Debates between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 18th Jul 2022
Schools Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage: Part 2 & Lords Hansard - Part 2
Mon 27th Jun 2022
Mon 13th Jun 2022
Schools Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage: Part 1 & Lords Hansard - Part 1
Wed 21st Jul 2021
Thu 15th Jul 2021
Mon 19th Apr 2021
Wed 6th Jan 2021

Schools Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, it is now my job to hang on to the coattails of the people who did the real work on this and say thank you to the Minister. I do not know whether the fact that this amendment to the Bill is not to be accepted says something about confidence in the future of the Bill or the timescale involved. I hope the Minister will be able to tell us roughly the timescale on which this part of the coverage will be brought in.

Schools are an important factor; they predominantly deal with most of the sporting activity of the very young. However, while the correct terminology totally escapes me—the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, had it earlier—other heart problems will occur in middle-aged men running around trying to lose a few pounds; a group which I am probably waving goodbye to even now. We are setting down that other people will have heart conditions, which is helpful.

Getting this into other sports facilities is a fairly cheap, easy way of avoiding early death. If the Government could give us some idea of the plan for the future, after this provision—I am basically asking about the timescale, implementation and future development—that would be very helpful.

I say thank you to the Minister for this one, and to the Government, but hope it is just part of ensuring that we have universal coverage for those places where sport is usually played. It is a good start but is not the end of this story.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 109 in my name. I look forward to hearing my noble friend’s response to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. I am grateful to the Public Bill Office for its assistance in redrafting this amendment and for a meeting with the Minister and her officials. This is very much a last-resort power.

The amendment is not about compelling schools to open when there is a dispute about their safety, which is a welcome clarification since Committee. I will not rehearse the details of the scenario I outlined in Committee but I do not believe that noble Lords have had a clear answer from my noble friend the Minister as to how, in the scenario of a serious failure in the school estate, where the Department for Education says that a school building is safe but the responsible body says it has an expert report to say that it is not, that stalemate is resolved. In those circumstances, the building would be closed as the responsible body makes the decision.

In addition to this scenario, it could be that although the expert report tells the responsible body that a school building is safe, it is extremely risk averse and refuses to open it. My noble friend the Minister said in Committee:

“However, we expect schools, trusts and local authorities to make decisions proportionate to the level of risk, and to minimise disruption”.—[Official Report, 27/6/22; col. 503.]


I think this is the nub of the issue. Some responsible bodies might not, in the Department for Education’s view, be acting proportionately because they have come to a different decision about the level of risk of opening that building. Some responsible bodies are very small charitable trusts or may even, unfortunately, be a local authority in great difficulty, and those responsible might rightly fear becoming personally liable under health and safety law for anything that then occurs in the building.

Such fear may be irrational, in the judicial review definition of that word. I have mused that without such a power to direct a responsible body to open, the Government are leaving themselves with only that remedy: they themselves would have to judicially review a responsible body and say that its decision was irrational or unreasonable in order to force that school to reopen. Would it really be irrational, in the ordinary view of that term, if there had been serious injuries caused by building materials in another part of the estate, for a responsible body to err on the side of caution—perhaps due to an ambiguous phrase in its own expert’s report—causing it to make such a decision?

The amendment has highlighted that the Department for Education understandably assumes that responsible bodies will behave in this scenario as they have done in the past, with the current level of risk that we know about on the school estate. In the scenario, the department’s excellent capital team comes alongside to give its additional expertise and a negotiated solution is reached—sometimes, sadly, including the temporary closure of buildings. However, if a serious incident has taken place, could it not be that some of the approximately 2,500 responsible bodies might justifiably now behave differently? What looks irrational now might not have then.

I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for agreeing to reach out to the, for me, newly-discovered disaster relief experts whose profession has gained a higher profile since the pandemic, and since Professor Lucy Easthope’s recent book When the Dust Settles was published. There may be other experts who can aid the department in assessing more accurately how responsible bodies might behave in this scenario.

One has only to look at the Grenfell tragedy to know that building managers and a whole host of other professionals are behaving very differently now. I am sure the department will be watching carefully the Health and Safety Executive inspections that are beginning, looking at schools’ ability to manage the asbestos within the school estate. If those inspections lead to any of the scenarios that I have outlined, the Secretary of State is powerless to act.

Further, my noble friend the Minister stated in Committee:

“The department taking on direct responsibility for school buildings, or compelling schools to open when they have safety concerns”—


the latter point has been dealt with—

“could actually reduce safety overall as it could undermine the incentive to maintain buildings effectively and obscure the currently clear responsibilities for the safety of pupils and staff in our schools.”—[Official Report, 27/6/22; col. 504.]

Again, that is quite an assumption by the Department for Education about responsible bodies’ behaviour. I am not sure on what evidence it is based, especially since what is in the amendment is a last-resort power. I hope the experts that the DfE meets are able to help my noble friend assess whether this assumption of how responsible bodies would behave is correct, as I am afraid it strikes me as rather unfair on responsible bodies to make such an assumption.

I understand that the Minister will be taking steps to ensure that responsible bodies are rigorous in undertaking checks and more detailed surveys as necessary where they have buildings in which the specific material reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, which we spoke about in Committee, could potentially be present. I am keen to hear more on that.

As I stated in Committee, in a Bill that attempts to take so many powers, I have managed to achieve that the Secretary of State has decided that they do not need this one. I sincerely hope, as I am sure other noble Lords do, that the scenario I have outlined never arises. I will not be asking for the opinion of your Lordships’ House today; this is a case of wait and see. I am sure noble Lords are with me in saying that we hope it is not a case of saying, “We told you so”.

Schools Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 171 in my name. I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister and her officials for taking the time to meet with me.

Although I immediately concede that there may be drafting issues—in particular, the scenario that I am going to outline may not be dealt with as swiftly as it would need to be by the use of regulations—the amendment is a vehicle to explore with Her Majesty’s Government the legal powers that the Secretary of State has, or does not have, if there should be a failure of a building material within the school estate.

The estate comprises nearly 64,000 teaching blocks and its condition, as noble Lords have mentioned, is an issue that is beginning to be discussed more publicly. Many noble Lords spoke to the issue at Second Reading. While I know that my noble friend will not be able to comment on the recent alleged government leak to the media that some issues in the school estate pose a “threat to life”, there are a number of specific issues in the public domain. For example, reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete is found in hospitals in Norfolk and Suffolk; the BBC reported on it on 16 August 2021 and, when I checked, it had made the news again on 27 April 2022. It is a material also found in schools. In the news report from 2021, the NHS foundation trust was taking legal advice on potential liability for corporate manslaughter.

