Amendment 171J

Schools Bill [HL] - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 7:45 pm on 27th June 2022.

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Lord Watson of Invergowrie:

Moved by Lord Watson of Invergowrie

171J: After Clause 65, insert the following new Clause—“Duty to report on spoken language and communicationThe Secretary of State must lay a report before Parliament each year during the period of five years beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, setting out—(a) the overall level of school pupils’ spoken language and communication ability in academies, independent educational institutions and maintained schools;(b) the provision available to develop pupils’ spoken language and communication skills in academies, independent educational institutions and maintained schools;(c) the provision available to support pupils with speech, language and communication needs in academies, independent educational institutions and maintained schools.”

Photo of Lord Watson of Invergowrie Lord Watson of Invergowrie Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

My Lords, I am speaking to Amendments 171J and 171 K in my name, and I should declare an interest as a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Oracy. I want to acknowledge the support I have received from I CAN, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and Voice 21, just three of the 39 organisations which have circulated a comprehensive briefing on these amendments to noble Lords.

These are probing amendments to clarify how the Government intend to ensure that children are adequately supported in schools to develop proficiency in spoken language, or “oracy”. In framing these amendments, the aim was to ask questions of the Minister, specifically on how the Government will raise the status of spoken language in the education system to reflect its importance to children and young people’s outcomes in education, as per evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation, how they will support schools to address the ongoing impact of school closures on children’s spoken language across all ages, and how they will ensure that every teacher is equipped to understand how to develop children’s spoken language skills and ability and are trained to identify those who struggle with their speech, language and communication and are thus in need of further support.

Spoken language underpins literacy skills and vocabulary development. As such, it is central to learning across the curriculum. It should not be necessary to state that the ability to communicate effectively and articulate well is an essential ingredient to success in both school and beyond. Oral communication skills are required in almost every job and in every walk of life, yet we expect children just to pick them up rather than explicitly teaching them as we do reading and writing.

This puts many children at a significant disadvantage if they do not live in a language-rich home where conversation and discussion is the norm. All too often that is the case, which underlines the necessity for children to be able to access these experiences and develop their oracy at school as a key part of the curriculum. For some children, this will be their only chance to develop their confidence and competence in spoken language.

As noble Lords will be aware, two weeks ago the Times Education Commission published its final report. It included a paragraph that in itself speaks to the content of these two amendments, as follows:

“The independent sector has long understood the importance of the spoken as well as the written word. Communication skills—‘oracy’—should become mainstream in state schools too. Pupils need to learn to converse, to debate, to present, to persuade, to justify and to challenge. These tools are highly valued by employers, but they are not systematically taught in school.”

The final point will resonate with business leaders and recruiters, who continually raise the importance of oral communication skills, which are rated one of the key transferable skills—yet they are also among the workforce skills gaps most identified by employers.

The Education Endowment Foundation’s teaching and learning toolkit demonstrates that oral language interventions—teaching and learning with an emphasis on spoken language—enable an average of six months’ additional academic progress over the course of a year, and are listed as one of the highest-impact and lowest-cost interventions that can be made in the classroom. We have seen a significant focus on tuition and extending the school day within the Government’s programme for education recovery, yet the foundation highlights that these approaches enable four months’ and three months’ additional progress respectively at secondary and primary level. This is not an either/or solution, but it is legitimate to question whether the strength of the evidence on oracy is being acknowledged as it should be by the DfE.

Last year, the Oracy All-Party Group undertook a comprehensive review of the evidence in relation to the impact of oracy on children’s education and their lives. We heard from leading academics, education experts both here and abroad, school leaders, teachers and, most importantly, children and young people. The inquiry found that oracy has been a Cinderella discipline compared to reading, writing or numeracy and that a lack of a shared understanding and expectations for oracy in schools feeds the inconsistent, sporadic and, too often, inadequate focus on oracy. The inquiry demonstrated beyond doubt that oracy in schools cannot be viewed as an extracurricular activity for a self-selecting few—the preserve of those with the inclination or opportunity to be taught it or something only valued at the beginning of a child’s educational journey, rather than a golden thread running through it.

