Education and Training (Welfare of Children) Bill

I congratulate
the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mary Kelly Foy) on bringing forward this Bill. As somebody who was also drawn out high up on the private Members’ Bills ballot a few weeks after I was elected to this House five years ago, I know that, as soon as that result is published, successful Members are not short of advice and suggestions as to measures they might like to pursue, but I think she has chosen extremely well with this Bill. It may seem like a technical Bill, but it could hardly be more important.

What the Bill will deliver is clarity and legal certainty that the safeguarding provisions that we expect to be in place for all our schools should also be in place regardless of the stage of young people’s education and regardless of who is operating that education. As a former school governor at a special school in a local borough council, I know how important it is that no institution—but particularly one that works so directly with children and young people—should ever imagine, “Well, it couldn’t happen here.” Sadly, it almost certainly could. Fortunately, we have some fantastically dedicated and skilled teachers, staff and social workers, working with young people in schools and colleges to try to reduce and minimise the risk as far as possible, but the provisions in the Bill make sure that those protections are extended comprehensively.

As parents and, indeed, as members of society we expect our children and young people to be safe when and where they learn. We expect that, regardless of whether those children are in nursery, primary, secondary or tertiary education. We expect it, regardless of whether those institutions are local authorities, schools, academies or independent learning providers. The Bill will help to ensure consistency, clarity and legal certainty about what is required.

We expect our children and young people to be kept as safe as possible from bullying, which in many instances can have a lifelong and scarring effect, and we expect our children and young people to be kept as safe as possible from even more sinister forms of abuse. By widening the terms of the existing provisions to clarify that they apply to the institutions referred to in the Bill, the hon. Lady, and hopefully the House, will help to make sure that those young people can enjoy the protection and the safeguarding that everybody should be able to take for granted throughout their education. That is why I enthusiastically and without reservation support the Bill this afternoon.