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Earl Howe: My Lords, that was a very helpful and sympathetic reply for which I am grateful. I was particularly grateful for the powerful points made by the noble Baroness, Lady David, and for the support given by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. The remarks of the right reverend Prelate on continuity and trust were extremely wise and helpful.
Nevertheless, as regards Amendment No. 101B within the context of statutory guidance, I recognise that the Minister has moved in my direction. In fact, I suspect that she may not have moved at all, and that the guidance would have contained the provision in any case. But I recognise the force of the point that she madethat the proposal is as near to being a legal requirement as it is possible for it to be, while remaining in the scope of some flexibility.
As for Amendment No. 103, my fear is that when a child protection process is under way, a Section 17 assessment is quite often not doneit is bypassed. In those circumstances, it would not be incumbent on a local authority to ascertain the wishes and views of a child. However, I shall reflect carefully on the Minister's remarks about malicious allegations, as it seems to me that she has a real point in that regard. I shall think the matter through. If need be, I may return to Amendment No. 103 on Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 102, is supported by Barnardo's, the Children's Society, the Howard League for Penal Reform, NACRO and the National Association for Youth Justice. The purpose of the amendment is two-fold. First, it is to ensure that the Prison Service is under a duty to provide education to children in the secure estate and, secondly, to ensure that the Prison Service is under a duty to promote the educational attainment of children in the secure estate.
(4)Throughout the Bill, there is a very welcome emphasis on including children in the secure estate through the membership of the governor of any prison or secure training centre on the local safeguarding
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children board, the arrangements to safeguard and promote welfare and inspection, and now the inclusion of youth offending teams in Clauses 6 and 9, thanks to the Government's concession, which is most welcome. This new clause extends this to cover the education of children in the secure estate.
Children in the secure estate have very low levels of educational attainment. Recent research shows that children of school age had literacy and numeracy levels below the age of 11 and over a quarter of them had levels equivalent to or lower than those of the average 7 year-old. We also know that educational standards have an impact on rates of reoffending. Children who offend are often those who are truanting because they are totally disengaged from their schooling. Young offender institutions are required to provide 30 hours of purposeful activity a week, of which 15 must be education if the child is under school-leaving age. However, this is not enshrined in any legislation and does not have to conform to the national curriculum. A joint report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales and the Office for Standards in Education, A Second ChanceA Review of Education and Supporting Arrangements within Units for Juveniles managed by HM Prison Service, found:
Let me also mention the Audit Commission report, Youth Justice 2004. This review of the reformed youth justice system found that the educational problems of serious and persistent young offenders are significant. Over half of the young people entering custody, most of whom are over 15, have a reading age of below the level of an average 11 year-old. Nine out of 10 young offenders in one particular secure training centre were found to have missed significant periods of education. The report also found that returning to full-time education can help young people to stop reoffending. According to one study, none of those who had full-time education immediately after they were released back into the community on a detention training order were reconvicted whereas one-third of those without such immediate provision were reconvicted. So this is obviously a very welcome development.
A Second Chance found that the establishments were struggling to meet even the bare minimum standards in education. My own conversations with prison education officers confirm this. The report particularly noted that tailored education plans and special educational provision were poor, although some patches of excellent practice showed that a huge difference can be made in the lives of these children through effective education. There are indeed many inspiring education officers in our prisons, to whom I pay great tribute. Over a quarter of the observed teaching sessions were deemed to be less than satisfactory. One in four is a very large proportion. Vocational training and so-called "friendly behaviour courses" were particularly poor and education staff rarely attended initial training plan conferences so,
Dyslexia screening was carried out in some, but not all, of the establishments. There was little other special educational input. We all know how commonplace dyslexia is. Years ago, nobody knew what it was. Now we know that a very large number of children suffer from it to some extent. Noble Lords will know how many young offenders have special needs or have been excluded from school.
Children have very limited opportunities to pursue higher level qualifications. The inspectorate was particularly concerned about the impoverished education of unsentenced children on remand and of those who are serving short sentences. The report found that the average spent on education for an under 18 year-old in a young offender institution was £1,810, compared with £16,000 for a child in a secure training centre. It is an enormous difference. In a survey conducted as part of the study, it was found that 73 per cent of surveyed children in custody described their educational achievements as nil, and that 42 and 36 per cent of the very large sample had, respectively, numeracy and reading abilities of a seven year-old child or younger. There is an enormous amount of evidence.
The report drew attention to a number of key issues including the need to ensure that, on sentence, young people are offered a regime of comparable quality to that of the sentenced population; the need to improve the quality of information on the asset form relating to educational background and prior attainment; and the need to improve the quality of initial educational needs assessment, to ensure that learners are placed in suitable provision. The report made six other very important and major recommendations but I shall not go into them at this late hour.
I conclude by mentioning the report on the application of the Children Act 1989 to children in young offender institutionsa report by the Association of Directors of Social Services, the Local Government Association and the Youth Justice Board backed up with the findings of the other reports I mentioned about poor levels of literacy and numeracy. It also found that between one quarter and one third of juvenile prisoners had no educational training available to them immediately prior to custody. In another survey, 84 per cent of young people interviewed claimed to have had periods of exclusion from school and 86 per cent to have truanted.
(13)None of your Lordships will find any of those statistics new; they are all very common knowledge. But it is for those reasons that I recommend our amendment to your Lordships. I think that this amendment is vitally important for the sake of each young life that is ruined by finding itself in the secure estate. It is important, too, for the future life chances of these youngsters; and, of course, for those against whom they may commit more crimes in future if their educational attainment is not addressed. I think that this is a most important amendment. This Bill is a very suitable vehicle for it. I hope that the amendment will receive a fair wind by the Government. I beg to move.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and the noble Lord,
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Lord Dholakia, on devising and bringing forward this amendment. Experience clearly shows that the reason why a large proportion of young people become involved in crime is that they are virtually unemployable. They have missed out totally on the benefit they should have derived from the school system.
The noble Baroness mentioned special needs in this particular group of people and I am glad that she did. It seems to me that remedial education is what is needed while people are in custody rather than the national curriculum. There is also a real need for continuity of educational provision after people have served their sentences and been released. Could the Minister draw that to the attention of her department, and could she also encourage her department to be in touch with the Home Office so that educational provision, particularly for young people, is not the first thing to suffer when there is a financial shortage?
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