§ Order for Second Reading read.3.53 pm
§ The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Mark Carlisle)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This is the third Education Bill to be brought before the House during the Government's period of office. Its purpose, as the House will know, is to make legislative provision for the proposals set out in the White Paper entitled "Special Needs in Education", which followed upon the proposals of the Warnock report. It follows on from the various debates that took place during the passage of the Education Bill 1980. The intention is to give parents a greater voice in decisions taken about their children's education in the same way as the 1980 Act has attempted to do so for children in ordinary schools.
The present framework for our system of special education was set up about 37 years ago in the Education Act 1944. This is only the second major change that has been made since that time. The 1944 Act, while it gave prominence to the idea of education according to age, ability and aptitude, defined special education treatment for categories of handicapped children according to their disabilities of mind or body. That has remained the position until today.
The only major change was in the 1970 Act, which rejected the notion that some children were unsuitable for education and gave to the education service responsibility for children with severe mental handicaps. The basic framework of the law has not changed since 1944, but clearly our ideas and views on what constitutes educational handicap and on how to educate handicapped children have come a long way since that time. I believe that a reform of the statutory framework is long overdue.
The need for this new thinking was most clearly pointed out in the detailed treatment of the subject by the Warnock committee. Although I mentioned this at the time that I made a statement in advance of the White Paper, I know that I shall be expressing the views of all right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House if I again acknowledge the indebtedness of us all to Mrs. Warnock and the committee for the report. Its observations and the enormous task of gathering evidence that the committee undertook resulted in over 200 recommendations for improvements and a wider dissemination of good practice in all aspects of special education. It has in the report provided what in many ways is a guidebook for the future. It falls to us as legislators to give statutory form to some of the proposals.
When the report was published, my Department consulted widely, and further consultations took place on our legislative proposals as set out in the White Paper "Special Needs in Education". Both the Warnock report and our legislative proposals have been extremely well received, especially by those most knowledgeable about special education. What has usually been criticised is not so much what is in the Bill but that some of the things that others claim should be in it have not been included.
Much of the criticism that I have heard and seen has been aimed at the Government's decision to introduce the 28 Bill in advance without allocating additional resources. I believe that that criticism is ill-founded. Of course, any Minister would like to be in a position to announce new resources to enable schools of this nature to deploy more teachers who are better trained to deal with special education needs, as well as more speech therapists and all the other categories involved. The fact that we are not able to do so does not mean that we should wring our hands and do nothing now.
Not all improvements are effected by additional resources. I am convinced that the better future that we all want for handicapped children can be brought nearer by the proposals that we set out in the White Paper, and that a concerted move forward depends on the legislative changes embodied in the Bill. If we hold back now from getting the statutory framework right we shall allow the law to hinder rather than advance good practice and to condone rather than condemn bad practice.
The House should remember that we are spending about £250 million on maintained special schools and an unknown sum in addition, in ordinary schools, on various sorts of special provision and remedial teaching. There is surely scope within that expenditure for authorities to look again at the educational cost-effectiveness of their present arrangements and to introduce improvements. Present good practice lies at the heart of the Warnock report, and within the new statutory framework there will, I believe, be scope for the redeployment of existing resources of all sorts for the benefit of the children covered by the Bill.
Therefore, I hope that our discussions on the Bill will not turn into merely another debate on the Government's overall economic strategy. We should all like to spend more on handicapped children. Enough is never enough in such matters, but there is no point in pretending that we can spend money that we have not earned and do not have, however worthy the measure.
§ Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that there is a cost to integration? It is unreasonable to expect integration of special school youngsters with ordinary ones to be undertaken at nil cost.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I shall refer to integration later. As the hon. Gentleman appreciates, at the moment we are spending about £250 million a year on special schools. There must be room for some redeployment within the expenditure of that money. I also remind the House that the Government's proposals assume a level funding for special education when we know that—happily—the number of children in special schools is dropping.
§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)
Given that the Warnock recommendation was, for example, that there should be one educational psychologist to every 5,000 pupils in need, and that the actual figure is one for every 10,000 pupils, where is the scope for redeployment? That is a vital area of diagnosis, recording, making statements and properly scrutinising the provision for children in special need.
§ Mr. Carlisle
At the moment, the figure is one psychologist for every 9,000 or 10,000 children. I accept that the Warnock report proposed one psychologist for every 5,000 children. However, it is not possible to achieve that target in the immediate futue. Happily, in most areas an educational psychologist is already used for 29 the reviews under the 1944 Act. I believe that they shall do so in cases where a statement is made under the terms of this Act.
However, I repeat that the fact that there are no additional resources available seems to be an ill-founded argument against changing the legislative framework to that which I think both sides accept would be in the educational interests of the children concerned.
§ Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)
Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify this point? He said that, fortunately, the number of children in special schools was declining. Some Opposition Members would agree with him about the physically handicapped. However, is it not true that the numbers of disturbed children, of children receiving psychological help and of the mentally handicapped, have risen? Does not that mean that the overall demand is as high as it ever was?
§ Mr. Carlisle
The hon. Gentleman must accept that I would have to have notice of the detailed question. Two statements affect it. One is the drop in the overall number of children of that age and the second is that there are fewer children in special schools today than there were in 1978-79, which is the base line of much local authority expenditure. I shall try to provide the hon. Gentleman with as many details as I can on the shift that he has mentioned.
It is appropriate that the Bill has been introduced at the beginning of the International Year of Disabled People. While the International Year ends on 31 December, this is a forward-looking Bill, which will form the basis for new developments for many years to come.
One aspect of the Bill which I regard as being of great importance is its emphasis on the role of parents. The Education Act 1980 considerably increased the influence of parents of pupils in ordinary schools on the type of education received by their children, and I am sure that if our new attitude to handicapped pupils is to mean anything we must give their parents—so far as we can—similar opportunities and responsibilities.
There are three major themes in the Warnock report which form the basis for our proposals. The first is that it is high time we removed from the statute book and from daily practice the simplistic view that we can draw a neat line between handicapped children and non-handicapped children, and that we can classify children rigidly according to a category of handicap. In the light of present knowledge, one can no longer defend the concept that one can sum up a child and the range of his needs with a single label. The Warnock term "a spread of special need" helpfully suggests the range both of degree of need and of type of need.
The second theme is that a disability or learning difficulty will vary in the extent to which it hinders a child's development. This will depend not only on the child's personal characteristics, such as intelligence, drive and social adjustment, but on the educational and other resources with which he is provided to overcome handicapping circumstances. Together, these perceptions change the notion of handicap from a single label, such as blind or mentally handicapped, to a continuing process of judging a child's ability and his needs. This concern for the needs of individual children was central to the Warnock report and is at the heart of the Bill.
The third theme—I come now to the question of the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price)—of the 30 Warnock conclusions is the committee's endorsement of the principle that children and young people with special educational needs should, so far as is reasonable and practicable, be educated in association with those who do not have such needs. However, the committee set out in some detail the prerequisites for and constraints on doing this, and I commend that pan of its report as a balanced and judicious discussion of this difficult issue. It is in the spirit of that consideration that we have formulated our legislation.
I turn now to the Bill. Clause 1 contains the very important definition of "special educational needs". One of the most important contributions made by the Warnock report was its emphasis on the fact that up to 20 per cent. of the school population might at some time during their school lives have special educational needs in some degree requiring special help. This at once gets us away from the straitjacket of an approach that says that a child belongs either to the 2 per cent. of children who are currently ascertained as handicapped or the 98 per cent. who are not.
The definition is drawn so as to recognise that we cannot precisely identify the broader population with special needs. That muse depend on the judgment of the observer, on local circumstances and on what the school provides. Most of that 20 per cent. of pupils are being and will continue to be educated in ordinary schools. I hope that the Bill will encourage all schools to emulate the practice of the best. The definition of "special educational provision" is also designed to recognise the role of ordinary schools—together with remedial, advisory and other support services—in meeting special needs.
Much of clause 2 is devoted to extending the duties of local education authorities and school governors to take account of the broader definitions of special educational needs and provision that I have described. It should be noted that it places education authorities under a continuing duty to keep their arrangements for special educational provision under review. But the clause also contains our statement of principle on the question of integration.
