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Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families will be here for a live webchat on Weds 9th Sept from 1-2pm

(338 Posts)
carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 07-Sep-09 15:11:55

Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, will be coming to Mumsnet Towers from 1-2pm on Wednesday 9 September for a live web chat. He is looking forward to answering your questions about the Government's family policies including support during your child's early years; flexible working and how it works (or doesn't work) for you; maternity and paternity leave; childcare provision and Sure Start centres. You can also ask him questions about education and family services in your area or let him know how the recession has affected your family (and how the Gov could help).

Ed is MP for Normanton, married to Yvette Cooper, the Work and Pensions Secretary, and they have three children aged 10, 8 and 5. He loves cooking and is a Norwich City supporter.

Ed won't be answering advance questions, but if you would like to post a question now (or can't join us on Wednesday) we'll do our best to feed these questions through at the beginning of the live chat, particularly if there are some common themes coming through.

He'll try to get through as many of your questions as possible on the day, but even if he can type at breakneck speed it's unlikely he'll be able to answer every single question. However, if there are particular issues that keep coming up that he doesn't have time to address on the day then he's promised to get back with some additional answers in the next couple of weeks.

Over to you!

MNHQ

MoonlightMcKenzie Mon 07-Sep-09 22:36:35

Hello Ed,

I have some questions about early years and early intervention:

1)Is it government policy to refuse access to services and support to young children with autism and their families 'pending' a diagnosis which has a waiting list that is over a year long for the straightforward cases, or is it just Hertfordshire that does this?

2)Given that Applied Behavioural Analysis is the international standard for treatment for children with autism, and shows immense cost-benefit for both Local Authorities, tax payers and the child and their family, why isn't it the UK standard?

Thank you

blueshoes Mon 07-Sep-09 23:01:57

smallwhitecat, if you have a gripe, do articulate it like an adult, rather than descend into cowardly sniping.

MoonlightMcKenzie Mon 07-Sep-09 23:16:22

I have another question too with regards to summer birthday intake etc.

Do you not think that age is a abritary and meaningless basis for putting children together in a class?

Would it not be more sensible to do so on a basis of either social and emotional maturity, academic level, parental preference etc.?

And what are you feelings about more flexible education arrangements i.e. part-time school/part-time home, Learning through the community, travel, outside of the classroom, independent learning etc. Are the BSF projects moving us towards this type of thinking or towards a more traditional education?

Thank you.

daisy5678 Mon 07-Sep-09 23:35:06

Hi,

What do you intend to do about the inequalities in the SEN system between schools and across different authorities?

Thanks

FluffySaysTheDailyMailsShite Mon 07-Sep-09 23:47:22

Hello Ed.

Appologies for my name. blush
I am the parent of an incredibly bright boy. It's clear from what's been happening to him that the gifted and talented policy doesn't work. You say that state schools can educate very bright children but in reality they can't. My son has been severly bullied, his work has been ripped up and thrown in the bin, he's been sworn at and his life has been made a misery. At school he is more then a couple of years ahead yet there really is no provision for him. It would make our life so much easier if you could bring back the assisted places scheme. I'm a single mum, there are no school's where we live that offer bursaries for junior schools. The gifted and talented programme is designed to stretch the top 10%, what happens to those children who are in the top 2%? They are bullied, it's evident from some of the threads on here. Surly to have school's with such a mix of attainment levels then resentment plays a huge part in bullying, isn't it best to help these children? State school's can't cater for all children, there are special schools for children with special needs, why can't there be something more for children who are exceptionally bright?

rexer Tue 08-Sep-09 00:57:04

Hi

I won't be able to make it on Wednesday.

I'd like to ask Ed Balls why it is that Scotland has managed to successfully work with the home education community to formulate leglislation regarding home education and create a mutually beneficial working partnership and yet his government's handling of the Badman review has created widespread anger amongst home educators, with over third of MP's having been contacted over the matter?

