|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Morris of Bolton: I thank the Minister for her reply, and I look forward to receiving her letter. People's private financial details have long been confidential, and any risk to that confidentiality must be taken very seriously. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 152H, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 152J, which is in my name. The amendments would ensure that the Government established a target annually for the total number of teachers and support staff who should be employed, and for the target to be costed in the annual local government finance settlement. Each school and pupil referral unit could be required to employ a minimum number of teachers, defined by maximum class and group size limits; appropriate distinctions between the work of teachers and support staff; a statutory curriculum framework, which requires a balanced and broadly based curriculum; and the personal and social needs of children and young people.
We have falling pupil rolls, and I have argued before that that should be seen as an opportunity and not a threat, as they represent an opportunity to reduce class sizes and expand the curriculum, establish productive links with parents in other schools, and many other opportunities. In recognising such opportunities, the Government could establish an annual target for the total number of teachers and support staff in employment, as well as what teachers are qualified to teach in, in relation to the need. We all know about subject shortages; this is an opportunity to define what is needed.
I know that the Government are at long last about to do the staff survey, so that before long we should know exactly where the shortages are and how many teachers are in place, against the actual need. So it should not be too difficult to do something like that. The latest publicly available figures show that at least half of all teachers in 2002 were aged 45 or over. Natural wastage is going to come into play before longso there is a need for the Government to initiate a major and thorough investigation into the future supply of teachers for the next 10 to 15 years, or we might land up with nowhere near enough. I beg to move.
Clauses 109 and 110 lay the basis for a new, more comprehensive and less burdensome system for collecting data on the school workforce by replacing the stream of existing surveys with a single, streamlined data collection system. That will give us the most accurate picture ever of our school system and will be a powerful management and planning tool, both at national and local level.
The amendment proposed would not increase the transparency we are trying to achieve. Every year, if we take the amendment literally, the Secretary of State would be obliged to publish a figure for the total
24 Jan 2005 : Column 1119
number of people who should be employed at, or otherwise working in, schools. That would include not only teachers and support staff, but school secretaries, dinner ladies, handymen and so forth.
The figure would not be a target because, even supposing that the Secretary of State could or wanted to get such a national figure, how would such a global figure be distributed between the local authorities and schools? Even if one divided it by 150 or 24,000, in some spurious way, what benefit would it be as a consequence? It would not have any benefit that we can see for schools and certainly not for children.
None of what I have said means that the Secretary of State does not have clear responsibilities under the 1994 Act to secure an adequate supply of trained teachers. I shall not weary the Committee with the story on that, but over the past few years that story has been remarkable, powerful and successful.
Clause 76(7) obliges the new Training and Development Agency to have regard when providing financial support for training to the Secretary of State's estimates of future demand not only for teachers but also for other members of the school workforce.
While the Secretary of State clearly has to review the total numbers and take cognisance of factors such as the ageing of various workforce populations and increasingly to be thoughtful about how the school workforce is shaping at both national level and local level, just as local authorities will as part of their children's plan, specifying national targets or local targets would no doubt consume an enormous amount of effort, time and argument, and what benefit would flow from it? While I do not wish to be dismissive of the amendment, we struggle to see that it would achieve anything that would be useful.
I am happy to engage further on the matter in case I have missed any of the noble Baroness's points. However, at this point, we can see little benefit in the amendment and ask whether she would consider withdrawing it.
Lord Hanningfield: I shall briefly outline the points and would be grateful if we could be sent a written explanation from the Minister dealing with them. The Explanatory Notes tell us that Clause 110 will enable,
"regulations to require or authorise the proprietor of a school, a children's services authority ... or any person prescribed in regulations to supply information ... to the Secretary of State, the Assembly",
We are rather concerned about who those people "prescribed in regulations" might be and how that information might be passed around. I have a much wider briefing note that I could read, but the simple point is that we need more information on how that information will be shared, how the Government will ensure that it does not go to the wrong people and on who are the prescribed people. I shall not speak further on this now, but I hope that the Minister will let us have more information on exactly how the provision will operate.
Lord Filkin: Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, whether he wanted me to dazzle himor weary himby reading out my speaking note or whether he would prefer that I correspond with him on these points in more detail.
"EXCLUSION OF CHILDREN: DUTIES IN RELATION TO PUPILS
(1) Section 52 of the Education Act 2002 (c. 32) is amended as follows.
(2) After subsection (5) there is inserted
"(5A) It shall be the duty of all persons and bodies exercising functions under this section
(a) to have regard to the welfare of the child that is proposed to be excluded, and
(b) to have regard in particular to the child's educational achievement.
