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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 17 March 2008

Children, Schools and Families

Raising Expectations: Enabling the System to Deliver

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls): I am today publishing a joint consultation document with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills that proposes to put local authorities in the lead in delivering our drive to raise the participation age and sets out plans to reform the skills landscape.

We want every 16 and 17-year-old to participate in education and training. And we want every adult to have the chance to improve their skills to get a job, a better job, or have a more successful economic life. In this document we set out our proposals for moving £7 billion of funding for education and training of 16 to 18-year-olds to local authorities while establishing a new Skills Funding Agency to fund skills development for adults. We have been working closely with our colleagues in the Learning and Skills Council, with the Local Government Association and with the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. These proposals set out our recommended models for consultation ahead of legislative proposals.

The key proposals in the document will help to deliver our ambition to raise the participation age and transform attainment by age 19 and underpin our aim of a demand-led system and the integration of employment and skills.

Local authorities are in the best place to lead the implementation of the new participation age locally. They are already responsible for schools and are taking responsibility for advising young people. We are now giving them new duties to ensure that the right range of provision is in place for young people to continue in education or training until age 19 and for funding it. In doing so, we are making sure that they have the ability to deliver in full the new curriculum and qualifications entitlement for young people, and to raise standards.

The consultation document sets out how, for young people, we aim to place leadership of the system, accountability for outcomes, duties and the funding to deliver, at a local level—local authorities will have the responsibility and duties to deliver for everyone from birth to 19. Our proposals include:

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For adults, we have the opportunity to enable more effective delivery to the benefit of employers and people. The advent of skills accounts and growth of “Train to Gain” mark a radically different model of organising the skills system, where the role of government is to make sure customers are well-informed and well-supported so that their demand for learning leads supply. We will create a dedicated, streamlined agency at the core of our reforms. Our proposals include:

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The skills landscape has grown and reshaped itself over the years. Whilst the current landscape has worked well, with the LSC playing a particularly critical role supporting the achievements of young people and adults since 2001, the ever-increasing pace of change means that the skills landscape must change if we are to achieve the skills challenges. With almost three quarters of the workforce of 2020 already out of compulsory education, we need to make sure the skills landscape can respond to the demands of adults and employers.

Likewise, the Government believe that this system of local leadership for education and training for all young people will contribute to a radical transformation in the life chances of young people. This new system will support reform of the curriculum and qualifications and the reform of wider services for young people, to facilitate the raising of the participation age, to the benefit of young people, the economy and society.

The two complementary systems set out in our proposals reflect the different needs of the young people and adult sectors. They allow the two national bodies to work closely together and co-ordinate their activity so that schools, colleges and other providers are in turn able to deliver excellent learning opportunities to all.

As we make the changes, we are committed to minimising unnecessary costs and bureaucracy, and making sure schools, colleges and providers are able to focus on effective education and training. We will continue to involve those that will be affected by the changes as we implement them.

We are confident these plans will provide for new and innovative ways of tackling education and skills challenges and strengthen support for young people and adults. It is absolutely essential that as we prepare for change we continue to challenge schools, colleges and all providers to deliver the best possible outcomes for young people and adults already in education and training. We have just seen the highest rise in numbers of young people achieving at level 2 and level 3 by the
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age of 19, and the numbers of adults achieving basic skills and level 2 qualifications reaching record levels: the Government are determined these achievements are bettered. We will continue to be ambitious for the next cohort of young people and adults and will make the changes proposed in this document with a view to strengthening further the experience of these young people and adults in learning.

I am placing in the Library copies of the consultation document “Raising Expectations: Enabling the System to Deliver”. The consultation period runs from 17 March to 9 June.

Safeguarding Children and Young People

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls): I would like to update the House on progress on steps which have been taken to strengthen the vetting and barring system, and on commitments made in respect of List 99 by my predecessors, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Ruth Kelly) on 19 January 2006, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) on 28 February 2007.

The safety of children and young people is our top priority. We are committed to ensuring we have the toughest ever vetting and barring system for all those working with, or seeking to work with, children and vulnerable adults. The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act, which received Royal Assent on 8 November 2006, introduces further fundamental strengthening of the arrangements for the vetting and barring of individuals employed with children and vulnerable adults. This will incorporate a robust, independent and expert barring process and will provide a modern and improved vetting service for employers, including parents.

Pending the implementation of this new vetting and barring service, we have continued to strengthen existing arrangements in a number of ways.