The question that I am asking Her Majesty’s Government to consider is whether the Secretary of State needs a legal power to be able to bring certain school buildings into their ownership or control—usually that would be by way of a power to direct—if there were a failure in such a building material. To try to avoid the risk of this sounding like a law examination paper, there are, I think, four brief steps to consider to get to the scenario where the Secretary of State might need such a power of direction. First, school buildings and virtually all land are not owned by the Secretary of State. Land and buildings are leased to the academy trust—in that scenario, from the landowner, usually the local authority, a diocesan trust, other charitable trusts, occasionally a university or FE college or, in a very small number of cases, from the DfE when it is a free school. The academy trust is, in law, the “responsible body” in charge of the land and buildings. For maintained schools, the responsible body is the local authority and, for maintained church schools, it is the relevant diocesan authority. Responsible bodies are legally responsible for the building.

Secondly, obviously, if there is a building material failure, it could be present in other school buildings. In such a situation, responsible bodies—here I must put on record the excellent capital team of the Department for Education—would of course spring into action. They would be inspecting, sending out surveyors and providing reassurance on the safety of buildings.

However, to move to step 3, if a responsible body says “No, we disagree with the Department for Education and the assessment of our buildings; we are closing them”, the DfE may maintain until the cows come home that the buildings are safe, but it is not the decision-maker.

Fourthly, noble Lords might say to me, “All these responsible bodies and schools are insured.” That is correct, but insurance or the DfE risk assurance protection are irrelevant to the liability that a responsible body, and possibly its trustees, might believe they face under the Health and Safety Executive powers or any criminal liability. The department of course faced similar issues to this when dealing with health and safety during Covid but, under the Coronavirus Act, the Secretary of State did have a power to direct a school to open or close. The political realities of using that power were another matter of course. That power to direct has gone.

I accept that the risk of this occurring is very low but, if it does materialise, there could again be disruption to the education of hundreds, if not thousands, of pupils. I believe this is a legal question that parents and schools should know has been considered in your Lordships’ House if, God forbid, this eventuality ever arises—even if the DfE says to noble Lords, “No, we do not want such a power to direct the ownership or control of school buildings to the department.”

When one of noble Lords’ main criticisms of this Bill is the scope of the powers that the Secretary of State is taking in Part 1, it would be ironic if, by way of this amendment, I have discovered the only power that the Secretary of State does not think he wants. While I appreciate that my noble friend the Minister might not have an answer today, I reserve the right to bring back this important issue on Report.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lords, Lord Aberdare and Lord Moynihan, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, for having on two occasions said that I must sign an amendment and then failing to do it. I must also declare an interest here; although young people may fall down occasionally, it is usually older, occasional sportsmen who do so, and I am certainly in that category.

As was mentioned before, many sporting facilities are on school grounds. If we want people playing sport, and playing it as safely as possible, we should really make sure that, at the very least, school sports grounds—which have more structure and over which we have more control—have access to defib. It is a pretty common practice now. Most people say that, if you follow the instructions, you will be able to use it correctly, although extra training cannot hurt. Indeed, it sounds like the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, is a man to be beside when you are under any stress at all if he has the thing with him. If we can put something in the Bill that says we will have better coverage of defib capacity and some training on how to use it, or at least make it more common, that will be a definite step forward.

I live in a village designed for horseracing, and on the high street there is a nice big yellow defibrillator, because if people fall off horses and get injured, defib might be required. This is something we can do easily and in a straightforward manner that will make people’s lives that little bit safer. I recommend that we embrace this and go forward with it, if not in this exact form then, I hope, something very like it.

I will briefly cast my eye over the other two amendments in this group. On the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, I like the idea in proposed new paragraph (b) of having a list, including sports fields, to make sure that we know how they are doing. I have a Private Member’s Bill that puts a little more emphasis on this, so possibly I am biased.

I do not have to tell the noble Baroness who will be responding for the Government just how important is the capacity of computers to help many people in their educational process, and making sure they are up to date. These are two good examples of why the idea within the amendment should probably be brought further forward. It would be a good thing.

As for the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, I had not really considered what she has brought forward but it does sound sensible. I look forward to hearing the answer. It occurs to me that there is a certain degree of irony here; we often argue against overregulation, but this sounds like one they have missed that might be very useful.

Schools Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I have a quick comment. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for his history lesson. During the period he mentioned, Rutland had the unfortunate experience of being part of Leicestershire. Had grammar schools still existed then, I can only look back and wonder what my own education—with no money for tutoring—would have been if the local school in the market town had been left as a secondary modern.

I have a specific question on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, about the backstop power, which I was surprised to see included in, I think, the White Paper. What is the timing of that? At the moment, we know that some boroughs are under extraordinary pressure. When we nationally decide, for instance, to admit tens of thousands of families from Hong Kong—which is a great policy—we create extraordinary influxes of children into particular areas. I was just reading a Manchester Evening News article about the pressures Trafford Council is under at the moment, having had an extraordinary influx of Hong Kong Chinese families into the area. This has unusual ripples in Trafford, where there are grammar schools within the borough.

What would the timing of this be? At the moment, we have local authorities which cannot have any effect on admissions, particularly in those secondary schools that are academies. There is a proposal for a backstop power. This was also before we admitted tens of thousands of Ukrainian families into this country. If in the consultation it is decided not to have the backstop power—I recognise the view from those in the academies sector on local authorities’ admission policies—is there not a case for some emergency power in a situation when tens of thousands of families come into an area? You need different admissions arrangements because you have to think about the cohesion of the area locally. If you have an influx of families, families who have lived in an area for many years find that they cannot get their children into the schools they want. There are also the unpredictable ripples of selection in an area. Can my noble friend the Minister outline the timing of this, because there are boroughs under pressure today?

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, can the Minister clarify how special educational needs fits into this picture? I know the Government are currently looking at this area, but it is one that has led to the growth of legal firms to fight a way through the system. It is a failing system. I remind the Committee of my interests in special educational needs, and dyslexia in particular. With dyslexics, for instance, we are discovering that something like 80% of those on that spectrum are not identified within the school system. There is capacity here for a group that exists but we know is not even being spotted. Should we not have some capacity for dealing with the people with these sorts of problems, because we know they are going to come across? This also applies to all the spectrum of non-obvious conditions and hidden difficulties.