If that is not enough evidence for the Minister, there is more, this time from your Lordships’ House. The Youth Unemployment Committee report published seven months ago highlighted what it termed

“compelling evidence on the value of oracy, the skill of oral communication”, and identified the detrimental impacts of the current lack of oracy provision in education on young people’s opportunities to progress into employment.

Amendment 171K refers to Ofsted inspections; on that we appear to be pushing at an open door because last month Ofsted published its review of the English curriculum, which gave spoken language significant prominence. It focused on raising standards in reading, writing and spoken language and said:

“Opportunities for pupils to develop their proficiency in spoken language require explicit teaching of the knowledge, for example vocabulary, and ideas necessary for effective communication. These opportunities should be planned carefully, both in English lessons and across other subjects.”

Given such unequivocal remarks, surely the Minister would agree that it would be neither responsible nor fair if a school found not to be offering such opportunities were to be graded either good or outstanding.

None of the emphasis in the various sources that I have referenced is currently reflected in our education system, which leans heavily towards reading and writing. There should be parity of esteem between literacy, numeracy and oracy, as in the new curriculum for Wales. Oracy in children’s education has always mattered, but it matters now more than ever. The Covid-19 pandemic has widened the already stubborn language gap and exacerbated the inequities facing children in our school system. In years gone by educationists would stress the importance of young people being taught the three Rs, stretching alliteration close to breaking point. In narrower terms, I suggest that English should comprise a slightly different three Rs: reading, ‘riting and ‘rticulation.

I hope that in her reply the Minister will indicate that DfE Ministers and officials now accept the strong evidence base for spoken language to be given equal prominence to reading and writing—and that they will do more than talk the talk, so to speak. I beg to move.

I would also like to say a few words—this is the only opportunity I have to do so—on Amendment 171L in the names of my noble friends Lady Chapman and Lady Wilcox. I do so not just because I fully support the amendment but because there are clear links with the two amendments that I have tabled, particularly in relation to the children’s Covid-19 recovery plan. There are calls within the amendment for

“extra-curricular activities for every child”, including book clubs and drama clubs, which are clearly appropriate for oracy, as well as

“small group tutoring, with no more than six pupils in a group, … ongoing learning and development for teachers”,

to which I referred, and an education recovery premium, to include

“increasing the Early Years Pupil Premium to match the premium rates for primary school pupils”.

This is very important because if children who show from an early age that they are behind in their speech development can be given additional support, a significant barrier can be crossed and dealt with before the child enters formal schooling.

On the education recovery premium, it is exactly a year since Sir Kevan Collins resigned as the Government’s education recovery tsar over what he called the lack of a credible recovery plan, due to the Government providing just 10% of the £15 billion that he had calculated was necessary. I know that more resources have been made available since then, but I think most noble Lords will agree with me when I say that it is still well short of what is required. The past year has seen that the Government’s attempts at helping children who have lost out on their education during the pandemic to make up some of the deficit has been characterised more by failure than by success. I offer just one word on that: Randstad.

I will not labour that point but finish by saying that the recovery plan outlined in Amendment 171L shows what could be done to make a real difference. It is of course not all that needs to be done and I would not expect the Government to adopt it all. It is clearly badged as Labour Party policy—I do not think there is any need to disguise that fact—but there are some very strong points in there that I ask the Minister to take account of. Having said that, I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Newlove Baroness Newlove Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 8:00 pm, 27th June 2022

The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, is taking part remotely. I invite the noble Baroness to speak.

Photo of Baroness Brinton Baroness Brinton Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Health)

My Lords, I declare my interests as a patron of the Traveller Movement, a member of the All-Party Group for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma and a founding chair of the All-Party Group on Bullying. The noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, has introduced his probing Amendments 171J and 171K, ensuring that the Secretary of State reports on spoken language, or oracy, and communication, and that Ofsted

“must assess the provision available to develop pupils’ spoken language and communication skills”.

I support these amendments, and not just because of the problems that very young pupils have had with lockdown during the pandemic. He laid out very clearly why oracy is absolutely critical for children right from the very start, and certainly in their early years once they get to school.

