Monday 7 December 2015
Culture, Media and Sport
Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council
A meeting of the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council was held in Brussels on 24 November. Fiona Hyslop, Scottish Government Minister for Culture, Europe, and External Affairs, represented the UK for the cultural and audio-visual section of the Council and Shan Morgan, the UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative, represented the UK for the sport section of the Council.
Culture and audiovisual
The overarching theme of this ministerial Council was the relationship between culture and foreign policy, within the context of the destruction of cultural heritage in Syria by ISIS, and the recent attacks in Paris.
The Council adopted Conclusions on culture in the EU’s external relations, with a specific focus on development co-operation: as well as conclusions amending the EU work plan for culture 2015-18 to add a new priority of intercultural dialogue, so as to address the current migration crisis.
Ministers debated how best to act together against the destruction and illicit trafficking of cultural heritage in conflict areas, with the focus on the international community, and the need to mitigate the effects of the fragmentation of competences and legislation in this area.
The UK confirmed its determination to play a full part in the protection of cultural heritage, and highlighted its work on the establishment of a cultural protection fund. It also drew attention to the significant experience that has been built up in digital documentation and visualisation of the historic environment through the Scottish Ten programme.
Overall the UK policy in this area is to preserve, to prevent, and to protect, and we underlined the importance of targeted EU interventions or actions that played to its area of competence and avoided duplication with other international bodies.
During the course of the ensuing discussion on culture and digitisation the UK noted the importance of digitisation as a powerful tool which can help deliver many cultural, social, and educational initiatives.
On the specific issue of the Europeana digital cultural portal, we noted the need to develop a sustainable funding model which did not exclude the participation of private-sector organisations, including those which were in a position to either contribute content, or to introduce Europeana to a wider audience.
Under other business, the European Commission updated on the current situation concerning the regulatory fitness and performance (REFIT) exercise in the audio-visual sector, and other relevant initiatives of the Digital Single Market Strategy.
Its public consultation on the audio-visual media services directive had revealed a very strong majority in support of maintaining the country of origin principle for regulating broadcast media, as well as for extending the scope of the instrument to include new types of services.
There was divergence on how to enhance protection of minors, commercial works and communications. The Commission confirmed that the first of the copyright regime proposals, on portability and unjustified geoblocking, would be published in the first half of 2016.
Finally, under this part of the agenda, the Council took note from the Netherlands delegation of its main priorities in the field of culture when it takes over the presidency for the period January - June 2016. These will include the importance of digitisation for the preservation and dissemination of culture, and the need to establish a sustainable funding model for the Europeana digital culture portal.
The Council adopted conclusions on EU representation in the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA): and also on the promotion of motor skills, physical and sport activities for children.
These were followed by a policy debate on the educational potential of sports: in helping disadvantaged youth find their place in society. The debate was introduced by two external speakers, of which Olympic champion Ed Moses described the struggle to build an evidence base for convincing media and Government that the sports sector was credible in playing a role, and appealed to Governments to think longer-term and fund research. He was followed by the Premier League, which introduced a video of its Crystal Palace FC project, from which two participants had since built careers in Premier League clubs.
The UK described several of its projects in this area, such as Get on Track, and was the only member state to emphasise the importance of including young people with disabilities.
Under other business: The Council was subsequently briefed by the presidency on the state of play regarding the European Union’s signing of the Council of Europe Convention on the manipulation of sports competitions.
The Council was also briefed by the EU representatives on the outcome of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) meeting which took place in Colorado Springs on 17 - 18 November 2015. The UK’s Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch, has been named as the newly elected EU representative on the WADA Foundation Board for the UK-Estonia-Bulgaria presidency trio, and will take up her post in 2016. Two of the three EU member states that were not yet fully code-compliant, Greece and Spain, (the third being the Czech Republic) intervened to stress they were preparing the required amendments to national legislation.
This was followed by information on the informal meeting of Ministers for Sport, held in Luxembourg from 06 - 07 July 2015: and guidelines presented by the European Commission on next year’s European week of sport.
Finally, under other business the Council took note of information from the Netherlands delegation of its main priorities in the field of sport when it takes over the presidency for the period January - June 2016. These will include the promotion of good governance and education in and through sport, with specific attention paid to international major sports events, sport diplomacy and voluntary activities.
Education and Adoption Bill
We have today announced that we will table a substantive Government amendment to the Education and Adoption Bill.
The Bill fulfils the Government’s manifesto commitment to raise standards across the country by speeding up the process by which failing maintained schools become sponsored academies, as well as introducing new measures to allow us properly to tackle coasting schools for the first time. The Bill seeks to improve the life chances of every child and ensure that all children have the same opportunities to fulfil their potential, wherever they live. These principles are at the heart of the Government’s education agenda.
As currently drafted, the Bill focuses on ensuring Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs)—acting on my behalf—have the powers they need to tackle failing and coasting maintained schools. The Bill does not apply to academies and free schools as they are governed by a different legal framework—they are held to account through a legally binding contract known as a funding agreement.
The vast majority of academies are performing well and the academy programme is central to our commitment to extending opportunity through delivering educational excellence in every part of the country. I am clear, however, that underperformance is unacceptable wherever it occurs—whether that is in a maintained school or an academy. We have already shown that we are tough on underperforming academies and that RSCs take robust action where needed—we have issued 122 formal notices to underperforming academies and free schools and moved to change the sponsor in 118 cases of particular concern. Our formal powers in relation to underperforming academies can, however, vary depending on the terms of an academy’s funding agreement. In a minority of cases, this can hinder our ability to intervene as swiftly as we would like. This is unacceptable and at the heart of this Bill lies our belief that a single day spent by a child in an underperforming schools is a day too many. We have also taken the views of some of our leading sponsors, who tell us they are frustrated that not being able to act swiftly in a few cases of high-profile failure creates a misleading picture of the work that is being done by academies across England to raise standards and transform young lives.
