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162After Clause 112, insert the following new clause--
("City colleges and academies

.--(1) Section 482 of the Education Act 1996 (city technology colleges and city colleges for the technology of the arts) shall be amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (2)(c)--
(a) omit "either", and
(b) after "arts" insert "or on a subject area mentioned in subsection (2A)".
(3) After subsection (2) insert--
"(2A) The subject areas are--
(a) modern foreign languages;
(b) visual arts, performing arts or media arts (or any combination of them);
(c) sport;

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(d) any subject specified by order by the Secretary of State."
(4) In subsection (3) after paragraph (b) insert ", or
(c) as a city academy, if the emphasis of its curriculum is on a subject area mentioned in subsection (2A)."
(5) After subsection (3) insert--
"(3A) A school established on or after the relevant day and which would otherwise, by virtue of subsection (3), be known as a city technology college or a city college for the technology of the arts may instead, if the person carrying it on so chooses, be known as a city academy.
(3B) Before entering into an agreement under this section in relation to a school to be known as a city academy, the Secretary of State must consult the local education authorities referred to in subsection (3C) about the establishment of the school.
(3C) The authorities are--
(a) the local education authority in whose area the school is to be situated, and
(b) if the Secretary of State thinks a significant proportion of the pupils at the school is likely to be resident within the area of another local education authority, that authority."
(6) After subsection (5) insert--
"(6) For the purposes of subsection (3A) the relevant day is the day on which section (City academies) of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 comes into force."
(7) This section does not apply to schools in Wales.")

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 162. In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 163 to 165 and 229. Perhaps I should mention at the beginning of my remarks that I believe there is a small error on the groupings list. It refers to this group as relating to Amendments Nos. 162 to 164, whereas it should refer to Amendments Nos. 162 to 165.

These are important amendments. They provide for the establishment of city academies--a new type of school intended to provide new opportunities for pupils in our most deprived urban areas. I am very sorry that this House has not been able to debate these provisions until now. The city academy policy is new, but I am glad that a number of noble Lords were able to attend a meeting held last week to consider the Government's proposals.

City academies are a logical and necessary extension of existing policies, such as Excellence in Schools and Fresh Start. If we are to ensure that all pupils, especially those from the most disadvantaged and challenging areas, have the opportunities that they deserve, the Government recognise that we need radical action. The Government have set LEAs a challenge: by the year 2004 at least 20 per cent of pupils in every secondary school should achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A to C; and by the year 2006, at least 25 per cent of pupils should reach that bench-mark.

However, there is a long way to go. In 530 secondary schools in England last year--one in six of the total--fewer than 25 per cent of pupils achieved five or more GCSEs at Grades A to C. Many of those schools are in our major conurbations, serving communities that

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are disadvantaged and at risk of social exclusion. Many schools in these areas do succeed, often in the face of quite incredible odds. But we need to ensure that every school is a successful school. All the young people in these areas need access to high quality schools that have the vision and determination to succeed.

The city academy route will be one way to provide such schools. In most cases city academies will replace existing poorly-performing schools. This might involve a city academy replacing one school that is closing. Alternatively, a city academy might be set up as part of a wider re-organisation to replace two or three schools. In a few cases, city academies will be new schools set up in areas of under-achievement where there is a need for new places.

Initially, we expect to fund up to 10 pathfinder city academies. We shall want to monitor their progress carefully, so that we take account of their experiences in our wider work to raise standards. In all cases, we expect the decision to establish a city academy to be reached following local discussions and debates. We are not looking for a simplistic definition of schools that should become city academies: we will want to look at the individual circumstances of schools; the nature of the area that they serve; and the challenges that they face. Above all, we will want to look at whether closing the existing school and setting up a city academy would offer better opportunities for pupils.

City academies will be mixed-ability secondary schools, employing qualified teachers. They will be specialist schools offering a curriculum focus drawn from the range that applies to all specialist schools. Amendment No. 162 also gives the Secretary of State the power to specify by order other subject areas. We want to encourage innovation and creativity and so we do not want to close the door to any new ideas.

City academies will be set up and run by sponsors from the private and voluntary sectors. Sponsors will contribute to the capital costs of city academies, but will not be required to provide any part of the running costs. City academies will be funded at the same level as similar LEA schools in the same area. The only additional funding that they receive will be to take account of the services that LEAs provide for their own schools free of charge. They will also receive the same per pupil funding as other specialist schools.

City academies will be accountable to the Secretary of State through a funding agreement that will cover the key elements of their governance and management and the characteristics of the education that they provide. City academies will have considerable freedom to manage their own affairs. They will be able and expected to use that freedom to try out new approaches to curriculum development and delivery; to school management and organisation; and to the length of the school day, term and year.