We have constantly stressed that we wish to see the largest possible number of children with special education needs educated in ordinary schools, and that is embodied in the Bill. However, our aim is not simply integration for its own sake. It is the provision of appropriate education for individuals. For many children I believe that this can and should be done in ordinary schools, but there must be safeguards. Obvious safeguards are that the ordinary' schools should be able to provide for the child's needs, that his presence should not prejudice the efficient education of those he will be with, and that resources should be efficiently used. However, another crucial criterion is our belief that parental wishes should be respected wherever possible. By no means all parents with handicapped children feel that their children's interests are necessarily best served by education in an ordinary school.
I am concerned that too often when people talk about integration they are really thinking only of those who are physically handicapped and otherwise are of normal or above average intelligence and ability. We must remember that less than 10 per cent. of existing handicapped pupils are categorised as physically handicapped. By far the majority, as the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) reminded us, suffer some form of mental handicap. With the intensive care and supervision required for many multi-handicapped or severely disturbed children, it is not 31 always realistic to think in terms of education in an ordinary school. Special schools have a concentration of specialised equipment and expertise which will always provide the most appropriate setting for some children. They will continue to be required in the future and some will, I hope, be redeveloped as resource centres as recommended in the Warnock report.
Simply educating handicapped children on the premises of an ordinary school does not constitute integration. Detailed planning and preparation are needed if children are to benefit properly, and this is why we are requiring that, so far as is reasonably practicable, handicapped children in ordinary schools engage in the school's activities with other children. There is no simple short cut to providing properly for those with severe needs, an integration cannot be an easy option. It needs to be properly worked out if it is to benefit all the children concerned—those with as well as those without handicap.
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)
The Secretary of State prefaced his remarks by saying that there was no facility for financial provision in this direction. He now says that the local education authority will have a duty to make such provision. Is he merely doing what was done by the Government in the case of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970? There the duty was put upon the local authority, but no finance was provided to enable it to fulfil that duty.
§ Mr. Carlisle
No, and for this reason: the nature of the duty is changed under clause 2(2). But those in whose case a statement is made are estimated at about the same as the number of children with whom local education authorities are already dealing—the 2 per cent. who are already dealt with as handicapped under the 1944 Act.
I hope that the House will think it appropriate for me to digress at this point to the extent of placing on record the admiration of, I believe, all of us for those who work in the special schools. Inevitably I have the opportunity of visiting a number of special schools, as, no doubt, does the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). One never comes away from them other than full of admiration for the devotion and dedication of the staff. Perhaps those of us who do not spend our day-to-day working lives in contact with children, many of whom are severely handicapped, ought to recognise the gratitude we owe those who work there and should express our appreciation of the work that they do on our behalf.
I turn now to the provisions which protect the interests of children with severe or complex special educational needs. As I told the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) the Warnock report recommended that some 2 per cent. of children—roughly the same as the present population of pupils regarded as handicapped—should have the additional safeguard of being, as it put it, recorded. Hon. Members should note that, because of the variety of connotations of the words "children with records" and matters of that nature, we have decided that it would be unwise to use the word "record" or "recorded". Instead, the Bill refers to children for whom a formal statement on their educational needs is made. This group is defined in clause 4 as those whose needs are such that theycall for the local education authority to determine the special educational provision that shoud be made for them32 and to keep those needs under annual review.
This smaller group of children will not all be placed in special schools, but there will be those for whom a local education authority feels that the safeguard of a written statement of need is required. The Bill breaks new ground in empowering LEAs, with the consent of parents, to extend this safeguard to children under 2 years of age. We are becoming increasingly aware that it is never too early to take steps to help those who potentially have special educational needs. Early action can often prevent graver difficulties later on, and I am glad to introduce legislation which recognises that.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)
I welcome what the Secretary of State said about younger children. Does he accept that this is the major contradiction in the Bill? He has argued up to now in favour of a blurred line and of the impossibility of drawing a line. However, this clause draws that line and it will of its very nature be arbitrary. That will mean that some children under one authority will be included while others in another authority—possibly with greater handicaps—will not be. Is not that the major fault in the Bill?
§ Mr. Carlisle
That is a fair point and one that can be examined in Committee. I think that it is inevitable. If we accept the wider system of educational special need as going much further than the old "handicapped", and if at the same time we are to give a degree of safeguard and protection for a particular number of children within that group as being severely handicapped, a line must inevitably be drawn somewhere. As far as I can see, it is an inevitable concomitant of the scheme. To the extent that the Bill, in clause 5, draws a line, however, between those with special educational needs and those whose needs are such that the local authority rules that it shall determine what they are, I agree that a line is produced.
§ Mr. Kinnock
What concerns my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) and me is not only where the lines will be drawn between those with special educational needs and those with particular extra needs—that throws up a problem in any case—but where the lines will be drawn between local education authorities. That will mean that a progressive and percipient local authority that is fulfilling its duties in the way that the Sectretary of State would want them to be fulfilled will not be emulated by the next local authority, which has a different attitude towards fulfilling its responsibility towards these unfortunate children.
§ Mr. Carlisle
What the hon. Gentleman said goes much wider than special education. He is questioning the difference between local education authorities. I can only repeat what I said earlier. One of the purposes of changing the law in this way, and one of the main thrusts of the Warnock committee, is that what is best practised should be as widely used as possible.
Clauses 4 to 9 and schedule 1 relate to the assessment and statement of the needs of this smaller group and to the involvement of parents in that process. The approach of the 1944 Act to assessment was based on the assumption that handicap was primarily a medical phenomenon. Thus, it provided statutorily only for a medical examination. The Warnock report emphasised that we should think not of medical handicap but of educational needs. Thus, two 33 equally deaf or physically handicapped children might have widely different educational needs, and that is why we agree with Warnock that assessments should be multi-professional. The kind of professionals who should be involved with a particular child will depend on the needs of that child. Regulations to be made under schedule 1 will prescribe that medical, psychological and educational advice must be obtained for each assessment. This is a basic minimum, and we will expect that other appropriate professionals will be involved as appropriate.
A key feature of these clauses is the involvement of parents at every stage of the assessment procedure. They must be informed if the local education authority proposes to assess their child, and may request such an assessment themselves. If the child is assessed they can make representations and submit evidence. Parents must also be informed of examinations of the child and will be entitled to be present. If, after the assessment, the LEA decides not to make a formal statement of the child's needs, the parent must be informed of the decision and the reason for it. They will be entitled to appeal to the Secretary of State.
If the authority decides to make a statement it must send the parents a copy of that statement in draft and the parents will be entitled to make representations which again the authority must consider. The authority will then decide whether and in what form to make a statement and must inform the parents of its decision. I am aware that that is detailed, but we are convinced that if parents are to be properly involved and consulted that detail is essential. I am sure that authorities will acknowledge the natural concerns of parents in these matters.
The key document for parents will be the formal statement of their child's needs. Its existence will ensure that they know far more than many parents do at present of how the authority views their child and his main needs. It will be a reference point for them for the future and they must be consulted about any changes. The requirement for a review and the provision for parents to request reassessments should ensure that children have their needs met in an appropriate setting.
The final guarantee that parents' views will be properly taken into account is the machinery for appeals against the special educational provision to be made. Here, we are following up for parents of handicapped pupils what was done for other parents in the 1980 Act. Parents will have the right of appeal to the local appeal committees set up under the 1980 Act, and to appear and present their cases to them. The difference from the 1980 Act will be that the appeal committee will not be able directly to overrule the LEA, but it will be able to remit a case to the LEA with its recommendations.
The reason for the change is that questions of special educational placement are very different from disputes about placement at ordinary schools. Factors such as the availability of medical and other supporting services, the limited number of places available in any particular type of special school, and the limited variety of special needs for which any one school can provide are crucial in special education. They make such cases far more complex than ordinary ones. That is why the appeal committee's view will not be binding. However, we are providing a further safeguard for parents in the form of an ultimate appeal to the Secretary of State. They will also be able to appeal directly to him where, after making an assessment, the 34 LEA decides not to make a statement about the child. I am confident that these proposals, taken together, properly and realistically safeguard the interests of parents.
