Debates between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 19th Apr 2021
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Thu 30th Apr 2020

Sports Participation in Schools

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Thursday 9th September 2021

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Bassam of Brighton.

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 Government are, along with noble Lords, extremely proud of the success of Team GB at the recent Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. We are committed to raising school sports participation by investing through the primary PE and sport premium and funding to open school sports facilities. On Monday, I had the pleasure of visiting a new free school—Coombe Wood School, in Croydon—which puts health and fitness at the heart of its educational approach.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, I pay tribute to all our Olympians and Paralympians in Tokyo; not all returned with a medal—though of course many did—but all returned, I think I can safely say, with the enduring respect and admiration of those of us watching at home, in recognition of the clearly tremendous efforts they put into training over years. This is surely a carpe diem moment for the Government to ensure that participation levels in sports increase in all schools, but particularly primary schools. Habits gained at an early age are more likely to be carried into adult life. In June, the Secretary of State announced, in respect of the PE and sport premium for primary schools, to which the Minister has just referred, that underspends for the two pandemic years could be carried forward into this academic year but must be spent by the end of it. Why should such a limit be imposed when primary schools need additional resources to increase and maximise sports participation levels?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the PE premium is in fact a ring-fenced grant that normally has to be spent within the academic year that it is given. This was an exceptional relaxation, and we are keen that those pupils whom it was intended to benefit have the benefit of that money, and therefore it should be spent by the end of this academic year.

Register of Home-educated Children

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Wednesday 21st July 2021

(10 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, many out-of-school settings offer a very valuable service, particularly to those who electively home educate, because they offer services to groups of children that parents alone potentially cannot offer. We have issued that voluntary code of practice. Many of those settings are charities so they have responsibilities to the Charity Commission as regulated bodies. We also have given £3 million to local authorities to examine ways in which they can boost local capacity to intervene when there is a safeguarding issue. Local authorities have a duty to safeguard every child in their area.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, I agree with noble Lords who have said that many parents are able to—and indeed do—successfully home educate their children. However, with respect, that is not the issue here. Is it not a scandal that an accurate figure for school-age children not being educated in school is not available? Local authorities are not required to keep a register and they cannot visit children at home against the wishes of the parents. The latest figure, published by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator in February last year, put it at around 60,000. That was before Covid closures, since when thousands of children have failed to return to school. I hear what the Minister says about the consultation but is it not now time for a compulsory register of home-schooled children, maintained by local authorities as a safeguarding measure? If she will not bring forward government legislation, will the Government commit to supporting a Private Member’s Bill such as the one introduced in 2017 by my noble friend Lord Soley?

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.

Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Wednesday 21st July 2021

(10 months ago)

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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I am perplexed because, in her response, the Minister said that she expected the announcement made yesterday by the Office for Students on funding for the arts and creative subjects would open up many more such courses. The report that I have received is that high-cost subsidy funding is to be cut by half, with effect from September this year. How on earth could that open up more courses? Universities are saying that they may even have to close down courses. Defunding cannot produce more courses, or have I misunderstood the noble Baroness?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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To clarify, the point that I was raising was in relation to FE courses. My noble friend Lord Johnson referred to existing courses in HE in terms of the creative industries. What we are hoping is, through this measure, to see a parity of esteem with FE. Obviously, FE delivers an enormous number of courses at the moment, but we would see an expansion of that provision in that sector as well. I just wanted to highlight that FE is also a main player in that sector. I was not referencing yesterday’s announcement. I am sorry for any confusion.

Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Monday 19th July 2021

(10 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the Noble Lord, Lord Watson, for tabling this amendment and have great sympathy with its purpose. The Government know that many learners need more flexible access to courses helping them to train, upskill or retrain alongside work, family and personal commitments, as both their circumstances and the economy change. We also recognise that the current lack of a systematic and widely used practice for building up credit across different providers is a key barrier to flexible lifelong learning.

The Bill will deliver that flexibility, underpinning the Prime Minister’s lifetime skills guarantee. This is part of our blueprint for a post-16 education system that will seek to ensure that everyone, no matter where they live or their background, can gain the skills they need to progress at any stage of their lives. We want people to be able to build up learning over their lifetime and have a real choice in how, where and when they study to acquire new life-changing skills. In particular, as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, outlined, this will hopefully lead to an expansion of provision within further education colleges and other providers.

To enable flexibility, learners must, where appropriate, be able to accumulate and transfer credits between providers to build up to meaningful qualifications over time. The Bill and the government amendments tabled on the LLE provide the building blocks of a modular and potentially credit-based loan funding and fee limit system. It is precisely defining what a module is that will ensure consistency across the system.

We are working closely with the sector to understand current incentives and obstacles to credit transfer and recognition. Obviously, the system is not simple or straightforward, as the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, outlined. We intend to consult on the scope and policy of the lifelong loan entitlement. We will examine how to support easier and more frequent credit transfer between providers, working towards well-integrated and aligned higher and further education provision, with flexibility that enables students to move between settings to suit their needs.

It is important that we consult and engage closely on this to ensure that we build a system that works. The consultation will be later this year and it is important we get the detail right. Although higher education is a devolved matter, we are of course engaging with the devolved Administrations. It is important that any system in England provides consistency and works alongside the other three nations. We must not pre-determine the outcome of any consultation and pin the Government to a path that the sector and learners may tell us in consultation is not what is needed. I therefore hope that the noble Lord, Lord Watson, will feel comfortable withdrawing his amendment.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, I am not comfortable withdrawing my amendment, as the Minister suggests. The amendment has been rather too easily dismissed by the Minister and by the noble Baroness, Lady Garden. I recognise the experience of the noble Baroness with City & Guilds, but I also recognise her experience as a Minister in the coalition Government—and that sounded very much like a ministerial speech. She was drawing on her experience of those years when she counselled against legislating in this respect.

There is a greater need to give people confidence when they are trying to provide what the Minister called building blocks for a degree or qualification, so they have a guarantee that there is somebody whom they can call on to make sure that they can use those effectively. I noticed that my noble friend Lord Adonis made the point about the degree apprenticeships. Many of us are a bit dubious about degree apprenticeships, but clearly they will have a role in this. He drew the line, and I think he was drawing the dots from a practical apprenticeship and moving it on bit by bit, perhaps banking some of the experience to go to do something else—perhaps raise a family—and then come back to it, ultimately with a degree. That is very important.

The way in which the Minister says that the Government will consult, as I understand it, meant only that they would consult on the scope of the lifelong loan entitlement. There has to be something specific on credit transfer. Like other noble Lords, I have had briefings from organisations in the sector which are very concerned and want to make sure that there is something of a solid nature on which they can build in future. I heard no mention of the international aspect, which was certainly raised with me by the QAA. It is concerned about the international reputation if we do not have a UK-wide structure that people in other countries can look at, understand and then have the confidence to come and use.

The Minister was saying that this was a bit premature and talked about another consultation. We will be inundated by consultations as a result of the Bill. As an aside, let me say that the noble Baroness, Lady Penn, mentioned earlier a consultation that concluded in September, and we have a consultation on initial teacher training in schools which concludes in August. When we have consultations, can we please not have them over the summer holidays? It may help officials, but it does not help those seeking to put together a response to consultation and it surely dilutes the amount of response received.

I hear what the Minister says, but I am not convinced. I shall come back on Report to try to tease out some of the arguments a bit further and invite her to respond in a bit more detail to the points that I put after she has had her chance, with her Ovaltine this evening and a copy of Hansard by her side, to consider them in greater detail.

Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Thursday 15th July 2021

(10 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, we welcome the amendments and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, on reminding us of the bigger picture in skills development. Effectively, these amendments relate to the national skills strategy and seek to ensure that employers, colleges and universities adopt a far-sighted approach by planning to develop the skills and apprenticeships for the jobs of the future and, in doing so, help to shape a more secure and sustainable economy for the country. An employer representative body that did not follow that path should not last for long.

It is crucial that we maximise the power of the economy by delivering on genuine lifelong learning so that people can grasp the opportunity to reskill or upskill when they need it and as often as they need it. Equipping the workforce with new skills for the jobs of the future will help build job security, which in turn will bring sustainability and resilience back to the economy and public services, at the same time helping our high streets to reinvent themselves and, hopefully, begin to thrive again.

From green jobs in manufacturing electric vehicles and offshore wind turbines to fintech, digital media and film, there is a pressing need to grow modern industries to build a long-term economy that provides good-quality and well-paid jobs and is thus fit for the future I am sure that the Minister will be keen to tell noble Lords how the industrial decarbonisation strategy, launched earlier this year, would fit in to this future-proofing approach, which will be enhanced if the Government are willing to accept these modest but, I would say, important amendments. They are complemented by Amendment 85, which would require the Secretary of State to establish a panel to undertake a national strategic skills audit to be updated every three years. The Government's industrial decarbonisation strategy cannot exist in a vacuum. It must interact with the industrial strategy which, noble Lords may remember, was published in 2017, but seems to have been hidden in plain sight ever since, the green jobs task force, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, referred and the broader skills agenda into which the Bill will play.

In fairness to the Government—not something I am characterised by—the industrial strategy was indeed dusted down and updated as recently as January, setting out what are termed “grand challenges”, designed to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future and improving the country’s productivity.

That is all good, stirring stuff, and absolutely necessary because, as my noble friend Lord Knight highlighted last week, on our first day in Committee, we currently have a reactive skills system that is too often tortuously slow in responding to new demands, never mind anticipating them. A strategy formulated with an understanding of the need to embrace net-zero future jobs and skills would address that issue and, over time, could open up many more employment markets. I genuinely hope that that is a role that the industrial strategy will adopt, with a national skills strategy a key part of it.

