‘(i) at least one member of the teaching staff at the school (“the designated person”); and, additionally and separately,
(ii) at least one member of the governing body who is not a teacher’.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 28, in clause 20, page 16, line 5, after ‘school’, insert ‘who is a qualified teacher’.
No. 18, in clause 20, page 16, line 6, after ‘achievement’, insert
‘, and for reporting the educational progress to the foster carer or other appropriate carer,’.
No. 29, in clause 20, page 16, line 6, after ‘achievement’, insert ‘and well-being’.
No. 30, in clause 20, page 16, line 11, at end insert—
‘( ) The governing body must designate a member of the governing body (“the designated governor”) as having responsibility for oversight of the provision made under subsection (1).
( ) The governing body must ensure that the designated governor is provided with all relevant information to assist him in the discharge of his functions.’.
Here we are dealing with an old bugbear regarding schooling and the relationship of children in care to their teachers. Many of us have said for some time that there are two main groups of children for whom special provisions need to be made, aside from those who have learning disabilities and obvious requirements like that, and they are children in the care system and young carers. The hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole and I have slaved our way down to the Southampton to the annual young carers festival for some time.
While the hon. Gentleman is on that point he might like to know that last Saturday I went as well.
We were delighted to hear that because, as we have pointed out, we had not had a Labour Minister or MP down there for some time—I am not trying to be critical—although we used to when the hon. Member and the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole I started doing the MPs’ question time at the children’s request. It was great to hear. I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, the hon. Member for Cardiff, West was appreciated and that he enjoyed it as well because it is always extraordinary. That is entirely out of order, Mr. Williams, because it is not the question in hand.
There are two groups of pupils for whom special attention and recognition by a key member of staff is essential. The group germane to the Bill are looked-after children. Clause 20 includes designating a member of staff to be the key link for looked-after children. My problem is that subsection (1) refers only to
“a member of the staff at the school” being the designated person. The intention and direction of the clause is right but it is not good enough because the designated person could be a school caretaker, a games assistant or somebody like that—perfectly worthy individuals though they may be. To take the problems seriously, we think that a properly qualified member of the teaching staff must become the designated person. It needs to be somebody who understands the educational requirements of that child, who can communicate with other teachers, the head teacher and governors on an equal basis and who has authority.
Children in the care system obviously have particular educational needs. As we have heard from the statistics that have been bandied about, they are much more likely to do badly at school, not least because of the lack of continuity in their education. There are also problems with the image of looked-after children’s poor achievement and outcomes, so some schools would prefer not to have them because it may bring down their averages. Those are considerations that looked-after children have to face. It is therefore absolutely right that special provisions be made by a school to ensure that the special needs of looked-after children are recognised and taken on board at the highest level within those schools.
That may mean that the school must chase the responsible social worker, if that responsible social worker is not performing the role of a “pushy parent” that I would like to see them play. A child who happens to be in the care system is entitled to no lesser degree of attention from the responsible person or body, which could be a social worker, as he or she would get from a responsible parent. That could mean turning up to parents evenings demanding to know why the child is lagging behind, for example, or expressing concerns about bullying or liaising with the school on a whole host of matters. Clearly, because of the pressures on social workers, which we have previously discussed, a social worker may not be in a position to play as active a role in overseeing a child’s education as one might like.
I have mentioned innovative authorities such as Barnet that have introduced a buddy system, whereby an officer of the authority will buddy up with a looked-after child. One of their roles will be to look at their school report and to monitor their educational progress and, if necessary, ring up the school and say “What is going wrong here?” It would be helpful if there is a designated teacher who will be their first point of call, be that for a social worker or an extended family member whom one wants to encourage to have an interest in the child’s progress.
