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The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux): My Lords, we have done as much as we can to make more room for your Lordships by providing smaller chairs. That is all that we can do. If noble Lords consider that it becomes too hot in this Room, I shall allow them to take off their jackets if they so wish. It is the Chairman's prerogative. If there is a Division in the Chamber, I shall ask the noble Lord who is speaking at the time to cease speaking and we will resume after 10 minutes.
I thank the Minister for the letter that I received today following our debates on Thursday. I particularly welcome the pilot to which he referred that allows children to apply in their own right to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, with the possibility of that being extended across the country. He also referred to the possibility of regulations to allow them to appeal in their own name to the independent review tribunals when they come into force, and which we are about to debate. I should point out, however, that it would be discriminatory if children were not allowed to appeal.
I and others have been very troubled by the proposed changes to the right of appeal against exclusions. None of us wants to undermine the authority of head teachers and we understand their concerns. However, the fact that some appeals succeed indicates that not all decisions to exclude are correct. The effects of an exclusion on the life of a child are so extreme that it is vital to get these decisions right. I appreciate the Government's attempt to put some sort of appeal in place in the form of the independent review panels but, frankly, that is not really good enough. I believe that if the appeals go to the right body with the right powers, expertise and experience, all will be well and justice will be done.
These amendments remove the education review panels created by the Bill and replace them with the right for all excluded pupils to appeal against permanent
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The new review panels will not have the power to direct reinstatement. They will have less scope within which to operate and make decisions, but the nature of those decisions will be increasingly complex because they will have to decide whether the governing body's decision was flawed in the light of the principles of judicial review. The Joint Committee on Human Rights and the AJTC have concluded that this does not provide adequate access to a fair and independent tribunal or an adequate remedy, and is contrary to Articles 6 and 13 of the ECHR.
There are many unanswered questions, including how the recommendation or direction to review will operate and the consequences of a governing body not complying with a recommendation or reaching the same decision to exclude again, following a direction to review. What happens to the pupil? Do they get another appeal? What timescales will operate and how do budgets cope with these additional procedures, especially given the additional powers given to the review panels to adjust school budgets, following a permanent exclusion?
One might ask: does the right of access to a court or tribunal apply to school exclusions? The Government state that it does not because of R (on the application of LG) v Independent Panel for Tom Hood School, decided in February 2010, which found that exclusion is not determinative of a civil right to which Article 6 applies, and Simpson v UK, which found that Article 6 does not apply to educational disputes. However, in Oršuš and Others v Croatia, decided a month later in March 2010, the European Court of Human Rights stated that Simpson v UK was no longer good law, so that Article 6 does apply to educational disputes. In Oršuš, the dispute related to discrimination. The JCHR is of the view that, if Article 6 applies to discrimination in schools, it would also apply to exclusions, which is a strong case. In Oršuš, the court also referred to its case law, which establishes that where a state confers rights that can be enforced by a judicial remedy, those rights can in principle be regarded as civil rights to which Article 6 applies. So the judicial review bit is very significant.
The JCHR is of the view that in a case of permanent exclusion, the right in question is not just the right to an education but the right to continue to attend the school at which the child is enrolled. That right is enforceable before the ordinary civil courts by way of judicial review. The JCHR therefore finds that, as a matter of convention law or of the common law, the right to access to an independent court or tribunal applies to permanent exclusion from school.
Therefore, we now need to ask whether the new review panels are really an independent and impartial tribunal. The Government's view is that they are.
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The AJTC has the statutory remit to keep under review the administrative justice system and the constitution and workings of tribunals within its oversight. It has taken a keen interest in the operation of school exclusion appeal panels for some years, and has concerns about the Government's proposals. It notes, as has been mentioned in Committee, that 70 per cent of permanent exclusions affect children with special educational needs. It has consistently recommended that all appeals against permanent exclusion should be heard by the First-tier Tribunal, which it points out can easily be renamed the "first-tier tribunal (education)".
The AJTC notes that the Government's proposals are based on the assumption that all exclusions concern children who have been violent against teachers or pupils. That is not the case. I have here a table that shows exclusions in 18 local authorities across the country and 82 exclusion appeals in a particular year, of which 22 were successful. Of the 82, just under 80 per cent were for violent offences; one in five was for non-violent offences.
The AJTC has found that the small percentage of exclusions which go to appeal, which is around only 9 per cent, are more likely to be cases where the parent feels a real sense of injustice. It is therefore interesting to look at the reasons why some appeals succeed. The majority succeed either because the panel did not accept, on the evidence before it, that the pupil had done what he or she was alleged to have done; or because exclusion was a disproportionate punishment for the alleged offence.
A couple of other points need to be made. The Government claim that the SEND reviews take too long. It is true that there is clearly room for improvement, but they are piloting an eight-week turnaround time for appeals, which is very much better than they have been achieving. Secondly, since 70 per cent of all exclusions concern SEN and therefore go to the First-tier Tribunal anyway, it would be much more economical for all exclusion appeals to be heard by the tribunal, instead of requiring each local authority to set up and operate a separate system of review panels to deal with only 30 per cent of the total number of appeals. Also, I regard it as discriminatory to allow SEND pupils to apply to a proper tribunal, while fully able pupils can apply only to a panel with reduced powers.
I have tabled two groups of amendments that do roughly the same thing. I shall mention the difference. Amendments 37, 53, 55, 56, 58 and 59 have been proposed by the AJTC. The rest achieve roughly the same outcome but with one small difference. My noble friend Lord Storey will speak to Amendment 47 in this group, which covers a slightly different matter and has to do with the fine.
What do my groups of amendments do? The right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal is separated in the Bill from the power to exclude, since this would have the effect of not requiring the tribunal to have regard to the Secretary of State's guidance, and so maintain the tribunal's independent discretion. The AJTC group gives the tribunal the power to state that reinstatement would be appropriate but is not practicable in the circumstances. This could happen if, for example, the pupil, parent or guardian does not want reinstatement, even though they have a right to it, but has brought the appeal because they want to state their case. It could happen where relationships have broken down to the extent that it would be more in the interests of the child and the rest of the school community if he were to go elsewhere. The other group of amendments does not give this power, but the tribunal should have it; it is crucial. Where relationships have broken down to such an extent that the head, for various reasons, does not want to let the child back into the school, this would give the tribunal the opportunity to take that into account and make the case that the child has been unwarrantedly excluded, without insisting on reinstatement.
Should the department maintain its argument that sending all exclusion appeals to SEND tribunals suggests that all exclusions concern children with SEND, this could easily be remedied by changing the type of tribunal. This may require a consequential amendment, but I am advised by the Public Bill Office that this could be tabled at a later date. I am also advised that consequential amendments to Schedule 1 may be needed. Again, these could be tabled at a later date when the fate of these amendments is known.
I have received a note of support for these amendments from the National Governors' Association, which says that the majority of its members support the right of appeal and think that the current government proposals to change to a review panel will be more bureaucratic, and will cause more work, delay and confusion for the parties concerned. I hope I have made the case, albeit rather long-windedly, that justice requires some changes to the proposals in Clause 4. I beg to move.
Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My Lords, I pick up initially on some of the points that were made previously, and which the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has rehearsed. We start from the recognition that a permanent exclusion can have a significant impact on the life of the excluded child, both in the short term on their education, and in the long term. In other words, a permanent exclusion is a very significant decision in the life of that child. It is very important that, in taking such profoundly significant decisions, it should be evident to everybody involved, including parents and children, that there is a process of natural justice whereby schools not only act fairly but are transparently seen to act fairly.
We have all variously recognised some of the dilemmas and difficulties for schools. However, exclusion without the right of appeal to an independent arbiter, with the
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My second point is one which we started to rehearse when we debated this issue last week but which I think we need to explore further. We know that, even now, schools permanently exclude a disproportionate number of very vulnerable children from specific groups. Last time, we talked a lot about children with special educational needs and disability, and we heard the figures for the number of those children who are excluded. However, there are other groups. The Runnymede Trust has pointed out that in 2008-09 more than 16 per cent of all black Caribbean boys were excluded compared with 8 per cent of white boys-that is, double the proportion of black Caribbean boys. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children have similar problems, as do looked-after children and those in care.
Therefore, we know that, left to their own devices, schools already exclude disproportionately more of the most vulnerable children in their care. Although the power to reinstate is used very sparingly at the moment, it must surely, if only psychologically, be a safeguard against that trend getting worse. Abolishing it can only make those figures even more embarrassing.
The amendment would put back to the review panel the power to reinstate and give the panel another option. It is a different amendment from the one that has just been moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, but it is in the same spirit. It seeks to put back the power to reinstate. At the moment, the Government's proposals abolish that power and review panels can at most, where they consider that the responsible body's decision is flawed, quash an exclusion decision and direct the responsible body to reconsider. However, of course, the responsible body may reconsider and come to the same conclusion. Why would it not do so? Under what circumstances does the Minister think that the responsible body would overturn its initial decision? As a consequence, the rights of a child-perhaps unfairly excluded-to reinstatement would be withdrawn by the Government's proposals.
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has explored at some length, so I shall not repeat here, the views of the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council. However, they have both concluded that these measures are contrary to the ECHR, as she said, and that the analysis underpinning the Government's argument in relation to the noble Baroness's point about contending that the majority of cases involve violence is fundamentally flawed. The AJTC said that the majority of appeals succeeded because the panel did not accept that the pupil had done what he or she was said to have done or the decision to exclude was not proportionate. Therefore, it is very clearly and firmly of the conclusion that taking away the power to reinstate is wrong and
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Lord Knight of Weymouth: My noble friend is making an important case, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. Later, we will talk about behaviour and attendance partnerships. Does my noble friend think that the notions of fairness that have been discussed would shift if schools had to remain within behaviour and attendance partnerships and therefore had to make sure that excluded pupils were properly found a place within that community of schools?
Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My noble friend makes an extremely important point, which I was also going to try to make but he has made it very well. This is one of the problems with the way that the Bill has been constructed, tearing down, as it does-in my view, somewhat recklessly-a whole range of requirements and apparatus. When you look, as we will shortly, at the proposal to repeal the responsibility of schools to be in a behaviour and attendance partnership, and set that alongside the measures before us, you see that the situation is compounded. At least if schools were in such a partnership, they would have a responsibility to work with schools in their federation or partnership to find solutions for those difficult children whom some schools propose to exclude. Taking both away makes things very difficult. One cannot see what will happen to children when they are excluded through this process.
If the Minister is not minded to reconsider, will he explain to the Committee what safeguards the Government would put in place to assure the groups whom we have been discussing who are already adversely affected by permanent exclusion and would be more so through these measures? What safeguards do they propose to put in place, not just to contain but to reverse that trend?
Many organisations in addition to those mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, have expressed their concern about these proposals. The Children's Society, the National Children's Bureau and the Children's Commissioner have asked the Government to think again. Some trade unions have raised a slightly different but equally important point, arguing that rather than reducing bureaucracy there is a danger that, unless either the amendment that I am speaking to or that proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, is enacted, removing the panels and taking away the power to reinstate may lead parents to think about taking legal action against schools. That would involve a great deal more work and unnecessary bureaucracy for schools.
The amendments proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, would mean that all parents of permanently excluded children would be able instead to appeal to the first-level tribunal. That has much to commend it. Those tribunals, unlike the review panels, would be led by somebody who was legally trained, which is a big advantage. One could ask, as did the noble Baroness, what the consequences would be in
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I have mentioned the Runnymede Trust, which has provided a number of case studies, one of which is particularly salutary. It is the case of the Formula 1 champion, Lewis Hamilton, who when he was 16 was excluded from school in a case of mistaken identity after he witnessed an attack. In his autobiography, he writes:
While there is a chance of even a small number of cases such as that occurring, and given the arguments that we have all made about natural justice and fair process, it would be wrong to remove the power to reinstate. The noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, asked at our previous sitting what would then happen if that decision was taken. Yes, we can have a conversation about where that child goes. However, to have won your appeal puts you in a very different position from being excluded and there being no power to reinstate.
