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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for welcoming the order and for their thoughtful comments about the issues that surround it. I share the appreciation that the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, expressed to Michael Grade and Sir Michael Bishop. In fairness, examining the history of Channel 4 over the past 15 years, we ought to add Edmund Dell, the first chairman, and Jeremy Isaacs, the first chief executive; and now, as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, has done, Michael Jackson, the present chief executive.
However, having said that, I simply do not recognise the truth of the phrase that the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, applied to the process that we have gone through. She referred to, the "sword of Damocles over Channel 4's trembling neck". Nothing of that sort has happened at all. After we entered office in May, the Secretary of State asked the ITC to consult Channel 3 and Channel 4 about the future of the funding formula. We wanted to see under what conditions it was thought that the funding formula could safely be removed and what changes to the licences might be required.
We are grateful to the ITC for taking that matter forward and are satisfied that the commitments it obtained from Channel 3 and Channel 4 are adequate for securing our objectives. The ITC has indeed been taking forward work on revising Channel 4's licence; but it has not been doing so in any threatening way.
I acknowledge the truth of what the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said. Channel 4 is not just another commercial channel alongside Channel 3 and Channel 5. It is a public service television channel. The achievements which the noble Baroness rightly attributes to Michael Grade and Michael Bishop, and I added other names, are in the circumstances of its being a public service television channel and it has been working gladly to the remit set out in the 1980 Act under which Channel 4 was established.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, used another curious phrase. She described Channel 4 as, "a late Siamese twin to Channel 3". I simply do not recognise that description. It is not like that at all. Channel 4, with the benefit of the remit from the 1980 Act, has been, to use the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, safeguarding the best of the public service television tradition. That is, I believe, what Channel 4 will want and will continue to want. The strength of the regulatory position that we have, as a result originally of the statutory remit and subsequently by means of changes in the licence, will be greater under conditions of wider choice and digital television than they are now. The great fear in relation to digital television is that it will be, as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said, 60 channels on which the best programme you can find is "I love Lucy".
We have established, under the 1996 Act, a series of quite elaborate formulae under which the most available digital channels will go to the existing analogue producers. The purpose is to ensure that we receive the variety of programming under digital that we have come to expect under analogue. That is why the combination of commercial and public service television is so necessary.
Both noble Lords asked for confirmation that we do not intend to privatise Channel 4. I can confirm that Channel 4 is expected to continue to be part of the public broadcasting sector, providing a distinct and innovative programming of the highest quality. It is not intended that it should be the lowest common denominator. This Government have no intention of privatising Channel 4. I commend the order to the House.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I should like to start by thanking all noble Lords who are taking part in the debate on this important Question. That of course includes my noble friend Lady Darcy de Knayth. I am especially delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, has chosen this subject on which to make his maiden speech. It was on the noble Lord's Chronically Sick and Disabled Person's Bill in 1970 that I made my maiden speech at its Second Reading in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, is a past Minister for Disabled People. He understands how wide and varied are the needs of disabled people. I am sure that we all look forward to his speech.
I hope that the Minister will have a message of forthcoming help for children and parents who have to overcome the problems of dyslexia. I also hope that there will be understanding and help for people who still struggle, having reached adulthood, as a result of dyslexia.
There are others far more qualified than I speaking in this debate. However, I wish to relate my personal involvement to illustrate how necessary understanding and training of teachers is if they are to help the many children who seem to be dyslexic.
My noble kinsman, my husband, and I adopted two children. Soon after the boy had gone to school, it became evident that he was having problems. At a children's party to which I had invited 15 children, I got them to line up and see who could kick a football the furthest. Two of the children, our boy being one of them, kicked the ball with their left foot. Both were right-handed. Both had writing and reading problems. This cross-lateral condition seems to cause dyslexia.
