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Clause 233

Part of Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:15 am on 26th March 2009.

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Photo of Sarah McCarthy-Fry Sarah McCarthy-Fry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families 9:15 am, 26th March 2009

The legislation states:

“The governing body...must ensure that a procedure is in place”.

There will be guidance that backs that up. Our revised guidance will make it clear what it means in practical terms, given that there are the general obligations under the Children Act 1989 and the wider requirements to safeguard children. I am happy to confirm that we expect to put in that guidance the incidents in the particular cases that the hon. Gentleman refers to.

On amendment 94, our general position is not to specify a time scale for how long pupil documentation should be kept. The current pupil information regulations, which cover the range of information that schools keep on their pupils and which we are considering revising, do not set such a time scale. Similarly, our current guidance on use of force does not specify a time scale for keeping records, as we believe that such decisions are best taken locally.

The exception is where a record has been handed to the police. Our guidance recommends that in those circumstances, schools should retain the record until the member of staff involved has reached normal retirement age or for 10 years from the date of the allegation, in order to ensure that a proper record is retained in case criminal or other proceedings arise from the incident. We propose that the new overarching guidance on the use of force that we will issue to follow the Bill should continue to reflect that approach.

I recognise concerns that the record of an incident passed to the police for whatever reason may appear on a subsequent Criminal Records Bureau check, but if a teacher has misused the power and acted unlawfully, it is right that that should form part of their CRB disclosure. In deciding how long to keep records of such incidents, schools will also wish to bear in mind the time limits for bringing civil actions for damages. Where a person under 18 has suffered injury, the limitation period does not even begin to run until they reach the age of 18, so if schools destroy records three years after an incident, they may face difficulties if a claim is made subsequently.

In any case, schools will wish to maintain accurate records of their pupils’ progress for at least as long as they remain in education, and the use of force record is likely to be considered by most schools as forming part of that record. Schools may wish, for example, to monitor patterns of use of force over a number of years. They must be left to make their own decisions about how long to keep records of use of force. Many schools will have good reason to want to keep the records for longer than three years. With that, I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.