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Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I shall do my best to respond to all the important points that noble Lords have raised. I start with a question that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked, about whether the new clauses were in response to a specific incident. They are. There was a case a few years ago, although I do not wish to deluge the Committee further with information, in which an autistic girl was restrained many times without her parents being informed, which caused considerable concern and distress and has
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I start by looking at the core recording and reporting requirements in Amendments 307A, 307C and 307D. It is right that teachers and lecturers have the power to use reasonable force in appropriate circumstances, to protect those in their care. I think that that is understood in the Committee. Such incidents can be distressing to learners and staff. Of course, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, we would hope that this was a matter of the last resort. It is appropriate, therefore, that a clear and contemporary report is made of each significant incident-and I recognise the importance of the word significant-and that a report is made to parents. This will act as a safeguard for both learners and for staff, who will be better able to refute malicious and inaccurate accusations. I am sure that that is what already happens in the vast majority of good schools. Recording and reporting is already a good practice which most schools and colleges follow. Making it a legislative requirement will ensure that best practice is applied consistently.
The meaning of "significant" is an important question, which Amendments 307B and 307BA both probe; however, it is important to maintain a sensible balance. We would not want schools to have to make a report every time a teacher stopped a pupil who was leaning back in a chair or falling over, for example. That is why the use of the term "significant" is essential. We are working with our social partners to clarify the criteria that constitute "significant" and will set that out in our statutory guidance.
The question of discretion is also important and is probed in Amendment 307BB. I appreciate fully the strength of feeling on whether head teachers should be able to exercise their discretion in reporting significant incidents of the use of force-again, there is the importance of "significant". I believe, however, that the clause as drafted gets it right in requiring that parents must be told when a significant incident has occurred, which comes back to that important definition.
Where the relationship between the parent and child is so fraught that such a report might have adverse consequences for the pupil or student, the clause would not prevent the report from reaching the parents through a third party-for example, the local social services department. Our first priority is the protection of vulnerable children. Ensuring that parents or guardians know what has happened to their children in school is an important means of providing that protection. If they do not know, how can they play any part in ensuring that issues are addressed? In a tiny minority of cases, we would expect alternative arrangements to be put in place for the parents to be informed.
Amendment 306 would remove the power to use force to maintain good order and discipline. While the use of force must always be a last resort, it is important that teachers should have the option of using reasonable force to maintain authority in their classes-for example, to remove a disruptive child from a classroom. To forbid such action would lead to pupils being able to defy teachers' authority and to disrupt other pupils' learning without redress, which I am sure we must all agree we do not want to see.
On the concern expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, following the completion of the Smallridge and Williamson review, an Appeal Court judgment, as the noble Baroness said, ruled that force could not be used for the maintenance of good order and discipline in secure training centres. We do not, however, accept that banning it in schools is right as schools are, surely, a fundamentally different environment from the secure estate. Young people in the secure estate lack the home support that most pupils enjoy. They are in a closed environment and more likely to be alone with the staff members when force is being used on them than pupils in school.
The paramount importance in schools of ensuring good order and discipline, in order that children can learn, is key. It is simply not acceptable for one disruptive pupil to be able to cause mayhem in a lesson. In some cases, while I understand the concern expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, on this, the use of force to get the pupil out of the classroom may be the only option. Without that power, the disciplinary authority of teachers would also be fatally compromised.
I shall finish on training, an issue that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, raises again in Amendment 307. We recognise the importance of appropriate training for school staff in the use of force. Our existing guidance on the use of force highlights the importance of good training and recommends that schools set out their approach to relevant training in their use-of-force policy. Our guidance makes clear the principle that force should be used only as a last resort and covers de-escalation techniques, in the very way that the noble Baroness mentioned. As she knows, it is all about reducing risk and ensuring that proper risk assessments are made.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, discussed detentions in referring to Amendment 308. School staff already have the power to use reasonable force to prevent a pupil from committing an offence, causing injury, damaging property or prejudicing the maintenance of good order and discipline. In circumstances where a pupil walking out of a detention would clearly undermine good order and discipline, a member of staff would be able, if they judged it appropriate, to use reasonable force to prevent them from leaving.
It is absolutely right that teachers should have the powers and tools that they need to keep good order in the classroom. Importantly, however, we must ensure that teachers know about the powers that they already have, which are pretty comprehensive. I hope, having addressed concerns, particularly around the key issue of the definition of "significant", and our work with social partners-the teaching unions and professional associations-to ensure that we get this right and strike the right balance, that the noble Baroness feels able to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the group and I thank the Minister. Can she tell us when we will get to see the statutory guidance on "significant"? I take it, from what she said, that it is for the head teacher to judge what "significant" means. Is that correct?
I am going to disappoint the Committee. I am advised that the statutory guidance will not be available before Report. However, I am sure that we will be able to keep the noble Baroness informed of how discussions are going with social partners.
On maintaining good order and discipline, I fail to see why it is not appropriate to use force to maintain good order and discipline in a secure training centre but it is in a school. The noble Baroness says that it is a completely different context and that the young person is more likely to be alone with a member of staff in a secure training centre. On the other hand, this situation is more likely to happen in a secure training centre because of the nature of the personnel involved. I warn the Government: I am absolutely sure that there will be a test case on this. It is inevitable.
