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Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the Government are committed to bringing infant school class sizes down to 30. That is what these clauses are about and that is what these amendments are about. If I may say so, the noble Lord's question is not really relevant to the amendments here, but of course the Government are concerned to improve the recruitment of teachers at all stages.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, perhaps I may begin with my fellow teaching colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Dormand. I was not belittling the argument. Anyone who is a practising teacher knows that it is better to teach small classes than large classes, particularly if one is correcting work, even among junior or primary children.

I felt that the noble Baroness met me more than half way, but her ingenuity clouded the route. There seems to be agreement between us but I think that the debate revealed that there is controversy on this matter. The issue is about how one uses resources and whether in some cases to choose between a class of 32 and a better teacher or whether arbitrarily to say that 30 is the limit.

I understand why the Government have committed themselves to this, but it is because their commitment has been so precise--30 and no further and the headmaster or headmistress allowed no choice--that my question mark is raised. That is why I want to put facts on the face of the Bill. I appreciate what the noble Baroness said about value added and I share her views on that. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, said in Committee, this is an enormously complicated matter. There was enormous trouble in finding a system for value added. Therefore, I cannot see that any harm is done by producing facts. They will not be the elixir of truth but they will give some guidance. In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; and the Government could open one eye to this.

I dispute whether it would lay such a burden on schools. All we are asking is that the class sizes should be put alongside Key Stage 1, which is very easy to do. The noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, pointed out that as things exist at the moment it is

30 Jun 1998 : Column 534

difficult. We on this side of the House are not making a violent ideological attack on this point. We are sharing some of the problems and we are saying that there are difficulties and there is agreed ground. But what we are asking is for facts on the face of the Bill, facts which will not lay such a burden on schools. As various surveys have shown, what really lays burdens on schools is the rocks they hit in the pass. Therefore, despite the noble Baroness's ingenuity, charm and her standing on her head, I am not happy. I should like to ask the opinion of the House on this matter.

3.33 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 96; Not-Contents, 146.

Division No. 1


Aberdare, L.
Addison, V.
Ailsa, M.
Aldington, L.
Ashbourne, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Bellwin, L.
Beloff, L.
Belstead, L.
Biffen, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L.
Broadbridge, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnham, L. [Teller.]
Butterworth, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Charteris of Amisfield, L.
Chelmsford, V.
Chesham, L.
Clanwilliam, E.
Courtown, E.
Cranbrook, E.
Crickhowell, L.
Cross, V.
Cuckney, L.
Davidson, V.
De Freyne, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denbigh, E.
Denham, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Erne, E.
Feldman, L.
Fookes, B.
Gage, V.
Gainford, L.
Garel-Jones, L.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Glentoran, L.
Gray of Contin, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L.
Halsbury, E.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
Hooper, B.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Ilchester, E.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Knollys, V.
Lauderdale, E.
Lindsay, E.
Long, V.
McConnell, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Merrivale, L.
Milverton, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Moore of Wolvercote, L.
Mottistone, L.
Mountevans, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Munster, E.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Noel-Buxton, L.
Norrie, L.
Onslow, E.
Orr-Ewing, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Pender, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Rawlings, B.
Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Renton, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Rowallan, L.
Sandford, L.
Seccombe, B. [Teller.]
Sharples, B.
Sudeley, L.
Swansea, L.
Swinfen, L.
Teviot, L.
Teynham, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Trumpington, B.
Waddington, L.
Westbury, L.


Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Allen of Abbeydale, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alport, L.
Ampthill, L.
Annan, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Avebury, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackburn, Bp.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Burlison, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L.
Calverley, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carrick, E.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Chorley, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Exmouth, V.
Ezra, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fitt, L.
Gallacher, L.
Geraint, L.
Gibson, L.
Glenamara, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hampton, L.
Hardie, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Kennet, L.
Kinloss, Ly.
Kintore, E.
Kirkhill, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Longford, E.
Ludford, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNair, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Methuen, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.
Northbourne, L.
Ogmore, L.
Paul, L.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Ripon, Bp.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Sainsbury, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sandberg, L.
Sandwich, E.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Serota, B.
Sewel, L.
Shannon, E.
Shepherd, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Stallard, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Weatherill, L.
Whitty, L.
Wigoder, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

30 Jun 1998 : Column 536

3.44 p.m.