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)
Before the Secretary of State leaves the important point about assessment, will he say whether he is satisfied that, given the need for early assessment—which is of interest and importance to everyone—the existing machinery is adequate to bring together the input from the health and social services aspects as well as from the educational aspect, when the children under consideration may be only two or three years old?
§ Mr. Carlisle
I hope very much that the relationship—both nationally and on a local level—between the various bodies concerned is close and works well. Although the regulations will require only a medical, psychological and educational presence, the change to the multi-professional assessment of a child, will help to bring other disciplines into the assessment procedure. I certainly hope that that will be so. I shall be happy to consider any suggestion of action that the Department could take to assist that system.
Those are the main features of the Bill. Clauses 10 to 20 and schedules 2 to 4 basically cover technical and consequential adjustments. I wish to draw attention to three further provisions. First, the regulations that I shall make covering the approval of special schools will contain new requirements concerning the invovlement of parents and teachers in the running of non-maintained special schools. We are in consultation with the schools concerned about the best way to secure this. It is a difficult area, but we are anxious to do what we can. Secondly, I am seeking entirely new powers to make regulations affecting independent schools. Independent schools that primarily cater for handicapped pupils depend very much on local authority placements, and thus on public funds. It seems to me reasonable that where an independent school wishes to receive placements of children for whom statements have been made it should be asked to meet certain standards. Therefore, I propose to make them subject to regulations. I know that the many good schools concerned will welcome that move.
My third point on these later provisions is that clause 13 provides that in future LEAs will not be able to close special schools without first giving notice of their intentions and securing the approval of the Secretary of State. That puts right an existing anomaly.
§ Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
Will my right hon. and learned Friend say whether clause 10 is meant to retain the designation "special school" for an education unit that provides education for children not because they have special educational needs but because they happen to be undergoing treatment in a psychiatric hospital? That is an important rather than trivial question, because they are not special schools in the normal sense of the word. Unless we are careful, the whole of the reporting procedure—it is now called the statement procedure—could apply to those schools, although that is not what Warnock had in mind.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I shall ask my hon. Friend the Undersecretary to deal with that point when he replies. To my knowledge, all but five of the 109 non-maintained special schools are either hospital schools or residential schools. My hon. Friend has raised an important point.
35 I have attempted to describe the main provisions of the Bill, its aims, and the thinking that underlies it. Before I finish, I wish to strike a note of caution and realism, which I believe, is appropriate. I have stressed that much of what we are doing in the Bill is to put into legislation what is already good practice among the best LEAs. We must recognise, however, that we cannot impose by legislation everything that is necessary for good practice. We cannot ensure that questions of assessments are always sensitively handled, with the parents involved and consulted in the spirit that we all want to see. The Warnock report itself concluded by saying that neither organisational changes nor additional resources would be enough to achieve its aims. There must also be changes in attitudes—the attitudes of teachers and other professionals, administrators, parents and, above all, the public at large. Widespread acceptance of the deeper understanding of handicap and the needs of children, which our Bill embodies, is crucial if we are to achieve the deep-seated changes that we need. I believe that attitudes are changing. They will change faster if the law that governs the education of the handicapped is in line with changing attitudes, and is not out of time and outdated.
We are thus legislating very much for the future and the long term, but we are also introducing changes that will enhance the role of parents, ensure that children are looked at as individuals, and put an end to a system based on labels and the stigma of being classed as "handicapped". I can think of no better contribution that the House could make to the International Year of Disabled People, and for those reasons I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)
During the course of his remarks, the Secretary of State once again offered his thanks to Mrs. Mary Warnock and her colleagues for the excellent job that they performed in providing the report. I warmly echo his feelings. However, although I have not had the opportunity to consult Mrs. Warnock and her colleagues since the Secretary of State made his remarks, I know that they had hoped that their report would be something more than the Secretary of State described as a guide book for the future. Although we shall not treat the Bill as a controversial matter, I nevertheless believe that Mrs. Warnock and those who waited so eagerly for the report—and subscribed to the expertise that is obvious between its covers—did not think that they were involved in compiling a Michelin guide to nowhere. Despite the qualities of the Bill, it is unfortunate that more attention has not been paid to the recommendations of the Warnock report, and more willingness—indeed commitment—shown to implement the requirements for change in special educational provision called for in the report.
As I have said, this is not a controversial Bill in the classic parliamentary sense, and it will certainly not provoke great partisan disagreement, but unfortunately it is a Bill that will do very little to resolve the controversies which surround the provision of education to meet the special needs of a large number of children and young people. Those arguments will go on, unabated by the Bill or the provisions therein.
Our attitude—and the attitude of many interested groups and individuals concerned about special 36 education—is that the Bill is a bit like Brighton pier. It is good as far as it goes, but it is not much of a way to get to France. Consequently, we are willing to accept and encourage the implementation of the Bill, despite what we see as its shortcomings, and hope that we can use the procedures of the House in order to add to the Bill, amend the Bill, secure resources for the improvement of the provision of special education—although I do not want to raise any false hopes—and generally require that the Government further revise their attitude towards the adequacy of the Bill in terms of providing that legal framework that is necessary, of which the Secretary of State talked and on which he appears to be willing to rest his case.
The fact that the Bill is only a half measure in many ways—or possibly even less than that—is sad and disappointing, not just for the people in this House who have a strong personal commitment and a long record of achievement in working for the interests of the handicapped and disabled of all kinds and of ages in this country; it is also sad and disappointing for those outside the House who have sought change in resources, in attitudes, in provision and in purposes of special education over a very long period of time—indeed, for several decades.
From time to time their hopes have been fuelled. In 1968, they received the encouragement of the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who was earnestly concerned about these matters and wrote to Christopher Mockler saying that the then Opposition wouldcertainly continue to press the present Government to set up a special inquiry into this field of education, and if it does not the next Conservative Government will certainly do so in one form or another.To demonstrate that I am not seeking to make any partisan point, I note that the outgoing Secretary of State for Education and Science, then Mr Edward Short—now Lord Glenamara—had drafted the terms of reference for a Central Advisory Council on Education inquiry into the provision and the statutory revision of categories of special education. Those terms of reference died with the defeat of that Government, despite the fact that there was a general bipartisan consensus about the need for a new legal framework.
The incoming Secretary of State for Education and Science, now the Prime Minister, was reluctant to establish a committee—so she told everyone, including this House—because the matter was much too urgent and required action much too quickly to indulge the luxury of waiting until some commission or committee had reported. However, for some reason or other, neither was the committee set up nor was the action taken, with the result that it was 1973 before Mrs. Warnock was commissioned, and September 1974 before the committee could begin its work.
When the report was published in 1978, 10 years had already elapsed since the initiative was taken by Labour Members, on the Government side of the House, and by Conservative Members on the Opposition Benches, including the group called "Pressure for Economic and Social Toryism". During those 10 years, as the Secretary of State said, things had not stood still. There had been a healthy development of change in attitudes towards special educational needs. There had been legislation which was extremely helpful in removing outdated views of special 37 educational need. But the essential changes of the legal framework and of the provision of resources had not been made.
The sad fact is that three years on, in 1981, 13 years after the initiatives were taken in 1968, we now discover that, while there is a readiness to produce a legal framework—which has its critics—there still will not be any additional finance available for the implementation of the changes. Not only is there no radical change in attitudes; there is not even additional finance made available through the rate support grant for local education authorities, charged with new responsibilities to children and parents under the Bill, to be able to discharge those responsibilities without withdrawing substantial amounts of finance from other areas of their expenditure.
I do not have to tell the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who knows it well already, that most local education authorities—indeed, I think all of them—feel that there are no margins of resources that they can now rededicate. much as many of them would like to, towards the operation of the new responsibilities and duties that they have under the Bill without additional financial help coming from Her Majesty's Government.
The Warnock report was and will continue to be the fundamental work on these matters. It was not a revolutionary document; it was not intended to be. Indeed, I think that members of that committee would generally agree with me that what it did was to update the Education Act 1944 by adding 40 years of experience and 40 years of changes in attitude to the fundamental provisions of the 1944 Act, and to set them out in a most cogent form.
The Warnock report provided the reasoning for offering courses and choices to parents and families other than the very constricted choices of segregation and in-stitutionalisation for children who had special educational needs. Further, the report emphasised the ability and the need of many physically and mentally disabled and emotionally and behaviourally disturbed children to participate in the community. That was given a cordial and widespread welcome.