For many years I have been involved with boys from a young offenders institution, having been on the board of visitors. It was there that I met a remedial teacher, and our boy used to go to her, at her home, for some extra teaching when she had the time. She saw the need after helping our boy, and taught many other children who were struggling, with no help coming from their schools.
I believe that there are many people in our prisons who have the problem of dyslexia and have become so frustrated and demoralised that they have dropped out of school, marked as stupid and lazy when their learning difficulties have not been picked up.
I have a great nephew whose father is dyslexic. He is a very active boy who wants to achieve. He is only six, but already he is having problems at school and is becoming withdrawn. He kicks a ball with his left foot and is right-handed. Does the Minister know how many children like him there are across the country?
On Friday, while driving in my car, I heard someone from the British Dyslexia Association speaking on the programme "You and Yours" about the need to help dyslexic children. Some of the ways forward seem to be: screening of all children at school entry, with closer observation and diagnostic assessment of children found to be at risk of having special educational needs; teacher training to enable effective learning of early skills for children with difficulties; further screening in years
Parents are often told that their child cannot have extra help with reading and other work because he must have access to the national curriculum. Can children have this access if they cannot reach the basic skills? Many parents feel that their child is doomed to increasing under-achieving. It is too often the case that children have access to the curriculum only through reading and demonstrate their understanding only through writing. In those circumstances, the dyslexic child will always be substantially disadvantaged.
Children sometimes stay on the lower levels of work schemes because they cannot read the text or copy it wrongly. Where the child has the task read and the copying checked, he may have no difficulty with the concepts.
What would be helpful would be teacher training in modifying the curriculum to meet individual special educational needs within the classroom and space within the curriculum to develop learning skills. There should be no buck-passing between schools and LEAs. LEAs should require schools to be accountable for spending their special educational needs resources effectively. Communication to parents should be clear and helpful. There should be a specialist teacher in every school who understands dyslexia so that teachers can be helped to help children. When dyslexic children take exams, they should be given extra time, and technical aids such as word processors should be available.
With so much press coverage today about the Government wanting disabled people to work rather than to be on benefits, I would like to put the question now to the Government about children with dyslexia, which is a disability. Would it not be an investment for the future to give those children special help when they need it so that they can overcome their learning problems before being cast out from the competition for jobs and doomed to fail? With motivation and help, many people who have the problem of dyslexia have proved that they can achieve as much as anyone else.
Lord Newby: My Lords, I should like to begin by thanking the noble Baroness for introducing the debate on this extremely important issue. I should also like to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Morris, to the debate and say how much we look forward to hearing his maiden speech.
I speak as a parent of a child with dyslexia--not very severe dyslexia by many standards. However, that has meant that I have been able to see at first hand the frustrations and stress which can occur before the problem is identified and the effort and support that is needed by the combination of form teacher, specialist teacher, parents and the child, to manage the problem and enable progress to be made.
The importance of early identification of the problem and teacher training have already been mentioned by the noble Baroness, although I wish to underline the importance of the latter point. Our son was finally diagnosed as being dyslexic at the age of nine. If it had happened two or three years earlier it would have saved much heartache and trouble for him and, to a lesser extent, for his parents.
I want to deal specifically with two issues. The first has to do with the difference of approach which different schools have to the problem. Many schools are willing to take pupils with dyslexia and make good provision for them. Unfortunately, many others, particularly secondary schools--no doubt overanxious about their position in the league tables--make it clear that dyslexic pupils are simply not welcome. If they do somehow get through the entrance exam or test, or whatever it is, they will not receive special help in the school. This seems to me to be wholly unacceptable and I would welcome an assurance from the Minister that the Government will make it clear to schools that they do not believe that segregation by dyslexia is a satisfactory form of determining admissions to secondary schools.
