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Baroness Maddock: In drawing up the draft code of guidance on admissions, what reference will the Government have to environmental issues? One of the big problems when children go out of area to school is transport and the number of cars which end up sitting outside schools. If schools are to get together on their admission policies, there may be something they could do between them, perhaps to get school buses going together, if nothing else. We have heard that the Minister for Transport is looking at how we can reduce the number of cars on our roads. In recent years the number of cars turning up outside school gates has definitely increased.

I do not pretend that the solution is easy and I am not expecting an answer which says that it is. However, I hope that, in drawing up this code of guidance, that

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will be something at which the Government will look to see whether anything sensible can be done to reduce the amount of extra transport generated these days outside schools.

Lord Lucas: Perhaps I can just stick a pin into a Liberal Democrat obsessional matter. Out-of-area admissions in many cases reduce the need for transport because the major school in a neighbouring local authority may be a good deal closer than the school in one's own local authority area. That is a subject to which we will come later when I suspect I shall have some good long arguments with the Liberal Democrat Benches.

Baroness Maddock: I felt that I made my point in a non-confrontational way. It is a serious issue and that was the way I intended to make the point. We do not want to get into a "ding dong" about it; that would not be helpful. We are trying to make sure, where we can--I do not dispute what the noble Lord said; his point is absolutely right--that the matter is considered, and that is why I phrased my comments in the way that I did.

Baroness Blackstone: I do not want to intervene in the little spat taking place between the Conservative and the Liberal Democrat Benches. Perhaps I can begin with Amendment No. 210. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that, in line with the duty in the clause, the Secretary of State will consult widely on the draft code and copies will be made available to any member of the general public upon request. For those reasons it is not necessary to place the requirement on the face of the Bill and I hope that, in the light of that, the noble Lord will consider not moving his amendment.

On the issue of co-ordinated admission arrangements, the Government will want to listen, during the consultation period, to any proposals that come forward. I suspect again that they will not be dissimilar to what exists already--the noble Lord asked that question; however, it will depend on proposals put to the Secretary of State by admission authorities. The Government will be looking particularly to simplify admission arrangements and to ensure that parents hold any one offer of a place.

We come to the issue raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. I am sympathetic in many ways to her point. I wish more children could walk to school or go by bicycle. I know that there are issues of safety and security, especially in big cities. But the noble Baroness is absolutely right that the school run is now blocking up many of our urban roads at certain times of the day. If we can find ways to reduce the amount of moving around, that is something we will consider. We will look carefully at any proposals that take into account those environmental factors.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 209B:


Page 59, line 19, leave out from ("code"") to end of line 20 and insert ("or to functions under this Chapter shall have effect, in relation to any such separate code of practice, as references to that code or to functions under this Chapter to which it relates (as the case may be).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 79, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 80 [Making and approval of code of practice]:

[Amendment No. 210 not moved.]

Clause 80 agreed to.

Clause 81 [Parental preferences]:

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 210A:


Page 60, line 44, at end insert--
("(3A) Each local education authority shall record the number of cases where the duty imposed by subsection (2) does not apply for the reason referred to in paragraph (a) of subsection (3).").

The noble Baroness said: This clause deals with parental preferences. It requires that a local authority,


    "shall make arrangements for enabling the parent of a child (a) to express a preference as to the school and (b) to give reasons for [that] preference".

My amendment requires,


    "Each local education authority shall record",

that parental choice--in other words, the parents' first choice--and this information should be made public.

At a time when the Government are committed to raising standards in schools and pursuing the course that good schools will be able to expand, it seems logical that we should have some way of judging what is and what is not a good school, but not just in terms of the school itself but as regards the choice so that parents would wish to send their children to that particular school. As we have heard in earlier debates, parental choice will vary. Their judgment may be swayed by academic achievement or by the league tables which are now published; it may be by the specialism that a particular school offers. There may also be a religious character to the school or that the parents wish to consider the ethos and moral culture for which the school is renowned. We have had that in our earlier discussions on this Bill. It may well be an indication that siblings have a bearing on the matter.