If the Minister cannot reply now, when we are looking at this, could she write to us about what the Government’s thinking on this sector is at the moment? It is yet another element when it comes to choosing a school or a school’s willingness to take on a pupil. We know there are people fighting this. As I said, if ever there was a definition of failure, it is that you need lawyers to get your rights. That has to be the classic case. Can the Minister give us an idea of the Government’s thinking about admissions? If you cannot get into a school because it has set criteria, regardless of any formal test or examination, it will change how things work. It will be very interesting to hear what the Minister says about government thinking on this, because it is another factor that will affect this whole process.

Sports Participation in Schools

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Thursday 9th September 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, we found out in 2012 that it is incredibly difficult to translate the excitement of the Games into greater participation. We also know from experience that, when people leave education—at 16, 18 or 21—if that is where their sporting activity is, they tend to stop. What positive steps are the Government taking to make sure that, before they leave school, people are playing sport in amateur structures outside, which will lead to a continuation of activity?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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I have outlined to noble Lords the increase in the extra-curricular participation that we have funded, by way of premises being open. On 16-plus, as part of Ofsted’s inspection of FE it considers personal development. The matters that the noble Lord refers to are of course part of our overall emphasis, through health and well-being, on active participation for adults.

Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful for this opportunity to further discuss our vision for lifelong learning. As part of the lifetime skills guarantee, and as I hope noble Lords are now aware, the lifelong loan entitlement will be introduced from 2025. It will provide individuals with a loan entitlement to the equivalent of four years of post-18 education, to use over their lifetime. It will be available for modules and full courses of study at higher technical and degree levels, at levels 4 to 6, regardless of whether they are provided in colleges or universities. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, is reassured that this plan will provide flexibility. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that it will enable people to update and change their skill base across their lifetime.

While the sentiment of the amendment to develop lifelong learning is admirable and one the Government share, unfortunately the personal skills account policy would create significant fiscal and logistical challenges—so at this point I would advise the noble Lord, Lord Addington, not to place any bets on its acceptance. The amendment could disrupt our established loan support system to accommodate an additional system of grants. This would substantially increase the costs to the taxpayer, both in the cost of such grants themselves and in their administration.

The amendment suggests that a new body would be created to administer these learning accounts for every adult resident in England. This process would have to happen seven years before an individual could first make use of any funds at 25, and integration of these new accounts with the Student Loans Company’s existing operations would have significant costs and operational impacts. Moreover, there is an opportunity cost to the Government in depositing thousands of pounds into these accounts, only for them potentially to be left idle and waiting for an unknown point of use. This poses a strong contrast to our current loan support, which is available at the point of study.

To answer one of the questions raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, we are all contributing to further and higher education, as what is called the RAB rate is currently 53p in the pound. That is what the Government end up paying for under the current student loan system that is not repaid by the student.

Finally, these significant changes to the basis of our student finance offer would risk delaying the rollout of the lifelong loan entitlement beyond 2025. I know that many noble Lords have sought to bring that date even earlier. As noble Lords will be aware, the introduction of the lifelong loan entitlement was a key recommendation from the Independent Panel Report to the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding, led by Sir Philip Augar. It was also endorsed by the Economic Affairs Committee of your Lordships' House. We want to ensure that the lifelong loan entitlement provides value for money to students, the education sector and the taxpayer. I am afraid this amendment is at odds with these aims. As such, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Storey—sorry, I meant the noble Lord, Lord Addington—will feel able to withdraw this amendment.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, I should now mention my noble friend Lady Garden, so that all three of us who have covered the Front Bench can be in on this one.

I am not surprised that the Government are not going down there. If I had any money on the Government accepting this, it would have been only on very long odds. However, we are getting a little clearer on what lifelong learning will mean under the Bill and under the current Government. We might want to dig further into the difference in approach here at a later stage of the Bill, but it is certainly something that we must look at all the options for. If the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, looks in our manifesto, she will see that the costings are there. I am sure that is a bit of light reading that she will embrace massively over the holiday.

Having been given that bit of assurance and saying that we will probably come back to this, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Register of Home-educated Children

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Wednesday 21st July 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, in relation to the register, that is precisely the reason we are committed to a system of registration so that there is an accurate dataset. We have made it clear that if a child has been in school, the head teacher must have a specified reason for removing that child from the roll. In addition to the two groups of children—those on the roll and those who are being electively home educated—it is important to remember that when a head teacher does not have one of the specified grounds, it may relate to a child missing from education, which is a third group. Local authorities have specific, named people who co-ordinate. A lot of children will have dropped off the school roll in one area during Covid and we have a system to make sure that when they, we hope, appear on the school roll in another local authority that data is connected. Let us not forget that third group of particularly vulnerable children—those who are missing from education.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for the tone of her reply so far. Will she take this opportunity to give us an assurance that an assessment of the education provided for a child will be taken in each case and that that assessment will have knowledge of things such as special educational needs so that something accurate can be said about what is happening to that child’s education? Ultimately, the child is entitled to an education.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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The noble Lord is correct that “suitable” takes into account different developmental and other characteristics of the child. Any special educational needs that a child has are included in the current statutory definition of a suitable education. What detail the register will or will not include are matters to be determined and will be in the response to the consultation.

Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, this is one of those occasions where I thought I knew what I was going to say before the debate started, but I have changed my mind—or, at least, my words—considerably having listened. When the Minister replies to this, I feel that the audience behind her might be the most worrying. I suggest that when the noble Lords, Lord Willetts and Lord Baker, are saying “beware of this”, any sensible Minister would listen. I know the noble Baroness falls into that category.

The Minister has to pay attention to what has been said. Everybody here said, “We are not sure what you are doing yet”. T-levels may sound neat, but we do not quite know what they are. Are they doing something else? Are they a replacement? I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Willetts, who asked if they are replacing BTECs, which are an established way forward and allow flexibility, university entrance and other qualifications. That is the sort of thing we want, especially as we are giving more power to level 4 and 5 qualifications, which is overly due. Can we have some assurance that there is no government thinking that T-levels will be used to replace all this? They will simply not lead to these places; they cannot.