The second point I wish to speak on has already been covered to a certain extent by the noble Baroness. It is the catch-22 situation that dyslexic children find themselves in with respect to the national curriculum. On the one hand, they underperform because they have not had the necessary additional tuition to enable them to take in the lessons adequately. On the other hand, if they take time out of mainstream lessons to get up to speed in reading and writing, they run the risk of getting behind on the subjects covered. Many schools seem unwilling to accept this as a problem and insist on the children sitting through certain lessons although they are manifestly incapable of getting the most from them.
Getting the balance right between the national curriculum and special provision is crucially important, is often not achieved, but is inherently not hugely complicated. First, clearly teachers, whether they are specialist teachers or--more important--other teachers, need to realise what the symptoms of dyslexia are and how they can begin to deal with the pupils in the classroom. I was encouraged to read in the recent Green Paper Excellence for all Children that the DfEE is
Secondly, to deal with the national curriculum and special tuition, as the noble Baroness said, we must find space in the curriculum for it. It is not "rocket" science; it is not hugely difficult. For example, it may mean taking children out of English lessons so that they can obtain special tuition; it may mean staggering the point at which children are taken out of lessons during different subjects on different weeks. Teachers then spend a small amount of time enabling the child to catch up on the lesson. In our experience, that is a perfectly feasible way of dealing with the issue.
Again, it is important that children have access to the technology which will enable them to make more success of learning. As the noble Baroness said, that is partly a question of enabling them to use technology in exam circumstances. But, almost more important, it is a question of giving them early access to technology, to laptops, tape books, and so forth, so that they get a taste for learning and feel that they are making progress before they become disillusioned and frustrated by being unable to keep up with their peers.
Finally, it is crucially important that all the teaching staff retain high expectations for a dyslexic child. Far too often dyslexic children are judged by their abilities on paper rather than their inherent abilities. That again leads to the kind of frustrations I mentioned. Even with perfectly enlightened teachers, additional resources are needed in many cases to deal with the issue. Specialist teachers cost extra; so do laptops. In our family we have been willing and able to make payments for special tuition, but many parents are unable to do that. That is why, during the general election, Liberal Democrats argued for additional spending in this area. That is why we will continue to press the Government to make more funding available for education.
Many public policy issues that come before this House are seemingly intractable. In my view that is not so with dyslexia. We need best practice understood by all the teachers implemented in the classrooms and more resources to enable that to happen. Parents and children with dyslexia are looking to a Government committed to "education, education and education"; to show a determination to see real improvements in this area.
In conclusion, I again thank the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, for introducing the debate. I look forward to hearing from the Minister as to the positive steps the Government are proposing to take to respond to the challenge of dyslexia.
I am naturally most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, for initiating this debate. Her maiden speech, as she said, was made at Second Reading in your Lordships' House of my Private Member's Bill that became the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. Hence it seems appropriate for me now to repay the compliment, more especially since the 1970 Act was the first ever statute to legislate on dyslexia in this or any other country.
Memorably effective maiden speeches were also made in that Second Reading debate by, among others, the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, the noble Lords, Lord Ingleby and Lord Cullen, and the late and deeply-mourned Lord Crawshaw.
My Bill was not universally welcomed. Several Ministers made no bones about their hostility to one or more of its 29 clauses, while others were against the Bill as a whole. Some were more subtle. I recall in particular a meeting with the education Minister dealing with the clauses affecting his department. He was known to be anguishing about the cost implications of my clause on dyslexia and I expected him to argue that it was unaffordable, so it came as no surprise when he began by saying: "I have some bad news for you, Alf". He went on to tell me that, "sadly for us both" his department's finding, based on exhaustive inquiries going as far back it seemed as Robert Lowe's reign as vice-president of the Committee of the Council on Education after 1859, was that dyslexia simply did not exist. Thus I was guilty not only of thinking the unthinkable and speaking the unspeakable, but of "discovering" the undiscoverable. All of which sounded highly culpable to me as a barely five year-old parliamentary toddler. But needs must: I told the Minister that I would be retaining the clause, but that if he was right and dyslexia did not exist, then at least it would not cost him anything.