My noble friend Lord Liddle rightly pointed to the lack of evidence that the Department for Education has a long-term vision. If there were one and it were cross-cutting in nature, a national skills strategy could benefit from a comprehensive assessment of our medium and long-term skills needs, with the goal of creating not simply secure employment but, in doing so, achieving the country’s climate change and biodiversity targets. I say to the Minister on these amendments: what is not to like?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for tabling these amendments. We completely agree with him and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, that designated employer representative bodies should take into account evidence of future skills needs and national priorities as they develop their local skills improvement plan. Of course, much will be included in guidance, but each employer representative body will be expected to co-ordinate and collaborate with its neighbouring employer representative bodies in writing the local skills plan, and with others across England.

In relation to Amendment 15 and potential student needs, I draw noble Lords’ attention to Clause 1(6)(b), which many noble Lords mentioned. It states that a local skills improvement plan

“draws on the views of employers”.

I hope that that answers some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, on what is expected of the Cumbria Chamber of Commerce in reaching out to the big employers that he mentioned. The clause also talks about

“skills, capabilities or expertise that are, or may in the future be, required”.

Although the approval process for the Secretary of State is about whether the relevant people have been consulted, as I outlined to noble Lords, the Bill states that the plan must look at the future. I obviously cannot comment on whether individual plans will pass or fail the Secretary of State’s test, but it is here in the Bill that a plan must look to the future. The future outlined is obviously the “potential students” that are mentioned in Amendment 15. They were the subject of much discussion on the first day of Committee. I remain of the view that, by being focused on the needs of employers, the LSIPs will also, by virtue of this, include the needs of potential students in relation to jobs in their areas. The vision that the noble Lord, Lord Watson, referred to is found within the White Paper that we launched earlier this year.

The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, I think, referred to other employment—it might relate to a skill that is needed for a neighbouring area. There is obviously the wider local needs duty under Clause 5. We are expecting that the trailblazer programmes will not only help to inform the guidance but help us to see how they engage with one another and the national skills priorities. The advice on national skills needs will clearly be part of the guidance. We have also previously discussed, both in this House and outside it, the role of the national Skills and Productivity Board, which will report later this year. This will enable each employer representative body to have access to its high-quality advice. The statutory guidance will highlight the types of evidence that they should have regard to.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, made reference to the flexibility that people need nowadays in terms of skilling and reskilling. Of course, that will be part of what we discuss later in Committee in relation to the lifelong loan entitlement. A lot of the additional support for young people that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, mentioned is provided through Jobcentre Plus. People can sometimes be a bit sniffy about that, but what the work coaches are doing to make young people aware of the opportunities such as Kickstart is amazing. We have also given additional funding for apprenticeship starts in that group in particular and there has been an expansion of the traineeships. However, the National Careers Service and the Careers & Enterprise Company obviously depend on the age of the person. We will also make those young people aware of that. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, mentioned the Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy, which, again, will be one of the national strategies that a good local skills improvement plan will look to.

Amendment 85 looks to set up a national strategic skills panel, particularly in relation to our targets on net zero and biodiversity. As mentioned, we have been busy in the department—we have launched the Green Jobs Taskforce, which I hope gives some reassurance to the noble Baronesses, Lady Sheehan and Lady Bennett, that we are looking at those recommendations now. The recommendations in relation to the response to the need for net zero and biodiversity were not just for government but also for business and the skills sector, as we extensively debated on day 1 of Committee.

On the points made by many noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, there is a balance between a framework within a piece of legislation and having so much detail within it that the accusation can then be made, potentially rightly, that Whitehall is trying to fix all. There is a framework to try to set up the appropriate situation so that providers work with the employer representative bodies and that each local area works with the others and the national picture. I do not think that we should be more prescriptive than that. There is strategic development funding to deal with the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, on the capacity for these areas.

I hope that I have reassured noble Lords and that my noble friend Lord Lucas will feel comfortable to withdraw his amendment and not press the others when they are reached.

Children’s Rights: Digital Environment

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Thursday 1st July 2021

(10 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord McFall of Alcluith Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord McFall of Alcluith)
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I call the noble Baroness, Lady Barran—sorry, the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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Understandable confusion from the Lord Speaker.

My Lords, The Ofcom Online Nation 2021 Report showed that lockdown had highlighted the digital divide and that, with one in 10 households without access to the internet during lockdown, it had been magnified and was clearly a severe socioeconomic problem. Last week the Times reported that Amazon was engaged in the mass disposal of unused IT equipment, with 120,000 items marked for destruction in one week alone. I know the Minister will share my anger at that obscene waste, against the backdrop of lost education and damaged life chances caused by the pandemic. So can she tell noble Lords what discussions the Government have had or will have with retailers to maximise the charitable repositioning of devices for schools?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful for the expertise of the noble Baroness, Lady Barran, as this question straddles a number of departments.

Obviously, we want to avoid all kinds of waste; food waste has also been on many people’s agenda. I can assure the noble Lord that the 1.3 million laptops we have distributed are the property of local authorities and schools, and we would take a very dim view if anything of that nature happened to that property. I will have to write to him in relation to the specific point about the recycling of white goods.

Covid-19: Education Attendance

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Thursday 1st July 2021

(10 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, according to the Department for Education’s own figures, last week one in 20 children in state schools in England were absent due to confirmed coronavirus infections. I hope that the Minister can explain why secondary school pupils were no longer required to wear masks in classrooms from mid-May, when cases were rising and masks still had to be worn in shops and other indoor spaces. Parents, pupils and teachers need to know what is to happen in September with bubbles. Can the Minister confirm that school leaders will be told well before the end of this term, allowing time for plans to be put in place and to give their staff a desperately needed break over the summer?

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 four tests were met for step 3 of the road map at that point, so that is why, on the advice of Public Health England, masks and other restrictions were lifted at that stage for secondary school pupils. We expect to confirm plans to lift restrictions and bubbles in line with step 4 of the wider road map. Obviously, there will be an announcement in advance of that, which should be within term time for the vast majority of pupils, though there are one or two areas where state-funded schools begin to break up on Friday 9 July.

Children: Care Homes

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Monday 21st June 2021

(11 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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I appreciate my noble friend’s concern, but I will have to write to her as I believe that might be a matter for the Home Office or the MoJ, if there is any regulatory regime around child contact centres, which I believe will be for separated parents.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, it was deeply disappointing to see that the first report, published last week, of the MacAlister review of children’s social care, did not champion 16 and 17 year-olds in care, instead following the position of Ministers on unregistered homes. With the Government attempting to defend the indefensible by citing the fact that children aged 16 can marry or enter civil partnerships with parental consent, the Ministry of Justice has announced that it is going to raise the legal minimum age for marriage because, as it says, of the need to protect vulnerable children. Will the Minister finally accept the need to ensure that all under 18s receive care where they live, because all children in care are by definition extremely vulnerable?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the Department for Education has liaised closely with the Ministry of Justice on this policy. A number of 16 and 17 year-olds are remanded with very strict bail conditions pending trial. In those circumstances, there can be difficulties in placing those 16 and 17 year-olds in a family environment. So it is very clear that in that small number of cases, for those reasons—and also taking into account the best interests of that alleged offender—they may be placed in that type of accommodation. The Government are not defending the indefensible, but in certain circumstances, particularly with the risks that those young people may, unfortunately, pose to other children if placed in a children’s home or a family, we need to make sure that that type of accommodation meets national standards and is inspected but is available for that type of situation.

Children with Genetic Conditions: Specialist Support

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Tuesday 15th June 2021

(11 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, a number of family hubs are already in operation but the department has just finished procurement for a national centre for family hubs as part of the £14 million allocated to this. Part of that role will be to ensure that best practice is spread across England. The noble Baroness is correct that these centres should be a hub of voluntary, statutory and other services for families, including those with special educational needs and disabilities.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, the head of Ofsted has highlighted that children with special educational needs and disabilities have incurred some of the biggest learning losses from schools closing, noting:

“Many have genuinely gone backwards in basic skills, language, numbers”.


This is because too many seriously ill children did not receive—and in some cases are still not receiving—adequate support for their disability or medical condition through health services or school, despite having education, health and care plans. What consideration have the Government given to the need for a therapies catch-up plan for children who have regressed or plateaued in their speech, communication, physical development or social skills due to the pandemic, as called for by the Disabled Children’s Partnership?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, it is indeed correct that some of the learning lost has been greatest for those with special educational needs and disabilities. That was one of the reasons why, during both of the lockdowns when schools were closed, places were still available for many of those young people. They should now be accessing all the therapies and additional support that the plan says they should receive. The recovery package has the flexibility that some of the money is per-pupil and, therefore, schools can buy in the additional specialist support that the noble Lord outlines.

Secondary Schools: Arts Subjects

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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, it is correct, as the noble Lord outlines, to say that schools need those specialist teachers. Recruitment of trainee teachers is up by 23% and we have no information about a gap in the recruitment of those teachers. Schools are free to use the £650 million universal catch-up and recovery premium as they see fit. If they wish to spend it on the type of provision that the noble Lord outlines, we hope that they will do so.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, as well as lost learning, Covid-19 has had a major effect on the mental health of children. Arts subjects and activities have the potential to reduce stress and anxiety, and are proven to encourage language development in children, particularly the most disadvantaged. Recently, Sir Kevan Collins—I wonder what became of him—said that

“we need to think about the extra hours not only for learning, but for children to be together, to play, to engage in competitive sport, for music, for drama because these are critical areas which have been missed in their development.”

Does the Minister agree and can she explain why the National Tutoring Programme does not apply to creative and practical subjects?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, schools offer a number of co-curricular or extracurricular activities. As the Minister responsible for out-of-school settings, I know that much of that activity takes place in those areas. Indeed, the National Tutoring Programme does not deliver as the noble Lord outlined, at the moment. However, a proportion of the tutoring money from the latest and third tranche of recovery money will go directly to schools. As well as being able to spend the universal catch-up and recovery premiums in the manner that schools choose, the school-led aspect of the National Tutoring Programme will enable them to have small-group or one-on-one tutoring in the subjects that the noble Lord mentioned.