Isn't it time for the government to admit they've gone about it the wrong way, apologise and start again, this time genuinely working in partnership with the home education community?

Hassled Tue 08-Sep-09 07:31:11

Firstly – football. Are you optimistic following the appointment of Paul Lambert? Where do you see NCFC at the end of the season? How often do you get to Carrow Road? Are you in the Barclay?

The sign-off of the new Primary National Curriculum is this month. How happy have you been with feedback you’ve received from the trials? I am very much in favour of a Curriculum which promotes Enquiry Based Learning – do you feel the same?

What are your thoughts re the increased birthrate – are plans in place to cope with the pressure the increase will put on education? Already, preschool placements cannot meet demand in some areas, and this is coupled with a lack of joined up thinking prevalent in many LAs. As an example: our Pupil Admission Number, being a new school following re-organisation in the area, was set at the same time as a large patch of quite dense social housing, aimed at families, was being built. While you would have thought the LA could have predicted a change in the demographics given the building project, it appears they didn’t. Our 105 intake had 175 applicants last year.

How can you retain good Governors? Why is online/distance training available for Governors in some areas but not others?

FlamingoBingo Tue 08-Sep-09 07:54:12

I'm sure you won't answer ommmward's questions, but I would like to ask you strongly that you do, please!

And I would like to know why Mr Badman is so strongly against autonomous learning - a way of learning which fits the current law more perfectly than anything else: providing an education that is suitable for a child's age, aptitude and ability. This is something that will change day on day and providing a year's worth of planning will effectively be breaking this part of the law.

LadySharrow Tue 08-Sep-09 08:00:57

Hello,

I believe that many of the problems in the education system today are an unforeseen consequence of league tables and other statistical systems. Everything that a school does is governed by its impact on the statistics; real education is drowned out by this.

Do you consider the statistics, target and league table culture of education to be a good thing or a bad thing?

Thank you

ISeeDadPeople Tue 08-Sep-09 09:12:23

I'm a self-employed mum and would like to know why there can't be a system like the childcare voucher scheme for people who are self-employed.
Thanks

lingle Tue 08-Sep-09 09:18:13

Dear Mr Balls,

I would like to urge the Government to override the report of Sir Jim Rose on the issue of allowing summer-born children to start school at 5.0, not 4.0.

When you read the report, you may have noted that Sir Jim only compared outcomes for September starters versus January starters. He completely ignored the sane common-sense solution of simply allowing immature summer-born boys to start in reception at 5.0 not 4.0 and utterly failed to compare outcomes for starting reception at 4.0 versus the more favourable outcomes associated with starting reception at 5.0.

I have recently taken advantage of Bradford Council's enlightened policy of allowed year-deferment of summer-borns. My teachers, speech therapist and paediatrician all told me that my son, aged 4.0, who has a severe language delay which he is outgrowing, is simply "not ready for school". I assume that in other LEAs these professionals are forced tell parents that their kids miraculously somehow will be "ready" when the truth is that they are plainly not. That is bad and costly for children, (including the other children who miss out on the TA's time) schools and families.

Bradford will incur costs this year by funding an extra year of nursery for my son. But it (and the NHS) has saved far greater costs: had he started reception this week, he would have needed input from speech therapists, educational psychologists, and a one-to-one learning support assistant - at a far greater cost than simply allowing him a nursery place for one more year.

Please, please will you reconsider adopting this sane common-sense solution - I am convinced it would save money and help children at the same time. I was so encouraged to see that the Government was open to it in your brief to Jim Rose, and so sad to see that he completely failed to consider your instructions properly. I have tried - but failed - to find anyone in the field of education who thinks that children positively benefit from starting school at 4.0 not 5.0. I do appreciate there is a question-mark over children who may have been neglected, but such children could be provided with a nursery place rather than a reception place, and this would presumably satisfy the parents.

I would be glad to write to you again with full contact details or indeed to visit you. I feel guilty that I've managed to secure my own child's position but that this silly situation continues to damage other children.