Lord Peston: I express my sympathy with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and her amendments. I do not have her expertise on this matter, but there are some general principles which, it seems to me, we cannot avoid looking at. First and foremost of those principles is the fact that the young people whom we are talking about come overwhelmingly from the lowest socio-economic group in our society. This is not a random group of misbehaving young people; it is a highly limited group. Indeed, the latest research, which I have looked at, says that what the experts call young people with socio-emotional problems occurs to an enormous degree among the poorest in our society and to virtually no degree at all among the richest. We cannot avoid that fact, if we take deprivation as one of the main criteria in judging how we run our education system.
The thing that horrified me was the discovery that we can see these socio-emotional problems arising at a very young age. The evidence overwhelmingly is that it can be seen at the age of three, or even less. I do not remotely believe that this Government would go down this path, but my immediate thought was that it could
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The second point that I make, which the noble Baroness herself made, as did my noble friend, is that the fact that these people are young children does not mean that they have no human rights. None of us would tolerate being treated in this way on anything else that we encountered as adults. Whatever was going on, and if we were doing something wrong, we would certainly expect to be dealt with with due process and the right of appeal against anything that was relevant.
I as a teacher have never had to deal with disruptive pupils. I dealt for years and years with students who had not the slightest interest in what I had to say, but my experience was that they just shut off. They did not bother me, and I was perfectly happy for them to shut off, because I could then talk to the people who I really felt wanted to learn my subject. But my heart goes out to teachers who have to deal with disruption in their classrooms. None of us doubts that, or I hope they do not. But that is quite different from saying that these people who disrupt are in full control, when very frequently they are not. Overwhelmingly, it does not mean that they have no rights.
My view therefore, as is typical when we meet as a Committee in your Lordships' House, and particularly in a Grand Committee, is that we should have our say and hope that the Minister listens sympathetically and sees whether anything can be done to meet our worries. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has put her finger on something that is not minor at all. It is a major question that confronts how we run our education system, and I should like her to know that I, along I am sure with many of my colleagues, am very much in sympathy with what she has to say.
Lord Morris of Handsworth: My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, dealing with the issue of exclusions. As we have heard, the issue is not exclusions per se but one of process and, of course, procedure. More importantly, it is one of basic natural justice.
All of us in this Room and in this debate start from the position that good discipline is important to good learning. We start from the position that everyone associated with the education system needs to be and should be supported. Teachers should be supported, heads and governing bodies should be supported and parents need support. In the overall context of those stakeholders, however, the children themselves need proper support.
So these amendments, which I support, are necessary to prevent what I call the end game-exclusion without proper review, given the possible consequences of exclusion on the future of those pupils affected. The decision to exclude, without the process for the facts, the information and all the consequences that led to the decision, means that it is neither properly heard nor properly examined.
Fairness and justice lie at the heart but it seems that the Secretary of State has taken the position that the heads and governing bodies are always right and that the pupil is always wrong. That cannot be sustained because here we have a situation where those associated with a decision, whether it is the heads or governing body, are the accusers in the first instance. They are the investigators, assembling the facts and putting together the arguments. They prosecute in the case and, in the end, they are the judge and jury, all without any recourse to justification. The review panel, as we have heard, has no powers for reinstatement, however unjust the decision might have been.
In her introduction to the amendment, the noble Baroness set out the position of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and here I declare an interest as a member of that committee. Moving beyond its view, however, the fact of the matter is that legally decided opinions on the issue of expulsion without review are not on the side of the Government. The decided cases that the Government have used in their defence claim that expulsion from education is not a human right. But that is not the issue. There are equally strong legally decided cases which indicate very strongly that the real issue is not a question of whether education is a human right. What is a human right is the right of the excluded individual to return to the school from which they have been excluded. That is fundamentally different from the Government's legal position that they cite in support. With that conclusion, I support the amendment.
The Deputy Chairman of Committees: My Lords, some of you might have heard buzzing noises, sounding like bumble-bees, coming out of the speakers. That is because some people have got mobile telephones in their pockets and they are too close to the microphones. Could we leave our telephones well away from the microphones or even switch them off for a little while?
Baroness Morris of Yardley: My Lords, I support the sentiments behind these amendments, and those in the opening remarks of the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Hughes. Some of these amendments are quite technical, but there is something underpinning them in that the proposals before us are, first, unjust, and, secondly, not the best way of dealing with a significant problem. In particular, I support the group of amendments that give a right of reinstatement if an appeal should be successful.
I invite the Minister to revisit the Government's assumptions that brought about this group of amendments. It strikes me as the sort of thing that is great in opposition but which you hope that people have realised is not very good by the time they get to government. Its starting point was something that we can all share: there are children whose behaviour is such that they ought not to be in schools. They ruin the educational chances of other children and make the lives of teachers a misery. Nobody ought to have to put up with that.
There is another starting point that I support: that the head needs control of their own school. They need to be able to set the rules and regulations. Within a framework their writ must run. That is the nature of leadership. Where this went wrong to some extent is that there is a feeling out there that the problem of reinstated children is bigger than it actually is. Somebody will quote the figures at some point, but it is not a big issue. It does not happen often. On most occasions, the tried and tested system which will now be repealed completely has worked well. Schools, parents, governing bodies, head teachers and pupils will on the whole say that it works well. In any structure in a social organisation like a school or society, there will be times when it does not work well, is a bit frayed at the edges and you might want to second-guess a judgment. We should always try to make that better, to improve the law and improve the process.
I do not know how the Government have concluded that this is the way forward from there. What I really want to test with the Minister is that there seem to be two either/or assumptions underpinning this bit of legislation. The first is that heads are always right and pupils are always wrong, which is a case of infallibility all over again. The second is that even if heads are wrong, we must not admit it. If one of those two assumptions does not underpin this set of amendments, I do not know what assumption does. Both are deeply flawed. I hope that I do not have to say more than "heads are not always right". I have taught where heads have made the wrong decision about exclusion; sometimes there have been sets of circumstances. It has been absolutely right that the child has been reinstated, and the school has not collapsed. Nobody can say that the head is always right.
I agree about the power of the head, but it must be about having a set of rules that the school community and the parents have bought into, and about enacting those rules. I do not agree with this notion of leadership and headship which says, "I can make the rules up as I go along, and if I decide that you have broken them then I can act accordingly". It is only by giving that sort of power of rule-making to the head that this legislation makes any sense.
Let us say that we do not agree that heads are always right. I sense that where the Government are coming from is that, in order to support heads, we must support their every decision. That is a miscalculation and a misjudgment, and I choose my words carefully. There are heads in this room who will tell me whether I am right or wrong in this but, to be honest, if a head teacher needed this sort of legal protection to keep order and discipline in their school, I would question the quality of the school leadership. A half good head teacher can manage a reinstatement and the house will not fall down. What seems to be feared here is that, if a reinstatement goes ahead, the head will lose control and authority within the school. Good heads do not do that; they manage it, because exclusion is not the only way in which to ensure discipline and good behaviour in schools.
If we make laws to protect weak heads so that they never have to admit that they are wrong, we will not be producing laws that are good for discipline in schools.
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Lord Willis of Knaresborough: I was for many years one of those utterly infallible heads until my governors thought otherwise. Will the noble Baroness comment on the other factor that she has not mentioned? There is a misconception that the organisation that reinstates these children against the wishes of the head and the governors is the local education authority. That is another fallacy that underpins so much of this proposed legislation-that somehow it is pernicious local authorities that want to keep the heads under control. Perhaps she would like to comment on that, given her experience as a Minister and a Secretary of State.
Baroness Morris of Yardley: The noble Lord is right. As a not so infallible Minister, I remember the legislation because there was a fear that local authorities would make life difficult for head teachers. If my memory serves me right-and I am absolutely sure that it does on this-there was a requirement in previous legislation to make sure that someone with educational experience was on the appeals panel. Previous legislation has done the mending that needed to be done in terms of the appeals panel. People who have served as Members of Parliament may also know that there has always been a feeling among parents and students that appeals panels lean over backwards to support the schools. If there is a feeling in society, it is not that the appeals panel leans over backwards to exclude the child; it is the other way about. As the noble Lord said, many people on the panels have educational experience and want to support heads. Therefore, the people on the appeals panel are not anti-heads, anti-discipline, anti-order, anti-fairness or anti-justice; they are people who know about education and they try to do a difficult job.
Lord Knight of Weymouth: When the noble Baroness talks about heads, I wonder what her thoughts are on the pupil premium that has been introduced by the Government. Interestingly, it motivates heads to admit pupils from poorer backgrounds; and we know that, because of the chaotic backgrounds that some children from poorer backgrounds might have, behaviour might then be an issue to some extent. Does she think that there might be a danger of selection by exclusion, whereby heads take in children to get more money and then, whether deliberately, up front or otherwise, exclude those who are more difficult and damage the education of others?
Baroness Morris of Yardley: My thoughts had not gone that far, but my noble friend puts forward a very interesting proposition. I think that perhaps why he thinks that-and why he is right-is because some heads have always sought to manage their admissions through some element of exclusion. There are times when that is right. Some heads, in their first year of taking over a school that has been in very challenging
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I will finish there, because I wanted only to make that brief point. Either assumption is wrong, whether it is about the infallibility of heads or whether it is that when they make a mistake we pretend they have not made a mistake. Worse than that, this is not only unjust and unfair but will do nothing to improve discipline, because the kids and the school community will know that a child was excluded, that the appeal found for them and that the child has not been reinstated. That will do nothing to encourage the school community to support the head. Kids are really good about fairness, and so are parents. The legislation as it has been put to us will not help in that regard.
Baroness Perry of Southwark: I have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Baroness said. I am very pleased that she brought our attention to two factors-that the children who tend to be the subject of exclusion have made the lives of their fellow pupils in their class pretty difficult and seriously hampered their education, and that they have made several teachers' lives very miserable. There is nothing worse than having a seriously disruptive child in a class when you are trying to teach the rest of the children.
Where I part company from the noble Baroness, on a purely factual basis, is when she says that the clauses in the Bill assume that the head is always right. Of course, they do not. New subsection (4)(c) says quite firmly that the review panel may consider,
The other point that the noble Baroness made was about the importance of the head being in authority and being able to control and show leadership in his or her own school. As many of us have said in previous debates and as much research has shown, the authority of the head is paramount in the success of the school. It is not only that the head must be right-and you would hope he or she would be right more times than he or she is wrong-but that the head must be seen to be in control and in authority. If the head is constantly overruled by an outside body, it is very difficult for that to be seen. I agree with that the noble Baroness said-that kids are very quick to recognise what is fair and what is not fair. But we have already established-thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, giving us the figures-that there are very few occasions when the decision of the head has proved to be wrong. Most of the time, the head gets it right, and the excluded child leaves the school a bit more peace and the other pupils more ability to learn than there was before.
My final point is that this does not involve the head alone. It involves the head with the governing body, which will have made the decision as well. There will already have been considerable investigation of the
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Baroness Hughes of Stretford: That may be the case but will the noble Baroness agree that in those circumstances at the moment, if the appeals panel decides that the decision was wrong, it has the power to allow the child back into the school? What is proposed now is that, when the review panel puts the decision aside, it cannot make its own, informed judgment-it can simply ask the governing body to reconsider-and it has no power to give the child redress if it is really of the view that a mistake has been made. Does she really think that that is a just process?
Lord Peston: My reading of the Bill is somewhat different from that of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry: it is that it gives the head enormously more power than he or she had before. Is she saying that that is not true?