Therefore, the clause is to be welcomed, but it needs to be beefed up, hence amendment No. 17 states that a member of the teaching staff must be the designated person. However, the amendment goes further: the second part of it would provide for a responsible governor. The measure applies to young carers and many of us have argued for it before. Recognising the teacher so that they feel that they have the clout to argue the case for looked-after children would be greatly improved and enhanced by introducing a separate, responsible governor, someone other than the teacher—as it stands the designated person could be the teaching representative on the governing body—to oversee the provisions for looked-after children. They would be the line manager, as it were, for the designated teacher. That would send out a clear signal to schools that the special requirements of looked-after children, which result from the fact that educational outcomes for looked-after children have been a scandal for too many years, are a priority and that schools need to have a structure in place that can cope with that and make it a reality. Amendment No. 17 would ensure that a properly qualified teacher, in partnership with a governor, are directly responsible for overseeing the fortunes of children in the care system who attend their schools.
Amendment No. 18 specifies that there should also be a responsibility for both those individuals to report
“the educational progress to the foster carer or other appropriate carer”.
Another flaw in the system is that, too often, it is difficult to get information out of the school on how a child is actually doing, particularly foster carers. If a foster carer is doing his or her job properly, as the vast majority of them fortunately do, and if we expect a foster carer to be as close to a natural parent as possible and to play the role of a birth parent, which could include being a “pushy parent” when it comes to asking questions about whether a child is doing well at school, we should ensure that they automatically have an entitlement to know about the performance of the child at school, receive reports and hold a conversation with the relevant teachers or whoever on an established basis, so that they are fully informed about the child’s school progress. They will then be able to ask all the right questions. At the moment that does not happen in many cases.
Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 would require that there be designated teachers who know about the requirements of looked-after children, a governor to oversee that and that foster carers should have access to educational information about the child. They would then be able to ensure that they were doing well and ask the right questions if they were not. Such requirements would add some real beef to the well intentioned clause. They would make its provisions a reality rather than the wish list that they might become. I have some sympathy for the amendments that are being advocated by the Liberal Democrats in a similar vein. On that basis, I commend amendments Nos. 17 and 18 to the Committee.
I wish to speak briefly in support of amendments Nos. 17 and 18. The two secondary schools for which I am governor have extremely good pastoral care departments. I have asked a number of head teachers in my constituency how many looked-after children they have on their rolls. Most of them said none, but they did not say they did not know. I am assuming that there is a very good process between social services and education departments so that schools are always aware if they have looked-after children on their rolls.
It is important that somebody is available for a looked-after child. When they arrive in school, they are more likely to be having a crisis day than the average pupil. There are more opportunities for stress and more things that will concern them. If only one teacher is designated to be a friend, adviser and mentor to a looked-after child, it is not possible for them to be available at every moment. It is not possible for them to be available when the child arrives in school every morning. If two teachers are designated, it is more likely that somebody will be available to take control of a crisis. If a governor is also designated, although they are in school only from time to time, there is an extra option for that child.
It is important that children have an adult to whom they can relate. Personality and character come into that. If they relate to one of the three designated people and feel more comfortable opening up and disclosing personal problems to them, they are likely to disclose more than if only one of the other designated people was available. It is therefore a very good idea that there be two or even three people available to a looked-after child if they are having a bad day or if there is an ongoing problem that the school needs to be aware of.
Amendment No. 18 includes reporting educational progress. With most children, parents will come to the school on parents’ evening, which is an annual occasion. If they have problems in between those events, they will get in contact with the class teacher or the head teacher. With looked-after children, there is more potential for social problems that could affect their educational progress so more frequent access to the school is a huge advantage. More frequent access to school, more discussion and more reporting on their educational progress could head off other social problems that are brewing up in the background that adults are not aware of.
My understanding is that the number of such pupils in any one school will be very small so this will not be an onerous task in addition to the great number of functions that teachers have to perform. Most of my schools had good pastoral care departments and would be only too pleased to take on this role. It will be hugely advantageous to the looked-after children in our schools. It will not only maximise their aspiration and their ambition to succeed, and give them the best possible future and opportunities for training, further education and a productive career, it will safeguard their emotional well-being.