Other institutions with qualifications which are understood and known, such as City & Guilds—if I do not mention City & Guilds, I fear that my noble friend might well have a few words with me afterwards—will be saying, “Everybody knows what these are.” If you are going to bring in T-levels, do it slowly and make sure that you are adapting them to take over these functions. A one-off exam at this age cannot do what these do because they do wonderful and flexible things. A few employers cannot find their way around them, but others can. You could simplify them a little and not sweep them away to do something else.

I will not follow the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, into his very intellectual comments about the destruction of post-modernism because we have quite enough on our plates without thinking about the centre of Glasgow and its planning issues. But I hope that when the Minister answers she will say that we are not getting rid of all of these good and established things straightaway, just because we have a lovely new toy that sounded good when we first put it forward. T-levels, I am afraid, will have to earn their stripes. They may become something that replaces or works into the rest of it, but further education deals with a diverse range of subjects and paths. It will never be that straightforward. I look forward to the Minister’s response and do not envy her task.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, these amendments relate to the measures that support the implementation of the Government’s reforms to align the majority of technical qualifications to employer-led standards by 2030. To respond to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, we are aiming here for all qualifications for learners to be of high quality and connected to those employer-led standards.

I was disappointed that the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, was not down to speak in this debate, because we had a very interesting discussion today where, as the noble Lord, Lord Flight, outlined, the key to what we are trying to do is to clarify the roles of a number of the institutions involved—IfATE, the OfS, which is relevant to the next amendment, Ofqual, the department and Ofsted.

We believe that the technical qualifications should cover the knowledge, skills and behaviours that are essential to an occupation. But the heart of the matter here, and one cause of the problems, is that although Ofqual accredits general qualifications such as A-levels and GCSEs, which are developed by awarding organisations, usually of the exam boards, in line with content set by government, the content of the majority of publicly funded technical qualifications is not specified or scrutinised centrally before the qualifications can be taught. That really is the nub of the problem here: Ofqual is not performing that function.

For parity of esteem, these reforms will bring the treatment of technical qualifications more in line with general qualifications. We have already done that process with T-levels, which were developed along with 250 employers to ensure that they met that standard. The content and employer-led standard then delivered, which could be by an FE college, is inspected and overseen by Ofsted. This process will raise the quality bar and deal with the issue of why we have, at level 3 and below, more than 12,000 qualifications, of which only about 800 are GCSE and A-level. As the Sainsbury review identified, we have had a proliferation of qualifications at that level, and many of them are currently created by the awarding organisations.

On the question of no one overseeing the content and it not being connected to an employer standard, we would not tolerate that in relation to GCSEs and A-levels, and someone needs to do that function. I have outlined the process for academic qualifications; the question then is who does that function. The institute currently manages the system of employer-led standards, and we believe it has the expertise to ensure that qualifications genuinely meet the skills of the economy, and the needs of learners and employers, and that it is right for the institute to lead this reform.

I explained some of these issues to noble Lords in the letter on 1 July. It is quite helpful that at the moment the position of chief regulator is being sorted out. Dr Jo Saxton, the Government’s preferred candidate, appeared last week in front of the Education Select Committee for the approval hearing, and was approved for the role. She was specifically asked about Ofqual and IfATE. She outlined that Ofqual will continue to play a key role with regulatory oversight of the standards of technical qualifications in live delivery, as it does currently. Ofqual and the institute are both needed as they contribute different and complementary sets of function and expertise. The two bodies will work together to assure, on Ofqual’s side, the consistency and reliability of assessment and awarding, as it does over the exam boards, and on the institute’s side the relevance to employers of the content of technical qualifications. When asked by the chair, she said:

“At its simplest, the curriculum side of it sits with IfATE. Once the curriculum has been agreed and approved to go forward, Ofqual’s job will be to make sure that any endpoint assessments and examinations continue to assess the curriculum that has been determined by IfATE and the employers and that receivers of the endpoint assessments and qualifications know that the awards they end up with accurately reflect what they know and can do. The relationship should work well. At its heart, it is essentially a separation between curriculum and regulation”.


I find that really helpful. That was the core purpose—she outlines why Ofqual was set up to be the regulator while the content of the curriculum was set out by the department.

Secondary Schools: Arts Subjects

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Monday 7th June 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the Government have made clear in all the guidance that we have issued to schools that they should be delivering that balanced curriculum, which includes the arts and cultural activities. We recognise not just the innovative thinking that comes from cultural activities, but the pupil well-being that is often related.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, to follow the noble Baroness, arts and creative activity are seen to be a direct enhancer of other subjects. Where is this taken into account when setting targets? If you are to get the best out of this, you will have to make sure that people actively get involved and have opportunities at school. If you do not, you will cut down grades.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, in relation to input, DCMS recently did a taking-part survey and well over 90% of students have taken part in some kind of cultural activity, ranging from carnivals to music. It is a specific criterion of many programmes, such as the National Youth Dance Company and the national youth music orchestras, to include children with special education needs.

Covid-19: Pupil Referral Units

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Thursday 22nd April 2021

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, does the Minister accept that many children who end up in these units come from backgrounds where they do not have supportive families and people who are keen on education? Does the Minister also accept that these are the groups in which undiagnosed special educational needs—I remind the House of my declared interests in this field—do not get spotted until much later, if at all, and probably in the prison system? Do the Government have any process by which to pick up on the backlog of identification caused by the pandemic and the missed school experience?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, it is precisely for those reasons that we must consider AP in the context of the SEND review and work out why some conditions are not being spotted early enough. For instance, it seems that in an all-through setting—we now have some all-through schools—spotting it in early years or reception is vital to the educational progress of those young people. As I have outlined, we need to look at why so many young people with these needs are ending up in alternative provision and with late diagnosis of conditions.

Family Policy

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Monday 19th April 2021

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the current Minister for Children and Families, the right honourable Vicky Ford MP, works across government on many issues—for instance, online harms, at the moment, and the issues that have been raised by Everyone’s Invited. The independent Children’s Commissioner today launched her Big Ask to talk to children about their experiences. The group that the noble Lord outlined will get a reply from the Prime Minister, but it is beyond my pay grade to comment further.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is a degree of confusion about who takes the lead in various family issues? What decisions will be made about which departments lead on certain problems? For instance, if it is finance, will the Department for Education or the DWP lead? What is the process by which that decision is made?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, decisions are made on an issue-by-issue basis. As I outlined in terms of care leavers, the dual chairmanship of that is clear. It is important there is also a degree of flexibility so that, as issues arise, a responsible Government are able to work across departments. For instance, the Home Office, DCMS and the Department for Education have been meeting in regard to safeguarding in schools. I have a meeting with the Home Office on violence against women and girls this afternoon.