In some areas it can be extremely difficult for children with speech and language difficulties to get any appointment at all, let alone a speedy appointment, with speech and language therapists, who, frankly, are among the unsung heroes of the NHS and the education system. The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, in its response to the Health and Social Care Select Committee inquiry into clearing the backlog caused by the pandemic, has identified that a minimum increase is needed in the speech and language therapist workforce of 15%, but year-on-year increases in recent times have been around 1/10th tenth of that, at 1.7%. Then there are delays while newly qualified speech and language therapists gain the expertise they need. Meanwhile, the schools White Paper—Opportunity for All, which was published in March—is silent on how to reduce the ever-widening language gap for disadvantaged or disabled schoolchildren.

I know from my granddaughter’s experience of SLT support almost from birth—because she frequently used an oxygen mask and had a feeding tube down her throat for the first three years of her life—that SLTs can perform miracles with babies, toddlers and children who literally cannot use their voice for large parts of the day. Without more staff, though, they cannot work with more children. I absolutely support the aims of the amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Watson, but, frankly, we have to tackle the workforce issue too. I hope the Minister will tell the House how the increasing speech and language workload can be managed without a corresponding increase in therapists.

Amendment 171L, on a children’s Covid-19 recovery plan, looks extremely sensible. I have one question for the Minister. Last week, an employment tribunal confirmed that an employee suffering from symptoms of long Covid was disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010—by the way, more cases are in the pipeline and lawyers are saying we will shortly have a considerable amount of case law history. In addition to that, academic studies in the UK, Europe and the USA now recognise that a small number of children get long Covid, and get it badly. Can the Minister say if the advice to head teachers about long Covid, for both staff and pupils, will be updated to reflect that some may have long Covid so badly that they are to be regarded as disabled, with consequences for employment and for SEND?

I have signed Amendments 171N, 171O, 171P and 171Q, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, on the creation of a duty to register protected-characteristic-based bullying, and I am very much looking forward to hearing the noble Baroness. She is an outstanding advocate for our Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, and is co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma.

I think it might be helpful to quote from the statutory guidance for schools on pupils with medical conditions. Paragraph 3 says:

“In addition to the educational impacts, there are social and emotional implications associated with medical conditions. Children may be self-conscious about their condition and some may be bullied or develop emotional disorders such as anxiety or depression around their medical condition.”

Many schools now have effective anti-bullying policies and practices but that is not universal, and still too many children suffer immensely from bullying.

I am a co-founder of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Bullying, and we have had joint meetings with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gypsies, Travellers and Roma, of which I am also a member, to take evidence about how GRT children are treated in and out of school. Our last session, which was pre pandemic, was eye-opening. Perhaps the most shocking evidence was of the number of racist incidents to GRT children in schools by their teachers that were then copied by other children. The use of derogatory names, assumptions about their lifestyles and the lack of interest in their academic progress all breached the Equality Act 2010, but very rarely could families take them up, as head teachers or governors were not interested. As a contrast to that, we also had evidence from schools that were doing an exceptional job with the same sort of children, and you could not recognise that this was the same community at all.

However, I am afraid that the same challenges were faced by other children who look or sound different. The wonderful charity Changing Faces continues to fight for ending appearance-related discrimination, but it has told the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Bullying that, for many children with a visible deformity, school is not the welcoming place that we all assume it should be.

One six year-old girl I know well has a large birthmark on her leg. She is already being teased—let us call it that—about it. She feels uncomfortable, wants to wear a uniform that means it cannot ever be seen, and is worried about days when she has to wear a swimsuit. Her parents have raised the issue with teachers, but it is only one step on, if that teasing continues and increases, to the pupil getting worried about going to school. That is the experience of children who are now looked after by Changing Faces. The targeting can escalate all too easily. It may be only a small disability, but PHSE at school should be managing the practical examples that pupils face in their own lives.

The amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, would ensure that the bullying of children of all protected characteristics, including race and disability among others, did not go unreported. They would provide a suite of techniques for recording and reporting, which would provide important data for schools, local authorities and, at a national level, Ministers. I am delighted to have added my name to them and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Photo of Baroness Whitaker Baroness Whitaker Labour 8:15 pm, 27th June 2022

My Lords, I add my support for Amendments 171J and 171K in the names of my noble friends Lord Watson of Invergowrie and Lady Blower.

