Children, Schools and Families Bill

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 4:18 pm on 11th January 2010.

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families 4:18 pm, 11th January 2010

I understand my hon. Friend's point, although adding penalties would further inflame the minority of home educators who do not like the current provisions in the Bill. I do not want to air further the debates about voluntary or compulsory systems; we should discuss them in Committee.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said in its briefing for today's debate:

"We support the recommendations in Clause 26 and Schedule 1 of the Bill to establish a registration scheme for children who are educated at home in England. However, it is important that workers who undertake home visits receive specialist training to identify possible signs of child abuse or neglect."

The NSPCC is right: we need specialist training, but it is right to have a registration scheme. With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will move on and we can debate those things further in Committee.

The basis of a world-class education system is also a world-class work force. We now have more than 40,000 more teachers than in 1997, supported by more than 180,000 more teaching assistants. The Bill builds on our commitment to a masters-level profession by introducing a new licence to practise similar to other high-status professionals, such as doctors and lawyers.

We also want to ensure that head teachers and teachers have the powers and the support that they need to tackle bad behaviour.

That is why the Bill will also strengthen home-school agreements, so that pupils, parents and schools all fulfil their responsibilities.

It is important-this will be extensively discussed in Committee-that the Bill continues the process of improving confidence in family courts by opening up proceedings in a careful and staged way, with a clear sunset clause and review before we potentially move to any further opening up beyond the first stage provisions in the Bill, while ensuring that vulnerable children are safeguarded.

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