Education Recovery

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Monday 7th June 2021

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the resignation of Sir Kevan Collins as Education Recovery Commissioner, what steps they will take to develop a long-term plan to help pupils make up for lost learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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 Government are committed to ensuring that children and young people catch up after the disruption of the pandemic. As the next step in these efforts, we have announced an additional £1.4 billion of funding for high-quality tutoring and great teaching. This brings our total recovery package to more than £3 billion. We will consider the next steps ahead of the spending review, and catch-up is for the lifetime of this Parliament.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, I cannot really believe that the Minister is comfortable defending the indefensible following the chaotic events surrounding what can only be described as the Government’s bargain basement recovery plan for school pupils. The promise of jam tomorrow is highly unlikely to satisfy many appetites. When Sir Kevan Collins presented his plan, costed at £15 billion, to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister reacted by moving the decimal point one place to the left. Perhaps he thought that Sir Kevan would not notice, but Sir Kevan is nobody’s fool. He is widely respected throughout education and across the political spectrum, and now he is lost to the vital task of education recovery. As the Minister said, planned spending on school recovery is now around £300 per pupil, but that compares with £1,600 per pupil in the United States and £2,500 in the Netherlands. Can the Minister explain why her Government believe that children in England need so much less support than their American and Dutch contemporaries?

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.

Covid-19: Pupil Referral Units

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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, our aspirations are the same for all young people, regardless of where they are being educated, but it is true that some young people who end up in alternative provision are, for instance, of secondary school age but with only a primary school reading age. Therefore, the classic traditional measures of educational performance must be looked at in terms of the progress which that young person can make. Many of the AP settings are acutely aware of the safeguarding of their students. Many work closely with the 18 violence reduction units to safeguard their pupils, and I will write to the noble Lord about the first secure school, which is within the Ministry of Justice’s provision.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I add my tribute to my noble friend Lady Lawrence of Clarendon, for the great strength of character that she has shown following the callous murder of her son, and for the work that she has done in establishing the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.

Many pupil referral units have been forced to cut services for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils because of the severe reduction in funding following the drop in referrals during the pandemic. There is real concern in the sector that the increased level of recovery funding for PRUs announced by the Government is unlikely to be sufficient to meet the anticipated surge in demand. Does the Minister accept that the Government must heed those concerns and review the per-pupil element of the funding formula to ensure consistency and parity of funding with mainstream schools?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, obviously some young people are dual registered, so they are mainstream as well as AP funded. During the two formal lockdowns when schools were closed, the guidance from the department to local authorities was that they should pay the top-up element that they pay to these provisions. If a pupil referral unit that is still an LA-maintained unit is in financial difficulty, obviously it goes to its local authority; in relation to the other alternative provision—the just over 40% of the sector that is academised—I can assure the noble Lord that we are keeping a close watch on the financial situation of that provision.

Family Policy

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Monday 19th April 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, getting the money out the door is very important, but I take the point that the noble Baroness makes. As the Minister responsible for the efficiency and commercial function of the department, we rely on and give grants to local authorities. We then trust them on the ground. For instance, we have given an additional £40 million to the Covid-19 Support Fund. However, when it comes to contracting with providers, there are procurement processes and contract monitoring, which is an increasingly professional function of the department.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, until January 2018, there was a Minister of State for Children and Families with the right to attend Cabinet. The post was then downgraded to Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, which does not give the current holder the necessary clout either to be heard or to be properly effective. Many parliamentarians have today added their names to a letter from UNICEF UK to the Prime Minister, calling for the reinstatement of the Minister for Children and Families with the right to attend Cabinet, and urging him to deliver a national address directed to children and families to set out his vision of what building back Britain means for them. Does the Minister support these suggestions?

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.

Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Friday 16th April 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for doing as she typically does by responding in considered and detailed form to many of my questions and those of other noble Lords. I wonder whether she would elaborate on one point on school clothing grants; I mentioned that the guidance refers to it. Although she said the Government’s emphasis was on keeping down the price of uniforms themselves—I welcome that, of course—short of nationalising the Schoolwear Association and making it the single supplier for the whole country, I am not quite sure how the Government could achieve such an aim.

I am concerned that cash-strapped local authorities—and multi-academy trusts, which are also not exactly well off—will struggle to cope with the many responses from parents to schools in the wake of the Bill’s enactment, and with the highlighting of the availability of the grants. Will the Minister again consider providing additional resources to make sure that local authorities and MATs can meet the demands that come their way after the Bill is enacted? I am happy for her to write to me about this.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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I will take the opportunity to write to the noble Lord. It is a matter for local authorities whether they choose to make grants available, but we are not proposing to introduce school uniform grants. As I have outlined many times to noble Lords, there has been an increase in general school funding over these three years to enable some schools that want to assist to do that. If the noble Lord requires any further details, I will write to him.

Initial Teacher Training Market Review

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Wednesday 14th April 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the expertise of former members of the Armed Forces is an important supply for teacher training, and many initial teacher training providers do offer their courses part-time so current personnel can make that transition. In shortage subjects, such as chemistry, bursaries are available of £24,000.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, although the initial teacher training market review group has been meeting since the autumn, its deliberations have been shrouded in secrecy. What has leaked out is the suggestion that the Government will introduce a new system of short-term contracts following the review, which has led, as my noble friend Lord Knight has said, to many universities warning that they may withdraw their teacher training provision as a result. I welcome the Minister’s announcement just now of consultation later this year. Can she explain why the so-called expert advisory group undertaking it does not contain a representative from a university, despite that sector currently producing around one-third of newly qualified teachers?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, it is important that we conduct this review to ensure that the market provides for the 25% increase this year of those applying for initial teacher training. Professor Samantha Twiselton is actually on the staff of Sheffield Hallam University, and I can assure noble Lords that, as universities are involved in providing, I think, 47% of initial teacher training, they will of course be key in the review’s progress.

Modern Foreign Languages: Teachers

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Wednesday 10th March 2021

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, in relation to retention, I have outlined the early career framework, but there are now national professional qualifications. On average, teachers were awarded a 2.7% pay rise last year. As I have outlined, teachers from across the world can now apply on a points-based system to come here. We recognise that there is considerable uncertainty due to current restrictions on international travel.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister stated in answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, that the slashing of bursaries for language trainees from £26,000 to £10,000 was the result of what she called “difficult financial decisions”. That cut makes no sense. The bursaries should have been retained as the result of an educational decision. There is a pattern here: the latest figures for the recruitment of language teachers showed that only 72% of the target was met, yet the DfE is ending its system of early career payments of up to £3,000, which were aimed at aiding teacher retention. As our distance from the EU grows, how can the Government justify making a career as a language teacher less attractive?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, in relation to the applicants we have seen this year, modern foreign language teaching is an attractive option in our country. We had to make some difficult choices. STEM graduates command higher salaries outside the teaching sector, which was the justification for retaining a similar level of bursary for STEM as opposed to MFL. Other initial financial incentives, such as student loan reimbursements, are retained for those who are already part of the scheme, but they were ended for all—including STEM—graduates. There were difficult decisions to be made across the board.

Covid-19: Care System

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Monday 8th March 2021

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the Government are indeed concerned about those who end up in the youth justice system and their education. The noble Lord will be aware of the provision in secure children’s homes, where young people are placed by the local authority or through the criminal justice system. He will be pleased to hear that when Ofsted recently inspected some of those homes, it commented positively about the provision of education for that cohort of vulnerable young people.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Children’s Commissioner reported in 2019 that teenagers in care are significantly more vulnerable than younger children to issues such as child sexual exploitation, gangs and trafficking. She also called for a ban on any child under the age of 18 being placed in an unregulated setting. Last week, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee of your Lordships’ House expressed concern about older teenagers being left exposed in such settings. Teenagers in care are more likely to have complex needs and therefore require care rather than just support. Can the Minister say why unregulated accommodation is unregulated? Why do the Government believe that it can ever be appropriate for vulnerable young people to be placed in such accommodation?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, forgive me if I stated this incorrectly: it is going to be banned for those aged 16 and under but still used, when assessed as appropriate by the local authority, for those aged over 16. There will, however, be national minimum standards for that provision, which is currently unregulated, to ensure that the standard is appropriate. Those with complex needs were, as vulnerable children and young people, offered a school place throughout the pandemic. We are looking to increase Ofsted’s enforcement powers in relation to unregistered children’s homes.

Schools: Online Learning

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Tuesday 23rd February 2021

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con) [V]
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My Lords, as I outlined, we are aware of the connectivity issues for various homes and schools and have provided peer-to-peer training and support across the school system through our EdTech demonstrator schools. Some 6,900 schools have been given access by the department to Microsoft Education or Google Classroom during the pandemic. In building our infrastructure in future, as the noble Baroness described, connectivity will be essential.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, in response to an Oral Question from my noble friend Lord Blunkett on 11 February, the Minister stated, as she did earlier today, that the Government had invested

“more than £400 million to support access to remote education … including … 1.3 million laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children and young people.”

While that is certainly welcome, she did not answer the specific Question asked by my noble friend regarding

“the number of children who are not eligible for face-to-face teaching who have not been able to access online teaching for more than 80 per cent of the normal timetable in … 2021.”—[Official Report, 11/2/21; cols. 484-5.]

Will the Minister take this opportunity to answer that Question?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con) [V]
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The instruction given to schools on the amount of remote education also included that teachers were to monitor whether children were engaging with that education. It is not possible for the department to collect that kind of granular data on a day-to-day basis. Teachers are in front of the students virtually and we put the obligation on them to monitor that. If they were aware that children were not engaging remotely, they had the ability to bring them into school as a vulnerable child.

