The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls): On 28 September 2009 I asked Toby Salt to carry out a review to identify key barriers to the supply of adequately trained teachers for pupils with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties (SLD and PMLD), and opportunities to improve this supply for the future.
This is an important and timely review, which is a vital part of the Government's wider significant investment in the SEN sector. I am very grateful for Toby Salt and his review team's swift and thorough work on this.
The report calls for more to be done to attract and retain specialist teachers to meet the growing demand for their skills, and to build the next generation of teachers with specialist skills. The evidence in the report highlights examples of existing good practice and specialist training, but also significant gaps in specialist knowledge and skills, and opportunities to acquire these, which it recommends be addressed urgently. These include:
improving the range of specialist opportunities offered to trainee and newly qualified teachers, to encourage and inform entry into specialist teaching;
increasing the quality and consistency of specialist professional development opportunities available to experienced teachers in mainstream and special schools, to widen and share specialist skills and build on good practice;
addressing leadership issues in this specialist sector-a disproportionally high level of leaders in special schools are nearing retirement age, whose expertise will need to be replaced over the next five to seven years.
Evidence to inform the review was gathered from teachers, local authorities, training providers, parents and parent networks, social partners and other national organisations, through a public call for evidence and in-depth interviews. Existing data and research were also reviewed, including information on relevant international teacher supply systems. An expert advisory group of specialists in SLD, PMLD and wider SEN issues provided challenge and support to the work.
We accept all of the recommendations in the review and my Department will publish a plan later this month to set out how Toby Salt's recommendations will be implemented, and how, over the next year, we will develop:
A partnership with Teach First to bring top graduates into specialist teaching. Teacher training pilots will allow more graduates to gain the skills they need to teach these children;
A new six-month specialist course for new teachers to enable them better to prepare for their first job working with children with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties;
New arrangements to collect data on specialist teacher demand and supply to manage supply effectively for the future;
New training on severe learning difficulties, through the TDA, to ensure that all teachers have access to the quality professional development materials that they need to develop their skills
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Kevan Jones): I am pleased to inform the House that with effect from 1 April 2010 there will be an increase in pensions paid through the Gurkha pension scheme of 11.3 per cent. This is in line with inflation in Nepal.
It has always been our policy to ensure that Gurkha pensioners are treated fairly. The Gurkha pension scheme currently costs some £55 million per year and will now rise to £62 million as a result of this uplift.
This increase ensures that Gurkha pensions are kept at a fair and appropriate level and demonstrates our continuing commitment to the Gurkha pension scheme. It also reinforces the UK's long-standing links with the Government of Nepal, which we greatly value and would wish to maintain.
The Secretary of State for Health (Andy Burnham): Following my statements to the House on 30 November 2009, Official Report, c. 855-870 and 7 January 2010, Official Report, c. 13WS, I wish further to update the House on the situation at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Chris Mellor, acting chair of Monitor, the regulatory body for NHS foundation trusts, has written to me about the progress being made at the trust. His letter dated 19 February 2010 has been copied to all local MPs and has also been placed in the Library.
Monitor has advised that further progress has been made at the trust since December 2009. With the support of the taskforce, the trust board has put in place a series of key performance indicators (KPIs) aimed at focusing attention on the areas of greatest clinical concern.
The trust has responded to specific concerns around hospitalised standardised mortality rations (HSMR), hygiene and children's services and learning disability services and each of these areas are actively being monitored. The taskforce has reported that progress has been made, especially against HSMR and hygiene. However, concerns remain around the pace and sustainability of progress when the taskforce exits, governance at board level, and board leadership.
Monitor has advised me of one further quality issue since my last statement, which was an outbreak of Legionella affecting two patients at the trust. Legionella is an ongoing risk at the trust and they have significant monitoring and controls in place as a result.
Monitor has advised that while it is somewhat encouraged by the quality improvements that have been made, it is not yet in receipt of all the information required to make a full assessment of the extent and pace of progress. This will be clearer in the next month when Monitor expect to receive the Dr. Foster data on HSMR for December 2009 (these data are subject to a three-month lag time), the outcome of the CQC registration process, further progress against the agreed KPIs and the independent report assessing governance arrangements at the trust.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier): The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council was held on 25 and 26 February 2010 in Brussels. My noble Friend, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Bach and I attended on behalf of the United Kingdom. The following issues were discussed at the Council.
The interior day began with a presentation by Cecilia Malmström, the new Commissioner for Home Affairs, on her forthcoming priorities, which included publishing the results of a study of measures already in place on passenger name records (PNR), which had been promised to the European Parliament, and a new proposal on EU PNR. The Government welcomed the Commissioner's commitment to the PNR initiative and looked forward to seeing a proposal-in March if possible-highlighting that this should also cover intra-EU flights.
