Clause 76

Part of Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 28 February 2008.

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Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners) 10:15, 28 February 2008

It is a pleasure to be able to make a contribution this morning and to have been able to move on to part 4 at such an early stage in the Committee’s proceedings.

The hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton started with a series of allegations, which I could reject one by one, but for the sake of the efficiency of the Committee, it is probably better that I do that when we reach the appropriate amendments rather than in the context of clause 76, to which the allegations were not really specific.

Clause 76 introduces a new definition of independent educational institutions. The new definition includes  independent schools which provide full-time education for pupils of compulsory school age. It also includes part-time institutions which are the main provider of a child’s education, as defined by the number of hours of operation per week over a period of weeks in one year.

I do not have the names of all four institutions to hand—in response to his last set of questions—but I can confirm that Tyndale Academy is one of the four and, from memory, Kids Company is another. I cannot remember off the top of my head what the other two are, but it may come to me in the course of my response.

Independent schools are already required to register and are inspected against the regulatory framework introduced in September 2003 following the Education Act 2002. Independent schools, incidentally, are defined in statute by section 463 of the Education Act 1996. It is worth noting, in relation to what I will go on to say regarding home educators, that an independent school has more than five pupils, unless they have one pupil who has special educational needs or who is in public care. A home is also not defined as an institution, which is part of the protection to home educators in the way the clause is drafted.

Incidentally, the other two of those four institutions are the Headstart Learning Centre and The Children’s Garden.

The framework that I have referred to, introduced in September 2003 under the 2002 Act, ensures that all children in these schools have suitable learning opportunities in a safe and secure learning environment. The requirement to register part-time institutions, which are not currently subject to any regulatory or monitoring framework, will ensure that these same safeguards are put in place for children in those settings. I am sure the Committee agrees on the importance of ensuring that every child who is being taught in a school, full time or part time, should be safe and secure in their learning environment.

The clause applies to institutions that make 12 and a half hours’ provision for primary age children and 15 hours for secondary age children for 28 weeks a year or more—that equates to more than half of a typical school week for more than half of a school year. These institutions are, in our opinion, providing the majority of a child’s education, so it is right that they should meet minimum standards. We strongly believe that, where parents delegate the education of their children to others, the state has a responsibility to ensure that children have appropriate learning opportunities and learn in a safe and secure environment. On the inclusion of part-time institutions, although they are limited in number at this stage, patterns of education are changing and we want to ensure that we have the regulation in place before they change further.