I very much want to endorse what the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham said and the practical case studies highlighted by the hon. Member for Upminster. The first point I want to make concerns clarity. I welcome the thrust of the clause, but, as has already been said, does it go far enough? On Second Reading, the Minister for Children, Young People and Families, the right hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston said:
“Clause 20 will make sure that there is a designated teacher in every school to give children in care the encouragement and personal support they need to realise their talents.”—[Official Report, 16 June 2008; Vol. 477, c. 727.]
Yet, here we are talking about a designated member of staff. That could be the caretaker, a games assistant and a range of individuals who work within the school community. Amendment Nos. 17 and 28 specify that it must be a member of the teaching staff or a qualified teacher. That is essential because it gives status to looked-after children. It is also about the practicalities of delivering those expectations of educational achievement and the needs of pastoral care, the child’s well-being, which amendment No. 29 seeks to pursue.
Amendment No. 29 seeks to build into the Bill the obvious point about holistic care and support for looked-after children. The Barnardo’s 2006 report, “Failed By The System”, revealed that 79 per cent. of young people who have been in care have no GCSEs or other educational qualifications when they leave school. But academic achievement and pastoral needs within the school community go hand in hand. One cannot separate the two.
Half of the young people in the Barnardo’s survey revealed that they had been bullied. Half the group had attended six or more schools; 11 per cent had attended more than 10 schools; 39 per cent. said that no one had attended a school parents’ evening; 48 per cent. said that nobody attended their sports days or school events. Educational achievement and self esteem go hand in hand. With the visitor provisions we talked about this morning, with a designated teacher clearly undertaking that pastoral role and with a link to foster carers, social workers or whoever, we can meet some of those challenges. If we get to the root of the self esteem issue educationally, we can move on and tackle many of the educational challenges.
I agree with everything that has just been said. It is important to emphasise that the partial aspect of the care plays a significant role in the general well-being of looked-after children within educational establishments. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the designated teacher also has the responsibility to ensure that the mental and behavioural well-being of the child in the school is part of their training? A growing number of looked-after children unfortunately suffer from an attachment disorder. Teachers should be aware of that and be trained to ensure that when they are dealing with each individual child they can assess those needs and feed that into their pastoral care. That will then improve their educational outcomes.
I thank the hon. Gentleman. I very much agree. As someone who endured a one-year course for a postgraduate certificate in education, I can testify to the limitations of teacher training in all areas of special needs and some of the behavioural problems that he has identified.
I hesitate to use the phrase “narrow educational achievement”, but I do not want the well-being of the child to be lost in a welter of percentages and academic targets. They go together. It should also be said that the needs of looked-after children are not always special educational needs. Yes, 28 per cent. of looked-after children have SEN statements, compared to 3 per cent. of the population, but we should not automatically assume, as the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) said on Second Reading, that the SENCO should necessarily assume the role of a co-ordinator for looked-after children.
I pay tribute to the fact that the Bill wisely mentions, under clause 20(3), that the governing body will ensure that the designated person—a teacher, I hope—has qualifications and experience, a point made by the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich. If that role is to be effective, it requires a full awareness of the child’s background and circumstances as well as the operation of the care system. As a novice to these Committee proceedings, I find that the matter involves a welter of information of which I suspect many teachers are unaware, but which they need to be aware of when working with such children.
Amendment No. 30, in line with the provisions on SENCOs and special needs governors, would give looked-after children the same status by making a governor responsible for them. It is a chain of responsibilities: the teacher is responsible and accountable to the governor, and the governor is also equipped with appropriate training and advice. Although our names are not on amendment No. 18, I support its spirit. It is an acknowledgement that educational achievement cannot be viewed just within the confines of the classroom; it must be extended to the home environment and the person charged with care.
The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham raised the spectre of schools summoning social workers to hear about the educational progress or problems of particular children. It is important. Many of us have sat through countless special educational needs consultations with parents who refused to turn up, wishing that we had the capacity to bring them in. The amendment is laudable. It would build dialogue between carers and the children in school.
Above all else, the amendments are not about giving another member of staff or a governor a meaningless title. They are about acknowledging the needs of 60,000 children and young people and giving the school community the structure to support them educationally and—critically—pastorally, so that their educational and social entitlements can be met.
