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Lord Whitty: My Lords, it is clear that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, recognises the importance of the guidance and of some flexibility in guidance. We have obviously accepted the merits of wide consultation on guidance. As he said, in this area we have just completed the draft guidance consultation. To answer the noble Lord's last question, at present we are still analysing and carefully considering the responses. We shall put a copy of our summary of responses in the House Library in due course.

However, we do not accept that it is good use of parliamentary time to subject guidance to the procedure suggested in the amendment. There is already parliamentary scrutiny of the associated regulations relating to class size. The guidance will not, and indeed could not, contain any new obligations over and above that, but will give guidance to LEAs on preparing their plans for the reduction of class sizes.

Moreover, there is no clear precedent for guidance at this level being subject to the negative resolution procedure. It is true that in the Bill both the code of practice on admissions and the LEA codes of practice are subject to the negative resolution procedure. The former was introduced only in response to a recommendation from the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. It is important to note that no such recommendation was made in the case of any other guidance which the department will be producing to support the implementation of the new measures introduced by the Bill.

The Government accept that the negative resolution procedure is right for codes of practice which will have statutory force, in that LEAs will have to have regard to them in carrying out their relative duties and responsibilities. The same is not true of the other guidance, which will be non-statutory in that sense. The guidance will assist LEAs in implementing the class size regulations and, at later stages in the Bill, other aspects of the policy embodied in the Bill. Ultimately, however, it remains for the LEAs to decide how best to achieve their targets.

The guidance is also of a different scale from, for example, the proposed code of practice on admissions. That code of practice will cover a whole range of admission points whereas the guidance that we are proposing under this clause will be much more limited in scope. I am sure that everybody involved in education recognises that the department issues a whole range of circulars and guidance documents. If each was subject to parliamentary procedures, I fear that there would be little time for anything else on the educational front.

I have tried to explain the difference between where we accept that the negative procedures should apply with codes of practice of statutory force and the issue of guidance. Guidance is extremely important in guiding

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local authorities to take their own decisions. The codes of practice have more direct effect. The difference is understood in the education world and is reflected in the way in which we deal with it in the Bill. I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment, as he indicated he would.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Tope: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. I shall read it and try to understand it more fully.

I recognise that the noble Lord, understandably, was replying to the specific amendment I moved. However, I am not sure that he satisfactorily answered the more general points I made and there may be opportunities later, as we progress through the Bill, to return to them.

As I said in my speech, I recognise that guidance is of different levels of importance and there are certainly some areas where guidance is to be issued where nobody--least of all me--would suggest that it should come before Parliament. But the Minister seemed to be saying that it was coming here for negative resolution because the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee said that it should--that is a good reason in itself and I do not question it--rather than that it was of great importance.

There are areas where guidance will have statutory effect; it will certainly have serious effect which is extremely important. Development plans are a case in point. But I am still not clear on the three questions that I asked at the beginning. One stressed the considerable increase in reliance on statutory and even non-statutory guidance. I particularly wanted to find out why some is and some is not subject to parliamentary scrutiny. If it is only because the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee said so, that is not a satisfactory answer.

I was trying also to find out what the Government hoped to achieve by making guidance statutory. I am less clear now than I was as to what is and what is not statutory guidance. I suspect that we shall return to this later. As I said at the beginning, these are probing amendments and I have no intention of pressing them. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 [Payment of grant in connection with reductions in infant class sizes]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 17:

Page 3, line 3, leave out ("the limits imposed under section 1 are") and insert ("any limit imposed under section 1 is").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 18 not moved.]

Clause 4 [Interpretation of Chapter I]:

[Amendment No. 19 not moved.]

Clause 5 [Duty of LEAs to promote high standards in primary and secondary education]:

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 3, line 44, at end insert ("of attainment").

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is not simply a petty-fogging linguistic amendment. We are all concerned to improve educational standards. But, as we all know, education is a complex process containing many aspects. However, I am sure that we all agree that our fellow citizens want their children to improve their attainment levels; that is, within the limits of their potential to do as well as they can in the subjects that they are sitting at school. In general, that is what "attainment" is understood to mean.

