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Page 91, line 30, leave out from beginning to end of line 10 on page 92.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 120, as amended, agreed to.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 246F:

After Clause 120, insert the following new clause--

Payment of school expenses; grant of scholarships, etc

(" . For section 518 of the Education Act 1996 there shall be substituted--
"Payment of school expenses; grant of scholarships, etc.
518.--(1) A local education authority, for the purpose of enabling persons to take advantage of any educational facilities available to them, may in such circumstances as may be specified in or determined in accordance with regulations--
(a) pay such expenses of children attending community, foundation, voluntary or special schools as may be necessary to enable them to take part in any school activities,
(b) grant scholarships, exhibitions, bursaries and other allowances in respect of persons over compulsory school age.
(2) Regulations may make provision--
(a) for requiring a local education authority to make, in relation to each financial year, a determination relating to the extent to which they propose to exercise their power under subsection (1)(b) in that year; and
(b) for authorising an authority to determine not to exercise that power in a financial year--
(i) generally,
(ii) in such cases as may be prescribed, or
(iii) in such cases as may be determined by the authority." ").

The noble Baroness said: The new clause replaces Section 518 of the Education Act 1996, which was partially amended in the Commons at Report stage by the removal of Section 518(1)(b). It confers a power on the Secretary of State to make regulations to allow LEAs to pay expenses of pupils attending maintained schools to take part in school activities such as school trips, and to assist with the cost of items such as school uniform and sports equipment. This reproduces--with only minor changes to reflect the new school structure--the provisions of existing Section 518(a) of the 1996 Act. It repeats the repeal of existing Section 518(1)(b) agreed elsewhere, which allows LEAs to pay the whole or any part of the fees or expenses for a child attending an independent school so as to avoid hardship on the part of the parents. The circumstances in which LEAs may pay all or part of such expenses will be dealt with under regulations to be made under Clause 120. As I have said, we shall consult in detail during the autumn on the provisions of these regulations, which would be

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made by April 1999. I have also made clear that we shall not commence the provisions of Clause 120 until regulations are ready to be laid. The existing provisions of the Education Act 1996 which give LEAs the power to provide financial assistance to independent schools and to pay fees of children attending such schools will remain in place until that time.

This amendment also contains a provision on financial support for students which is supplementary to that included under the Teaching and Higher Education Bill. That other Bill will allow the Secretary of State to remove discretionary awards for further and higher education students and put new arrangements in their place. The new clause gives the Secretary of State a power to make regulations to allow LEAs to offer additional financial support to students, if they so choose. It will, however, leave it open to LEAs to decide whether or not to do so, although they will have to review their decisions annually.

The current arrangements for post-16 LEA discretionary awards fail many students. Overall LEA expenditure on awards has declined steadily over a number of years and availability of support increasingly depends on where a student happens to live. Shoring up these discredited arrangements will not allow us to deliver lasting reform. That is why we introduced provisions in the Teaching and Higher Education Bill which will allow us to discontinue LEA discretionary awards under Section 1(6) and Section 2 of the Education Act 1962 and replace them with a new system of post-16 student support which is more consistent across the country and more effective in helping those most in need.

I should make clear that the new arrangements to replace LEA discretionary awards are quite separate and distinct from the system of student support which will replace mandatory awards for students in higher education.

To inform our decisions about the new support arrangements for post-16 students in schools and FE colleges, I asked an advisory group, chaired by Graham Lane of the Local Government Association, and including representatives from LEAs, the FEFC, colleges, the NUS and other interested bodies, for its advice. The group's remit was to consider a simpler, fairer, better targeted system for financial support to replace LEA discretionary awards for FE students. The group's report, which is part of our wider review of post-16 student support, will be published very shortly and we will be consulting on its recommendations.

I have, however, listened carefully to LEA representations about the need to retain a power to offer financial help to students in exceptional circumstances, in addition to the new arrangements which we will introduce. I have accepted that no system of student support, however well designed, will be able specifically to address the potential needs of every student facing financial difficulties. LEAs have a key role in their communities and some have argued that their ability to make exceptional payments to students can be an

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important part of that role. We agree. This new clause will enable LEAs to make such payments, where they so choose.

Where LEAs determine that the new arrangements are sufficient for the students in their areas, it will be open to them to decide not to make such payments. I believe it would be unreasonable in these circumstances to require authorities to consider applications and appeals from all-comers, including some who might apply for "exceptional" payments on top of their entitlement to support under the new system. This amendment will relieve LEAs of that burden, subject to the annual review. I beg to move.

Lord Tope: I have a particular concern about this amendment, on which I hope the Minister will be able to reassure me. A few months ago I initiated a debate in your Lordships' House about the funding of drama students and, by association, dance students, art students and so on. The present Arts Council funding system is clearly not working. Can the Minister tell me more about whether the new arrangements are likely to improve the current situation or, as I fear, make it worse? In particular, is she able to tell me, either now or later, when the Government expect to announce their new plans in respect of drama students?

Baroness Blackstone: I cannot give a precise date as to when we shall be able to announce our new plans. As I said in the debate on the noble Lord's Motion, we are working on a scheme to replace the interim scheme. But those arrangements will in no way impinge on the interim scheme; it will be a totally different scheme.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

5 p.m.