Education Return and Awarding Qualifications in 2021

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Monday 1st March 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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I agree with the noble Lord, as I have outlined, about the harm that we all know of in terms of education loss, and of course the harm for certain vulnerable children who have remained at home and what we sadly expect will be a period of referrals to children’s social care after schools reopen. In relation to education, I do not need to say to the noble Lord that it really is a devolved matter. All I can say is that schools in England are reopening in accordance with PHE and CMO advice.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, would the Minister agree that, if you are going to do an assessment on work that has been done by people going forward, it is very important that the teachers involved know the patterns of the people they are dealing with. If somebody is dealing with, say, a moderate dyslexic who underperforms in essays et cetera—I remind the House of my declared interests here—they might not be in the best place to make the assessment, given that condition, and this might be carrying on for virtually anybody with a special educational need. The teachers may not have the experience to assess what they will do, and these groups often outperform in exams. Will there be an appeals process that goes forward and takes this on? It is a real problem and, as we get better at identifying it, it is a growing one.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, obviously many of the mitigations that certain children with special educational needs need in terms of extension of time in exams are not obviously going to be relevant under this system. There is a short list at the moment of assessment materials that teachers can take into account; it is not just “sit an essay”. There is are a range of materials and we would and do expect and hope that teachers will know, in circumstances such as the noble Lord outlines, which materials to set for children with those particular needs. I will write to him about whether there is any specific aspect of the training that exam boards will give in regard to special educational needs students and the outperformance in exams that he outlines.

Schools: Exam-year Pupils

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Tuesday 2nd February 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to permit exam year pupils affected by the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to repeat that year of study.

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 department and Ofqual are working at pace to provide clarity to the sector on how grades will be fairly awarded to all pupils following the decision that exams will not go ahead as planned. The Government will also collaborate with the education sector to develop specific initiatives for summer schools and a Covid premium, alongside developing a long-term plan to support pupils to catch up during this Parliament.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does she agree that everybody has experienced disruption in their schooling and that it has been worst, as was referred to in the first Question today, for those on the lowest incomes, who often have least access to online capacity? If there is a need for people to retake the year, will the Government make sure that such pupils can access the help that they would have got—for instance, from the state through child benefit and other methods? Will they make sure that such help is available for those groups who have the lowest economic status and who will probably need the help most?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord is correct. That is why part of the catch-up premium will be made available to all schools, recognising that all children will be affected. However, the effects are disparate, and some vulnerable children have been in school for the entirety of the school year. Under the system at the moment, head teachers in exceptional circumstances can allow a child to repeat a year and that remains the position. I am sure that noble Lords will be aware of the complexity that would arise if cohorts were to repeat an academic year.

Skills for Jobs White Paper

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Tuesday 26th January 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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I am grateful to hear the noble Lord’s own career history. I think the institutes of technology are the first examples we have of the HE sector working with the FE sector in STEM with local employers. He is right that we want to see parity of esteem, but the situation we are dealing with is that for decades this country has not been like many of our European partners in valuing these technical qualifications. That is what we need to level up at the moment. There are degree apprentices, and I believe that Minister Keegan is the only Member of the other place with a degree apprenticeship. It is important that we got T-levels validated for UCAS points, so that they are also an access point, and you will see them merging in. This is a work in progress, but the most important thing in this country is that we respect technical qualifications. That is the first job we need to do and a clear ambition of the White Paper.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, I should first remind the House of my declared interests in the field of education. There is a great deal here about bootcamps to get people ready for study. I believe these are designed to help with things such as basic skills as well. Will some consideration be given to those with special educational needs in how these are structured? Anybody who was around when we did the last Education Bill knows how much time we spent making sure the dyslexics and others were allowed to actually get apprenticeships, while also having some realistic form of saying that for the English qualification you have got to get through. In this world, when we talk about technical skills, the answer is usually on a programme that is built into your computer software. That is there. Are we going to accept that that is used to acquire these skills, and will we make sure that when we are training people in technical IT skills they know how to access and integrate it?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, in relation to special educational needs, I will go back and look at that. We are into the second procurement phase of the bootcamps and I will make sure that he is given the details in relation to special educational needs. In relation to what we are trying to focus on with level 4 and 5 qualifications, employers will be in the lead on the standards. I want to be very clear to the noble Lord that if what they outline for that qualification is to give the learner the knowledge, skills and behaviours to do that job and there is no additional English and maths requirement, that will be the framework. I hope that encourages the noble Lord that it will not be the case that “You must have passed x exam”. With the employer in the lead looking at those qualifications, if they say those are the functions and what you need for the job, there is to be no additional English and maths requirement.

Schools: Exams

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Wednesday 6th January 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, obviously education is a devolved matter within the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland is still planning examinations, so there will have been different decisions at different times. In normal circumstances, exams are the best way to assess the education that children have been given, and we held out, as we believed was appropriate. It was a last resort to close our schools. We are keenly aware of the mental health and well-being implications for young people, hence why schools are open for vulnerable children at this time. We have not abandoned mass testing, because there are children in school. This will be a period in which schools can roll that out for students and staff who are there with a view to it being rolled out to primary schools and with a view to reopening as soon as the public health situation allows. That mass testing may be necessary at that point in time. We have closed the schools as a last resort and will reopen them as soon as public health allows.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, I remind the House of my interests and declare another: I have an 18 year-old daughter who was actually set to be taking her exams this year, and I can confirm that, even for somebody like her who was expected to do well, there is stress.

Looking at other groups, students who sometimes overachieve in exams—generally the males of the species and particularly those with special educational needs, and who, for instance, might be able to dictate to somebody for the first time in an assessment—what plans have been made to make sure that these people are allowed to progress? Are we going to make sure that extra places are available in the next stage of their education in the foreseeable future?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, on the cancellation of exams for this summer, the consultation by Ofqual will include all the factors, including the ones that the noble Lord outlines. We know that although there was generally, percentage-wise, an inflation grade last year over the previous year, there are certain groups—sometimes disadvantaged students, sometimes BAME students—whose predicted grades are less than what they actually achieved. This consultation will enable those factors to be part of that assessment as to how we fairly assess the performance of our young people who will not be sitting exams.