(5B) Regulations shall make provision for compliance with the duty under subsection (5A) and in particular to ensure that pupils who are proposed to be excluded or have been excluded under the provisions of this section
(a) have a proper opportunity to make representations in relation to their exclusion or proposed exclusion, and
(b) receive all information that might be relevant to such representations.""
The noble Baroness said: I declare my interest as a former trustee and council member of Save the Children. This amendment has been suggested to me by that charity. It is also supported by a number of other similar organisations.
The amendment is concerned with the important matter of the exclusion of children from school. In August 2004, Save the Children commissioned a research project specifically aimed at gathering
24 Jan 2005 : Column 1121
information from children and young people on their experience of the exclusion process. The objectives were to determine what experiences children and young people have of the exclusion process; to elicit the extent to which children and young people are involved in the exclusion process and whether their involvement is systemic or sporadic and inconsistent; to assess whether children and young people are given the necessary information and support to facilitate their full involvement in the process; to determine whether there are any possible or lasting benefits to children and young people being involved in the process; and to assess whether there are any negative effects of not being involved.
Face-to-face individual interviews took place with a number of children and young people who had recently been excluded either permanently or on a fixed time-period exclusion. The amendment before the Committee today is the result of that research.
The findings indicated that the exclusion process is associated with considerable obfuscation, misunderstanding and frustration by many young people. Many who participated in the research appeared confused about what was involved in the exclusion process, the sequence of events and the specific purpose of any meetings held. They regarded themselves as having no influence or control over the exclusion process. It was something that happened around them and about them, but did not directly involve them other than incidentally. Not surprisingly, most of the respondents in the research had a predominantly negative view of the overall merits and value of the process. They often failed to differentiate between initial meetings to consider possible exclusion, disciplinary committee meetings and appeal meetings. Few seemed to be aware of, or understand, the appeal procedures linked to permanent exclusions.
The extent to which young people were involved in the process of their exclusion varied considerably across the research sample. At one end of the spectrum were respondents who often attended meetings and presented their view on what had happened; at the other end were respondents who never went to meetings to do with exclusion and therefore had never given their side of the story. Some respondents expressed anger and frustration at not having been asked to give their side of the story. They suffered a sense not only of disempowerment but also the feeling that justice had not been done because teachers were making exclusion decisions without knowing all the full facts of the case. In several cases it was thought that having the opportunity to speak could well have changed the exclusion decision.
Young people proposed a number of useful suggestions as to how the exclusion process might be improved: first, that discussions focus on what had happened during the specific incident concerned rather than on the young person's general character and behaviour; secondly, that all young people be treated equally; thirdly, that teachers spend more time gathering evidence from all those involved; fourthly, that a young person accused be given a chance to call
24 Jan 2005 : Column 1122
witnesses of their choice to attend exclusion meetings; and, finally, that young people be allowed to hear the evidence against them before being given the opportunity to present their side of the case.
There is no doubt from the case studies cited in the research that young people excluded are concerned that their education will be disrupted, and this could well cause problems for them in later life. As one of them put it, "You go thick if you're off school too long". There seems to be an expectation that all parents and carers have the information and capacity to present the best interests of their child throughout the process. However, the research undertaken shows that that is not always the case. One young man explained that he had wanted to appeal against what he felt was an unfair exclusion but his mother felt that it would take too much time. He told researchers, "My mum didn't want me to have an appeal to go back as it would take too long. I wanted to go back, but my mum says it takes too long so leave it. I would have told them it wasn't me and that they should not have excluded me in the first place".
Current statutory guidance in England does not enforce statutory involvement of a child in the exclusion process. Not all schools make provision for children and young people to make representations at disciplinary meetings or appeal hearings. Furthermore, the current guidance does not cover the provision of relevant information to children and young people regarding their exclusion. As a result children are not always in a position to make representation at exclusion hearings, even if they are allowed to attend. Research has shown that children most likely to be excluded already suffer reduced life chances.
"States Parties shall assure, to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views, the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child".
Legislative change would ensure that the Government are meeting their obligations under Article 12 by establishing a legal standard that requires schools to listen to children and young people in matters of concern to them in the exclusions process. Fully involving children and young people in the process and supporting them to make representations would help to ensure that they take responsibility for their actions and do not become disengaged from education altogether.
Research has shown that many excluded young people appreciate the chance to be able to tell their side of the story and are only too well aware of the problems that they may face in later life if their education is disrupted by exclusion.
In Scotland and Wales, legislative changes have been introduced that give children the rights sought in this amendment. In order to ensure that all children have the right to access appropriate information and have their voices heard in the school exclusion process, it is crucial that statutory guidance be strengthened
24 Jan 2005 : Column 1123
through legislative change. I hope that the Government will view this amendment favourably. I beg to move.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|