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Baroness Blatch: The tribunal will only have to use the definition because that is the definition that the Government will make sure is in the Bill. That does not make it right, nor does the fact that it appeared in the 1996 Act, and certainly it does not make it right that it appeared in the 1944 Act. If one looks up the dictionary definition of "proprietor", it does not fit the description of people we are talking about. I believe that that is wrong. I will continue to fight for a change in the Bill but I will not labour the arguments which, at this stage, do not bear repetition. I do not believe it will be fruitful to return to this issue at this Committee stage but we shall return to it. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 133 and 134 not moved.]

Clause 14 agreed to.

Baroness Wilkins moved Amendment No. 135:

(" . In the 1995 Act, insert the following section--

"Accessible information policies

28EA.--(1) Each local education authority must prepare in writing and in accessible format a policy (their "accessible information policy") for ensuring that all written information available to non-disabled children and parents is available to disabled children and disabled parents in their preferred, accessible format, at the time they need it.
(2) Each local education authority must appoint a named officer to be responsible for implementing and monitoring the accessible information policy including planning localised production of information in accessible format and disseminating advice and information to schools, disabled parents and disabled pupils.
(3) It is the duty of each local education authority to implement their accessible information policy.
(4) It is the duty of each local education authority to publicise their accessible information policy to disabled children and parents.
(5) Each school must prepare in writing and in alternative formats a policy (their "accessible information policy") for ensuring that written information available to non-disabled pupils and parents is available to disabled pupils and parents in their preferred, accessible format, at the time they need it.
(6) It is the duty of each school to implement their accessible information policy.
(7) It is the duty of each school to publicise their accessible information policy to disabled children and parents.
(8) Guidance under subsections (1) to (7) may be issued--
(a) for England, by the Secretary of State; and
(b) for Wales by the National Assembly.
(9) "Written information" includes correspondence, curriculum information, reading materials required to support a child's learning and any other type of information which is otherwise made available to pupils or parents.
(10) "Accessible format" means information in large print, in braille, in Moon, on tape, on disc or in another electronic format, on video, in easy English or in any other format designed to be accessible to disabled people who have difficulty reading standard print.

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(11) "School" means--
(a) a maintained school or a maintained nursery school;
(b) a pupil referral unit;
(c) a city technology college, a city college for the technology of the arts or a city academy;
(d) an independent school; and
(e) a special school not maintained by a local education authority."").

The noble Baroness said: I speak to Amendment No. 135 which would add a new clause to the DDA requiring each local education authority and school to prepare, implement and publicise an accessible information policy. The amendment, which has the support of the RNIB, seeks to ensure that disabled pupils and parents have access to written information in their preferred format at the time they need it. The purpose is to make sure that sensory impaired and other print-disabled children have access to the same information as their non-disabled peers. Without such access to essential curriculum information and reading materials, they cannot have real educational equality.

"Print disabled" means anyone with a cognitive, physical or sensory impairment who cannot access standard written information. Such children have a variety of information needs. For example, in the case of blind and partially sighted children, information is required in large print, braille, moon or on tape. It is also becoming increasingly important for visually impaired children to be able to access information from the Internet.

A recent survey of 1,000 blind and partially sighted children and young people published in Shaping the Future by the RNIB in 1999 found that information--class handouts, study materials, books and test and exam papers--was often not available to these children when they needed it. For instance, more than one in three secondary pupils and a quarter of parents of primary school children said that they usually had to wait for handouts, and only two out of three mainstream pupils usually received their school books in the format they required.

There were particular difficulties with tests and examinations. One in four of the pupils questioned did not always get test or answer papers in the right format; one in five pupils said that test or exam papers had not always arrived on time.

Clearly, these findings have implications for how well blind and partially sighted children and young people achieve at school, college and university. This evidence shows that current requirements of LEAs and schools to provide for disabled children's needs in this respect are wholly inadequate. It is not that accessible information cannot be provided but rather that there is insufficient awareness of accessible information issues and a lack of strategic co-ordination.