Clause 1 [Power to set limits on infant class sizes]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 9, leave out subsections (1) to (3) and insert--
(".--(1) The Secretary of State shall by regulations--
(a) impose a limit on class sizes for infant classes at maintained schools; and
(b) specify the school years in relation to which any such limit is to have effect.
(2) Any limit imposed under this section shall specify the maximum number of pupils that a class to which the limit applies may contain while an ordinary teaching session is conducted by a single qualified teacher.
(2A) Subject to subsections (3) and (3A), regulations under this section shall be so framed that--
(a) the maximum number specified in pursuance of subsection (2) is 30, and
(b) that limit has effect in relation to the 2001/2002 school year and any subsequent year.
(3) Regulations under this section may--
(a) provide for any limit imposed under this section to take effect--
(i) at the same time in the case of each of the age groups into which the pupils in infant classes fall, or
(ii) at different times (which may be earlier than the beginning of the school year mentioned in subsection (2A)) in the case of different such age groups;
(b) provide that, in any circumstances specified in the regulations, any such limit either is not to apply or is to operate in such manner as is so specified.
(3A) The Secretary of State may by order amend subsection (2A)--
(a) by substituting for "30" such other number as is specified in the order; or
(b) by substituting for the reference to the 2001/2002 school year a reference to such other school year as is so specified.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 10, 17, 172 to 175, 201 and 234. As Members of your Lordships' House will recall during Committee, following our discussions on the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee, I undertook to return to the House with proposals on this matter. These government amendments will meet the committee's concerns and therefore I am very pleased to move them.

I said before and I say again, that we are keen to respond as positively as possible to the committee's recommendation, as we have done elsewhere in the Bill. Not only have we placed the maximum number of 30 on the face of the Bill, we have placed the deadline of 2001 on the face of the Bill, too. However, it would not be wise for the maximum number of 30 and the deadline of 2001 to be completely inflexible. The reason is simply that we may, at some future date, want to consider reducing infant class size limits even further to 28, 27 or, who knows, even to 25. In asking for these important powers to be placed on the face of the Bill, we do not believe that the committee intended to limit flexibility. Indeed, its report makes clear that it has

30 Jun 1998 : Column 537

accepted the need for flexibility in implementing this policy. Its intention--which we fully accept--was to permit informed debate on the government's central objectives in imposing infant class size limits, but I do not believe that the committee intended that the limit of 30 should be set in stone. That is why subsection (3A) gives the Secretary of State power by order to amend the maximum number and the deadline.

There is no question of this Government using these flexibilities to renege on their pledge to the British people. We could not have been clearer. We shall ensure that by the beginning of the 2001 school year--earlier where circumstances will allow--no child of five, six or seven years of age will be in a class of over 30. The fact that we are introducing this legislation and the £62 million that we have already made available, shows that we are determined that this pledge will be met.

If at some future date we find ourselves in a position to build on this well-supported policy, by reducing the maximum number even more, these amendments enable us to do so without the need for primary legislation. We would have to change both the maximum number and the target date because any new number would apply from a date other than that shown on the face of the Bill.

I turn now to Amendments Nos. 172 to 175. These are of an entirely technical nature. The standard number is the minimum number of pupils that a school must admit if it is asked to do so in the normal admissions age group. But admission authorities are free to set admission limits above this if they choose to do so. They must then admit pupils to this level. They must not set an admission limit below the standard number.

It is essential that arrangements relating to admission numbers do not in any way restrict the effective implementation of class size policy. We are taking measures in Clause 92 and Schedule 23 to ensure that admission authorities do not set an admission limit above the standard number if that limit would conflict with infant class size limits. These measures require admission authorities to review the existing standard number and to apply for a reduction where it is set at a level which would be incompatible with meeting the class size limit.

Clause 92 also gives the Secretary of State the power to disapply the standard number for a transitional period while the review is being carried out and a reduction is applied for. These amendments simply allow for transitional arrangements so that the measures we have set out in Clause 92 and Schedule 23 can take effect when the class size regulations come into force. They make no change to the provisions that we are putting in place to help admission authorities plan admission numbers in the light of the class size limit, as soon as possible.

Similarly, Amendments Nos. 173 and 174 are of a technical nature and reflect the introduction to the Bill of the new Clause 1(2A) which allows for only one class size limit. There is no change to the nature of the provisions contained in Schedule 23.

Amendment No. 234 provides for transitional provisions which are necessary following Royal Assent. The provisions on class sizes will come into force

30 Jun 1998 : Column 538

immediately. However, we intend the new admission framework to come into force on 1st April 1999. This amendment gives specific power to adapt the existing admission legislation in the Education Act 1996 so it is consistent with the class size provisions before the new admissions framework is brought into force. This is necessary to ensure that admission authorities can plan admissions so that they will be able to comply with the class size provisions. If admission authorities are to comply with the class size provisions by 2001, they need to have suitable admission arrangements, including planning numbers, in place for the beginning of the admissions round for entry in September 1999.

The amendment will allow them to plan for new infant class size limits to be an integral part of the admission arrangements over the three years of entry beginning in September 1999. Those children admitted in September 1999 would be subject to infant class limits in 2001.

Subparagraph (1)(b) will enable the existing legislation relating to appeals to be modified before the new admission framework is in force so that it contains provisions to constrain appeals panels from making decisions to admit children which would breach the class size legislation.

Subparagraph (1)(c) would allow transitional provisions specifically to cover the occasions where the published admission arrangements were not compatible or consistent with any modified arrangements that were necessary. Admission authorities would have to redetermine and republish their arrangements.

The Government have responded positively to the recommendations of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. The Government are committed to limiting the size of infant classes and to doing so as quickly as practicable. I urge the House to support the amendments. I beg to move.

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