City academies will be different from the schools that they replace and from other maintained schools. But they will not be divorced from the local family of schools or, indeed, from the LEA. On the contrary, we

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expect them to be set up with the involvement and support of LEAs. The prospectus for sponsors makes this very clear. We want close links between LEAs and city academies, both while the academy is being set up and once it opens its doors to pupils. We recommend that the LEA--and other local interests--should be represented on each city academy's governing body.

Against that background, I am delighted to tell the House that we have received a very encouraging response from several LEAs which have welcomed this initiative and can see how a city academy might benefit their pupils. We have also been approached by a number of potential sponsors from the business world and from the voluntary sector who are interested in sponsoring these academies.

We want city academies to be at the heart of their communities and to work with other local schools. All the schools in our specialist schools programme are required to share their expertise, facilities and good practice with other schools. It will be the same for city academies. The latter will have admission arrangements that are consistent with admissions law and with the codes of practice on admissions. They will work to meet the needs of challenging pupils and will not be able to exclude pupils more readily than other schools.

Many noble Lords have long taken a particular and close interest in the education of children with special needs. Let me emphasise that city academies will cater for children with special educational needs--both those with and without statements. We are taking this opportunity to clarify the law about provision for pupils with statements of special educational need attending city academies and city technology colleges. There has been some confusion about the Education Act 1996. Amendment No. 165 amends that Act by inserting a clause providing a regulation-making power for the Secretary of State to govern the powers and duties of LEAs in respect of pupils with statements who attend CTCs and city academies.

In particular, this will mean that LEAs are able to pay CTCs and city academies for the provision they make for pupils with statements and will also be able to provide other in kind support and assistance to CTCs and city academies in connection with such pupils. We intend to consult widely with organisations involved with special educational needs before these regulations are made. I am pleased that the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation recognised the importance we are placing on that full consultation before we use this power.

Amendments Nos. 163 and 229 are concerned with the provision of land for the purposes of setting up a city academy. They allow the Secretary of State to transfer land which has been used as a community school to a sponsor for use as a city academy. I must emphasise that we envisage that these provisions will be used rarely. In the great majority of cases we expect the sponsor and the LEA to work out together the arrangements for providing land for city academies. That is the spirit of this initiative and the prospectus makes this clear. But there may be rare cases where an

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LEA unreasonably sets its face against a city academy. It would be wrong to allow intransigence of that kind to deprive pupils of the opportunities a city academy could bring. In such circumstances--and as a last resort--it must be right for the Secretary of State to have the reserve powers to transfer land to a sponsor. Before exercising this power the Secretary of State would have to consult the LEA. There are important safeguards in Amendment No. 229 which mean that land transferred to a sponsor for a city academy can only be used for a city academy.

It may be helpful to the House if I use this opportunity to respond to the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, although I shall, of course, listen carefully to what she has to say and respond in more detail later. I understand the intention behind Amendment No. 162A. I have made clear our hopes that LEAs and city academies will work closely together. Government Amendment No. 162 provides already for LEAs to be consulted before a city academy is established. This gives the LEA the opportunity to make its views known and these will have to be taken into account by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.

Co-operation between city academies and LEAs should rightly be agreed between them. They will, after all, have a shared interest in securing the best education for all the young people in the area. Our experience so far is that LEAs and sponsors want to work together. Against that background, Amendment No. 162A is unnecessary. It sends a signal that we do not expect city academies and LEAs to be able to work together freely. That would be wholly opposed to the nature of the experiment that we are introducing.

Let me outline what we expect to happen for each of the areas covered by Amendment No. 162A. The governance of each city academy is a matter for the city academy and the Secretary of State. We expect local interests always to be represented on the governing body and we have said in the prospectus that we are encouraging sponsors to appoint LEA representatives.

So far as admissions are concerned, we have given assurances in the other place, in this House and elsewhere that the funding agreement between the city academy and the Secretary of State will require each city academy to have admission arrangements which are consistent with admissions law and the DfEE codes of practice which apply to maintained schools. I am happy to give a further firm commitment to the House that this requirement will be non-negotiable.

Similarly, we shall require proposals for city academies to set out clearly their plans for pupil support and these would be included in the funding agreement. We have made clear that city academies should not be able to exclude pupils more readily than other schools. We expect city academies to be involved in local initiatives with other schools to support challenging pupils.

As with all schools, the main responsibility for monitoring pupil achievement rests with the school itself. Of course, LEAs have an important role in challenging and supporting the schools they maintain. But city academies will not be maintained by LEAs.

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I hope that the noble Baroness will recognise the value of these firm commitments on these important issues and that with the assurances I have been able to give she will not feel the need to press her amendment. Our proposals for city academies offer a real change and an opportunity to raise standards by breaking the cycle of underperformance and low expectations. I commend these amendments to the House.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 162.--(Baroness Blackstone.)

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