As a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Speech and Language Difficulties, patron of the British Stammering Association and a stammerer myself, I emphasise the importance of fluency for all aspects of education. My noble friends’ amendments would raise the profile of the subject and lodge it more decisively in schools’ responsibilities, to the benefit of the very many children who suffer from speech and language defects. That is apart from the fact that oracy development has been generally underestimated as a life skill in the maintained system, as my noble friend Lord Watson so eloquently set out.

Now that we are at the end of Committee, I will not detain your Lordships with a detailed explanation of Amendments 171N to 171Q in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, for whose expert and committed support I am most grateful—they are self-explanatory. They are there because current anti-bullying policies are simply not achieving the eradication of bullying in school cultures, with all its damaging effects on well-being, mental health and education itself.

Bullying is particularly harmful when it is on the basis of an attribute which is part of the child’s identity—a protected characteristic such as race, for example—and so we have focused on that, as a means of reinforcing the public sector equality duty. Bullying is ascribed as the cause of a large proportion of the drop-out from secondary school of Gypsy, Traveller and Roma children, among others, although there is a regrettable absence of targeted data. It is relevant that 76% of Gypsy, Traveller and Roma children surveyed felt a need to hide their identity. That is a shameful admission.

Many anecdotes testify to inaction on the part of teachers when faced with complaints of bullying. In some cases, they may simply not know what to do. I draw the Committee’s attention to a letter from the chair of the Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon MP, to the Minister for School Standards, where he says:

“witnesses repeatedly raised incidents of bullying and racism faced by children, from both their peers and teachers. Many ethnic minority groups experience bullying, including Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils however, there are no official statistics which break these cases down by ethnicity. We believe that, to understand the scale of the issue and the impact it has upon educational outcomes, local authorities should work with schools to better understand the extent of the problem”.

Incidentally, how surprised and disappointed would Robert Halfon be to see a Report stage of the Bill ahead of the regulatory review? Following the Select Committee, we think the incidence of bullying must be made more salient in local authority records, with a register of incidents and necessary information about them. Our amendments also require parents to be fully informed, if the child consents, soon after the incident. We think the prevalence of bullying in local authority areas must be made known to the Secretary of State, so that remedial action can be taken if this violence against children is getting out of control. These amendments would go far to really make bullying on the grounds of identity unacceptable, and I hope the Minister will agree.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I will say a few brief words on these amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, undersold the point he is making slightly, because for many people the disparity between verbal skills and written skills is actually a sign of special educational needs. Dyslexia is the classic example of this, and often dyspraxia as well. It is also the coping mechanism—the primary coping mechanism—by which people handle this. I put my hand up as an example of that. If people can explain their case verbally, they stand a chance of getting some form of accommodation on a casual basis. If you have the ability to come forward and explain yourself to a new teacher in a classroom—this was drummed into me from an early age—the teacher then has the chance of making some response that is appropriate. If you are terrified of doing this, or not told how to do so, then you have another problem. The ability to talk coherently is incredibly important, as it underpins just about everything else that goes through.

I know this is not exactly what the noble Lord was driving at, given the tone of all the discussion so far, but I hope that when the Minister responds she will have some idea of how disparities between expected verbal communication are going to figure in the Government’s thinking when it comes to things such as the new version of special educational needs. The Government must have a little guidance on this already. I know they are having a review; there must be some undertaking of what is going to happen. The interventions we have spoken about, with a speech and language facility and support, are incredibly important, because the whole thing is underpinned by the ability to talk. Very few people master good written language if they cannot at least talk coherently. Can the Minister give us some idea of how they are planning to bring these two together? If they do not, they are missing a trick, and also the identification of a need that is very important for dealing with many problems in our education system.

Photo of Lord Storey Lord Storey Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Education)

These amendments are hugely important. There is a rhyme, is there not?

“Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words can never harm me.”

But how wrong that is. Words are very harmful and are often used by bullies. However, it is not just the person being bullied who needs support; it is also the bully themselves. Many of the bullies have real problems, and we must not forget that.