Baroness Perry of Southwark: I am not saying that it is true or untrue. The difference-it is very small-is that in the past the appeals panel could insist that the child went back to the school, while the review panel can now simply say, "You got the decision wrong. We ask you to consider again". The only difference between what a review panel can do and what the previous appeals panel could do is the power to reinstate. In any case, to allow a child to go back into a school when all this process has taken place is a terrible thing for the teacher who asked for the exclusion in the first case, for the governing body which made the decision and supported the head, and for the authority of the head themselves.
Baroness Howarth of Breckland: I know what effort heads and teachers make when children are reinstated into schools in difficult circumstances, so I am very pro what is going on; they work very hard. Does the noble Baroness not accept that the child who finds that their case has been upheld but is still told that they are not able to go back to their school would see this as a total injustice? As many of these children are struggling anyway, this simply reinforces their feeling that society is simply not just, so why should they conform and join in with it?
Lord Storey: My Lords, I want to talk about Amendment 47, and then make some general comments on the other amendments. Amendment 47 is clear and
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I turn to some comments made during the debate. I declare an interest as a head teacher of 25 years. I have never excluded a pupil at all. Why? First, we forget that the important thing is not the end of the process but all the things that you put in place beforehand. As I think I said last week, if you have a robust behaviour management policy, you will involve parents at every stage, and the parents are the greatest way of ensuring that a pupil does not have to be excluded from school.
Having said that, my wife is a secondary teacher in a large inner-city school and I have seen teachers' careers destroyed by disruptive behaviour. We are not talking about teachers who should not be in the classroom but, because of the circumstances-because of poor leadership, because the other issues have not been put in place-their lives as teachers can be wrecked, as indeed can those of the pupils.
Some of you may recall that I said two things last week. I agreed with a noble Lord opposite who said that any exclusion is a tragedy. I also said, however, that teachers have a right to teach and pupils have a right to learn. Pupils also have a right to ensure that a system is fair and just and they are the first to know if something is not fair. In any school it is the pupils who say, "Hey, sir, that's not fair" or "Hey, miss, why are we doing this?". If we have an exclusion policy which is not fair and just, pupils will be the first to see that and that is why I support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lady Walmsley.
Baroness Benjamin: My Lords, I fully support all the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lady Walmsley and I congratulate her on her tireless efforts to highlight children's and young people's rights and well-being. I want to make the case for a group of young people up and down the country, especially in our urban cities, which are littered with potholes of deprivation, low self-esteem and practically no aspiration. As we have already heard, it is a sad fact that many black Caribbean and mixed-race white and black Caribbean boys experience a high number of exclusions. We have heard that 16.6 per cent of all Caribbean boys and 16.3 per cent of all mixed-race Caribbean boys experienced a fixed-term exclusion during 2008-09, in comparison to 8 per cent of their white and 4 per cent of their Asian counterparts.
We have to ask whether society is failing these young people, who in many cases grew up seeing themselves as victims, partly because of the harsh and
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As part of my charitable work, I once accompanied 100 children from disadvantaged backgrounds with some of their parents to Euro Disney. A 10 year-old Caribbean boy did not listen to what his mother and others told him about jumping over a barrier on a wet marble floor. Not surprisingly, he fell with a hard thump and hit his head. Instead of his mother rushing to comfort him, as you might have expected her to do, she violently kicked him while he lay on the floor injured. Eventually, after the doctor arrived and things calmed down, she had to be persuaded to go into the ambulance with her son but not before she broke down and, in between her sobs, she cried for help. She explained that she was on her own, that her son had been excluded time and again from school and that she could no longer cope because he would not listen to her. Goodness knows what she did behind closed doors.
They were both victims of circumstances. Family life is tough for many but for that family there was a happy ending. They were counselled by trained charity project workers who put the family back together again and helped them to heal. That boy's behaviour changed in school.
These are some of the types of children that are being excluded from schools. They need to be dealt with by staff who have been properly trained by trained play therapists, who know how to deal with damaged children, and to be shown love, understanding and-yes-discipline too but not exclusion and rejection, which only cause long-term damage way into adulthood.
I welcome the fact that the Government have decided to retain exclusion appeals panels. However, the decision to strip them of the power to order reinstatement of a pupil decreases their ability to hold a school to account. Many believe that appeals panels with powers of reinstatement represent a vital safeguard against miscarriages of justice and offer a chance for parents' voices to be heard.
As so eloquently stated by my noble friend Lady Walmsley, despite claims from the Government that the reinstatement of pupils subsequently undermines the authority of teachers, evidence shows that only 2 per cent of exclusions are overturned and that approximately 90 per cent of exclusions are simply not brought before appeals panels, highlighting that the situation is not widespread.
We heard the case of our famous Lewis Hamilton. Goodness knows what would have happened if his appeal had not been successful and he had not been reinstated in school. We would not have seen the brilliance of that champion and have felt that pride to be British.
It is crucial that teachers are properly held to account on exclusion decisions, particularly given the massive impact that those decisions can have on a child's future. Therefore, I believe that the Government should allow appeals panels to reinstate excluded pupils in schools if an appeal is successful, and that the Bill should be amended accordingly.
Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I apologise to the Committee for arriving late. Sitting on the M11 was not the best place to be; I would rather have been with all of your Lordships. I wanted to ask a series of questions of the Minister. I regret missing the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, because I always enjoy her speeches on behalf of children. We have just heard that disruptive children are challenged children; they are not very often evil children. However, they can be very difficult. From my time as a director of social services and an assistant director looking after assessment centres where some of the most dangerous and difficult children are contained, I know that there are children who cannot be on the school floor. Those children who destroy classes for teachers and other pupils should not be in school. But those are not the children we are talking about. We do not need to change the legislation for them, and we do not have to change the legislation to make it successful.
One of the points that I was going to make was made eloquently by the noble Lord; that is, in good schools, the work is done beforehand, with the child, with the family and with the involvement of the local community. In my local primary school up in Norfolk, I know that things get done beforehand.
There is of course a great lack of services for some of these children. We know that teachers are crying out for good psychiatric support, psychological assessment and therapeutic support. Those are the areas where we should look if we want to provide for the next generation. However, what concerned me when I was looking through the legislation, apart from its fairness, was how decisions would be made across the country. The Government are setting up a range of new sorts of schools which will be settling their ways of working. What will the criteria for exclusion be? Will the powerful head set the criteria? How will we therefore ensure consistency? Will a child be able to move districts and find that their behaviour gets them excluded in one area but not in another? How will we ensure consistency? If Ofsted will not be inspecting all schools, how will we achieve that balance from one area to another, as we can at the moment?
How will we ensure that an assessment is made by those responsible for children's education and welfare to understand the circumstances leading to the problem? Who will carry out that assessment across the country? Most of all, what will happen to the children thereafter? We know that some will go to a referral unit. I was a social worker on the ground, if you like, in the days when my kids went off to the sin bin, as they called it. I am not against special provision if it is properly put together, but if it is a constant stream of children moving in and out, with some children not moving at all, I should like to be clear about the basis on which the children are being put together. What worries me most is that the heads of those special units can also exclude children. I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, will express more than anxiety about what happens to children who will often have been in care and are showing difficult behaviour, for all the reasons we know.
Much has already been said and I shall try to not repeat it and to be brief. My real concern is that we are talking about relatively small numbers of children with regard to reinstatement. There surely cannot be an argument that it adds to the bureaucracy. The Government clearly want to reduce the burdens on schools and heads. I cannot see the logic of why we are removing opportunities for appeal and reinstatement. That is why I support Amendment 41 and all that I have heard.
This is what concerns me most. I very much agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Storey, said about the processes for ensuring that we look after the needs of each child-educational, social, cultural and emotional-as part of a process of trying to avoid getting to the point of exclusion. That is an indication of what schools do, and they did it so successfully in the case of the school of the noble Lord, Lord Storey, that there was no exclusion. There are other schools like that and we are not talking about a problem that will wreck the school system if reinstatement occurs, especially as it occurs so infrequently.
What I am worried about is the labelling of groups of young people who are to be excluded. An important part of the process is the management of moves from one school to another and involves all the groups to which we have referred in this debate-those with special educational needs and poor backgrounds, black and ethnic-minority children, looked-after children and those who are in receipt of free school meals. They are the most vulnerable children. In the process that leads to exclusion, even if appeal is reached, it is those who have the power and who have already labelled these young people who still call the shots. Even when reinstatement takes place, we have already accepted that it is not necessarily in the best interests of that child to go back to the school from which he or she has been excluded. However, the inclusion of a natural justice element that demonstrates that fairness has occurred and that exclusion is not justified is an important part of our natural justice process, and we should ensure that we retain it.
It is important to get answers to some of the questions that have been asked. We need the information that would justify preventing the possibility of reinstatement. No basis for that argument has been put forward, and perhaps the Minister can provide the evidence that would justify the Government's proposal and improve the processes.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, having listened to the arguments I have a great deal of sympathy with all these amendments. As noble Lords have already heard, the National Governors' Association is broadly sympathetic. It has been stressed that we are talking about thoroughly disadvantaged children, the majority
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Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I share the starting assumptions for this debate of the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, but I would be horrified if the Bill tried to make out that head teachers are always right. It clearly does not. The provision for a head teacher and governing body to be required to think again if a review panel found their decision to be wrong is a powerful way of ensuring that people are held to account.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, said earlier that this Bill sets a bad example to our children. I wholeheartedly disagree with that. To put somebody in a situation where they have to review their decision, and perhaps be confident and strong enough to say that their initial decision was wrong and they are happy to now reverse it, is a much better way of ensuring a proper process than somebody being forced to change their mind.
Baroness Hughes of Stretford: First, would the noble Baroness not agree that, in that situation, most of us would expect an independent arbitration of that decision? Secondly, does she think that it is right that, in the event that the governing body thinks again and decides to stick with its original decision, which is thought to be unreasonable, it can then pay its way out of that situation instead of having to give the child redress and accept the child back into school? Is that a good example of what we should be showing children?
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: It is right that we reach decisions based on responsibility and that the head teacher and the governing body should be able to decide what is right for their school. If they are clear, for very clear reasons that they believe in, about what they feel is the right future for that child, they should be able to decide that and put in place the necessary new arrangements for that child.
I concur with the remarks that the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, made about piloting the new arrangements. Schools being responsible for the education of children whom they have decided they can no longer take care of in their own school is an important new provision, and one that I would certainly support.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Morris, I, too, am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. As has been said several times today, the committee reviewed this part of the Bill carefully and reported on it in detail. It is worth me highlighting the fact that the committee divided on this matter. At that time, I abstained-I did not vote with the committee, because at the time I was not persuaded by the legal arguments one way or the other. After the committee, I looked again at the Bill when preparing for Second Reading, and the conclusion that I came to was that the reason why I had not been persuaded by the legal arguments either way was because this is an issue of principle. It is right that people in charge of schools-head teachers and governing bodies-should be able to make decisions for themselves. Obviously, there needs to be a review process, which this proposal provides for, but I want to see us having a system that is based on responsibility rather than people simply being able to exercise rights. For that reason, I do not support the amendments and I support the Bill as it is drafted.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am hopeful that my noble friend will answer the question that I asked him at Second Reading on the statistics behind this. I think that he quoted a figure of 600 pupils a year being reinstated. For the average secondary school, that is one every 10 years. What proportion of them are children who, it is accepted by everybody, have actually committed the sort of crimes that must mean their exclusion from school, such as serious bullying or drugs or bringing knives in? I am aware that a case was mentioned in the Sun a few years ago, but are there more than that? Why are we unbalancing the scales of justice to deal with such a tiny and infrequent problem?