Education: Supply Teachers

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Monday 22nd February 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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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.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the DfE has issued advice to schools not to lay off supply staff and to ensure that safety arrangements allow them to continue to be employed where needed. This has not prevented some schools from dispensing with supply teachers, placing additional pressure on permanent staff to cover for absent colleagues. The DfE advice is aimed equally at schools that engage staff directly and those that engage via agencies. The principle is the same—they should continue to employ and continue to pay—but there is no means of enforcement. Will the DfE now re-emphasise its advice to schools not to lay off supply staff?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con) [V]
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The noble Lord is correct that the school budgets that have been paid regardless of the opening or closing of schools mean that those supply staff who are direct employees should continue to be employed during this period. However, for those who are employed by agencies, the guidance is for schools to try to continue to use those supply teachers, but of course the employer is the agency. If those supply teachers are not used, there is the possibility of furlough, but that is obviously a decision for the employers. We have made a wide range of support available for agency supply teachers, but the arrangements obviously depend on whether they are a direct employee of the school or from an agency. The guidance helps schools to treat their workforce fairly.

Schools: Online Teaching

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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, we all await with bated breath 22 February, the date on which the Prime Minister will announce the review of the lockdown, but I am sure my noble friend will be pleased to hear that Sir Kevan Collins, the catch-up ambassador, has outlined that he views catch-up as encompassing physical education and mental well-being, as well as educational catch-up. But I will take back my noble friend’s views on the importance of outdoor education.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Government’s new Education Recovery Commissioner, just referred to by the Minister, has said that schools could be working to help children make up for lost education for at least five years. That underscores the importance of a long-term strategy for all pupils, but particularly for those from disadvantaged families, who have received far less support during lockdown. There has been little discussion of a post-Covid digital strategy, and a longer-term approach will require universal access to digital learning well beyond the pandemic. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that every young person has a device and access to data and online education resources going forward, to counter the effects of the digital divide that the pandemic has exposed?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, we are looking at the catch-up in the short, medium and long term. As I have said, it is for the lifetime of this Parliament. In the short term, looking to this summer, that means summer schools and some form of Covid premium. On digital, DDCMS is allocating funding so that areas of the country where there is no access to broadband can get on to broadband. Yes, we recognise that a digital strategy for education will be needed going forward—it will be one of the inadvertent positive outcomes of the pandemic.

Schools: Online Learning

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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, in relation to SEND pupils, we have given additional funding to the national Star Academies to make sure that through the peer-to-peer support for schools they have the best practice to share. Yes, the effects of remote learning are quite disparate, and there are certain pupils who may have been distracted by pupils in the classroom whom teachers report are engaging better, but it is not a standard picture. We recognise that catch-up will have to be individualised for pupils. Schools know those pupils best, which is why £650 million is going out to schools.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, based on the figures just given by the Minister, of the 1.3 million laptops promised by the Government, one-quarter are yet to be delivered. At the current rollout pace of some 75,000 a week, many schools face having to wait for their laptops to be delivered until the second week of March—ironically, when the Prime Minister has said that he hopes schools will begin to reopen. The chair of the Education Select Committee has echoed the call by the Education Policy Institute for resources to be provided direct to schools to enable them to source IT equipment themselves. What consideration have the Government given to the feasibility of adopting that approach in order to reduce the amount of lost learning time?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, at a time when supply was massively disrupted, for the department’s commercial team to procure this number of laptops was actually quite a feat, in this climate where everyone wants a laptop. Some 350,000 were delivered in January alone. Yes, schools have been using additional resources to purchase laptops as well, which they can do from their Covid catch-up money.

Schools: Exam-year Pupils

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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, 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.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, by half-term next week, the total loss in face-to-time in school will amount to around half a normal school year. The Government urgently need to provide exceptional support to these students. Allowing a limited number to repeat the school year if it is in their best interest should be considered, together with extending the school year, lengthening the school day, and the widespread use of summer schools. In the current circumstances, thinking outside the box is not a luxury; it is an essential. So are the Government up for that?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the department welcomes all out-of-the-box or in-the-box ideas. It is a national priority to help these children catch up, which is why we are looking to stand up summer schools and at some form of Covid premium as well. The consultation in relation to the exams had more than 1,000 responses; by the end of February we will be informing the sector —or Ofqual will inform the sector—about the arrangement for examinations this year. All ideas are being considered but, of course, when it comes to lengthening the school day, with the workforce working flat out at the moment, we have to consider all those issues when looking at initiatives to catch up.

Education: The Holocaust

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Wednesday 27th January 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, within the history, English and citizenship curriculums there is flexibility for schools to teach the matters outlined. They are inspected against producing a broad and balanced curriculum. As I am sure the noble Lord will be aware, characters such as Mary Seacole have had increasing prominence in the curriculum for key stages 1 and 2. The key stage 2 and 3 curriculums outline studying, for instance, a non-European society as a contrast, and it was encouraging to note that a Historical Association survey of teachers stated that there is increasing prominence of black British history.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the theme for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is “Be the light in the darkness”. It encourages everyone to reflect on the depths that humanity can sink to, and also the ways individuals and communities resisted that darkness to be the light during and after genocide. Schools are key in ensuring that young people understand history and the need to be more tolerant and respectful of those who are different. Five years ago, a House of Commons Education Committee inquiry into the provision of Holocaust education in schools noted that in many academies the Holocaust was not required to be taught because they do not follow the national curriculum, and urged the Government to take action. Can the Minister say what proportion of all schools now teach the lessons of the Holocaust?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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As I have outlined, the Holocaust is the only compulsory element of the national curriculum for history. The department does not have a role in inspecting schools to see how many schools are teaching a particular subject. That is a matter for Ofsted, which has a new excellence framework in education. Schools are inspected against the fact that they are teaching a broad and balanced curriculum, and of course schools need to teach the content that is outlined by awarding organisations for GCSEs and A-levels.

Educational Settings: Reopening

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Wednesday 27th January 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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Thank you. Parents are already struggling to juggle jobs and home schooling their children. They need support and an indication of a pathway out of school closures, and they deserve clarity from the Government as a matter of urgency.

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 pay tribute to the work of staff and parents who are home schooling, particularly those who still have to go to work but are not critical workers and therefore do not have a school place for their children. The JCVI is currently considering the vaccination of essential workers. This is unusual timing, in that the Prime Minister is due to make a Statement in about 15 minutes in the other place on Covid. I draw the noble Lord’s attention to that.

Covid-19: Early Years Sector

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Wednesday 20th January 2021

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, health visitors do essential work. The Government support the letter written by the chief nurse, which outlines that health visitors and other front-line health professionals should not be moved from those roles in this stage of the pandemic, to ensure that visits can be made to those vulnerable families. Since April 2020, it has been part of GPs’ contracts that they are to have an assessment with a mother six to eight weeks after the child is born.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, a survey carried out on behalf of the DfE last October into the effects of Covid-19 on childcare and early years providers showed that only 45% of private nurseries and 55% of childminders believed that they would be financially able to continue for another year. It simply cannot be right that the average gap between the hourly cost of delivering a funded two year-old’s place and the funding rate paid to settings for that place is £2 an hour—a 37% funding deficit. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Childcare and Early Education has called for the Government to commission an independent review of the costs of delivering childcare. Surely the Minister cannot deny that such a review is essential to safeguard the long-term viability of the sector.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, in the autumn and summer terms, the Government paid out the entitlements regardless of the number of children attending these settings. As attendance rose during the autumn, we gave notice to the sector that we were moving back to a per-child-attending basis of funding. Tomorrow is the census, when we will have an up-to-date picture of how many are in attendance in those settings. What is essential at the moment is that the department monitors the market and what is happening in this sector to be able to have the most up-to-date information on the sustainability of those settings, as the noble Lord quite rightly outlines.

Free School Meals: Food Parcels

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Thursday 14th January 2021

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to monitor the quality of food parcels currently being supplied to families in lieu of free school meals.

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, the images circulating of poor-quality food parcels are unacceptable. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education has met leading suppliers to insist on urgent action to ensure that parcels meet standards expected. We have guidance in place allowing schools to decide the best approach for supporting free school meal pupils; this can be through lunch parcels, locally arranged vouchers or the national voucher scheme, which will be up and running next week.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, it is a case of another week, another U-turn, this time resulting from the scandal of companies that supply free school meals parcels being exposed as profiteering. Perhaps the Minister will explain why the jointly prepared DfE guidance for the contents of food parcels, which is strikingly similar to the meagre items in parcels described as “disgraceful” by the Prime Minister, is still online. National food vouchers are to be reintroduced next week, two weeks after schools moved to remote learning. It seems that the Government’s own lockdown took them by surprise. It will be at least a week from today before parents can actually use the vouchers, so why will the Government not put their trust in families and give them the money for free school meals? Children are going hungry now, and any decent Government would know that they cannot wait.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con) [V]
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My Lords, the voucher scheme that the noble Lord outlines is one option that has been given to schools so that they can meet the needs of pupils who require food. It has been quite clear—my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and the Minister for Children and Families met the particular supplier and made it clear that those standards were not acceptable. We have given these options to schools so they can best meet the needs of their pupils, as they know them best. In fact, schools can re-register this week for the national voucher scheme, and vouchers will be redeemable as of Monday. We have left it to schools to choose the best means to deliver free school meals to their pupils.

