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Baroness Blatch: Is the noble Lord saying in more simple terms that the situation that pertains at the Oratory will be banned by this Bill?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am saying that those parts of the agreement I read out, which involve the signature on a home-school agreement, will no longer be possible when the Bill becomes law.

9.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: It is difficult to talk about those parts because any home-school agreement will have a variety of parts within it. It is no accident that this school is a very good school. What the noble Lord is saying is that from now on someone who refuses to accept those conditions cannot be discriminated against.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I did not say anything about the other conditions. I referred to a refusal to sign a home-school agreement. We spent 50 minutes debating the contents and context of a home-school agreement. The willingness or otherwise of a parent to sign a home-school agreement will no longer be one of the criteria for admission to any school.

Baroness Blatch: That was my question. I asked about parents who come along to that school and refuse

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to sign the home-school agreement, which includes many of those conditions. They are part of being accepted into the school. They are conditions in terms of the commitment of parents and in terms of a commitment to supporting the regime of the school, the ethos of the school and the discipline within the school. If parents come along and refuse to sign the agreement it will not be possible for the school to discriminate against them in terms of entry. Is that right?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It cannot be a criterion for admission. I listened carefully to the preceding discussion and I took it that the movers of the amendments--both from the Liberal Democrat Benches and my noble friend Lady David--were very keen on a home-school policy which was arrived at by consensus between parents, the school and the pupils. They were keen on it being negotiated between the school and the parents and on the pupils being consulted. They were keen on it being a continuing process. How that is compatible with making it a criterion for admission is beyond me.

Baroness Blatch: The noble Lord is a past master at diversionary tactics. Nothing in my amendment invalidates Clause 103. Clause 103 is a very fine idea. If a school wants a voluntary agreement, if a school wants to set out conditions within its contract and invite parents to sign it and to accept as part of that that if a parent does not sign it that is all right, I have no objection. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, that where one can get a voluntary agreement and a fruitful partnership, that is a good thing.

All I am saying is that one or two schools, perhaps more--notably one school to which the Prime Minister sends his children, another Cabinet Minister sends her children and a third government Minister sends his children--already have agreements which have worked for a very long time. It is no accident and no coincidence that those are fine schools. Because of the system, because of the signatures that they have on those agreements, they have the highest possible degree of conformity to the way in which the school is run and to the way in which the school operates.

The Bill proposes that that can no longer continue. In the future that will be challenged under Clause 103, because the prohibition is in Clause 104 and not Clause 103. Nothing in my noble friend's amendment invalidates what is in Clause 103. That can continue, I have no argument with that and I did not rise to object to it. I am simply saying that something which is satisfactory to the leader of the noble Lord's party and to Cabinet Ministers within his party should be allowed to continue for parents who follow behind them.

I find it mean spirited and politics for its own sake. The world will not fall apart if the school can continue with that system. The only thing that can arise as a result of the dogged determination of the Government to set their face against this policy is that parents will come along, will want entry to that school, will refuse to sign a home-school agreement but, under the law, the school will not be allowed to discriminate against them. A new ground for discrimination will be set up. It seems to me

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that it must be possible for schools to say, "This is how we are run", and, in conjunction with the agreement of the parents, to have the fullest possible conformity. I shall ask leave to withdraw the amendment. However, my information is that the Prime Minister does not understand what is being abolished here.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Before the noble Baroness withdraws the amendment perhaps I may say to her that I have set out the Government's position on this matter and I do not propose to repeat it. The position is entirely clear. She speaks as though the implication of Clause 104 is that there would be discrimination against a child whose parents refused to sign a home-school agreement as a condition of admission. That is not the case. That is not allowed to be a criterion for admission. Our view is that the importance of home-school agreements and creating a real relationship between the school, parents and pupils are the overriding considerations. It is on that basis that we resist the amendment.