At the moment there is no place in the Bill where the parents' choice, particularly their first choice, is recorded in any way. Parents may well ask how they are to know what is a good school if they are not interested in just academic achievement. My amendment seeks to give parents another indicator by which to judge the school. The fact that the list will be published school by school within the local education authority would be an added value for parents. I would like to see this measure included in the Bill.

I move this amendment and, if this amendment is accepted, I move also Amendments Nos. 214A and 215A.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The grouping is for the convenience of the Committee. The noble Baroness can

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move Amendment No. 210A. She has spoken to the others, but she cannot move more than one amendment at a time.

Baroness Byford: I thank the Minister for that assistance. I am happy to speak to just Amendment No. 210A.

Baroness Blackstone: It is perfectly appropriate for the noble Baroness to speak to the other amendments in the group, but she cannot move more than one, the first in the group.

Baroness Byford: I thank the Minister for helping me out on this occasion. I have spoken to Amendment No. 210A and as a consequence I would like to include Amendments Nos. 214A and 215A because of the consequences they have for the clause. I ask the Minister to consider the first preference of parents. I also ask the Minister to consider also the parents who are not successful in their first choice. They should be included in some form of table as league tables already exist for academic achievement. I beg to move.

Baroness Maddock: I rise to speak to two other amendments in this group; namely, Amendments Nos. 213 and 215. My noble friend Lady Thomas of Walliswood has already mentioned them. We would like to have these amendments on the face of the Bill as regards children with special educational needs. The first is an amendment to Clause 87. It seeks a mechanism which will enable local education authorities to monitor admissions. They need to be able to monitor whether schools are systematically admitting more or fewer children with special educational needs than a fair proportion of their intake would suggest. This information would be very helpful in informing discussions with schools in the particular area of admissions. The amendment to Clause 87 is designed to provide a mechanism to ensure that information is made available by community, foundation and voluntary schools.

The other amendment to Clause 84 is designed to ensure that information about how admission policies have been working over the previous year informs the consultation on the determination or variation of admission arrangements. It is designed to ensure that permitted forms of selection do not include any forms of selection that may discriminate on the grounds of disability. Tonight the Committee has considered a whole series of amendments relating to admission of this very special group of children. We have heard examples of possible discrimination. These amendments are designed to ensure that no child is refused admission to a school on the ground of disability or special educational needs.

Baroness Blatch: I support my noble friend's amendment. I also support the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. I believe that the recording of preferences will underpin the information that the Government require to support two policies. The first is the expansion of popular schools. This will provide a

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great deal of information as to where parents are voting with their feet. The second deals with the importance of showing up those schools that are not being supported by parents. That will also give the Government the opportunity to focus attention on those schools. I was interested in one aspect of the class size pledge. It appeared likely that a good deal of the money for the class size pledge in terms of supporting preferences, which is what my noble friend seeks to have counted, would end up going to over-subscribed as opposed to under-subscribed schools. That is an interesting side issue which flows from that policy.

Referring to the matter raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, it is ironic that the only classes that will be allowed to bust the class size pledge and go to 31, 32, 33, or whatever the figure may be, are those that accept children with special needs. A guarantee is required that if a child with special needs is not to be turned away an attempt must be made to make extra provision to support a teacher who not only has a class of 30 but children in excess of that number who make particular demands on that teacher. That should not take place at the expense of either the teacher and/or the child. I am concerned about many hundreds, or possibly thousands, of schools in rural areas where it is not possible, certainly in the short term, to find extra classrooms because there is no room on the site for them and yet a child in a particular locality may want a place as a special needs child in a school. How can that preference be met?

This point is linked not only to the point raised by my noble friend in moving her amendment but to a debate on a previous amendment. Will the code of practice address the whole issue of parental preferences and codify the class size pledge that the application of that policy will not result in the sending of a child an unreasonable distance--this is all to do with admissions policy--or to a poorer performing school, or placing a child in a higher age group in a junior school, or not allowing a class other than in special needs cases to go over 30? Will the capital costs be met? Will it not only sustain the level of parental preferences but, as the honourable gentleman in another place makes clear in the background document, enhance parental preferences and place that local authorities under an obligation to see that they are enhanced? I believe that the recording of parental preferences is one way to hold this policy to account to make sure that it delivers what is intended by the Government. On those grounds I believe that the Government should support my noble friend's amendment.


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