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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, in addressing these amendments the noble Lord referred to the disposal of land when the school enjoyed a grant-in-aid in order to build the facility, whatever it might be. Let us consider a grant-maintained school that has a facility, be it a sports field, a completely free-standing building or part of a building that has been wholly provided either by voluntary subscription or quite independently of the state. If that is disposed of on transfer to foundation status who is the beneficiary of the moneys?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I believe that the noble Baroness is referring to a case where there are two separate pieces of land, one of which is part of the school at the time of transfer to grant-maintained status and one of which is subsequently acquired through private provision. Is that the distinction that the noble Baroness makes?

9 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I was not comparing them. I understood that the noble Lord addressed only a facility in a school that may have been disposed of where grant in aid was part of the contribution to producing that facility. My example related to where the state had no part in resourcing the facility that might be disposed of by a GM school on becoming a foundation school. Who will be the recipient of the money?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, where it is clear that the facility has been acquired subsequent to the transfer which involved local authority resources, it would normally revert to a trust. I believe that that was covered, in part at least, by the correspondence that I provided to the noble Baroness. I shall check on that, and, if necessary, I shall write to her again.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 22 [Disposals of land in case of certain schools and disposals on discontinuance]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 154 to 161:

Page 201, line 26, leave out ("under") and insert ("within").
Page 202, line 45, at end insert ("or any grant paid under section 216(2) of that Act;").
Page 203, line 25, leave out ("under sub-paragraph (1)") and insert ("within sub-paragraph (1) or (2)").
Page 204, line 6, leave out ("under") and insert ("within").
Page 204, line 23, leave out from ("land") to ("and") in line 27 and insert--
("(i) held, or held on trust, for the purposes of a foundation, voluntary or foundation special school by the governing body or the trustees of the school, or

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(ii) held by a foundation body for the purposes of the group of schools for which it acts,
is not required for the purposes of the school or (as the case may be) those schools;").
Page 204, line 35, after ("school") insert (", or (as the case may be) one of the schools, mentioned in sub-paragraph (1)(a)").
Page 205, line 30, leave out ("held by them for the purposes of the school") and insert ("falling within paragraph 3(1) or (2)").
Page 206, line 8, leave out ("held by them for the purposes of the school") and insert ("falling within paragraph 3(1) or (2)").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 83 [Code of practice]:

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford moved Amendment No. 161A:

Page 61, line 24, at end insert--
("( ) The code of practice shall enable schools or admission authorities to interview parents or pupils (or both) as part of the application or admission process.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 161B, 161C, and 163A. I am surrounded by such expertise that I feel that I am receiving support. I am sure that noble Lords will all agree with the amendments. I shall make two general points to start with. First, there is an ideological divide between the Government and us regarding central direction. As I have said many times from this Dispatch Box, we prefer schools to have some initiative in their choice of the most potent elements that make a school successful.

My second point is more personal and anecdotal. I am sure that noble Lords opposite are tired of hearing the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, and myself talking about our old days in school mastering and "school mistressing". A school is a community. A school can be either a successful community or an unsuccessful community. One of these amendments is an ideological one with which I shall deal separately, because I do not want to embarrass the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, with ideological conflict at this stage of the evening, but it will come.

Amendments Nos. 161A and 161C relate to community. The admissions procedure forbids schools to interview parents. I assume that the Government introduced that provision for ideological motives. They thought that the school might look for better off parents, for instance. I am puzzled as to why they are doing it. I should be interested to hear the Minister tell me why the Government do not want schools to interview parents. The schools are not looking at their suits, whether they drive a large motor car, whether they are clean or dirty, or anything like that. When you interview parents you are looking to see whether they relate to the school and you relate to them; whether you feel that you can have a sensitive working relationship which will release the fullest potential of their children.

As a former head master, I would find it amazing if one did not see the parents and the child to discuss matters. The idea that one makes decisions without regard to people is wrong. You could qualify the provision and say, "You can't decide admissions on the following criteria", but I find it amazing that a school is not allowed to interview except for the purpose of deciding religious denomination.

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I will not embarrass the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, by talking about Durham again, but when I went to my school in Crook the head master had my grandmother and myself in to have a little chat. He wanted to see whether I related to the school. I had been evacuated. That seemed to be natural. But Her Majesty's Government have decided to forbid that. My first question is: why do the Government forbid it? Why cannot the school talk to parents? Why cannot they have a little interview? The parents could say, "We do not like the laboratories", or "The toilets are not very good", or whatever it may be. It might be, "We do not like you". At the moment that is forbidden. Amendment No. 161A raises the question as to why there should be a total prohibition on interviewing parents except to discover whether they are Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Moslems, or whatever. That is amazing as regards the community of the school.

The parents and the school are not allowed to enter into an agreement as to how the child's education should go ahead. As a former school mistress, the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, would say and, as a former school master and head master--I was a head master not a head mistress--I would say that it is crucial that the parents, the school and the pupil get on; that they have a mutual, sensitive, co-operative relationship.

When I interviewed parents the pupil was there as well. I used to talk about the school and ask the pupil whether it was the school to which he or she wanted to go. One used to ask the parents whether it was the school to which they wanted the child to go. One would ask, "Do you like me?". Out of that would emerge the agreement described in Amendment No. 161C. I am interested to know why the Government think that such sensitive, caring agreements are not possible. The Government may believe that they are possible or they may agree with me.

We now enter the more controversial areas. Amendment No. 161B provides that:

    "The code of practice shall not require schools that are over-subscribed to keep open vacancies specifically to accept disruptive children".
I introduce that point merely because to do so would cause enormous controversy. Perhaps your Lordships can imagine a situation in a tight-knit community where tensions exist. There is a good school to which many parents wish to send their children who are being refused in order to admit disruptive children. I am not saying that disruptive children should not be cared for. I am merely pointing out the sensitive social relations which could occur, particularly in tight-knit communities where everyone knows everyone else, as in Somerset where I live. I can assure your Lordships that such action would cause enormous distress. I am not saying that it is wrong, but I am asking whether the draftsmen have thought about what happens in a community where everyone knows everyone else.

I move to Amendment No. 163A, which the Government, from their ideological position, will find easy to deal with. It inserts the words:

    "or would be incompatible with the school's own admission arrangements".

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One does not have to be a genius to say, "If it were admitting its academic criteria". I do not believe that there is anything wrong if a school adopts such a policy and it works. I believe in flexibility and I believe that it works. However, we have fought the matter during the 10 days in which we have dealt with the Bill and therefore I shall not dwell on it. I merely point out that centralisation is strong. The adjudicators make a judgment examining the admission arrangements and so forth.

I conclude with what is the most passionate part of my presentation. The school is a community. To reject Amendment No. 161A and, to a degree, Amendment No. 161C denies the community status. I remind the House that almost 60 years ago headmasters and headmistresses of village schools used to see parents, talk to little Charlie and admit such children to the school; it is part of the essence of any community exercise in admitting children. Yet Her Majesty's Government have decided to legislate against that. I find it amazing. I beg to move.

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