Debates between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 3rd Nov 2020
Thu 30th Apr 2020

Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Thursday 15th July 2021

(10 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, this amendment, so ably moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, raises an issue that engaged us at Second Reading—namely, the relationship between Ofqual and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education—and was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Watson, on a previous group. The matter of regulation is causing concern in the awarding sector, because it is not clear who has authority for end-point assessment for apprenticeships, and it is surely not desirable for there to be any confusion over which of these two bodies has most power, nor where the expertise lies.

The Minister tempted me to come in on the previous group and I nearly came in after her—but I knew I had the opportunity to speak on this group, so I thought I might as well save my thunder.

My noble friend Lord Addington referred to my connections with City & Guilds. I remember that it was the employers who set the curriculum, because they have always been involved with vocational workplace qualifications. Of course, there was heavy regulation of everything we did but, over many years, both BTEC and City & Guilds have developed a reputation for standards and quality. They are understood and trusted by employers, and BTEC has the added cachet that it is accepted by universities, in many cases, because of the academic rigour of its awards. Part of the work I did for many years at City & Guilds was talking to universities to see where they could accept City & Guilds vocational qualifications for their degree programmes. There were certainly some, in engineering and areas such as that, who were prepared to accept that people who had the right level of City & Guilds qualification had met the criteria for entry to a university programme. They are doing different things, by and large, so not many people went down that route, but it was possible. So this constant mention that employers are in control, as though it was something new, always concerns me, as it has been going on for over 100 years.

The noble Baroness also made a brief mention of copyright. I remember going through the Technical and Further Education Bill, which was cut short by the election, and having stunningly good amendments that were all of course dropped in the wash-up. The suggestion then was that the copyright of any of the awarding bodies would immediately be taken over by the Government. I objected strongly and said “You can’t do this. You can’t just assume the copyright of an organisation”. I got a phone call from the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, who asked me why I was objecting to his wonderful Bill. I said that it seemed to me outrageous that the Government could just take over the copyright of other organisations. He said, “Oh, I didn’t mean for that to happen at all”. I said, “Would you mind very much ringing up the department and telling them that?” I do not think he ever did, because nothing happened on it. But the issue of copyright is vital, because many awarding organisations earn income from the copyright of their qualifications.

Anyway, the noble Baroness very kindly sent us a chart of Ofqual and the institute, showing where they all were, and the complexity of it is absolutely mind-boggling—I am sure that a brighter soul than me would reckon that it is all very straightforward. The institute has responsibility for the curriculum, but Ofqual has end-point assessment. Ofqual provides advice to the institute with regard to the validity of technical education qualifications submitted for approval and the reliability of assessment, but the institute will be responsible for reviewing technical education qualifications to determine whether they continue to meet the criteria. This seems to be an incredibly complicated way of running these qualifications. However, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, that it is obviously more appropriate that responsibility lies with Ofqual, which is an independent regulator, whereas IfATE is of course less independent, as a non-departmental public body.

We have no information about how IfATE’s approval fees would be regulated, how often the fees would be charged and how accurate the estimation costs are. Would the fees be per qualification, per sector, annually or for the lifetime of the qualification? That is not clear. There is a lot of obscurity around the setting up of these qualifications.

I find it very strange that, as has been mentioned, Ofqual has regulatory and approval responsibility for all vocational and technical qualifications apart from T-levels. I thought that T-levels were supposed to be the be-all and end-all of vocational qualifications, so why have they been split off into another body? I am afraid that I am a simple soul and I find this very complicated, so perhaps the Minister could enlighten us and clarify it all for us.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the external quality assurance of apprenticeships’ end-point assessment is a vital tool in ensuring that all apprentices receive a robust, high-quality assessment. In this amendment, we are now dealing with what is an Ofqual function. Ofqual does not set any curriculum for A-levels or GCSEs and neither would it, in our view, be the appropriate body to set any content for any level 3 or level 2 technical qualifications. It oversees the assessment process, seeing whether grading is fair and examinations are being run properly.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education introduced an external quality assurance framework in 2019 in order to bring consistency to the sector. Following this, the institute put the matter of external quality assurance out to public consultation between February and May last year. This resulted in the institute taking the decision that the EQA for most apprenticeship end-point assessments would transfer to Ofqual to bring further consistency and quality to the assessment of apprenticeships. This is Ofqual’s bread and butter: overseeing examinations.

There are a small number of exceptional standards—chartered surveyors, for instance—where an existing statutory regulator oversees entry to a profession. The best way to quality assure these standards is currently being worked through with those regulators. I would like to make it clear that the Office for Students must continue to provide EQA for integrated degree apprenticeships—because Ofqual does not have statutory jurisdiction over degrees and therefore cannot provide EQA for apprenticeships at that level.

I will specifically address the noble Lord’s suggestion that regulations under this proposed amendment must prohibit the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education from providing EQA. While the institute is stepping back from direct delivery of EQA, it is an employer-led organisation, working to develop apprenticeships that meet the needs of employers. It is right that it should continue to have responsibility for securing the quality assurance of apprenticeship assessment in order to retain an independent, impartial voice in the sector and to maintain clear focus on supporting employers to develop the right apprenticeship skills for the labour market.

Regarding the suggested six-month timing for the transfer proposed in the amendment, the pace of the EQA transition currently taking place from the institute and other EQA providers to Ofqual has been carefully planned to ensure the development of a balanced end-point assessment offer to continue to develop a high-quality apprenticeships system. The first phase of the transition is well under way and is focused on transferring the majority of standards that currently have the institute as the named EQA provider. This phase will conclude at the end of the year. The second phase is to transition to Ofqual the remaining standards that are externally quality assured by other EQA providers, excluding the standards that will be regulated by OfS and statutory regulators, as aforementioned. This will conclude at the end of September 2022.