I felt no antipathy to the Minister. Your Lordships may recall that Mark Twain made his name as a music critic by saying: "Wagner's music is not as bad as it sounds". Some of my best friends have been education Ministers and none was ever as bad as they sometimes had to sound.
My Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Bill was, as I said at the time, about social inclusion for disabled people. It was about making them a part of instead of being apart from society. So the seeming finality of the official response to my clause on dyslexia was disappointing for everyone who knew how socially isolating it could be. For innumerable children it meant inadequate education, contempt for their abilities and no prospect of worthwhile employment.
It was the warmth of public backing for the Bill and the support it received from both sides of both Houses of Parliament that changed official attitudes. Not only was the Bill emphatically approved by this House: it was also improved, not least by the unanimous insistence here, to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, recently so perceptively and
At no time did party animus impede the Bill's progress, and it delights me now to be able to acknowledge, 27 years on, the humane leadership this House gave at what a French legislator was soon afterwards to describe as "un moment critique" for disabled people everywhere. It delights me also now to be able to thank from the Floor of this House my noble friend Lord Longford for sponsoring my Bill here with so much sympathy, skill and success.
Since the 1970 Act became law, dyslexia has become much more widely understood and accepted, due in no small part to the British Dyslexia Association's work on the importance of early identification and its excellent help and advisory services.
The condition which did not exist is now known to afflict 10 per cent. of us to some extent. For over 2 million children and adults it is a serious barrier to learning. Too often parents are still told that their children will "grow out" of their difficulties. Assessments come too late, valuable time is lost and the child's self-esteem is shaken. Some children think they have a "disease" because they cannot learn to read like their friends. Yet screening tests are available to focus teaching on specific weaknesses. If they were used more widely many dyslexic children would not develop special educational needs.
As Jackie Stewart has said, dyslexia is often still only diagnosed in adult life. He was not aware of his dyslexia until he was 42 and many people who are undiagnosed and unhelped lose all hope of achieving their potential in sheer frustration. Many develop secondary emotional and behavioural difficulties and are excluded from school as disruptive.
Sadly, dyslexia is over-represented among offenders, usually because their frustration at not being able to do right for doing wrong at school led to truancy, petty and then more serious crime. Bob Turney, of whose instructive case Carol Orton of the BDA informs me in a most helpful note, was called "that idiot boy" at school. After 18 years drifting in and out of prison he joined an education class and his teacher thought he might be dyslexic. Finally achieving literacy, he took a degree and has written a book. Now a constructive member of society, he works to prevent other young people falling into the same trap.
The Prime Minister said famously that a new Labour Government would be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. As Bob Turney's case demonstrates, few causes of crime cry out more urgently for remedy than the continuing failure to give many dyslexic children the right help, at the right time and in the right place. I hope my noble friend in replying will confirm tonight that their claims merit the highest priority. I am sure he needs no persuading to do all he can to help, nor any reminding of the wise public statement of our right honourable friend David Blunkett that:
I referred to Robert Lowe. His great dictum as the "first-ever Minister of Education" was that, under him, what was not cheap would be efficient and what was not efficient would be cheap. Not to give people with dyslexia the specialist help they need to take their rightful place in industry and society is neither cheap nor efficient. Nor is it humane.
I have sometimes been accused of asking too much for disabled people. It was said in 1970 and again when I introduced the mobility allowance, the severe disablement allowance, the invalid care allowance and the disabled housewife's allowance, among other benefits for disabled people, their families and carers. But I am not alone in having been so accused.
I recall being deeply moved by the case of a young man whose doctors gave him just three years to live. He was both well qualified and keen to study for a degree, but inevitably some argued that it would be a profligate waste of resources to let him do so. Happily the university's vice-chancellor, unafraid of being accused of profligacy, saw him as being as much entitled to enter upon a degree course as any other qualified candidate. The young man died soon after graduating. But the vice-chancellor had boldly asserted his right not to have to spend his final years simply waiting to die when he was qualified to achieve his life's ambition. It was impossible to add years to his life, but the vice-chancellor unquestionably added life to his years. That was man's humanity to man at its most sublime: an example for every Minister with any responsibility for the well-being and status of disabled people to ponder most carefully. I say that as the first Minister for Disabled People in any country.
