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Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, the noble Lord has been helpful and it is clear that there is no meeting of minds on this. However, it was useful to hear the Minister assure us once again that the package of support or the changes required in the interests of pupils and schools will be forthcoming when the inspectors have identified that they are needed.
The noble Lord is right to point out that on occasion we do air within this place the concerns expressed by the NUT as well as other teaching unions such as the Secondary Heads Association and the NAHT and, on other subjects, the NSPCC, Save the Children, UNICEF and many other organisations. That is one of the good things about this House. We have the opportunity to take Bills apart, to go through their provisions with a fine-tooth comb, and to reflect the concerns expressed to us from many different areas. I believe that Bills benefit from such scrutiny.
"(1A) The Chief Inspector must
(a) send a draft of the report of the inspection
(i) in the case of a maintained school, to the governing body, and
(ii) in the case of any other school, to the proprietor of the school, and
(b) consider any comments on the draft that are made to him within the prescribed period by the governing body or proprietor, as the case may be.
(1B) If, after complying with subsection (1A), the Chief Inspector is of the opinion that the case falls within paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1)
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(a) he must without delay give a notice in writing, stating that the case falls within paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1)
(i) to the Secretary of State,
(ii) in the case of a maintained school, to the local education authority, and
(iii) in the case of any other school, to the proprietor of the school, and
(b) he must state his opinion in the report of the inspection."
"We totally agree that the LEA should consult with the school in preparing the statement. It is essential that the head teacher is involved from the outset. That already happens without any legal requirement. It must and will continue in the future".[Official Report, 13/1/05; col. 434.]
"I think that we have to resist cluttering up primary legislation with detailed specifications of process. That is what guidance is for. I repeat: Hansard is for ever. If we have given a commitment, we have given a commitment".[Official Report, 13/1/05; col. 435.]
Circumstances change and we all have bitter experience of Hansard not always meaning for ever. If the Minister is prepared to include on the face of the Bill an amendment about consultation after Clause 6an amendment we warmly welcomethen why not here? I beg to move.
We made clear in the earlier debate our understanding of these concerns. We agree that turning a school round is very much a team effort and not only a matter for the local authority on its own. As
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a matter of practice the governing body and the head teacher will be consulted by the local authority in preparing their statement.
But I am afraid that what I said on the previous occasion has not changed. We do not believe that it is appropriate to specify such consultation on the face of the Bill. These matters are more appropriate for guidance. We do not need to set out in the Bill who must talk to whom at each step of the way. But I repeat with absolute clarity the assurance that the guidance will make clear that the local authority should work closely with the head teacher and the governing body in drawing up its statement of action.
I cannot envisage circumstances in which this Government or any other governmentwere such an unhappy day to comewould consider it appropriate to change from that position. One would expect that the local authority would want to engage in a dialogue with the school about turning it round. For that reason, we think it is right.
The early notification of the inspection findings, to which we referred earlier, would enable the governors and the head teacher to start to consider how to address issues identified by an inspection. The Bill requires an action plan to be prepared by the local authority and it requires the school to revise its current development plan to take account of inspection issues. The school improvement partner will and must work closely with both the school and the LEA, providing advice on what support is required.
All these procedures will be covered explicitly in the guidance. The Bill is intended to simplify existing procedures for follow up action by the LEA and school following the designation of a school as requiring special measures or significant improvement. We believe the amendment is not appropriate because these are properly matters for guidance. I hope that the clear commitments I have given are helpful.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. It is helpful that he has referred to such matters from the Dispatch Box. The amendment reflects the concerns of more than one organisation. The NAHT, the LGA and the NUT have all come to us about the matter and so it is helpful to have a reiteration of the position by the noble Lord from the Dispatch Box. I trust that it will set a whole range of minds at rest on the issue because it would be a nonsense if all this went ahead without such consultation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I am sorry. We have just discovered that the first name on the amendment
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is that of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. We must have all tabled it together. That is probably what happened.
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