Secondly, we have made tremendous strides on bullying issues at schools. I pay tribute to the work that schools have done over the past decade or so on the issue of bullying there. I was quite shocked when my noble friend Lady Brinton said that many—or some— schools still do not have anti-bullying policies, as I thought they were a requirement. I thought that this was one of the things Ofsted looks at when it inspects schools, particularly for safeguarding reasons. My noble friend Lord Addington is absolutely right that it should be part of teacher training—it is not because of time constraints—as dealing with incidents of bullying is quite a complex issue. Teachers need to feel supported and equipped to be able to deal with it.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Watson, for putting down his probing amendment on oracy in schools. I think that we have forgotten the importance of oracy or the spoken word. I always remember my education tutor saying to us that the three most important things for developing children in the early years were good toilet training, play, and talking and speaking. Our national curriculum and SATs do not give teachers the time and space they should have to develop the spoken word.

Many schools do things as part of the school day. Remember how we used to have children reading aloud? When I go into schools, if you suggest that children should read aloud, people look at you as though you are a bit barmy. We should go back to some of those practices, such as school class assemblies where children can perform and talk in front of their peers; school drama productions are really good for that too. There is a whole list of things we can do but, looking back, I just get the feeling that we were so focused on the literacy hour and all its ingredients that the spoken word—oracy—was somehow sidelined and lost. No doubt the Minister will give us chapter and verse in her reply about all the things we are doing but I want all those things to happen in every school; I get the feeling that that is not the case.

To reiterate what the noble Lord, Lord Watson, said, there are four things. We want to raise the status and priority of spoken language in education. We want to equip teachers in schools to develop their students’ spoken language. We want to make children’s spoken language a key pillar of education recovery after Covid, which we will hear about in a minute. We want to ensure that children with speech, language and communication needs are adequately supported, as in the point that my noble friend Lady Brinton made.

Photo of Baroness Chapman of Darlington Baroness Chapman of Darlington Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice)

First, I want to say a few words about Amendment 171J in the name of my noble friends Lord Watson of Invergowrie and Lady Blower. It is such an important amendment because it highlights the need for the Government to report on the level of spoken language and communication ability in academies, independent schools and maintained schools. I do not know whether I need to declare an interest but my husband is a former director of campaigns at the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, so I am very familiar with some of the issues.

My noble friend Lord Watson did a fantastic job of explaining why this issue matters. I pay tribute to his work, not just on this amendment but in this area more generally. He made the case very powerfully and both his amendments raise a vital issue. We would like to see it properly considered by the Government and look forward to the Minister’s response. We are hopeful that she can say something positive.

Amendments 171N, 171O and 171Q, in the names of my noble friend Lady Whitaker and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, would require the reporting and recording of bullying based on protected characteristics, the provision of information to parents and the sharing of that information in the interests of the welfare of the child. We support my noble friend and the noble Baroness in their amendments and feel that they would assist us in tracking what is going on and enabling us to do something about it. Their amendments would go a long way to help address and prevent bullying, especially that directed against minority groups and particularly, as they said, the GRT community. That is probably now the least well recognised form of racism that we see, sadly, in schools.

Our Amendment 171L would require the Government to consult on and launch a children’s recovery plan, including breakfast clubs, music and drama, small group tutoring and other measures that I will not bore the Committee by reading out; they are all there in the amendment. So far, the catch-up measures that the Government have introduced have either not worked in the places where they are needed most, such as the tutoring programme in the north of England, or have been so far short of the scale of intervention needed that they have resulted, as my noble friend Lord Watson said, in the resignation of the expert brought in to advise the Government.

If I could highlight just one set of measures in our amendment, it would be paragraph (f), which is on how the pupil premium should be used to target support at the pupils most severely affected by loss of education, especially the very youngest children. I pay tribute to and thank Teach First, the IFS and others for the substantial and impressive work they have done on this in recent months. We would like the Government to raise the current premium rate by 10%, increase the early years pupil premium to match the premium rates for primary school pupils, expand the secondary age pupil premium to pupils aged 16 to 18 and expand the secondary age pupil premium to include children with child protection plans.

We know the Government have not been great at targeting resources at schools serving the most disadvantaged pupils in recent years. Unless the Government act quickly, the increased inequality in education that we have seen since Covid is going to scar a whole generation of children for the rest of their lives. Sadly, without this additional support, we will be failing to do what is necessary to support children who need it the very most.

The amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Watson and my amendments work very well together because we know that early spoken language skills are the most significant predictor of literacy levels at age 16. Children with language difficulties fall behind their typically developing peers in academic attainment at every stage of education. It is well understood that children with poor vocabulary skills at age five are more likely to have reading difficulties as an adult.

Lockdowns have hit the very youngest children the hardest. Ofsted has provided evidence that young children are increasingly unable to recognise and respond appropriately even to facial expressions, with potentially lifelong consequences for their learning and development. We think that early years pupil premium, currently worth £302 per year per pupil, should be increased to match the amount each pupil would receive once they reach primary school. The reason we think this is that investing that money earlier would allow the maximum benefit to children at the point at which they need it most. Waiting until they start primary school is too late.

It is very concerning that the number of children aged under four with an EHCP or SEN support with a primary reason of speech, language and communication needs has risen since 2019 by 7%. It is also concerning that the survey data collected both in a study conducted by the Education Endowment Foundation and Ofsted suggests that parents and nursery school leaders share important concerns that whole cohorts of children starting school during the pandemic were far less ready for school than previous cohorts.

The Government have a goal of 90% of children leaving primary school reaching expected standards in reading, writing and maths. That is an excellent goal; we absolutely support it. It is great that the Government have that aspiration for our children. But in 2019, that figure was just 65%. Given what we now know about the disproportionate harm that has been done to the youngest children during lockdown, this pupil premium is a really good, targeted way to get that support where it is needed most and quickly.

Our amendment does everything the Bill does not do, and I urge the Government to engage with us positively on this so that we can find areas of agreement.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education 8:30 pm, 27th June 2022

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Watson, for highlighting the importance of spoken language and communication in his Amendments 171J and 171K. I pay tribute to him for his work in advocating for the importance of oracy, and I thank the APPG for its work. I mentioned to the noble Lord the other day that, certainly in the schools I visit, oracy is often mentioned as an absolutely key skill and tool in a child’s development and the way in which they approach and understand the world. However, I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Storey, that it is about not anecdotes but a systematic approach.

Children’s spoken language levels are assessed during their time at school, including as part of the early years foundation stage profile, which happens as children leave reception year and again in GCSE English language. Last year, the Government published non-statutory guidance aimed at improving the teaching of the foundations of reading in primary schools, including guidance on developing spoken language. As the noble Lord mentioned, Ofsted recently published its English research review, which contains guidance on the importance of high-quality spoken language. However, it is hard to envisage how the Government would report on the overall level of pupils’ spoken language and communication without a new statutory national assessment. After a period of disruption in education due to the pandemic, new assessments monitored by the Government would place pressure on teachers and school leaders.

On the specific matter of Ofsted inspection, raised in Amendment 171K, Ofsted’s methodology is designed to ensure a holistic assessment of the quality of education provided. Inspectors undertake deep-dive explorations of a sample of curriculum subjects in each inspection to help build an understanding of the school’s curriculum. When English language is included, inspectors will expect to see pupils developing effective spoken language and communication skills as part of a strong English curriculum. All inspectors are trained in how to evaluate children’s language development, which includes their spoken English skills. The Government do not wish to limit a school’s inspection outcome based on one specific factor—although we absolutely understand the spirit of the noble Lord’s amendment—but, of course, the job of an inspector is to weigh up a range of evidence to reach a balanced assessment.

Finally, Ofsted is planning a subject report on English, which will include specific consideration of the quality of spoken language education in English schools. I hope that that addresses some of the concerns behind the noble Lord’s amendments. This will report next year.

I move to Amendment 171L, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman. Getting students back in face-to-face education has obviously been one of the Government’s top priorities. Since June 2020, we have committed nearly £5 billion to fund a recovery package prioritising the most disadvantaged and those with the least time left in education. I note the noble Baroness’s emphasis on early years but I know that she will also acknowledge the pressures on children who have little time left at school and have missed a big chunk of their education. Our investment will provide 500,000 training opportunities for early years practitioners and teachers and up to 100 million tutoring hours for five to 19 year-olds by 2024.

