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Lord Addington: This amendment addresses the chicken and egg situation which often occurs with behavioural problems resulting from children finding it difficult to cope within schools. Thus it is something which really ought to be on the face of the Bill. In the field that I know most about--namely, dyslexia--it is known that dyslexics have two standard ways of dealing with failure in the classroom. One is to disappear into the middle of the class: "Don't make too much noise; don't attract any attention and let everything go past you". The other one is to sit at the back and disrupt the classroom. We discussed this type of behaviour when dealing with an earlier amendment.
The pupil who follows the more common pattern--that is the second of those two options--will often be treated as having first and foremost a behavioural problem. However, one has to take account of what else may be happening. It could be said that virtually all pupils who have behavioural problems will have some
Lord Addington: The noble Lord is very kind. Bright children suffering from dyslexia are easy to spot. Once their condition has been recognised they are easy to help. I do not suggest that that is the case with all such conditions. People like to confine these conditions in a "box", but most of them cannot be confined in such a way. Teachers may well not recognise the real reason for a child's bad behaviour; namely, that he or she may have special needs.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: I support my noble friend's amendment. My noble friend the Minister may be aware of the research carried out by Professor Neville Harris of John Moore University. I believe that research was carried out some two years ago. He carried out research into special educational needs and into related appeals. He has just concluded research into exclusion appeals. He concluded that there is a high correlation between the two matters, and that if they are dealt with separately that can give rise to difficulties on appeals. Certainly, difficulties can arise on exclusion appeals if account is not taken of special educational needs.
Baroness Blatch: I have sympathy for the teachers and the children in the classroom. Whatever the reasons for it, disruptive behaviour in the classroom inhibits the effectiveness of a teacher and inhibits the learning processes of children in the classroom, particularly those children who have not exhibited the disruptive behaviour. The speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, only strengthen my belief that the disruptive element should be removed from the classroom--whatever the reasons for that behaviour--to enable the problem to be analysed.
My local authority had a primary and secondary support unit. The modern term is a pupil referral unit. Can the Minister say how many pupil referral units exist? I understand that some have recently been closed. How many are planned to support the Government's new policy? I believe there are two keys to solving this problem. One, of course, is early intervention. When I was a Home Office Minister I met young and not so young people who were on probation or in prison. Often those people had not learnt to read and write at an early stage of their education. Often they were bright people who simply had not mastered that skill early enough and had become rather clever criminals. That was unfortunate. There seemed to be a road from disruptive
The other relates to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. It is especially important that problems such as dyslexia are properly analysed. It cannot be analysed in a disruptive and chaotic classroom. I strongly support the concerns of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers. Its members feel very threatened by the measures that the Government are taking. Setting aside those young people who need special educational measures--in other words, medical, psychiatric or psychological help, or some other form of specialist help--there are young people in our schools who are simply disruptive. They are naughty and badly behaved, and they need managing. The teachers have almost nothing left now by way of sanctions. Even minor forms of corporal punishment have gone. Keeping children in after school is no longer an option because of the difficulties they might have in missing school buses and possibly travelling home in the dark. It is increasingly difficult for teachers to cope.
I am also very concerned about the whole notion of targets. Yes, everybody believes it right to reduce the number of exclusions. But if there is a case for exclusion, there is a case for it--targets or no targets. Either schools are to be made to keep those kinds of cases within the school and manage them, or they must be able to exclude them. The element of second guessing does nothing but undermine the governors and the staff, particularly the teacher who is trying to manage in a classroom. That is very disturbing. When a disruptive pupil is returned to a school where, so far as the school and the governors are concerned, there has been a case for exclusion, the effectiveness of the authority of staff and governors is greatly affected.
I believe that the Government have not found the right remedies. Merely lowering the case for exclusions is wrong. We need to have a care for the orderly running of the schools, for teachers who work very hard to maintain discipline in the classroom.
There was an effective schools unit in the DfEE. I believe it is now called the standards unit. The unit was examining those schools where there was a very low incidence of disruptive behaviour and exclusions to see why that was, and comparing them with other schools which had a high incidence. Very often, it depended upon the regime of the school: how it was run; how it was led; the consistency of approach by staff to the children; the consistency of rules applied; and often the involvement of the children themselves in establishing the rules of behaviour in the school. Some interesting experiments were carried out. That is one area for examination, There is an issue here. It is
Lord Whitty: I recognise and sympathise with the situations described by my noble friend Lady David and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on the one hand, where exclusion is based on behaviour which stems from unmet special needs; and the other side of the coin, as described by the noble Baroness, where failure to deal with behavioural problems affects a whole class. It is therefore important that some degree of balance is maintained.
Turning to the amendments proposed by my noble friend Lady David, the first relates to the drawing up of the general principles of a school. It is important that the requirements of children with special needs are not overlooked when those principles are drawn up. However, the governing body should take account of all the differing needs of all the pupils in a school, including, for example, the differing ethnic and cultural backgrounds of children. I believe it would be wrong to single out one particular group and place a specific requirement on the face of the Bill. However, the situation as described on both sides of the picture makes this matter more appropriate for detailed guidance. I assure my noble friend that we shall ensure that this point is adequately covered in the revised guidance we shall need to issue following the enactment of this Bill.
As for Amendment No. 189, we recognise that there is scope for many exclusions to be prevented through earlier intervention by schools and by other agencies. A strong focus on earlier intervention, co-operation between the SEN side and the pastoral side of the school and a multi-agency approach are important. We are very concerned that exclusion may on occasion--probably quite frequently--be used to punish poor behaviour that arises from unrecognised or unmet special needs. The department will be issuing new guidance emphasising the importance of identifying such cases early and providing the necessary support to avoid exclusion at a later date.
Special needs, such as emotional and behavioural difficulties, are not in themselves adequate grounds for exclusion unless the child is likely to cause injury or severe disruption to other pupils or staff. Our guidance will make that very clear. The whole emphasis of our policy is to try to promote the helping of children by schools and to deal with the position in the school, even if that requires taking the child out of the classroom.
As regards referral units, which apply at a more serious stage of the process, the noble Baroness asked how many such units were now operating. I am advised that it is 330. Whether that has gone up dramatically or down slightly, I am not clear. I may be able to provide the noble Baroness with more information on that matter.
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