My noble friend has already outlined the right approach, which is to make schools responsible for the future of the kids they choose to exclude, because most exclusions are due to problems with the school, not the kids. The example that I would choose is St George's in Maida Vale. When I first got interested in schooling it was unbelievably awful, with children running around corridors and abusing and hitting teachers. There was a total paucity of education going on. It was the school, as noble Lords will remember, where the headmaster was murdered at the gates. Last year, it received grade 1 from Ofsted, with the same intake and no exclusions. Nothing has changed with the kids, but everything has changed with the school. That is what we should bear in mind when we think of exclusion as a punishment following something done by the kid, rather than as something caused by other people that is being demonstrated in what the kid is doing.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I remember sitting in a school classroom in a secondary school that is five minutes' walk from your Lordships' House and seeing one boy disrupt the whole class and the poor teacher clearly at the end of her tether at the end of the period. The boy moved to a different seat as soon as she turned her back, and it was a great joke, but it clearly caused her a lot of anxiety.
This is a very complex question, as this debate has shown. Further to what the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, said, in my experience many looked-after
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I look forward to the Minister's reply. Perhaps between now and Report, he might consider convening a meeting for Members of your Lordships' House and secondary school heads who deal with these problems regularly. We can then get some insight into their experience. I would certainly find that helpful, but I can do it for myself. Other noble Lords might also find it helpful. We are dealing not only with this question but with the issues of detention and behaviour more generally. Therefore, perhaps a meeting with a few head teachers, particularly secondary school heads, would be useful in our deliberations on these matters.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My Lords, my noble friend Lord Storey spoke for us all when he said that we all agree that exclusion should be the end of the process. We have debated this point many times. I state again that that is absolutely the Government's position. That is why we are holding exclusion trials. We are trying to reach a point where exclusion is a far less frequent outcome for pupils and that the number who end up in this category shrinks. That is what we all want. That point was also made by the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley. I strongly agree. My noble friend Lady Walmsley set out the case for exclusion appeals to go to tribunal with her customary clarity. Other noble Lords argued in favour of retaining a right for a panel to order reinstatement.
I shall start by restating what we are proposing in this clause, which provides for independent review panels that will be responsible for hearing appeals brought by parents against the permanent exclusion of their child. The panels will have to consider permanent exclusions very carefully. They will be free to reach their own conclusions and to conduct an independent fact-finding exercise. They may then uphold the decision, recommend that the governing body reconsider its decision to take account of the panel's findings, or quash the decision and direct the governing body to reconsider the exclusion. If the decision is quashed, the panel will have to provide the school with the reasons for its decision. At that point the governing body will have to reconsider its decision. As several noble Lords have argued, in those circumstances most governing bodies would be likely to offer to reinstate pupils.
The noble Lord, Lord Morris of Handsworth, and the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, asked whether we assumed that the school would always be right. The answer to that question is no. If we thought that, we would not have gone for an independent review panel, as my noble friend Lady Perry pointed out. However, there may be local circumstances in
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My noble friend Lord Lucas asked about scale. I heard my noble friend Lady Walmsley whispering but he may not have heard her. We are talking about a small number of cases. In 2008-09, there were 6,550 cases of permanent exclusion. Appeals were lodged in fewer than 10 per cent of cases. Of those appeals, around one-10th resulted in the pupil being reinstated, which is the "60 pupils" figure that we are talking about.
Noble Lords, including my noble friend, have asked why we are making changes when the numbers are so small. We do so for one simple reason: while the numbers are fortunately small, each case can create significant problems for the school, creating anxiety for pupils and undermining the position of staff. The noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, spoke of schools being "left to their own devices". Because of the review panel process, they would not be left to their own devices, but I am sure that she did not mean this. Her comments seemed to suggest that schools might have an agenda to exclude pupils, and I do not believe that that is true either.
Baroness Hughes of Stretford: I did not mean that, and I do not generally think that schools have an agenda. However, the crux of the Minister's argument seems to be that in most of those cases where a review panel comes back to the governing body and says, "We think that this decision is wrong or flawed"-or whatever-"so reconsider", he expected the schools to reinstate the child. What evidence does he have for that assumption?
Lord Hill of Oareford: The evidence was a point made by a noble friend. It is reasonable to think that where the process is conducted properly and the independent review panel comes back to the governing body saying, "We think that you are wrong for this, that and the other reason"-so that the governing body is confronted with that evidence and realises that others have reached a different view, or that they have made mistakes in how they have gone about it-most people will listen to what is being said to them. Obviously I do not have hard evidence because we do not have the system in place.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, talked powerfully about the example of Lewis Hamilton. I understand that example. Because the numbers are so small, one ends up having anecdotal exchanges of that nature. When this was debated in another place, a letter from a chair of governors was quoted which reads:
"In February a violent incident occurred at our school and after an exhaustive investigation the Principal took the decision to permanently exclude both the pupils involved in the attack.
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That is an anecdote, but is illustrative of the effect these decisions can have on other pupils and the school. I wanted to start the point about the exclusion trials because there may be an assumption that the Government want in some way to be gung ho or vindictive about this, or that we start from the point of view that heads are Victorian figures of authority who must never be questioned and their writ must always run. That is not our position. Our position is that there could be a small number of cases where the effect on the attitude of other pupils and staff is worth giving the school space to take that into account. The principal of Burlington Danes Academy gave evidence to the Education Select Committee in the other place, where she said:
Although incidents are fortunately rare, these events are not unique. Schools have to be safe environments where pupils can learn. To achieve this, as we have already discussed, schools need to be able to manage behaviour, and heads and governing bodies need to know that they can go about that with confidence.
I turn to the specific amendments on the First-tier Tribunal and the amendment about giving panels the power to reinstate. Clearly, requiring all cases to be taken to the First-tier Tribunal with a power to order reinstatement would defeat the purpose of Clause 4. Our proposals reform the current arrangements for exclusion appeal panels, remedying what we consider to be a weakness in relation to the power to force reinstatement. We believe that the new review panels will ensure quick resolution, which is in the interests of all parties.
I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Storey for speaking to his amendment, which addresses an important issue about the amount of adjustment to a school's budget that an independent review panel can set. Again, there are balances to be struck in wanting any financial penalty to be sufficiently high that the governing body would want to reflect seriously upon it. However, I understand my noble friend's concern that the adjustment should take account of the size of the school and its total budget, as well as his point about a flat-rate penalty. Therefore, although there are arguments in favour of such a scheme because of its simplicity, I am happy to accept the principle behind his amendment
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Lord Peston: Will the noble Lord clarify a minor matter of logic? If he is saying that the review panel has the right to fine a school if the school does not go along with it, how can it be in the interests of any school to have its budget reduced when it is doing what it thinks is the right thing? Whatever we do, that seems to be about as absurd an idea as you could dream up. Who would suffer from having less money? Presumably, the school would buy fewer text-books or less of this and less of that. To me at least, none of this makes any sense. Why the Government have gone down this path, I have not the slightest idea. I have worked very hard to follow this issue since Second Reading but the fine business makes no sense to me whatever.
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, the purpose is to compensate the local authority for the additional costs of the services that it would then have to pick up because the school was no longer providing them. That is the benefit.
We have heard important points raised about the Joint Committee on Human Rights and I shall make a couple of points about that. The JCHR set out its views on the compatibility of Clause 4 with convention rights. We disagree with the view that the proposal to establish review panels is incompatible with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Our central legal argument is that the existing statutory framework around exclusion and educational provision for children who are excluded, whether on a fixed-term basis or permanently, is not determinative of a civil right, so Article 6 does not apply. In all the Strasbourg cases where civil rights have been found to engage Article 6, the civil right in question must have a basis in the domestic law of the state concerned. There is no domestic law right in the UK which guarantees the right to be educated in a specific institution. The right to an education, which is a right guaranteed at Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the convention, is not a guarantee of education at or by a particular institution. Article 13 of the convention requires that everyone whose convention rights and freedoms are violated shall have an effective remedy. As no convention rights are at issue here, we are clear that Article 13 is not engaged. We will shortly set out these arguments in more detail in a response to the Joint Committee.
I was asked about the consistency of school rules and the criteria for exclusion. The guidance is clear that a decision to exclude should be taken only in response to serious breaches of the school's behaviour policy and if allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school. The guidance is also clear that the head teacher should consider all the evidence, taking account of the school's equal opportunities policies and, where applicable, equality legislation. We will continue to collect data on exclusions, which include exclusions by SEN and by ethnic group.
I have explained why the Government believe that, in the rare cases where they think it appropriate, schools should, following careful consideration, be able to insist that their decision to exclude should stand, despite the findings of a review panel; and how a financial penalty would then be payable. Over the longer term, it is the exclusion trials, which we discussed earlier, where schools retain responsibility for excluded pupils, which offer us a new way forward for encouraging early intervention and, we all hope, reducing exclusion. In the light of this explanation, I hope that my noble friend Lady Walmsley may feel able to withdraw her amendment.
Lord Elton: May I ask a couple of questions of my noble friend? First, he referred throughout to permanent exclusion. The word "permanent" does not seem to appear in the text of the legislation. The direction was given to the Secretary of State in setting out the regulations, leaving it open to him to decide what sort of an exclusion the panel might make a judgment on. I assume there are important administrative reasons to minimise the appeals as well as practical ones. If it is an exclusion for a week or a fortnight, it will be over before the appeal is heard. For permanent exclusion, that is a different matter. Secondly, I would like to ask the question the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, was expected to ask and did not: what is to become of pupils excluded from a PRU, particularly if there is only one PRU available in an area? Thirdly, I am puzzled not to have received representations-I may be unique in this-from the head teachers' organisations and I wondered whether they had expressed a view.
The Earl of Listowel: Before the Minister replies to those questions, perhaps it might be helpful to ask another question for information. How do the numbers of exclusions break down between primary schools and secondary schools? He may already have mentioned that but I would be grateful for that information.
Lord Hill of Oareford: On that specific point, I do not have those figures in my head and I will try to find them and send them to the noble Earl. In response to my noble friend's first question, the new arrangements are intended to apply to permanent exclusions. So far as his other points are concerned-again, they are generally not in the Bill-in terms of the way forward with the exclusion trials and with a point that we are trying to take forward and which we will come to later on about improving the quality of alternative provision available, the responsibility for a child in the situation he describes is unchanged and remains with the local authority.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: Can I press the Minister on one point, following on from the noble Lord, Lord Peston, who drew attention to the philosophical difficulty of new subsection (6)? I notice that the review panel will have the discretion to impose a fine for an adjustment
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Lord Hill of Oareford: It is our intention to publish guidance to cover these issues which we will be able to then share with Peers so that they can see how that is proceeding. That will address some of these issues.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for his reply and to all Members of the Committee who have taken part in this fascinating debate. I have a confession to make. I did not declare an interest at the beginning of this debate: I was once actually excluded. At the age of four, the head of my dancing class asked my mother to take me away because I was not prepared to stand in a row with all the other little girls and point my toe and wave my arms in exactly the same way as everyone else. I wanted to stand in the corner, be creative and do my own thing. I was not prepared to be a clone, so I was asked to leave. However, I remember feeling that sense of injustice because I had not been disruptive in any way; I had not been naughty; I just did not like standing in a row and doing the same as all the other little girls.
Therefore, I suppose that what we need to think about is the cause of the behaviour, and there have been many powerful speeches about the underlying factors that lead to these serious permanent exclusions. A large number of points have been made and I should like to take up a few of them. Much has been made by the Minister and my noble friend Lady Perry about the power of the independent review panel to quash the original decision and ask the school to reconsider, but what is the point of asking it to do that if there is no redress and if it continues with its wrong-headed decisions? The child actually has no right to any redress at all.