Child Welfare

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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 noble Baroness may be aware that the DWP has a specific initiative to reduce parental conflict. When the Domestic Abuse Bill is before the House, I am sure noble Lords will make the needs and interests of children clear. We have been focused on this, particularly with schools, which are the second-largest referrers to the police, to ensure that local authorities have enough capacity for referrals to be made.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Minister says that the Secretary of State for Education is responsible for driving forward policy on children, yet, on the DfE website, the welfare of children is not listed under his responsibilities, although providing support for children is included under the responsibilities of the DWP’s Secretary of State. Does this not demonstrate the need for a cross-departmental approach to protect children’s welfare? Given her other role as Minister for Equalities, the Minister surely understands the benefits of overarching departmental responsibility. Without a Cabinet member responsible for the welfare of children, what new cross-government procedures will be introduced during the current lockdown to ensure that vulnerable children are protected from levels of abuse similar to those reported by the NSPCC during the spring lockdown?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the NSPCC’s role is very important at the moment. That is why we have ensured funding so that its helpline can exist. Within the structure of the Department for Education, the right honourable Member Vicky Ford is responsible for vulnerable children and children’s social care in policy terms. It is clearly a priority within the department, but I will take away the noble Lord’s comments about how things on our website are prioritised.

Schools: Exams

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Wednesday 6th January 2021

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure exams which were originally scheduled to take place in January can take place safely; and when they plan to publish alternative arrangements for exams which were scheduled to take place in the summer.

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, schools and colleges can continue with vocational and technical exams that are scheduled in January where they judge that it is right to do so. Students will not sit GCSE and A-level exams this summer. We are working closely with Ofqual to provide clarity on VTQ exams and assessments that are scheduled for later in the academic year. We and Ofqual will consult on how to award all pupils a grade to ensure that they can progress.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Government could not quite complete yet another 180-degree turn of the sort we have become all too familiar with in education policy, stopping short by leaving it to individual colleges to decide whether BTEC exams should go ahead this week. That inevitably means a patchwork system for BTEC students, who once again seem to be an afterthought for this Government, and is a further example of their lack of leadership. There should have been a plan B for the always-likely scenario now facing school and college exams. How will the Department for Education reassure students who were expecting to sit BTECs that they will not now lose out on university applications or other career opportunities, and how can a repeat of the uncertainty and stress caused to pupils and parents by the changes to last year’s GCSE and A-level exams be avoided?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, colleges have been given the discretion this month, because most of the content will have been learned. Seven awarding organisations had assessments planned for this month, and many of those assessments are required occupationally for people to progress, even into work, so it was important that colleges were given that discretion. We have encouraged this where career progression is dependent on the assessment. From February, the Ofqual consultation will consider all qualifications so that those who take qualifications other than A-levels and enter higher education will get a fair assessment of their grades. The noble Lord will be aware that UCAS has extended the window for applications this year by two weeks.

Covid-19: GCSE and A-level Exams

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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, I always welcome the opportunity for meetings and I hope that in the new year our meetings can be face to face rather than on Zoom. We are convinced that this set of adaptations and the fact that the exams have been delayed by three weeks will help those students who have been out of school the most. We cannot create a perfect situation, but we are confident that these adaptations will help those children the most.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Government have finally listened to calls from Labour, school leaders, trade unions and parents by setting out a plan for next year’s exams, but this really should have been in place months ago to give pupils, parents and schools the clarity they need. Significant numbers of pupils have been and will continue to be absent from school due to Covid-19, causing disruption to their education. Of course, the pattern across the country is uneven. This raises the spectre of these young people being examined on what they have not been taught rather than what they have been. What makes the Minister confident that the expert group announced today can ensure that such a damaging outcome is avoided?

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.

Children in Care: Unregulated Accommodation

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Tuesday 17th November 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, all these placements are for children looked after by local authorities, which, when they commission any placement, also have a duty to look at the safeguarding and at the provision in general. We have been clear that for under-16s this is not appropriate, because they need care and not only support. We will act to ban that practice so that it will no longer be able to take place. However, we need to recognise that we have more older children coming into the care system with complex needs. For certain children and young people over the age of 16, that is the appropriate placement to meet their needs, which should be paramount in any decision to place them.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the report by the Children’s Commissioner—a government appointee, it should be remembered—is a shocking indictment of the neglect found in the unregulated sector. Last year, the Office for National Statistics reported that 88% of 18 year-olds live with their parents, yet in February the Government issued a consultation on reforms to unregulated provision for children in care and care leavers, which, astonishingly, proposed that only children aged 15 and under should be offered placements that provide them with care. Why do the Government alone assume that 16 to 18 year-olds without parents are better able to look after themselves than their peers who have parents?

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.

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Monday 16th November 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Government have spent more than £340 million on food vouchers for those who needed free school meals while schools were closed. There has also been the recent announcement of £170 million for the Covid winter grant scheme, and 80% of that fund is reserved for food and bills for the most disadvantaged families. The money is to be distributed by local councils, not schools.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, I have to say that the Conservatives’ commitment to children’s rights is very much open to question, not least since 2018, when the post of Minister for Children and Families was downgraded from Minister of State to Under-Secretary level. The Government have refused to introduce a statutory obligation to conduct children’s rights impact assessments on all new legislation, despite being called on to do so by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2016 and the Government-appointed Children’s Commissioner in 2019. This Friday is UNICEF’s World Children’s Day. Would that not be a suitable occasion for the Government to announce a change of heart?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, as I outlined, the UK Government take seriously the input from the United Nations. Children’s rights impact assessments have been devised in accordance with the recommendation in 2016 and are valuable in enabling civil servants—who have also undergone training—to consider children’s rights in policy and legislation. So the recommendation has been enacted, but it will not be put on a statutory basis. We have taken other measures that were advised, such as updating in 2018 the statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children.

Carbon Emissions

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Monday 9th November 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, with the USA now poised to rejoin the world, there exists the real possibility of global leadership towards net-zero carbon emissions. The Prime Minister’s announcement at the Conservative Party conference last month was welcome in its ambition, but what is needed now is real action from the Government to begin creating a low-carbon skilled workforce to enable the UK to meet net-zero targets as soon as possible. Notwithstanding what the Minister said in response to my noble friend Lady Blackstone, will she accept that a low-carbon national skills strategy is now required, and can she say what proportion of the National Skills Fund’s £3 billion will be targeted specifically towards skills in low-carbon sectors?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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I can confirm to the noble Lord that obviously the low-carbon and net-zero commitments we have made are an essential part of the National Skills Fund. We will be having consultations on certain elements of that fund going forward. The fund does now give level 3 entitlements to every adult in the UK who does not have one, including courses such as sustainable resource management and, within the T-levels we have introduced for 16-year-olds, sustainability is part of one of the first three T-levels: construction. So this is being embedded in the strategy. This has the potential to create up to 2 million jobs—currently there are 460,000 jobs in low carbon—so the Government are going to take every opportunity they can to build this for our economy.

Qualifications

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Tuesday 3rd November 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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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.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, the Question from my noble friend Lord Haskel rightly calls for qualifications that are of value to both individuals and employers. The Minister may be aware of a report published yesterday by the University Partnerships Programme foundation, which shows that the Government’s commitment to a lifetime skills guarantee will not cover 75% to 80% of non-graduate workers who lose their jobs in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. That is because many non-graduates want higher-level training, rather than just a new level 3 qualification. Will the Government therefore consider a more flexible higher education loan system, which would reflect the clear desire of learners to access training at a higher level, with a view to responding to skills shortages in the economy?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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The noble Lord is correct that many in employment want to take a level 4 or 5 qualification. The Prime Minister announced that there will be a flexible lifetime loan entitlement, and that it should be as easy to get a loan to study a higher technical qualification as it is to get higher education funding. That is why the entitlement will be four years. We also recognise that those who have an undergraduate degree may want to do one year, and that levels 4 and 5 need be modular, so that they are flexible for people to train, if they have lost their jobs, or upskill, if they are in employment.

Free School Meals

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Tuesday 27th October 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the main way in which the Government fund, outside free school meals and breakfast clubs, is through the universal credit system. It may seem like a big figure—£9 billion—but that has meant an increase in universal credit or working tax credit of over £1,000, which is significant in addition to the increase in local housing allowance that has been given. When we look globally through the Anglican Communion we see that we are fortunate to live in a country that, while it is not perfect, does provide a welfare safety net for its citizens.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, in June, the Minister rebuffed my call for an extension of free school meal vouchers to cover the summer holidays, saying:

“There is support out there for those who need provision.”—[Official Report, 10/6/20; col. 1745.]


Days later, the Government U-turned, and the Minister explained that by saying:

“We have listened, we recognise the pressures that families will be under … due to the Covid crisis, and we have responded to that.”—[Official Report, 17/6/20; col. 2180.]


But lessons were not learned and today, despite the funding mentioned earlier by the Minister, children across the country are going hungry. During a pandemic, how can the most vulnerable children in our society not be a priority for support? Will the Minister now urge her Government to show compassion and agree to fund free school meals for all school holidays until spring 2021?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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I do apologise if the noble Lord felt rebuffed. But, as he will be aware, in addition to the support that has been given to disadvantaged children, there are now over 500,000 devices. So the needs of disadvantaged children are a priority for the Government, and £350 million of the catch-up fund is directed to disadvantaged children. In addition to that, although again it sounds like a big figure, we will never know how many children have avoided needing free school meals thanks to the £53 billion of taxpayers’ money that has been used to support businesses during this period, which paid for the furlough scheme and other schemes.

Covid-19: Catch-up Premium

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Monday 26th October 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, it spoke volumes about this Government’s attitude to poverty that last week their MPs were ordered to vote against a Labour motion to provide food vouchers for disadvantaged children during school holidays. Even the Secretary of State for Education and the Children’s Minister supported sending them into further hardship. With almost one-fifth of the school year completed, the Covid catch-up premium is barely under way, while the national tutoring programme—as the Minister confirmed a few moments ago—has not yet begun. How can parents and teachers have any confidence in the Government developing a properly funded long-term strategy to support disadvantaged pupils suffering from lockdown, when its short-term strategy is in such disarray?

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.