The sector is made up of a great number of end-point assessment organisations of different sizes and natures, some covering single standards, some covering around 50 standards. To attempt to transition all these organisations and standards over to Ofqual in a six-month period would cause severe disruption in the sector and would negatively affect the apprentices’ experience. The proposed amendment would also place a great burden on universities, as under this amendment they would be required to be regulated by the OfS and Ofqual, rather than just by the OfS, as is currently the case. I hope I have set out that, as the successful transition of EQA is already under way, it would have a detrimental effect if we were to remove the institute from the process entirely.

In relation to the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, on fees, any future approach that is developed will be proportionate and take account of the operational costs of institute approval in the reformed landscape. This may differ across qualification categories and levels.

On this basis, and with the explanations and reassurances I have given, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel comfortable to withdraw her amendment.

Education Recovery

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Tuesday 8th June 2021

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, I agree with so much of what the noble Lord, Lord Watson, just said. I thank the Minister for the Statement, but I do not think there is much we have not heard before. She often tells us with pride about the £1 million here, the £200 million there, even £14.4 billion—how have I forgotten that, when it is so close to Sir Kevan Collins’s ask? This all begins to add up to real money, but where is the overview, the strategy, the cohesion? I suspect we might have found it in Sir Kevan’s review, had we had the chance to study it before the Government trashed it. I am sure he appreciated being thanked before resigning because of the decimation of his proposals, but then, he consulted real experts and, as I pointed out in my question yesterday, which the Minister wisely ignored, this is not a Government who respect experts, to their shame and to the loss of the rest of us.

I do not suppose that even the Education Secretary’s best friends suggest he is an education expert, so how good it would have been for him and the Government to have taken heed of real education specialists. If the Government genuinely thank Sir Kevan for his efforts, his thoughts and his input, why on earth are they not implementing his well-researched proposals? Of course, tutoring is most welcome. The children who will have lost out most are those from families without the time, technology or education to help them with home lessons and learning. The Minister has told us about the thousands of computers and iPads given to the deserving poor but, for many of them, these will have been useless without tuition. We heard of many families having to share a single piece of kit between numerous students, but without any person to talk them through.

On the tutoring scheme, where are these tutors coming from? Will they be the hard-pressed teachers being asked to do yet more? Or will they perhaps be university students, keen to earn some money while close enough in age but, we hope, superior in wisdom, for the youngsters to feel an affinity? What plans are there to make up all the social parts of school that the noble Lord, Lord Watson, referred to—mixing with others, learning teamwork and how to win, how to lose, how to make friends and how to befriend your enemies? Where are the proposals for the softer skills of school, so vital in life? Where is the careers information and guidance? I could find nothing in the Statement about that.

As the noble Lord, Lord Watson, said, we know the detrimental impact the pandemic has had on the mental and emotional well-being of children and young people, so will the Government take action to evaluate mental health service provision in schools and allocate enough resources to bolster these services and address shortcomings in provision? Research by the Carers Trust shows there has been a worrying decline in the mental health of young carers during the pandemic. What are the Government planning to do to support the educational and emotional recovery of young carers? We hear that many children return to school having forgotten how to sit in a class for an hour, how to pay attention and even how to hold a knife and fork. How are the Government helping them?

How kind to offer more training for overworked teachers. Most teachers are pretty well trained already, and of course there is always room, if not time, for more training, but would our wonderful teachers, who have gone over and above in lockdown for their pupils, not perhaps appreciate some extra pay as a thank you? I declare an interest as the mother of a primary teacher who is working all the hours God gave to ensure that her little four year-olds continue to learn and, perhaps even more importantly, to enjoy learning. Because school should be fun: learning should be exciting and accessible and the youngest children need to find that that is the case so that they really catch the bug of lifelong learning. If the Government are so intent on investing in teachers, why not pay them more?

So, my verdict on the Government is: “Could do better”. Give us the holistic picture. We can see that vast sums have been spent, but could they not have been spent more cohesively, more helpfully and in a more targeted way? These are the next generations, the young people whose skills, knowledge and enthusiasm will be sorely needed to help us through the aftermath of the pandemic, not to mention Brexit. They will be needed to help revive the economy, take the jobs that are needed, not necessarily the ones they wanted, and to be adaptable. I see little in the Statement to show that the Government appreciate the size and breadth of the job that needs to be done.

Baroness Berridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Department for International Trade (Baroness Berridge) (Con)
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My Lords, I repeat the thanks of the Government to Sir Kevan for his work. Actually, there is great scrutiny of this—this is the second opportunity that noble Lords have had to scrutinise it. I am so very grateful to the Private Notice Question procedure in this regard. In relation to his plan, tutoring and the teaching element were part of his recommendations, as part of an overall strategy. I assure the noble Baroness that the strategy is about evidence-based interventions, and it is clear from the information we have from Renaissance Learning that some students in autumn 2020 were, on average, behind by three months in maths and two months in reading. We know that months of catch-up can be done using tutoring as an intervention, whether that is one-on-one or small group. This is an evidence-based part of the strategy and has been part of the recovery package from the beginning, so it is important that it now has about £1 billion worth of funding and includes about 6 million interventions for children.

Noble Lords will have seen the Prime Minister’s comments that this will not be the last word. Obviously, recovery is for the lifetime of this Parliament and it will be part of the forthcoming spending review. Of course, there will be the analysis needed of any extension to the school day or timetable. At the moment, many schools have flexibility on the hours they have in the school day, but the impact on the workforce and all other details need to be taken into account. That is why there will be a consultation or review of that element of the package before any changes are made.

The noble Lord and the noble Baroness mentioned targeting. Throughout the pandemic, vulnerable children were offered a school place, and I think that was unusual across most jurisdictions. We did keep and see, with the work of teachers and outreach, increasing numbers of vulnerable children taking up those school places during the pandemic.

