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Ed Balls: No, there is no need for an amendment because within the "Working together" guidance we are clear that although Ofsted expects those executive summaries to be full and comprehensive, and to have all the lessons that need to be learned, the full report should not be published for two reasons. The first is to keep the identity of all affected children anonymous and out of the public domain. The second, as the Association of Chief Police Officers said this afternoon, is to make sure that all lessons are properly learned, which would not happen before publication. That is what Lord Laming said; it is what I said in the summer and it is what we are doing. The NSPCC and 4Children agree with us. The only people who do not agree, I think, are the two Opposition parties, which surprises me. I do not see why they are taking that line.
Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab): I welcome the new draft minimum care standards for the inspection of children's homes, particularly standard 21, which refers to the effective and efficient management of those homes. In the future, that should lead to a more robust inspection framework and stronger sanctions against homes that fail to manage the behaviour of the young people in their care, which can cause distress to the wider community and jeopardise their own safety. Can my right hon. Friend give the House any further information about when the response to the consultation on the draft standards will be issued?
Ed Balls: I can. The consultation finished just before Christmas. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her support for a very important set of changes that we are putting in place. We shall publish a full response on the guidelines in June, after we have discussed the findings of the consultation in further detail. Our aim will be to make sure that the guidelines are up and running in September and can be implemented in full from April next year, to coincide with Ofsted's new inspection framework. It is right to take the time to get them right, and that is what we shall do.
Michael Gove (Surrey Heath) (Con): As the Secretary of State knows, I wrote to him earlier today saying that I wanted to discuss the Edlington case with regard to this question. Ofsted says that the serious case review in the Edlington case is good. The Secretary of State has seen both the serious case review and the executive summary. Does he believe that the executive summary is a good piece of work?
Ed Balls: The judgment is a matter for the independent inspector-Ofsted-which reports directly to Parliament. Ofsted reports that in its judgment it is a good report within the current terms of reference, which we are revising and which, as I have already said, will say in future that we should have a fuller statement of what happened, including the timeline of events and the actions to be taken. Ofsted said it was a good report. I have read both the executive summary and the full report. In both cases, it is patently clear that very substantial failings in Doncaster led to those outcomes, although none of those failings could excuse the terrible acts that were perpetrated by children against other children in that case.
Michael Gove: I notice that the Secretary of State is hiding behind Ofsted's judgment. When Ofsted said that child protection in Haringey was good after baby Peter's death, the Secretary of State rightly ordered a joint area review, which came up with a very different judgment. Last year, the Secretary of State said that all future serious case review executive summaries should be fully comprehensive. Lord Laming called for a high-quality executive summary that accurately represents the full report, yet in this executive summary the history of what went wrong occupies only two and a half pages while the full serious case review is 150 pages. Will the Secretary of State now accept, as a variety of children's charities and leading experts on child protection have pointed out, that we must go further? As the NSPCC has said:
"The case for greater accountability within the child protection system is a compelling one."
Ed Balls: In the case of the Haringey report last year into the death of baby Peter, which the hon. Gentleman read in full, Ofsted judged the review and the executive summary inadequate, and I asked for it to be done again. In this case, Ofsted has reached a different judgment-that it is a good report. That is Ofsted's judgment; they are the people who are asked to make that judgment. In this case, the details are harrowing and awful. I have read the full report.
The issue about more information in the executive summary is important, and we discussed that a moment ago. The issue today, however, which the hon. Gentleman wrote to me about over the weekend and on which I have replied, is whether the full serious case review should be published. I have read the full report, as he read the full Haringey report. The reason why I will not publish the full report is that, in my judgment and those of the experts, and as he will know from the Haringey case, it contains details of the abuse suffered both by other children in the family and the victims themselves-detail which would either reveal their identities to other children in Doncaster or, for those who know that, would show that very clearly.
I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that a judgment that such detailed, harrowing, personal information should be put in the public domain would be wholly wrong and damaging to the children's interests. That is why ACPO, the NSPCC and all the experts agree with me and disagree with him. I know why he is saying these things-
Mr. Speaker: Order. I am extraordinarily grateful to the Secretary of State. This is an immensely important and sensitive matter, but we have a lot of other important matters that I want to get to, so this last exchange must be substantially pithier.
Michael Gove: Professor Eileen Monroe, Britain's leading academic expert on child protection, Anne Longfield of 4Children, Dr. Michelle Elliott of Kidscape and Community Care, the premier social work journal, are all calling for reform. Eileen Monroe stresses the case for full publication. The Secretary of State receives a copy of every SCR report fully anonymised, and so does Ofsted. Why cannot we have publication? After an aviation disaster, all of us know what went wrong, and the black box detail is published so that we can all keep children safer. Why is he standing in the way of keeping children safer?