Most important of all, in terms of the change of perception that we are all learning about our attitude to the mentally and physically handicapped and to the emotionally and behaviourally disturbed, the report set down in the most clear terms the idea of the normality of children who are suffering from particular afflictions, and asserted the need, wherever possible, to mould the education system in such a way as to take full advantage of the elements of normality and normal need and normal aptitudes that those children had.
Superficially, the Bill—and, indeed, the speech of the Secretary of State—offers a statutory agreement with those views expressed by the Warnock committee and with the reasoning behind them. That statutory agreement and endorsement of those views, so far as it goes, is cordially welcomed by the Opposition. It is a small mercy for which we are most grateful.
Any challenge that we have to make, therefore—I repeat this not for the sake of over-emphasis but in order to make absolutely clear the nature of our arguments on the Bill—will have nothing whatever to do with partisan considerations. Any challenge that we make will be related to the omissions from the Bill, as the Secretary of State anticipated, rather than to the provisions within the Bill. 38 Any contention which might arise will come much more from the financial environment in which special education exists than from the Bill itself.
In the course of the debate about those omissions, we shall have an extensive opportunity to consider the arguments about integration—about the scale and pace of integration, the method of introduction and the advancement of the integration of children with special educational needs. We shall want to give the most thorough treatment to the precise rights of parents of children in need of special educational provision. In each of these activities, as in others, we shall be assisted by the use of the new Standing Committee procedure which permits the calling and examination of witnesses about the subject matter of a Bill.
I mention a few of those additional matters which will be of concern to us. There is a general feeling that the Bill acknowledges the right to education beyond the age of 16 for children with special educational needs. However while I am prepared to accept that that is the Government's view, that they want to give further definition to sections 8 and 114 of the Education Act 1944 and to clear up that extremely vexed question, the specific reference to the matter in the Bill escapes me. I am sure that we shall have the opportunity to pursue that matter. We cannot be satisfied that there is a reference to that provision and we should like to see that written in the clearest possible terms into the Bill.
We want to investigate further the implications of clause 3 to establish whether, because of the gravity of disablement and the placing in hospital of a child in need of special education, the local education authority has the same kind of obligation as it would have to any other child who did not have that need. I was tempted to interrupt the Secretary of State, but I realised that he wanted to keep his speech as short as possible and we shall have further opportunities later so we should not be over-exercised by this matter at this juncture.
Why is there to be no advisory committee as recommended by Warnock? Even without additional resources, there is a need for a completely objective body that has authority and respect throughout all the areas and professions to provide a method of co-ordination of special education provision. Also, although this was not a function considered by the Warnock committee, such a body could provide a satisfactory definition of the rights of information and appeal which sadly are not made as fully or as cogently as they could be in the Bill.
The whole areas of the compilation of statements and the method of assessment of the possible disparities in treatment—to which my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) drew attention—between local authorities in respect of children with the same ailments and needs will exercise the minds of Members on both sides in Committee. These are matters of detail which may not be considered to be appropriate in a Second Reading speech, but I raise them now so that when the Under-Secretary replies to the debate he may feel able considerably to reduce the anxiety felt by hon. Members and people outside.
Apart from those matters of detail, throughout our consideration of the Bill one factor will run as a continuing thread. That is the matter of the greatest and most disheartening omission from the Bill and from all related Government policies—the total lack of commitment to provide the vital resources for the improvement and 39 development of special education in Britain. We were warned that this Bill would be more about words than deeds, more about bones than flesh, in the White Paper published in August last year concerning special needs in education. The White Paper used the phrases "as resources permit" and "in the prevailing economic climate" more frequently than such phrases are used in the average Budget Statement. Now that we have the Bill, we see that the evasion of financial responsibility by the Government is of such magnitude that if it had not been for the need to obtain the use of the new Standing Committee procedures for the purposes of scrutiny of a non-controversial Bill the Labour Party would most certainly have tabled a strongly worded, reasoned amendment drawing attention to the absence of commitment to resources and calling upon the Government to make that money available—in short, to put their money where hitherto only their piety has been. The need for additional resources cannot be dismissed.
The Secretary of State made a cogent case which endorsed the general views of economic management which he supports as a member of the Government. I cannot blame him for doing that, especially in the wake of the departure of his right hon. Friend the former Leader of the House. But we cannot underestimate the need for additional resources to be made available for the implementation of those modest changes which the Government promote in the Bill. The change in attitude which the Secretary of State mentioned in his closing quotation from the Warnock report is the essence of all our activities relating to special education. That change in attitude as not merely a philosophical shift for the ending of superstitions or the inuring of sensitivities. That change of attitude will come with the necessary speed or breadth only if those resources are made available for the promotion of that essential change.
I am not saying that the problems of special education can be bought out. Neither am I saying that the resistance to integration can be bought off. There is no argument for saying that. Many of the changes of attitude will have to be changes of conviction, not just changes of expenditure and financial allocation. But until the proper resources are allocated, we shall continue in a vicious circle of inadequate provision which will encourage a widespread view that special educational needs are marginal and even obscure. That in turn reduces the effective claims of special education on resources and will further result in inadequate provision. What begins with inadequate provision and goes through the whole channel of misunderstanding, misallocation and miscalculation ends as inadequate provision because the strength and presence of need is not made apparent by the under-provision in the first place.
The duty of the Government in those circumstances is to break through that vicious circle. They can try, as they are trying, with exhortations about "best practices,"—a phrase frequently used by the Secretary of State in his speech. They can try with a new legal framework, which is provided by the Bill. Both those efforts, sincere though they are—I have no doubt about that—can buckle the vicious circle, but without extra money that pattern of events, that connection of disadvantage, will never be effectively pierced.
40 We are talking not about small marginal need, a tiny number of children or a passing phenomenon. We are talking, as the Warnock report faithfully told us, of between 15 percent. and 20 percent. of all children in any age cohort over recent years, now and for the foreseeable future. The Secretary of State emphasised the necessity for and novelty of his proposed legal framework. Surely the money should be made available for the effective implementation of the purposes behind the recommendations made by the Warnock committee report.
As the House knows, my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) chaired a world committee which linked the United Nations declaration that 1981 would be the International Year for Disabled People with drawing up the charter for the 1980s for the 500 million disabled people in the world.
My right hon. Friend is official Opposition spokesman for the disabled. It would be unfortunate if he were not able to participate in the debate with all the expertise that he, and several other hon. Members who have long been associated with him, could bring to bear on the debate. I hope that he will catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. He would be able to bring the debate into the context of what the world committee sees as the best way forward for disabled children. That would be a timely and most valuable contribution to the proceedings on the Bill. It would mean that we have to go further than the mere legislative framework and rely upon the emulation of "best practice".
The contentiousness of the Bill, I repeat, is not so much in its provisions as in the circumstances in which it is being introduced. We are not satisfied that the Government's undertaking given in March last year in the Secretary of State's statement to the House—that current expenditure plans provide for maintenance of expenditure on special education at its present level despite the fall in the size of the relevant groups—is being implemented or has real validity.
I am not getting hung on the hook of resources as an excuse for delaying the legislative framework. Earlier the Secretary of State emphasised that he wanted not to delay proceedings further to wait for resources to turn up. I can see and agree with that point. But that requires that at least levels of expenditure on special education are sustained, as he undertook in his statement in March last year. But since then, as before then, special education has not been exempted from the cuts imposed on local government by the Government's financial strategy.
The sad tradition, which has been maintained, is that special education is always in the front line of cuts whenever there is a new regime or round of cuts. Nine days ago that veteran fighter for the cause of special education, Mr. Stanley Segal, the president of the National Council for Special Education, told the council's executive:At a time when the trend is towards integration, damage is being done in certain parts of the field because lack of resources threaten integrationist experiments. Alarm is being felt in many parts of the country and should motivate us further.It is not just the experiments or the efforts at integration which are being hindered by local government education cuts. Even worse in many ways are the real cutbacks in special education provision. The example of the Oxfordshire decision to cease provision for the over-16s, despite the obligations of the sections of the Education Act 1944, is one particularly grave consequence of the cuts policies imposed by the Government. No one who has 41 commented either in or out of Oxfordshire on this regrettable, objectionable case has made any effort to avoid the implication that the changes are being brought about not in consequence of any desire or malevolent intention by the Oxfordshire county council, but because of the effect of education cuts on the decisions of that council. We can argue—and it is obvious which side of the argument I would be on—that, despite those shortages, Oxfordshire should have sustained its full commitment to education for children and young people of all ages. But Oxfordshire has the excuse, as well as the obligation as it would argue, to make those cuts as a direct result of the reduction in Government resources.