Baroness Blatch: I shall return to the issue once more. The noble Lord has again missed the point completely. If parents refuse to sign a home-school agreement one assumption is that they do not agree with everything in it. They may not agree with the disciplinary regime or all kinds of things that may be in the agreement, yet they desperately want to get their child into that particular school because it has a very high reputation in London. They believe that their child might receive a better education. Unless they have a commitment to the way in which the school is run and the disciplinary regime within it, besides the other conditions that are part of the agreement, then the noble Lord is saying that the school would not be in a position to refuse to accept the pupil on the grounds that the parents do not agree with some of the conditions in the home-school agreement. That would be wholly wrong for that particular school.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The noble Baroness has not said what the noble Lord said. What I have said, I have said.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 104 agreed to.

Clause 105 agreed to.

Clause 106 [Provision of secondary education for Key Stage 4 pupils by FE institutions]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 240A:

Page 81, line 23, leave out ("further education is provided") and insert ("education is provided to a person who has attained the age of nineteen years").

The noble Lord said: Clause 106, as currently drafted, stipulates that pupils aged between 14 and 16 who will be receiving secondary education provided by a further education college cannot be educated in the same room as 16 to 18 year-old students except in circumstances prescribed by regulation. The purpose of this amendment is to set the dividing line at the age

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of 19 instead. Key stage 4 pupils being educated in a school may be taught in the same room as older sixth form pupils.

The effect of the clause as it currently stands would be to restrict the education of the same age groups if the provision were to apply in a further education college. It was not our intention to restrict in this way the teaching of 14 to 16 year-olds in the same room as 16 to 19 year-olds. Instead there should be a single dividing line between persons aged 19 and over and younger persons. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 106, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 241 not moved.]

Clause 107 [Nutritional standards for school lunches]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 233ZH:

Page 81, line 27, leave out ("Regulations may prescribe") and insert ("The Secretary of State may issue guidance in relation to").

The noble Baroness said: This part of the Bill does represent the nanny state. The Secretary of State is now going to tell all our children precisely what they must eat in school. There are all kinds of practical problems with that. My memory goes back to the days when there were nutritional standards. Meat and two veg were cooked at the school by the dinner ladies. The pigs did rather well in those days because of the amount of food that was sent out. Children would not eat liver, cabbage, carrots or spinach. An incredible amount of waste left the school almost on a daily basis.

There have been a great many heartening developments over the years. Certainly, in the schools of which I was a governor, in a number of schools with which I was familiar in my own local authority and in the schools I visited across the country in my time at the Department for Education, and since, what I have seen has led me to believe that an enormous amount is going on in schools to promote healthy eating. That includes curriculum work.

However, it now appears that the Secretary of State is to reintroduce the notion of nutritional standards, which I suspect will come either from the Food Agency, as an adviser, or from the Government's Chief Scientist and his staff. Fashion about what does and does not comprise "healthy eating" changes so frequently that the notion that every single school child will receive a missive from on high, saying what he or she should eat on a daily basis, is almost incredible.

It is an inflexible policy. It appears that children will have to eat what is set out by the Secretary of State under the regulations to be made by him under the powers of Clause 107. I am certainly not against guidance, which would be helpful to some schools. However, there is the bizarre practical question of the growing number of children who take their own lunch to school. There will be no control whatever over what they eat. Schools are doing sterling service in trying to persuade parents to ensure that there is fruit in their child's lunch-box and that the child does not eat too much chocolate or too many sweets or crisps. Schools

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are doing what they can, but, ultimately, when a child opens his or her lunch-box, he or she will eat whatever the parent has put there. In many schools, the majority of children will bring in a lunch-box and there will be no nutritional control over them, while sitting alongside them will be children who should be eating their school liver and cabbage but who will probably be wasting most of it.

I am disheartened to see a return to such detail. Oh, that there were more detail in the clauses on action zones! The amount of detail on matters such as this is extraordinary. Guidance is more appropriate and we are given absolutely no detail on the very big political and educational issues.

I hope the Minister will appreciate the fact that schools would welcome guidance. The Government are setting all sorts of serious practical problems for many schools which may have disposed of their kitchens. Other schools may have a majority of pupils who eat their lunch from lunch-boxes provided externally. I hope that the Minister will see the merits of providing guidance, but not a diktat from above. I beg to move.

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