HC Deb 17 October 1968 vol 770 cc563-4
19. Mr. J. E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps he is taking to review the educational services provided for handicapped children; and whether he will invite the Central Advisory Council to inquire and report thereon.

Mr. Edward Short

I am sending the hon. Member a list of surveys undertaken by medical officers and H.M.I.s and of research which the Department is sponsoring on various aspects of the education of handicapped children. Committees set up by my predecessors have reported this year on "The Education of Deaf Children" and on "Psychologists in Education Services". Further work is planned and I shall be announcing the appointment of a committee to inquire into the education of visually handicapped children in the very near future. The problems of handicapped children are very diverse, and I think this is the best way of proceeding.

Mr. Hill

Is this not necessarily a somewhat piecemeal approach, and has not the time now come for rounding off the great series of reports on the different stages of education, Crowther, Robbins, Plowden and Newsom, and completing the last category of children who are handicapped and suffering from physical and mental disabilities?

Mr. Short

It is such a diverse problem; there are so many different kinds of handicap. The hon. Gentleman will see from the list which I have sent to him that there have been about 30 studies of one kind and another. I think that the best way is to pick out the problems and have them looked at individually.

Mr. Moyle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the best way in which he can expedite the education of mentally handicapped children is to expedite the decision that the responsibility for the education of those children should be transferred to his Department? Is he aware that the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children has accumulated funds of £80,000 for setting up a teachers' training college and will not be able to implement their plans until that decision is taken?

Mr. Short

My predecessor gave a reply on this specific point. The general point is not one for me, but I am very interested in it.

Sir Edward Boyle

Does not the scope of this question to which the right hon. Gentleman referred and also the point raised by the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle) strengthen the case for making this the next remit for the Central Advisory Council? It is now 18 months since the Central Advisory Council last reported, and will the right hon. Gentleman consider these suggestions which have been made to him?

Mr. Short

Yes. There was a Question, or a supplementary question, by the right hon. Gentleman some months ago to my predecessor on this point. As he knows, it is quite normal to have a longish interval before the Council is recalled, but certainly we will look at this point.