Clause 20

Part of Children, Schools and Families Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 1:15 pm ar 4 Chwefror 2010.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of David Laws David Laws Shadow Secretary of State (Children, Schools and Families) 1:15, 4 Chwefror 2010

I am not sure whether teachers would share that view. I think that they would say, “Look, we are accountable day to day and term to term in all sorts of ways.” If parents do not like a school, they can take their children away, and there is immediate accountability. As a Member of Parliament, we have accountability every five years, which is not very much. If someone was in an area that has always had a Conservative or Labour MP with a 20,000 majority, or even a Liberal Democrat MP these days—with a large majority, anyway—the amount of accountability, if they are unhappy, is quite limited. I think that when the hon. Gentleman meets his local teachers, they might not be quite as attracted by his argument. There are also all the other things that do not give us a clear idea, such as partnership working, to which I suspect the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton will object in a moment.

It therefore seems likely that the measure will be—I say this with great disappointment, and without a determination to resist it for its own sake—a bit of a waste of time and a big missed opportunity, which is something that I care about. This mechanism could be valuable, and we could end up with two or three—please not four, five, six or seven—meaningful comparators. It would not initially be perfect, and schools would complain about it, as would be the case with comparators of MPs, but it would be fairer than existing league tables. It would shed light on why some schools do better than others and enable us to be fair to the people who teach in and govern schools when we make comparisons about their jobs.

The amendments that we have tabled, to which I will speak briefly, try to address some of the problems. Amendment 200 and the Conservative amendment 69 address the question of whether it is worth the candle to collect all the information to put into a school report card that is not delivering anything new from schools, but no doubt imposing some burdens on them. Amendment 201 suggests that as part of the school report card, there should be a better attempt to assist people to make informed judgments by facilitating comparisons of schools and colleges that have similar people characteristics, in the same way in which the Home Office compares BCUs.

Amendment 202, which I have not touched on so far, questions whether it is sensible for the Department for Children, Schools and Families to be the guardian of the school report card. One of the things that has been corrosive to education over the past 10 years is that because the Government are so determined to improve schools, for all the right reasons, we have ended up with incentives for the Government to conspire in a situation in which results are seen to be rising—where we put all the attention into the continuing development borderline—instead of one of trying to deliver for all young people. If we are to have a school accountability system and the As and Bs are published annually, the Minister will get it in the neck if the number of As go down, as the system will also hold the Government to account. What is the point of the Government being held to account in such a way when they themselves are the guardians of the new system? If the new system is to be effective, it should be run either by local authorities, who should, in our view, be the first tier of accountability, or, if we do  not trust local authorities because they are compromised by their job of school improvement, by Ofsted. The last people who should be running the system are the DCSF.

Finally, amendment 225 would require the information collected on schools in this way to be subject to an annual report to Parliament.

I hope that the Minister will comfort us on those issues. However, at the moment, I fear that this is a good idea badly delivered, and not worth implementing in its existing form.