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Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I begin by emphasising that there is nothing in law to prevent the governing body from permitting a pupil under 18 to attend the meeting when they review his or her exclusion. In many cases governing bodies already permit excluded pupils to attend these meetings. I understand the case that the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, is making. We propose to use guidance to encourage schools to allow older pupils to attend the governors' meeting to present their own case. In the kind of case which the noble Baroness cited, I am sure that the school would want to invite the child to attend.

It will not be appropriate in every case, particularly where younger children are involved, to suggest that a pupil should attend the governors' meeting. While the amendment before us would not force the pupil to be present at the governing body hearing, I am a little concerned that, by placing this right on the face of the Bill, we might create an expectation that the pupil should be there. That might lead to governors drawing negative conclusions about a pupil who exercises his right not to be present. The noble Baroness would certainly want to avoid that.

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I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, agrees that the use of guidance represents the best way of allowing children to be present and to give their views without placing too much pressure on all excluded pupils to make representations. In the light of that explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her reply. It goes some way towards achieving the objective that we were seeking. However, she did not respond to the points about the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is quite important. According to the convention,

    "the child shall ... be provided with the opportunity to be heard in any judicial or administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly or through a representative or appropriate body in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law".
One could certainly make a procedural rule which would be acceptable under national law. I do not want to oblige the Minister to respond again because that is not within the rules of Report stage. Perhaps she will write to me on that point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 144:

Page 52, line 28, leave out subsection (9).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 67 [Appeals against exclusion of pupils]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 145:

Page 52, line 34, leave out ("registered").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 146:

Page 52, line 44, leave out ("either").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 146 and 147 are examples of where the presence of a child might be extremely useful, particularly if it makes it possible for an appeals panel, in dealing with an exclusion, to direct that a pupil can be reinstated if he or she complies with reasonable conditions set down by the panel. If one is to discuss what "reasonable conditions" might be, then it is extremely helpful to have the pupil present at the hearing at which the matters are determined.

I refer again to the incident of which I have personal experience. If I remember correctly, the pupil was a pre-O-level child of perhaps 14 or 15 but well below the age of 18. It proved useful to discuss with the child how she should behave and the school's expectations of her if she were allowed back again. Such discussion enabled her to agree those expectations so that she could attempt the process of obeying. She knew clearly why those provisions had been set and why she had to obey them. The process enabled the disciplinary procedure--it is difficult because none of us wishes to exclude more children than we must from school--to be taken forward

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in a more humane way, involving the child as well as the board of governors and other responsible adults. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I sympathise with the intention behind these amendments, which is to increase the likelihood that an appeal panel is able to direct reinstatement. However, while the notion of introducing conditions is attractive in theory, I fear that it may be unworkable in practice. I am concerned that by allowing the appeal panel to place a condition on a pupil's readmission we might inadvertently make it more difficult for pupils to be successfully reintegrated following a permanent exclusion.

An obvious condition of reinstatement would be that the pupil does not repeat the offence for which he or she was excluded. Under the existing arrangements, if an appeal panel is persuaded that an excluded pupil's behaviour will improve, it can reinstate him or her. If in the event he or she nonetheless misbehaves seriously again, he or she can be excluded again. Importantly, however, under this model his or her parents retain their rights of appeal.

Under the proposed amendment it appears to me that a pupil could be permanently excluded simply because the head teacher considers that the pupil had breached the conditions of readmission. Parents of pupils whom the head teacher had already tried permanently to exclude without success would be left with no right of appeal against this second exclusion. I am sure the noble Baroness will agree that this cannot be right. I therefore ask the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Lady Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, the Minister has drawn attention to a possible defect in the wording of the amendment. We shall consider the matter carefully. However, there is an additional advantage of the procedure we suggest, provided that we can find a framework which is correct. Often those permanent exclusions are surrounded by publicity. When the school re-admits the pupil it looks as though the school is somehow giving way to pressure from a tearaway or group of tearaways. I use language that no one uses any more, but the Minister knows what I am talking about.

It is better for the child and for public relations if it can be demonstrated clearly that return to the school is accompanied by a series of conditions which the pupil has accepted and which oblige the pupil at least to maintain a tolerable level of co-operation within the life of the school and of obedience to the ethos of the school.

I hope that the Minister will consider whether she can come back with other suggestions. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 147 not moved.]

Clause 68 [Exclusion of pupils: guidance]:

8.45 p.m.

Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 148:

Page 53, line 9, after ("guidance") insert ("subject to section (Making and approval of general guidance on exclusion of pupils)").

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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment relates to guidance. We have talked tonight and on a previous occasion at some length on the subject; I do not wish to do so today. The amendment deals with social exclusion. The Government have taken note of the Social Exclusion Unit report. I believe that they are ensuring that such guidance has statutory force. Their intention is to end the inappropriate use of exclusions for minor incidents.

It is an important area. I hope that the Minister will be able to give a little more detail on how the Government wish to give effect to the report through guidance and the provisions of the Bill. For example, the Social Exclusion Unit recommended that local education authorities be informed after one day when a pupil has been excluded for more than five days. I am not sure how that will be dealt with. There is a view that the issue should be spelt out more clearly in the Bill.

In a sense the amendment probes how the Government wish to give effect to the findings of the social exclusion report through the Bill and through guidance. I look to the Minister to put some flesh on the bones. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful for the spirit in which the noble Baroness moved the amendment. I promise that I shall not drone on about guidance. She asked me specifically about exclusion and referred helpfully to the social exclusion unit. Perhaps I may respond to that aspect of the argument.

The Social Exclusion Unit was concerned that, while the majority of schools use exclusion rarely and responsibly, a small minority was excluding pupils much more readily. Under the amended legislation the head teacher and the governing body will be required to have regard to the new guidance on exclusion, strengthening a parent's case when it comes to an independent appeal. This provides an important additional safeguard for parents.

I fully recognise the importance of consulting on the guidance on exclusion, in particular now that head teachers, governors and LEAs will be required to have regard to the guidance. We intend to issue draft guidance in the autumn to a wide range of interested parties for consultation, and will take full account of the responses when finalising the guidance.

However, as I hope the noble Baroness now recognises, the role of the various pieces of guidance varies considerably. The code of practice on admissions, for example, will offer practical guidance on the entirely new functions which LEAs, governing bodies, appeal panels and adjudicators will have to discharge once the Bill receives Royal Assent. By contrast the exclusions guidance will build upon the roles and responsibilities which are currently set out in Circular 10/94 (Exclusion from School). Therefore, we shall be taking account of the report of the Social Exclusion Unit. We shall be

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building on the existing rules from Circular 10/94. We shall consult widely. In advance of the consultation, I do not think that it is possible for me to go further than that.

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