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Education Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 24th January 2005.

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Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 6:45 pm, 24th January 2005

I have added my name and that of my noble friend Lady Sharp of Guildford to this amendment, and I rise to support it. Being excluded from school can often be a cataclysmic and disastrous life-changing event for a child. It is unbelievable to me that it could happen to a child without him or her having the opportunity properly to express his or her side of the story and give his or her views.

We cannot rely on parents to be able to put the child's point of view. The parent often does not know the truth of the situation and certainly cannot express it in the way that the child can. It is unfortunate that sometimes in the regulations the parent can be a gatekeeper, because the regulations say that the child can give his or her opinion if the parent agrees—that really should go. The UN convention says that it is the child's views that we must hear. When we went through the Children Act 2004, the Government accepted that the child's wishes and feelings should be taken into account in certain parts of the Bill. In a situation as cataclysmic and as damaging to a child's future prospects as exclusion from school, it is absolutely essential. You only have to look at the number of young offenders who have been excluded from school to realise what a very important event exclusion is in the life of a child. It is essential that their voices be heard.