Covid-19: Social Mobility

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I also have the privilege of being the Minister for Women, and we are looking at the entitlement to flexible working. I am also pleased that we are focused on ensuring that the economic recovery is for women as well. We have been encouraged by how the digital skills boot camps have not only met targets for women’s participation but exceeded them. I am pleased to say that, in April 2021, the national living wage will be going up 2.2% to £8.91, so we are looking to help women in particular gain the advantages of the economy recovering.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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Would the Minister give a thought to people who have failed in the examinations system, who will increasingly become unemployed and present themselves for benefits? Could some assessment be made of whether they have commonly occurring educational problems such as dyslexia and dyspraxia, so that they can have a form of assessment and thus start to implement at least basic coping strategies, if not educational programmes?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, as part of our response to the pandemic, the Government are investing £900 million in additional work coaches. We have also made £100 million available for high-value courses for 18 and 19 year-olds who might leave college when there are no employment opportunities. That is in addition to the digital skills boot camps and the online skills portal that we have set up, so we are providing opportunities and supporting more work coaches. We have invested more in the careers service, as well, to help with the issue that the noble Lord outlines.

Children in Care: Unregulated Accommodation

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Tuesday 17th November 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the Government do not make such an assumption, and the placement of looked-after children is primarily and statutorily the responsibility of the local authority. The Government recognise that children should be placed where their needs are met, and some young people after the age of 18 want to stay with their former foster parents. That is why we have the Staying Put scheme, with £33 million available to local authorities, enabling young people who want to stay with their foster carers to stay until they are 21 years old. However, there are young people who wish to transition at age 16—that is the point when you can choose to become a care leaver. We are trying to have a system that puts the needs of children first and has placements that suit them.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, would the Minister tell us what support there actually is for children choosing what education and training they should do at about age 16 if they are in this sort of environment? It is very apparent that parents or carers usually provide a lot of guidance and support here. How is this being provided to people in this situation?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, every child or young person looked after by the local authority should have an education plan which outlines their future education. If they are in 16 to 19 provision, they are a priority for bursary support, and there is now a £1,000 grant as well for care leavers who take on apprenticeships. I welcome the noble Lord’s comments; there will be a care review in relation to children’s social care, and I would welcome his input into that review, particularly on children with special educational needs.

Education: A-level Results

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Wednesday 23rd September 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, as the noble Baroness will be aware, Ofqual consulted on the methodology and what aspects to include in the algorithm. The issue of what we termed “outliers”—highly performing students in institutions which have previously not performed well—was raised and was in the balance; students who might be affected in that way could be put right through the appeals processes. However, when the balance became such that the level of anomalies outweighed this, the more just situation became to use teacher assessment grades rather than the algorithm to assess grades.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, could the Minister give us an absolute assurance that this algorithm or anything like it will never be used again? That is something we should hear today.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, all four nations of the United Kingdom attempted to use this method. At the moment, the Office for Statistics Regulation, which is part of the UK Statistics Authority, is looking at the algorithms used for all four nations. However, it is intended that exams will go ahead this summer.

Schools: Free Holiday Meals and Activities

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Monday 14th September 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the contribution of the Government is huge in this area: 1.4 million children receive free school meals. The Government introduced free school meal entitlement in 2014 to those in further education. However, it is welcome that the voluntary sector also plays a role in our society, and I pay tribute to its work. It is one of the silver linings to the terrible cloud of the pandemic that we have seen communities rise to give support. As children become eligible for free school meals in the October census, that eligibility will be passed through the system, so we are providing for children who need this, but it is a school meal that has been available during term time.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, although it is good to see that the Government have done something here, after a great deal of prompting, what has been done to ensure that even the representations from the Government’s own party are being registered without prompting from outside? I asked this the last time the issue arose, and the answer was a sort of “oh well, we’ve done something”, but remembering that on school meals it took Jamie Oliver to make them nutritious, something should be done here so that we listen to politicians.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that the Government are listening to all who contribute in this area. He will be aware that school food standards in this country are a matter of legislation, and as part of the child obesity strategy we are now looking to review those to ensure that what is provided in our kitchens is healthy food for children.

Schools and Colleges: Qualification Results and Full Opening

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Wednesday 2nd September 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, in relation to the situations the noble Lord outlined, yes, there were meetings between Ofqual and the department. We always knew that there were limitations within the system, but the department was reassured that those limitations could be dealt with by an appeals system. As evidence that there were discussions, shortly after the situation arose in Scotland, we introduced the ability for students to appeal on the basis of mocks. When it became apparent after the issuing of the A-level results that the anomalies between grades were such that it was more just to award on the basis of assessments by teachers, the scales tipped and the grades were awarded on that basis. But at every stage, when those warnings were issued, the department reacted, responded and was reassured.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, when it comes to the taking of exams—the gong that has clanged loudest over this—some with special educational needs take exams slightly differently, such as those who have to dictate to an amanuensis. Are we establishing a process where we know what will be required of that person? Many people—for instance, someone with severe dyslexia or even a damaged hand—will dictate their exam to some other person. That means sitting close to them in a confined room. Are we looking into how this will be done? Is there a testing process? Or, are we going to take the revolutionary step of saying that you can use assisted technology in public examinations on a mass scale? I wonder whether the Government have any idea about this for the autumn.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I always try to come very well prepared, particularly on special educational needs and disabilities, but on that issue, which I think may be within the province of Ofqual, I do not have a detailed answer for the noble Lord. But I will write to him, since it is important, with social distancing, to enable all students to sit examinations in the autumn.

Covid-19: Childcare Sector

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Tuesday 21st July 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

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Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, it is quite clear that there has been a greater degree of difficulty in areas of social deprivation when it comes to early years. A higher number of institutions have not opened and a higher percentage expect to close. Do the Government have a coherent strategy about how to get effective early years provision into deprived parts of the country?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, as I have outlined, the quantity and quality of provision in disadvantaged areas have been improving. Many of the maintained nursery schools that I mentioned are in areas of disadvantage. We have specifically funded £20 million of career development for early years providers in disadvantaged areas. I hope that the Government’s response to make sure that places were open in early years provision and in schools to vulnerable children and those of critical care workers will bear fruit for those children.