Covid-19: School Students Learning From Home

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Monday 5th October 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I could not agree more with the noble Lord that face-to-face tuition is, of course, the best for students. I am pleased to say that, as of 24 September, 88% of children were in school, so that is a remarkable feat. In relation to social mobility, that is why we have aimed £350 million, through a national tutoring programme, at the most disadvantaged to help them catch up.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, as my noble friend Lady McDonagh said, the coronavirus lockdown exposed the digital divide in education, with around three-quarters of a million disadvantaged young people missing schoolwork due to a lack of a computer or internet access at home. The Government’s announcement last week of 100,000 more laptops, welcome though it is, in that situation is really quite inadequate. Yet, seemingly oblivious to that point, last week the Government also announced that schools and colleges were to be given a new legal duty to provide online education to students at home on the same basis as in the classroom. Can the Minister say whether sanctions will be brought to bear on schools unable to fully deliver online education, even where that is as a result of the Government failing to provide adequate connectivity to students?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the direction is to provide remote education, and the announcement was a further 250,000 laptops, so 470,000 laptops have been delivered. It was to give certainty and assurance to parents in relation to the provision of remote education; a lot has been provided but sometimes it has not been consistent. There will obviously be supportive conversations to help schools deliver. We have also given thousands of schools the source of the platforms that they need and the training, through demonstrator schools, to enable them to do this, but there will be a supportive conversation if they are not meeting the requirements of the direction.

Education: A-level Results

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Wednesday 23rd September 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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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.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, the Secretary of State, the Department for Education and Ofqual were all warned by Cambridge Assessment of serious flaws in the grading of exams two weeks before A-level results were published, yet no action was taken. Much more seriously, the Royal Statistical Society has said that the issues with the algorithm could have been avoided had independent expert advice been taken. As far back as April, the society highlighted to Ofqual the problems coming down the road and suggested the establishment of an advisory panel involving independent statisticians to deal with them. Can the Minister explain to the hundreds of thousands of young people whose lives and education have been disrupted unnecessarily why that course of action was not taken?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, a member of the RSS was present on the expert advisory group at Ofqual, which I have already outlined. Ofqual tested 12 different models of the algorithm. During the algorithm’s development, there were various meetings between the department and Ofqual, and we were assured that any irregularities in its application could be put right through an appeals process. We responded when an issue arose in Scotland around its use of an algorithm.

Schools: Spending per Pupil

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Wednesday 23rd September 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies 2020 annual report on education spending in England: schools, published on 18 September, what plans they have to increase school spending per pupil.

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, we are investing more in schools over the next three years, starting with an additional £2.6 billion this year and rising to £7.1 billion by 2022-23, compared to 2019-20. This will ensure that per pupil funding for every school can rise at least in line with inflation this year, and faster than inflation for most. The IFS has said that this investment will near enough restore schools’ per pupil funding to previous levels in real terms.

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that Answer, but schools in England have suffered the most severe funding cut in 40 years, with the biggest brunt falling on secondary schools in areas with the lowest 20% of incomes. School spending has decreased by around £1,000 per pupil over the past 10 years, and even the extra £7.1 billion which the Minister just mentioned will not reverse those cuts; there will still be a 1% in gap in funding since 2010. I should say that 1% equates to around £500 million per year.

With the Covid catch-up fund due to be spread across all schools, regardless of disadvantage, I ask the Minister when the Government’s commitment to levelling up educational opportunity will be translated into a greater targeting of additional funding to schools in more deprived areas, and a real increase in funding per pupil.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the national funding formula obviously takes deprivation into account, and 18% of that formula—£6.2 billion—is aimed at disadvantaged students. That is in addition to any supplementary funding such as that for music hubs, which is also directed funding to free school meal areas. There is also, in the catch-up fund, the £350 million national tutoring programme, aimed at disadvantaged students. Some of the figures that the noble Lord outlines, in relation to schools in the most deprived areas, relate to the fact that the most deprived students are now spread across more areas of the country. That is why there has been a decrease in funding in some of the most deprived areas, because the most deprived students—for whom the funding is there—are spread more evenly across the country. Therefore, the funding formula has taken that into account.

Examinations: A-level and GCSE

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Tuesday 15th September 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the Minister for Higher Education, Michelle Donelan, has been meeting, at times daily, with a higher education task force. In relation to A-levels, there have been many fewer changes to the curriculum instructions issued by Ofqual. There have been changes to subjects such as music and drama because we recognise that those students must have the breadth of curriculum to progress to higher or further education. However, we are of course working on contingency plans. That is the stage that we are at at the moment, and I will take back those comments to the department.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, for exams in 2021 Ofqual is proposing that, in most subjects at GCSE and in all subjects at A-level, students will be expected to have covered the full course content, despite many having suffered significant losses to learning time this year when schools were closed. As a result, qualifications risk being seriously undermined by the fact that some students will have had access to all the content while others will not. Given the chaos of the past two months, I welcome the Minister’s acknowledgment in an answer a few moments ago of the need for a contingency plan. So will the Secretary of State agree to work with teachers and school leaders to develop a robust national system of moderated centre-assessed grades, should exams need to be suspended again nationally or locally next year?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the guidance put out by Ofqual outlined that schools should teach the breadth of the curriculum, but there have been changes to certain subjects, particularly at GCSE, where there are choices of topics—for instance, in English literature. There is no full requirement to do geography field trips because that is about saving time, and for public health reasons such trips might not be possible. However, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his suggestion, and it is one that I will formally take back to the department. This is the perfect time for this Question, so I will make sure that all suggestions are taken from the Chamber, and I hope that noble Lords will feel free to send any further suggestions to me.

Schools: Arts Teaching

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Wednesday 22nd July 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, the noble Lord is correct that teaching the national curriculum is not compulsory in the academies sector. However, Ofsted inspects all maintained and academy schools to the same standard of the broad and balanced curriculum; its inspection framework now includes whether children’s cultural capital is being improved. Ofsted judges all schools to the same standard.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, studies have shown that the arts can improve young people’s cognitive abilities and contribute to raising the—[Inaudible.]—particularly for children from lower-income backgrounds. The Secretary of State for Education seems to agree; two weeks ago he said that

“it is important that the curriculum is full, broad and balanced and includes the arts and humanities, sports and so much else”.—[Official Report, Commons, 2/7/20; col. 541.]

The guidance which the Minister just referred to contains similar aspirations. Can she explain how the Secretary of State believes this can be achieved while the Government maintain their policy of driving up the number of pupils sitting EBacc subjects, which narrow the curriculum?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, I hope I have got the tenor of the question—it was a bit difficult to hear. Although there have been fluctuations in the take-up of arts subjects at GCSE and A-level, over the last 10 years they have remained broadly stable. Any decrease in numbers was present before 2010, so it is not correct to link those fluctuations to the introduction of the EBacc. As I said, Ofsted inspects against a broad and balanced curriculum. It is important to remember that, although for students who want to specialise in arts subjects it is important to take the examinations, we fund specific initiatives to make sure that arts and music activities in particular are part of extra-curricular education for many more students than take examinations in those subjects.

Covid-19: Childcare Sector

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Tuesday 21st July 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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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.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Prime Minister has put parents in an impossible position by urging a return to work over the summer while failing to provide adequate support for childcare. [Inaudible] Working mothers will suffer particularly badly from the Government’s inaction. [Inaudible] Notwithstanding the early years entitlement continuation mentioned by the Minister, why have the Government not announced any additional funding targeting childcare providers since the onset of the pandemic?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, I am grateful for early notification of the noble Lord’s question because I had slight trouble hearing it. As I outlined, numerous support schemes have been available to this sector, which, as I said, is a number of small businesses. As of next month, the early years sector will be eligible for the kickstart fund, which is for paid provision of jobs for young people who might be at risk of being unemployed. The apprenticeship support that I outlined is also available for the early years sector. However, the major schemes that have been available to and taken up by the sector have been the business interruption loans, the job retention scheme, the bonus and other financial support that I outlined. These are businesses, so we have responded appropriately for the sector.

Employment: Young People

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Monday 20th July 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, the Government are using digital and traditional ways to promote the opportunities out there for young people. Many of the opportunities outlined in the skills recovery package are being promoted through jobcentres, and there is a £100 million fund for 18 and 19 year-old school and college leavers to study a high-value level 2 or level 3 if an employment apprenticeship or training opportunity is not available to them.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Resolution Foundation recently pointed out that the corona class of 2020, as it referred to it, could face years of reduced pay and limited job prospects, long after the current economic storm has passed, unless additional support is provided—and fast. Since March, entire year groups have missed out on university visits, work experience opportunities and, despite what the Minister said, much advice from careers leaders in schools. In preparation for a full return of pupils in September, school staff must have the funding and resources that they need to deliver that one-to-one support that enables young people to take advantage of the opportunities available to them after GCSEs. What additional support will the Government provide to schools to enable that to happen?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, the Government recently announced a £1 billion catch-up package, £650 million of which will go directly to schools. The formula for that funding was announced today. The noble Lord will also be aware of the £350 million for the national tutoring programme. It is of course essential that there are skilled professionals in schools. One of the three prongs of the Careers & Enterprise Company strategy is to train up career leaders—1,300 training bursaries have been given, with a further 650 bursaries, as we recognise that this is a particular area of expertise. We expect that some of the £32 million that was announced for the National Careers Service will also go on training and upskilling careers advisers.