In those circumstances and with those cuts, I find it difficult to accept the Secretary of State's statement that there is "scope for redeployment'". How do we redeploy that which does not exist? The redeployment that is currently taking place is the freezing of teaching posts, the freezing of educational welfare officer appointments, the cutting and closing of units and the complete closure of long-established special units for the over-16s. Those are the redeployments that are taking place. I am sure that the Secretary of State cannot in any way endorse or applaud the consequences of the financial cuts imposed by the Government.
Anyone with any acquaintance of the needs of any part of special education must heartily endorse the view in paragraph 7.22 of the Warnock committee's report:Staffing ratios which facilitate smaller classes in general, and smaller teaching groups in particular, were considered to be the most important factor contributing to successful integration.Indeed, it goes further than integration. Satisfactory education—satisfactory for the child, the teacher, the helpers in the special schools and units, other pupils in the integrated schools and certainly for the parents—can be developed only as a consequence of a reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman congratulated and spoke with great affection for the people who worked in special education. I completely endorse that view, not only because my wife has for the past two years been directly involved in the school for disruptives and the school for badly mentally and physically handicapped children, but because other members of my family are engaged in this profession in both schools and special training centres. Therefore, no one can have a higher regard for the work that they do than I. Not only members of my family, but all whom I have encountered repeatedly say to me "Do not just congratulate us, do not pop in and say what a wonderful job we are doing, do not taunt us with the idea that we are specially self-sacrificing or dedicated teachers. Give us the resources to improve upon that which we are already trying to do." They say that not in desperation—although from time to time they are a bit desperate—but out of care for the children and young people that they look after.
As Warnock said, falling rolls should provide a unique opportunity—that is the word employed by Warnock—for improvements in the quality and range of education services. That unique opportunity is being forsaken for the sake of rigidly applying a regime which will provide not even adequate current or immediately past resources, let alone the increase in resources which should be made available.
The danger is that without those resources the Bill becomes sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal, because it 42 does not effectively extend the duties of local education authorities to make proper provision for children under five. It fails not only on that priority of Warnock, but on others as well. For instance, the Bill does not provide for further education outside schools for young people over 16 with special needs—at least not in any coherent, easily recognisable or established form. Most serious of all, neither the Bill nor any other Government policy offers more than platitudes about the improvement or extension of teacher training and retraining which Mrs. Warnock said were absolutely vital. Indeed, not only in the three areas of first priority specifically listed at the end of the report but in an article in The Times Educational Supplement, Mrs. Warnock puts it with a passion and precision that cannot be bettered. On 22 September 1978, Mrs. Warnock said:there is one set of proposals which demands instant action without time for more debate or further committees. I refer to the proposals for teacher training … First, there must be a special education element in the initial training of all teachers, and short in-service courses to give the equivalent training to those already in post.Second, there must be in-service courses of a year's duration, or its part-time equivalent, leading to a qualification in special education.…Third, there must be in-service courses of a more specialised kind, related to the teaching of children with specific educational needs…Unless these three aspects of training are all looked after, debates about the improvement of special education provision are just so many idle words.I am afraid—surely the Secretary of State must share this fear—that yet again, three years after the publication of the report, after a host of evidence has been provided, after representations have been made to the Government in the wake of the report and as a consequence of the White Paper when the argument is revived for the purpose of our consideration in the House, without resources, especially for teacher training and retraining, we shall be engaging in no more than an exchange of words which, as far as I am concerned and those directly involved in the matter, would be a disaster.
In this International Year of Disabled People, the Government's first act has been to come forward with a no-cost Bill. It is a massive inconsistency for people to say, no matter how sincerely, that they want to make better provision for children in special need without putting their hands in their pockets. That is what the Government are proposing to do. Secondly, they have come forward with a Bill that ignores the three highest priorities of a widely supported and authoritative committee of inquiry. Thirdly, they have decided to leave the weight of initiative to local authority resources and discretion, which will permit the worst to prevaricate and dodge without enabling the best, who would like to get better, to improve.
A Government who exalt the rights of parents, as we heard so frequently in last year's debates, will make a mockery of parental influence or choice by their failure to provide money. Even the minimum requirements of locational, social and functional integration can be evaded simply by a local education authority making reference to clause 2(3) of the Bill. The "unscrupulous and poor" local education authorities—in the words of the Warnock report—can allow the elementary activity of recording to become the odious and tragic cause of wrongful and inadequate provision instead of the means of accurate diagnosis and relevant treatment of special needs; or 43 indeed, they could possibly ignore it altogether, and neither do good nor cause harm but simply disregard the pressing needs of those who require special education.
It is not enough in such circumstances to hope and pray, however earnestly, as the Secretary of State has done, that LEAs will emulate the best. Emulation is not the way forward. It does not provide sufficient guarantees. Expenditure is one way to ensure that that emulation can take place. It is one way to break through the vicious circle of wrongful attitudes, misconceptions and under-provision of special educational facilities for the children and young people of Britain.
The handicapped and disabled have been smothered in sympathy and piety. Now they need effective action. Far from stemming the demand for such action, the Bill will provoke a stronger and more persistent demand for new and extra resources. We shall make that demand, along with others outside the House, and continue to make it until the self-evident needs of special education are properly and fully met. There is no cheap way to do that. I ask the Government and the people of Britain to understand that the expense of proper provision is the bill that we must gladly pay for civilisation.
§ 5.2 pm
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
I have spent 22 years in schools and have had the privilege of being on either side of the question. I have been professionally involved with special schools and with ordinary schools that contain a special element. I am therefore in a position to make a contribution to the debate.
If I had to live with a particular slogan, it would be "Integration; not separation". I would say that particularly to the children themselves, both the integrated and the normal. Normal children gain enormously from having about them handicapped children and children with other special needs. It brings about compassion for and appreciation of their difficulties. I therefore welcome the Bill. The deepest and wickedest bully has come wonderfully to heel by being asked to take charge of a limping child, a sick child or a child with some other terrible problem. The heat can be taken out of a difficult situation by saying to a child "Just look after that lad". However vicious the individual may have been feeling at that moment, he will soften and do a good job.
Undoubtedly, by asking teachers to handle children with special educational needs we shall increase their task, but I have great confidence in the profession and believe that teachers can handle the requirement. I do not subscribe to the argument that tipping money into education automatically produces better results, and nor do I believe the opposite. We can rely on the professionalism and skill of teachers to undertake a commitment that will involve their taking a wider area of expertise in their stride. They will need help, but I believe that that can be provided fairly simply. One way is to get staff together for discussions with visiting lecturers.
The Bill can be implemented in one of two ways. We can attempt to cater for all categories of special need in all schools, but I believe that it is preferable for a school to handle only one or two areas of special need. I was deputy headmaster of a school of over 2,000 for the seven years before I entered Parliament. We had the largest partially hearing unit in Greater London and perhaps in the country. 44 We had almost 60 children with hearing difficulties, some of whom were stone deaf. The school was able to take the special unit in its stride. Teachers were specially allocated to handle the children where they could not be integrated into normal classes. The disabled children had their own classrooms and special area, which formed a sanctuary so that they were able to get away from the general pressures of the school. They were able to come out into the main school knowing that there were a great many others of like disability around, and the remainder of the school was able to understand what was especially difficult for those children.
It may be possible to integrate a blind unit in the same school as a partially hearing unit. I can see great value in that. However, I am not sure that we should expect to fit in a blind unit, a unit for the partially hearing and units for other handicaps into one school with as much success. It has been proved that one or two areas of handicap can be catered for in one school, but it has not yet been proved that a great many areas can be handled, although I do not rule out that possibility. If the Bill moves in that direction, I am sure that the schools will cope.