We are great believers in the added value that undergraduates and graduates can offer to schools. We have spoken to universities about how their undergraduates may become National Tutoring Programme tutors, and we welcome other programmes that enable undergraduates and graduates to work in schools. The Government are providing an additional £1 billion to extend the recovery premium over the next two academic years to support the most disadvantaged pupils. If I followed her correctly, the noble Baroness focused particularly on the importance of the recovery premium and the pupil premium more broadly.

Primary schools will continue to benefit from an additional £145 per eligible pupil, and secondary schools will receive £276 per eligible pupil. For special schools and alternative provision, there will be an additional £290 at primary level and £552 at secondary. The noble Baroness makes very sound points regarding the importance of early years; the Government understand those points and have focused, particularly through our family hubs, to ensure that support is there for the youngest children and their families. We also stress the point that older children have little time left, hence the choices we have made, as we have almost doubled the secondary rate—also to reflect the greater learning loss that has been seen in secondary pupils. We are always reviewing and assessing our approach to targeting funding towards deprivation. That includes not only the pupil premium funding but the national funding formula. We are allocating £6.7 billion this financial year through the national funding formula towards additional needs, which includes deprivation. This is one-sixth of all our available funding.

Many of our recovery programmes can be used to tackle problems with attendance and behaviour, deliver social and emotional support and provide enrichment elements, in relation to both physical and mental health and well-being. The Committee will be aware that we published the national plan for music education on 25 June, together with the Department for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which sets out our vision to enable all children and young people to learn to sing, play an instrument, create music together and have the opportunity to progress their musical interests and talents.

We are also supporting free breakfast provision by investing up to £24 million for 2021 to 2023, supporting up to 2,500 schools in the most disadvantaged areas. We are also considering ways to collect further data on the provision of breakfasts in schools; we are aware of a number of organisations that do great work in this area.

I now turn to Amendments 171N, 171O, 171P and 171Q in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker. Of course, all types of bullying are unacceptable and schools play a vital role in preventing and tackling bullying. We believe that the basis for addressing bullying starts with a strong culture regarding behaviour in schools to support pupils, prevent all forms of bullying and ensure that there is a calm environment in each school to do well. All schools are required by law to have a behaviour policy that aims not only to encourage good behaviour but to prevent bullying among pupils. Schools are also required to have regard to the Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance, which will be relevant where there is a safeguarding risk to a child.

The Government are providing over £2 million of funding between 2021 and 2023 to anti-bullying organisations targeting the bullying of children and young people with protected characteristics. Part of our funding has gone to resources specifically on the bullying of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children, such as an e-learning course on that subject that is now available to all schools in England.

Our Preventing and Tackling Bullying guidance sets out that schools should develop a consistent approach to monitoring bullying and evaluating their approaches. Schools are accountable to Ofsted, which will look at how effectively they prevent or deal with bullying incidents, including whether they have recorded incidents of bullying. We know, anecdotally, that formal reporting of incidents can act as a disincentive to record, which is why we worked with Ofsted to make its position on recording bullying very clear in guidance. The Government will continue to support the current school-level approach to recording, supporting schools to meet their duties to take action to tackle bullying.

It is right that parents should be informed about bullying. In developing behavioural policies, schools should take account of the need to liaise with parents and other agencies. They should judge when to inform parents about bullying, considering additional factors such as safeguarding. We believe this is best done at a school level. The Government already collect information on these matters. We have the pupil, parent and learner panel, the ONS’s children’s Crime Survey for England and Wales, and the new national behaviour survey, which all collect information about the types of bullying and how often they occur. I heard the noble Baroness say that she did not feel that all those policies were working well in practice. If it would be of interest for her to meet me and colleagues in the department to discuss that in more detail, we would be delighted to do so.

I am also aware that I failed to answer the question about long Covid guidance from the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton. If I may, I will write to the noble Baroness on that.

With that, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Watson, will withdraw his amendment and that other noble Lords will not move theirs.

Photo of Lord Watson of Invergowrie Lord Watson of Invergowrie Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 8:45 pm, 27th June 2022

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this group. Before I come specifically to the two amendments in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Blower I would just like to say, on the amendments in the names of my noble friend Lady Whitaker and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, that bullying is one of those issues that if you do not measure it, you cannot improve it. The Minister has just said that Ofsted has issued guidance on schools recording bullying. That is all right for those schools which are doing that, but the point is that it is guidance. What about those instances where it is not recorded, for whatever reason—the school may wish to protect its reputation or whatever?