Education Settings: Autumn Opening

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Wednesday 8th July 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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The guidance makes clear that mental health, well-being and adjusting children back into the school environment are important priorities. Mental health is key to that. In relationships, health and sex education, there is a particular module to assist teachers to teach about mental health, and £5 million has been dedicated to the mental health coronavirus fund, in addition to over 50 mental health support teams that are the beginning of rolling that out to a substantial proportion of our schools.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD) [V]
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My Lords, the Minister in her Statement mentioned special educational needs, but concentrated on those with an education, health and care plan. The vast majority of those with special educational needs do not have one. What specialist teaching methods have been looked at to enhance the position of those who have fallen behind and will have greater difficulty catching up? For instance, have online awareness courses offered by the British Dyslexia Association—I here declare an interest—been considered as a basic tool for teachers?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, as the noble Lord outlined, most children with special educational needs are within mainstream education, and when schools return the obligation is on them to offer that broad and balanced curriculum to all their pupils. Obviously, there are specialist teachers in schools to ensure that those with special educational needs are assisted to access that curriculum. During this period, there have been particular resources and guidance for those with special educational needs, including a specific SEND curriculum, available online through the Oak National Academy.

Schools: Return of Students

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Tuesday 23rd June 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, it was of course the Government’s ambition for all primary-age children to be back in school before the summer, but that was not possible on the current medical and scientific evidence. The updated guidance allows schools to bring back students in all years and have some face-to-face contact, as long as they do that within the guidelines. For instance, at secondary school there should be no more than 25% of students on the premises at any one time. We agree with the noble Lord: we recognise that it is essential for pupils to have some contact with their teachers before the school holidays.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD) [V]
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My Lords, will the Minister give some thought to implementing a better policy for online teaching just in case there is another call for a lockdown, either localised or national? We have learned that, where it is successfully done, people learn better. This must be part of the policy.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, of the £1 billion catch-up premium, £350 million has been devoted to a national tutoring service for disadvantaged students. That will be face to face, as well as online, and we hope that the evidence base for it supports the idea that it is a key way for disadvantaged children to catch up. We hope that it will be a legacy for the system so that, going forward, it can be one way in which schools will use their pupil premium to support those students beyond the catch-up year.

Schools: Online Support for Pupils

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Thursday 18th June 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

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Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the paper by Professor Francis Green Schoolwork in lockdown: new evidence on the epidemic of educational poverty, published on 15 June, and the finding that 20 per cent of pupils have done either no schoolwork at home, or less than one hour a day, during the COVID-19 pandemic, what steps they are taking to publish guidance on what is an acceptable level of online support for pupils.

Baroness Berridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Department for International Trade (Baroness Berridge) (Con) [V]
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My Lords, we are committed to supporting schools to ensure that all pupils, particularly disadvantaged pupils, are supported for lost education since lockdown. The Government have provided a £100 million package of support to enable remote teaching, including delivering devices to vulnerable children and working with the Oak National Academy, the BBC and others to ensure strong national availability of remote education. Expectations for the next academic year will be published before the end of term.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, will the Government take on board that the report states that different types of teaching are required—that there should be direct contact with the pupil by the teacher and a conversation about different ways of learning? Virtual environment learning, is, I think, what it was called in the report. This is seen to have very much better results for vulnerable pupils. When were the Government aware that this was getting good results? When will they have a universal application system, or advice on this, for teachers?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge [V]
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My Lords, we expect teachers and schools to use their professional judgment and to make available the best possible education, bearing in mind the home-learning circumstances of pupils. We have made guidance—case studies—available to assist schools with this, as well as, of course, making more devices available to vulnerable children.

Covid-19 Summer Food Fund

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Wednesday 17th June 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge [V]
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My Lords, the voucher system is now operating effectively. In addition to this system, holiday clubs have been run for the last two years. We are building on that with another £9 million. Those clubs take place in disadvantaged areas and, of course, provide healthy meals in addition to educational activities.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, does the Minister not agree that, when considerable criticism of the Government’s current policy and encouragement to change are ignored from their own Benches over a long period of time, something has gone wrong? A Premiership footballer should be allowed to concentrate on his own sport and career and should not be required to come in and bail out the Government.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge [V]
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My Lords, the Government always keep decisions under review and have listened; that is, as I have outlined, part of a mature democracy. The participation of people such as Marcus Rashford is welcome in the public space and a tribute to the free and fair democracy that we all enjoy.

Education Settings: Wider Opening

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Thursday 11th June 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, the Government have been acting on this matter. We are working with the Education Endowment Foundation to make sure that the interventions we put in place to help these children to catch up are based on evidence. I can assure the noble Baroness that we are seriously considering a package of measures in relation to the catch-up provision. However, I will take back her comments about using space in other premises.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD) [V]
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My Lords, do the Government have a clear picture of what has and has not worked when it comes to the underlying issues around learning and teaching? Many reports are coming out on how some children are missing out, while others are getting quite a good deal. Unless we have a good idea about what is actually happening, we cannot plan for how we will support and correct any problems later on.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, the changes which this virus crisis has brought about to how children learn are unprecedented. The move to remote learning and to the use of technology will change some teaching practices for ever. We are of course gathering evidence about what is and is not effective in remote learning. As I have said, the Oak National Academy and BBC Bitesize will be part of the effort to analyse what effect this has had on children’s learning going forward.

Higher Education

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Wednesday 6th May 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

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Lord McFall of Alcluith Portrait The Senior Deputy Speaker (Lord McFall of Alcluith)
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I call the noble Baroness, Lady Blower. No? Then I call the noble Lord, Lord Addington. We will come back to the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, if we have time.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that certain practices will have to change in lockdown? One of them is that anybody who needs an assessment of a disability can do that online as opposed to doing it the traditional way, face to face. I remind the House of my declared interests.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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The noble Lord is correct; where an assessment is needed for disability support allowance, it needs to be done remotely. We are seeing that in these difficult circumstances there are situations where the use of remote technology has proved to be advantageous, and it might end up being a change or an option in any current system.