An innocent child cannot, in the current situation, be blamed for not wanting to be sent to a referral unit because only today there has been a report from, I think, Ofsted about the poor results that are frequently obtained by pupils in referral units. We must do something about the quality of alternative provision and I very much welcome what the Government are doing with the pilots that we talked about last Thursday. They have the potential very much to drive up the quality of alternative provision, and they are a very good idea.
What the Government are proposing is discriminatory because-not perhaps for the reasons suggested in the debate-we are setting up one system for children with special needs and a completely different one for children without special needs. In fact, we are taking away the current independent appeals panels and setting up something completely new to deal with only the 30 per cent of appeals that do not have any special needs
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I ask the Committee: are we throwing away an important principle of natural justice for the sake of 60 cases out of 11 million children? I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, that this is an issue of principle-but not the principle that she enunciated. It is the principle that if you have been found innocent or if the punishment has been found to be excessive, you should have a right to reinstatement, as long as other factors do not outweigh that right. We have to bear in mind-I absolutely accept this-the effect on the rest of the school. I therefore draw noble Lords' attention to proposed new paragraph (c) in Amendment 59, which states that one of the powers of the tribunal could be to,
That gives the tribunal the opportunity to say, "This child's case has been made. We are not convinced that the child did what the child was supposed to have done", or, "We are not convinced that exclusion is the appropriate punishment for it. However, we accept that if this child were to go back into the school, it would cause major problems for the rest of the school community".
There may be several thousand people involved in that community. Therefore, for the sake of their best interests, and probably those of the child concerned-who wants to go where they are not wanted?-it might be better if the child went somewhere else, even if the case has been made and it is accepted that the decision was wrong. It could well be that that "somewhere else" can better meet the needs of the child. Therefore, that part of the amendment provides a very important power, which I should like to see given to the First-tier Tribunal that I am proposing.
I thank the Minister for what he said about Amendment 47-that the Government will look at the issue of the fine in the consultation. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that the fine does not make sense. You have just to ask yourself: who will suffer if money is taken away from a school? It will not be the child who is supposed to have misbehaved. He will have gone to some other school. It will be the children who remain in the school who will suffer if the school is fined. It really is not the sort of deterrent to schools expelling incorrectly that makes sense. I accept that reinstatement can often be difficult but I draw the Committee's attention to proposed new paragraph (c) in Amendment 59, which would take care of that situation.
I have just one more point on the consultation over the fine. Will the Minister confirm that special schools and PRUs will also be consulted? They are often very small schools. The Minister is nodding; I thank him.
In conclusion, I ask the Committee to think about how adults would respond if, in an employment tribunal, a case had been made in favour of the employee and against the employer, finding that the response to what had happened had been disproportionate, but the employee was unable to get any redress at all. If it is wrong for adults, it is wrong for children. As has been said, children have a very strong sense of what is fair and what is not fair. A decision of this sort could turn a child totally against society. As one noble Lord rightly said, it could flip somebody who already feels disengaged or victimised-as though nobody understands them and everybody is against them, or as though they have no opportunities and are discriminated against-into becoming an extremely antisocial person. Although I accept that there are enormous difficulties in this situation, I ask the Minister to consider very carefully whether it is right to throw away a principle of natural justice in favour of doing something in only 60 cases a year out of 11 million children. It seems a disproportionate act by the Government. I hope we can have more discussions about it over the next few weeks. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Brinton: My Lords, I rise to speak to the amendments in the names of my noble friends Lady Walmsley and Lady Jolly. This is a very simple amendment to provide the safeguard that parents know about, and agree to, a same-day outside school-time detention being given. We recognise the benefits of same-day detention. For the child concerned, the punishment is swift and close enough to the judgment of the incident for there to be a clear link, and it is important for the school as it significantly reduces the administrative arrangements that are required if the detention cannot be taken for a day or more.
"It is nonsense to be discourteous and rude to parents with no notice detentions. You are actually exhibiting poor behaviour. It is thoroughly unreasonable and designed to annoy the parent. The vast majority of schools will not do it because it would run against their principles and how they operate".-[Official Report, Commons, Education Bill Committee, 1/3/11; col. 51.]
I absolutely accept that the vast majority of schools would talk to parents and take the view of Sir Alan Steer but, sadly, not all would, and therefore we believe that two key issues would give serious cause for concern should no further measures be put in place.
The first is safeguarding. If children are kept in school for a detention and walk home alone without a larger group of children leaving together and without their parents' knowledge, we argue that parents must have agreed to this delay so that they can make the necessary transport or meeting arrangements to ensure that their child travels home safely. The press has, very sadly, been full of the recent trial of Levi Bellfield over the murder of Milly Dowler. I want to make it absolutely clear that she was not detained at school but she travelled home later and via an unusual route. Parents are rightly concerned to know how their children get home and at what time so that they can be confident that they will arrive safely.
Secondly, same-day detentions cause a practical problem for rural schools. Many children can access their school only by bus or rail, and often there is only one bus that they can take home. For parents who do not have cars and are unable to collect their children, there is an equity issue about short-notice detentions.
Our amendment is very straightforward. It aims to protect children by ensuring that their parents give consent to the detention and are able to make arrangements for the child to get home safely. We do not want to be prescriptive about how that consent is made-schools will know how best to reach a parent urgently. I beg to move.
We also recognise the arguments put forward by some school leaders that punishment is more effective if it takes place nearer to the time of the original incident. Therefore, we understand that there will be occasions when same-day detention is preferable if the necessary safeguards can be built into the child's welfare. Indeed, that is why detention at lunchtime, which we introduced in previous legislation, is a very useful additional tool. However, to be safe, we regard it as
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Therefore, our amendment, in the form of a new clause, would require schools to give parents or carers reasonable notice of detention and to obtain an acknowledgment from the parent or carer within 24 hours. Where that acknowledgement has not been received, detention would still take place, but only after the original 24 hours-the current system.
A number of concerns have been raised about Clause 5 as it stands. For example, Ambitious about Autismmade a point that I hope noble Lords will take seriously, which is that you need to prepare autistic children for the disruption to their plans and routines. Therefore, short-notice detention of children with autism is not only disruptive to their life and organisation but can cause them considerable mental distress.
"In rural areas, especially on dark evenings, parents would not know what had happened to their child and would be extremely concerned. It is perfectly acceptable to give 24 hours' notice, as it will allow parents to make other arrangements for travel ... Anything else would be unacceptable".-[Official Report, Commons, Education and Inspections Bill Committee, 10/5/06; cols. 855-56.]
Equally, we need to be aware of the needs of young carers who could be stopped from doing vital caring work at home, with no warning and no ability to make alternative arrangements. We need to be aware of the fact that some schools are not aware of the full caring roles that their pupils are carrying out when they get home, and the schools may thereby not be sensitive to some of the pressures that they are putting on the children.
The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, has made the case about rural areas and I shall not repeat it. Unamended, the clause could disrupt the relationship between schools and parents. The NUT made a good point when it said:
Our amendment therefore helps to redress the balance. It recognises the advantages of short-notice punishment while acknowledging the need to build parents into the disciplinary equation by requiring parents to be made aware of the sanctions the school intends to take. It fosters good relations with parents while allowing them to raise any genuine and practical concerns about a child's late journey home. In the event that it is not possible to contact the parent or carer, it should remain that the default position is 24 hours' notice. I hope that noble Lords will see the sense in both amendments.
Lord Lingfield: My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will confirm that this did not rise just out of a vacuum and that a large number of teachers and teachers' organisations have indeed been in contact to support
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According to the thrust of the Government's position, these decisions should be left to individual schools. We trust individual schools to make these kinds of decisions. Frankly, it is good so to trust them. Given that kind of trust, the response is always more professionalism. We do not need any more safeguards built into this. Where things are, there they should stay.
Lord Knight of Weymouth: My Lords, I will briefly make three points, unless something else occurs to me as I am on my feet. First, will the Minister tell us how many schools have actually asked for this? I have listened carefully to what the last noble Lord said, but in my three years as Schools Minister no school ever asked me for this power. I would be really interested in what evidence there is for a demand for it.
Secondly, I listened to what the noble Lord said about the fact they we should trust schools and leave it to them to decide whether to use the flexibility that they are being given in this Bill. I refer back to what the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said about schools not necessarily fully understanding the circumstances of some of their pupils' families; her example was whether or not they have caring responsibilities. I was shocked to talk to some schools where they did not know that parents might be in prison. All sorts of things happen that families do not necessarily want to go around talking about but which affect the nature of the home environment, and would then affect whether it would be appropriate to give a detention without notice on the same day after school.
Finally, on reinforcing the discipline from the school at home, when I was given detentions at the prep and independent private schools that I went to for things like forgetting my towel or-God forbid-being cheeky and a bit mouthy, which I know would shock noble Lords, there was always a letter home that went with the detention. That was always the worst part of the punishment: your parents knew that you had been given a detention. Giving 24 hours' notice so that your parents are informed of the detention is a really important aspect of linking up the discipline of the school with
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Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I wish to follow the noble Lord, Lord Knight, because I found it extraordinarily surprising that this Government, who stand very much for working with and alongside parents and making sure that there is accountability and responsibility at home, can suggest that they would give a detention without informing parents. Having worked with the Minister, Tim Loughton, on other issues and knowing how important it is for the Government that children should be safeguarded, I find it astounding that they can suggest that children can be detained in the evening and be allowed to go home without their parents knowing and without safeguards. I expect better.
Baroness Benjamin: My Lords, I, too, support both these amendments. There are real concerns, as we have already heard, about the proposals to remove the requirement for written notice of detention outside school hours, given the safety concerns of parents for the whereabouts of their children, particularly if their children are at risk due to family circumstances or where they live or the nature of their journey from home to school. It is essential that the school gives parents notice if their child is to remain at school outside school hours and that the child's safety and well-being are considered and given top priority.
Many have considered this proposal to be in direct opposition to the current insistence that the parents of excluded children must account for their whereabouts in the first five days of exclusion. It is only fair that, in return, parents are kept up to date by schools on their child's whereabouts. I therefore support the amendment to retain the requirement for written notice of detention outside school hours.
Lord Willis of Knaresborough: My Lords, I rise very briefly to ask the Minister a specific question, which arose from the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, without any support or evidence at all to back up his claims. We should not have any legislation on the statute book unless it is actually going to do something-to improve or rectify a situation. The Education Act 2002 gave schools two powers. One was the right to earned autonomy and the other was the power to innovate. I am sure the Minister's officials could tell him, or her, immediately how many schools since 2002 have applied under those powers to innovate to have detentions on the same day.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, as we have all agreed, improving standards of behaviour in our schools is of great importance. We know that having a clear behaviour policy, which is consistently applied and includes positive incentives as well as sanctions, is essential to ensure good behaviour. This clause is one measure that the Government are taking to help schools to achieve this. Its intention is to allow teachers and head teachers to use detention in a way that is appropriate to the circumstances of their school and individual pupils to maintain a safe and orderly school environment.
My noble friends Lady Brinton and Lady Benjamin and other noble Lords have raised concerns about the safeguards, but safeguards are already in place to make sure that parents know what to expect with regard to detention outside school hours. Section 89 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 requires that head teachers develop a behaviour policy in line with the principles drawn up by the governing body, and publicise it to parents annually. This policy must include all the penalties that the school uses to maintain discipline, including whether the school issues detention outside school hours.
The amendments in this group seek to place additional requirements on schools in relation to contacting parents when they wish to give a detention. I understand the intention behind the amendments. My noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, rightly consider that courtesy to parents and issues of child safety are of the utmost importance. Of course, I agree with them about that. However, noble Lords asked where these requests had come from. They may have read the briefing by the Association of School and College Leaders, which read:
"We welcome removal of the requirement to give parents 24 hours notice of detentions. We note that at second reading there was concern that this power could be abused. School leaders are well aware of the position of child carers, as well as other concerns such as children walking home alone in the dark and in the vast majority of cases will continue to give 24 hours' notice. We are confident that schools can and should be trusted with this additional discretion".