The noble Baroness talked about local authorities having a register. I think it is important to go beyond the individual school. We are moving away from a situation in this Bill where we thought academies were a law unto themselves; we are now finding that perhaps that is not the case after all. I think it is important to broaden that.

I will give some examples of bullying. Noble Lords have highlighted issues, and I would like to mention some more. One is that it is not just those you might think are obvious targets for bullying. Children who are adopted often suffer very badly from being bullied, if the fact that they are adopted becomes known. Noble Lords may remember that, following the MacAlister report on the children’s social care review, a day of action was organised here on Wednesday last week by a number of children’s charities. They brought along a lot of children in care and, in speaking to them, I was very disappointed to hear some of them say that they are stigmatised in school because they are in care. They said that some teachers will ask, “What do your mum and dad think of this?” Of course, a child in care can find that most distressing. That is not bullying—I am not suggesting that teachers bully—but it allows it to emerge, and children can then be subject to bullying by their peers. It takes so many forms and it has to be more carefully recorded, and schools held to account if they are not acting appropriately.

On Amendments 171J and 171K, I acknowledge the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, about young people with dyslexia and dyspraxia. I should at least have referred to the fact that the amendment was as broad as possible and covered all children who, for whatever reason, need assistance with developing their speech and communication skills.

I hear what the Minister said about the guidance that is available. Again, the point is the same as with bullying: it is guidance. For those schools that abide by it, fine; but those that do not are the problem, and these are the areas where it has to be strengthened. That is why I think that a statutory position is necessary.

The Minister contradicted herself, because she said at one point, “We cannot really have statutory assessment at this stage”, in relation to the need to check on spoken and communication skills because, post-pandemic, that would put undue stress on teachers and school staff. That is basically saying, “It is a good idea, but this is not the time to do it”. If we say that, that means that the older children—the ones who will have moved on in three or four years, or however long it takes for us to be in a proper post-pandemic situation—have not benefited. Then the Minister said, in relation to my noble friend Lady Chapman’s amendment, that we need to concentrate funding now because the older pupils will have moved on by the time the funding reaches them. I understand her point about needing to make sure that older pupils get that consideration, but you cannot on the one hand say, “We cannot do it now” for one reason, but then say that older pupils have to get that consideration now in terms of the funding. I do not think it is an either/or situation.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

I apologise if I was not clear. What I was saying was that to introduce an additional assessment early on would put greater resource strain on the system. What I was saying in relation to investment in older children was not about assessment; it was just making sure that we prioritise them for greater funding because they have less time left in school, so we want to give them as much support as possible.

Photo of Lord Watson of Invergowrie Lord Watson of Invergowrie Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I thank the Minister for that clarification. I accept what she says about the differences as well, but I was drawing attention to the fact that older children, by definition, do not have much longer in school, so we need to ensure that they get every support that we can give them, either financial or through encouragement to improve their speaking skills. I also note what the Minister says about the current situation, so I invite her to bring forward an amendment on Report which might have a time-limited introduction of the sort of resources necessary for the suggestion I made in Amendment 171J.

I hope I have covered the points. I am not suggesting that the Minister is not taking these issues seriously—I know her well enough to know that she is and does—but there has to be some kind of step change, because the views and surveys I referred to earlier have pointed out that, however well meant things are, there are too many children who are not getting the assistance they need to make sure they have the skills that we discussed for many hours on the skills Bill not so long ago. To bring young people on to the jobs market, they need these skills—that is the key. There is no point in having a bit of paper that says “So-and-so has passed this qualification” if he or she is not really able to make the most of it by articulating in a way that helps them to do that job effectively. With those remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 171J withdrawn.

Amendments 171K to 171Z not moved.

Clauses 66 and 67 agreed.

Clause 68: Commencement

Amendments 172 and 173 not moved.

Clause 68 agreed.

Clause 69 agreed.

House resumed.

Bill reported with amendments.

House adjourned at 8.56 pm.