Thanks for your reply.

fatzak Tue 08-Sep-09 09:46:28

Following on from Lingle's post re summer born children and starting school, I would like to ask if there has been any consideration about changing the August 31st cut off point, to some point in June/July? This would at least ensure that every child turned 5 during their reception year and not during the summer holidays.

Madsometimes Tue 08-Sep-09 09:53:30

I agree with Lingle. Why is it that in Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and countless other countries that parents are allowed some flexibility about whether their children start school at 4 or 5 years of age?

In England and Wales if we want to start our summer babies in school the term they become 5, they are required to miss out reception and go straight into year 1. That is simply punishing children for the date on which they are born, totally ludicrous.

I understand that in every class there will be an oldest and youngest child, but in systems with flexibility such as Scotland, there is much less anxiety around this issue. The system is designed to fit in around individual children, rather than individual children having comply with arbitary dates just because it facilitates school administration.

Madsometimes Tue 08-Sep-09 09:58:08

Oops I meant:

Statutory school age is the age when your child must start school. It is the beginning of the term immediately following your child’s 5th birthday.

For summer born children that means that they would miss reception, a vital year for learning and socialisation. So in reality we are forced to send our children to school at just turned 4, a full year before statutory school age.

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 08-Sep-09 10:16:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MoonlightMcKenzie Tue 08-Sep-09 10:43:30

How about tackling society's social problems so that babies are not born to parents with addictions in the first place. Surely prevention should be the focus rather than sticky plaster?

LadyHooHa Tue 08-Sep-09 11:05:54

Fluffy, I'd second your post. I also have a super-bright boy (summer born - sorry, folks). We are lucky enough to be able to afford private schools - but I find it dismaying that it should come to that. If British private schools can be so good, why on earth can't state schools do the same? The whole emphasis seems to be on cutting down tall poppies and, preferably, bringing private schools down to the level of state ones.

Why not instead look at what private schools are doing so well, and seek to replicate it in the state sector? Or, failing that, at least offer ways for very, very bright children to have a private education (children can't be coached for NFER tests, for example, and these give a good idea of a child's intelligence. How about considering a decent education for children whose score is over, say, 125 in all NFER tests at seven?)

sorky Tue 08-Sep-09 11:45:21

Lingle
In response to your post regarding your little boy not being ready for school, I just wanted to point out that education in England is only compulsory from the term following the childs' 5th birthday, so a child born in July 2004 would be of compulsory school-age this September term.

This does cause some difficulties with schooling though because your son, should he defer a year, would not be permitted to enter Reception but would enter Year 1 which might well be a huge step up for him to cope with.
The system is insane.

The other alternative is Home Education.

ronshar Tue 08-Sep-09 11:52:34

Thank you for coming to Mumsnet Mr Balls.

I would really like you to give an answer which isn't made up of the usual party line based, sit on the fence, full of jargon which is mostly meaningless to the millions who do not work in Westminster.

Could you please help me to understand why I have to choose for my daughter a Secondary school which at best only gets an average pass mark of 60%. That is the best state school in town. If we had lots of money, however, we could choose from any number of fantastic Private schools locally which feature in the top 100 every single year! My Daughter is in the top groups in all her subjects in middle school, and I really feel sad that we will be letting her down by not giving her the opportunity of a top class education.

Why are our state schools so bad? I mean terrible not bad.
Please can some one be brave and say they got it so wrong and give our children the chance of an education to be proud of instead of having to apologise for!!!!

Thank you for your time.

splendidpear Tue 08-Sep-09 12:05:00

Dear Sir/Madam

I am a constituent of Taunton deane, although I have spent a good part of the past year in Bulgaria, as an unpaid volunteer in an orphanage for children with disabilities. The situation out there continues to be grim. The charities and the government are working to bring about change, but it takes time, a long time, and in the meantime these children continue to live in inhumane conditions.

