HC Deb 29 November 1977 vol 940 cc252-3
10. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she plans to implement Section 10 of the Education Act 1976 on the integration of handicapped children.

Miss Margaret Jackson

The integration of handicapped children is already taking place in varying degrees. Section 10 will make this development a statutory obligation, but my right hon. Friend will await the report of the Warnock Committee early next year before deciding precisely when and how the section should be implemented in all areas.

Mr. Hannam

In moving to a fuller integration of handicapped children, will the Minister take account of the continuing needs of severely handicapped children—including the blind, the deaf and the mentally handicapped—in special schools? Will she also take account of the need to raise the school leaving age for those children to re-establish the gap that previously existed, in order to enable those children to catch up with normal children?

Miss Jackson

It is already possible for local authorities to make arrangements for children who suffer from the difficulty of not being able to catch up by the age of 16 to stay on in school. Many local authorities seek to do this. At present it is a matter of the availability of finance. We have no plans at present to raise the school leaving age.

Mr. Ashley

Why is the Department making such heavy weather of these minor difficulties? Is it that Ministers lack the enthusiasm and will to implement this section?

Miss Jackson

No, Sir. We are most concerned about these children. We feel that they should not suffer but should actively benefit from provision made in this respect. We have consulted on these matters, and I am sure my hon. Friend would agree that we should await the Warnock Report.