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Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. I am not clear from what she has said so far quite what it is that those of us who support the amendment have not understood. I wonder whether she can confirm that all the teachers' unions and, I believe, the education officers who have been consulted by the Government are of the view that the children of asylum seekers would do better in mainstream schools. The Minister has told us many of the strengths of her education system. Could not those strengths be extended to children in the accommodation centres, not least at a time when it is recognised that they would benefit greatly from many of the strengths of the system that the Minister has so eloquently described?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the issue for us is about children in transition. We are not talking about children given leave to stay here remaining in accommodation centres. As I see it, some of the misunderstandings have been based on the assumption that this is a segregated system for children for a long period of time. This is about the children who do not yet know whether they will be granted leave to remain in this country. As soon as they do know
Earl Russell: My Lords, I am not aware that anyone who has taken part in the debate has stated the belief that they will be there for a long time. The noble Baroness listened to the debate on the previous amendment, which made clear our view that it should be otherwise.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, but having listened to the way in which this was described, it certainly came across to me that people have a misunderstanding of exactly whom we are describing. However, I accept the noble Earl's point and I shall not pursue it. I am suggesting that we are looking at a system that will support those children who are in transition and enable those who are allowed to stay in this country to enter mainstream education better equipped to deal with it.
I shall be brief; I am aware of the hour. We want to make sure that those teachers who come into the centres to work with us will be qualified teachers; and that they will use and enhance the skills that they have already obtained and be able to return and use them in
Ofsted will be inspecting the schools. They will be required to meet Ofsted's concerns and to be seen by Ofsted. We also want to make sure that local education authorities play a role. We are considering this carefully and discussing what it might be. For example, local education authorities may individually or in consortium take up the contract to provide education. We would not for one moment rule that out. That might address some of the concerns expressed by the noble Lords. I say again to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that we would expect local education authorities to assess special educational needs. They will assist the accommodation centres and decide whether a child needs to attend a special school.
It is important to point out that Clause 35 enables children to be educated outside the centre if that is felt to be the most appropriate provision for them. Noble Lords raised issues of behaviour and other policies. These are schools. The model in my mind is of a village school; it is not in any way a "camp", a word that was used several times in your Lordships' House this evening.
I want this to be a sound grounding for the future. It is not about segregation; it is about exploring and piloting. How do we best help, nurture and cherish the children who come to our country before we have decided whether they can stay here? It is about recognising that our society needs to find ways to support these children more effectively than we do now. It is about making sure that our education system supports all our children to the best of its ability. It is about making sure that children who stay arrive in a school with the best possible start. Your Lordships' House should support that.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, as yet I have had no debate on the matter with the teachers' unions, because at the time that the noble Lord refers to, the policy was not as well developed as it is now. We have addressed many of the concerns raised by noble Lords in Committee, which I sat through and to which I listened. We have looked very carefully at those matters. I would be happy to write to the noble Lord and to return to the issue at Third Reading when we have the opportunity to do so.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, that children have one chance. We must get better at supporting children who come into our country, many of whom will stay but some of whom will not. What can we best do? I leave your Lordships' House with
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, for her contribution and to the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, who spoke this morning on the BBC's "Today" programme. I thank them for their graciousness and thoroughness. This is a difficult issue, and the more I hear, the more I realise what a muddle we are in. Clause 34(2) states:
I am not by nature someone who goes out of his way to be awkward, an assertion that I am sure my two colleagues on the Front Bench will support. I am a very peaceful, loving person, but I really do find that all this rhetoric about misunderstanding increases the amount of fog. I know that the Government are in a hurry to get a Bill through, and it seems that the policy has been made and the educational package then created to fit into it. In my own discipline of theology, that constitutes good systematic theology, but it is not very good historical or pastoral theology, because that is when theology actually meets context and people. I am sure that there are parallels in history and sociology also. A mainstream school is where young children belong, whatever their race. That is where they will learn English.
I have been travelling to Denmark every summer since I was a boy. I do not speak Danish fluently, but I can make the noises of that throat disease-type language quite convincingly. A right reverend Prelate in Danish is Deres HjaervaerdighedI will help the Hansard staff to get their pens around that. We learn English best by starting with it. There has been much talk tonight about special schools. I can only say to the Government that we want to hear more. My name has been on this amendment for 10 days, yet nobody asked me to come to talk to them, and I would be glad to talk to people about the matter. However, a considerable burden of communication and detail must get across to many people before the Bill as it stands will be owned by the people of this country, let alone the Members of this House.
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.