I shall be brief, as my hon. Friend and other hon. Members have made clear points. I refer to the situation discovered by the Education Select Committee. In some schools, SENCOs were teaching assistants. The Education and Inspections Act 2006 or resulting regulations stated that SENCOs should be qualified teachers; personally, I feel that they should also be members of the senior management team.
It is important that we understand why the Bill does not say “a member of the teaching staff”. I suspect that there is a reason for that, but it is important to understand why. I want particularly to specify that it should be a fully qualified teacher. As my hon. Friend explained, it is such an important job. It involves a mix of guiding through academic routes and trying to improve academic performance, but it also involves looking after the welfare of the child and addressing the various other needs that must be addressed before academic achievement can be attained.
I shall refer briefly to some good practice in Dorset. I attended a Dorset awards day for foster carers and children a couple of weeks ago at which I was involved in presenting certificates. It demonstrated a close working between the teachers in school, the local authority and foster carers. The latter were there with the children, and the certificates that I handed out were varied. One was for 100 per cent. attendance at the learning support centre. Another was for 100 per cent. attendance over the previous term. Some were for academic achievements in their GCSEs; others were for behaving well at home and helping around the house. It was a complete mix, but awarding and celebrating progress in the lives of those foster children brought all the services together quite beautifully and skilfully. A good day was had by all, as the rest of the day was a fun day with lots of entertainment. I mention that practice because it is worthy of being adapted by other local authorities.
We are heaping praise on Dorset. I seem to recall that Dorset piloted the giving of bursaries to children in the care system for particular education-related studies—for instance, more music lessons. That gave the authority control over its budget that it would not normally have had to allow pupils to pursue a subject in which they showed artistic, musical or educational promise. That was another example of good practice by Dorset.
I was very pleased that Dorset was selected for the 18-to-21 pilots. It is obviously is good practice, and we should share it whenever we can. I support all the amendments.
I agree with the hon. Lady on the importance of having fun days, with lots of entertainment —which is obviously what we are having today.
The intention behind this small flourish of amendments to clause 20 is to ensure that the role of the designated person specified for children in a maintained school has the maximum impact. I sympathise with that intention. We should consider our history in trying to improve educational outcomes for looked-after children when discussing the amendments.
The clause goes back to the Quality Protects initiative of 1998, which started our focus on improving the educational outcomes for looked-after children both locally and nationally. We know much more about the subject than we did before introducing the national data collection in 2000. Before that, no one even checked to see how they were doing in school.
I shall be confessional for a moment. I have said publicly that during my career—I was in the teaching profession until 1994—my awareness of those children that might have had looked-after status in the classroom and the school was minimal. There was none of the focus that has rightly been introduced over the past few years, which has led to an improvement in outcomes. However, I think that we would all agree that that still is not good enough.
At first, we found that only 7 per cent. of looked-after children achieved five good GCSEs; by 2006, that figure had increased to 13 per cent. However, we should not exaggerate. The hon. Member for Ceredigion suggested that 79 per cent. of looked-after children had no GCSEs, but that is not quite true. In 2000, 49 per cent. had one GCSE, and the figure rose to 64 per cent. by 2007. Again, it is not good enough, but we should not exaggerate the problem.
In the Children Act 2004, we introduced a duty for local authorities to promote the educational achievement of looked-after children. Building on that duty, as part of the “Care Matters” agenda, we are introducing an annual personal education allowance of £500 for all looked-after children who are at risk of not reaching the nationally expected standards of attainment. It is intended to meet the costs of the sort of activities or resources needed to support looked-after children’s learning and development, in the same way that a good parent would seek to enrich their child’s education by making extra things available.
As it stands, subsection (1) requires the governing body of a maintained school to designate a member of staff as having a particular role in
“promoting the educational achievement of registered pupils ...who...are looked after by a local authority”.
I take the point made by the hon. Member for Upminster about having a significant adult in school whom a young person can turn to, but that will not necessarily be the designated teacher for looked-after children. It might be a trusted subject teacher or form teacher. Specifically, the designated teacher’s job is to promote the educational achievement of registered pupils who are looked after by the local authority.
