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Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, my figure of 179 was pupils under 11 for 1997. Did the noble Lord's figure relate to that? I said that there would be only 179 children in the scheme after 1997 and all of them under 11. My figure of 3,000 relates to a different statistic.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my figure relates to the entrants who came in in 1997 and our estimation is that there are 3,000 primary aged assisted places at all-through schools. Perhaps I may go on to explain why the noble Lord's amendment does not cover all-through schools. However, I want to make the educational point first.
It is not unreasonable to expect primary aged pupils to transfer schools at the age of 11. As we have said, over 500,000 pupils change schools at that age every year, with due allowance to the position in Scotland to which the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, referred and to those places in England and Wales which have middle schools.
Why should assisted place pupils be treated differently? We have faith in the state sector and its ability to provide for able pupils. We promised not to disrupt those pupils' education in the long term. Joining their contemporaries at the age of 11 is the best point for those pupils to enter the maintained sector. Pupils come and go from the independent sector for a number of reasons and there is rather more movement in and out of the sector than the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, suggested at Committee stage. I can see no justification for maintaining an assisted place after the point where it is possible to transfer to the state sector and at such considerable cost to the taxpayer.
I turn to the detail of the amendment. I do not believe that it would completely achieve what the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, intends. First, it would have the effect of differentiating between those schools that have one participation agreement and one school number, and those that have one participation agreement that covers more than one school. For example, excluded from the amendment would be Malvern College which has one participation agreement that covers the college and its three feeder preparatory schools, but each school is registered with the department under a separate number. Epsom College has one participation agreement that covers both the college and four feeder preparatory schools, all with separate establishment numbers. I could name others.
The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, has spoken previously about St. Paul's School and Norwich School. As I am sure he is aware, they come within the scope of the amendment because each has a single participation agreement and a single establishment number. But schools like the others I cited would not be covered. The amendment discriminates against those schools with one participation agreement and more than one establishment number. It would randomly exclude certain schools and I do not believe that the noble Lord intended that.
Secondly, preparatory schools that take pupils to age 13 provide both primary and secondary education. They have one participation agreement and one establishment number. It would not be possible for an assisted place pupil at a preparatory school to complete his secondary education at a preparatory school that only provides education to age 13. The wording of the amendment relates to completing education. The amendment would therefore create an entitlement that could not be fulfilled.
Perhaps I can come back to the issue of numbers since I possibly introduced a degree of confusion into the matter myself. The 3,000 pupils whom I mentioned are all those in this scheme under the age of 11 in all-through schools who would be able to continue until age 18 if the amendment were agreed to. That is the significant figure with which we should be concerned and that is the cost with which we should be concerned. Therefore, both for reasons of principle and because of the defects of the amendment and the unfairness it would introduce, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw it.
Lord Hamilton of Dalzell: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I did not hear him answer my question in relation to people who chose to see their education through to age 18 in a religious establishment.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg the pardon of the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton. There are a wide variety of religious schools in the state sector and I cannot think of any circumstances in which it would not be possible for those who leave the assisted places scheme and return to the state sector to obtain religious education.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, if it does have assisted places then I agree that there could be a problem. In that case I am quite sure that the Secretary of State would use his discretionary powers under the Bill most sympathetically.
Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, I begin with the technicalities which of course are the problem of the Government. If they want to accept the principle of the amendment the Bill could easily be amended on Third Reading.
As to the point raised, Malvern does not fall within my category. The schools are separate. I was thinking definitely of schools which are on the same site, the traditional day schools. The amendment is designed to include them. Malvern has preparatory schools which are geographically separate from the school. I feel content that the amendment would still cover most of the schools with which I am concerned.
We could argue about the figures, but I will not burden the House now. We can perhaps exchange letters. The fact is that the numbers will be very limited as they will decrease throughout. I still feel that it is wrong to move only a small group of children from school at the age of 11 when they have been fully participating in the school. At Malvern they are actually physically away from the school which is not the same position as exists at St. Paul's, Whitgift or Norwich. Compassion is being betrayed in the Bill in the interests of ideology. I feel that the Government could give way without serious burden on their finances. I cannot accept the Government's assurance and I shall therefore ask the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.