A duty to develop and implement accessible information policies would enable teachers, SENCOs and LEAs to meet needs for accessible information in a more coherent, planned and effective way. The role of the named officer would be the linchpin of this new, holistic approach. Very often teachers face huge difficulties in obtaining appropriate curriculum

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materials, establishing which books and papers are available in alternative formats and where one might go to get prompt, high quality modification and transcription. The named officer's role is to help provide solutions to such problems--to plan localised production and disseminate information and advice.

The problems relating to accessible information are well understood by the Secretary of State for Education and Employment who is keen to make progress on the issue. Ensuring that print-disabled children and parents receive information in their preferred format at the time that they need it will happen only when LEAs and schools are under explicit statutory duties to develop and implement accessible information policies. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to help on this issue. I beg to move.

Lord Addington: This amendment is one of the better proposals. It deals with a very real problem and, very properly, includes parents. If the parents are to have a full input into a child's education, they must have information about what is going on in the classroom. Many of the suggestions made under subsection (10) of the amendment are good practice. A local education authority that does not have such access is breaking virtually all current law. So it must be taking place--unless we have one of the world's worst education authorities hiding somewhere. We must ensure that it takes place. Other groups will also benefit from this. I have received briefing related to those with eyesight problems. Dyslexics and other groups would benefit from this service. Those with hearing disabilities may well be assisted by some of the proposed formats.

We must make sure that there is provision in the Bill. The noble Baroness puts forward an amendment which I like and can read easily. That probably means that it is not legally or correctly drafted. That is the rule of thumb that I have usually applied to everything since I have been in this Chamber. However, we must make sure that this matter is covered and I look forward to the noble Baroness's answer.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: I support extremely briefly and very warmly the amendment that the noble Baroness has moved so well and so comprehensively. It seems an entirely sensible and practical way of going about it to ensure that disabled children and their families, for example, dyslexics and the visually impaired, are in fact included. We cannot talk about inclusion unless we make sure that they know how to be included.

Baroness Blackstone: Whilst of course we are sympathetic with what lies behind this amendment, I have to tell the Committee that this new clause is extremely wide-reaching. It seeks to require LEAs and schools to ensure that disabled pupils and their parents have access to material in their preferred alternative format. This is rather impractical, however. Their preferred alternative format might be either extremely expensive or indeed extremely rare. The duty seems to be absolute: the new clause has no concept of

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reasonableness within it. In the context of disability discrimination legislation, the concept of reasonableness is well understood and in practice works well for disabled people. To abandon that test would undermine all existing disability discrimination legislation which is certainly not something that the Government wish or indeed are willing to do. This new clause would also impose a significant additional burden on both LEAs and schools, a burden not considered necessary by the Government. In particular we do not consider it appropriate to require LEAs to create a specific post and appoint a member of staff to fill it.

Putting to one side the absolute nature of this new clause, it does raise the issue of alternative format material in more general terms. Children who need to access material in alternative formats in order to allow them to access education will almost certainly have a statement of special educational needs. That statement will set out the support and help that the child needs and could well include the need to provide material in alternative formats.

An additional safeguard for pupils is provided by the inclusion statement of the National Curriculum Handbook--"The Access for All Statement" of the equivalent document in Wales--to which all teachers must have regard. The curriculum guidelines provide similar guidance for teachers in Scotland. The handbook sets out a number of requirements in respect of disabled pupils which include: enabling the fullest possible participation of pupils with disabilities and making provision, where necessary, to facilitate access to activities with appropriate support, aids or adaptations; using texts that pupils can read and understand; and using visual and written materials in different formats, including large print, symbol text and Braille.

I turn now to parents. Part III of the DDA is relevant here since services offered to parents are caught by the provisions of that part in relation to access to goods and services. That means that information about those services may have to be provided to parents in alternative formats, where it is reasonable for the school to have to do so. For example, it may be reasonable for a school to have to provide a letter to a disabled parent about a school trip in an alternative format. I hope that in the light of what I have said my noble friend feels able to withdraw her amendment.

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