Following this, the Council agreed the internal security strategy (ISS) without amendment. President Van Rompuy had agreed to bring the strategy to the spring European Council. The Government strongly support the ISS, particularly references to an EC organised crime strategy.
The presidency updated the Council on the first COSI (Standing Committee on operational co-operation on internal security) meeting, which will take place on 11 March. Member states identified five key objectives for this committee: a partly operational and partly strategic role; co-ordinating the various agencies in the EU; assuming the functions of the Police Chiefs' task force; assessing the effectiveness of existing legislative instruments; and providing the Council with regular reports on internal security. The Government have supported the creation of COSI and look forward to its first meeting.
The presidency presented the first draft of the European Pact On International Drug Trafficking. The Government supported this initiative emphasising the need to ensure tangible output, proactive engagement with third countries, a focus on the East to tackle the supply chain, including those responsible at the top, and to take into account ongoing activity and the EU drugs action plan. Work will be taken forward at expert-level working groups, with the intention of agreeing the pact by the end of the Spanish presidency.
The Council discussed briefly the next steps in resolving the Czech Republic-Canada visa situation. An experts' meeting would take place on 15 March; the Commission urged Canada and the Czech Republic to solve their visa dispute before reporting back to the April JHA Council.
A restricted session looked at the next steps for the US terrorist tracking finance programme, following the European Parliament's decision to reject the Council decision to conclude the EU-US agreement (SWIFT). Both Justice and Interior Ministers agreed that they wanted a new permanent agreement between the EU and US as soon as possible.
Over lunch, Interior Ministers discussed the current Libya-Switzerland visa dispute. The presidency said events had significantly improved over the previous 10 days, with the short-term goal being the release of the remaining Swiss citizen in prison. Longer term, the requirement would be to address the link between Schengen arrangements and relationships with third countries.
After lunch, the Mixed Committee (with non-EU Schengen States) had a brief discussion on the Schengen Information System II (SIS II). A statement, included in the Council minutes and agreed by member states, indicated that a decision on the future of SIS II would be taken at the April JHA Council following analysis of the results of the first milestone test in January. The presidency and Commission would take all steps necessary to ensure that the required information was made available in order to make a well-informed decision. The Government highlighted that if a decision were taken to terminate SIS II, member states needed to ensure that any chosen alternative had to be a viable option.
The presidency presented draft conclusions on measures for reinforcing the protection of the external border and combating illegal immigration. The Government said this was an important long-term issue for all member states and emphasised co-operation with third countries and combating organised illegal crime as priorities. Successful projects with Turkey and Libya had demonstrated what could be achieved to prevent illegal border crossing but the EU needs also to complement this with increased efforts on returns.
The Commission introduced new draft legislation to strengthen Frontex. The Government welcomed Frontex's work to date and hoped the new instrument would include measures to enable our officers to continue to participate in joint operations. The Government also looked forward to Frontex doing more work in assisting returns in future and welcomed stronger Frontex co-operation with third countries, but regretted the lack of a provision to use personal data (which was critical in tackling the criminal gangs facilitating illegal migration). The Commission said it would carry out an overview of the EU-wide data exchange infrastructure before proposing anything concrete on personal data exchange for Frontex.
During the day the Council also adopted the A points where the UK national member to Eurojust, Aled Williams, was confirmed as the new president of Eurojust. Malta was agreed as the site of the European asylum support office.
The justice day began with the new Commissioner for Freedom, Security and Justice, Viviane Reding, deliver a short presentation of her work. The presidency then outlined the state of play on the negotiations on a proposed directive on the European protection order, designed to protect victims of domestic violence. The Government confirmed their support for the objectives of the proposal and thanked the presidency for its work.
The presidency then provided Justice Ministers with information about the state of play on the negotiations on the proposed directive on interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings. The Government support this proposal and, following a discussion, the presidency concluded that it would give priority to reaching a rapid agreement.
During a presentation and debate on EU accession to the European convention of human rights, the presidency emphasised their intention to move the accession process along as quickly as possible. The Government, and all
other member states that intervened, expressed support for accession as soon as possible and for early agreement on an appropriate mandate for negotiations with the Council of Europe.
The number of police operations in which firearms were authorised was 19,951-an increase of 57 (0.3 per cent.) on the previous year.
The number of authorised firearms officers (AFO's) was 6,868-an increase of 88 (1.3 per cent.) officers overall on the previous year.
The number of operations involving armed response vehicles was 16,564-an increase of 1,139 (7.4 per cent.) on the previous year.
The police discharged a conventional firearm in four incidents (down from seven incidents in 2007-08).
|Table 1: Number of operations in which firearms were authorised|
|Source: See Notes for tables|
1. Revised figures for 2007-8 from West Midlands Police
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