Examination of Witness (Questions 140
WEDNESDAY 7 NOVEMBER 2001
140. Is there an increase in the allocation
for the staffing as necessary?
(Baroness Ashton of Upholland) There is. I am fighting
very hard for the figure which I cannot find, of course. I take
your point and the point you are making is that this is a resource
intensive area, and I accept that. On the code, the reason that
we put the code back, in terms of quantification, to where it
was before, we have not made a change, was because I received
a large number of letters from parents and you as Members of Parliamentmaybe
not you specifically but Members of Parliamentand Members
of the Lords made representations and, therefore, because it was
my area and with the support of the Secretary of State I withdrew
the Code in July in order to reflect on it. I have subsequently
made some very small changes to tidy it up and the specific change
of reverting back. It is not my intention that the Code should
in any way suggest to parents that we have anything other than
their interest and their children's at heart. That is the first
thing to say. In terms of the resources, yes we are going to have
to keep a very careful eye on resources. Yes, we do want local
education authorities to think very carefully about the quality
and quantity of support. We recognise that we are going to have
to keep those two things very firmly in our view.
141. Can I just ask one other thing on the code.
One of the most common complaints from parents also is the time
taken to get a statement for their child because of the bureaucratic
processes to go through. I noticed in your speech in the Lords
the other night you referred specifically to the reduction of
bureaucracy that would be brought about by the introduction of
the code. Can you tell us exactly which parts of the bureaucratic
processes will now be slimmed down and is this going to lead to
a speeding up of the timescale which it takes to complete the
(Baroness Ashton of Upholland) I fear
it will take me too long to go through the detail and I do not
have it to hand so I will give it to you and make sure that it
is sent. There are different parts of the code where that applies.
The purpose overall is to take out the bureaucratic machinery,
things that do not matter, and make sure that assessments are
done as quickly as possible and statements are published and those
are very clear guidelines within the code.
142. Are there any targets for the timescale
to complete a statement?
(Baroness Ashton of Upholland) I believe we have put
some detail in that but I cannot actually recall precisely the
details of the number of weeks but I will send that to you.
143. Minister, what will concern this Committee
is what is the correlation between special educational needs and
statements and perhaps postal code deprived areas. Many of us
represent areas where we are amazed to see more statements arrive
from the more affluent parents of the constituency and not from
the more deprived. Is there not a level at which special educational
needs statements are actually used by more motivated parents to
get special resources for their child and very often they are
not the children who need their help? Is there any evidence that
statementing is higher in more affluent postal code areas and
lower in less affluent postal code areas?
(Baroness Ashton of Upholland) Not that I have seen
but remember statementing is for very particular kinds of special
educational needs. There are lots of children who have special
educational needs who do not have statements and, therefore, the
interesting fact would be to look at areas of deprivation on a
number of children in schools who are on the special educational
needs register. Where children have statements it is often because
they have quite complex needs and that actually does not follow
necessarily areas of deprivation. You have to be a bit cautious
about what you are looking at. What I do know is that parents
will say some LEAs are more reluctant to provide statements and
we are putting huge pressure to make sure that with the code you
cannot have blanket policies any more, you cannot refuse a statement
where it is obvious it should be and bring professionals in to
144. What is Professor Lesley Abbott from Manchester
Metropolitan University doing? I think she is doing something
between 0 and three. It is supposed to be a curriculum for the
under threes but we were slapped on the wrist by your colleague,
Stephen Timms, for using that term. What is the role of Lesley
(Baroness Ashton of Upholland) Lesley Abbott is not
one of my advisers so I cannot comment.
145. According to your colleague, Stephen Timms,
Professor Lesley Abbott has undertaken quite a lot of work for
the DfES for 0 to three year olds which Stephen Timms described
as a framework of effective practice rather than a curriculum.
Is that not a bit worrying if you have been left out of the loop?
(Baroness Ashton of Upholland) No, it is not worrying
at all. The Department has got a long tradition of bringing in
people from outside to talk to them and advise officials. There
are lots and lots of people all the time coming in and, like yourself,
we are not the font of knowledge. They are not ministerial advisers.
I am sure that whatever work is going on will reach me but I would
not necessarily know precisely who is coming in to advise my officials.
That is quite within their remits, they are enabled to do that,
that is fine by me.
Chairman: Kerry, would you like to ask the last
question as you are the Minister's Member of Parliament.
146. Minister, you know as well as I do the
huge responsibilities that school governors have got and the massive
voluntary effort they put in. What steps are you taking to recruit
suitable governors, enthuse them and fire them up so they do the
(Baroness Ashton of Upholland) We are just developing
a new recruitment campaign and I have been out talking to groups
of governors throughout the country both about our consultation
on making sure that they have less bureaucracy to deal with and
providing the strategic frame, i.e they steer not row, to put
it succinctly, which has been a problem in recruitment. What they
say to me, and what I am very clear about, is that the best recruiters
of governors are governors themselves and we do not do enough
to encourage and support them to stand up in the school assembliesand
I never did it as a chair of governorsand say "I am
a governor, this is why it is really good to be a governor".
I have challenged them all to think about ways in which they could
do that. We are going to design a campaign that is going to be
very school focussed, helping them to recruit the governors of
147. Minister, can I thank you for the long
time you have been answering our questions. Can I say that I hope
you did not see it as a kind of indoctrination of fire but as
a positive experience and we hope to see you at the very least
in a year's time.
(Baroness Ashton of Upholland) Thank you. I look forward
to it. I will be better then, I will know more.
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