what my noble friend was kind enough to say, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7 p.m.

[Amendment No. 193 not moved.]

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendments Nos. 193A and 193B:

Page 50, line 19, at end insert--
("(ia) the reasons for the decision,").
Page 50, line 38, leave out ("section 65") and insert ("sections 65 and (Exclusion of pupils: guidance)").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 64, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 65 agreed to.

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