Amendment 114A

Part of Schools Bill [HL] - Committee (5th Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 22 June 2022.

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Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education 6:30, 22 June 2022

Under the changes proposed in the Bill—if I understood the noble Lord correctly.

I turn to Amendment 173 from my noble friend Lord Lucas. We would like the system of registration to be implemented as soon as possible to—I hope—reassure those parents who are doing a great job supporting their children at home. It will offer support to those parents who are struggling to provide education to their children at home, help safeguard those children who may be more vulnerable and not in school, and allow local authorities to better target their resources to those families who want or need support. We will take sufficient time prior to the registration system coming into force to ensure the registers work for everyone and that local authorities are clear on their support duty. Therefore, we do not feel it is helpful to set a strict implementation plan for the new support duty in the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Storey, raised Amendment 123. I hope he will be reassured that it is already a criminal offence knowingly to recruit someone to work in a regulated activity with children who has been barred from working with children.

The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, and my noble friend Lord Lucas brought forward Amendments 122C, 125 and 126A. A threshold set out in regulations will ensure that the duty to provide information targets only those providers that are used for a substantial proportion of a child’s education. I was not altogether surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Storey, raised the issue of unregulated alternative provision. I know we are going to be debating it in more detail in a subsequent group, so I hope I can save my remarks on that for later.

There is also a power in new Section 436E(6) to make regulations creating specific exemptions to the requirement for providers to provide information, which could be used to exclude certain settings from scope. We will continue to engage with stakeholders on this. However, where providers are eligible, the duty will be vital in aiding identification of eligible children and ensuring the registration system is effective in safeguarding them from harm and promoting their education.

My noble friend—I mean my noble friend Lord Lucas; I have so many noble friends—referred to the importance of adequate funding. We are still in the process of determining what the minimum expectation on local authorities should be in terms of their new support duty. To ensure that it is as effective as possible, it is right that we undertake the necessary consideration and assessment of need, including how this can be achieved and the costs involved. We will engage closely with stakeholders on this prior to the statutory guidance being issued and we have also committed to undertake a new burdens assessment to identify the level of funding that may be required to support local authorities so that they can discharge their duty effectively and well. Therefore, I ask my noble friend Lord Lucas—