I believe that teachers and head teachers will consider the circumstances of their schools and pupils in setting their policies on detention so that they can promote good discipline but also safeguard children's welfare and support good relationships with parents. However, I shall also set out the existing legal safeguards that protect children's welfare if they are given a detention. Section 91 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 requires that disciplinary penalties must be reasonable in all circumstances. When considering whether a disciplinary penalty is reasonable, teachers must take account of the special circumstances of the pupil, including-but not limited to-their age and special educational needs, or any disability they may have. That would include the concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, about autistic children and their very special needs.
The Section 91 requirement applies when issuing detention outside school hours. This means that a detention will be lawful only if a teacher acts reasonably given the circumstances, including in relation to giving
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Lord Knight of Weymouth: Do those legal safeguards mean that the noble Baroness's expectation is that parents' recourse would be to the courts-and the expense of going to court-if, for whatever reason, they did not feel that they had been given notice that their child would not be at the school gates to be picked up and that had caused them to worry? Is there another third party to whom they could appeal?
Baroness Garden of Frognal: The noble Lord raises a valid point. There will be a school complaints procedure to which parents can normally turn in the first instance. Given the special circumstances in which this might arise, one would have thought that that would be the first line of action.
I also understand noble Lords' concerns regarding the safety of children when travelling home from school, particularly in rural areas. I should reassure noble Lords that, in addition to the safeguards I have just described, Section 92(5) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 makes it clear that, when considering an out-of-hours detention, teachers must consider whether suitable travel arrangements can be made via pupils' parents. For some rural schools, out-of-hours detentions may never be appropriate, whatever the notice period, as has already been raised in discussion. I believe that head teachers will make sensible decisions in their individual circumstances.
In our debate on Tuesday, the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, described some of the difficulties that schools can face in working with a minority of parents. There is a risk that requiring parents to give consent for a same-day detention or to confirm that they are aware of it could, in a small number of cases, allow parents to obstruct appropriate disciplinary penalties. I should reassure noble Lords that the department has released new concise guidance on teachers' legal powers to discipline. This guidance makes it clear that the school must act reasonably when imposing a detention, as with any disciplinary penalty. In addition, when deciding the timing, the teacher should consider whether suitable travel arrangements can be made by the parent for the pupil. I believe we can trust teachers to consider this and act appropriately.
In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, a study carried out for the Department for Education found that teachers reported a lack of support from parents, describing a "them versus us" mentality. That same study found that teachers felt that the removal of the requirement for 24 hours' notice of detention would empower them. I can send the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, a copy of that study. We stress that the vast majority of parents would be likely to be supportive if they could see that the detention was in the interests of their children. However, this measure is to take account of cases where that might not be seen as an appropriate action.
Lord Knight of Weymouth: Is it not the case that the amendment asks for parents to be given notice? It does not require consent. I completely understand
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Baroness Garden of Frognal: Parents do not necessarily answer their phone. The fact that one has sent a letter home with the child does not necessarily mean that the child has passed it on-I can remember that being the case when I was a teacher. In some cases it was difficult to get hold of the parents to ensure that the message had been sent through. I come back to the point that, were there a difficulty at home, teachers and head teachers would be aware that it might not be an appropriate action to take. It would be taken only where it was deemed to be the right thing to do.
Baroness Massey of Darwen: Is the Minister aware that quite often teachers and heads are not aware that there might be a problem at home? My noble friend gave the example of young carers. Young carers often do not wish to be known as young carers. I find "appropriate" and "reasonable" quite difficult to grasp in these circumstances.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: In the case of pupils who were young carers, one hopes that that would be known by the schools, although I grant you that it might not be. Once again, we come back to the fact that detentions without 24 hours' notice would occur in very exceptional circumstances. Teachers would ensure with the pupils concerned that there was no reason for it to be inappropriate for them to be detained in those circumstances. Teachers are already legally required to take appropriate and reasonable action in giving an out-an-hours detention and to consider all the relevant circumstances. I do not believe for one moment that they would be gung-ho. We should listen to head teachers when they tell us that this measure will help them.
My noble friend Lord Willis asked how many schools applied for a power to innovate. The answer is probably none, because few schools have ever applied to use the power for any reason. It would simply be something that they had it in their power to do if the need arose.
Lord Willis of Knaresborough: I am grateful to the Minister for responding so quickly and to the Box for finding the response. She makes exactly the point that I want to make; namely, that these powers already exist. You do not need additional legislation to have an impact here. If a school wanted the power, it could simply apply to the Secretary of State under the 2002 legislation and the Secretary of State would gladly give it to them.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, there is currently a ban on giving a detention without 24 hours' notice. That is why we are legislating here to enable schools to have the additional power if they wish to use it in very special circumstances.
Lord Willis of Knaresborough: I apologise if I am being incredibly stupid, but the 2002 Act gives the Secretary of State the right to grant to any school in
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Baroness Garden of Frognal: With due respect to my noble friend, I think that it would be quite a time-consuming process for each school to apply to the Secretary of State for a power to innovate for a circumstance which would be likely to arise very seldom and which would need immediate action. Processes for expecting in advance to be able to do this are not practical.
Lord Willis of Knaresborough: I am sorry to take up the Committee's time but this is important. It would not be done on every occasion. As a school, you apply for the power to innovate and you put it into your polices that you have the power to give a detention without notice-end of story. Why is new legislation needed?
Baroness Garden of Frognal: Each school would have to apply individually for that power to innovate. We are setting in legislation the fact that each school would not need to apply individually to the Secretary of State; they would have it as an additional power which they could use on the rare occasions that the school deemed that it was an appropriate way of dealing with a pupil's behaviour.
Baroness Morris of Yardley: My Lords, the noble Lord is right. The power to innovate gives schools the right to ask whether they can be covered by this piece of legislation. You do that in advance; you do not do it because you want to keep a child in that night. I support what the noble Lord is saying, which is that the Government are making the case that only a small number of schools will use this power. If it is so important to them, looking across the array of legal powers they want to take themselves, if they think the most important thing is that they can keep children in on the same day, the power is there to do it. The noble Lord is absolutely right. The point is that this legislation leaves so many loopholes and so many risks of children not being safely looked after. We do not need to take that risk. If a school thinks it is important to them, they can apply for the power to innovate in advance. My understanding is that they have the power for five years.
Lord Hill of Oareford: I am the Minister who is in receipt of applications for powers to innovate. I have not been overwhelmed over the last year and a half by applications for powers to innovate. It may be there but the point is that for it to be there it is a more complicated process than it ought to be. Every school would have to apply individually. They apply to officials and officials put up submissions and Ministers decide and opine and then the power to innovate, like Zeus, is given. It is time-limited.
As a way of dealing with the issue, if one accepts that this is a permissive power, as it clearly is, and if you say to schools that all those that might want to use this power have to go through the rather cumbersome and protracted process of applying for a power to innovate, no one will go through the process of applying. They will say that this has been made difficult for them, whereas something that is simple, which gives them the opportunity and which applies to all-to choose either to use or not to use-with safeguards in place, seems a more rational way than making every school try individually.
Baroness Howarth of Breckland: Could I respectfully say to the Minister that this is not about powers and process, it is about message. If the message you want to convey is that you want to support schools and head teachers in whatever powers they wish, that is a message that will go out. But it will not be generally helpful in forging relationships between families, communities, parents and schools or indeed between children and their teachers. That is what it is about. It is about ethos and message. A better message is that these powers do exist. I am a strong believer in discipline in schools. Children learn much better if you have discipline. You need these sorts of structures in schools. But it is unhelpful to put into statute something which every speaker in this Room, even those who think we should do something, sees as unsafe and as poor communication with parents. I hope the Government will re-think how they convey that message of support to teachers without putting children into danger.
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: Before the noble Baroness sits down, I want to be clear what she is saying. Is she saying it is okay to have short-notice detention and not to tell the parents, because that seems to be the message? That raises all the concerns that people around the Room have raised. By all means have short-notice detention but make sure the parents are told. It seems she is saying it is not necessary. All our amendment is doing is to make sure the parents are told. That is a safeguard-the check and balance that is needed. I have not heard a convincing case why we should not insist that parents are told.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: We are talking here about a detention which might be as short as 10, 15 or 20 minutes after school. In that case there would not be time to get hold of most parents to tell them their child was being detained. If all the safeguards were in place to indicate that there would be no danger or damage to that pupil in detaining them, it might be a short, sharp shock that would just rectify a situation that was getting out of control. It is simply an additional power that the school would have, without all the delays. It will build up into a much bigger issue if you then wait and send a letter back to the parents or try to contact them. The whole thing might escalate into a much bigger punishment than giving a brief and immediate punishment on the spot to a young person who had committed some misdemeanour where all the safeguards were in place to make sure that that child would not be at risk for being kept back for a few minutes at the end of school.
We are obviously taking account of transport and all the other circumstances where this type of detention would not be appropriate. We are doing so in response to head teachers, who have indicated that they would welcome this power. As the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, said, this is, in a way, a message about something that could be available to them should they need it in very specific circumstances and when appropriate with all the safeguards surrounding it.
We hear the strength of feeling around the Room about this measure but I hope that noble Lords will see that it is a very measured proposal. Teachers would not be inclined to abuse the system but it could be extremely helpful in some circumstances to give an immediate punishment. It would show a young person that they had stepped out of line and that such a punishment was appropriate.
With that explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment. However, we certainly have taken on board the debate on this matter in Committee and the strength of feeling that it has aroused.
Baroness Brinton: My Lords, we have had two debates on this amendment. The latter one that has emerged about the power to innovate and accessibility to current legislation for schools has been interesting. I urge the Minister to reconsider whether the existing law enables the Government to achieve what they want to happen. Should it not do so, I shall want to come back to some of the comments made by other noble Lords today.
There are key safeguarding issues relating to short-notice detention outside school time. That is the fundamental concern behind both these amendments. It is a question of trust in teachers, as espoused by the Ministers, or safeguarding children. Frankly, I think that the balance there always has to be in favour of children. I absolutely take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and others about children who act as carers. Children may also have non-caring roles that they need to fulfil or other commitments outside school with classes to go to where their non-attendance would cause problems. There are many things that schools do not know about where a short-notice detention out of school time could cause very serious implications for a child.
Parental support is absolutely vital, as many noble Lords have commented. Since the beginning of Second Reading, we have talked repeatedly about partnership between parents and schools. Parents' support for outside-school-time detention must be a priority, not least because that gives them the chance to make alternative arrangements and it also gives them a chance to say to the school, "In this instance, it is not appropriate to do it straight away".
I have to take issue with my noble friend Lord Lingfield about this being a new tool in the toolbox. It is a very weighty tool and an absolute sledgehammer to crack a nut. The Minister cited Section 91 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, as well as another Act, and was confident that all the legislation was in place and that all we were being asked was to trust teachers. However, this amendment and Amendment 62 set out a simple and clear way of making it absolutely
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I come to the final point about a nine year-old at primary school walking home late in November without their parents' knowledge. In the main, most schools would not want that to happen, but there are occasions when it might. That is why I come back to safeguarding. If it is safeguarding versus trust, safeguarding must come first.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: That simply would not happen. It would not be the case that a nine year-old was kept back late in school and allowed to walk home on their own under these circumstances. That is not how this measure is either intended or framed.
Baroness Brinton: Whether it is a nine year-old, an 11 year-old or a 12 year-old, the same safeguarding issues are still absolutely there and valid. I am afraid that the problem with the plethora of legislation that was quoted earlier is that it is too easy to miss. There were comments earlier about the message that the Bill sends out about this. There is a clear message from both of these amendments that children's safeguarding comes first, which is why parents should be notified.