Well-being is obviously a key part of the recovery for children and young people; the noble Baroness outlined the social skills they have missed. As noble Lords will be aware, transition points are particularly important and can be very challenging at the best of times. That is why there is the summer schools programme —a £200 million pot of money—which around 80% of secondary schools have bid into to provide not just education but wider activities, physical exercise and well-being. Over 80% of secondary schools have applied to that pot to provide this provision for their forthcoming year 7 pupils.

I cannot remember the precise amount offhand, but there has been a significant planned investment into CAMHS—child and adolescent mental health services. There has been an investment of £17 million, announced during Mental Health Awareness Week, and one of £79 million, because we are of course aware of the rising demands on schools in relation to mental health, pastoral and bereavement issues at the moment. I spoke today to someone who had visited a large secondary school where, I think, 30 children had lost their parents. These are significant issues, and we are investing to enable over 7,800 schools to have a trained-up senior mental health lead within the school staff. We have been investing in that.

Of course, every year there is the pupil premium, and £2.5 billion has been put in through that this year. I do not think that one should underestimate the flexibility there has been. Although some of the money is targeted, we gave much of the £650 million universal catch-up premium to schools with flexibility so that they have been able to buy in extra pastoral support and do more enrichment activities. We are trying to get that balance between the targeted, and the £200 million that is for summer schools only, and the general school budget, as school leaders know more about the needs of their children.

On the NAO report, the pupil premium and children in tutoring, throughout the pandemic, because of its dynamic nature and employment issues, it was important that school leaders were allowed to classify children as vulnerable. That may be because they did not have the internet access that they should for remote learning, because of caring responsibilities or because of the situation at home. It is not possible to say that it was precisely 44% using the classic measures, but school leaders are using their best judgment. There can be all kinds of reasons why a child needs tutoring because of the totally unpredictable way that the pandemic has affected particular households, so we entrust school leaders to make those decisions. That is not to say that we do not analyse the statistics, but we are aware of the discretion that we must give school leaders.

Our focus in the department is on children. The raison d’être of what we are doing, day in, day out, is to try to enable children to catch up. It is a dynamic picture, as noble Lords are aware. We have now had three reports from Renaissance Learning. Noble Lords will have seen today the additional investment going into the north-west. It is only now, when the tsunami is, I hope, permanently retreating, that we will see the differential impact that the pandemic has had.

On the role of experts, the department is continually engaging with stakeholder groups and teachers, including the unions, school leaders, SEND experts and others, to get their views on what is needed to help children catch up.

On teacher training, there was in fact consideration of delaying the introduction of the early career framework in September, but there was a call from the teaching workforce that it should come in then. The early career framework is important, which is why we are investing in it and guaranteeing that, in the first two years, 10% of time is not in teaching and can be used for mentoring. In the first year, 5% of teaching time will not be in the classroom, so can be for mentoring. There was a desire for that to come in, as it is important.

With what has happened during the pandemic, the professional development of our teaching workforce may, in certain circumstances, have taken a back seat, with all the emergency provision that schools have had to make, such as standing up testing and so on. So it is time to invest in the workforce. The NPQs that we are suggesting are being seriously ramped up; the plan was 1,500 a year, but we are going to 30,000 next year and then to 60,000, so we are really investing in the workforce. In relation, for instance, to the demands made on designated safeguarding leads in our schools at the moment, the NPQ for middle and senior leaders is a very important part of supporting teachers. The evidence is there—it can make a difference of about half a grade at GCSE—that it is one of the single most important things that we can provide for high-quality teaching. Professional development generally, but not always, enhances the quality of teaching.

On pay, the noble Baroness is aware that, in September 2020, there was an average pay rise of 3.1% and a 5.5% uplift to the starting salary. We are still committed to introducing a starting salary of £30,000 but, as I said yesterday, we are in a fiscal situation that none of us would want, having had to borrow the amount that we did during the pandemic. Unfortunately, difficult decisions on funding have had to be made.

I am sure that this will not be the last time that I come to the Dispatch Box to answer questions on recovery funding. I pay tribute to the schools, most of which have just gone back, and all that is going on to help children recover from the effects of the pandemic, not just educationally but socially, emotionally and psychologically.

Education Recovery

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Monday 7th June 2021

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the Government wish to thank Sir Kevan for his work. He supports the tutoring and teaching proposals we have outlined. In relation to the methodology, it is not accurate to make a comparison between different jurisdictions. For instance, the £3 billion I have outlined does not include the £400 million that has been spent on remote learning, including on 1.3 million devices, the Covid costs recovery fund, the workforce fund et cetera, so we are not comparing like with like when comparing different jurisdictions.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, we know that this Government have a self-confessed distrust of experts and prefer to shamble from crisis to crisis, yet they appointed the expert Sir Kevan to this vital role and the Prime Minister appeared to be supportive. The money that Sir Kevan’s well-researched report identified to help all children—particularly disadvantaged children—to make up the devastating educational losses of Covid was decimated. Why did the Government appoint Sir Kevan if they had no intention of listening to his authoritative findings?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, as I said, the tutoring and support for teaching that I outlined were part of Sir Kevan’s plan. More than £1 billion is going into tutoring for young people. That should pay for 100 million hours for children and young people across England by 2024. Those are disadvantaged young people. Using a “per pupil” analysis is not accurate when certain pots of money have been targeted at, for instance, tutoring disadvantaged children and summer schools are available to secondary schools only.

Covid-19: Pupil Referral Units

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Thursday 22nd April 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, it is pleasing to hear of that kind of community response to these issues. Noble Lords may remember that there are, of course, non-maintained special schools, which apparently include some alternative provision. Many of those that remain are Jewish or Catholic in their religious ethos, but it is open to any community to open a registered provider within the independent sector. I will be pleased to write to my noble friend to outline how that might be possible within the state-funded alternative provision sector.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, PRUs cater for some of the most disadvantaged, disturbed and sometimes dangerous students. I taught in one for a while, and it was an unforgettable experience. The NEU found that there was a 17% rise in the number of pupils with education, health and care plans in pupil referral units last year. How are the Government ensuring that every child with an EHCP is being educated in the most appropriate setting for them?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, there is a very high level of those with not only EHCP but SEND generally. Around 80% end up in some form of alternative provision. The AP settings are part of the SEND review so that they can be considered together. We recognise that this is often not the most appropriate place for young people to end up, and we will look at how to change the dynamic that is operating.

