|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury): As my hon. Friend knows, there has been a change of provision in my constituency, which has been a bitter experience. Residential pupils were asked to go to a different facility because of the closure of another one, and girls were transferred into what had previously been an all-boy environment. Subsection (c) addresses precisely the difficulty that occurred in that case.
Mr. Boswell: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that constructive point and the way in which he expressed it. Whatever we may say about the Bill, and however much people may or may not be enthused by inclusion, there are always practical problems, and it is foolish to try to minimise them or sweep them under the carpet.
In our earlier discussion of new clause 1 we dealt with matters related to mobility and independence, and the education and preparation of pupils for that. It was agreed in all parts of the House that those are important matters, which go a little wider than simply educational provision. It seems to me that Ofsted could, at least in principle, be the gatekeeper in this matter. It could draw attention to areas where it feels that there is no holistic approach to the needs of the child. It could also have a role when an important provision that bears on these matters, but which is not strictly about a special educational need, is not being adequately discharged.
Jacqui Smith: I welcome the responsible way in which the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) introduced the new clause, but I believe that it is unnecessary. Ofsted has the power to monitor SEN provision, and it does so. We believe that the arrangements that are currently in place and which are being introduced for monitoring SEN provision and related matters are sufficient. I hope that I can reassure him by speaking about some of them.
The hon. Gentleman made an important point about the skills of those who are involved in the inspection. He will be aware that the personnel who are selected to carry out inspections and the way in which their inspections are conducted are matters for the chief inspector of schools. Ofsted issues guidance to its inspectors on the inspection of SEN provision, and Her Majesty's chief inspector of schools already has the power to advise the Secretary of State at any time on any matter related to the provision of education. The inspector also has a duty to provide advice and to report on such matters as the Secretary of State specifies in a request.
On inspections of individual schools, Ofsted inspectors evaluate and report on the quality and range of opportunities for learning that are provided by a school for all its pupils, including those with SEN and disabilities. They also consider schools' policies and plans, which include, for example, their SEN policies. That consideration will involve information on how resources are allocated among pupils with SEN. Of course, the hon. Gentleman spoke about transition, reception and induction, with which I shall deal in a moment. I am sure that he will be reassured by the fact that, as inspection of early-years settings becomes more prevalent and we ensure a proper SEN policy for them, the inspection regime will also bite in that context.
The inspectors must report on whether schools manage their resources effectively, including those that are spent on SEN. The hon. Gentleman spoke about transparency in relation to such spending. I am clear about the importance of ensuring transparency in respect of money that is delegated to schools and spent by local education authorities. That is why the Department for Education and Employment is working on how to identify good practice in authorities that delegate provision. We are also working on how to ensure that LEAs have more responsibility to demonstrate how they are delegating money for SEN and to make it clear what they expect from schools in terms of that money.
The Secretary of State can use his powers under section 2 of the School Inspections Act 1996 and section 38 of the Education Act 1997 to require a report from Her Majesty's chief inspector of schools on any school or
The hon. Gentleman mentioned local education authorities. Her Majesty's chief inspector already has the power to inspect LEAs. Special educational needs is one of the four core activities of an Ofsted LEA inspection.
New clause 3(a) deals with choice of settings. The changes that we are making in SEN provision will give parents of children with SEN and a statement a better deal than they currently have. They will offer better chances of securing a mainstream place for their child. Although there has never been a duty on LEAs to provide a choice of settings, they must arrange sufficient SEN provision in their area. However, as they have never had a specific duty to provide an adequate choice of settings, Ofsted cannot properly comment on that.
Local education authorities have to present for approval school organisation plans which cover the way in which they will make sufficient provision, including SEN provision, for children in their areas. Under its framework for inspection, Ofsted must comment on the key functions of the LEA, including the provision of sufficient school places and the preparation of the school organisation plan.
Mr. Boswell: I want to put on record that although there is historically no specific obligation on LEAs to require a range of choice of settings, section 11 of the Education Act 1996 obliges the Secretary of State to
I was dealing with an LEA's role in ensuring sufficient school places and preparing the school organisation plan, which requires local education authorities to provide adequate places for children with special educational needs. That is part of an LEA's key functions, which would be inspected in an Ofsted inspection of a local education authority.
The framework also provides for Ofsted to comment on the allocation and provision of resources across all local education authorities' functions, including provision for special educational needs. I think that that covers some of the issues that the hon. Gentleman raised about transparency. The Bill provides for the normal inspection framework for schools and local education authorities to cover functions relating to their duties to plan for improving accessibility, including the preparation, quality and implementation of such plans.
The new clause also draws attention, as did the hon. Gentleman, to the importance of adequate arrangements being in place for the reception and induction of children with special educational needs. I agree with him that that is a particularly important part of the transfer from one educational establishment to another. That is why the revised code of practice will reflect the importance of the transfer of information between all relevant parties when children or young people transfer, and of the particular arrangements that address this issue.
In reporting on schools, Ofsted will comment on the quality of the provision for all children, including those with special educational needs. If Ofsted feels that the arrangements for the reception and induction of such children are adversely affecting the quality of provision for those children, it can draw the school's attention to that as part of the school's inspection.