As the hon. Lady said, most schools have a small number of looked-after children on their roll, but we know that when there is someone in the school whose job it is to champion the educational needs of looked-after children, that can have a real impact on individual outcomes. Most schools already have a designated teacher for looked-after children, in line with the current good practice guidance, but although we have come quite a long way in raising awareness in schools of the needs of looked-after children, not all schools make specific provision for their needs.
The hon. Member for Ceredigion was right to point out that we should not assume that all looked-after children have special educational needs. I met a young man in Birmingham who told me that he never told anyone that he was in care until quite some time into the acquaintance because he felt that he would be judged immediately in exactly that fashion when in fact he fully intended—and I completely believed him—to qualify as a doctor in the next few years and was obviously a very bright and academically able young man. As the hon. Gentleman said, we should not make such assumptions.
However, because schools do not always make specific provision, it came out quite clearly in the “Care Matters” consultation that we need to take action to put the requirement on a statutory footing and to make it a requirement for all governing bodies of all maintained schools to appoint a designated teacher to ensure that the role is given the status and recognition that it deserves. I say “teacher” because the intention is—I have said this publicly previously—that it should be a teacher. I shall say more about that in a moment. This is a very effective way significantly to improve educational outcomes for looked-after children. We will use the regulation-making power in subsection (3) to require the governing body to ensure that the designated person has the necessary qualifications and experience—in particular, qualified teacher status. There may be examples, which I shall come to, in which that does not necessarily need to be the case, but it will be the norm.
In addition, we will issue statutory guidance to governing bodies, setting out in some detail the role and responsibilities of the designated teacher. I am referring to the role of the designated teacher in assessing the child’s educational needs and in making arrangements for co-operating with the local authority, especially in relation to the development of the child’s personal education plan. Guidance will also stress the sorts of administrative task that could be undertaken by non-teaching staff acting in support, as well as the importance of ensuring that the school’s policy on pastoral care is effective for looked-after children.
Under amendments Nos. 18 and 30, a designated governor would be appointed to promote the educational achievement of looked-after children. That would be in addition to the designated teacher. The amendments would also ensure that the governor had the necessary information to discharge that role effectively. I agree with the hon. Members for East Worthing and Shoreham and for Upminster about the significant role that school governors can and should play. It is right that they pay proper attention to promoting the educational achievement of looked-after children on their roll, and certainly governors and staff need to understand that school can often be a particular haven of consistency and continuity in the lives of looked-after children. That has implications for the way in which schools work to support their educational achievement.
However, clause 20, supported by the appropriate statutory guidance, will ensure that that happens and, indeed, will make it clear that the governing body should expect to receive a regular report on the work of the designated teacher and on outcomes for looked-after children who are pupils at the school. Governing bodies have a legal duty to promote high standards of educational achievement and well-being for all pupils at the school, including looked-after children. The governing body’s role is and should be essentially a strategic one. Of course, there is nothing to prevent a governing body from identifying a link governor to lead on issues relating to looked-after children, but the governing body overall remains responsible for any decisions taken. We will make that absolutely clear when we issue governing bodies with statutory guidance on the role and responsibilities of the designated teacher.
It is encouraging that awareness among school governors of the needs of looked-after children has increased significantly in recent years. We are committed to ensuring that school governors are provided with training to help them understand the needs of looked-after child and effectively hold schools to account. We expect to use the statutory guidance on the role and responsibilities of the designated teacher to set out clearly what governors need to put in place.
The guidance will build on that produced in 2005 by the former Department for Education and Skills, in partnership with the Who Cares? Trust and the Advisory Centre for Education. The 2005 guidance, which was called “Supporting Looked After Learners—A Practical Guide for School Governors”, was designed to help individual governors gain an understanding of the experiences of looked-after children in schools and of the challenges that they need to overcome if they are to succeed.