I hope that Ministers will take into account much of the discussion that we have had today, and will able to come back at later stages of the Bill. For now, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My Lords, when we talked in a previous debate about the Bill's approach of removing what the Government see as burdens from schools, I said that I and my colleagues had approached this issue not simply by arguing, as we go through these detailed debates, that everything that the Government want to take out should be put back.
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Like the duty to co-operate, Clause 6 would repeal a duty on secondary schools to co-operate with other schools to promote good behaviour, discipline and attendance, and also to make an annual report to the Children's Trust on how they have done so. I move the amendment only because, like the duty to co-operate, we think that the repeal of this particular duty on behaviour and attendance partnerships will have such a negative effect on some of the things that the Government actually say that they want to achieve.
The amendment would reinstate the duty to enter into behaviour and attendance partnerships but remove the duty to produce an annual report. We have no difficulty supporting that part, but the duty to co-operate with other schools in partnerships to tackle behaviour, discipline and attendance are very important, not least because of the debate we had not long ago on exclusions and that entire discussion about behaviour and discipline. Everybody in that debate, including the Minister, said that we want exclusions to be a last resort. We want schools to work to prevent exclusions by having a strong, robust but comprehensive approach to inculcating good behaviour and dealing with discipline problems in a creative way so that they do not have to exclude pupils. That is what behaviour and attendance partnerships are all about.
I know that the Minister may well come back and say, "Look, we think partnerships are a good idea but we want schools to participate in them voluntarily. We don't think this duty is a good idea because, to be meaningful, a partnership is best when everybody is committed and enters into partnership voluntarily".
What Alan Steer's review pointed to was the fact that good collaboration between schools over these issues is often prevented by what are perceived, by other schools in the area, to be unfair practices by a minority of schools over such things as admissions and exclusions. The resentment that that engenders because of some schools behaving unfairly and not collaborating with others means that the whole approach to partnership is damaged and fragmented, and that it becomes very difficult to get partnerships going. He also said that such partnerships sometimes need a helping hand to become established. They need the kind of momentum that a duty on all schools equally to participate can create.
This clause, among others, is in real danger of fragmenting that approach among schools in an area. If the duty to participate in partnerships is repealed, a lot of good work that has been done under the umbrella of those partnerships will be jeopardised. What partnerships enable schools to do, as well as to get support from each other on particular approaches, is
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I am also concerned that the removal of the duty could reduce parents' ability to get access to support for a child with behavioural problems. Those resources just will not be available to individual schools in the same way. There is a danger of cutting parents out of that system. I shall not detain the Committee for very long on this, but not because it is not important-it is very important. The issues are very clear, particularly when we put this in the context of some of the other measures proposed in the Bill. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's response. This is not a negative duty on schools; it is a positive duty that promotes collaboration and partnership over some of the most difficult behavioural and disciplinary issues that schools must deal with. It means that they are not on their own in dealing with them and that they can develop local responses in an area across a group of schools, which is very positive.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, briefly, I support what the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, has just said. It seems eminently reasonable to support such a mode of working-of sharing the burden of the most difficult children among a group of schools. From speaking to head teachers, I have not experienced that model. However, I have spoken to the head teacher who was responsible for something called the Greater Manchester Challenge in the Greater Manchester area. It gathered together teachers and head teachers in Manchester to support each other. I understand that there is something similar in Greater London. This, perhaps, was one of the strengths of the previous Government. One of the good things that they brought forward was a mode of encouraging heads to work together to produce better outcomes for children.
One sees that the new coalition Government are moving in the opposite direction. There is a lot that we will support in that. Perhaps we can all support greater autonomy and respect for individual professionals, but I would be very sad if, in the process of that move, we went from one extreme to another and we lost some of the good things that came out in the years of work that the previous Government put in. To my mind, it would be very sad to lose that co-operation and recognition that some problems are bigger than any one school can deal with.
The Minister may say that there are new modalities in developing these sorts of collaborative approaches. I recall what his noble friend Lady Ritchie said in the previous Committee session when she expressed concern, as the person responsible within the Local Government Association for the safeguarding of children, that the academies programme has given rise to concerns about fragmentation. There is a swing in the pendulum from one extreme to another. Some really good things came out from the previous swing in the direction of collaborative working, and I should be grateful to the Minister if he can reassure the Committee-as I am sure that he will-that he recognises the importance of schools working together to deal with these issues, and say what new mechanisms he is helping to bring into place to make it work for children in the future.
Baroness Morris of Yardley: I shall speak very briefly in support of the amendment because it is perhaps one of the most important that we will discuss in Committee. I know that we can return to the issue at a later stage. I very much support what my noble friend Lady Hughes said-out of all the obligations that schools have been freed from, this is probably one of the most important to discuss. My reasons for saying that are twofold. I completely accept the need for schools to be independent and I acknowledge and recognise that the Government are working to push that agenda as far as they can. Can the Minister say whether the Government also accept the need for schools to be interdependent? Does he understand the concept that sometimes schools cannot do well for their own children because they are not interdependent with other schools in the system?
If the Government accept that, I have a second question. Of all the things that schools can do, the thing that can most harm a neighbouring school is the exclusions policy. That is what makes exclusions different than a lot of other things. I am sure that the Minister and the Government fully understand that the actions of one school can make it difficult for another to raise standards. That is the powerful case for leaving there the obligation and duty to be part of the partnership. It is, first, about the interdependency of schools as well as the independence and, secondly, it is about understanding that the actions of one school can be very detrimental to the ability of the other to raise standards. Will the Minister reflect on that in her response?
Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, I understand and have much sympathy with the intention of the amendment to promote partnership working between schools to improve behaviour and to remove bureaucratic burdens, and with the views put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Baroness, Lady Morris. I agree that working in partnership to improve behaviour and attendance can help schools to meet the needs of their pupils. Very many schools are already doing this very effectively. We heard from Sue Bainbridge from National Strategies, who worked on behaviour in schools for the previous Government. She said:
"One really good example of partnership working is in Tower Hamlets. No one told those schools to work together; they decided to work together. They share their data now. They not
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"During our visit to Leicester City Council, local partners were confident that there existed an established culture of less challenged schools supporting those with greater challenges in terms of pupil behaviour. Therefore, the removal of the requirement to form BAPs [behaviour and attendance partnerships] was expected to have little impact on local partnership working".
The fact is that Section 248 is not yet commenced. Therefore, schools that are part of a behaviour and attendance partnership have been doing so on a voluntary basis. No arrangements were planned to monitor or enforce the requirement for schools to form partnerships, and no resources have been allocated to schools to help them with the administrative burden that that would have imposed.
One feature of behaviour and attendance partnerships is that schools pool resources to buy in specialist resources, including SEN provision. There is no reason why this should not continue, because it has taken place without any need for this section of the Act. These examples-the noble Earl came up with an example as well-demonstrate schools' willingness to work together on behaviour without being required to do so.
Of course, we must hold schools accountable for the outcomes that they achieve for their pupils. Our reforms to the Ofsted inspection framework, which will focus it on the core functions of a school, will ensure that schools are held accountable for the behaviour of their students. How they achieve good behaviour is for each school to decide. If poor behaviour and attendance is identified as a key issue for a school, the management and senior leadership team should prioritise this and take appropriate action. In looking at the effectiveness of a school's leadership and management, Ofsted will consider how they work with other schools and external partners to improve pupil outcomes.
We have already discussed in debates on previous clauses the Government's overall approach to improving behaviour in schools. As noble Lords know, one element of this is our trial of a new exclusions process, where schools take responsibility for the education and attainment of pupils whom they exclude. The trial will give us a further opportunity to explore how schools can work effectively together and with others to reduce exclusions and how government can incentivise them to do so.
Perhaps I may respond to a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris. In another place, Kevin Brennan said in a debate on exclusions that he would raise the issues of how-oh, I am sorry. All schools and admissions authorities are required by School Admissions Code to participate in the locally agreed fair access protocol to ensure that children without a school place, especially the most vulnerable, are found a place at a suitable school as quickly as possible.
I hope that I have demonstrated that repealing the legislation will not affect existing partnerships or stop new partnerships from forming. Behaviour and attendance partnerships appear to have flourished without ever
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Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and my noble friend Lady Morris for their contributions, emphasising as they did the importance for all schools of collaboration and partnership working, and the great contribution that they can make and are making to the creative management of some of the most difficult problems of behaviour, discipline and attendance that schools are addressing.
I am sorry to say that I was not greatly convinced by the Minister's response. We hear constantly from Ministers that such requirements on schools are regarded by the Government as bureaucratic burdens. I do not think that they are. They have been necessary in order to inculcate the kind of behaviour that we want from schools. The fact that the legislation has not yet been implemented in full does not mean that its repeal will not have any effect. Schools were anticipating this legislative requirement; it was the whole direction of travel of the previous Government. The fact that schools are doing it effectively now-some of them; not all of them-does not mean that the duty to engage in partnership is no longer required. As I said in my opening remarks, Alan Steer pointed out that some schools behave very badly, particularly in relation to exclusions. As my noble friend Lady Morris said, when that happens, it greatly affects all the other schools in the area. His clear conclusion was that all schools needed to be in these partnerships and that all schools should have that duty placed upon them.
I am not convinced that repealing the requirement will not have a negative impact on the partnerships that exist at the moment. We have to look at this matter in the round. We have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, today about messages. Taken together, a lot of the messages in the Bill say to schools, "It's not just about your independence. You can act in isolation. You don't have to co-operate with the local authority; you don't have to co-operate with the health service; and you don't have to co-operate with each other in the development of solutions to these difficult issues".
(a) "bullying" includes negative behaviour directed at an individual or group which is intended to cause either physical, emotional or relational hurt or damage;
(b) "the protected characteristics" has the same meaning as in the Equality Act 2010.
At Second Reading, I highlighted that homophobic bullying was reaching epidemic levels in our schools. I made it clear that this type of bullying affects young people regardless of sexual orientation in all schools including faith schools, academies and free schools. Stonewall recently published disturbing polling evidence revealing that nine in 10 secondary schoolteachers say that pupils, regardless of their sexual orientation, currently experience physical homophobic bullying, name-calling or harassment in their school. One in four teachers says that this happens "often" or "very often".
However, while debating provisions within the Bill giving teachers the power to tackle bullying when it happens, we should not forget that schools must be in no doubt that they have a fundamental responsibility to prevent such bullying happening in the first place. Schools need to be environments where young people feel comfortable in reporting homophobic bullying. The amendment proposes that a requirement be placed on schools to record and report incidents of prejudice-based bullying. The requirement would apply to all schools, including free schools and academies.
I welcome the provisions in the Bill which attempt to deliver on the commitment to tackle bullying as set out in the White Paper, The Importance of Teaching. Nick Gibb, Minister of State for Schools, confirmed at Second Reading in another place:
"The coalition Government are committed to tackling all forms of bullying in our schools, including homophobic bullying, and the Bill makes a start by tackling the root cause of bullying-poor behaviour in our schools".-[Official Report, Commons, 8/2/11; col. 261.]
Both Stonewall and the Equality and Human Rights Commission recognise the importance that government places on freeing schools from unnecessary bureaucracy and regulation. Therefore, a new requirement for data collection should not be proposed lightly-and I do not propose it lightly. However, the evidence of the size of the problem, its persistence over time and its impact on young people's lives suggest that this is a proportionate and necessary measure that will enable Ofsted, parents and pupils to hold schools to account for their progress in tackling bullying.
The EHRC evidence shows that reporting on racial bullying is already widespread, with 75 per cent of local authorities collecting data from their schools on the extent of racial and ethnic bullying. Therefore, in my opinion, it would be straightforward for existing collection and reporting mechanisms to be extended to allow for the collection of data on other forms of bullying, such as bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and religion or belief.
