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Lord Henley: I know that the noble Baroness feels particularly strongly on this matter. I know her interest goes wider than this Bill and that she has pursued it for a number of years. The noble Baroness will remember that in answer to a Written Question earlier this year, I made it clear that it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to prohibit corporal punishment for all state-funded education.

Clearly, education provided in exchange for nursery education vouchers is "state-funded education" and as such we will ensure that no child receiving eduction by virtue of its use of a nursery education voucher is subjected to corporal punishment. We intend to do so through a condition of grant. I believe that is as clear a way of doing it as any.

I hope that the noble Baroness appreciates--I am not quite clear about the scope of her amendment--that this would not be the place for a wider debate on corporal punishment generally; this Bill relates only to children funded through the grant arrangements. Therefore we must confine ourselves to that group. I hope that the assurance I have given her, and gave again in a Written Answer on 12th February, will be sufficient. I make it quite plain that, through the conditions of grant, we intend to make it quite clear that no child receiving education by virtue of its use of a nursery education voucher is subjected to corporal punishment.

Baroness David: I thank the Minister for his reply. But I did say myself when I spoke that I did not look on this Bill as a way of preventing, or trying to prevent, corporal punishment in every private establishment. However, I am not quite clear from the Minister's answer whether the institutions where any government money is going will be prevented from using corporal punishment or only the children who have vouchers. It would seem to me a very odd situation if in any institutional educational establishment some children were able to be hit and not others. It would be perfectly ridiculous, rather like the ridiculous Bill that was brought forward by Keith Joseph which was ignominiously thrown out by this place. Could the Minister please make it clear.

Lord Henley: It is so unlikely that there would be an institution that allowed some children in receipt of vouchers not to be beaten but allowed others whose parents paid for facilities to be beaten. I do not think one would have an institution of that sort. There might be private sector institutions that would not become voucher-redeeming institutions which might, as with other private schools, wish to go on making use of corporal punishment. The assurance I am giving to the noble Baroness is that no child in receipt of vouchers will be subjected to corporal punishment and I do not

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think that any schools will have two classes of pupil dependent on whether they do or do not receive vouchers.

Baroness David: Will the Minister at least give guidance to that effect?

Lord Henley: There is a limit to how much guidance we can issue. The suggestion that there could be such a school is so beyond all ideas of reality that it is hardly necessary.

Baroness David: I agree it is ridiculous, but I would have liked a further assurance. However, I shall discuss the Minister's reply with the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and see whether he is satisfied with what the Minister has said. I am not quite sure that I am, but for the moment I beg leave to withdraw. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. [Amendment No. 36 not moved.]

Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 37:


Page 2, line 12, at end insert--
("( ) shall require that an authority or person to whom grant is made under arrangements under section 1 is subject to the requirements of Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995,").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I think it is best that I start off with a question to the Minister. He has just said that special educational needs provision will be enhanced and brought forward with the Bill. Thus, does the provision address the type of school about which this amendment is talking? This amendment and Amendments Nos. 37 and 91 are about those children in non-maintained schools in receipt of vouchers who fall outside the Disability Discrimination Act and within the statutory requirement for education, which is designed for five year-olds, and which is expanded down. Therefore, there is an area where a child is vulnerable to discrimination. The problem is that there is a possibility that the state may fund a child in an educational programme where it is quite legal to discriminate against him because he is not defended. This is what lies behind both these amendments. If this has been corrected by what the Minister has just said, I will of course withdraw the amendment straight away. I beg to move.

Lord Henley: I suspect I missed an opportunity to make the noble Lord aware of the letter I wrote on the 4th June this year to David Grayson, the new Chairman of the National Disability Council. It is a letter that I showed to the noble Lord, Lord Rix, dealing with the very point about which the noble Lord is concerned. First, I want to make it quite clear that I will make a copy of the letter available to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and he might like to consider that in the light of what he does at a later stage. The first point I want to make is that the voucher redeeming institution will be a school and therefore will be excluded from Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act, along with other educational institutions. However, in the light of concerns raised by the NDC--and this is what I was writing to Mr. Grayson about--I wrote:

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    "We have come to the conclusion that it would not be appropriate to extend the education exclusion to cover all services offered by providers who redeem nursery vouchers. We are very aware that many providers in the private and voluntary sectors who redeem nursery vouchers will also be offering other services for the under fives, notably child care services, and that it would be unacceptable for institutions to discriminate against disabled children whose parents may apply for such services".

What I am trying to say to the noble Lord--and again I ask that he looks at the letter in due course--is that, although the educational aspect will remain excluded following concerns raised by the NDC, the non-educational aspects will not be excluded from the Disability Discrimination Act.

Lord Addington: I thank the noble Lord for that response. I shall first read the letter and then consider his remarks. I shall possibly come back to the point.

But the fact remains that there is a hole that must be filled. I hope that what the noble Lord said has filled it, but it is a matter of concern. There have been cases in point. For example, a small girl had a facial disfigurement--a portwine stain on her face--and was undergoing reconstructive surgery for a hare lip. Other parents protested to the headmaster, who asked for the child to be removed. Something has to be done, if there is any possibility of such a child who is receiving state funding for education not having full protection.

Lord Henley: The noble Lord will remember better than I do the long debates that we had on the Disability Discrimination Bill. We decided to exclude education partly because there is the 1993 Act and the SEN code of practice. Obviously, as on the previous amendment, that will apply to the educational aspects of nursery provision. But the other, non-educational provision, will be covered by the Disability Discrimination Act.

Lord Addington: I thank the noble Lord for that little piece of clarification. I believe that he has covered the points that I wanted to raise, although I should like to think a little further on this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 38 not moved.]

11.45 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 39:


Page 2, line 12, at end insert--
("( ) shall prescribe the staffing ratios required in respect of four-year old children in reception classes (having regard to the need for the Secretary of State to satisfy himself that adequate resources are available to providers for this purpose)").

The noble Baroness said: I shall move this amendment very briefly. There is quite clear educational evidence that those children who are designated as summer-born children perform right through to the age of 16 at a lower level of attainment than other children in the same year. It is equally true that the child who is barely four when it enters a reception class has very

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different educational needs from a child who has reached statutory school age. It is also true that the Government have no intention at the moment of putting any limit at all on reception class sizes. There will not even be a limit on the number of children who can be placed in a reception class on health and safety grounds. That is the current situation.

This amendment is necessary. Nursery education and primary school education are different. One obviously merges into the other. We are concerned to ensure that schools which take children as part of the nursery voucher scheme do so providing an appropriate education for children in that age group. The educational research shows that the child who is taken into a large reception class too young, where there is no proper training for or recognition of the needs of that young child, may be further disadvantaged. I beg to move.


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