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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I do not know. The noble Lord and I will know in good time before Report stage when the interim guidance is published.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

8 Jun 1998 : Column 824

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 213B:

Page 64, line 16, leave out ("such a reference") and insert ("a reference under subsection (1) or (1A)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 213BA not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendments Nos. 213C to 213G:

Page 64, line 25, after ("(1)") insert ("or (1A)").
Page 64, line 36, leave out ("the bodies whom they consulted under section 84(2)") and insert ("persons by whom an objection about those arrangements may be made under subsection (1) or (1A)").
Page 64, line 43, at end insert ("or (1A) or the adjudicator or the Secretary of State is required to determine an objection referred to him under subsection (1A)").
Page 64, line 46, leave out ("that subsection") and insert ("subsection (1) or (1A)").
Page 65, line 5, after ("(1)") insert ("or (1A)").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 85, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 86 [Special arrangements to preserve religious character of foundation or voluntary aided school]:

[Amendment No. 214 not moved.]

Clause 86 agreed to.

Clause 87 [Publication of information about admissions]:

[Amendments Nos. 214A to 2l5A not moved.]

Clause 87 agreed to.

11.15 p.m.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth moved Amendment No. 216:

After Clause 87, insert the following new clause--

Education of children with special needs in mainstream schools

(" .--(1) The Education Act 1996 shall be amended as follows.
(2) In section 316 (children with special educational needs normally to be educated in mainstream schools)--
(a) for subsection (1) there shall be substituted--
"(1) Any person exercising any functions under this Part in respect of a child with special educational needs who should be educated in a school shall secure that the child is educated in a school which is not a special school unless that is incompatible with the wishes of his parent and the needs and ascertainable wishes of the child."; and
(b) subsection (2) shall be omitted.").

The noble Baroness said: With this amendment we return to children with special educational needs, but perhaps with a slightly broader brush approach than with the amendments we have just been discussing. Here we are talking only about children with statements. I hope that the Committee will bear with me because this amendment need a little explanation. It seeks to ensure that children with statements of special educational needs are educated in mainstream schools provided that that is in accordance with the parents' wishes and the needs and ascertainable wishes of the child.

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The amendment removes some of the conditions of efficiency first introduced in the Education Act 1981, now embodied in Section 316 of the 1996 Act, which for 17 years has provided legal loopholes for LEAs reluctant to include children with statements in mainstream schools. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, was the Minister in charge of the 1981 Act. She has said that had she been able to stay she would have spoken in support of this amendment and I am very grateful for that.

The conditions that the amendment removes are that the LEA has a duty to offer mainstream education provided that that is compatible with the efficient education of the other children and the efficient use of resources. The amendment retains the condition of being compatible with the child's own educational need and the proviso, introduced in 1993, that it must be compatible with the parents' wishes. The amendment brings a welcome first-time mention of the ascertainable wishes of the child.

It is important to stress that this amendment removes the conditions of efficiency only from the general duty of LEAs to provide a mainstream education for a child with a statement. When it comes to a parent expressing a preference for a particular school, the conditions about the efficient education of other pupils and the efficient use of resources, which is in Schedule 27 to the 1996 Act, (page 414, subsection 3(3)) still apply and also to the change of name school which is on page 416 of the schedule.

In other words, if this amendment is accepted, in the case of a parent seeking a mainstream placement for a child with a statement, the LEA has a duty to place the child in some mainstream school. The LEA does not have to place the child in the particular school of the parents' choice if it does not fulfil the efficiency criteria. The LEA only has to place the child in some suitable mainstream school. There will be no compulsory placement in a special school, but equally there will be no automatic right to the preferred school either. For the parent who prefers a special school placement that choice is left intact.

Why is the amendment necessary? The Special Educational Consortium feels that it is needed to prepare the ground for implementing the Green Paper, Excellence for all Children, and to ensure that children with statements have the same opportunity of a mainstream education irrespective of where they live. In the Green Paper, the Government express a strong wish to see more pupils with special educational needs included in mainstream primary and secondary schools. The Government support the 1994 UNESCO Salamanca World Statement on Special Educational Needs which calls on all governments to adopt the principle of inclusive education unless there are compelling reasons for doing otherwise. That is stated on page 44 of the Green Paper, in the first paragraph of Chapter 4.

The consortium thinks that the amendment would send a clear signal of the Government's intentions to those LEAs which for 17 years have remained reluctant to offer an inclusive education to children with

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statements and that it would prompt LEAs to think in good time how they can provide mainstream places for all children with statements where that accords with the parents' wishes and the needs and ascertainable wishes of the child.