Ed Balls: Anne Longfield of 4Children made it clear to me over the weekend that she does not support full publication, and nor do ACPO and the NSPCC. I know the hon. Gentleman's motives, but they are not putting the interests of children first. It would not be possible, even with a redacted version, to stop detailed information about the safety of these children and the abuse that they suffered from going into the public domain. It would be quite wrong if that happened. I understand what is being done here, and I think that the hon. Gentleman should reflect on his judgments and think about whether he is actually being responsible. What he proposes is not supported by pretty much anyone because it would be deeply irresponsible and would put children at risk in our country.
6. Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con): If he will bring forward proposals to restrict the circumstances under which schools may apply for an exemption from the requirement to hold a regular act of worship of a broadly Christian character; and if he will make a statement. 
The Minister for Schools and Learners (Mr. Vernon Coaker): Schools can apply to their local standing advisory council on religious education for a determination under which their daily act of collective worship need not be of a broadly Christian character. We have no plans to change that arrangement which, while still requiring such an act, allows the backgrounds of pupils to be taken into account.
Mr. Coaker: I think that the criteria are fairly obvious. For example, if a school was virtually 100 per cent. Muslim or Hindu, notwithstanding the fact that we are a Christian country, the school's head teacher, with the governing body, may think it appropriate to say to the standing advisory council on religious education that the school wished to have an act of daily worship, but that it would be more appropriate if that took account of the background, culture and religion of its pupils. I think that most people in this country would think that that was eminently sensible.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ms Diana R. Johnson): Graham Badman's review of home education collected a limited amount of qualitative and quantitative evidence from local authorities about home-educated children in their area. The data were used to produce an estimate of the population of home educators known to local authorities of about 20,000, which is consistent with estimates produced in an earlier report by York Consulting entitled "The Prevalence of Home Education in England".
Mr. Anderson: I thank the Minister for that reply, but does she acknowledge that my constituents and many others feel that the data that were pulled together meant that Badman got this badly wrong, particularly when he said that children who were home educated were twice as likely to go on the at-risk register? They believe that that information means that they, as parents, are being scapegoated and that a bad decision might be made. May we have a reassurance that that will not happen?
On the safeguarding data, Graham Badman asked for information from local authorities about child protection plans, because they are the only evidence of rigorous multi-agency processes that show no bias or subjectivity in relation to safeguarding. Seventy-four of 152 local authorities responded, which covers over 55 per cent. of the local authorities in the country, and Graham Badman found a higher incidence of home-educated children in those child protection plans. I reiterate that there are safeguarding provisions in place generally in our law. The report is predominantly about education.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Mr. Iain Wright): There were 12,480 permanent exclusions in 1995-96 and 9,330 permanent exclusions in 2005-06. The latest available figures, for 2007-08, show that there were 8,130 permanent exclusions. The reduction in exclusion shows that schools have become more effective at managing behaviour. We have given teachers the powers they asked for to tackle poor behaviour and those figures are an indication of how well schools have responded.
Bob Spink: I am grateful for that response, and we all acknowledge that we have to help difficult youngsters in every way we can, but when we put them in special schools we must ensure that we site those schools carefully and sensitively. Does the Minister share my delight that Essex county council now accepts that it sited one of those schools completely incorrectly in my constituency and is prepared to move it? Will he ask the council to get on with the job?
Mr. Wright: I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman's considerable ingenuity in getting Essex county council into a question about permanent exclusions. I am happy to look into the matter on his behalf and to meet him to discuss it further if he so wishes, but he will appreciate that local authorities are in the driving seat on a range of education matters, and can commission and locate services where they think it necessary.
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab):
My hon. Friend says that there has been a reduction in permanent exclusions-I have no doubt that that is due to the spread of inclusion units within schools, which in my constituency have worked extremely well-but is he
assured that there are enough places for those who are permanently excluded and have serious behavioural problems to ensure that their difficulties can be dealt with properly?
Mr. Wright: My hon. Friend has considerable expertise in a range of education matters and he makes a valuable point. Our guidance clearly shows that permanent exclusion, where necessary, should be the last resort for pupils with behavioural problems, and the Department is keen to work with local authorities, schools and others to ensure that behavioural problems can be identified early and that preventive measures can be put in place.
Mrs. Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con): The Minister knows that over the past six years the number of children suspended from school more than four times in a year has gone up from 9,000 to more than 14,000. Is not the real problem the fact that the Government's target to reduce permanent exclusions has simply pushed head teachers repeatedly to suspend persistently disruptive pupils, who then do not get the specialist assistance they need to help to tackle their behavioural problems and break this destructive cycle?