Revised List 99 Regulations

My predecessor announced the introduction of regulations concerning the placing of individuals on List 99 by including on the list automatically anyone with a sexual offence against a child. These regulations, which amended the Education (Prohibition from Teaching or Working with Children) Regulations 2003, extended the range of offences which will result in automatic inclusion on List 99 to include cautions as well as convictions for sexual offences against children. These changes have ensured that anyone aged 18 or over who is convicted of, or cautioned for, a relevant offence from 28 February 2007 will be automatically included on the list regardless of whether there is evidence that they have been in previous employment in the education and children’s workforce. For the most serious offences individuals are barred without the right to make representations. In other cases individuals are able to make representations, but continue to be barred from employment as teachers or school workers while these are considered.

These regulations have been implemented vigorously and effectively since they came into force on 28 February 2007.

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I am particularly grateful for the assistance of the police in providing information on individuals who have committed relevant offences to my officials in order that barring can be undertaken.

Consolidated Safer Recruitment Guidance and Follow-up to the Ofsted Survey of Vetting Practice in Schools

Following the Ofsted survey of vetting practice in schools, the Department introduced new requirements for every school and college to have a single central record of checks. Full, single central records for all staff were required to be inplace from 1 April 2007. The existence of an up-to-date record in every school, available for inspection by Ofsted, will help to ensure that schools have carried out and recorded all the checks, including List 99 and CRB checks, on staff properly.

Ofsted inspectors evaluate schools’ compliance with Government requirements regarding vetting of staff during the course of inspections of maintained schools. Reports published since April 2007 indicate that compliance is very high, and Ofsted will continue to report on this aspect. Where schools are found not to be compliant with Government requirements, this will carry implications for their other inspection judgements such as on leadership and management or the care, guidance and support of learners, as well as the grade for the school’s overall effectiveness.

List 99 Review

In his statement to the House on 28 February 2007 my predecessor referred to the work undertaken in following up the commitments made on 19 January 2006 by the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West. In particular he referred to 56 cases where Ministers or officials had decided not to include an individual on List 99. My predecessor confirmed that all of these individuals had been followed up and that one individual was barred. In addition, he also referred to 32 cases of individuals who were on the sex offenders’ register, but had not previously been referred to the Department by the police. He confirmed that all 32 individuals were now barred.

As well as ensuring that cases considered since 1997 where there were sexual offences which indicated a risk of harm to children were examined, the then Secretary of State also made a commitment on 19 January 2006 to examine similar cases determined before 1997. Sir Roger Singleton and his panel would examine those cases which, had the sex offenders’ register existed, would have resulted in the individual’s inclusion on the register and all cases involving a sexual offence or allegation which resulted in a decision not to include on List 99 or in a restriction or partial bar. My predecessor also asked Sir Roger to include all cases where there were sexual allegations between 1997 and 2005 in addition to all cases involving sexual offences or allegations before 1997. The aim of this was to establish whether any individual posed a risk of harm to children and if any action should be taken. As well as advising me on contemporary cases, Sir Roger Singleton’s panel have also been examining these historical cases.

This important and painstaking work has been given the highest priority. In total 2,559 relevant case files have been reviewed by Sir Roger Singleton’s panel.
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1,741 of these files were from the period 1940 to 1997, and 818 were cases from the period 1997 to 2005. As a result of the panel’s examination, and further information gathered from the police, 46 individuals have been barred.

This important work is continuing and the review of historical cases is approaching completion. I will bring a further report to the House in due course.

In his statement of 28 February 2007, my predecessor gave an update on the 210 cases where individuals had been placed on List 99, but subject to a partial bar which restricts their employment with children to certain types of establishment or types of work in schools. These cases have been examined and, where appropriate, enquiries made in order to gather additional information from police and other sources. My predecessor reported that in 42 of the 210 cases there is no indication of any sexual offence or allegation, and in one case the person concerned was deceased. These cases are closed. My predecessor also reported that there were 12 cases where, as a result of further enquiries, the partial bar had been changed to a full bar. I can now report that as a result of additional police information the partial bar has been changed to a full bar in 4 more cases, a total of 16. One further individual is deceased. The review of these partial bar cases is now complete. The panel has advised that no further action is required.

All the individuals who still have partial bars remain on List 99. A standard or enhanced CRB disclosure will reveal the barred status of the individuals concerned to an employer, and their status will also be disclosed by the required List 99 check.

All partial bar cases, along with other barred cases, will be considered by the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) for inclusion in the new barred lists under the terms of the Transitional Provisions Order made under the Safeguarding and Vulnerable Groups Act. If the ISA decides that these individuals pose a risk of harm they will be placed on the new barred lists.

My predecessor reported that as at 27 February 2007 there were 4,921 individuals on List 99. As at 13 March 2008, the number of individuals on List 99 is 8,036. The vast majority of the increase is as a result of the amended List 99 regulations which came into force on 28 February 2007.

I am extremely grateful for the work of Sir Roger Singleton and the panel of experts who have been advising me on List 99 cases. Their role in advising on List 99 cases will shortly be transferred to the new Independent Safeguarding Authority.

The New Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA)

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