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Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. The Minister says that we are trying to limit the freedom of academies as to who they can employ; well, yes we arein the interests of the children. It is because we believe a certain minimum standard of staff is necessary. The Minister is yet again relying on the funding agreements to achieve all kinds of things in relation to academies. Time alone will tell whether these are watertight or full of holes. I worry somewhat that those funding agreements are being relied on so heavily to achieve a large number of issues in relation to the provision of education by the academies. Neither the Minister nor I can tell for the moment, but I am sure that both of us will keep a careful eye on the matter.
The Minister also said that the General Teaching Council register was only one mechanism that could be used for ensuring the quality of a member of the teaching staff. It may be, but it is probably the best that we havethe most watertight and generally accepted. If the Government are encouraging academies to encourage staff to be registered, or even to require them to be so, I find it difficult to see why that cannot be put into statute. That would be a clear indicator of the Government's determination that the level of staff in the new independent state schools was no less good than in any other state schools.
It is clear that the noble Lord does not find himself able to listen on this occasion, as he has on many other occasions during the course of the Bill. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 130 and 131 not moved.]
Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 131A:
"SUPPORT AND ADVICE TO PARENTS
(1) It is the duty of the appropriate authority to ensure that any registered parent of a registered pupil attending a relevant school is able to seek guidance and advice in relation to the behavioural and emotional development of that pupil.
(2) All parents shall on registration of their child as a new pupil at any relevant school be given information as to where they may seek such guidance and advice including information about telephone help-lines, internet websites and the availability and contact details of local authority, school-based and voluntary support services.
(3) This information shall also be included each year in any school profile issued to parents.
(4) "Relevant school" and "appropriate authority" shall have the same meaning as in section 112."
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I tabled the amendment because I have for some time been worried by the fact that help in terms of parenting is offered to parents when the problem of bad behaviour has become so chronic that the behaviour is, in effect, unmanageable and spills out to the wider community. At that point, we see ASBOs and compulsory parenting classes.
Equally, as our discussion earlier made clear, the role of parents in bringing up children is crucial. Positive parenting can result in a high level of
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performance on the part of children, and impact substantially on the child. The down side is that bad behaviour on the part of children is often a reflection of perturbation in home circumstances. It may reflect violence at home, the break-up of a marriage or the death of a family member. I have been impressed by the evidence presented to me in the past six months or so of the depression suffered by young people at both secondary and primary school, and of how, if we can nip that in the bud, they frequently not only perform much better at school but are assimilated within society to a much greater degree.
It is clear that many parents find it difficult to know where to go for help if they find their children difficult to manage. They might go to their GP and say that they have difficulties, and the GP will more or less say that it is natural in a growing period. They may go to teachersthat is very obviousbut some parents feel inhibited about going to school and admitting that they have difficulty managing their own children at home. If parents go to a teacher and say, "Help! What do I do?", teachers frequently do not have recourse to much in the way of help in any case. Local authority psychological support services are not very extensive and are frequently already overworked. A referral to an educational psychologist may well take three or four months, if not more. Some parents sometimes feel that it is not always that helpful to go and talk with such people. They tend to come away saying that the advice that they received was motherhood and apple pie.
At the same time, I am conscious of the fact that a lot of positive initiatives are taking place. Through the All-Party Group on Parents and Families, I have had plenty to do with the National Parenting and Family Institute, and know that it has been piloting, for example, parent information points. Much of its work has had positive results.
That has led me to the conclusion that it would be helpful if schools, as a matter of routine, were to make available to parents knowledge about telephone helplines and Internet sites and so forth and about whom to contact in local authorities, where there are school-based services or voluntary services that are frequently available locally. Parents do not always know how to access such information.
If, when a new parent registerseven if it is of a child who is only 3 or 4they are given this information and if it is repeated in the annual school profile, or whatever the annual report is, it is there if they need it. It is an immediate resource that they can seek help from, particularly if they feel inhibited about talking to the teachers at their children's school about the difficulties that they are having.
One of the things that has become apparent from talking with the people at the National Family and Parenting Institute is the degree to which, where parenting classes are run, many parents reply, "Why didn't you tell me about these before, it would have helped so much". The earlier we can get in here, the better. It is really a matter of providing information.
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The Minister has already talked about some of the initiatives that are emerging in his department. This is a prompt to him to say, "Look, here is an idea. We need to make sure that parents get this information". Every child has to be registered at a school at some point. Parents may lose the information, but if it is repeated in the annual school reportit need only be a little bit at the endat least it is there and it is in a place of first resort. I beg to move.
Lord Filkin: My Lords, the prompt was well received, is the short answer. This could have been part of our more general discussion earlier, so I will not go on at excessive length. I agree with a lot of what the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, has said and must make sure that I read it in Hansard as well.
It is certain that the issues she talks about are in the work programme that we have got under way. In other words, we are looking at what information parents need; the evidence for that; the circumstances in which national helplines work; their reach and penetration; and in what circumstances they need to be backed up by more localised sources of information. The noble Baroness referred to evidence about parents, who are often seriously disadvantaged, surprisingly saying that they welcomed some of the interventions that some of us were slightly worried about initially, and that if only they had had this before it would have been helpful.
It is both about identifying what universal services would, in a perfect world, be available and also where targeted services are needed in particular circumstances, if there are serious difficulties with how a parent is coping. That needs to be seen in the context of normalising the need for parenting support. All parents, me included, have problems at times. My daughters are always telling me that the problem is me, but I do not always believe them. I am not being flippant, but this is part of life and this is not an indication that the state is about to set up something massive. It is clearly more subtle than that.
The point about transitions is accepted, as is the point that some of those who perhaps most need support find it the most difficult to access the support. In other words, some families are least likely to ask the school for help whereas lots of other parents will do so. Let me not go on, but I would just like to signal that I am four-square with the noble Baroness on many of the issues. They are on our work programme, which I talked about earlier today and earlier in debates.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, on this issue there is a meeting of minds between our Benches and the Minister. I also have support from Members on the other Benches. The amendment was a prompt to the Minister and I hope that he will keep the House informed of developments. There is a great deal of interest in the matter in this House. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, who has not been present for the past week or so, would have been
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delighted with the Minister's response. We look forward to positive moves in this direction. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 115 [Functions to be exercisable by National Assembly for Wales]:
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