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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I thank my noble friend again for what seem to be fairly clear reassurances to City and Guilds in so far as Amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 7 are concerned. As to my motivation in moving amendments on behalf of my noble friend, that was brought about entirely by my concern that City and Guilds' anxieties should be not only recorded but responded to because they were genuine anxieties. They

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have had copious reassurance now and a very clear description: it will be for my noble friend Lord Stockton to talk to them, as I shall too, to see whether they are now happy about the Bill.

I would just say to the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, that I believe the Chief Whip on occasions regards me as public nuisance No. 1, and that is saying something in the party which I have the honour to support. As for the noble Lord, Lord Ewing's comments on his amendment, we have heard what my noble friend said about the difficulties of restricting the membership of the accreditation committee. So with those few remarks, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 5.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 8 not moved.]

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Quality assurance]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 3, line 19, after ("procedures") insert ("particularly as they affect students with special educational needs").

The noble Lord said: First, I agree with my noble friend Lord Ewing of Kirkford when he suggested that, while accepting the Minister's worthiness and sincerity, there is a vagueness in most of the Bill as regards appointments and reassurances, and although I would accept reassurances from the Minister, he might not be there all that long. I do not know how long he may be there, but the passage of the Bill or the Act may take six months. There is a feeling that reassurances are given, perhaps with sincerity but a little lightly by the Minister in terms of appointments. That is why this amendment does not seem terribly important on the surface, but in fact to a group or a community it is vitally important.

The amendment seeks to guarantee that the interests of students with special educational needs, as defined in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, are protected, and that the quality assurance procedures will not inadvertently discriminate against them. There really should be a thrust in us all to make sure that people are not disadvantaged because of educational needs.

The current position in relation to students with special educational needs is that assistance is available with internal assessment, scripting invigilation etc. and if the quality procedures are driven exclusively by the Scottish qualifications authority, there could be a danger--I am not saying there will be--that the needs of these students may be marginalised. The amendment seeks to ensure that these students' interests are protected by making arrangements for the quality assurance prescriptive to be put on the face of the Bill. I am sure the Minister will agree with the sentiments, but I hope he will also agree with the letter of what the amendment is trying to do. If the words are not quite suitable, I am sure that he will find words that will do the same job. However, I hope he will give us an absolute assurance that he will provide something on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Addington: This is a very short amendment, but it is very important. One very simple reason for

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tabling it is that when we deal with special educational needs, we encounter a multiplex of problems, which is virtually never-ending and is growing, because we are getting better educational establishments which are bringing far more people, who have been sidelined in the past, into the educational structure.

If we talk about quality assurance this becomes even more important for the simple reason that people often take courses and exams in non-conventional ways. I shall talk very briefly about one that I know and that is dyslexics who, for instance, dictate exams. There have been arguments, and long-running arguments, about whether this appears on the examination certificate. That has scared far more people who are taking the exams than it has done employers, because employers are not that worried as long as they know the person has the knowledge and skills. There have been cases where this has bothered them. This is just one example of what could be going on. Unless quality and provision are tied in together, we are potentially storing-up problems. If these two are worked in together in the structure of the Bill, we will prevent this happening and prevent a great deal of anxiety apart from anything else.

Apart from the practical considerations of running it, you will be dealing with a perceived and possibly imagined problem. I hope the Minister will take this into account when he replies for the simple reason that he will forestall a great deal of trouble and put people's minds at rest by merely saying that these have to be taken into account on the face of the Bill. It is not much to ask and it could potentially solve many problems.

The Earl of Lindsay: I am very sympathetic to the sentiment behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, which was spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. Indeed, there is nothing we disagree with in the objectives that the noble Lords are speaking towards. However, I believe that the objectives about which the noble Lords are worried are very well covered in other clauses of the Bill.

Both SEB and SCOTVEC have a very strong track record in this area. Very comprehensive arrangements are made to ensure that students with special educational needs have the opportunity to gain full access to qualifications. The Secretary of State will expect SQA to maintain this standard of provision.

In addition, the Bill makes explicit provision in Clause 7 that SQA shall have regard to the interests of persons using its services. That includes all persons and all types of persons. All students, including those with special educational needs, are covered by this.

There is, therefore, no need to provide expressly for the needs of students with special educational needs in relation to quality assurance. I should also point out to the Committee that the Higher Still development programme, with its widely praised provision for special educational needs, demonstrates conclusively that there is no necessary conflict between high and rising standards and making appropriate provision for the assessment of students with special educational needs.

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In addition to Clause 7, I would also draw attention to Clause 2(1)(e). SQA will make appropriate provision for special educational needs under the subsection which deals with the arrangements for assessment of students undergoing education and training.

The combination of the general provision and duty imposed in Clause 7 and the specific detail of Clause 2(1)(e) certainly covers the general points made by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, and the specific example raised by the noble Lord, Lord Addington.

Clause 4(b), which is where the amendment is placed, allows SQA to supervise the internal arrangements by which education and training establishments contribute to consistency in standards. This seeks to ensure that consistent standards are applied between institutions and classes of institution. In addition to directing the Committee's attention to Clause 7 and Clause 2(1)(e), I would stress that Clause 4(b) is aimed in a direction different from that which the noble Lords speaking to the amendment have perhaps understood.

The important point is that I can certainly give the assurances that noble Lords need and I can point to the fact of the Bill in giving them. The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, was perhaps worried that assurances given by a Minister today may not count for much at a later date, either because the Minister has gone or because time has elapsed. I am speaking in and on the public record, so even in the unlikely event of Ministers having to change, the public record remains.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: Before my noble friend Lord Carmichael responds to the Minister, will the Minister answer a technical question? The rights of students with special educational needs are clearly defined in Section 1(5)(c) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. In the repeal schedule of the Bill presently before the Committee there is no reference whatever to that section of the 1980 Act being repealed. What takes precedence? Section 1 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 is not being repealed by this legislation. Is that still the position in relation to students with special educational needs, even after the present Bill is on the statute book? That point must be cleared up.

The Earl of Lindsay: The best solution may be for me to write to the noble Lord on this specific point.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: Yes, provided that the noble Earl the Minister does not write to me to tell me that he now proposes to introduce an amendment to repeal that section of the 1980 Act. It will be all right for him to write to me to tell me that Section 1 of the 1980 Act, defining the rights of students with special educational needs, still prevails.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: I do not know whether the Minister, nodding in apparent agreement in dumb language that he will not be repealing the Act, is an assurance or not. It gets back to the whole question of things not being on the face of the Bill. He also said that it is now on the public record. The Minister must know from his experience here that it is always easy and

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possible for a later government, maybe 10 or 15 years from now, to redefine something and find reasons for not accepting the words that the Minister has used.

The point made by my noble friend Lord Ewing of Kirkford needs answering and we cannot do much with the amendment until we have a written assurance from the Minister.

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