On 20th May 2020, Lord Watson of Invergowrie asked the Government “what action they are taking to publish scientific evidence which (1) ensures the re-opening schools on 1 June will be safe for pupils, staff and parents, and (2) includes the impact on the (a) national, and (b) regional, reproduction rates (R number) of COVID-19“. The Bishop of Winchester, Rt Revd Tim Dakin, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, as with many schools, Church of England schools have remained open during the lockdown for the children of key workers and vulnerable children. Our teachers are working extremely hard to provide educational and pastoral support to our students at this time of unprecedented challenge. Can the Minister confirm whether school leaders will be granted the discretion to reopen at a pace dictated by their local circumstances and context, considering the significant mental, spiritual, physical and social impact that the current situation is having on children, especially those from the most disadvantaged and vulnerable families?
On 14th May 2020 a statement was given regarding the reopening and operation of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, asked a follow up question:
Lord Bishop of Durham: I am grateful to the Minister and the Secretary of State for meeting myself and the Church of England education team earlier in the week. The longer that children are learning from home, the wider the disadvantage gap that may well be developing. Does the Minister agree that the risks of not reopening schools in a managed and phased way are actually greater than the logistical challenges presented by reopening?
On 12th May 2020 Baroness Massey of Darwen asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the ability of schools to deliver the new compulsory elements of relationships and sex education curriculum from September 2020”. The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I declare my interests as stated in the register as chair of the National Society. In November, the Church of England produced a charter to support schools in preparing for the new compulsory elements of RSHE. It is important to us and our schools that we consult parents on how best to deliver this new material, to ensure that we provide a sensitive education enabling all pupils to flourish. Will Her Majesty’s Government reassess the delivery date of the new elements of RSHE to accommodate the current constraints on schools’ time and energy due to Covid-19?
On 19th March 2020 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd Justin Welby, responded to the Government statement on school closures in light of the coronavirus crisis:
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, clearly the educational world is working extraordinarily hard—one welcomes that—in its determination to deal with an extraordinarily difficult situation very quickly and under huge pressure. If we follow the Imperial College analysis model that was recently published, we can see in certain circumstances the repeated waves of Covid-19 going on for 18 to 24 months. At what point will we begin to move towards a longer-term view of what needs to happen? Clearly, schools cannot be closed for two years. I wonder whether the Government have in their mind the planning for the eventuality of longer-term infectious prevalence in this country. Continue reading “Archbishop responds to Government statement on coronavirus school closures”
On 29th January 2020 the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Tyler of Enfield, “to ask Her Majesty’s Government how they plan to respond to the ten steps to improve social mobility contained in the Sutton Trust’s Mobility Manifesto, published in November 2019, and the recommendations of the Social Mobility Commission’s 2019 State of the Nation report.” The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Choudrey.
Opportunity, aspiration and education are critical to all having the best chance of being socially mobile. Giving children the best start in life is paramount, so we need more health visitors, better-targeted childcare for those least able to afford it and renewed opportunities for parents to interact with others. Will Her Majesty’s Government commit to a proper national early years strategy with an increased share of future spending?
Church of England schools in my diocese have found it difficult to implement our motto that “no child is left behind” because social mobility is a great challenge exacerbated by a poverty of aspiration. According to the Social Mobility Commission’s survey, less than a third of people living in the north-east think that there are good opportunities in our region.
On 17th October 2019 Lord Watson of Invergowrie asked Her Majesty’s Government “what steps they will take further to the recent survey of local authorities in England which found that since 2014 approximately £400 million has been diverted from mainstream education budgets in order to pay for special needs education.” The Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, several heads in Coventry and Warwickshire have told me about the heavy demands on their energies and budgets from, to quote one primary head, children who are not on the SEN register but face horrific circumstances at home and so need extra help; for example, families who are homeless through domestic violence and children whose mental health is so poor—these are nine year-olds—that they threaten suicide. Does the Minister recognise the pressures on schools in mainstream education from children who do not meet the thresholds of special needs but who nevertheless have severe needs and require acute support? Is he confident that there is sufficient funding for them?
On 30th July 2019 the Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, received a written answer, from Lord Agnew of Oulton, regarding free school meals for children of those with no recourse to public funds because of their immigration status:
The Lord Bishop of Durham:HL17456 To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 23 July (HL Deb, cols 668–70), what plans they have to review access to free school meals for children who are affected by having no recourse to public funds.
On 16th July 2019 in the House of Commons Emma Hardy MP (Lab) asked an urgent question to the Secretary of State for Education on whether “he will make a statement on what steps he is taking to counter misinformation about the content of relationship education in schools”. The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, asked a follow-up question:
Dame Caroline Spelman: The Church of England, the largest provider of primary education, fully supports this updating of the guidance. As the Minister says, it has not been updated for the past 20 years, and childhood has changed greatly during that time. Does the Minister agree that one of the imperatives for this change must be to protect pupils and keep them safe in the complex online world that they inhabit? My heart goes out to the children caught up in all this.
On 3rd July 2019 the Earl of Clancarty asked the Government “what support they are giving to people suffering from asthma, including on access to medicines”. The Bishop of Carlisle, Rt Revd James Newcome, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, given the recent report of an upsurge in acute asthma attacks among schoolchildren at the start of each school year, and given that—as we have already heard—there are three deaths per day from asthma in the UK, many of them preventable, what plans do Her Majesty’s Government have for encouraging better health education regarding the seriousness of this disease?
On 19th June 2019 the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) made a statement on supporting people in problem debt. The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, asked a follow-up question:
Dame Caroline Spelman: I welcome this statement and the Government going beyond their original manifesto commitment. It gives me a chance to thank my citizens advice bureau, which has done fantastic work on debt rescheduling during my 22 years as an MP.
Does the Minister welcome the Church of England’s initiative to teach financial literacy in its primary schools, and would he encourage rolling out such an approach to prevention more widely?