Schools: Disadvantaged Pupils

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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, I pay tribute to the teachers, school leaders and all staff who have delivered education over this period. In addition to online provision, we must not forget that many schools have recognised that their students learn best with work packs and have been delivering those, in many circumstances, door to door. Although the online figures may highlight disparity, we need to take into account the fact that the educational offer has also been provided in more traditional ways, not just by way of online resources—but we are concerned about those regional imbalances.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, a few moments ago, the Minister said in response to my noble friend Lord Blunkett that the college sector is not seen as the poor relation with regard to 16 to 18 year-olds. Last Thursday, the Department for Education issued a press release announcing that, as part of the £350 million national tuition programme involving schools, 16 to 18 year-olds in colleges would be funded to receive extra help to address the learning they have lost due to Covid-19. Yet, just two hours later, the department issued another press release saying that, in fact, these young people were not included in the plans. Was that the result of a typo?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge [V]
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My Lords, the £1 billion package that has been announced is focused on schools. As I have outlined, there will be further support for the further education sector, but that sector is also involved with apprenticeship training; the Government have been clear that there will be guarantees to ensure that businesses can take on new apprentices, with a particular emphasis on small and medium-sized enterprises. There has been financial support to those providers, in addition to the further education sector which provides training for them. We have very clearly recognised that these young people are particularly vulnerable, and for those 15 year-olds who are in an AP setting, there is a specific sum of money to avoid them becoming not in education or training at this time.

Schools: Return of Students

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Tuesday 23rd June 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, the noble Lord is correct that it is not just about vulnerable children. There are those who head teachers will be aware have become vulnerable during this period; we have therefore always made school places open to those whom we call the otherwise vulnerable, which gives head teachers the discretion to offer school places. We have also funded Barnardo’s with £7 million to run a service called “See, Hear, Respond”, which is specifically aimed at reaching out to those children who are not in contact with statutory agencies but who we believe may need support at this time.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, last week schools and colleges in England were able to readmit students safely in their first year of studying for GCSEs and A-levels. Labour welcomes that, but we believe that the Government should have been much more ambitious. In Wales, every child will have some time in school before the summer holidays, allowing teachers to assess how their pupils have fared during school closures. Without that key information, valuable time would be lost when the new school year starts, as we all hope that it will in September. The Minister has just said that she is encouraging schools to have face-to-face time with their pupils. Why should parents in England have to accept lower expectations than those in Wales?

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.

Schools: Online Support for Pupils

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Thursday 18th June 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge [V]
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My Lords, Ofsted has currently suspended its routine inspections but is able to go into schools for safeguarding reasons. When Ofsted’s inspections begin again, it will inspect on the offer of recovery that schools are giving to children, including of course blended learning, but there will not be retrospective inspections of schools’ provision during this time.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I declare an interest as the parent of a year 4 child at a state school in London. It has provided excellent online resources for home-schooling but has been unable to offer face-to-face online teaching, as not all pupils have access to the necessary technology. Fortunately—in my case—it is not necessary to master year 4 maths to understand that the figures in the UCL report foretell long-term damage to life chances. Careers can be furloughed, but childhood and education cannot. In April, the Government promised to provide 200,000 devices to disadvantaged families. Very few have been delivered yet and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, said, four times that number are now required. When will the Government show the urgency needed to end the postcode lottery of the digital divide?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge [V]
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My Lords, the Government realise that, while we urgently wish all children to be back in school, it is subject to the scientific evidence at the moment. But it is good news that during the lockdown we have offered school places to all vulnerable children and those of critical workers. Those numbers are increasing dramatically: 47,000 children who are in contact with a social worker are now back in school, which is up from 37,000. However, we are looking at all the evidence base to help those children catch up and drawing on a specific pilot project that the Education Endowment Foundation ran with Sutton, NESTA and Impetus in relation to access to high-quality external tutoring. We will pilot that over the summer with 1,500 disadvantaged students. We take very seriously the need to assist schools to help these students catch up.

Covid-19 Summer Food Fund

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Wednesday 17th June 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge [V]
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My Lords, 1.3 million children will indeed benefit from the support given over the summer holiday. This is in addition to increases of over £1,000 per household for those who claim working tax credits or universal credit. So support is there and, as I outlined, there will also be holiday activity clubs to provide activity and food for children during the summer.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, seven days ago at Oral Questions, the Minister rebuffed my call for an extension of the free school meals voucher system to cover the summer holidays, saying:

“There is support out there for those who need provision.”—[Official Report, 10/6/20; col. 1745.]


A week is indeed a long time in politics. Can the Minister explain what changed in the interim, leading to the Government’s welcome about-face yesterday with the announcement of the Covid summer food fund for 1.3 million pupils in England?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge [V]
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My Lords, as I have outlined to other noble Lords, the Government keep decisions under review. We have listened, we recognise the pressures that families will be under this particular summer due to the Covid crisis, and we have responded to that. As I said, 1.3 million children will benefit; at £15, this payment is actually higher than the sums normally given to schools to provide free school meals. Schools are encouraged to make provision if they can during the holidays and to operate their food parcel system. If they cannot, the voucher system is available to children.

Free School Meal Vouchers Scheme

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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, I always take back representations made by noble Lords and will take that one back. As I have outlined, there has been an increase in support through the universal credit system and working tax credits. For those who are furloughed, the national living wage is more than £3,000 higher than in 2016, which affects the wages of those put on that scheme. We are concerned to ensure that households are able to make provision at the moment.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Children’s Society has highlighted how the cost of living has increased for families due to the pandemic, as more children are at home while parents’ earnings have often decreased, leaving many families struggling with the cost of food and other essentials. Demand for food banks has risen substantially, yet the Government think this is the time for yet more pressure for the millions of families across the country suffering financial hardship because of Covid-19 by withdrawing the free school meal vouchers scheme over the summer. With MPs from across the parties joining the call for the scheme to be extended to cover the summer holidays, this must surely be the Government’s next U-turn. If not, how does the Minister suggest parents should feed their children without the vouchers scheme during these immensely difficult times?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge [V]
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My Lords, as I have outlined, the vouchers scheme was in addition to the funding given to schools to provide free school meals on the premises. It has always been the position that free school meals provision was when schools were open, and it is not expected that schools will be open throughout the summer holiday. There has been a £6.5 billion injection into the DWP budget and more than 1 million food parcels have been distributed through Defra and other government departments. There is support out there for those who need provision.

Covid-19: Pre-school Sector

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Monday 8th June 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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The noble Baroness is correct that it is vital we ensure that disadvantaged children get the best start at this stage in early years so that they can fully access the curriculum when they enter mainstream school. We have invested £60 million over the last two years in specific initiatives to help the language and literacy development of young children, exemplified by the department’s Hungry Little Minds campaign, which saw over 180,000 new users at the start of lockdown.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Minister will be aware of reports last week of a survey carried out with the National Day Nurseries Association showing the stark reality of how Covid-19 will continue to impact on nurseries across England, even as they start to open their doors to more children. Three-quarters of nurseries have said that they expect to operate at a loss over the next three months. Without significant financial support, many will be unable to survive. Faced with the reality that millions of childcare places could be lost in this crisis, the National Day Nurseries Association has called on the Government to act now by introducing a recovery and transformation fund to help providers survive in this extremely challenging period. Labour supports that call. Does the Minister?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, as I have outlined, the £3 billion of planned entitlements will be paid this year. The sector has been able to access a number of the schemes outlined by the Chancellor to support small businesses, which is what this sector mainly comprises. We continue to monitor the sustainability of the sector on the basis of data from local authorities.

Covid-19: Schools

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Wednesday 3rd June 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, the noble Baroness is correct that about 15% of vulnerable children were in school at the end of that half-term and the numbers had been rising. On the provision of laptops, for those who do not have connectivity they will come with 4G wireless to try to get over some of those issues. All schools have been offered free expert technical help to enable them to access Google Classroom or Microsoft 365 Education, but of course we have also worked closely with the BBC for those children whose only access might be through the television. BBC Bitesize has been hugely successful, with more than 2 million households visiting that service in the first two weeks. In discussions with leaders of academy trusts, it is clear that many teachers and support staff have been delivering printed worksheets to students to ensure that they can access education.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, if there has been any upside to this crisis, it is perhaps the newfound concern of many in the Conservative Party for disadvantaged pupils. I do not include the Minister in that category, but it has become clear that the demotivating terminology—[Inaudible.] It is surely not a positive approach. We agree with the Children’s Commissioner that—[Inaudible.] Will the Minister say what additional support the Government will provide to schools to enable that to happen? What efforts will be made to encourage schools in the independent sector to allow access to their premises and resources over the summer?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, I did not catch all the detail of that question, but I believe the noble Lord was asking what support we can give schools during the summer. We are specifically looking to see what interventions we can make, including interventions particularly targeted at disadvantaged young people, and I can assure him that this is a focus; the attainment gap is so important for those young people. I am pleased to tell him that holiday clubs, which are so vital to disadvantaged young people because they also provide food during the school holidays, will take place this summer and a further £9 million of funding has been given to that initiative. I apologise if I missed some of the detail of that question.

Covid-19: Schools

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Wednesday 20th May 2020

(2 years ago)

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply, but I have to say that it is somewhat vague. This is National Thank a Teacher Day: a national campaign to record our gratitude to teachers and school support staff. This year, it also embraces the millions of parents and carers thrust into the role of temporary teachers during school closures. The Minister will have seen today that various local authorities across England are now advising schools in their area not to open. With Public Health England having said that R values vary across different regions, it is difficult to understand the logic of the Government’s decision that schools should reopen nationwide on 1 June. Will the Minister reveal to noble Lords what the Government’s scientific evidence says about reopening schools in communities which have an R value that is closer to 1 than the average?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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I join the noble Lord in thanking all of our teachers and draw attention to the fact that 80% of education settings are open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. I applaud their hard work. The R rate is not broken down regionally and is not published in that form. It is a UK-wide estimate range which is published each week. The individual modelling groups include epidemiological information on the intensive care unit rate of admissions, the death rate and the rate of hospital admissions. It is an average value that can vary across communities, but it is not published on a regional basis.

Covid-19: Schools

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Thursday 14th May 2020

(2 years ago)

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, we all want schools to reopen and children’s education to resume, but the primary consideration before that can happen has to be the safety of pupils, their families and all staff. Yesterday, in the Commons Science and Technology Committee, the Department for Education’s own chief scientific adviser revealed that he had not made an assessment of plans to begin reopening English schools from 1 June and had not been asked to. So much for the Government’s mantra about following the science. Does the Minister now accept that instead of asking schools to implement a hasty and unrealistic return by a specific date, they should be asked to meet certain conditions that, when completed, would signal that it was safe to reopen—a subtle but important change of focus?