The need to integrate disabled children into ordinary school life is fundamental to the Bill. Whatever their difficulties, children can usually attend school assembly, participate in physical education, clubs and excursions, eat school lunch and attend a number of classes which can be a great gain for them and for the remainder of the school. It will be essential to have one or two specialist teachers in each school to handle specific teaching. A head of department will need to be responsible for giving the children special assistance. Advice will be needed from specialist inspectors. Such inspectors already exist at the Department of Education and Science, but local authorities may have to provide their own specialist inspectors.
A school's right to refuse admission to a child with a special educational need is important. It is not right to impose children on schools. Parents should have the maximum choice, but there must be a point at which the head and the staff, speaking professionally, are able to say "This is one that we do not think we can handle". They will know best under the circumstances and from long experience. For example, really maladjusted children will always need separate treatment and specal help. They can be totally disruptive in a normal school, as colleagues here who have been teachers will know.
Let me take up the resources argument, which was put so strongly by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). I imagine that we shall see a diminuation in the number and size of special schools. Some will get smaller, some will disappear and some will be converted into resource-only schools, as the Secretary of State suggested. That will release resources for the handling of those children in normal schools. I do not envisage the same level of provision in special schools or equal provision in normal schools.
§ Mr. Kinnock rose…
§ Mr. Kinnock
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is necessarily misrepresenting my argument, although I would understand if he did. I am a little worried about his optimism about falling school rolls or a reduction of need 45 for special education provision, especially as the area of disability that has grown most in recent years, and appears to be rising, is that of maladjusted children. As the pressures get stronger and more difficult, especially at a time of economic slump, that might offset the fortunate reduction, for whatever reasons, in needs that arise from other forms of disability and disadvantage.
§ Mr. Greenway
I respect the debating skill of the hon. Gentleman in picking up the one category to which I had referred which a normal school could not be expected to handle under certain circumstnces. Of course, it depends on where we draw the line. At one stage in my professional career I used to think that probably about 6 per cent. of all children were recidivist trouble-makers and that treatment of them was impossible in the normal school. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bedwellty may well come into that category. How well, he will know. I should like to think that he did not spend his time in a correction unit for behavioural difficulties, nor do I wish him that in the future.
During the last several years, when I had direct and total responsibility for those children, I felt that all but about 1 per cent. could be handled in normal schools. Staff could not be expected to handle that 1 per cent., for one reason or another—undue violence, physical or verbal violence, and so on. I do not think that that means that my argument is invalid and that special school provision will decrease and thus make other teachers and other resources available to normal schools to handle the growing number of children with special educational needs that will transfer across.
I am anxious to involve parents. It is essential that parents of children with special educational needs should be integrated with all the other parents in the school, so that any stigma is removed. Naturally, any such school will have to pay special attention to that and provide special evenings for parents. It is part of the school's job to bring in specialist speakers, and so on. None the less, on most occasions schools should be able to integrate all parents, whatever the abilities or disabilities of their children. That would be a great social and educational gain.
I apologise for the fact that I have to leave the debate fairly soon. I should like to be present for the remainder of the debate, but I have to run an evening class for several hundred children, about half of whom are disabled. They are taking part in a lecture and demonstration by Caroline Bradley, the show-jumper, who takes a particular interest in these matters. This is an area where children of all abilities can unite, and there are other such areas, both in the classroom and outside.
In Glamorgan, most educationally subnormal children are already educated in ordinary schools. That trend should continue and be spread across the country. It will come without difficulty to ordinary comprehensives and other schools that have highly developed special units.
Whether there are children with several different kinds of special need in one school, or many children with one or two special educational needs in a school, they will have to withdraw from time to time and get away from the rest of the school. I repeat that there is a need for them to have their own sanctuary and their own special classroom area. They should be encouraged to take part in school productions, particularly in school shows containing several different sorts of sketches. For example, the 46 children to whom I referred always acted a mime sketch and were given equal applause with the other children, which was very valuable.
The Bill is welcome. I regard it as an enabling measure. It is possible to carp and say how tragic it is that there is not more largesse thrown in with it. We should all like more money to be available. Nevertheless, it is an enabling measure that the Labour Party has never seen fit to put before the House, and the Bill is therefore greatly to the credit of the Government.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
In a turgid sentence, which she used in replying as Minister of State to a protest from the Advisory Centre on Education about the White Paper that preceded this measure, Baroness Young said:It is not possible to pretend that the availability of resources is not also a factor in the rate of desirable integration.She went on to say that inthe present economic situation no rapid acceleration in the trend towards integration can be expected".In plain English what she presumably meant, although it is woefully incorrect, was that the Government do not have enough money to do the right thing by disabled children.
While the House welcomes the Bill as far as it goes, as it would welcome any attempt, however modest, to give legislative effect to the Warnock recommendations, there is widespread fear that it will soon become a dead letter in the absence of adequate resources to give it effect. That is why the question of resources is so fundamentally important in this debate.
In the explanatory and financial memorandum the Government repetitively insist that the Bill's provisions will not significantly increase public spending. Yet the Warnock recommendations, in the view of every informed commentator, very clearly require considerable extra spending if they are to have any meaningful effect.
Baroness Young admitted as much in the sentence I quoted from her reply to the Advisory Centre on Education. The Association of Metropolitan Authorities, in its statement welcoming the Warnock report, said that itsrecommendations are full of resource implications",but it did not want that to become an excuse for shelving the report. The Warnock report, in paragraph 7.56, was no less categorical on the cost of its recommendations in saying thatthe integration in ordinary schools of children currently ascertained as handicapped, if achieved without loss of educational quality, is not a cheap alternative to provision in seperate special schools, and there is no short cut.Again, Mary Warnock herself said in her article in The Times Educational Supplement to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) referred and which I quote again for emphasis that unless some of her proposals that required new spending were acted on quicklydebates about the improvement of special educational provision are just so many idle words.Writing about the need for a special education element in the initial training of all teachers and for in-service courses for existing teachers, which are plainly of major importance in facilitating integration, she went on:And so money must be forthcoming at once. But who will take the initiative? I personally have no doubt that it must be central Government and that there must be a system of earmarked grants to local authorities, with a clear indication of the kind of training for which it is to be used.47 On the same important issue, Professor Peter Mittler, director of the Hester Adrian research centre at Manchester university and a distinguished authority on mental handicap, has said:Many of us are deeply disappointed with the Government's refusal to provide resources to implement the Warnock Report. In particular, the crucial recommendations concerned with teacher training cannot be implemented within existing resources".Let us all be quite clear, therefore, about the Government's position. While Ministers still try to give the impression that they want meaningfully to implement Warnock, they are providing no extra money for the purpose. Yet, as we have seen, the report cannot be implemented to any meaningful extent without significant extra spending.
The Government cannot have it both ways. They must either provide the resources required or stop trying to delude people into thinking that their Bill fully and humanely applies the Warnock recommendations. We hear talk every day now of the Government's, not least of the Prime Minister's, boundless sympathy for disabled children and of how Ministers would delight in being able to do more to help them if only the resources were available. But sympathy is not enough. In helping disabled children, a thimbleful of resources counts for more than a bucketful of sympathy.
Nor is it true that the Government have lacked the resources to implement the Warnock recommendations. In fact, in a single Budget they crammed over £1,400 million into the pockets of the richest 5 per cent. of taxpayers. Even while they were consulting about their White Paper on Warnock, they found millions more for the assisted places scheme. Quite clearly that scheme, too, was a much higher spending priority than Warnock.
With but 1 per cent. of what the Government are now spending on the munitions of war we could both quickly transform the educational opportunities of disabled and other disadvantaged children and add immeasurably to the quality and dignity of their lives. This again is why we must insist that the problem is one not or resources, but of political will and priorities.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle
Before the right hon. Gentleman gets too carried away with his argument and talk about political will, perhaps I might ask him a question. If he feels so strongly in this way, will he explain how it is that the Government of which he was a member did absolutely nothing about the whole issue for the 13 months after the report had been published?
§ Mr. Morris
I shall be coming to the Labour Government's actions in the field of bringing new help to disabled people, not least to disabled children. I was saying that the resources have been and are available to the present Government for a meaningful implementation of Warnock, but that the Government's priorities have been and are elsewhere.
