Memorandum submitted by National Children's Bureau (CS 01)
1.1 The National Children's Bureau (NCB) welcomes many of the measures in the Children, Schools and Families Bill. In this submission, we will focus on three areas:
· The introduction of the Pupil Guarantee, with NCB particularly welcoming the recognition of the pivotal role that schools play in promoting their pupils' health and well-being, and ensuring they are able to express their views
· Giving Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education statutory status through changes to the primary curriculum at Key Stages 1 and 2, and by making it a foundation stage subject at Key Stages 3 and 4, which NCB welcomes
· Establishing a registration system for elective home educators, which NCB supports in the expectation that it will lead to the provision of a greater and more consistent level of support to these parents, particularly those educating children with special educational needs
2. About NCB
2.1 NCB has a vision of a society in which all children and young people are valued and their rights respected. We are dedicated to advancing their health and well-being across every aspect of their lives. As a membership and infrastructure support agency, participation and partnership are at the heart of everything we do. NCB not only hosts the many networks, fora, councils and partnership programmes that operate under our charitable status, but also provides essential information on policy, research and best practice across the sector as a whole. Undertaking around sixty projects a year enables us to truly claim that we cover every aspect of children's lives.
2.2 NCB has a history of policy, research and practice development work aimed at promoting the learning and welfare of all children and young people.
3. The Pupil Guarantee
3.1 Part 1 of the Bill introduces the Pupil and Parent Guarantees that were originally proposed in the government's 21st century schools white paper. This Part provides a framework for each Guarantee through sets of pupil and parent 'ambitions'.
3.2 NCB supports the introduction of both. In particular, we welcome the pupil ambition in clause 1(4)(e): 'for all pupils to go to schools where their health and well-being are promoted, where they are able to express their views and where both they and their families are welcomed and valued.'
3.3 This statement reflects NCB's support for schools' continuing their engagement with the Every Child Matters programme and retaining their responsibility for promoting the well-being of their pupils, as required by s.38 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006.
3.4 Clause 1(8) lists the schools to which the Pupil and Parent Guarantees will apply. We welcome the inclusion of maintained schools, nursery schools and academies, but note that Short Stay Schools (formerly Pupil Referral Units) are not listed. We seek assurance that the pupil and parent guarantees will also apply to Short Stay Schools.
4. Primary curriculum changes
4.1 Clause 10 introduces new areas of learning to the primary curriculum, as recommended in the Primary Curriculum Review. Although NCB supports these changes, we would urge the government and Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) to consider carefully how the primary curriculum areas of learning will build on and incorporate the six areas of learning that comprise the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) as well as its focus on play-based learning, particularly up to the age of 7. The transition from early years to primary school should be as seamless as possible.
4.2 Within the primary curriculum areas of learning, NCB especially welcomes the focus on personal development through Understanding Physical Development, Health and Well-being. This will provide the framework for the delivery of statutory PSHE at primary school level, something we have wished to see in place for a number of years.
5. Statutory PSHE
5.1 NCB welcomes the introduction of statutory Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education in clause 11 at key stages 3 and 4. We also welcome making the teaching of PSHE education in academies at these stages compulsory. We are pleased to see the Bill specify what it means by PSHE (c.4): education about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; education about emotional health and well-being; sex and relationships education; education about nutrition and physical activity; education about personal finance; education about individual safety; and careers, business and economic education.
5.2 We welcome these provisions because:
· There is growing evidence that children, young people and their parents want it
· It helps academic and vocational learning, and develops skills for employment
· It promotes health, well-being and safety
· It helps combat the effects of deprivation on children's education
· Making the subject statutory will enhance its subject status, improving the training available to those who teach it
· It will also help PSHE teaching more consistent in quality, and give more confidence to parents that it is being taught appropriately
5.3 Educationalists recognise that many barriers to learning lie outside the classroom and that supporting children's personal development and well-being (in part through learning in PSHE education) impacts positively on raising standards of achievement in all subjects.
5.4 It is self-evident that the knowledge, skills and understanding that children and young people can learn or develop through effective PSHE education in school have the potential to be vital in life and work. Whilst it is hard to quantify the impact of PSHE education on academic achievement because of the indirect nature of the skills taught, such social skills are widely accepted to be important in both schools and the workplace.
5.5 The Tomlinson Report on the 14-19 curriculum, the Steer Report on behaviour and Ofsted Report on PSHE education have all emphasised the importance of children and young people developing life skills to help them learn, achieve and gain employment.
5.6 In addition, evidence from organisations concerned with the safety of children shows us that PSHE education is crucial in safeguarding children. Good PSHE education helps children to learn about personal safety and improve their understanding of pro-social and respectful relationships. This might include parenting and family relationships as well as recognising abusive, harmful or inappropriate behaviours. It also helps them develop the skills to ask for help. This can contribute to a reduction in childhood abuse and neglect. Similarly, evidence shows that PSHE education is an important intervention for the prevention of bullying.
5.7 Although the most recent report from Ofsted suggests that, on balance, provision for PSHE education is improving, there is serious inconsistency in delivery. The non-statutory status of much PSHE education currently means that some schools are not prioritising the subject and not allocating sufficient curriculum time to it. Some schools are not delivering it at all.
5.8 The MacDonald Review concluded that effective learning in PSHE education is dependent on the quality of teaching. The preceding reviews into sex and relationship education (SRE) and drugs and alcohol education both provided evidence that the quality of PSHE education being delivered was too variable and was failing to meet children and young people's needs. In all cases, the conclusion of these reviews was that PSHE education should become statutory to compel schools to tackle this.
5.9 Children and young people themselves regularly report that their PSHE education is failing them. There are currently a limited number of specialist PSHE teachers which, along with the low prioritisation of the subject in schools because it is not statutory, means that quality of PSHE provision has remained unacceptably patchy for too long.
5.10 For all of the reasons cited above, NCB is delighted that PSHE education will be made statutory through this Bill.
6. Elective home education
6.1 Clause 26 and Schedule 1 introduce a new registration system for elective home education. NCB is supportive of the parental right to home educate. However, this must be balanced with a child's right to an effective education in a safe environment and the right to have their views taken into account. We do not believe that the current legislative and regulatory framework is sufficient to ensure that all parents educating their children at home provide an effective and suitable education within a safe environment.
6.2 NCB was
a member of the Expert Reference Group that was convened to inform the Review
of Elective Home Education in
6.3 However, we also stipulated that any new framework should allow for a flexible approach, balancing professional judgment with regulatory measures, reflecting the fact that home educating parents are not a homogeneous group. We proposed that the regulatory framework should support the development of a partnership approach between local authorities and parents, minimising the need to use enforcement powers. In addition, any new framework should ensure a greater and more consistent level of support to home educating parents and their children.
6.4 We are not convinced that a voluntary registration scheme, as proposed by the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee in its report on the Review of Elective Home Education, would work.
6.5 However, we agree with other comments made in that report, including a recommendation that a more precise definition of a 'suitable' education should be developed. That definition must be developed in partnership with home educating parents and children, as well as other groups working in the children's sector and education.
6.6 NCB recognises the very considerable sacrifices that home educating families make. We believe that local authorities should provide support to these parents, particularly those educating children with special educational needs. There should be further exploration of how this support might be provided, possibly through opening up extended school services to home educated children, or making it possible for home educated children to access school facilities like computers, art or sporting equipment that they may lack at home.
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