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, it has always been made clear that the decision to reopen schools on 1 June is contingent on five tests being satisfied, including a decrease in transmission of the disease, and that once schools reopen there is a hierarchy of controls for them to put in place to lower the rate of transmission of the disease. It has been made clear by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State in the other place yesterday that the opening date on 1 June is anticipated on the basis of the scientific evidence, but matters are under constant review.

Schools: Relationships and Sex Education

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Tuesday 12th May 2020

(2 years ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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Yes, indeed, the attitude of the department is to embed SEND in every strand of the RSHE work, and we are working closely with the Sex Education Forum and NASEN to ensure that. We have also employed SEND experts to help with the development of the curriculum so that there will be specific resources in the school support package that I have outlined to assist teachers, most of whom have a child with SEND in their classroom.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, the guidance issued by the Department for Education last year stated that relationships and sex education should be

“part of the basic school curriculum … which allows schools flexibility in developing their planned programme”.

But last week the Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, stated that the department was giving due consideration to the implementation of the statutory relationships and sex education curriculum in the context of Covid-19. That suggested the possibility that implementation could be delayed due to the coronavirus, even if schools have returned by September. What process of due consideration was the Minister referring to and what additional support will the Government explore to ensure that RSE can be taught online if schools have not returned by September?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, as the right reverend Prelate outlined, parents are required to be consulted as part of the process before a school introduces its policy to teach these subjects. I reiterate that we are prioritising operational discussions in relation to the curriculum and I will keep the House updated on any further developments.

Children in Care

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Thursday 30th April 2020

(2 years ago)

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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 interests of vulnerable children are this Government’s top priority. The recent changes to secondary legislation are intended to help children’s social care to respond to this unprecedented situation. We have not changed the overarching responsibilities for the protection of vulnerable children. The measures, which are to be used only when absolutely necessary, will help to maintain safeguards while providing services with additional flexibility, allowing them to focus on those children needing the most support.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her response, but it does not square with the clear impression within the child care sector. At this time of national crisis, it should be expected that the Government would seek to ensure the protection of every child in care by strengthening safeguards, not removing them. Yet through these regulations, the Government have decided to weaken the support offered to some of the country’s most vulnerable children. No evidence has been produced to back up the Government’s claim that changes to existing regulations are in response to the pressures of lockdown. There has been no statement from the Government about the proportionality of the changes or how they sit beside human rights law and obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Can the noble Baroness point to any new protections for children resulting from these regulations?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, these regulations are intended to be a temporary measure to enable the limited flexibility that local authorities need at this time so that, where there are limited resources in some circumstances, services can be directed to ensure that the children most in need get the support that they need. To give an example, we hope that extending the time that a local authority has to respond to an Ofsted inspection from 70 days to when is “reasonably practicable” will be used by some local authorities to ensure that front-line services are maintained.

Higher and Further Education: Rural and Coastal Areas

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Wednesday 18th March 2020

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question on the Order Paper in the name of my noble friend Lord Bassam of Brighton, who is in precautionary self-isolation.

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, we want everyone to benefit from a fair chance, and no part of the country should be left behind. Anyone with the potential to succeed should have the opportunity to benefit from high-quality university education, regardless of their age, background or, importantly, the part of the country they grew up in. We plan to expand technical and vocational provision at higher levels through the institutes of technology, of which there will be 20 spread across all regions of England.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response, because there are a significant number of further and higher education cold spots in England, including coastal regions in the east and north and rural areas of the south-west. According to the Social Mobility Commission, those areas have little or no sixth-form provision within a commutable distance, which—predictably—means they have significantly lower percentages of pupils than the national average going on to higher education. That is leading to a poorer qualified, less well-trained, lower aspiration workforce in these areas. Will she explain what additional sustainable support the Government will provide for further and higher education institutions in the seaside towns and other left-behind parts of the country, to redress the education inequalities they experience?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, the Social Mobility Commission made mention of the Government’s opportunity areas. That programme has been extended; there will now be a total of £90 million. Many of those areas, including Blackpool, Hastings and Whitby, are part of that programme. We are pleased to know that that programme is also in Opportunity North East, where there is specific funding. A number of factors affect access to the best education provision, and we are particularly looking at the transport offer. A discounted rail ticket has been introduced for 16 and 17 year-olds. From 2021, apprentices and jobseekers will benefit from discounted bus travel as well.

Children: Special Educational Needs

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Tuesday 17th March 2020

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, I endorse the concerns expressed by my noble friend Lord Blunkett, but there is a more immediate issue as far as special educational needs are concerned. It can surely be only a matter of time now before all schools in England are closed. When that happens, the effects will be widespread across the country but for SEND children and their families, the impact will be profound. What planning are the Government undertaking with a view to ensuring that the vital support that SEND children and their families rely on will be prioritised in the weeks and months ahead? Will local authorities and other agencies be properly funded to enable them to deliver it?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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I am grateful to the noble Lord. Obviously, within priorities at the moment the most vulnerable group at risk has been that of older people; but, as of last night’s guidance, there was reference to those young people with specific medical conditions, such as severe asthma or cystic fibrosis. They will be contacted directly by the NHS. But we are acutely aware that there are groups of young people, particularly within the SEND population—for instance, those in special residential schools—where there are implications in having any kind of household-type isolation. There are also profound implications for the families; those children are in residential special provision for very good reasons. As we completely realise, it is not as simple as saying “You now need to go home”, so that guidance is being worked on as well.

Apprenticeships: Gender Segregation

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Wednesday 11th March 2020

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My noble friend is correct that there is much more to be done to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises. That is why the larger levy paying firms can now spend 25% of that levy down their supply chain with subcontractors and can use their corporate social responsibility to indicate to those subcontractors the diversity requirement. The £3 billion national skills fund concerns adult education, but I will take that back to my department.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, surely the fact that two-thirds of female apprenticeships are concentrated in just five sectors of the economy, with more than 25% in health and social care alone—I echo the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lilley—is a reflection more on the stereotypical behaviour of schools and colleges regarding career paths rather than any prejudice among employers? Last year, the Augar review warned of weaknesses in the provision of guidance and of school examination advice. It suggested that the Government’s career strategy should be rolled out across the whole country so that every school would have access to a careers hub, with young people getting meaningful careers activities and meetings with employers. Can the Minister say what the Government plan to do regarding the Augar recommendations?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
- Hansard - -

On the Augar recommendations, I believe that the timetable is for later on this year, in the autumn, with the spending review. However, it is correct that we need to challenge those stereotypes from a young age, which is why we have given £2 million to go down even to primary school level to undo those stereotypes. The noble Lord is correct, but we also need to undo the stereotypes and encourage men to go into sectors such as education that are overrepresented by women. We have also been funding the Fatherhood Institute to ensure that that happens. Further, we have trained teachers through the ASK project so that those who do not have experience of apprenticeships can promote them to their students.

Education: Gender Equality

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Tuesday 10th March 2020

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising that issue. Yes, our standards across schools are aimed at raising the aspirations of all groups, and there are a number of projects, from raising professional qualifications to enhancing the skills of schools in disadvantaged areas to ensure that they are able to attract the best teachers. Our information about that cohort, which probably attracts the pupil premium, is that schools are best advised to invest in teacher quality.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Last week, the United Nations Development Programme published its Gender Social Norms Index, an analysis of 75 countries that showed the shocking extent to which there has been a pushback against women’s rights globally. It was revealed that 91% of men and even 86% of women hold a bias against women in areas such as politics, education, violence and reproductive health. Of those countries, only six had a majority of the population who held no bias against women—and the UK was not one of them.

So I ask the noble Baroness, both in her role as Education Minister and in her role as Equalities Minister: the United Nations has called on Governments to introduce legislation and policies designed to address ingrained prejudice. Does she really believe that mere guidance, rather than a statutory obligation to teach gender equality, will address that ingrained prejudice?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
- Hansard - -

There is, obviously, the Equality Act and the public sector equality duty, so we are not without statutory force in this area. The content of the curriculum is not covered by the Equality Act, but the manner in which it is taught is part of the inclusion framework within Ofsted—so there are tools, including statutory ones, that are used to ensure that our schools are promoting gender equality and breaking down stereotypes, particularly through careers education, even into primary schools now, so that, from the earliest age, children and young people understand that every job is open to them.

Apprenticeship Levy

Debate between Baroness Berridge and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Tuesday 28th January 2020

(2 years, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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The noble Lord raises an important point. Bringing small and medium-sized enterprises into the apprenticeship service, which is part of GOV.UK, should enable the lessening of bureaucracy and allow small employers to get hold of the training they need. The specific change will be that they will not be governed by the contracts given; they can choose exactly which provider they want to use. Then there is a simple apprenticeship agreement between the training provider, the firm and the apprentice, setting out everyone’s obligations.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I raised this issue with the Minister’s predecessor—without success, but we have a new year, new Minister and new Government, so let us see. Under the co-investment rule associated with the levy, the 10% that small businesses are obliged to pay towards the cost of apprenticeships dissuades many from accessing levy funds. Can the noble Baroness say whether the Government will now consider piloting the suspension of that co-investment so that small businesses can play their full part in maximising the number of apprenticeships made available?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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The noble Lord is trying me and I hope I will not be found wanting. The 10% co-investment fee has been reduced to 5%, which I hope will solve some of the issues. Also, if very small employers of less than 50 employees take on specific vulnerable or disadvantaged groups, such as 16 to 18 year-olds or 19 to 24 year- olds who are care leavers, the entire cost of the training is paid. They do not have to contribute anything.