In the words of Pierre Mendès-France "to govern is to choose"—gouverner c'est choisir—and the present Government chose to help the strong and the fortunate rather than to give disabled children the help intended for them by Warnock. That is both a statement of fact and the central truth in the argument about resources for implementing Warnock in today's debate.
48 I spoke of the Government's choice. That does not mean that it is the choice of all Conservative right hon. and hon. Members. Indeed, there are many on the Conservative Benches, in particular the hon. Members for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) and for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price), who, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones), play an active part in the work of the all-party disablement group.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, who is chairman of the all-party group, is unfortunately unable to be here today because of a compelling engagement in his constituency. There is no one who has taken a deeper or more sustained interest in the Warnock recommendations than my right hon. Friend. Indeed, his interest and work in this field, like that of my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles, long pre-date the setting up of the Warnock committee. If he could be here, I know that my right hon. Friend's voice would be raised in favour of extending and strengthening the Bill and of finding the resources for its full implementation at the earliest possible date.
I referred a moment ago to Conservative Members who, in my experience, have argued the priority of the claims of disabled people, not least of disabled children, irrespective of the resistance or the attitudes of their Front Bench. It is interesting to note, too, that the Government's choice of priorities is also opposed by Conservative voters in this country. In fact, in the recent Gallup poll commissioned by New Society and the BBC, 51 per cent. of the Conservative voters interviewed even said that they were prepared to have their rates increased if that was necessary in order to improve services for disabled people. The poll also showed that integrated education for disabled children is vastly more popular among the electorate than Ministers may have thought in deciding to opt, as many would say they have opted, for Warnock on the cheap.
We on the Labour side of the House are fully entitled to stress the importance of adequate public spending in improving provisions for disabled people. In my own five years as Minister responsible for the disabled, 1974–79, the Labour Government's spending on cash help alone for chronically sick and disabled people rose from £474 million in 1974 to £1,574 million in 1979. By any standard, that was a very significant increase in expenditure.
At the same time, my Department's spending on centrally provided services for disabled people also more than trebled. Our priorities were as clear and defensible then as they are today. The Labour Government faced economic difficulties and the need to cut public spending, but our expenditure on the disabled increased substantially in each of my five years as Minister. That is our credential for stressing the importance of resources in this debate.
As a Minister in 1974, I was naturally much involved in discussions about the appointment of members of the Warnock committee. Mrs. Warnock had been appointed as chairman before 1974, but the membership of her committee was not decided until after the change of Government in that year. I am glad, therefore, now to be able publicly to express my warm appreciation of the committee's work and of the very high quality of its report.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty referred to my work as chairman of the World Planning Group which, linked to the United Nations declaration of 1981 as the International Year of Disabled People, has drawn up the 49 charter for the 1980s for disabled people world-wide. My hon. Friend asked if I would comment on this document and Mrs. Warnock and her colleagues may like to know—indeed I am sure that they will be very pleased to know—that their thinking on provision for children with special educational needs is closely reflected in the world charter's recommendations.
The charter insists, for example, that where nursery and other pre-school facilities are available, children with disabilities should be able freely to share them with other children. Again, the charter calls on all Governments to enable disabled children to learn to contribute to society in the least restrictive educational environment possible. To be half-hearted about the Warnock recommendations is, therefore, to put Britain out of step with what is being commended in this the International Year of Disabled People to the Heads of State of countries all over the world.
The House as a whole should be deeply concerned that many of the most important of the Warnock recommendations have been unceremoniously ditched by the present Government. As I have shown, they have been ditched not because of any lack of resources, but because the Government quite deliberately and without apology have given higher priority to alternative claims.
Their priorities can, of course, be reviewed at any time. They could be changed in a single Budget Statement and we must hope that our debate here today, and the more detailed exchanges that will follow in Standing Committee, may have some effect in persuading the Government that it is both foolhardy and inhumane to deny disabled children and young people the right help, in the right place and at the right time. It is foolhardy since failure to give such help increases the likelihood of a life of financial dependence on the State, and inhumane because it involves a very cruel waste of human potential.
In this regard, the Warnock committee identified as a neglected area the provision for training of 16 to 19-year-olds and Peter Mittler has put it to me that, in his view, one of the most urgent necessities is to ensure that disabled children can remain at school until they are 19, if it is in their agreed interests to do so. He points out that, in consequence of current spending cuts, however, many local authorities are making disabled children leave soon after their sixteenth birthday, although their teachers and parents agree that they could benefit from remaining at school.
I understand that Mrs. Warnock has said that such authorities are close to breaking the law. Since it is the Government's policy to encourage non-disabled young people to remain at school beyond the age of 16, we are entitled to know what action Ministers are taking to protect disabled youngsters from being discriminated against. Moreover, if there is any doubt whatever about the effect of the law as it now stands, there must be a clear, legal and urgent commitment to provide continuing and/or further education up to the age of 19 for those young people with special educational needs who—or whose parents—call for such provision. That plea has the very strong backing of the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults. I very much hope that the Minister will make a positive response when he winds up the debate.
Not only are disabled young people being hurried out of school. Whenever they leave school, their job prospects are very much worse even than those of young people 50 generally. Yet last Thursday the Select Committee on Employment reported on a decision by the MSC to cut by 120 the staff who help disabled people to find work. That was a shabby and shameful decision; one of the unkindest cuts of all. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding), as Chairman of the Select Committee, described the cut as "intolerable" and the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst), as reported in the press on 30 January, said:All of us in the committee were shocked that the MSC could have got its priorities so sadly wrong that it was prepared to make cuts in services for the disabled. To injure those who are already disabled shows a lack of feeling and of proper priorities—and to have done so during the IYDP shows astonishing insensitivity.I implore the Secretary of State for Employment to act very urgently to reverse the cut and I hope that members of the Select Committee on Educaton, Science and Arts will be as pointed in their remarks about the lack of financial provision for this Bill as were their colleagues in the Select Committee on Employment on the scandal of the MSC's priorities.
For my part, I hope also that local authorities will be prepared to give the Government a lead by committing themselves to some tangible and lasting improvement in provision for disabled people in 1981. At the same time, with the National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom and the Association of Partially Sighted Teachers and Students, I should like to see local authorities taking a planned approach to ending the unnecessary segregation of disabled children. No one expects them to achieve total success overnight, but they are eminently more likely to succeed if they work for integration on the basis of a development plan.
It was my pleasure, in March 1979, to be asked to open the discussion at the United Nations in New York on what should be the aims of this International Year of Disabled People. There were representatives there from the north, south, east and west of the world and from rich and poor countries alike. We all hoped that the International Year of Disabled People would prove to have been about fraternity and man's humanity to man. We agreed that disabled people have the same rights as all humanity to grow and to learn, to work and to create, to love and to be loved. Without these rights, they are further handicapped by the loss of opportunities and responsibilities which should properly be theirs.
It is because they are mainly about extending rights, opportunities and responsibilities that the Warnock recommendations are so very important. There is still time for them to be more faithfully reflected in the Bill, and for it to become much more than a guide book for the future. I most earnestly trust that it will be both strengthened and improved before it becomes law.
§ Mr. John Hannam (Exeter)
I have listened to two speakers with unparalleled experience in teaching and disablement. I hope to contribute a few constructive comments about the Bill from my experience as secretary of the all-party disablement group and from my long involvement in the cause of trying to integrate handicapped children into normal schools.
I welcome the Bill because it represents the long-awaited implementation of the general principle of integrating the disabled into normal life. I am sure that all hon. Members would agree with that. I campaigned in 51 favour of section 10 of the Education Act 1976. Last year, when my right hon. and hon. Friends were engaged in the Education (No. 2) Bill we had some little local difficulties about the rights of parents of handicapped children. The Government promised that the Warnock report would be implemented this year. The Government have kept their promise.
I am grateful to the Government for taking such a positive step in the International Year of Disabled People. However, it is obvious that the lack of financial resources will reduce the effectiveness and speed of provision of special education in our schools. I express my thanks, and those of the all-party disablement group, for the opportunities that have been accorded us for discussion with the Minister of State, Baroness Young. Some of our suggestions have been incorporated in the Bill. During the Committee and Report stages I hope that other concessions and alterations will be made.