Clause 121 [Abolition of corporal punishment in schools etc.]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 246FA:

Page 92, line 22, after ("school") insert ("except those schools to which section 548A below applies").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 246FA, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 246FB. Perhaps I should make it clear at the outset of this debate--I have no doubt that my intentions will be misinterpreted--that I am not supporting mindless beatings of children, ritual punishment, unlawful punishment or punishment that would be decreed unlawful under the European Convention on Human Rights. I am supporting the freedom of parents to choose independent education and to sign up voluntarily to a specific regime of firm discipline within a caring and loving ethos of a school. That is from where I start.

The two largest postbags I received on this Bill involve parish councils being represented on governing bodies of schools--a matter about which they felt strongly--and discipline. Many schools, particularly schools with a Christian ethos, have been concerned that the sensible regimes they operate and the supportive parent bodies of those schools where parents wish their children to be

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brought up with a disciplinary regime which is both fair and firm, are now in jeopardy because of the amendment moved in the House of Commons.

An organisation called Families for Discipline does not support unnecessary punishment for children, but supports the firm and fair approach. It wrote to a number of Members of the Committee and made some cogent points. It argued that the new clause should be opposed because it undermines parental responsibility. Indeed it does. It is based on false assumptions about school corporal punishment. As the headmaster of an independent school in Liverpool explained, corporal discipline is based on the guiding principles of love and correction. The school ethos is an extension of discipline in the home and I am saddened to see, having heard the protestations of the present Ministers in the Department for Education saying that they had no intention of extending the abolition of corporal punishment to the home--the smacking of children--that that extension is now to emanate from the European Community and no doubt there will be an extension to the home.

The clause should be opposed because it fails to recognise the religious basis of many independent schools. It fails to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 2, Protocol 1 requires a state to,

    "respect the rights of parents to ensure that such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions".

The European Court of Human Rights established that such corporal punishment falls within the ambit of this clause. It also exposes pupils and teachers to the risk of increased violence.

It is no good our going around wringing our hands about the behaviour of some young people in our schools; about the rise in expulsions; about the rise in disruptive behaviour in the classroom and the lack of response to the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers. Its members are concerned about the protection of teachers in the classroom. How can we wring our hands about that and not allow the teachers to exercise some form of corporal punishment? Indeed, the Government distributed a guidance document to schools arguing that some force can be used and some of that force, when one reads the guidance, is a form of corporal punishment.

The clause disregards the views of the majority of the United Kingdom public. The Government make much play of saying that people think this or that. But by a considerable majority people believe that there should be corporal punishment in the context of firm but fair discipline. The clause paves the way for legislation against parents using corporal discipline in the home and we are now hearing interesting mutterings from the European Union on that subject.

The Minister in another place, Mrs. Morris, said that it is,

    "the personal responsibility of parents to decide for themselves what disciplinary arrangements are appropriate for their child. It would not be appropriate for the State to impose its own view".

That is precisely what the state is proposing to do in the new clause in relation to independent schools. The state is removing from parents the responsibility to decide for themselves. School is an extension of loco parentis. It is acting in loco parentis while the children are at school.

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I have no doubt that we will hear much of the Swedish case, which was declared inadmissible by the European Court of Human Rights. Of the two cases therefore only Costello-Roberts was referred to the European Court. Neither the Commission nor the court opposed corporal punishment in schools in either case. I can expand on that if it is brought up during the course of the debate.

The Minister appears to consider that the European court would be unlikely to uphold any argument that the new clause would result in a violation of the rights of parents under Article 2 of Protocol 1. However, legal advice received on the matter from a barrister specialising in human rights suggests otherwise. In his view, Campbell and Cousins v. The United Kingdom is a case for positive respect by the state for religious and philosophical convictions to which pluralism in education is fundamental to a democratic society. In Campbell and Cousins the court established that,

    "corporal punishment of children in schools falls within the ambit of Article 2 of Protocol 1".

The British public think otherwise. In polls taken towards the end of 1996 two-thirds of the general public registered support for the restoration of corporal punishment in state schools. That subject has been dealt with by Parliament and I have no wish to restore that debate today. However, I wish to argue strongly that we are talking about parents who freely enter into a contract with an independent school. I believe that they have a human right not only to do that, but also to enter voluntarily into an agreement with that school, knowing what the regime running that school is and knowing that corporal punishment is administered within the law and certainly within what is acceptable under the European Convention on Human Rights. The amendment I tabled makes it clear that the intention is to be lawful at all times.

In the independent sector many schools have the support of governors, teachers and parents to retain the right to use moderate and reasonable corporal punishment in appropriate circumstances. Many of those schools are relatively small; some are faith based and seek to provide an education and disciplinary ethos in harmony with the homes from which the children come. Who are we to deny them that right? These are parents who are not opting for state education over which the Department for Education has control. They opted for independent education and take what comes with it in a voluntary way, entering into a contract voluntarily.

Such a desire is in keeping with national law; it is certainly in keeping with international instruments and conforms to the Department of Health Guidance to the Children Act 1989. I beg to move.

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