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Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, this is the first occasion on which to address the question of the resource implications of the Bill. The Minister will be aware from our debates in the Moses Room and the comments that have already been made, that many of us fear that the resources will not be adequate to fulfil the full intention of the Government. I know that the Minister will say that extra resources have been allocated, but the Bill will have considerable consequences, especially if LEAs are required to spell out the provision that will be made for children with special educational needs, even for those with statements, let alone those without.
I spoke earlier about the provision in the school that I know about. I can call upon only one special school, dealing with blind children. The classes at GCSE level have a maximum of six. At the ages of four, five and six, the pupil-teacher ratio is 3:1 and 2:1, in some cases. I am referring to children suffering from low incidence disability. I believe that when local education authorities have to face up to providing that degree of provision, they will realise that they will have to recruit many more teachers.
I have tabled a Question, which has probably not yet reached the Minister's desk, asking for an estimate of the extra teachers and teachers' assistants who will be required in the next three to four years when the Bill's provisions are fully implemented. I hope that the Minister will be specific, although that hope might be dashed. I believe that there will be a big underlying increase in the provision of resources needed for the Bill.
Children who suffer from extreme disabilities will always go to special schools, but what about those who are not totally blind, but severely visually impaired, or those who are not totally deaf, but very hard of hearing, with an associated psychological problem? At present, many of these children are best dealt with in special schools. However, if they are going to attend mainstream schools, or special units maintained by the LEA, the Government must face up to the extra teaching that will be required. There are two big costs:
Baroness Young: My Lords, I support what both my noble friends Lady Blatch and Lord Baker have said. I was talking to a teacher quite recently about this Bill. Let us picture the situation in a primary school. There is a teacher with a class of 30. The teacher is asked to consider the special needs of any children who are particularly able in science. So he is looking for that.
Within those 30 children, there will be somebody with special educational needs, possibly a Down's syndrome child who will find reading very difficult. So there is an enormous range within one class with one teacher. That is the reality on the ground.
The teacher will do his best to be fair to everybody. There is a limited time in the course of the day and a limited ability of anybody to do something. It seems to me that this is a very serious issue relating to extra help for those who require it because there is such a range of disabilities.
Only the other day I visited a school for the deaf. Of course, there are great gradations between children who are completely deaf and those who are only slightly deaf. Teachers are being pressed to raise standards; to achieve better SATs results; and to urge the brightest children to show how well they can do. They must then also pull back to help those who are finding the going rather too quick or too difficult. That is no reflection on the child at all. But that is the reality.
Everybody hopes that this legislation will be a success for all the children who are being taught. I urge the Government to look very carefully at this issue, which seems to me absolutely key to making the Bill work.
I must acknowledge that the Government have a problem here. There is an overall shortage of teachers for ordinary mainstream schools. There is also a shortage of teachers trained to deal with special needs in special needs schools. It seems to be that that problem could be mitigated somewhat. When it is not possible to make that extra provision available in mainstream schools, then surely it is better that those children should be in special schools. That means that teachers in mainstream schools can get on with teaching children in the ordinary way while the children needing special training will be able to obtain it, perhaps more easily, by attending a special needs school rather than a mainstream school and being specially treated for their learning difficulties there.
Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, I support those who have drawn attention, by these amendments, to the question of resources. It is extremely important that we should not launch legislation which will change the current situation, and
Therefore, we need something rather more explicit in the Bill. I go along with the amendments proposed, including the amendment put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, which does not go as far but does at least indicate a benchmark in relation to the definition of "reasonable steps". That is important. I should not be satisfied with the answer that it is not necessary for that to be on the face of the Bill, which is an answer that we often hear. I believe that it would be useful to put it on the face of the Bill.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, Amendment No. 24 seeks to set out on the face of the Bill that the steps it could be reasonable for maintained schools and LEAs to take in order to prevent inclusion being incompatible with the efficient education of others will include the provision of extra staff.
As I argued in Committee, it is not appropriate to set out details of reasonable steps in primary legislation. To do so could unnecessarily restrict the inclusion of children in the future. Inclusion is a process; it is not a fixed state. What is unreasonable now may not be in future when schools will be, we hope, more inclusive and more accessible. Instead, considerations of what reasonable steps could be will be set out in guidance. Of course, guidance will address issues such as staffing and training levels, as well as many others, in dealing with the question of how reasonable steps can be determined. LEAs and schools will have to have regard to the guidance which is referred to on the face of the Bill. Again, I assure noble Lords that we intend to consult widely on the guidance to make sure that we get it right.
The amendment refers to the special requirements of children with SEN. Those requirements are not what "reasonable steps" are designed to address. Their special educational needs are dealt with by the statementing process, which exists solely to make the special educational provision that their needs call for. Reasonable steps are steps which could be taken to protect the education of other children, including other children with SEN.
I do not believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, was present in Committee and I should tell her that I said then that where a child's inclusion would mean, even with other support, that the teacher had to spend a greatly disproportionate amount of time with the child in relation to the rest of the class, then a mainstream place may well not be appropriate.
The second part of the amendment would give an incentive to a maintained school which did not want to take a child with SEN not to take reasonable steps to prevent that child's inclusion being incompatible with the efficient education of others. If a child is not admitted to a school, his education cannot be
I turn now to the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, about resources. We are realistic about the need for extra resources. We are supporting expenditure of £82 million from the SEN standards fund next year, up from £55 million this year. That will support, for example, the expansion of parent partnership services. It will also provide funding for additional training for staff, as the revised SEN code of practice is brought into effect.
Of course, I accept that additional training will be needed. Indeed, all qualified teachers in future will need to have, as part of their training, the ability to recognise children with special educational needs and a whole lot of other matters associated with that.
We have also announced that schools will receive £220 million to improve access for disabled children over the next three years. The spending for school access in 2001-02 will be £50 million, rising to £70 million the following year and £100 million the year after that. Already the schools access initiative has supported work at about 6,000 different schools. That increase will have a very direct impact on the environment of many schools. It will certainly help to improve accessibility for disabled pupils.
I could go on but in the interests of time I should now turn to Amendment No. 25. This amendment seeks to include on the face of the Bill a requirement that guidance on Sections 316 and 316A will define what could be considered reasonable steps for maintained schools and LEAs to take in order to prevent inclusion being incompatible with the efficient education of others.
In Committee, I outlined that the appropriate place to set out what "reasonable steps" could be was in guidance. I am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Addington, agrees with me on that point. I also gave an assurance that Clause 1 will make provision in that respect.
I understand the strength of the debate over this issue. I am, therefore, happy to accept the principle being argued for on this occasion. I shall bring forward a suitable government amendment on Third Reading, so that a requirement will be placed in the Bill that the guidance referred to in Section 316A(8) will include advice about the "reasonable steps" mentioned in Section 316A(5) and (6).
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