On detention, I am distraught to hear that a teacher would have the right to use physical restraint to stop a child walking out of detention. If I had to use physical force to stop a child walking out of a room, I would regard myself as having failed completely in exerting my authority over that child; the last thing that I would do would be to demonstrate that through the use of force. What does one do? Wrestle them to the ground to stop them going out of the door? It is completely mad and self-defeating. However, with those comments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Lucas: This was put down as a placeholder in case we got to the point where anything crept in from the Government's side on the subject of home education. However, I think that it has its own value. In the next Session we shall doubtless consider home education in detail so I do not want to trespass on that now, but there is a history in this country of a lack of contact and comprehension between Government and home educators. This is not the case in Scotland, where there is a settled arrangement whereby an intermediary body has developed which allows the home education community to communicate satisfactorily with the Scottish Government, and by and large things there proceed pretty well. Here when the Government announced their Badman review, I think that more than 2,000 home educators sent in individual views, and being home educators they were individual views and not copied out of some round robin. The Government must have found it impossible to deal with that variety, depth and passion of view. As a result, the home education community feels, probably quite rightly, that its views were ignored, although I do not blame the Government because I cannot see how a civil servant can ever be expected to get their mind around such an extraordinary variety of opinions and produce a coherent briefing for a Minister. What is needed is some form of intermediary body.
I do not at all hold to the particular plan that I put down here; that was a case of working something out on paper to see what reaction I had to it. There has been a good deal of hostility to it from the home education community, as I expect there would be to any plan. Nevertheless, I hope that the Government will express themselves open to an initiative in this area and say that they would welcome such an intermediary body if it could be created, or something that would enable the home education community to speak effectively to Government, and then perhaps if there is a known willingness something will happen. I beg to move.
I understand that this is the case at the moment. Does the Minister consider that it might be useful to have a clearer picture of how much schooling occurs in this country? Moreover, might it not be useful and relevant in formulating the structure of education in this country to know who favours home schooling and what their reasons are for it? I will listen to the Minister's response with great interest.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, is absolutely right-it would be very helpful to know in a lot more detail the numbers and profiles of families and young people who are educated at home. There are wide-ranging figures from some 20,000 up to 100,000 plus. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has said, there is a lot of interest in the whole question of home education and how home educators are supported. I know that the amendment seeks to establish a new consultative committee at a national level, but it is interesting that he is flying a kite. It is helpful to fly a number of kites in this area because the diversity of opinion on it is challenging to grapple with.
Home education is an established part of the British education system and there are great benefits where it works and where it is the best option for the child. I have met some very impressive young people who are a credit to their home education. We recognise the valuable contribution made by home educators and we certainly wish to see home education continue as a real option for parents. We do not wish to undermine it in any way. We want to ensure that home educators receive the right level of support to ensure that they can provide a suitable education for their children.
On 9 October, we published our full response to Graham Badman's report, Review of Elective Home Education in England. The response sets out our strong commitment to supporting home educators, particularly where children have special needs or wish to access examination centres or further education colleges, which I know many find difficult to do.
It is important for home educators to have a voice in any decisions that affect them. I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, on that. In our response to the Badman report we recognise that consultation at local level is important if home educators are to receive the services that they need. That is why we undertook to include in any statutory guidance that we issue a recommendation that local authorities set up consultative forums for home educators to review local authority arrangements for monitoring and services provided to them.
Putting these consultative structures in place at local, rather than national, level will ensure that decisions can be taken with a better understanding of the real needs of the local home-educating community and the
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Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her considered reply, which I shall read tomorrow with care. I am disappointed that she does not think that anything is needed nationally. Perhaps that means that she is not proposing in the next Session to bring forward any great national requirements on home educators. That would be good news, but I do not expect that to be the case.
Many things that central government do have an effect on the home education community, not only as regards education but also as regards social security, health and in many areas in which regulations coming from the centre make life difficult for co-operation at local level. I see a role for continuing dialogue. I shall read what the noble Baroness has said but for now I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I tabled this amendment at the behest of the 157 Group of the larger colleges to emphasise its welcome for the provisions in Clause 248. Last year's education Act gave schools the responsibility and duty to promote the well being of their pupils. This clause goes somewhat further. The further education colleges are asked to promote,
The amendment would add the words "and community cohesion" to economic and social well being. If truth be known it really adds very little: implicitly promoting economic and social well being in a local area must in itself help to promote social cohesion. The 157 Group wished to emphasise its vision of colleges as the vibrant and dynamic centres of activity in their locality, positively reaching out to serve their local communities, going out and finding out about skills gaps and employer needs, but also holding an open door and saying to the local population, "Come and talk to us and we will help you to fulfil your ambitions and aspirations in educational terms".
In that respect it is vital to recognise the role that further education colleges can play within their local communities, providing for educational needs from courses in basic literacy and numeracy on the one hand to foundation and honours degrees on the other. The larger colleges have anything between 15,000 and 30,000 students on their books and a turnover of up to £60 million. They are often larger than the local university and much larger than the schools. Increasingly, they are co-operating with both sets of institutions. The amendment seeks to say that they not only accept but positively welcome their role as movers and shakers within their local community. I beg to move.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: Amendment 314 proposes to add "community cohesion" to the objective of promoting the economic and social well being of a local area, to which further education corporations should have regard, similar to the duty on governing bodies of maintained schools in England, set out in Section 21 of the amended Education Act 2002.
We are working with the further education sector on how the duty to have regard to the promotion of well being will be implemented. I can assure noble Lords, and especially the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, that we will ensure that any guidance that relates to this makes it clear that the definition of economic and social well being of an area encompasses the important concept of "community cohesion". We recognise the importance, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, stressed, of larger colleges and their role in the community. We see the cohesion of communities in the local area as a significant contributor to their social and economic well being. We have already established a group of champion college principals to drive work on this and we will look to our champions to work with colleges on how best to fulfil their new duty. With these reassurances, I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.
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