Education Return and Awarding Qualifications in 2021

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Monday 1st March 2021

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, we have all got used to the fact that there are certain people for whom there is an exemption from wearing a mask, and it is clear that the matter of how mask wearing is enforced in a classroom, or wherever else in a school there cannot be social distancing, is a matter for the school. We do not believe that we should be dictating how schools respond to different situations. There may be a multiplicity of reasons and particular circumstances, so it is up to the schools, as with any other behaviour policy, to monitor the wearing of masks.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, we welcome anything that begins to restore normal educational activity for our young people, who have lost so much in lockdown. The Statement talks of secondary schools’ summer schools. How will these be staffed? Our hard-pressed teachers are exhausted by the demands of virtual teaching. Can we be assured that they will not be required to give up restorative summer holidays to continue to work through the summer on these face-to-face summer schools—but, if not teachers, who?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, we are encouraging secondary schools to aim the summer school programme at incoming year 7s, because that is the transitional year. We have given them £200 million in funding to do this. Using existing staff, who might want to come in and be paid, is an option, as is using supply teachers, volunteers or other people. This is up to the schools. We are encouraging them to run these programmes and we are providing them with the resources to staff them as they choose.

Education: Supply Teachers

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Monday 22nd February 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con) [V]
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The noble Baroness is correct that we want to retain the talented teachers whom we recruit each year. We are delighted that there has been an increase in recruitment this year of 23%. The early career framework should address the issues that she outlined: a one-year initial teacher training followed by two years of professional development support. That begins in September this year. Schools will be required to deliver that to put teaching on a par with the professional development that is offered by professions such as law and medicine. It will enable new teachers to have mentoring and time out of the classroom and to be introduced in a gradual way and supported into the workforce.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, the substantial increase in teacher workload means that many schools have to have recourse to supply teachers. Unlike the old local authority system, under which I had some of my most taxing supply teaching experiences, private supply agencies are creaming off teachers and scarce school funds. What plans do the Government have to rectify this, to ensure better pay and conditions for supply teachers while making sure that schools retain money for essential use?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con) [V]
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My Lords, we trust school leaders to make workforce arrangements. Some schools, particularly multi-academy trusts, choose to employ supply teachers and some local authorities still run a pool supply service. As I have outlined, the agency supply deal means that there is transparency of fees and the arrangements are clear to schools, particularly when a teacher goes from a 12-week period of being temporary to being entitled to be permanent. So there is transparency—113 agencies have signed up to this deal, which we have made available to schools to help them to buy well and ensure the necessary transparency.

Schools: Online Teaching

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Thursday 11th February 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, all I can do is outline the very obvious point to the former First Minister of Scotland that education is, of course, a devolved matter—but, of course, we will assist the devolved Administrations to get the kind of deals we have got from many of the mobile phone providers. Noble Lords have been concerned about these issues and I am holding a specific briefing at 3 pm today that any noble Lords are welcome to join for more details on these provisions.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, the Minister has told us of the vast number of computers the Government have made available to disadvantaged students, but can she say what success the national tutoring programme has had in training and tutoring both parents and children who may have no idea how to use the technology and, indeed, may not have access to suitable broadband?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, in relation to the National Tutoring Programme, there will be 13,000 tutors available to more than 100,000 students. On the issues the noble Baroness refers to, teachers are obviously the front-line staff and I give credit to the many teachers who are doing their best to assist parents who are not confident in using this technology, literally by a phone call to walk them through, step by step, to ensure that the child can get that type of access. The majority of the national tutoring partners can work remotely as well.

Schools: Online Learning

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Tuesday 2nd February 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, we welcome these initiatives because obviously, this is a time of a national pandemic when we all need to work together. I was pleased to learn that the Daily Mail campaign, through which businesses donate a minimum of 50 computers to be recycled, is being done by Computacenter, which is the department’s commercial procurement partner. It was a pleasure to meet, along with the noble Lord, Lord Watson, representatives of Catch22, who highlighted individuals who may have fallen through cracks and how we can get those devices to the children who need them most.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Garden of Frognal) (LD)
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My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed. I apologise to the noble Lords, Lord Curry of Kirkharle and Lord Blunkett, that there was not time to take their questions.

Schools: Exam-year Pupils

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Tuesday 2nd February 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord is correct. Catch-up is for this Parliament, as I have outlined. We are looking at summer schools and at the immediate catch-up that pupils need, but the necessary arrangements are longer-term and for the duration for this Parliament. Yes, we also need to look at individual cases. No idea is ruled out and off the table but, as I have outlined, there are very serious implications if whole cohorts of pupils repeat an academic year.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, it is not just in schools where studies have been disrupted. What discussions have the Government had with universities about offering a free additional term or terms to enable students to experience face-to-face teaching and other aspects of student life that have been denied them in lockdown?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, there is close collaboration between Minister Donelan and the higher education sector. That sector is offering remote learning until at least 8 March, except for critical care workers. But of course arrangements for the experience that university students are given is a matter for students and their providers.

Skills for Jobs White Paper

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Tuesday 26th January 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord’s introduction regarding apprenticeships. The levy has now been in existence for five years. It has enabled significantly more workplace-based training and, I would say, has enhanced the reputation of apprenticeships as an alternative to academic study.

