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Lord Whitty: My Lords, let us be clear that Amendments Nos. 102 and 106A delete Schedule 12. In effect, that would remove all legislation in this area. I am certainly not persuaded that we should accept such a potentially destructive provision.

The basic premise underpinning these amendments is that the instrument of government should not be subject to legislative provision and that schools and LEAs should be free to have whatever sort of instrument they wish, subject only to guidance. That retains the historic system substantially more than the Bill itself does and devalues the status of the instrument of government which we are intending to enhance.

We are not proposing to legislate on the instrument of government for the sake of it. We need to legislate to make it clear who is responsible for making the important decisions about governing body composition,

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within the framework of Schedule 9. Otherwise there would inevitably be uncertainty and dispute. Legislation is essential to ensure that governing bodies are well founded and that appropriate interests are represented. Let us also be clear that we are not ridding the system of the hard-fought individual character of schools, as the noble Lord suggests. In many respects the new instrument will be more individual, more specific, and certainly a good deal more meaningful than those that previously existed. For example, schools with a specifically religious character will be required to have an ethos statement embedded in their instrument. Although the noble Lord's comments indicate that there is some dispute among canons on that issue, by and large the Churches have welcomed that approach.

We think it important that the basic legal identity of the governing body is provided for in the instrument of government, and that requires legislation. Perhaps I may clarify my letter and the remarks of my honourable friend Stephen Byers, to which the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, referred. There will be no power to add directly to the specified contents of the instrument of government because this ensures that the instrument will be a simple document made in accordance with a pro forma and that there will be no risk of the instrument conflicting with provisions in primary or secondary legislation. However,--and this is the point made by Stephen Byers--governing bodies will remain able to devise individual procedures and standing orders so far as they are consistent with the main provisions on meetings and proceedings in the school government regulations which will themselves reflect the ethos and traditions of that school.

I do not share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, that individuality flourished under the previous system. For example, when the previous government legislated for GM school governance, they did so within a clear legislative framework. The noble Lord would have us believe that those documents were individually tailored to the specific requirements of each governing body. I can assure him that they were not. Indeed from 1994, the instruments of government did not even contain the name of the school. They largely comprised a set of provisions governing the meetings and proceedings of the governing body. Our proposals will ensure that all governing bodies have an individual identity. That identity will be encompassed in the instrument of government which will provide information that is unique to that school and governing body. Common regulations will apply for those things which are already common to governing bodies. We believe that that is a sensible, balanced structure. As I say, it still allows standing orders and other measures within individual bodies to be added to it. As I say, it still allows standing orders and other measures within individual bodies to be added to it.

This is not a straitjacket. We believe that all pupils should have equal access but we do not believe that all schools should be the same. That is very clear from our overall policy. It is very clear also from the way that we have approached the instrument of government changes. Contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, alleges, that will allow clarity and common provisions

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but it will not impose uniformity on schools. In any event, the previous system did little to encourage the individuality which the noble Lord now claims for it.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, I begin by saying that I am very glad that in my 17 years as a head teacher of a school, I did not have to make the appointments of my staff under the regulations which are proposed in the Bill. If that had been the case, I would not have been standing here and I would have been earning my living in a different way.

I remind the noble Lord again of what his department wrote oh such a short time ago. It accepted the governors' argument that X school with a history and a very large catchment area and a particularly well-developed tradition of independence justifies greater flexibility.

The purpose of my amendment was to give greater flexibility to avoid the straitjacket. Yes, the Minister is right: it would restore the status quo if the schedule were removed from the Bill. I realise that I am speaking to the deaf. The Government have decided that their model should be the French model, as I have said 20 times in this House. Give the Minister the timetable and a clock and she will write the document; the head teachers will do what she says.

Well, robots can be quite effective, but they do not make good head teachers. I can assure the House that not only the head teacher that I quoted but also quite a few more head teachers of Church, Roman Catholic and Anglican, schools do not like what is proposed. They do not like the way that the Government are doing it. Indeed, they sometimes think--dare I say it in the presence of the right reverend Prelate?--that the bishops and the Board of Education do not have a deep understanding of what a head teacher needs to make a successful school.

However, the Government have suffered enough this afternoon. I shall therefore withdraw my amendment. I fear that the wounds are beginning to show. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 103 not moved.]

5 p.m.

Schedule 12 [Instruments of government]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 104:

Page 160, line 26, after ("person") insert ("from whom or").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 104A:

Page 161, line 1, at end insert--
("( ) Where the school is a foundation, voluntary aided or foundation special school, arrangements pursuant to section 54(2) may be included in the instrument.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 131A, 133A and 134B to 134J. I had intended to table these amendments in Committee. Therefore, in my rather clumsy way, I have been transposing numbers,

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page numbers and indeed clause numbers in the process of retabling them. In Amendment No. 104A, the reference to "section 54(2)" should read "section 55(2)". That new subsection (2) is contained within Amendment No. 131A.

Just as my noble friend argued a moment ago, I maintain that these amendments go to the heart of a school's ability to be in control of its own affairs and, in particular, the creation of its distinctive ethos and style. Much has been said by Ministers over the past year about the importance of schools being in control of their own affairs and allowing them freedom and flexibility to do this, that and the other. However, this Bill, which contains 142 clauses and 32 schedules, puts a straitjacket on the schools in a way which does not bear out the claimed philosophy of Ministers in the education department.

There is no greater influence on education than the quality of the staff recruited in a school. Schedule 17 represents very much a straitjacket. My preference would be to see the schedule removed from the Bill. I understand that that is not a million miles away from the view also of one or two people within the political sphere of the education department. A number of schools have exercised independence for some years in appointing staff. They have proved very successful. Schedule 17 is so bureaucratic that it will make it more, not less, difficult for schools to recruit good staff. Schools need more, not less, freedom; they need more, not less, flexibility. They need that in order to be able to appoint the very best staff and sometimes, I have to say, speed is of the essence. For example, it is not unknown for a school wishing to recruit a good teacher in a subject where recruitment is normally difficult to acquire a teacher in a matter of hours sometimes, so as to ensure that it makes the right appointment. That is done in order to avoid going through a bureaucratic process whereby the whole thing becomes impossible at the end of the day. If the school has either to re-appoint or go through the whole procedure again, it may, in the process, lose very good staff.

The freedom and flexibility enjoyed by many schools, especially in the grant-maintained sector, has really given independent schools a run for their money. It has meant competition on almost equal terms. As a result, standards in schools have been raised. However, under Schedule 17, schools, especially the good ones which care about such matters, will lose that flexibility and that freedom. Therefore, it cannot be a good thing if standards are to be raised in those schools.

The schools Minister in another place, in a Social Market Foundation lecture only yesterday evening, made a number of comments. But the sound bite which emerged from the department's press release was most interesting:

    "Put simply, excellent schools should not be treated in the same way as others ... One of our priorities over the next few months is to identify ways in which excellent schools can simply be allowed to get on with what they do well without undue distraction ... Why not give them greater freedom to continue to achieve high levels of attainment and active encouragement to share the secrets of their success with other schools".

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The Government now have the opportunity to put some flesh on the bones of their viewpoints. It is not as though we are talking about an area which needs experimentation. These are practices which have been tried and tested by many of our schools, and, in particular, by our grant-maintained schools. I hope that the Government are sufficiently open minded to accept that Schedule 17 is restrictive; that it will curtail freedom and flexibility; and that it will stand in the way of good schools obtaining good staff, providing good education and continuing to raise standards in our schools. I beg to move.

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