Weekly political news round up – Friday 31st January 2014

January 31, 2014 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

The Times has reported that a coalition of children’s organisations, including the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and Barnado’s, have warned that children are being condemned to a bleak future by politicians who are not giving the young the same attention as they give the elderly.  RCPCH president Hilary Cass said that not enough was being done to improve child health, stating that the UK has one of the worst child mortality rates in Western Europe and that the economic challenges facing the country particularly affected younger people.

Update on the Children and Families Bill

The fifth day of the Report Stage of the Children and Families Bill took place on Wednesday, where peers debated a series of amendments to the Bill. Of the amendments that were debated, there were two that were of interest to the PCF. The first amendment, 57c, related to a duty to support pupils with medical conditions. The second amendment, 57d, related to provision and support for bullied children. Both of these amendments were withdrawn following debate.

Amendment 57c, tabled by Labour Peer Lord Kennedy of Southwark, would have legally bound local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and governing bodies to work together to prepare and implement individual health care plans. This would have meant that local authorities, clinical commission groups and local health services would have had to provide expertise and training to relevant school staff in order to support children with medical conditions, including awareness training about a condition right up to full training about the condition, the administration and the use of equipment. Though these requirements were outlined in the draft SEN code of practice, there was no requirement in the Bill.

Responding on behalf of the Government, Education Minister Lord Nash said that although he fully supported the intention behind the amendment, he believed that there was no need to place a direct duty through primary legislation on clinical commissioning groups and local authorities to co-operate in this way with schools. He stated that a duty to promote co-operation already existed in Section 10 of the Children Act 2004. Lord Kennedy subsequently withdrew his amendment.

Amendment 57d, tabled by Liberal Democrat Peer Baroness Brinton, would have mandated the Education Secretary to produce an anti-bullying strategy which would have, amongst other duties, cross-linked with the SEN and Anti-Bullying Codes of Practice and Statutory Guidelines to make schools aware that some bullied children and young people also have special educational needs.

Responding on behalf of the Government, Education Minister Lord Nash said that he did not believe that legislation was the right approach. He stated that such an amendment could focus schools’ attention on complying with it as a tick-box exercise at the expense of allow teachers to exercise their professional judgement, creativity and energy to tackle bullying as it presents itself in their particular school.

Other amendments were tabled and subsequently passed, particularly relating to public health issues such as smoking.

The Third Reading of the Bill is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 5th February. This stage is the final chance for members to ‘tidy-up’ the bill, raising any last minute issues and concentrating on making sure that the law is effective and workable without loopholes.

After the Third Reading the Bill will be sent back to the Commons for consideration of Lords amendments, after which it is likely to receive Royal Assent.

Around the sector

Labour Peer Lord Touhig has received an answer to five written questions asking the Government:

  • What plans it has to engage with disability charities and other stakeholders on the Draft Special Education Needs Code of Practice during the redrafting period.
  • Why the definition of progress in Chapter 6 of the Draft Special Educational Needs Code of Practice, in the section on identifying needs in schools, no longer includes improvement in self-help, social skills and personal skills.
  • Whether relevant information from the Autism Act 2009 statutory guidance will be included in the final Special Educational Needs Code of Practice.
  • Whether the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines on assessment and diagnosis of autism will be referenced in the final Special Educational Needs Code of Practice.
  • Whether they will work with relevant disability charities, including the National Autistic Society, to ensure that the educational needs of children and young people with specific impairments are fully reflected in the description of special educational need in the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice.

Responding, Education Minister Lord Nash responded that the Department recently consulted publicly on a draft Special Educational Needs Code of Practice. Revisions were being made to the Code of Practice to take account of developments during the passage of the Children and Families Bill and responses to the consultation. Lord Nash noted that these responses came from a wide range of organisations in the statutory and voluntary and community sectors, including those in the special educational needs and disability field. He added that the Government would continue to work with those who must have regard to the Code of Practice and those who support children, young people and families as this is taken forward.