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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the response of the Minister in Committee makes interesting reading. I argued that where the clause says that the child must be educated in a mainstream school, it would preserve current flexibility in provision for a child with special education needs if the word "educated" were replaced by "registered".
We had a semantic debate on that, and on re-reading what the Minister said I am not convinced. It would mean that a child with special educational needs could be registered in a mainstream school but that, according to the child's needs, some of the education given to that child could take place elsewhere, possibly at a special school, where provision for some particular aspect of that child's education could be better met. My noble friend Lord Lucas described the situation as the mainstream school subcontracting part of the education to a special school or to some other institution.
In reply the Minister warmly agreed that indeed such placements can and do occur. She used the term "dual placements". Indeed, she argued the case well for the amendment. Perhaps I may quote the words from the report:
The noble Baroness herself used the word "registered" and that is the appropriate word. Yet, as the Bill is worded, that becomes illegal, not just with the words in Clause 1(2), but in further references to
Given the Minister's acceptance that what I argued for, and what she argued for in agreement with me, is current good practice and should continue, does she now accept that the word "educated" should be changed to "registered"? I beg to move.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the amendment seeks to clarify the role of dual placements in supporting children with SEN. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, believes that it would be more appropriate for pupils with SEN who do not have a statement to be "registered" rather than "educated" at a mainstream school. She argues that where a child who does not have a statement is being supported by a dual placement, he or she is not being wholly educated in a mainstream school.
I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, about dual placements in response to the debate we had on this subject during the Grand Committee and the letter was copied to those present at the first day of the Grand Committee. I confirmed then, and I shall do so again today, that dual placements--namely, where a child is registered at more than one school--are permitted under the Education (Pupils Registration) Regulations 1995 (provided for by Section 434 of the Education Act 1996). This Bill in no way inhibits the appropriate use of dual placements. Indeed, we think they are helpful and important.
We firmly believe that a mainstream place is right and in the interests of the vast majority of children with SEN who do not have statements. The exceptional circumstances set out on the face of the Bill provide sufficient flexibility to ensure that where a mainstream place is not right, a child without a statement can attend a special school. Children who do not have statements can be supported by dual placements, but we believe that they should receive the majority of their education at the mainstream school. Section 316(2) and the use of the word "educated" ensures that.
This amendment would allow a child to be placed on the register of one school but taught at a totally different school. The concern is that that could be abused. I hope noble Lords will agree that it would be far from satisfactory for parents to gain a place for their child at a mainstream school only to find out that the school did not intend to educate the child for the
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the Bill is deeply frustrating. I am left with the same problem that I had in the Moses Room. The Bill says that a child without a statement "must" be educated--not "registered"--in a mainstream school. Part of that provision may not be at a mainstream school, but at home or in a specialist school which is not maintained or it may be anywhere. On the one hand, the Minister says that that is all possible, and yet the Bill does not make it possible.
If the Minister is saying that somewhere else in statute that is made possible, this is otiose. On the point that children must be educated in a mainstream school, and therefore not educated anywhere else, the word "registered" gets us over the problem. They can be registered in a mainstream school, or registered in an independent school, but part of their education can be met somewhere else.
As I say, the tone is different and the thrust of what the Minister said in response to these amendments is different from her response in the Moses Room. In the Moses Room the Minister tried to be all things to all people. The truth is that there is now an aggressive move to mainstream education. On so many occasions the Minister has talked about abuse of the system, where an LEA may want to put someone in a specialist school, either partly or wholly, but that would be against the wishes of the department. One cannot have it both ways. One cannot have on the face of the Bill that a child without a statement must be educated in a mainstream school and then allow for the child in part to be educated at a non-maintained school. It simply does not add up. Therefore, unless the Minister is able to be more accommodating in her response to the amendment, I wish to seek the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.