The concerns of our fellow citizens are that their children should learn to read and write in the first stages and that that performance should be improved in the sense that it has not been as good as that in many of our fellow countries in the European Union. We would like to reach the same standards as them or better. We then move to the more advanced studies of science, the arts and much more. Again, there are certain areas where we face a somewhat alarming deficit in contrast to our neighbours.

The problem is that, unless we add the word "attainment", high standards can be lost in a fog of generalities. I am not against value added or anything like that, but I can assure noble Lords--I repeat for the second time this afternoon what the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, said at greater length--that it is hard to define "value added". One thing for which every education authority should strive is improvement in basic skills; that is, that people read better, write better, and have a better performance in maths, particularly in arithmetic.

It may be that the Minister will assure me that "high standards" mean exactly what I say they mean. However, I hope he will understand--I say this not in any critical sense--that it is often good to dot the "i's" and cross the "t's", particularly in the world of education. Therefore, I ask that we think of the words "of attainment" being added to "high standards" and in that way we shall get the best of all worlds. What could be better than that? I beg to move.

Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I understand the intention behind the noble Lord's amendment. Over the weeks that we have been here--it has been a long time--we have all agreed that we want to see high standards of attainment. However, when I look at the amendment it seems to me that it narrows the meaning of "high standards" of education.

We have had many debates about what is included in education. I want high standards of attainment and assume--perhaps wrongly--that that must be part of "high standards". However, I want to see high standards in a lot of other areas--personal, social and health education; people's confidence and communication skills; cultural, moral and spiritual development. We have discussed those matters at some length over recent weeks and they are all important. If we change the wording of the Bill to insist on "high standards of attainment", what happens to the rest?

I suggest that "high standards" of education include high standards of attainment and therefore I am not happy to support the noble Lord, though I support his intention absolutely.

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Lord Whitty: My Lords, this is a slightly deja vu debate. We have had this debate before and the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, have been made before.

This amendment would change the LEAs general duty to promote high standards to one which I assume is attempting to focus on raising standards of measured or measurable attainment. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, seemed to narrow it even further to something approaching the three R's.

All of those things are vitally important in raising standards, but the connotation of attainment is often that which relates to performance, tests and exams, and excludes issues such as the attitude to school, attendance, exclusion, personal development and moral, social and cultural development. If attainment were written in that way it would, as the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, said, limit rather than focus the role of LEAs.

That is not to say that the Government are in any way diluting the need to achieve high levels of attainment in that sense. Raising the levels of attainment is one of our major focuses and is something to which the Government attach great importance. If the amendment seeks an assurance that raising levels of attainment must be a priority, I can certainly give that assurance. However, noble Lords will know that this duty to achieve high standards of attainment is part of a package of new measures which will be designed to improve the effectiveness of local education authorities in a wider sense and to ensure that their activities are focused on raising all standards.

One of the main ways in which we shall be monitoring LEAs' performance is through the education development plan, covered by Clauses 6 and 7, which will require specifications from LEAs on how they aim to achieve higher standards. LEAs will be required to include in their EDP targets for raising pupils' attainment in literacy and in numeracy, as the noble Lord wants, and in GCSE qualifications. These standards will indeed clarify goals and provide specific measures against which we can judge LEAs' and schools' successes. We shall be monitoring that performance.

However, as I said, local authorities also carry out many other functions--in relation to school education, management services, the management of school places, behaviour support and special services in support of particular groups of pupils. All those functions must be carried out to the highest standards if they are to contribute most effectively to providing the best quality of education service in our schools.

We believe that LEAs should be striving for excellence in all that they do and, consequently, that the duty to promote high standards should apply much more widely to all their functions relating to the provision of education. We would not wish to go along the road of this amendment in reducing the effect of this clause by implying that it was limited to levels of measured attainment in the narrower sense, albeit, as I have said, that this is a vital part of their role and will be a vital part of our monitoring through education development plans and elsewhere.

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I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that his amendment in one sense achieves the opposite of what he intends and that the limiting effect of the amendment would not be helpful. We need to recognise all aspects of local education authorities' responsibilities and we believe that the current wording does that.

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