BAME Students: Pupil Referral Units

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Monday 23rd March 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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The noble Baroness raises an interesting issue. Children in AP settings will often have been placed there by the local authority, which has various safeguarding duties. If a student in its care cannot be educated due to health reasons, I would expect it to take the appropriate course of action.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, does the Minister accept that certain hidden or non-obvious conditions, such as dyslexia, tend to be even slower to be picked up among the BME community than in others, usually due to things such as it being more commonly working-class, and that many of these conditions are seen to be white, middle-class problems which are identified by the parents and then fought through the education system? When are we going to get better provision in schools to sort this? Having more working-class and black teachers would help.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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I am grateful to the noble Lord. On the recruitment of teachers, a £2 million project with the diversity hubs is aimed specifically at increasing the diversity of the workforce, which is an important factor. On non-diagnosis, for every child who is not meeting the requisite attainment standards, graduated action on their attainment gap should be taken by teachers and SEN co-ordinators, regardless of a diagnosis. We are aware that 81% of the children in alternative provision also have special educational needs and disabilities, so we need to intervene earlier. That will be part of the SEN review, to avoid this correlation.

Educational Settings

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Thursday 19th March 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, I associate myself with the last few comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Watson. This is an unprecedented time and an unprecedented challenge. However, we still need a bit more clarification. If we are going to hear later on today about who are the key workers and the categories, can the Minister give us more of a hint about which groups they will go into? Delivery drivers would probably not have been regarded as key workers before this occasion. Where exactly will this go? If a little more guidance could be provided today on the categories of people, if not the exact job descriptions, that would help the situation.

Then we come on to the list of those who will be going to school. I and the Minister have had, shall we say, a bit of cut and thrust already on education, health and care plans, although she has not been in post that long. This is probably an occasion where, to be perfectly honest, the health and care part of that plan is probably more important. Are all people with the plans to be treated in exactly the same way? When I listened to the Commons yesterday, people in special schools was a particularly popular topic of discussion. Will all special schools with a residential capacity automatically be gathered in? Is there any categorisation within them, and so on? The plan seems nice and comprehensive, but it covers a great deal of things. For once, I do not think that dyslexics are a special case here. My group is not the highest priority. Can we make sure that we look at this so that we get practical solutions? It might be a little bit too soon to do this, but then again it has to start functioning by Monday. What will happen there?

The Government seem to have gone to the BBC, saying “Give us a hand”. Have not times changed a wee bit? However, it has a huge resource available to it via iPlayer to enable large numbers of students to continue their courses and study. Will the Government work with the BBC to get particular packages together to help people? For instance, I think you can probably do it at the moment off the top of your head with history programmes for history and English language, and there will be other subjects which I do not bother looking at, so I do not know about them. What are the Government doing there? Also, surely the other public service broadcasters should take this up as well. Is there a co-ordinated approach coming so you have this available? A large amount of support is actually almost at our fingertips here. How are we going to use it? That would be valuable to know.

On free school meals, once again, as the noble Lord, Lord Watson, said, how will this work? The voucher system, again, has to be functioning by Monday. What is happening there, and when will the general public know what is happening? They have to know. It is no good us finding out and then finding out in a week or two. They have to find out what is going on by Monday. Could we have a bit more guidance on that?

Nobody wanted to do this, but if the Government feel that this is the correct thing and they have the advice, we can only go with them. However, we need to know how it will work. Clichés come to mind, but the one about the road to hell being paved with good intentions is nagging at the back of my head here.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, I am grateful for the support from both the noble Lords. This action has been taken primarily to protect the public from the spread of this disease. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Watson, for accepting that some of his questions I will have to answer by letter. Registered childminders are covered by our request, and during the Easter holidays, school leaders—including those from independent schools —and local authorities will work collaboratively on the ground to deliver this. That is not just an expectation; we know it will happen. We expect that during the holidays they will be pooling so that staff can get a break as well, because the provision for key workers and this vulnerable group of children is significantly less than for a normal pupil cohort.

Eligibility for free school meals was dealt with directly by the Secretary of State yesterday afternoon, and included those who have or will become eligible for free school meals. I had to read out yesterday’s Statement verbatim, but the voucher system is sorted out and schools will be reimbursed. Certain schools have already been purchasing supermarket vouchers and will be reimbursed for those costs, while others are continuing to provide food. We are leaving to the discretion of head teachers which they choose to do.

Today, the Cabinet Office will issue a list of what are key workers in relation to school attendance. Regarding disadvantage to students, I say that the system for awarding examination grades will be fair to all. A proper and fair qualification will be awarded. We will know tomorrow what it will look like, as a lot of consultation and engagement was needed with Ofqual, universities and head teachers, about how to handle fairly and justly a situation that is unprecedented, trying to honour, respect and award properly the work that these students and young people have been putting in. It is taking some time to work out.

Every child with an EHCP is covered in the definition of a vulnerable child. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, referred to this. There will be guidance regarding atypical settings, including the special schools that are residential. There are issues around keeping children in those environments, and around what household isolation means when you are in a boarding school, because we are aware that there will still be young people in those boarding houses, particularly looked-after children within that education system. The guidance will, I hope, be the practical solution that the noble Lord was talking about, and will think through all the detailed implications of the decisions.

This is a time of national unity. Everyone is being engaged, including of course the BBC, which, along with other providers, will use its iPlayer system to broadcast educational material, enabling children to still learn while they are at home. Guidance will be going out to teachers about remote teaching. Some have a lot of experience of this and some do not. We are trying to give them the best help that we can. At a time when we are prioritising the curtailment of this disease—trying to stop its spread—it is important that we all work together. We are seeing that on the ground between different schools and with local authority staff, particularly in adult and child social care, who are working above and beyond the call of duty at the moment.

Children: Special Educational Needs

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Addington
Tuesday 17th March 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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I am grateful to my noble friend. Under the 2009 Act, the Government are required to review the autism strategy every three years. This is the first time that the strategy will include children and young people; my noble friend is correct that one of the areas we will also address within that review is the misdiagnosis, and what we are convinced is an underdiagnosis, of girls with autism, who often present later and are better at camouflaging it. They often present very differently to boys with autism.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, do the Government accept that there are huge numbers of people who have moderate problems, which are being left for a long time and then have to be dealt with in the high-needs category? This is because we are not investing in classroom support. Could this be a key part of any review and new strategy? At the moment, all it does is to make people’s lives worse and costs us more money.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, I will take the specific question for the review about moderate needs becoming high needs. As the noble Lord will be aware, most young people who have special educational needs and disabilities—the SEND population—are accommodated within mainstream schools and without an EHCP, which was in the 2014 reforms. We are providing through dyslexia organisations and the Autism Education Trust, as he will be aware, further teaching qualifications and support for those in the classroom.