The vice-chancellor was the late Sir Edward Boyle, Minister of Education in the Macmillan Government, who later came to your Lordships' House. He was, I am glad to say, among those who helped me and my good, abiding and noble friend Lord Ashley and other close colleagues to enact my Bill. Let the nobility of his example inspire us to demonstrate again that, in seeking to make life better for disabled people, not least those with dyslexia, our Parliament can act as one and is ultimately concerned not only with costs but also with human values.
Viscount Allenby of Megiddo: My Lords, it is my pleasurable duty to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, on his first contribution to your Lordships' House. Apart from holding the very highest awards given by the New Zealand Government--the QSO--and the Australian Government--the AO--he brings a breadth and depth of experience, having been MP for the Manchester, Wythenshaw constituency for the past 33 years. For nine years, between 1970 and 1979, he was successively Front Bench spokesman for social services and Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the DHSS with special responsibility for the disabled. So it is most apt that he chose dyslexia for his maiden speech, a maiden speech remarkable for its clarity and interest and for showing us the way forward and giving
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, for introducing this subject tonight. Dyslexia is sometimes blamed as a "catch-all" phrase for slow readers. Others insist that it is a definite condition. The root cause is uncertain but it is clearly hereditary and genetic. Here I must say that my late mother was probably dyslexic, I am certainly dyslexic and my son is dyslexic. But he copes through the use of a lap-top computer. I had no help. All I remember is being locked in a tennis court and being told to learn six words a day, which I never did learn. I am still blind to those words today.
The belief is that one child in five suffers from the condition and is in need of special education. I also believe that it runs in families and not necessarily across families. Discovering that your child has the condition of dyslexia can be devastating. But it can also be a relief that there is an identifiable and, to an extent, curable cause.
I wish to confine my remarks to two areas of the problem: early assessment of children in schools, and adults seeking employment, which relates to the second part of the noble Baroness's question. First, I give an unreserved welcome to the Green Paper, Excellence for all Children--Meeting Special Needs, which has already been mentioned. This surely must be a big step forward for teachers, parents, education authorities and the many voluntary organisations which do so much to help those who struggle to cope with dyslexia and need help.
At present, one of the most common complaints by parents is that schools are reluctant to identify children as dyslexic, often because of the pressures on the teachers themselves and the lack of recognition by education authorities. This, in turn, leads to a lack of support and further aggravation of the children's problems, very often leading to bullying of dyslexics. According to the British Dyslexia Association, schools are reluctant to identify dyslexia and rarely address its effects until the child has fallen as much as four years behind in reading age. As the BDA goes on to say, this amounts to an unacceptable tolerance of under-achievement.
On the other hand, many schools and education authorities now spend much more time working with parents. Sadly, all too often parents will blame teachers or will not fully accept that their children have special educational needs. This is where direct face-to-face discussion between parents and teachers is so vital on a regular basis. This is also where such organisations as Parent Partnerships have an important part to play.
Bearing in mind the code of conduct in the Green Paper and the need for early identification of special educational needs, can the Minister confirm the need for a national curriculum for all teachers that will enable them to identify problems in children? I fully appreciate that reaction to the Green Paper must be awaited and I recognise the very important role of the National Advisory Group on Special Educational Needs, chaired by Estelle Morris, MP.
Finally, on assessment, with only approximately 2,000 fully trained teachers and 200 teachers being trained every year, is it the Government's intention to increase the number of those being trained so as to have on each teaching establishment a fully trained teacher, or will teachers have to be shared between teaching establishments?
