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Mr Edward Vaizey - Department for Culture, Media and Sport

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 UKs 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 EUs external relations, with a specific focus on development cooperation: 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 Unions 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 UKs 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 years 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.

Nicky Morgan - Department for Education

We have today announced that we will table a substantive Government amendment to the Education and Adoption Bill.

The Bill fulfils the Governments 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 to properly 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 Governments 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 academys 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 schools 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).


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