As I am sure the noble Lord is aware, we have offered £2,000 for any new apprenticeship start, which is for a younger person who is under the age of 24, or 25 if they have any HCP, and £1,500 for any other apprenticeship start. However, he is right that the apprenticeship service has been a work in progress. The SMEs now have access to the service via a website that should enable them to access the training that they want, rather than only being able to access training from contracts with providers that were entered into centrally. They can go on that website and reserve the training places that they want to have, and SMEs have been given a small number of guaranteed places.

We are also looking at the development of the levy and at easing the transition and the payment of the levy down the supply chain, which often involves making the levy available to small and medium-sized enterprises. We hope that the introduction of the apprenticeship service to SMEs will help with some of the bureaucratic issues that the noble Lord outlines.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, there is much to welcome in the White Paper, but why do the Government constantly betray their ignorance in claiming originality for employers being at the heart of this? Employers have always been the drivers for work- based skills and qualifications. However, as previous Governments have discovered to their cost, it is essential to have input from teaching experts, namely colleges, and assessment experts—that is, awarding bodies. I declare an interest as a vice-president of City and Guilds, for which I worked for 20 years. What input is anticipated from colleges and awarding bodies to ensure that these skills are fit for purpose?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the key aspect of this is that employers are involved in setting the standards in relation to these qualifications. They will be at the heart of producing the local skills improvement plans, but they will work with the colleges. We recognise that the status of FE employees has not perhaps been what it might have been so we are investing in that workforce, in enhanced initial teacher training for it and in industry exchanges. So while the employer-led bodies will form those plans, they will work closely with the FE colleges and I am sure they will consult the awarding bodies that the noble Baroness makes reference to.

Covid-19: Educational Settings

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Thursday 7th January 2021

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the position was not that there was any increased risk for staff in these settings; the closure reflected the fact that the levels in the community generally were such that we had to close schools to reduce contacts. On attendance, schools are legally obliged to offer those places, but we have seen situations in which they have worked pragmatically, adopting hub models so that they can arrange for all pupils who should have a place in the school to have one. There is no evidence that staff are more at risk. We do not anticipate a public health issue in allowing all this; the guidance—which was cleared by public health—was given to the sector so that we could allow vulnerable children and children of critical care workers into our schools.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, do the Government have any idea of the vast additional workload on teachers, who are suddenly told that they have to teach online instead of in the classroom? I have a daughter who teaches reception; at the beginning of the week she was told that she would be in the classroom but then there was an about-turn. She now faces hours and hours of creating exciting, virtual lessons for her little four year-olds. I share my noble friend Lord Storey’s outrage that this disastrous Secretary of State has suggested that parents should report concerns about teachers to Ofsted. Our wonderful, hard-pressed teachers are working their socks off to comply with last-minute changes and U-turns and to master a completely new way of teaching. Instead of these threats, should the Government not be giving their undivided support to our great teachers?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I have outlined that we recognise the hard work that teachers, teaching staff and all the ancillary staff have been doing, but there will be a few situations in which the best interests of the pupils who need this education mean that there should be some form of accountability. As I said, that is monitoring visits in our schools. Unfortunately, there are some reports of education still not being delivered. However, the guidance is very clear that schools should have an online platform to deliver education. We have moved to that presumption for remote education, but they can use video lessons. Oak academy has made available, with the department’s funding, nearly 10,000 lessons, including special educational needs lessons. I know of schools that have been using that resource. That is entirely appropriate delivery of remote education. One of the things we have seen is the sharing of much more expertise across our best schools through platforms such as this, which we hope will carry on post pandemic.

Exams and Accountability in 2021

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Tuesday 8th December 2020

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his involvement in schools. We depend on thousands and thousands of volunteers in our schools for governance in the school system. In terms of the aids that can be taken into exam rooms for some topic areas, the exam boards are now working at pace to make sure that those are broadly equal across subjects, so that there are no assertions that one subject is easier than another. That work is taking place and, bearing in mind the issue that the noble Lord talks about, they will be completing it as soon as they can. However, there is also the three-week delay in the examination system, which was announced a few months ago. All exams, barring the English and Maths papers, are taking place three weeks later, as I outlined.

With regard to the email, these measures are being taken precisely because there are so many different circumstances, even within one school, as I outlined. Some students might have thrived on the remote teaching facility but others will have struggled with it. It is not possible to take into account every single variant and response to the situation, but, after careful consideration, thorough consultation with the sector was felt to be the most appropriate way to help the most disadvantaged students. We remain convinced that exams are the fairest way for pupils to display their performance. In a way, those students will be more disadvantaged than last year’s exam cohort because of how much their teaching has been disrupted this year. However, exams, rather than teacher-assessed grades, are the fairest way to judge pupils’ achievements.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, I too thank the Minister, and it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths. This Statement shows, again, the Government’s obsession with academic achievement and disregard for vocational and practical skills. I am sorry to contradict the Minister, but exams are not always the best and fairest way to carry out assessment. Coursework and continuous assessment are often far more appropriate, particularly for students who are struggling or for practical skills. The measures that the Government are proposing here—I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Watson, said—will do very little to help disadvantaged children or level up opportunity. Given all the difficulties that students have suffered— again, I echo my noble friend Lord Storey—why will the Government not give more responsibility to teachers to determine grades? They have done a phenomenal job in these very difficult times and are very much better placed to know which children have missed out, which have suffered the greatest disadvantages, and which are better suited to practical forms of assessment and not to exams. Indeed, teachers are better placed to determine the merits of the grades that the children should get.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the Statement from my right honourable friend the Secretary of State addressed the fact that similar concessions are being made for vocational and technical qualifications. As the noble Baroness is aware, those assessments are made much more regularly throughout the year—I think that the next ones will be in January. Therefore, concessions will be made. Flexibility has been introduced into assessments during the pandemic, one change being a reduction in the number of assessment units. We are acutely aware of the need to maintain parity and we recognise the lack of education due to the pandemic, which has affected those studying BTEC and other qualifications. I repeat that we pay tribute to all that teachers have been doing, but the more objective way to assess pupils’ performance is through exams.

