Valerie Speaks at Second Reading of the Education and Adoption Bill

On Monday 22 June 2015, Valerie Vaz MP, Walsall South, spoke in the debate on the Education and Adoption Bill which includes provisions to force ‘coasting schools’ to become academies and to remove adoption functions from local authorities.

Speaking in the debate, Valerie Vaz MP said:

“Education should be about the best interests of our children. Ultimately, society benefits from that, but I am struggling to find it in the Bill. I find the term “coasting schools” incredibly demeaning. Not only that, but the Secretary of State does not define it in the Bill and chooses to introduce regulations to do so. I asked the Minister what advice he has received from parliamentary counsel on whether that term is clear on the face of the Bill and whether it sets out Parliament’s intentions as to what it means. If the Bill were a contract, it would be void for uncertainty.”

“I reminded the Minister about Joseph Leckie Academy. It was promised £17 million under Building Schools for the Future, which was then cancelled. It then entered a bidding war, and managed to receive £4 million. It needs a further £4 million to remove the asbestos and build a new classroom. More than 50% of the children are in receipt of free school meals and are struggling to achieve, despite their best endeavours. It would not be fair for the school to be identified as coasting. That would not be right.”

“On adoption, the Bill provides that the Secretary of State can require a local authority to make arrangements for someone else to carry out its functions. That will take functions away from elected local government.”

“It is a scandal that children have to wait a long time to be adopted, but at the end of the day the social workers will make the assessment. It is therefore concerning that the Government have refused to fund the College of Social Work—the very place that is needed to promote social work as an important profession.”

“I asked the Minister where we will get the extra, properly trained social workers who will fast-track adoption. They step in when adoption goes wrong and they have to deal with families all the time. They deal with many issues—and their job is getting more and more difficult—from addressing child abuse to helping people with mental health issues and disabilities. All those areas have faced budget cuts.”

“One part of the Government—the Treasury—wants devolution revolution, but the Secretary of State has placed herself above the wishes of parents and reserved powers so that she can transfer functions away from local authorities.”

“The Government are like the Hydra in Greek mythology—all the heads are doing and saying different things. The Bill is not in the best interests of children, parents and families—the very people the Government were elected to serve.”

The full text of Valerie’s speech is available here.