Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Seventeenth Report



Memorandum from the Department for Education and Employment


1.        The Clerk to the House of Lords Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee has requested a memorandum from the Department for Education and Employment in respect of the School Standards and Framework Bill, first read in the House of Commons on 4 December 1997.

  Outline and scope of the Bill

2.        The Bill, as introduced in the House of Lords on 26 March 1998, following amendment in the House of Commons, has 133 clauses and 31 Schedules and extends to England and Wales only. Its provisions fall into five broad areas.

  Provisions to raise educational standards

3.        Part I includes measures to: set a limit on class sizes for 5-7 year olds; place a duty on Local Education Authorities (LEAs) to promote high standards in education; give additional powers to the Secretary of State and LEAs to intervene in schools causing concern; require each LEA to prepare an Education Development Plan; and provide for the setting up of Education Action Zones.

  The establishment of a new framework for schools

4.        Part II provides for the creation of three new categories of school (Community, Foundation and Voluntary) to replace the existing school framework. It also provides for new arrangements for the organisation of schools, including the establishment of school organisation committees to decide the majority of statutory proposals (opening closing or changing the character of schools), and the appointment of an adjudicator to determine disputed cases. The Bill abolishes school articles of governance, and provides for new arrangements to apply to discipline and the exclusion of pupils. As a consequence of the new school framework, the Bill also makes changes to the arrangements for financing and staffing maintained schools.

  Provisions to create fairer, more co-ordinated school admissions

5.        Chapter I of Part III provides for the preparation of a code of practice on admissions. The code will outline the role, objectives and procedures of LEAs, governing bodies, appeals panels and adjudicators within the admissions process. The Chapter also outlines LEAs' duties in relation to parental preference, and requires local consultation on admission arrangements. It provides for the appointment of an adjudicator to determine disputed admissions, and for special arrangements to apply to schools of religious character. It also provides for appeals, the fixing of admission numbers, the power for the Secretary of State to direct the admission of a child in certain circumstances, and procedures for admission to nursery and special schools.

6.        Chapter II of Part III provides for the treatment of selective admissions. It provides for existing partial selection arrangements to continue where they currently exist, subject to any reference to the adjudicator, and allows schools to select up to 10% of their intake by aptitude for particular subjects. The Chapter also defines which schools are grammar schools and provides for parents to determine whether admissions systems which are wholly or mainly selective should continue.

  Improvements in nursery education

7.        Part V places a duty on LEAs to produce Early Years Development Plans setting out how they intend to provide nursery education to pupils under compulsory school age. It also provides for the establishment of Early Years Development Partnerships for each LEA. The Partnerships will work locally to review the sufficiency of nursery places within the LEA and work with the LEA in preparing the Early Years Development Plan.

  Miscellaneous provisions

8.        Part IV contains other provisions relating to education. These include: a requirement on all maintained schools to have home school agreements; provisions to allow 14-16 year olds to undertake extended periods of work experience; and provision for the establishment of formal nutritional standards for school meals. Part VI contains measures relating to the provision of education for sixth form pupils by FE institutions in Wales. Part VII provides for a new code of practice to secure effective relationships between LEAs and schools, and makes provision preventing LEAs from giving financial assistance to non-maintained schools except in circumstances set out in regulations. It also contains measures banning corporal punishment in independent schools and nurseries and amends existing legislation on school and nursery inspection. As a consequence of the new school framework, the Bill also provides for the dissolution of the Funding Agency for Schools and a change of name for the Education Assets Board.

  Proposals for subordinate legislation

9.        The Bill contains a number of provisions which would give the Secretary of State new powers to make regulations and orders. A commentary on these provisions appears in paragraphs 13 onwards of this memorandum.

10.      In considering the type of Parliamentary scrutiny which would be appropriate for each regulation or order making power conferred by the Bill, the Department has sought to follow established practice. The Department's understanding is that subordinate legislation is acceptable where it has the purpose of:

        a.    avoiding too much technical and administrative detail on the face of the legislation, and keeping Bills shorter than they would otherwise be;

        b.    ensuring flexibility in responding to changing circumstances, and a measure of ability to make changes quickly in the light of experience without the need for primary legislation;

        c.    allowing detailed administrative arrangements to be set up and kept up to date within the basic structures and principles set out in the primary legislation, subject to Parliament's right to challenge any inappropriate use of powers; and

        d.    allowing flexible timing to get legislation right, to consult, and change it when circumstances change.

11.      The Bill provides for any order or regulation made by the Secretary of State under this Bill, or under new provisions to be inserted in the Education Act 1996, Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1991, and the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, to be made by S.I., except for orders made under:

        a.    clauses 11(5), 21(8), 48(4), 70, 77, 104(3)(a) and 130(1); and

        b.    paragraph 5 of Schedule 5, paragraphs 2 and 3 of Schedule 7, paragraph 3(5) of Schedule 10, paragraph 1 of Schedule 14, paragraph 9 of Schedule 21 and paragraph 4(2) of Schedule 22.

12.      All S.I.s made under the Bill (and under the new provisions inserted into the Education Act 1996, the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1991, and the Further and Higher Education Act 1992) are subject to the negative resolution procedure, except for orders made under:

        a.    clauses 20(6), 66(3), 80(5), 99, 103(10), 133; and

        b.    paragraph 4 and 8 of Schedule 23 and paragraph 1 of Schedule 31

        which are not subject to Parliamentary procedure.

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