Another concern is the lack of data gathering to monitor incidence of prejudice-based bullying by schools, perhaps compounded by new draft guidance issued by the Department for Education. This guidance provides information on preventing and tackling bullying and streamlines previous advice, but ultimately leaves decision-making on whether to keep written records to schools. In my view, keeping records is an essential tool to tackling bullying. It is an evidence-based approach to tackling this problem. The public sector equality duty requires schools to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and to consider how they could positively contribute to the advancement of equality and good relationships. As such, they are required to analyse the effect of their policies and practices on all the protected grounds.
Prejudice-based bullying is clearly one of the key issues affecting pupils, and a requirement to record and report across all protected grounds would help schools to meet their duty to support improvement in educational experiences and outcomes for pupils. I beg to move.
Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for this amendment. He makes many powerful points about homophobic bullying. This is a very serious issue. Research has shown that many young people who are gay feel excluded and even suicidal when they are bullied because of their sexual orientation. Bullying has become a very much more complex issue in recent years. It can happen to any child, and some more than others. The person who is doing the bullying also has problems, as well as the child who is being bullied. We have to tackle all that complex mix.
Mobile phones and the internet, in and out of school, have driven some young people who are bullied to suicide, not just to suicidal feelings. We need to look at this very seriously. The issue of keeping records is important, but I would go back to something that I remember Graham Allen saying recently. One thing is having the firemen to deal with a situation but, before that, we need to have smoke alarm systems. I want to talk about the smoke alarms here, not literally but metaphorically.
We need to teach about bullying, in PSHE or wherever, and address the reasons why some people are bullied, why some people do the bullying and the feelings involved there. That is the first point. We need to discuss bullying with pupils in school and have them express their feelings about it. It is also a matter of what is happening in lessons and within the school's own ethos: how does the school tolerate this?
There is another issue about having a school policy on bullying and on behaviour generally. We mentioned school councils the other day, and I gave the example
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Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment for all the reasons that he set out so comprehensively, but also because identity-based bullying is a particularly prevalent experience for Gypsy and Traveller children. Indeed, it is thought to be responsible for much of the 20 per cent drop-out rate at secondary level. I have heard harrowing examples from Gypsy and Traveller members of the UK Youth Parliament about their own and their siblings' and cousins' experience, which included sometimes indifference, or even collusion, on the part of the teachers.
About three-quarters of local authorities collect information on racial and ethnic bullying. I am not sure that they always think that bullying Gypsy and Traveller children is ethnic bullying. In any case, the schools which do not supply the information or collect examples of that and other identity-based bullying most need their practice exposed and improved. It will surely help to address poor behaviour and, as my noble friend says, it will not be an onerous addition to raise the standard of the worst to the best. I hope that the Minister will entertain the possibility of accepting this amendment.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, briefly, I support the amendment and the reasoning behind it. We seem to have been through this process on a number of occasions during the passage of a number of different education-indeed, other-Bills. Above all, it constantly takes me back to the business of early intervention, setting standards and leadership within schools. I am back again to Graham Allen. All his theories and ideas are exactly what we should be thinking about.
Things such as Sure Start have done a great deal to show us the way forward. Equally, some schools have taken positive steps with early mentoring for every new student who comes in, with a positive responsibility-through the ethos of the school and the head teacher-to look after and integrate a new child into the school community. All these things are necessary, not least, as has already been mentioned, in a society where particularly nasty practices can take place using phones and photography-not to put too fine a point on it-thoroughly disturbing, if not worse, the life of a young child emerging into the world.
We may not have the right answer here. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response. This is an important issue and I am glad that it has been raised in this context. Of course, it is not just homophobic bullying; it is a whole range of issues. We all need to keep an eye on them.
Baroness Brinton: My Lords, I also support this amendment. It is a helpful move to ensure that schools, Ofsted, the Government and responsible bodies within our wider communities are aware of prejudice-based bullying as a result of anything in these categories.
Severe bullying in any form is wrong and much has been done in recent years. I know from my own time in Cambridgeshire in the 1990s that we had trained staff in every school not just to spot bullying but to support other staff in the implementation of anti-bullying policies. School councils existed to work with pupils even at a primary level to talk about the issue. One of the fundamental problems over the years has been that some schools have refused to admit that bullying exists in their schools. That is why collecting data becomes extremely helpful.
Over the last decade or so, I have also had the privilege of seeing the work of the Red Balloon Learner Centres, which are set up specifically to help children so severely traumatised by bullying they can no longer go to mainstream schools. Their intention is, and they mainly succeed, to get these children and young people back into mainstream school within two years of being unable to attend. These children have been so badly affected that it is not just about being afraid of going into school, but they stop learning as well. That is critical. As has been mentioned already, some threaten to take their lives and very sadly some have taken their lives.
I have one concern about the amendment, however. Those schools who deny bullying is a problem are probably less likely to accept that there is, for example, homophobic bullying going on in their schools. Guidelines to schools, therefore, should be absolutely clear to make sure that there is a requirement on schools to really think about incidents that are reported and what the root cause is. Let me give you an illustration why. I know a young man who, when he was 12, was taunted repeatedly for being gay and he found it impossible to manage at school. He also, incidentally, had a disability. His confidence plummeted, his educational performance was also significantly reduced and it took some time for these incidents to be taken seriously by the school, which prided itself on its pastoral care. Once it accepted that there was an issue, things swung into action. But by that time his confidence was at a seriously low ebb.
If required to report the bullying, I doubt that school would have picked it up in the first year of those incidents and the impact on the young person concerned was significant. Fortunately, in his case a move elsewhere gave him the chance to recuperate and his life was turned round, mainly by his own self-confidence once the bullying had stopped. Once he got to FE college, he championed the young Liberal Democrats' Homophobia is Gay campaign within his college, much to the astonishment of his family, but it gave him confidence and allowed homophobia to be discussed at his FE college. He is now happily at university and doing extremely well.
The reason I cite that illustration is that it is often more complex than it appears when somebody falls into a particular category. That is why any
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As has already been mentioned, the recent Equality and Human Rights Commission report and evidence on prevention and response to identity-based bullying is illuminating. Two-thirds of young lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils have experienced direct bullying. That this rises to 75 per cent in faith schools is a shocking statistic. Despite my concern about reporting, monitoring will help to improve the situation and it is right that it must be by all schools, including free schools and academies. It is evident that racial bullying is being reported. As has already been commented, 75 per cent of local authorities are now collecting data. Let us protect all children and young people in the prejudice-based groups, including sexual orientation, disability and religion or belief.
Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My Lords, I also support the amendment moved by my noble friend. He made a powerful speech at Second Reading and raised a very important issue, not least because it is still overlooked in this day and age and is still a difficult issue for some people to address. As the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, has just said, Stonewall and other organisations have reported on a very high incidence of bullying of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils. A feature of such bullying is that it is often hidden from adults because it takes place through text messages, social media sites and so on. It is often covert. However, as has been alluded to, the impact on young people can be absolutely traumatic. They fear going to school and being attacked, all of which impacts on their learning, sense of security and well-being. We have heard of some tragic cases in which people have harmed themselves or tried to commit suicide as a result.
There are three reasons why we ought to support this amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Collins. First, it would ensure that important first steps are taken to discover the extent of prejudice-based bullying through the recording of incidents. That is a picture that needs to be fleshed out. Secondly, having to record the incidents would, in itself, raise awareness of and sensitivity to the issue among teachers and schools. Thirdly, as we have heard, there is an apparatus and a system in place to record ethnic and other kinds of bullying, to which this could be added without much onerous work or demands being made on schools or local authorities. Those are three powerful reasons. I hope the Minister will find that he can support the amendment.
Lord Lexden: Does the noble Baroness also endorse something to do with recording that is tremendously important-that is, discussion? Discussion should not be of the covert kind to which she referred, but brought out more openly by kind and sensitive teachers who are in touch with the temper of these times, which have changed so markedly over the past few years. Teachers are now in a position to handle these matters sensitively and to encourage more general discussion of them in schools, reaching a fuller, more mature, more balanced and good understanding.
Baroness Hughes of Stretford: I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord's point, which reflects that of my noble friend Lady Massey. These issues should be discussed more openly in the round through personal, social and health education and other discussions that take place in schools. If such bullying happens to them, pupils will then feel safer and more confident in declaring what has happened to them.
Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I briefly add a point about this being a Forth Bridge issue. It is perpetual and we must work at it all the time. I am interested in what the Government's strategy for tackling bullying in schools is. The previous Government certainly had a strategy, which I assume the current Government will carry on and build on.
When I was involved with Childline, bullying was the most significant issue for children. I understand that this is still the case now that the NSPCC runs Childline. It came above safeguarding, relationships and issues to do with friends. It had an emotional impact on children. I know this because I spoke personally to hundreds of them over the telephone about their view of themselves, particularly young children from ethnic-minority communities, for whom this was a very confusing issue. More recently, we know that homophobic bullying has become much more rife, with names being called in the playground. Therefore, I recognise that collecting statistics may not be the Government's way of taking this forward but I should like to hear more about what they are doing strategically. This is not something that needs a plan for today or yesterday; it has to happen all the time.
I remember advising the head of a school in the south of England where a young man had taken his own life. He said, "But we don't have bullying in this school". I said that the healthy position was to recognise that every school has bullying, but to have a strategy to deal with it that involves its pupils. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about the strategic position.
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, first, like others, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, for raising this important issue and, if I may say so, for doing it in a very thoughtful way and getting the debate off to such a good start. He and other noble Lords have described the terrible impact that bullying can have on a child. I agree with him and other noble Lords that schools, pupils, parents and the Government must work together to tackle bullying in schools, and prejudice-based bullying in particular.
We set out in our White Paper, as the noble Lord mentioned, our clear expectation that schools should take a tough and firm stance on all forms of bullying. They should seek to identify what bullying is happening in their school and take steps to support pupils who have been bullied and prevent it happening in future. To support schools, we have issued the guidance to which the noble Lord referred, setting out their legal powers and duties, the principles that underpin the strategies used in successful schools, and the specialist organisations that can provide information to help schools to understand and tackle different types of bullying. This guidance makes it clear that primary
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As the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, said-and I agree with her-bullying is a problem which happens to children and young people in schools on a spectrum of severity and for all sorts of reasons. The noble Lord's amendment addresses a particular kind of bullying, which is particularly horrid, but if one is on the receiving end of bullying all kinds of bullying feel completely horrid and vile. It is, as has already been explained, a complex issue that is too often hidden from parents and teachers, as noble Lords have said. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that in order to tackle bullying schools must have a good understanding of what is driving bullying in their schools. That is a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, made as well. We need a much broader approach. Schools must also understand the types of bullying that are a problem. It is crucial that they create an environment where pupils know that bullying is not tolerated and feel able to report it where it occurs.
The nature of bullying changes over time. If the noble Lord, Lord Rix, were here, he would talk about the concerns that he and others had about the rise in bullying of disabled children. If we had been here 10 years ago, we probably would not have had a debate about the rise in homophobic bullying. Therefore, understanding the issues and how they change over time is extremely important and will require different action in different schools. I have been told that 35 per cent of bullying goes unreported, so any system that relies on reporting alone cannot give a full picture of what is happening in a school.
The most effective schools use a range of approaches to monitor bullying. They combine evidence from incidents reported with other sources of information, such as anonymous surveys of pupils, surveys of parents and making use of school councils. We want to see more schools take a sophisticated approach that allows them to understand the problems in detail, address them and improve their approach based on evidence of what works. The new, more focused Ofsted framework will encourage schools to do this. Inspectors will have more time to look at how schools address poor behaviour, including bullying. That greater focus will flush out some of these things. The report that Ofsted will produce will provide information to parents about the detail of a school's approach and how effective it is.
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