HC Deb 25 April 2002 vol 384 cc460-1
7. Sue Doughty (Guildford)

What measures are in place to improve counselling services available to young people in schools. [50352]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Ivan Lewis)

For older pupils, the Connexions service will, by 2003, be available across the whole of England. We have also established a network of 3,000 learning mentors to help children and young people in challenging circumstances overcome any problem that affects their learning.

Sue Doughty

I thank the Minister for his reply. I had the privilege last week of addressing a social inclusion conference for youth in my constituency. It was clear that giving as much help as we can to young people, their teachers and their families will provide a real benefit in avoiding problems that may stack up later on. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is responsible for much of the current provision. Will the Minister do everything that he can to ensure that every child in every school has access to the counselling services that will help them, their teachers and families?

Mr. Lewis

I agree entirely with the hon. Lady. In my view, tackling emotional and psychological difficulties is integral to raising educational standards and performance. I pay tribute to the work of the NSPCC, which is doing some tremendously innovative work in this area. I recently met pupils and staff of the Aldersley high school and the Kings secondary school in Wolverhampton, which are benefiting directly from those NSPCC projects.

As the hon. Lady will know, there are now learning mentors in schools and we have 2,000 Connexions personal advisers in post. In the Budget we announced the establishment of new multidisciplinary support teams to work with clusters of primary and secondary schools. That is all to ensure that individual young people have intensive support where they have multiple and complex difficulties that get in the way of their learning and succeeding at school. The reasons why young people do not do as well as they could are sometimes very complex, and we need that intensive adult support to ensure that all young people fulfil their potential.

Mr. Ken Purchase (Wolverhampton, North-East)

Despite the appalling spelling of "Connexions", I pay tribute to its work and that of the NSPCC, particularly in Wolverhampton. It has a long record of connecting with local authorities, especially my own, which has worked long and hard with a series of joint arrangements and often joint purse arrangements. Will the Minister ensure that he facilitates such working by making sure that all local authorities have sufficient resources outside the ring-fenced arrangements to develop imaginative and innovative partnerships with the NSPCC and others?

Mr. Lewis

I agree with my hon. Friend, who always points out that more innovation takes place in Wolverhampton than anywhere else—with the exception of football recently. The challenge for us all is to combine the professional contribution of counsellors, Connexions advisers and learning mentors to ensure that together they add value to the contribution made by teachers to ensure that every child has the chance to pursue their dreams and fulfil their potential.