Covid-19: GCSE and A-level Exams

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Thursday 3rd December 2020

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, since schools have returned, they have known about and had to adapt to the guidance for public health restrictions on the curriculum, such as not running geography field trips. But at the end of January, they will know the topic areas on which most examinations will be set. That means that—although many schools are doing a sterling job of catching up for these young people—if that part of the curriculum has not been covered yet, they will know at the end of January to cover it. As the exams are three weeks later than normal, that should give adequate time. We expect the majority of the curriculum to have been taught to the majority of students but, to make sure, they will know these topic areas. That should address the noble Lord’s point.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, having listened to the Secretary of State this morning on the welcome but tortuous arrangements for the next GCSEs, may I ask what consideration the Government have given to doing away with GCSEs? With the raising of the school leaving age, they are no longer a school leaving exam and the time spent on working for exams could be much better spent on life skills, career options and preparation for adult life, as well as instilling a love of learning, which is so often displaced by the tyranny of exams.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, exams give students an opportunity to show what they know and to be assessed on it objectively. I pay tribute to schools and exam centres that, even during the recent lockdown, ran examinations for approximately 20,000 students. We are confident that exams can be run next year. As I have outlined, exams at 16 are important in England, because the majority of our students transition at that age.

Qualifications

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Tuesday 3rd November 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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The 12-month minimum period was brought in, as I said to the right reverend Prelate, when we had shorter apprenticeships and had to ensure that, by law, an apprenticeship meant a certain qualification. We have seen an increase in longer-term apprenticeships, such that we amended the regulations so that, if you were made redundant during your apprenticeship but had completed 75%, you could go to the endpoint of the apprenticeship without an employer.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, qualifications of value to employers are often work-based. I declare an interest as a vice-president of City & Guilds. I know that their qualifications have to meet very high levels of quality assurance, currency and relevance. Following on from the question from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, what are the Government doing to give schools incentives to encourage their less academic pupils, who may be technically and practically gifted, to pursue vocational qualifications and develop much-needed skills, which will benefit them, employers and the country?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, as I have outlined, schools are promoting this. If students at the transition point at age 14 want to go to a university technical college, the local authority and schools are now under a duty to promote that route to students. The consultation is about those City & Guild qualifications that do not overlap with level 3 T-levels and/or A-levels. We recognise their role, but all these qualifications must give the student the appropriate skills and the employer the confidence that that person is equipped for the job.

Covid-19: Catch-up Premium

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Monday 26th October 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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I have already outlined the considerable support that is given through the pupil premium. Over the course of the pandemic the Government spent £380 million on food vouchers, but most schools are back now—approximately 89% of children are back in school—so the traditional way of delivering free school meals via the kitchens in the schools has been up and running and responding to those pupils who are self-isolating. I assure the noble Lord that 25% of the £650 million has been allocated to schools, and the reason why 100% has not been allocated is because we want to do that on actual pupil numbers, not on pupil-number data that is out of date.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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We are a far cry from the Liberal Democrat pupil premium policy, which really targeted disadvantaged children. Can the Minister say what support is being given to teachers to enable them to give more face-to-face time to hungry, disadvantaged pupils without proper technology to help them to catch up on all the education they missed during lockdown?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, part of the catch-up fund is £650 million that is going directly via schools, with an increased allocation, of course, to AP and to special schools. That assists in the delivery of education, and it is up to schools that we trust the most to be able to deliver that. As I say, it is a tribute to teachers and school leaders that approximately 89% of students are back in school.

Lifetime Skills Guarantee and Post-16 Education

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Tuesday 6th October 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, in relation to reskilling, there are, as I have outlined, the digital boot camps that we have offered so that people can gain training as they do that work. If they lack that level 3 qualification, they will be able to do that, but, as I say, there has been a particular focus on young people, who are more vulnerable to the effects of what is happening at the moment.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as a vice-president of City & Guilds, for whom I worked on vocational qualifications and skills for 20 years. Statements like this have been made by successive Governments for very many years, yet little has been done to promote vocational, practical and technical education and training in schools, where the message must start. Can the Minister say whether league tables will cease to be based on A-levels and GCSEs? Will schools be encouraged to celebrate their apprentices, BTEC and work-based leavers with the same enthusiasm they give to their university entrants? Until schools are proud of all their successes, there is little hope of any real change.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, these are not just statements of intention; today, I have outlined that the numerous initiatives that have been started by the Department for Education and the Department for Work and Pensions are matched by funding. They will be a reality—some of them are already. The noble Baroness is completely right: in relation to the UTCs, which are important in promoting technical education, there is now a duty on the local authority and on schools to make sure that young people are made aware of that offer. The careers service has a link with employers locally so that they are brought into schools to outline the needs and skills that they have.

Teachers have been assisted to make sure that they are also aware of the apprenticeship offers because, unfortunately, as the noble Baroness will know from a Select Committee we both sat on, many teachers have not gone through these routes. We have been helping and training them and giving them the links so that they can make people aware of these offers. We want a greater take-up of level 3 and, particularly, levels 4 and 5 qualifications and for them to be validated by employers as making people qualified for jobs.

Education: A-level Results

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Wednesday 23rd September 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they made of external expert advice prior to the use of the algorithm to determine A-level results for the 2019/20 academic year.

Baroness Berridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Department for International Trade (Baroness Berridge) (Con)
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My Lords, the independent qualifications regulator, Ofqual, is responsible for securing qualification standards and promoting public confidence in regulated qualifications. As part of the development of the grading system introduced in place of exams this summer, Ofqual drew on the advice of experts from the exam boards and convened an external group of well-respected assessment experts to advise on the principles, main features and details of various aspects of the standardisation model.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, expert advice early on identified the algorithm as flawed and particularly damaging for state school and disadvantaged pupils. We have been told that the Secretary of State was fully in charge of his department throughout this debacle, yet two senior officials have resigned, which is outrageous. When I tabled this Question four weeks ago, I thought that he might have fallen on his sword by now—but no. So can the Minister confirm that the Conservative Government, with the exception of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, have abandoned the principles of ministerial honour and responsibility?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, on the standardisation model, Ofqual is a non-departmental body. It is important in principle that our examinations are not subject to government interference. While the department was in contact with Ofqual during this process, the decisions made on the algorithm were Ofqual’s. That respects the appropriate relationship between a department and independent bodies such as Ofqual.