Mr. Wright: Is the hon. Lady seriously suggesting that we do not give head teachers considerable powers for their schools? I talk to parents, as I am sure she does, and all the evidence suggests that parents want their children to be educated safely in orderly schools where behaviour is considered important. Head teachers have the powers that they need to drive forward good behaviour. Sir Alan Steer, when he reported on this in September, demonstrated and confirmed that. I am surprised that she does not agree.
The Minister for Children, Young People and Families (Dawn Primarolo): In addition to launching the Achievement for All project to improve educational outcomes for pupils with special educational needs, we have commissioned a number of independent reviews: the Bercow review on speech, language and communication needs; the Lamb inquiry on parental confidence in the system; the Ofsted review of SEN; and the Rose review on dyslexia and literacy difficulties. We have already begun responding to all those reviews.
Mr. Flello: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for her response, but I am concerned that in many mainstream primary schools, the special educational needs co-ordinator is often overburdened with other teaching responsibilities, and staff assigned specifically to support statemented children are diverted to other tasks, which is not right. Will she agree to meet me to discuss the matter and look into it urgently?
I am happy to meet my hon. Friend on that matter. As he knows, the Government have done two things in particular. First, we have issued guidance for SEN on tasks and responsibilities and,
secondly, we have increased the status of the SENCO through the development of the work force by insisting that they be a qualified teacher. Thirdly, we have made sure that, for the first time, everyone who takes up the role has special training, which is required as part of their development. If he thinks that there is more that we can do as central Government, I will be happy to discuss that.
Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): One of the least attractive aspects of SEN is the fact that parents have to battle for appropriate statements to secure better educational outcomes for their children, which often ends up with stressful, costly and adversarial tribunals. Witnesses who have given evidence to the Committee considering the Children, Schools and Families Bill have pointed to a missed opportunity which Brian Lamb's report could have addressed. Will the Government now offer parents a decent mediation system, rather than complex tribunals, so that all families stand a decent chance at appeal for their children?
Dawn Primarolo: I agree that parents should not have the task of battling through the system. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we commissioned the Lamb review, which made specific announcements on redress for parents, support to be given to them, new rights of appeal, duties for Ofsted, and the question of proper consultation and other routes. The Government will issue a full implementation plan next month, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will let us know if he thinks that there is anything missing from it.
Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op): Last week, I was privileged to see at first hand the work of the ELCISS-enhancing language and communication in secondary schools-project in Dagenham schools, where speech and language therapy is provided and training given to school staff, resulting in enhanced educational attainment and improved behaviour. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that the outcome of that project will be examined, so that it can be rolled out in other areas?
Dawn Primarolo: As my hon. Friend knows, following the Bercow report, the Government have pursued the issue of speech development. I am more than happy to look at the project to which he has directed my attention, to make sure that all the lessons are learned and acted on, and that good practice is shared across the system.
The Minister for Schools and Learners (Mr. Vernon Coaker): The Department's mission is for all children to achieve their full potential. To deliver that, our policy is to make the best use of the very best head teachers. Where and when appropriate, this can and should mean the best heads running more than one school in either or both the secondary and primary phases.
Bob Russell: I am grateful for that response. For those who doubt whether one person can run more than one school-that used to be my view-may I invite them to come to my constituency and see the inspirational leadership of one head teacher, Mr. Jonathan Tippett, who has turned around three schools? He continues to turn them around, but regrettably-I invite the Minister to come to see this for himself-two of those schools have been badly let down by the Tory-run Essex county council, which plans to close Thomas Lord Audley and Alderman Blaxill schools.
I am happy to meet the hon. Gentleman again on that particular issue. He is right to point out the serious point that good teachers can spread best practice, and can help to improve other schools as well as their own, which is why we are trying to develop the executive head model. With respect to Colchester, as he will know, the crucial issue, with which school reorganisation is trying to deal, is not only school improvement but surplus places.
Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): My hon. Friend will know that, in Leicestershire, the county council proposes to close two out of three secondary schools. Does he agree that closing an outstanding secondary school would be a big mistake, and that, in trying to ensure that that is possible to deliver in a town the size of Loughborough, greater collaboration-not necessarily the removal of heads- and the sharing of best practice by schools is the best way to deliver education for 11 to 14-year-olds?
Mr. Coaker: As my hon. Friend knows, school organisation and the commissioning of school places is a matter for the local authority. It is a matter of great concern to hear that in Loughborough one of the proposals is the closure of an outstanding school. That would require detailed attention. He will need to work, as he is no doubt doing, with the local authority and the local community to see what can be done about it.
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