Amendment No. 18 seeks to ensure that foster carers and others who care for looked-after children are informed of their educational progress. It goes without saying that it is vital that those who are responsible for a looked-after child—whether as a foster carer or in a residential setting—receive regular and comprehensive information about the child’s educational progress. Indeed, we would expect all those who are responsible for the care of a looked-after child to help them meet their full potential. For a number of reasons, however, amendment No. 18 is not necessary to achieve that aim.
Under the Education (Pupil Information) (England) Regulations 2005, schools are already required to provide an annual report to the parent of every child who is a registered pupil at the school, and that includes looked-after children. For the purposes of education law, a parent includes anyone who has parental responsibility or who has care of the child. That includes foster carers and a child’s key residential worker in a children’s home. Schedule 1 of the regulations clearly lists what information the report should contain, including brief particulars of achievements in all subjects and activities that form part of the school curriculum, plus comments on the child’s general progress and details of the arrangements for discussing their reports with their teacher.
The intention behind the duty that clause 20 places on the governing body is very precise. The governing body must appoint a designated person whose specific role it will be to promote the educational achievement of registered pupils at the school who are looked after by a local authority. A key aspect of that role will be to ensure that the school works closely with the child’s carers and the local authority, which will also have a particular duty to promote the child’s educational achievement, as I said.
As I indicated, we will issue statutory guidance to governing bodies setting out in detail what we expect the designated teacher to do to promote the educational achievement of looked-after children at their school. Among other things, the guidance will cover helping the child’s carers to get involved in supporting the child’s education, regularly assessing the child’s progress, identifying any additional needs and participating in the development of the child’s personal education plan and in the regular six-monthly reviews of that plan.
The personal education plan forms part of the child’s care plan, and we have made it clear in statutory guidance that social workers should fully involve the child’s carers and, where appropriate, their parents in drawing up the child’s personal education plan. Social workers should also work in partnership with the designated teacher to ensure that the plan sets clear objectives and targets and clearly identifies the additional support that the child will need to achieve those targets. The regulations that apply to the regular reviews of the child’s case require the child’s educational needs, progress and development to be considered at the six-monthly review. Through statutory guidance, we make it clear that the child’s carers should be involved in that review in addition to the child’s parents.
Amendment No. 28 makes provision for the designated person to be a qualified teacher. We would not disagree with that; indeed we made that intention clear in the “Care Matters” White Paper and in debate on similar amendments in the other place. Although I understand the reasons for wanting to ensure that the role of the designated person is performed by a teacher, the best way of dealing with the issue is to set out in regulations precisely who is qualified for the job. In most cases, we would expect the role to be filled by a teacher with qualified teacher status, but there might be some exceptions to that. Some teachers can practise without qualified teacher status, such as overseas-trained teachers, as members of the Committee will know. Of course, there are also those who started their careers before the current training requirements came into force.
The key point is that it is better to specify that in regulation, rather than doing so rigidly through primary legislation, because that will allow for changes to be made more easily in line with changes in teacher training without the need for further primary legislation. To have the necessary flexibility, it is much better that that is done through regulation. The power to prescribe qualifications through legislation will enable us to update the qualifications of the designated person, if there is any change in the framework of teacher qualifications, without the delay of amending primary legislation.
Amendment No. 29 would make the designated person responsible for promoting the well-being of looked-after children and championing their educational achievement. On Second Reading, the hon. Members for Mid-Dorset and North Poole and for Ceredigion spoke about the need to ensure that the designated teacher takes sufficient account of pastoral needs as well as academic achievement. Again, we do not disagree that an holistic approach is required. The designated teacher should discharge his or her responsibilities for looked-after children registered in the school in that holistic way, but the amendment is not needed for that to be achieved. The Education and Inspections Act 2006 already places the governing body of a maintained school under a duty to promote the well-being of all pupils in a school, including looked-after children, and that is in addition to their duty under the Education Act 2002 to ensure that they promote the welfare of all the children on their roll. Since 2005, Ofsted has been under a duty to report on the contribution that schools make to their pupils’ well-being. The well-being duty on schools ensures that they focus specifically on the five “Every Child Matters” outcomes, as defined in section 10 of the Children Act 2004—I will not go into the detail because I know that members of the Committee are familiar with them.