I am responding with an amendment to the Bill designed to ensure that RSCs always have the power to act whenever or wherever they encounter underperformance in our schools. I propose to amend the Bill so that when an academy or free school’s performance meets one of two triggers in legislation—an inadequate Ofsted judgement or performance that falls within the coasting definition—then their funding agreement will be read as having the latest provisions around failing and coasting schools. The amendment will not impinge on academy freedoms; on the contrary, it reinforces the central principle of the academy programme—trusting heads to run their schools through freedom and autonomy, but at the same time holding them to account for the results their pupils achieve. This amendment will not lead to any interference from central Government in the academies and free schools that are performing well.
In practice, the amendment will ensure that we can move any failing academy swiftly to a new sponsor. The amendment will also subject academies to the same coasting definition as maintained schools and where a coasting academy does not have a credible plan, further action will be taken by RSCs. This could ultimately include terminating the funding agreement and bringing in a new sponsor if necessary.
The amendment will create a more consistent framework for tackling underperformance across all types of schools and stands as another example of our determination to create a world class education system. The amendment will be tabled this week and first debated when the Bill returns to the House of Lords for Report Stage (currently scheduled to take place on 16 December 2015).
NHS: Charging Overseas Visitors and Migrants
The visitor and migrant National Health Service cost recovery programme was established in July 2014 to design and implement improvements in the systems for charging patients who are not resident of the United Kingdom. The programme has focused so far on improving identification and cost recovery from chargeable patients in hospitals.
I am pleased to announce the Department of Health will now be seeking the public’s views on extending charging of overseas visitors and migrants who use the National Health Service. We have proposed a number of changes to enable overseas visitors and migrants to be charged for NHS healthcare they receive, in addition to the existing system for cost recovery for hospital treatment. The proposed extension of charging will not affect free healthcare at the point of use for permanent residents of the UK.
The consultation seeks opinions on proposals affecting:
Primary Medical Care
Primary NHS Dental Care
Primary NHS Ophthalmic Services (Eye Care)
Accident and Emergency (A&E)
Non-NHS providers of NHS Care and Out-of-Hospital Care
NHS Continuing Healthcare
EEA National’s residency definition
Overseas visitors working on UK-registered ships
The consultation also seeks views on any further areas that could be considered for charging.
The proposals explored within the consultation aim to support the principle of fairness by ensuring those not resident in the United Kingdom who can pay for National Health Service care do so. The proposals we are consulting on do not intend to restrict access, but aim to ensure everyone makes a fair contribution for the care they receive.
We propose that the most vulnerable people, including refugees, remain exempt from charging. Furthermore, the National Health Service will not deny urgent and immediately necessary healthcare to those in need, regardless of residency. We also propose that exemptions from charging will also remain in place for illnesses that pose a risk to public health.
The potential income generated through the extension of charging will contribute towards the Department of Health’s aim of recovering up to £500 million per year from overseas migrants and visitors by the middle of this Parliament (2017/18). The recovery of up to £500 million per year will contribute to the £22 billion savings required to ensure the long-term sustainability of the National Health Service.
Attachments can be view online at:
Stalking Protection Order: Consultation
On Saturday 5 December, I launched a public consultation on introducing a new stalking protection order. Stalking is an insidious crime which traumatises its victims and, at its most extreme, can lead to the loss of innocent lives. We are addressing stalking as part of our wider work to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG) and the work we are driving in this area will be captured in our refreshed VAWG strategy to be published in due course.
We introduced new legislation in 2012 to fill a gap in the law to tackle stalking and have driven a programme of training for police and prosecutors to ensure that stalking is recognised and dealt with effectively. Prosecutions are rising which is encouraging. However, I want to be absolutely sure that we are doing all we can to protect victims from this frightening act, which can cause considerable distress and alarm.
The nature of stalking can be delusional and obsessive and while the actions of a stalker can seem innocuous on the surface, there is a risk that the developing fixation may be missed. Early identification of stalking behaviour is crucial and I am determined that this Government will do everything possible to protect victims and deter perpetrators, even before the stage is reached to commence prosecution.
We know that stalking can take place in the context of an ongoing pattern of domestic violence and abuse and we have introduced a range of measures to protect victims in these circumstances, including the domestic violence disclosure scheme, and the domestic violence protection order. Our stalking legislation, along with the new offence of coercive or controlling behaviour, is already helping to protect victims from this abuse.
However, in around half of cases, stalking occurs where only a very casual acquaintanceship exists between the perpetrator and their victim. While existing injunctions or orders may place restrictions on a stalker, this alone will often not deter them from their behaviour. Stalking needs to be recognised for what it is to ensure interventions are effective and meaningful.
A new stalking protection order could ensure that pre-charge options are available to the police to protect these victims of ‘stranger stalking’ to the same level that victims of domestic violence and abuse can be protected. The consultation will explore whether ‘positive requirements’ can be placed on perpetrators at this early stage to help stop their behaviour in its tracks.
I launched the consultation on 5 December during the 16 days of actions following the international day for the elimination of violence against women on 25 November. The consultation can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/introducing-a-stalking-protection-order.
A copy will also be placed in the House Library.