Schools: Persistent Absenteeism

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Wednesday 24th January 2024

(5 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for his question. The data that the department is now collecting daily from about 88% of schools in the country—we are shortly going to make that mandatory, so that it will be 100%—gives us a real opportunity to have a more granular insight. Understandably, and rightly, there is much emphasis and attention on children who are described as severely absent, who are missing more than 50% of school. However, about a third of children, nationally, have between 6% and 15% absence. That is around the persistence absence threshold, and focusing on those children could make a real difference not only to them but to their teachers, their parents and their peers at school.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, when a parent goes into prison, no one is notified if they have a child. The charity Children Heard and Seen, which works with children who have a parent in prison, has shown that, with its support, those children’s attendance has significantly improved. Will the Government put in place a statutory mechanism to identify and support children with a parent in prison, as this would significantly reduce school absenteeism for those families?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I am interested by the right reverend Prelate’s suggestion and the suggestion from the charity she refers to. One of the things I hear a lot in schools is the importance of a child feeling that they belong—the relationship they have with staff and their friends. I hope we would not need a statutory duty and that a school would know a child well enough, but if it would help, I am happy to meet with the charity and discuss this further.

Education System

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Wednesday 30th November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The department continues to work extremely closely with the Treasury on these matters. We have a substantial school rebuilding programme and funding for capital and condition. Any school that has urgent capital requirements can approach the department, and we are very active in supporting them.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, the Schools Bill was partly intended to remove barriers to enable church schools to fully embrace the journey towards academisation. Given that there has been no further progress on that Bill, what plan do the Government have for introducing the legislative parts of that Bill that were broadly agreed and are needed to secure the development of all schools?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I will be able to update the House on the progress of the Schools Bill in due course, but I agree with the right reverend Prelate. The Government are very supportive of the faith sector, the schools within it and their wish to academise in the most constructive way possible.

Covid-19: Effect on Education in Deprived Communities

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I am sure my noble friend, the Leader of the House, would join me in saying that that lane is always open for my noble friend, whenever she wants to go down it.

The Government are investing £82 million to create a network of family hubs, as part of a wider £300 million package to transform services for parents, carers, babies and children in half the council areas across England, making sure that thousands of families will have access to the support they need. The clear aim is early identification and an approach which will address the range of challenges that a family might face.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, due to the effect of the pandemic on university experience, greater numbers of young people have deferred their university places. This particularly affects students leaving school this year, as university capacity is limited. Will the Minister say what is being done so that those from deprived backgrounds seeking university places this year do not become further disadvantaged in their education and future life choices, having often been the most affected by two years of a pandemic?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate will be aware that we have been working hard with the Office for Students to ensure that there is the strongest possible approach to fair access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. We will imminently be making more announcements in that regard and I look forward to debating those with the House.

Education: Teacher Departures

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Wednesday 3rd November 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I do not accept the noble Viscount’s assertion that this is going to be seen as a further burden for teachers. We consulted extensively on the early career framework; it has been evaluated independently by the Education Endowment Foundation, and has been warmly welcomed by teachers, head teachers, unions—and in time I am sure will be by pupils as well. There is time carved out of the early career teachers’ curriculum to get all the support and extra input that they need.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, in the discussion around this question there may be an assumption that we are focusing on key stages 1 and 2 and secondary schools, but, given that the most significant years of a child’s development are the early years, will the Minister say what is being done to ensure that nurseries and preschools attract, develop and retain vital key workers?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate makes a good point. We are investing £20 million to provide practitioners in pre-reception settings with access to high-quality training to raise their skills, and we are investing a further £10 million to support staff in pre-reception settings. We announced in June of this year a further investment of up to £153 million, as part of an education recovery package, to train early years staff to support the very youngest children’s learning and development.

Looked-after and Adopted Children

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Tuesday 28th January 2020

(4 years, 5 months ago)

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Asked by
Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to review support for children looked after by local authorities and those children who are adopted.

Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education (Lord Agnew of Oulton) (Con)
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My Lords, we are committed to undertake a review of the care system. We are already implementing substantial reforms to improve outcomes for this most vulnerable group of children and young people. Alongside the reforms, we are providing councils with an additional £1 billion for adult and children’s social care in every year of this Parliament. The review will allow us to go further in ensuring that children and young people have the support that they need.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I am grateful that this much-needed review has been announced and I trust there will soon be details of a specific timetable, not only for the review but for its implementation. In the meantime, what are the Government doing to ensure that 16 and 17 year-olds vulnerable to county lines exploitation are always housed in safe, stable and appropriate accommodation? Are the Government confident that councils have appropriate resources?

Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton
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My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is right that an increasing number of older children are going into care, and their preference is often to go into less-regulated accommodation. County lines is a phenomenon that has arisen over the last five years and we are now acting strongly to deal with it. In October we announced £20 million of targeted investment to increase our efforts against county lines, and £5 million of that is already in operational use.

Education and Society

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Friday 8th December 2017

(6 years, 7 months ago)

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Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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I too thank the most reverend Primate for bringing forward today’s debate, and indeed for naming the recently established Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership, of which I am privileged to be a trustee.

In my own diocese, I am delighted that we have 116 Church of England schools—not single-faith schools but centres of community cohesion in urban and rural areas, committed to offering each child the opportunity to discover life in all its fullness, as spoken about by Jesus Christ. The Church of England’s vision for education highlights the ideas of wisdom, hope, dignity and community, and we aim to make our schools places where fulfilling academic potential is not separated from our children’s spiritual, physical, emotional, moral and social development.

In the brief time I have, I would like to focus on three areas crucial to children and young people flourishing and thriving in education. First, preparation: in 94 local authorities—almost a third of the country—less than half of all disadvantaged five year-olds are developmentally ready for school. As has already been said, early intervention has a marked impact on children’s life prospects, and without help and support we cannot expect children to show up at school “ready to go”. Churches and faith groups across the country do a tremendous job in running parent and toddler groups and programmes which support very young children and their parents. However, partnership and collaboration with local and central government is required. More than 400 children’s centres have closed since 2010, and the life chances strategy promised by the previous Prime Minister was dropped in December 2016. Surely a vision for giving children the best possible start in life is a necessity.

Secondly, we must remove barriers to children’s flourishing. As has already been mentioned, there are many, but let me underline just a few, of which the first is poverty. In 2015, the Children’s Society facilitated a youth-led Children’s Commission on Poverty. Since the publication of its report there has been work with Church of England schools to poverty-proof the school week. This includes things such as ensuring that school uniforms are affordable, that school trips are accessible to all, and that there is no stigma attached to claiming a free school meal. Then there is the need to remove barriers to flourishing for children with physical and learning disabilities, not least when it comes to further education and moving into adulthood. In Gloucestershire, we are fortunate to have the National Star College for young adults with complex disabilities and learning difficulties. But to access such support you now need an education, health and care plan. In 2016, local authorities turned down nearly 15,000 requests for such a plan. Last year, the National Star College supported 11 students who went to tribunal to obtain funding; 10 claims were settled just before the hearings were held and often months after the beginning of the academic year. The parents of those young people had stamina and a good education, but what about the others?

A number of noble Lords have already spoken about barriers due to mental health and I endorse all that has been said. I also endorse what has been said about school exclusion. We know that children excluded from school are 10 times more likely to suffer recognised mental health problems. Only 1% of excluded children get five good GCSEs, and the number of children permanently excluded has risen 40% in the last three years. In my own diocese, Gloucestershire has the highest rate of school exclusion in the south-west. We need to find effective mechanisms to help disadvantaged children stay and thrive in school.

As part of that, we need our schools to be trauma-informed. There is not time now to go into the details of adverse childhood experiences—ACEs—10 traumatic events which can occur before the age of 18. But focusing on ACEs and working with a child’s story about what has happened to them, rather than with the presenting behaviour, has been shown to be effective in bringing about positive change. I would like to see this approach encouraged and supported by local and central government. Again, it is about those values of dignity and hope.

Finally, I will say something about relationships, which are core to what it means for us to be human and made in the image of God. My ongoing visits to schools remind me that we have much to do to ensure that education not only recognises and affirms the dignity and value of each child and young person, but enables them to appreciate and value each other, including those who are different from themselves. In the past two weeks I have visited a primary school, a secondary school and a college, where I have engaged in conversation with children and young people about body image and not taking our value from physical appearance, which is so often promoted by social media. Those conversations with young people have led to conversations about what they value in each other—which is more than simply pressing a “like” on a social media platform. The response in those young people has been rewarding and poignant, as they have affirmed one another in who they are and how they are different from one another.

Our places of education shape and reflect the society we live in. For children to flourish as adults, they must be enabled to flourish in their education. By investing in early years, including for the disadvantaged, and building communities of good relationship in our schools, colleges and universities, we can use education to shape a flourishing society.