We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Education Bill [HL]

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench 6:45 pm, 24th January 2005

I strongly support this amendment, but with one qualification. On the point of the parents in this case, who are the gatekeepers, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, put it, I note that the Princess Royal Trust for Carers supports this amendment. One can well imagine the situation of a young carer with a parent with a mental disability, or with an alcohol or drug addiction, where family circumstances are such that parents in that case are not best placed to make that decision, or cannot helpfully do so, at least where there are difficulties involved in the family. Family circumstances are often closely connected with the child's behaviour in school.

In the research referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, one boy, who I will call Stuart, a 16 year-old from Hull, was interviewed. He was permanently excluded from his school, and he subsequently went into care. At the time of the interview, he was doing fairly well in his new school, but no longer had any contact with his family. In his instance, it may have been that the parental relationship was not such that it would have been helpful to involve the mother or father in the decision about whether the boy could make an appeal.

I have spoken recently with a young woman who was an asylum seeker, who was fostered. Her foster mother had a nervous breakdown in the course of her care. This young woman, who was very resilient, is now starting at university, but in other circumstances that child might have begun to suffer at school, and it would be helpful for the school governors to know her background circumstances.

Another child who was in care in a children's home was telling me that she shared a bedroom with five other children. Again, in the exclusion process, the governors might well wish to know that that was happening in her case, in order to inform that process. It is vital that children have the experience of agency in their lives as far as possible in a proportionate way. The Government recognise that, and they are enshrining that in the Children Act as one of the five outcomes about contributing to society. They need to be involved in the decision-making processes which affect them.

If a child does not feel involved in those processes and if, in the past, he has had experience of the adult world not being sympathetic towards him and treating him badly, as many of these children have, there is a danger that in life he will go on to carry a grievance against the adult world and society. If one creates every opportunity for such children to express their point of view and if one bends over backwards to be fair towards them, there is at least a chance that that sense of grievance will be reduced and perhaps done away with altogether. So, for children who are leaving school, this could be a very educative experience in ensuring that their voice is heard. I hope that, in her response, the Minister can be sympathetic towards the amendment. I think that it fits quite well with government policy.