My husband and I are not rich people, and we have had to come home as our savings have run out. We feel that we need to offer help in some practical way to these children here and now. Our answer is to want to adopt one small boy from the home. He is 7yrs old with Roma background, classed as having disabilities. In fact he is still in nappies and only just beginning to speak his few words. If this is due to disability or due to the gross neglect he has experienced it is impossible to tell. However he has been on the international adoption list for over 3yrs without a single enquiry. In fact I believe I am right in saying that there has never been a single adoption from this institution. We beleive we can offer this little boy a loving nuturing home, that will enable him to fulfil his potential. The big BUT in this situation however is the discovery that to even begin the process of adopting a child from abroad we need to find £6000. This seems to me discriminatory and feels like it becomes an on demand srvice for people wanting a child. We have never considered having another child or adopting until we went to Bulgaria to help and fell in love with a gypsy child with disabilities. Is it not a slightly xenophobic stance to put this monetary barriers in the way of intercountry adoption. Are we not supposed to embrace our fellow EU members as part of one big family. I do not subscribe to a punitive view of Bulgaria for the state of their care homes. They need help, training and lots of it. I have offered as much as a single individual can at ground level. Now I need to return to my life in the UK, but I would like to offer one very disadvantaged child a chance to share that life with me.

The problem suggested in the following article is that by making it a monetary matter people are then choosing children to adopt who do not have "problems" this does not in anyway solve the ongoing problem. Is there no way the government can look to support people like myself who are willing to adopt a child in genuine need, with no other avenue of hope?

sorky Tue 08-Sep-09 12:07:51

I would like to ditto all of Ommmwards points regarding Home Education and ask:

"Why don't the government just leave Home Educators alone to do their job?"

There is no evidence of abuse which requires the draconian legislation currently being touted as "Safeguarding Children"

Trust me Mr. Balls I work in Health & Education and frequently, sadly, have encountered too many cases of child protection.
Not one of them, in 15 years, has involved a home educated child.
Absolutely all of them have been schooled children.

Why then do you seek to persecute a perfectly reasonable, law-abiding section of the Community?

The answer is FEAR.
Fear that you don't have control over every aspect of our lives.
Fear that the children we raise will be free-thinkers, challenging the status quo.

catinthehat2 Tue 08-Sep-09 12:12:11

Heeey chillax Blueshoes! You sound so uptight!

Ed's a politician, he gets this stuff.

BoffinMum Tue 08-Sep-09 12:24:17

The new Schools Admissions Code (2007) is very specific about the basis upon which places in maintained schools must be allocated if a school is oversubscribed. One of the criteria is that priority should be given to siblings of existing pupils, which makes sense for primary schools where parents need to be able to deliver children personally to school within a limited time frame each day. However for secondary schools this criterion is a lot less necessary, as by then children should be making their own way to school anyway, and it has the unintended consequence of making admissions policies unfair to local families who may not have been able to get their first child into a particular school because families who have moved out of the area but who benefit from the sibling rule continue to have privileged access. Does the Government have any plans to remedy this situation?

Maiakins Tue 08-Sep-09 12:31:37

Hi Ed. I would like to ask a question about school admissions and twins/triplets. Do you agree that it is ridiculous that many local authorities are placing twins in separate schools? Surely there should be an exemption to the maximum class size of 30 for twins/triplets?

It is logistically impossible to have young children at different schools and emotionally damaging for many multiples to be apart at such a young age.

Our local authority doesn't even have a space on the admissions form to ask if your children are twins/triplets. It would be really helpful if the government could provide some guidance on this.

Thank you.

Doobydoo Tue 08-Sep-09 12:33:43

splendidpear,how sad for you and the child you could adopt.It all bolis down to money dosen't it?That is why rich people who take drugs and abuse their children will rarely,if ever have them taken away[like Martin Narey's]suggestion...we all know the type of family he is on about...well it stinks!...

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