Register of Home-educated Children

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Wednesday 21st July 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the Government are clear that many parents provide elective home education and do it extremely well. The outcomes for their children are excellent, including for many children with special educational needs and disabilities. However, in the consultation it was clear that we need the data to find out where certain children are being electively home educated.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I am disappointed that the Minister was unable to give a timeframe for the register. In the meantime, is any work being done to assess the extent to which fundamentalist religious parents, in particular, are preventing their children receiving appropriate education and, indeed, teaching in English?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, as I have outlined, every parent, regardless of their religious persuasion, has a duty to ensure that their child receives a suitable education. If a parent removes their child from school—and obviously during Covid we have seen a lot of movement of people and removal from the school roll—we have strengthened the regulations so that head teachers have to inform the local authority and have a specific ground for removing a child from a school roll.

Child Welfare

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Thursday 7th January 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, in relation to certain matters such as care leavers, there is a formal cross-ministerial group, but I assure noble Lords that the processes are not ad hoc. There are procedures across Whitehall to ensure that policy-making is coherent. The Government also now applies the family test to policy-making. We also must not forget as well that one of the key things we need to focus on is that schools are now closed for most pupils, and that is one of the best protective factors for our children and is why vulnerable children and those of critical workers are, I hope, currently in school.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I support the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza. Of all Bills with relevance to children, surely the Domestic Abuse Bill should have their interests high on its agenda, yet they are hardly mentioned. I think I found three mentions in the Bill. Does the Minister agree that a Cabinet-level Minister for children would have ensured that children’s interests are fully reflected in this incredibly important Bill?

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.

Apprenticeships (Alternative English Completion Conditions and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Monday 12th October 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, I applaud the many interventions that the Government have made to support young people to get jobs. I want to raise just one concern about these regulations. They seek to ameliorate the effects of the Covid-19 epidemic on young apprentices. This is certainly a laudable objective. Inevitably, many will be made redundant while undertaking their apprenticeships but, under the regulations, as others have mentioned, if they have completed 75% of their apprenticeship, they will be enabled to complete it without any specified time for doing so. The Minister explained that apprentices made redundant before achieving the 75% bar will receive a statement setting out the skills that they have obtained up to that point, but can it be justified to help those who have completed 75% of their apprenticeship to complete it but to provide no help for those who have done a little less than 75% to complete theirs? I understood from the Minister that they will get a document saying that they have achieved certain skills, but that is nothing like an ability to carry on with the work that they have started on that apprenticeship to gain a qualification and real opportunities to work.

Regulation 3, by amending Regulation 6 of the 2017 regulations, also applies the high 75% bar to apprentices who have more than six months of their practice period left to run and who need an alternative English apprenticeship when their approved English apprenticeship is terminated early by reason of redundancy. Again, why in these cases does the provision apply only to those who have completed 75% of their apprenticeship? The same Covid impact applies equally to those made redundant at an earlier stage. I presume that this is driven by cost—though I may of course be wrong—but is saving money really the right priority when the Government have rightly suggested that helping young people to obtain work is a high priority? Indeed, the Minister mentioned that apprenticeships will play an important role in meeting that objective for young people.

Schools and Colleges: Qualification Results and Full Opening

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd September 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

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

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I, too, welcome children’s return to school. But I rise to express my considerable concern about parents with severe underlying conditions, who received letters from the department earlier this year warning them not to leave their homes because they were at such risk from Covid-19. These parents are now risking their lives to send their children back to school. The Minister mentioned that there will be a small number of home test kits for anyone who develops symptoms. What plans do the Government have to provide home test kits to enable daily testing of children of the most vulnerable parents? These kits would need a rapid return of results—ideally, within about 10 minutes. Only then could these families hope to continue to lead normal lives. I think this is urgent.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, it is my understanding that, although people received those letters earlier in the year, shielding ended on 1 August. In relation to the test kits, there are initially 10 per school for school leaders to distribute to families or support staff who might have difficulty accessing a test either by post or by attending one of the mobile centres. Test results should be received within 24 hours and unfortunately not within the 10 minutes the noble Baroness suggested.

Covid-19: Schools

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Wednesday 20th May 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, the Secretary of State outlined that the evidence will be published. As I have said, the latest updates from SAGE have been published; the latest was on 5 May. We are committed to transparency and enabling access to the evidence on which we rely. On that evidence, Public Health England’s guidance to us is that there can be a hierarchy of controls in schools, beginning with nobody symptomatic being in schools. Once those controls are in place, we can substantially reduce the risk of transmission in education settings.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, Germany closed its schools within three weeks of its first case being identified. This and its very early “test, trace and isolate” strategy appear to account for its remarkable success in controlling deaths from Covid. Does the Minister agree that schools should reopen only in areas with a capacity to test, trace and isolate absolutely fully across the community, so that if a child in a school is identified as having Covid, the school could close for 14 days, then reopen and press on with its wonderful work?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, we are seeking to learn from the experience of other countries but this is a disease and it is affecting populations in different ways so we will be introducing a track, trace and test system in the UK that is specific to our community and to the NHS. Indeed, if any child or staff member becomes symptomatic they are to go home and isolate for seven days, and they and their families will be able to get a test. If that proves positive then, with the reduced class sizes of 15 who are not intermingling in the school, or at least not intermingling as much as possible, the disease can be contained. If there is an outbreak within a particular setting, the Public Health England local health planning scheme will be advising schools on that issue.