I should now like to turn to adult education in the hope that sufferers among the unemployed might receive encouragement and possibly help. A 1995 survey carried out on adult students by the British Dyslexia Association showed that 70 per cent. were not diagnosed until after the age of 21 and that nearly half of those were unemployed. I believe that a number of those students will have been classified in the past at school as lazy or unco-operative or even badly behaved, when they were in fact in need of urgent help.
While I recognise that there are a number of financial incentives for dyslexic adults to gain employment and, indeed, to go on to further education and higher education, leading in some instances to dyslexic people becoming scientists and engineers, there would appear to be little chance and little help for those in the severe category who cannot read or cannot write or, in some cases, cannot do either.
This problem was highlighted by a recent letter sent to the Secretary of State by a 45 year-old married man who had been unemployed for three years. He was called into a job club but because he could not read or write, he could not fill in any of the forms. In his letter, written with the help of his wife and a typewriter, he movingly describes his frustrating visits to jobcentres, then to a psychologist and eventually to the Dyslexia Institute at Staines, where for the past 14 months he has received one two-hour lesson a week. He describes being passed from person to person and ends with the words,
While the organisations such as the British Dyslexia Association, the Dyslexia Institute and many other very worthy bodies do an excellent job, their funds and resources are limited so that they really can only scratch at the surface because of the sheer numbers of adults who need help to gain employment.
I believe that there is a great need for a full-time regional organisation, possibly based on the British Dyslexia Association, but with Government help and encouragement from the voluntary sector to help the unemployed to gain confidence; to obtain the basic skills and where the LEAs and jobcentres can refer people who clearly have problems. It simply is not only children who suffer from the effects of dyslexia, but adults as well. Very often the most hard working and loyal citizens do desperately seek a bit of extra help to achieve employment.
It is easy enough for a psychologist to diagnose traditional dyslexia with the well-tried methods, but dyspraxia and dysphasia and other difficulties are now being identified and recognised. Can the Minister say what the Government are doing in the way of research and in particular the project at the Manchester Metropolitan University?
It goes without saying that there are far too few educational psychologists and trained teachers to carry out the assessment, let alone remedial teachers to cope now and in the near future. But the Green Paper is a very welcome step in the right direction and we look forward eagerly to the White Paper in due course.
Lord Annaly: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, for putting down this Unstarred Question and giving us the chance to air this important subject. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, on his interesting maiden speech. It does not seem very long ago since I made mine on a different subject. I remember being rather frightened, but I had not got 30 years of experience gained down at the other end of this building.
Until about four years ago I knew very little about dyslexia. What I have learnt in the past four years has come about through the fact that my three children, now aged 10, eight and seven years, are all dyslexic to varying degrees. The primary schools that they have been attending enrol the help of special needs teachers and only in the case of one child was that not sufficient to enable my daughter to keep up with the rest of the class. In this case, after much thought, a change of school was thought the best course. In this one case, the change of school is proving to have been the right decision. Sibford, which is near Banbury, practises a "whole school approach" to support, so that the specialist provision is recognised and carried through into the mainstream classroom.
While that is an easy label, it necessitates the care and training of all staff, not just teaching staff. All staff need training and a will to enable these children to access the curriculum and reach their own potential. It is easier to ensure that in a smaller school where all staff are in regular contact.
The Green Paper which the Government produced in October is a step forward. That recognises dyslexia and takes it seriously. The Green Paper has a section on working with parents. It is of great importance that any learning difficulty is identified at as early an age as possible. This may happen at school when a child is finding reading difficult. However, parents might pick up on a child finding it hard to remember rhymes or to do things in sequence. A child may be slow to acquire language or may be a bit clumsy or slow to learn to tie a shoe lace, which is a sequence action. These are all things which might indicate possible dyslexia.
Some of the "working with parents" measures proposed in the Green Paper are sound practice. Much of the concern among parents in mainstream schools is because of a lack of trust between anxious parents and schools. The delay in acknowledging an educational need causes frustration and anger.