The designated teacher will therefore have an important role in championing the well-being of looked-after children and raising awareness of their particular needs. We want the primary focus of that role to be on raising expectations about teaching and learning for looked-after children and supporting them to achieve their full potential. Given the significant attainment gap between looked-after children and children generally, which we all know about, we need make no apology for having that at the forefront I hope that I have offered reassurance on how seriously we take the role of designated teachers and of school governors in ensuring that looked-after children have the support that they need to reach their potential. I hope that hon. Members will, on that basis, feel that they can withdraw their amendments.
I am a bit disappointed, which I have not been much in the Committee so far. The Minister seems to be moving into a position in which it would be easy for him to accept at least one of the amendments in this small flourish of amendments, as he described it earlier. He made all the right noises and pointed to the problems with the educational achievement gap, which we all know about and which has been widening. He pointed out that the 7 per cent. achievement on the O-level criteria has improved to around 12 or 13 per cent. The achievement by children who are not in care has improved rather more, so that last year the gap worsened. Children in care are being left behind, and more so than their cohort as a whole. That is also an important consideration for children in care, because some 80 per cent. of the 61,000 children in the care system in England and Wales are of school age.
This goes to the heart of what is essential for improving conditions for looked-after children in the education system. It was not therefore a surprise to me that the Minister agreed with everything that we said. He also said that the Government will set out in guidance the role of the designated teacher—I think that he said “teacher” and not “member of staff”. He agreed with the significant role of governors in promoting educational achievement, and said that that there would be regular reports to governors. Everything he said seemed to agree with what we had said, but then he ruined it by saying that the amendments were not necessary because the issues could be set down in guidance. Clearly, the Minister has got confused as to what is a designated member of staff and what is a designated teacher; he slipped seamlessly from one term to the other, without realising that the Bill does not say “designated teacher”. I could not find in any of his comments any downside to putting “designated teacher” rather than “designated member of staff” in the Bill. He gave lots of good reasons why the amendments were well intentioned and appropriate, and no good reasons why the Committee should not adopt them, at least those relating to a designated teacher and a designated governor.
The hon. Member for Ceredigion made some good points in support of his amendment, which is based on the same principle as the amendments in my name and those of my hon. Friends. He showed from his experience how much more attention needs to be given to the issue by teaching staff. As he said, it is not a question of meaningless titles, but of proper titles being given to the right people along with the right tools to do the job, backed up in statute. That is what the amendment is about. He quoted my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham, who said that this should not be another job that gets piled automatically on the SENCO—the general repository of all things slightly odd. The job needs to be done by somebody who is focused on looked-after children and who has the appropriate training, overseen by the governors. There will also be a governor with the responsibility of ensuring that that training has taken place, and that reports on the progress of looked-after children and the school’s policy towards such children are discussed at governors’ meetings, that they are not just another little box that you have to get around to ticking. The hon. Gentleman rightly says that the governing body is responsible for overseeing that, but it would be so much better if there was a designated governor who was responsible for ensuring that the governing body was doing everything that it should be—not just the minimum—to ensure that the policy was implemented. It is not the designated teacher who will be responsible for that, but the head and the senior staff severally, on the same basis that it will be the governing body jointly and severally. Again, I could not see a downside to a designated governor in what the Minister said.
I take the Minister’s point that the information that I called for should, under the Education (Pupil Information) (England) Regulations 2005, be made available to every person with parental responsibility for a child. He gave a satisfactory answer on that matter, and also regarding amendment No. 30 on promoting well-being, in that that is catered for elsewhere. The Minister did not make a case for why having a designated teacher and a designated governor would in any way damage the Bill or hamper—beyond what is intended by forthcoming regulations—the role of the school in doing what we want it to do. On that basis and to ensure that the Committee is awake, I will push the amendment to a vote. I ask the Committee to support the lead amendment, which is about having a designated teacher and a designated governor.