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It has always been government policy that there should not be any extension of selection on the basis of academic ability. That is why new selection by academic ability is prohibited by the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. Only 164 grammar schools remain in England and none in Wales. Furthermore, the Secretary of State has little involvement in school organisation decisions. These are matters for local decision, either through the school organisation committee or the schools adjudicator. It is for local education authorities or the promoters of a school to publish proposalsin the case of a secondary school, following a local competition.
However, Clause 64 allows the Secretary of State to consent to local authorities bringing forward proposals without a competition being held. It would not be possible to publish proposals for a new
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grammar school under this clause. Section 104 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 means that there can be no new grammar schools other than those that existed by 1997 and which have been designated as grammar schools by the Secretary of State. Similarly, new partial selection by ability is prohibited by Section 100 of the 1998 Act, unless it is fair banding, which is allowed under Section 101. We have also made it clear in schools' capital guidance that the department will not provide funding for the expansion of grammar schools.
I do not need to give undertakings from this Dispatch Box on the Government's policy in respect of the amendment since it is already made explicit in legislation. I welcome the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for much, if not all, of the five-year strategy. The issue is about promoting parental choice so that parents have more ability to choose what they think is in the interests of their children to obtain a good education in their area. It is also about developing a new relationship with schools, which seeks to free them from unnecessary controls, to give them more control over their resources and to hold them accountable for the results and the outcomes that they achieve. There is much evidence to say that that philosophy of how you stimulate the performance of public or private sector organisations is a better mechanism than seeking to control input mechanisms and detail.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I thank the Minister for his reply. I clearly stated that the Government's position was written five times in the five-year strategy and that they had no intention of extending selection by ability. The purpose of the amendment was to enable the Government to put that within the context of this Bill, because there is the potential in some of the new structures that they are establishing for some schools with greater independence to introduce some element of selection by ability. I proposed the amendment to ensure that that would not be the case.
I do not apologise for making something of a Second Reading speech because we are moving from Part 1, which dealt with inspection, to Part 2, which deals with the changing structures in secondary education. As we move on, it is useful to set the general context in which our discussions take place. It is useful for noble Lords to recognise that the Bill makes substantial changes to the way in which new secondary schools may be set up. It is possible that that they might have greater independence over who they select and who they do not. In many ways, I do not feel that the Minister's response was particularly helpful.
The noble Baroness said: Clause 63 amends Section 28 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, which set up the current system for considering proposals for both the closure and promotion of new schools, by the establishment of a schools organisation committeea statutory sub-committee of a local education authority to consider proposals and make decisions for either the closure of a school or the promotion of a new oneand the use of the schools adjudicator to rule in disputed decisions.
Section 28 currently provides the statutory basis for the LEA to propose new community or foundation schools and allows, as a result of amendments passed in the Education Act 2002, other promoters to propose the establishment of new foundation or voluntary schools.
Clause 63 would effectively nullify all of that. It stops Section 28 being used by the LEA or other promoters to propose a new secondary school. Clauses 64 and 65 provide the new machinery and redefine the concept of a middle school, so that those which include a year 11 classthe GCSE classare included within the competition for new secondary schools proposed in the Bill.
The purpose of the amendment is, first, to ask the Minister whether our understanding is correct. Am I right to say that Clause 63(3)(2A) will stop Section 28 being used as a means of proposing new schools? Secondly, I wish to probe this shift in the definition of middle schools. Why are the Government making this move? Why do they wish such middle schools to be included within the framework of their structural proposals? I beg to move.
The aim of this part is to extend the requirement for local authorities to invite promoters to come forward with proposals to establish new schools, so that the requirement applies whenever statutory proposals are required to establish a new secondary school. Local authorities are currently required to invite proposals, under Section 70 of the Education Act 2002, only when a new secondary school does not replace an existing schoolthat is for an "additional" secondary school.
In a number of circumstances, the Secretary of State will be able to disapply the requirement on local authorities to invite proposals. This is intended to allow flexibility for the particular requirements of local circumstances. The Secretary of State would currently decide proposals for additional schools. Under the new provisions, all proposals will be decided by the local school organisation committee or the schools adjudicator.
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The policy will inject more choice into the system, encourage new providers, including charitable or community groups, to act as promoters of schools and will lead to a more diverse range of schools. We wish to see the creation of more schools that have a distinctive ethos and sense of identity and deliver a better quality education in tune with the wishes and aspirations of parents and communities.
The policy forms part of the five-year strategy, which envisages a new role for local authorities as the commissioners of educational services, rather than direct providers. Where a local authority decides that a secondary school is required, different providers should normally be given the opportunity to come forward with proposals to establish a school. Local people will then have the opportunity to express views about the options, rather than about a single option. When deciding which proposals to approve, the school organisation committee or the adjudicator must take account of local people's views.
I understand the wish of the noble Baroness to probe the amendments that this clause makes to Section 28 of the 1998 Act. Clause 63 modifies the existing provisions in respect of statutory proposals for new schools so that only proposals for primary schools, or middle schools where the upper age is not at least 16, may be published by local authorities and promoters under existing provisions; in other words, primary schools and middle schools where the upper age is not 16 are not caught by the provisions. It is complementary to Clauses 64 and 65, which contain provisions detailing the conditions under which proposals for new secondary schools may be published.
The effect is as follows. They include in the definition of a secondary school, for the purposes of school organisation legislation, any middle school catering for children of 16 and upwards. The legal definition of a middle school is that it must cater both for children below the age of 10 years and six months and for those above the age of 12 years. A middle school may be deemed to be primary or secondary, depending on the age range of the pupils. That definition is contained in Section 5(3) of the 1996 Act.
The definition of the term "secondary school" is intended to capture middle schools which are "all-through" schools; that is, schools catering for the full secondary age range plus primary pupils. That seeks to answer the question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, about why they were included. Effectively, they are teaching secondary-age school pupils, and the policy is focused on them. The effect of the amendment in the wider context of the Bill is to provide for local authorities to invite proposals when they wish to establish all-through schools.
That is the only effect of the amendments to Section 28 of the 1998 Act. Local authorities and others will continue to be free to publish proposals to establish, change or to discontinue middle schools that do not have an upper age range of 16 or more. It is not the Government's policy to promote the establishment of
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all-through schools. We take a neutral view on that; that is for local education authorities. I hope that that has been helpful.
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