In the time I am allowed I am going to run through a few points in the Green Paper. I have gained from talking to, and seeking advice from, people at my daughter's school in the dyslexia department. I hope that this will be of benefit to the Government when they are considering their Green Paper. I turn first to "Policies in
There is no doubt that the strategies for teaching special learning difficulty pupils benefits all, but I am concerned that, even with good teaching, many special learning difficulty pupils do not make progress and that specialist teaching needs to be available for some pupils. With good practice and early identification, I believe that the picture will generally improve, but it will take several years for this to feed into the system.
I turn to the practical support section of the Green Paper. There is still no mention of the gifted child and I feel that this should be addressed. One of the links suggested to improve special educational needs provision at stages one to three is the use of the inter-school e-mail links, and I know that the SENCO link has been very valuable to many SEN workers. The idea that speech and language and occupational therapy and so on should be seen as part of the "educational" support is vitally important. These divisions are counter-productive.
Personally, I would not welcome the introduction of national criteria for statementing or a statutory limit. There are already guidelines in the code. It is in part the legal framework of the statement, which makes the statement such an attractive option for parents. Once they have the statement then they have a guarantee of provision for their child. Once parents have fought so long and hard for a statement, one can understand that they are unwilling to have it discontinued. The process of statementing is bound to be a long one because of the range of information involved, but there are still instances where the paperwork is delayed.
I turn now to increasing inclusion. Parents of special educational needs children very often do not want to send children to special schools and may well welcome a move towards inclusive education, but it will need to be well funded. The expertise within the special schools is valuable and it is needed in the wider context as the complexity of special educational needs provision grows, but it must be devolved and not diluted.
In the current LEA climate it is unlikely that the LEAs will put the funding and resources into the movement of children from special to mainstream. Some inclusion programmes have been successful, but it is not something that can just be thrust upon the staff and parents concerned. The intention is to give more background information to inform readers of league tables, but if this is to be benchmarked on free school meals, that will not be very helpful.
I now turn to the planning provision in the Green Paper. The response to regional planning will vary. In some cases the independent sectors will be as eager as the maintained sector to participate, and it may be a good thing that the planning groups will not be entirely LEA based. There does not seem to be a great deal of
I shall now say something about developing skills. It is important because we are talking about learning support assistants. The Green Paper states that the role of the learning support assistants is central to a successful SEN policy in special and mainstream schools. The level of reliance on LSAs means that training and career development are essential if that is to be successful. Currently fewer than half the LEAs provide appropriate training for learning support staff although some have developed accredited courses with higher education institutions and training and enterprise councils. Health authorities may also need to be involved in training.
It seems increasingly that the LSAs are being asked to put in place the provision of the statements. Giving access to the curriculum is one thing but this Green Paper seems to justify and further promote this trend; LSA jobs are likely to be part-time posts taken very often by mothers of younger children who want their work to fit into the school day and term. Many want it as a temporary post and in many LEAs they are only bought in on temporary contracts. Some may, indeed, be excellent teachers and classroom supports but there is a huge responsibility being placed on them and this is not reflected in their job status (or pay). Talk of training and career structure sounds good and in some cases may be successful, but there are many cases where training may be given but with little gain to those providing it, and it is difficult to envisage a career structure for this role.
The change in role of the educational psychologists started with the code but it seems that their whole focus is changing, and they are being asked to take on roles which they are not necessarily trained to do and may have no interest in doing. While future training is being set up, I am concerned that they are being asked to cover a huge range of important specialist areas, including counsellor, family therapist and manager, and these do not all sit well with the specialised training and traditional role of the educational psychologist. The emphasis on SEN training and continued training is very welcome.
I am aware that I have overshot my time. Perhaps those on the Government Front Bench will nod if I may continue. I shall curtail my remarks, however, if noble Lords want me to shut up quickly.
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