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27 Feb 2006 : Column 503W—continued

Bichard Project

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many staff are employed in the Bichard Implementation Project Division. [53048]

Maria Eagle: As of Friday 17 February, 15 staff were employed in the Bichard Implementation Project Division.

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will list the consultancy firms involved in the Bichard Implementation Project Division; what the cost is of those consultants; how many of them there are; what the (a) professional background and (b) expertise of each consultant is; and how many have experience in (i) child protection and (ii) police investigations. [53049]

Maria Eagle: The implementation of recommendation 19 of the Bichard Report is a substantial and complex area of work. Two consultancy firms, WCL Consultants and Charteris and one individual consultant, currently have contracts with the Department worth a total of £1.8 million in this financial year, to provide a range of specialist expertise not found within the Department on project management, police processes, IT requirements and financial, business and process modelling. The consultancy firms are deploying a range of individuals to produce agreed deliverables in these areas.

Biometric Information

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what the legal basis is for the collection and retention of biometric information of school children by schools without parental consent; [52960]

(2) what requirement there is for informed parental consent to be given before biometrics are taken as part of a school's electronic (a) registration, (b) canteen and (c) library system; [52961]

(3) what estimate she has made of the number of (a) primary schools and (b) secondary schools which record biometric data on their pupils; [52962]

(4) what guidance her Department issues to schools on the recording of biometric information in schools in England; [52963]

(5) if she will make a statement on the use of biometric (a) registration, (b) canteen and (c) library systems in English schools; [52964]

(6) if she will issue guidelines to forbid the recording of biometric information of schools without parental consent. [52966]

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Jacqui Smith: My Department has issued no guidance to schools on the collection and recording of pupils' biometric information. In collecting data of this type the school is likely to rely on the broad powers contained in paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 of the Education Act 2002. This enables a governing body to do anything which appears to them to be necessary or expedient for the purposes of, or in connection with the conduct of the school. It will be for the school to establish that it is acting lawfully in collecting data and is, on a case-by-case basis, compliant with Human Rights and Data Protection duties and the common law of confidentiality. Schools should seek legal advice from their local authority where necessary. The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA) published guidance for schools in 2004 on their obligations and responsibilities under the Data Protection Act and other related legislation.

We are aware that some schools do hold a photograph of pupils on their management information systems; use fingerprint scanners for the twice daily attendance registration of pupils; or use iris-scanners. However, my Department does not collect any information on how many schools use such equipment or hold photos or any other biometric data on their systems.

The Department does not issue specific guidance on the procurement of cashless systems for school meals, which sometimes make use of biometric data, although it does encourage schools and local authorities to consider their use, within the context of improving take-up of free school meals, improving the efficiency of the meals service, and reducing possible causes of bullying from children carrying cash.


Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what steps the Government are taking to tackle bullying in schools; [53505]

(2) what statistics the Government holds on bullying in schools; [53591]

(3) what assessment she has made of Government strategies to tackle bullying in schools. [53598]

Jacqui Smith: This Government have given an unprecedentedly high profile to tackling bullying and supporting those who have been bullied. Our anti-bullying work, including the anti-bullying charter for action, takes an integrated approach to preventing bullying, to addressing causes of bullying—for example prejudice—and to helping those who are bullied.

Following the White Paper, in 2006 we shall be issuing guidance on prejudice driven bullying, including racist and homophobic bullying, providing school staff with valuable support in an area they often find challenging. On 28 February we plan to launch our advice on countering racist bullying and we will follow this in March with a national programme of dissemination events.

Since 1999 it has been compulsory for every school to have an anti-bullying policy in place which details how the school will tackle bullying.
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We have secured a very broad consensus, with all the teaching professional associations and the Anti-Bullying Alliance signing up to our anti-bullying charter for action. The charter is a voluntary commitment to creating a school community where bullying is not tolerated. In 2006 we plan to share examples of where the charter has been particularly well implemented with other schools so that they can learn from this best practice.

Through our work with the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), an organisation comprising over 65 leading anti-bullying charities and experts, we provide schools and local authorities with expert help to tackle bullying. The national strategies' behaviour materials provide schools with support in reducing and responding to bullying.

We have put more adults than ever in our schools—teachers, classroom assistants, learning mentors, Connexions personal advisers, behaviour and education support teams and police officers—so that a wide range of people are available to help prevent and tackle bullying.

Anti-bullying week continues to be a successful event with a large number of schools taking part in November 2005's activities through a wide variety of national and local events. There was a considerable amount of positive press coverage and this year over 325,000 anti-bullying wristbands were distributed.

Our anti-bullying resource pack for schools Bullying: Don't Suffer in Silence", updated in 2000 and Sept 2002 will be revised and re-issued in 2006 to ensure schools have the most up-to-date information available on tackling bullying.

In addition the Department has recently launched the social and emotional aspects of learning (SEAL) curriculum resource—an intervention to develop children's social, emotional and behavioural skills from foundation stage to year 6. It is available to all primary schools and the evidence from the pilot suggests that it helps reduce bullying and promotes positive behaviour generally. It is an important arm of the Department's longer term policy to promote positive behaviour and attendance. The Department is hoping to build on the work carried out in primary schools by providing a similar whole school curriculum based resource for secondary schools (SEES). At present the programme is in a very early pilot stage.

As data on bullying is not collected centrally, we do not have statistics relating to incidents of bullying in schools across England. We do know however that schools and local authorities are increasingly carrying out local surveys of children and young people's views of bullying to inform the development of their anti-bullying strategies.

Bullying cases do appear to be reported more often now than before but we have no hard evidence that bullying is increasing or that it is affecting more children. Indeed, as children feel more confident to speak out about bullying it is likely that the number of cases reported will rise.

We have assessed our anti-bullying strategies in the following ways:
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In addition, our guidance to schools on tackling bullying, Don't Suffer in Silence", has been externally evaluated by researchers at Goldsmith's College, University of London. The results, though based on a fairly low response rate from schools, show that the schools found that the pack met their expectations and helped in drawing up their anti-bullying policies. This evaluation included research into the perceived success of the anti bullying strategies and interventions recommended in the guidance. Schools generally reported a high level of satisfaction with the interventions they had used.

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what resources she has allocated to the Anti Bullying Alliance in each year since 2003; for what purposes the resources are allocated; and what method of assessment for the effective use of the resources her Department uses. [54009]

Jacqui Smith: Funding has been given to the Anti Bullying Alliance from the anti bullying strand of the Improving Behaviour and Attendance strategy since September 2004. For this reason, the grant is provided on an academic year cycle. The figures for the academic years are given as follows:

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This funds a specific programme of work carried out by the ABA to:

Expenditure by the ABA is subject to formal and informal monitoring to confirm that the grant awarded has been spent in accordance with the project plan agreed by the ABA and the Department.

The grant is payable under regulation 15 of the Education (Grant) Regulations 1990 and is subject to regulations 18(2) of those regulations.

We assess the use of resources through auditors' confirmation that the grant has been claimed and used in compliance with the terms and conditions as set out in the grant allocation in year end accounts. This information has been received for 2004/05.

In addition, officials hold regular meetings with the ABA to monitor activity and review progress. We have monthly monitoring meetings with the national co-ordinator to review progress and have established a steering group for the regional programme. This steering group includes representation from the improving behaviour and attendance unit at the Department, the primary and secondary national strategies behaviour and attendance strands, the Anti Bullying Alliance and the National Healthy Schools Standard programme.

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