School Standards and Framework Bill — Discontinuance of maintained rural primary schools — 24 Mar 1998

As amended (in the Standing Committee), further considered.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

New clause 7 deals with an absolutely key part of the responsibility of foundation and voluntary aided schools. Clause 52 makes it clear that, ultimately, the appointment and dismissal of teachers in community and voluntary controlled schools will be a responsibility of the local education authority. However, clause 53 makes it clear that a different principle will apply to foundation schools and voluntary aided schools--which reflects the Government's policy, as stated in "Excellence in Schools", and is part of their commitment to creating a difference between foundation and voluntary aided schools and community and voluntary controlled schools.

I agree with an approach offering two alternative ways of running schools. In the long run, some schools may opt to accept that their teachers should be employed by the local education authority, and that their assets should be managed and owned by the local education authority. I understand why the Government have included that option in the Bill, as some schools may wish to continue operating on that basis. However, I also believe that the Bill should allow schools that wish to accept greater responsibility for their own affairs to be responsible for managing their own teaching and non-teaching employees and their own buildings and assets. Such a freedom should be available to schools.

The Government have come some way in the Bill in recognising that such freedom should exist. We tabled the new clause to encourage them to follow their own logic, and to go a couple of stages further in providing that freedom.

Clause 53 and schedule 17 will allow foundation and voluntary aided schools to be responsible for the appointment of teachers, subject to a process involving those schools' head teacher and other teachers. They also make it clear that the management of the teaching force is the responsibility of the head teacher reporting to the governing body. However, the Bill does not allow the head teacher or the governing body, in negotiation with the teachers they employ, to vary the terms of the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1991. The new clause is an attempt to open the door to that possibility.

We contend that, if a school is to be the employer of teachers, and if it is to have the freedom to follow its own ideas about how the skills and dedication of those teachers can best be used to meet the needs of its children and

24 Mar 1998 : Column 190

the community it serves, the freedom to vary teachers' nationally negotiated terms and conditions should be vested in the governing body which is, according to the Government's own drafting, the employing agency for those teachers.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

In some ways, the new clause could be seen as something of a tidying-up measure. On Saturday 28 February, when I was sitting at home sponging the mud off my coat ready for the countryside march in London the following day, I, in common with the rest of the nation, was treated to the sight of the Minister for School Standards gracing our television screens to make an important announcement about village schools.

We were all delighted to hear that announcement, and I hastened to obtain a copy of the press release that accompanied the Minister's television appearance. In it, he is reported as saying:

"Today, I am announcing tough new protection for village schools . . . we have decided that any proposal by a Local Education Authority to close a rural school will be called in to the Secretary of State for decision.

Further, Ministers will have a presumption against closure. And Ministers will have particular regard to the need to provide access to a local school for rural communities."

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:--

The House divided: Ayes 138, Noes 319.

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Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (No)Minority (Aye)BothTurnout
Con0 136 (+2 tell)085.2%
Lab283 (+2 tell) 0068.3%
LDem34 0073.9%
PC2 0050.0%
UUP0 2020.0%
Total:319 138072.1%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

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no rebellions

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