Schools and Colleges: Qualification Results and Full Opening

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Wednesday 2nd September 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I have outlined to noble Lords that once issues were raised about the Scottish results, there were concerns that they should not be repeated in England. That was the moment at which that could be compensated for by the introduction of an additional appeal based on a valid mock. There was a response; it is not that nothing was done once we were aware. When issues were brought to our attention, matters were dealt with.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, this summer’s debacle threw up a massive disadvantage gap between state and independent schools. The latter continued with online teaching and learning to far greater effect than the former. Following the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, and the Minister’s answer, independent schools are always ready to play their part, so can the Minister say why the National Tutoring Programme has a minimum of 500 students to access, when most independent schools have only about 390? They would be asked to tutor more pupils than they actually teach.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the National Tutoring Programme is to deliver small-group tutoring, envisaged to be for groups of about four or five pupils. I will have to write to the noble Baroness about the details of the disparity and the numbers she outlines.

Education Settings: Autumn Opening

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Wednesday 8th July 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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The noble Lord is correct. When you have £1 billion, it is important to make sure that it gets to where it needs to go and delivers what it should. That is why £650 million will go directly to schools. Part of that is to enable them to purchase the subsidised tutoring. We trust the school system; giving the majority of the money to the schools is best. Only they know who, of the pupils in front of them, need what. We will publish further details on the £350 million for the national tutoring service. We are looking at making the best use of that money, including remote learning, without forgetting that, in certain schools, there will be a demand for a physical presence. There will be flexibility in that fund. Noble Lords will learn more about the £350 million tutoring fund soon.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, I pay tribute to the inventive work that our hard-working heads, teachers and support staff have done over the lockdown period to encourage learning and to try to keep pupils in contact with schooling. As the noble Lord, Lord Baker, said, pupils have lost a great deal of learning time, so surely it is only fair that exams are cut back in 2021, as head teachers are calling for. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, mentioned, will we also see the cancellation of school league tables, which cause damage at the best of times and would be truly harmful now?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, as I am sure the noble Baroness is aware, there will be no exam data and performance tables for 2020, for precisely that reason. Ofqual is consulting at the moment to see how we can deliver exams next year. One issue is that the effect on children has been disparate. We are getting reports that, for some of the vulnerable children who have been in school, there have been small class sizes since February and some of them are excelling. Some children with English as an additional language have thrived. At the end of the day, we have to trust that schools know how best to deal with their children when they come back. Of those vulnerable children who have been in school, some of them have had an excellent experience.

Schools: Disadvantaged Pupils

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Wednesday 24th June 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge [V]
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My Lords, narrowing the attainment gap for students on free school meals is obviously a long-term project but, since 2011, there has been a narrowing of the gap at every stage; we are keen to ensure that the pandemic does not widen that gap again. Through this crisis, we have therefore had breakfast clubs delivering breakfast at the request of over 1,000 schools. This project has been funded to £35 million. Also, working tax credits and universal credit have gone up by over £1,000 during the crisis; we are keen to ensure that those who need help the most get it.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, I am sorry that the Minister is not here with us in the Chamber. Many teachers and children have worked hard during lockdown with virtual lessons, but many disadvantaged children do not have the technology to join in and have lost out. The Minister has mentioned sums of money, but can she say how far the Government have got in actually supplying computers, tablets or other equipment to disadvantaged children, and what other provision is being made to help them catch up during the summer?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge [V]
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My Lords, I can confirm that, from the £100 million, more than 150,000 laptops and tablets have been delivered; we are on track to deliver the remainder by the end of the month. Tens of thousands of 4G wireless devices have also been delivered, which should enable children to access education where there is no wi-fi. More than 2,500 schools have applied to the department’s fund to enable them to access Microsoft Education and Google Classroom. That will result in over a million students having an account and being able to access education in that way.

Free School Meal Vouchers Scheme

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Wednesday 10th June 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge [V]
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My Lords, the latest statistics show that around 15% of vulnerable children are in school. The noble Baroness is correct that we are concerned about the sedentary nature of many children at the moment. On the phased reopening of schools, there has been specific guidance to encourage the use of outdoor space, and even team sports, where the appropriate hygiene measures are carried out among the different groups of children involved. DCMS now also has guidance on the phased reintroduction of outdoor activity and recreation.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Garden of Frognal) (LD)
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My Lords, I regret that the time allowed for this Question has elapsed. I apologise to the noble Lords, Lord Blunkett and Lord Empey, and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, that we were not able to get in their questions. I thank all noble Lords; that concludes the hybrid proceedings on Oral Questions.

Covid-19: Pre-school Sector

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Monday 8th June 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, I can confirm that if you are an early years foundation stage provider registered with Ofsted and qualify for the small business rate relief or, in appropriate circumstances, the rural rate relief, that enables you to access the £10,000 small business grant. Since last month we have been obtaining up-to-date statistics from local authorities to make sure that we have appropriate information about the resilience of this sector.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, there are disturbing reports of vulnerable small children going missing or being open to abuse during lockdown. Many nurseries and childminders, who are already low paid, as we have heard, will have had to close. What importance do the Government attach to ensuring that there are places of safety for vulnerable preschool children in these times of pandemic?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her question. Throughout this period, these settings have been open for vulnerable children. The presumption has been that, subject to health risks, those who have been in contact with a social worker should be attending. We have also started, as of last month, the “See, Hear, Respond” service with a £7 million grant to a coalition of charities for vulnerable children, led by Barnardo’s. We are particularly concerned about the safeguarding issues for young children that have arisen as a result of lockdown.

