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Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I thank the Minister for her detailed reply and for giving us greater clarification of the Bill's intention. I feel a little bit as I felt this morning, when we had a lot of discussion on the question of consultation with local authorities. However, in some senses the honeyed tones in which the Minister has spoken give one the feeling that these things will all work out for the best. And yet we know from experience that that is not always so.

There are occasions when it is useful to have provisions in the Bill to reinforce sentiments. For example, it would be useful to have something in the Bill to remind local authorities that they should be working together, and that it should not be left to local education authorities alone. Ideally they will work together, but we know from experience—my goodness, the Victoria Climbie experience emphasises this—that, with all the best intentions, that does not always happen.

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The Minister mentioned residential courses in relation to voluntary pilots. Yet the fact remains that the wording of the Bill does not make great reference to voluntary measures. Clause 18(2) states:


    "A parenting order is an order which requires the parent . . . to attend . . . such counselling or guidance programme as may be specified".

I was delighted to hear the Minister's further explanation. I shall read the detail of what she said in relation to the amendments we are discussing. For the moment I shall withdraw the amendment but I may wish to return to certain issues on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 78 not moved.]

Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 79:


    Page 17, line 17, at end insert—


"(6) This section does not apply when local education authorities, schools and other governing bodies have failed to meet the provision in a child's education statement."

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 79 standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones, and speak to Amendments Nos. 101 and 119 with which it is grouped. The amendments address a matter which the Bill should address; namely, that of a child who refuses to attend a school which has failed to meet the provision in his or her education statement. Such education provision is mentioned in various Acts that we have passed in this House.

The amendments were inspired by the National Autistic Society. I refer to a situation where a school does not have a child's education statement. The statement is the rock solid guarantee that that child will receive the appropriate education. I should have thought that there was an argument for removing a child with certain learning or behavioural patterns from a school which cannot cope with him or her as inappropriate education provision may damage that child. That is the long and the short of the matter. The noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, has tabled amendments which address a very similar area. I encourage her to join the discussion on my amendments if she wishes. I notice that her amendments adopt a slightly different approach.

If a child does not receive appropriate education or the support that he needs within the school, he may well be better off not attending that school as he will not learn anything. That concept probably contradicts much of the thrust of the Bill. However, such cases have arisen. I refer to the classic case of children with dyslexia being placed in classrooms where they receive totally inappropriate education. I speak from personal experience of that. Nowadays the problems of dyslexia are better understood and such a situation is far more unlikely to occur. Autistic children who are moved from special schools to mainstream schools may receive a better education if that process is handled properly. However, if it is handled badly, it will have disastrous results.

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I need not give a list of examples but a child who is not given appropriate support within a school may be bullied and intimidated. He will react badly and disrupt the education of others. Those with hidden disabilities are particularly vulnerable in such a situation. I hope that the Minister will respond favourably to the amendment to ensure that a parent who removes their child from a hostile situation will not be in breach of the law. I beg to move.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: I need no encouragement from the noble Lord, Lord Addington. I intended in any case warmly to support these amendments which he so graphically illustrated. In some ways they are better than the next group of amendments which stand in my name as they are much stronger. However, as the noble Lord pointed out, I stress that my amendments seek to achieve something slightly different and complement his amendments.

I hope in any case that the message will come across very clearly to the Government with this raft of amendments that, whatever faults or weaknesses our amendments may have—I am sure they are bound to find something—there is a clear need for the Government to bring forward an amendment to avoid totally inappropriate measures being applied to children with special educational needs as that may have severe consequences. However, I know that that is not their intention.

7 p.m.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I want to say how much I welcome the comments made by both the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the noble Baroness. They speak very forcefully of their consistent interest in those who have disability and so are more vulnerable. I hope that I shall be able to reassure both of them in relation to how the Bill is framed.

Together, Amendments Nos. 79, 101 and 119 seek to ensure that the parenting orders under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, the provisions for parenting contracts for truancy and exclusions and the provision for penalty notices for parents of truants will not apply where a pupil has a statement of special educational needs and provision for that has not been made. I understand why the noble Lord makes the case so firmly. He raised the important issue on Second Reading, as did the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. Both are anxious that we ensure that the provisions in Part 3 do not disproportionately affect that particular group.

We know that behaviour and attendance problems can often have some underlying cause or contributory factor, as the noble Lord and the noble Baroness have asserted. That may include special educational needs. We do not see Part 3 as a substitute for identifying and making appropriate provision for a child's special educational needs. In our view, the best way of addressing the concerns raised by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness is to make that crystal clear in the guidance that we hope to issue for consultation later this month. I assure Members of the Committee that those who participate in the debate will receive a copy of that consultation paper. We would hope that the

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guidance would be in a proper form to be issued by spring next year, having properly taken into account everything that everyone has to say about it.

There would also be some practical difficulties with the implementation of such an amendment that focuses solely on children with statements. We know, for example, that there is variation in local practice in making provision for children with special educational needs. Two children could have broadly similar difficulties, but in one area they might have a statement and in another they might not. Yet the provision that they received would be appropriate in both cases. That could arise where in one area the local education authority has focused its policy on providing very high levels of support in all its schools, while the other issues a statement for the child with such difficulties, but both are receiving appropriate care.

I hope that that gives the noble Lord and the noble Baroness some assurance that the issues are being taken very seriously and that such needs will be taken into account. I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment, but I know that the noble Baroness will always support his point.

Lord Addington: That speech was delivered in, shall we say, very honeyed tones again. It was very well done, of course.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I wonder whether I should change my tone and my voice to make Members of the Committee happier.

Noble Lords: No!

Lord Addington: No, we are simply saying that the Minister does those tones very well.

The point behind focusing on the statement is that it is the backdrop, and we kept it in the most recent pieces of legislation. It is something to which parents can cling as a guarantee. In certain places it may not be needed quite so frequently but if there is a problem, one can turn to it. That is the reason for keeping the statement. I appreciate that that is what happens; it is certainly how I interpreted the keeping of the statement, and I think many of us felt the same way. But we need some very clear guidance so that appropriate educational provision can be made.

If the guidance covers the fact that the provision must be appropriate to the needs of a particular child, that is fine, if not mainstream. Will the guidance give that kind of guarantee? If not, there is a distinct problem. We could be encouraging through the legal process the sending of a child into an environment that could do the child and the rest of his or her classmates harm. So the guidance notes will be very important—as will clarity. It will be something of a challenge for the government machine to try to get this right.

The reason why I felt comfortable when I read the amendment was that I have always regarded the statement as the long-stop in this system. That was

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why we believed in the previous piece of legislation dealing with special educational needs, which retained this provision and placed emphasis on it.

I hope that the Government will make sure that we know exactly what we are getting in terms of guidance, and that parents, and not just lawyers in the Department for Education and Skills, will understand it. If parents cannot, we shall need to address this matter again and again.

With those caveats, and applause for the Minister's performance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 80 not moved.]

Clause 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 [Parenting contracts in cases of exclusion from school or truancy]:

[Amendments Nos. 81 and 82 not moved.]


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