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Lord Pilkington of Oxenford moved Amendment No. 24:

Page 4, line 30, leave out from ("regulations") to end of line 31.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 24 I should like to speak to Amendment No. 25 and also to Amendment No. 32, which is consequential on these amendments. I shall not detain the House long because we dwelt on this matter at Committee stage. Our worries on this side of the House have always been that to refer all of the education development plans to the Secretary of State is needlessly bureaucratic. We understand that it is not sufficient just to leave the matter to the schools or the local authority. For that reason we suggest the involvement of Ofsted, the chief inspector and the governors of all the schools who are concerned about the particular educational development plan and are aware of the details of their local area.

It is very much against the traditions of English government to refer so many detailed plans to the department. I have grave doubts whether the department has the speed or skill to cope with this. I believe that there will be delays and bureaucracy. I do not want to

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embarrass the noble Baroness or any of her colleagues, but they have not shown enormous skill in producing regulations while this Bill has been passing through both Houses. In many cases we have had to wait. Further, my noble friend Lady Blatch often receives letters without their enclosures. If the education development plans experience that, I fear that there may be problems.

I make no criticism of the department. I refer merely to the pressure of work. If the Secretary of State and his officials have to approve every education development plan for the schools of this country it will be a great burden. I am not a member of the Government; no doubt I never shall be, but I believe that the department has many more important tasks to perform than this. It would be a kindness to the department and to the country and a mercy to the many trees that will die in vain if the Secretary of State was taken out and Ofsted was brought in. Ofsted has inspected almost all of the schools. I believe that that would be a happier arrangement. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am more grateful to the noble Lord for tabling these amendments than he knows. They cover a range of important aspects of our proposals for education development plans. The fact that he has tabled them gives me the opportunity to describe what we undertook to do on Second Reading, which was to give the House the result of our consultation on EDPs. I hope that they may allay some of his fears.

I shall say something about the changes to the EDP policy which we plan as a result of the views expressed in the consultation. A summary of the responses to the consultation has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses today.

I am pleased to tell the House that there was generally a very positive response to our policies on education development plans. This came through clearly in the responses to the consultation and at the six regional conferences the department held in February and March to explain the guidance and obtain feedback. Almost all the respondents agreed that EDPs would be a key mechanism for raising standards in schools and welcomed the guidance. There were some who were concerned about what they perceived as additional bureaucracy, but in general there were very few critical comments.

The main points to come out of the consultation related to three specific aspects of the guidance: setting targets; LEAs' school improvement programmes to achieve their targets; and the supporting information that LEAs will provide to underpin their EDPs. Target-setting attracted the largest number of comments. There was broad support for the five targets proposed, but some requests for additional targets, for example, at Key Stages 1 and 3, and for attendance and exclusions. There was some concern expressed about the timescale for LEAs to agree targets with their schools. We are confident that the timescale we have set for LEAs is a viable one, and that is certainly the view of those authorities that have already begun the process of consulting their schools as the first step to drawing up

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their EDPs. There were also requests for greater clarification, which officials will take on board, in revising the guidance.

There was general support for the school improvement programme which respondents saw as a sound approach to raising standards, but some calls for greater clarity in the guidance. Officials are in the process of revising the guidance and respondents' comments will be helpful in that regard.

I turn last to supporting information. Some respondents thought that too much information was being asked for under this heading, but more thought that the information required was what LEAs are already collecting. There were continuing concerns about resources which we will take into account alongside the consultation on fair funding which ends on 31st July.

It is clear that the general content and broad thrust of the draft guidance is accepted and welcomed and we intend to retain it. We have given careful consideration to the suggestions made. We have concluded that the following changes should be made: the guidance should be streamlined and unnecessary bureaucracy reduced; GCSE equivalents (such as GNVQs), should be included in the targets currently proposed for pupil attainment in line with the targets we recently announced for 16 year-olds; special schools--my noble friend the Minister has referred to this--should be listed separately in the school-by-school targets in annex 1 of the guidance, rather than grouped with other schools; and a new, mandatory, annex on SEN should be included in the guidance.

We cannot of course finalise the guidance until after other related consultations such as fair funding and the LEA school relations code of practice are completed and until Royal Assent of the Bill. We plan to make that available as soon as possible in the autumn, but we will be writing to all LEAs to inform them of the immediate changes.

I turn now to the amendments. Amendment No. 24 would remove the Secretary of State's power to approve education development plans and together with Amendment No. 32 would remove his powers to modify and review LEAs' statements of proposals and the requirement for LEAs to publish their plans.

Clearly that would considerably reduce the effectiveness of EDPs as a mechanism to ensure that LEAs play their part in raising standards in schools. That is not the message we received through the consultation responses: LEAs welcomed the opportunity to contribute to raising standards and generally found the draft guidance a helpful aid to strategic planning. The Secretary of State's powers to approve, reject or modify EDPs are an important part of the process to lever up standards across all LEAs. Without them we cannot effectively ensure that all LEAs reach the level of the best.

The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, thought that the department had more important things to do than that. I cannot think of anything more important than the thrust to improve school standards. That is what EDPs are about. Unless we ensure, giving proper respect to local initiative, an oversight by the Secretary of State,

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we cannot stand up before the electorate again and say that we have done whatever was necessary to improve school standards.

Amendment No. 25 requires LEAs to publish and send their draft EDPs to the Chief Inspector of Schools for England and governors of schools affected by the plans. That is not a realistic or practical alternative to sending them to the Secretary of State who has the responsibility for schools as a whole whereas the Chief Inspector of Schools has the responsibility for the inspection of individual schools and groups of schools.

Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, said, we are determined to root out bureaucracy wherever we can. That applies just as much to EDPs as it does to other areas of educational policy. We shall be seeking to streamline the EDPs as we finalise the guidance. These amendments are not just unnecessary; they are positively undesirable.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, as the noble Lord will be aware, there is an ideological divide between us as to how schools should be improved. The noble Lord and his colleagues prefer the heavier hand of bureaucracy; we would leave more initiative to the schools. I shall go no further on that point.

I was a little surprised that only 54 LEAs replied to the consultation document. I think that there are over 100 LEAs. On an important matter like this, 54 is a low number. Even more surprising was the fact that only five responses came from 25,000 schools. A consultation document that has replies from only five schools raises certain doubts in my mind. The noble Lord painted an optimistic picture of the consultation. I point out again that it was a limited consultation. He did not mention certain less than complimentary comments which noble Lords should hear.

The resources section of the EDP attracted considerable comment. There were four main concerns: too much detailed information was required; many of the resources spent on school improvement by LEAs would not be captured through EDPs; the purpose of collecting the information was unclear; and the lack of resources for LEAs for EDP-purposes would take money away from schools. That is a point which noble Lords will note that we on this side of the House have often stressed. There was some difference of view between LEAs and school-focused organisations on those points. As there were only five schools, their representation was slight.

Many respondents were worried about the tight timetable proposed by the draft guidance, particularly the timetable for target setting. There was a perceived lack of time for consultation and approval. My worries about bureaucracy are, to a degree, compounded by those criticisms. The thing has been rushed, as instanced by the paucity of reply. I am still worried about this matter. The amendments were tabled mainly to obtain the noble Lord's response, for which I am grateful. We will see how the proposals work in practice. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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6.30 p.m.

[Amendment No. 25 not moved.]

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