Higher Education

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Wednesday 6th May 2020

(2 years ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, the precise figures to determine the 5% uplift on the cap will be provided at provider level, and the methodology for that will be published shortly. The task force is made up of members from the Department for Education, BEIS, the devolved Administrations and the sector, and will meet to ensure the long-term viability of the research capacity of UK universities.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, said, higher education is profoundly affected by loss of income from overseas students. This will compound the loss of research income from Horizon 2020 and other EU participation programmes, which have long been a critical part of our research success and indeed our cultural richness. What steps are being taken to encourage overseas students to come to the UK and how much further funding can be supplied to replace the substantial money, if not the collaboration, which is desperately needed for our research programmes?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, in relation to international students, the department is working with the Department for International Trade to amend the international education strategy. The clear message is that the UK is open for business and for international students to come at the start of the academic year, but we recognise that different arrangements may need to be made. Those arrangements are in train—for instance, with different visa situations—so that students can begin their courses remotely overseas. We are keenly aware and are doing all we can to support the sector at this difficult time.

Children in Care

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Thursday 30th April 2020

(2 years ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, I assure noble Lords that the primary legislation in relation to the duties on local authorities to safeguard the welfare of children in care remains unchanged, and that decisions still need to be made in accordance with the best interests of children. I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for raising the vital role that foster carers play. Many of them are within the older cohort and therefore may be more vulnerable to this disease. Some of the changes to the procedure in these regulations have been made to ensure that we have enough foster care placements so that, if an emergency call comes from a family in a lockdown situation where unfortunately the local authority may need to remove a child, there is capacity among other foster carers to ensure that places are available for such children to move to. That is the spirit and the purpose behind these regulations.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, we are only too well aware of the problems of older people in care homes, but young people in care are also facing the risk of losing their carers to Covid-19 or through self-isolation. They are therefore more likely to suffer during the lockdown than other young people. What education provision is being made available to these young people, including suitable computer equipment to enable them to take part in virtual lessons?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, I assure noble Lords that the recent £100 million computer and access to wi-fi provision that has been offered by the Government includes provision of laptops and tablets to vulnerable children who are included in the Children Act need group. They will have access to online facilities to ensure that they do not miss out on their education.

Educational Settings

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Thursday 19th March 2020

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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I agree with the noble Baroness that this is the worst Statement, but considering the situation the country faces, if it were possible to provide all the certainty with one click, it would be done. However, parents can be certain that, under the announcement, all schools will be open on Monday, but only for key workers and vulnerable children. In her example, that mother or father needs to go to school as normal if they are a key worker or their child is a vulnerable child. There could not be more consideration and importance being given to the disruption that we are aware will be caused to families as of Monday and to this generation of young people. As the noble Baroness accepted, it is not simple to work out a fair and just qualification for students, but if students are unhappy with the grade that they have been given in whatever the system that will be announced tomorrow is, there will be a way for them to have some form of redress. I assure her that all our education professionals, local authority professionals and central education staff are working as quickly as possible to provide accurate guidance, which, unfortunately, takes some time.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, I declare an interest: I have two grandsons about to take A-levels and one about to do music exams, all of which have been cancelled, and a granddaughter about to do GCSEs. There is very little reassurance in this Statement about what the Government intend to do for the thousands of young people who will see all their hard work being done for nothing at all. They need some solid measures about their futures urgently. The noble Baroness said that something is coming tomorrow that will provide a fair and just solution, but what are the Government planning to avoid mass distress and demotivation among our teenagers? Finally, there has been very little mention of further education and what is happening with technical qualifications. Are they equally going up in smoke?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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The noble Baroness is correct: the reassurance that we need to give will be given in the guidance regarding exams tomorrow. All the qualifications, including, for instance, the independent training providers and the apprenticeship training that goes on, are up for consideration and we recognise that they are all affected in the same way.

Higher and Further Education: Rural and Coastal Areas

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Wednesday 18th March 2020

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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To ensure job opportunities for young people, skills advisory panels have now been set up that bring together the HE and FE provision in the area with an employer, specifically to make sure that the training is there for young people to remain and to keep the supply of relevant skills in the local area.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, following on from the previous question, can the Minister say what provision the Government are making to ensure that disadvantaged students from rural and coastal areas have access to the work experience that is a key part of the untried and untested T-levels?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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The first three T-levels will be introduced later this year. There has been specific investment of capital to ensure that these will be basically 80% classroom and 20% work placements. Providers have been given the money to establish good-quality work placements, which are an essential part of T-levels.

Apprenticeships: Gender Segregation

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Baroness Garden of Frognal
Wednesday 11th March 2020

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, with the growing emphasis on apprenticeships, for a time, of course, these will reflect the existing sector issues, but I have good news for the noble Baroness, because there are part-time apprenticeships, with a 12-month minimum, and people can extend the hours of training and the time of the apprenticeship. We are working very practically with the “Find an apprenticeship” website to encourage it to offer those apprenticeships and highlight them on the website.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, as the noble Baroness alluded to, engineering and construction tend to be better paid apprenticeships than others, so what are the Government doing to encourage more girls and women into construction and engineering and to show them that it is not all greasy overalls and muddy fields? Might they consider putting 25% of the apprenticeship levy, say, into a social mobility fund to encourage more diversity, both in the regions and among these sectors?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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In relation to promoting construction for women, that is one of the underrepresented sectors, but the Fire It Up campaign profiles women in all these sectors, and there is our Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network. One of those champions is Nottingham City Homes, which aimed to have 25% of their apprenticeships filled by women and it is actually 47%. I accept that we need to go further, because the figures for construction are still too low, but there are good examples to show that the initiatives we are trialling are working.