There is still a wide variation in the extent to which LEAs make provision in the mainstream or special schools. The Green Paper states on page 45, Chapter 4, paragraph 5, that out of the whole pupil population of an LEA, the number of pupils in special schools varies between 0.5 per cent. and 2 per cent. The consortium is particularly concerned about the unacceptable lengths some LEAs will go to to insist on special school placements against the parents' wishes. The consortium has documented evidence of families taken to court when they have chosen to educate the child at home rather than send him or her to a special school. Of course, most LEAs would not go to those lengths, but there are a number of children out of school throughout the country because their parents do not feel that special schools will meet their needs and there is nothing else on offer, yet some of those children have, after long periods out of school, gone on to do well in mainstream schools, perhaps in another LEA.

Probably more typical of the way LEAs behave is the example of Wandsworth. Although it certainly does not actively promote inclusion--indeed, it has a high proportion of its pupil population in special schools--parents have told the consortium that that LEA has accepted their clearly stated preference of a mainstream placement and has not tried to place their child in a special school against their wishes.

A substantial and increasing number of schools are committed to an inclusive approach. What comes across strongly is how all types of pupil benefit, for example, in terms of personal development or by having their special needs or problems identified early on because teachers have had the experience of teaching those with more severe learning difficulties. It is interesting that Newham, which is perhaps the best known and most often quoted of LEAs which successfully promote inclusion, has, at the same time as increasing the number of statemented children in the mainstream, seen a decrease in the number of pupils excluded from school. Newham schools are also among the most improved in the country. In the other place on 11th March, on Report, at col. 594 of Hansard, the Under-Secretary of State, Estelle Morris, said:

    "The greatest asset of inclusion is that it benefits both groups of children".

Inclusion brings many benefits. The Government are firmly committed to more inclusion, but LEAs still vary enormously in their provision and commitment. This amendment would ensure that regardless of where they live, all parents and their children with statements would be able to choose, if they wished, for those children to be educated in a mainstream school. There would be no automatic right to a preferred school, but there would be a mainstream placement; and for those parents who preferred the special school placement, that choice would be respected. I hope that the Minister will look carefully at the amendment and in reply will agree to put something on the face of the Bill or at the very least

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to send an exceedingly strong signal to those reluctant LEAs that they must take better account of the wishes of parents who want their children with statements to have an inclusive education. I beg to move.

11.15 p.m.

Baroness David: I strongly support the amendment so ably moved by my noble friend. She has made very clear that what we want are better opportunities for all children to be educated in mainstream schools and to try to improve the actions of some LEAs which have not been totally supportive. It does not force parents to have their children educated in mainstream schools but gives them the opportunity to choose a special school if they so wish.

It is interesting to consider the different reactions of LEAs. If one goes back to the 1991 Act, there was then much discussion about integration. I remember it well because I took part in it. The Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE) describes the approach as follows:

    "Many ordinary schools 'integrate' disabled children by bringing them into their premises--on a full or part-time basis--but on the ordinary school's terms. The pupils can stay if they can benefit from what is already on offer, schools do not expect to change to accommodate and support diverse needs. Other children experience a warmer welcome and their place is more secure".

It is not of much use if they are taken in but the school is not really prepared to accommodate them. However, that attitude has changed. The CSIE has also stated:

    "Inclusive education, by comparison, demands that a mainstream school considers all pupils in its area as fully belonging to the school and all of its varied activities. Each child has the same rights of access--each belongs and each is entitled to appropriate support to meet individual need ... Inclusive education also demands that ordinary schools change their systems and structures for educating and socialising children and young people".

There is a significant and growing number of schools committed to an inclusive approach. Some of these schools are quoted as case studies in the Green Paper. The schools themselves speak of the benefits to all their pupils, not just the special needs pupils, of a more inclusive approach. In the case study of John Smeaton Community High School in Leeds the Green Paper says:

    "The school's 1996 Ofsted report noted that the quality of teaching was a particular strength, with good planning and use of individualised teaching programmes to meet the needs of pupils with [special needs]. Such pupils were fully integrated into mainstream school life and lessons, and the personal development of all pupils was enhanced as a consequence of the diverse intake of the school".

It is of interest that pupils without special needs learn by having special needs children in their midst.

The National Foundation for Educational Research produced a paper on educational achievement in the London Borough of Newham. My noble friend Lady Darcy has quoted from it. It is important to note that at the same time that Newham has increased inclusion it has decreased exclusion and its schools are among the most improved in the country.

8 Jun 1998 : Column 828

I believe this to be a very important amendment. It seeks to improve on what now takes places but without being prescriptive about how that is achieved. I strongly support the amendment and hope that the Minister will, too.

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