I also welcome the new procedure for consideration of the Bill in Committee. I am sure that the opportunity to take evidence from the handicapped and disabled organisations and from parents will prove most rewarding. In addition, we must not forget the teaching profession and those who have dedicated their lives to working in special schools. My consituency has several special schools of which I am very proud. They teach many seriously speech-impaired and ESN children. Whatever else we do, we must not reduce the effectiveness of our special schools. We must bring other schools up to their standards and introduce some of their high standards into our normal schools as they become equipped to cope with handicapped pupils.
I welcome the Bill's broad approach to a system of individual assessment of educational needs. However, I should like to pick out one or two areas about which I have substantial reservations, and in which changes will be needed. I turn first to assessment under the new method. Whereas the present categories are based on objectively defined criteria, the new method is more subjective and gives a great deal of discretion to local education authorities. My colleagues and I in the all-party disablement group have expressed our misgivings before. Indeed, those misgivings have been mentioned again today. We are worried about the variations in local authority provision for the disabled and handicapped.
Once again, we may open up further local discrimination if we do not offer more protection to children with special educational needs against inappropriate educational provision. The Warnock report recommended that a duty should be placed on schools to publish information about their provision for special education. All that clause 2 does is to place a duty upon local education authoritiesto keep under review the arrangements made by them".In my view, a duty should be placed upon local education authorities to publish information on the facilities, services and physical layout of their schools relating to special educational needs. This would assist parents in making an informed choice, as they will be doing under the Bill, and would ensure an appropriate match between a child's needs and the educational provision made. It would also protect the parents when they wished to make an appeal.
Clause 2 also uses phrases such asuse their best endeavours … to secure52 special education for a registered pupil. That requirement is too weak, too vague and too discretionary. It will allow the wide variation in standards of provision between different areas which causes us such great concern in many other areas of local government provision—for example, housing aids and adaptations, concessionary fares, and so on.
Clause 2 also refers, rather vaguely, to teacher awareness. Making teachers aware of special needs is of little use unless they are provided with the appropriate skills needed to teach those with various disabilities. As has been pointed out, teacher training was one of Warnock's priority areas, because of the importance of special skills and attitudes which the Government have constantly stressed as being necessary. The Warnock recommendations on qualifications and extra salaries and on the inclusion of a special education element in all teacher training courses are very important. Therefore, although they are not included in the Bill, I urge the Minister to ensure that those vital aspects with regard to teacher training are implemented as soon as possible. In the meantime, we must ensure that local education authorities have sufficient funds to maintain special in-service training courses.
It is also disappointing that there is no mention in the Bill of the Warnock recommendation on providing more opportunities for disabled people themselves to become teachers. A case was referred to me recently by Sir Geoffrey Gilbertson, chairman of the National Advisory Council for the Employment of Disabled People, in which a girl who has two degrees has been told categorically that there is no possible chance of her ever being a teacher because she uses an electric wheelchair. That is just one example. I am sure that many others have been brought to the attention of hon. Members.
I turn to the question of the link between parents and local education authorities. Warnock recommended that there should be a named person who would ensure that there is continuing support, advice and co-ordination of services from the time of birth of a handicapped child onwards. In view of the involvement already of district handicap teams and pediatric assessment centres, the health visitor seems a sensible person to act as the link between parents and the local authority. The Bill, however, contains no such provision, and the Minister of State in another place has stated that it is simply not practicable to legislate for a named person. However, we had hoped that in our discussions with the Minister we had secured agreement that someone, even if it were in the voluntary sector, could perform that link role.
Clause 5 states that further information may be obtained from an officer of the authority. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether that local education officer is intended to fulfil the role of the named person. If we are to maintain a full relationship between the education authority and the dedicated and anxious parents of the child, there must be someone whom the parents can contact at any stage. Why not establish that responsibility in the Bill?
Clause 5 also requires that the education authority, having made an assessmemt of a child's educational needs, should notify the parents in writing, giving reasons. But those reasons could be very vague. I should like to see specific categories of reasons included in the regulations. They should include, for example, a resume of the child's intellectual functioning, the home circumstances and a description of the adequacy of the education provision in 53 a school—because that detailed information is extremely important for the parents' right of appeal to the Secretary of State—together with access to the documents on which the assessmemt is based. Parents are in an extremely difficult position in themselves trying to assess the worthiness of a local education authority's decision. The light of direct appeal to the Secretary of State is very welcome indeed, but parents must have the right to see all the documents upon which the assessment is made.
In the United States of America, experience has shown that rights of access tend to produce far better reports. Our own experience in the United Kingdom often shows the subjectivity of social service workers' reports. I accept that there may be cases—the cause of the handicap, for example, or the life expectancy of the child—in which it might be difficult to transmit that information to the parents, but surely it is better to treat them as adults and to accept the possicle consequences of access to reports, at least when they are making an appeal.
Also under clause 5, if the Secretary of State upholds a parent's appeal, hemay, if he thinks fit, direct the local education authority to reconsider their decision.My right hon. Friend referred to that provision in his opening remarks. Again, that is far too weak. If an appeal is successful, the Secretary of State should be able to direct the local education authority to determine special provision.
The same criticism applies to the appeals procedure under clause 8. If the committee finds in favour of the parent, its decision will not be binding on the local education authority. Under the Education Act 1980, such decisions are binding in the case of non-handicapped children. It is that kind of discrimination that we are anxious to remove. I appreciate that there is an additional right of appeal to the Secretary of State. But if the rejection by the local education authority is made, for example, on financial grounds, it is extremely likely that the Secretary of State will find himself having to do likewise. In any case, I understand that the parents have lost their right of appeal to the Ombudsman. Perhaps the Minister will confirm whether it is true that under the new procedure the parents will have lost their right of appeal to the Ombudsman.
Finally, I turn to the question of resources, which has been a constant theme in Opposition speeches today. We all wish handicapped children to benefit from normal school education and to be able to integrate with other children. The shortage of money will make it difficult to achieve progress, although falling school rolls would normally afford the opportunity to switch resources to this new special education sector. Possibly it was this aspect to which my right hon. Friend referred earlier. The recession means that the maximum use of existing resources is required. As the Government have stated, that means improved co-ordination between education, health and social work services, and between the statutory and the voluntary agencies concerned with the needs of handicapped children.
The need for a clearly identified structure of consultation for special needs education could be satisfied by a three-tier system, as recommended by Warnock. First, as was recommended, there would be a national advisory committee which would issue guidelines and examples of good practice. At the second level, we have the existing regional advisory councils, which could be 54 reconstituted to make them more representative. At the third level, there would be designation of the named person as an essential continuing link between parents and statutory and voluntary services. We should not be frightened of laying down specific requirements upon local education authorities. The new rate support grant formula has moved very sharply in that direction. So why, in this International Year of Disabled People, should we not at least set a proper framework for the education of our handicapped children?
This is a very important piece of legislation. I fully support the principle of integration. I have fought long enough for it. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will wish to explore any means of improving the Bill during its passage through Parliament. If I am a member of the Standing Committee, I shall hope to assist in that objective. Today, I fully support the Second Reading of the Bill. I hope that all other hon. Members will do likewise. Like my hon. Friend, I too offer an apology for missing the later part of the debate. I, too, am attending an International Year of Disabled People function this evening and may not be able to be here for the close of the debate.
§ Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)
I have received a substantial number of submissions regarding this debate. I have received them from the Association of Disabled Professionals, RADAR, the all-party disablement group, MENCAP, the National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom, the Advisory Centre for Education, and the Salford education committee. Those submissions have a common theme, and the Secretary of State elaborated further. Warnock without resources is a shabby sham. I say this to the Secretary of State. On reflection, given the choice all over again, would he have set the implementation of Warnock against assisted places? Would he really have done that, particularly when we are talking about children with a double handicap and are doing nothing about it? Any fool can pass legislation, but in the end it is effective implementation that counts. The effective implementation of Warnock requires resources, without any doubt whatever.
Indeed, the submission made by the local authority in my own area contains words that are almost identical, but I do not propose to submit a script to the Secretary of State It states:The conclusion to the White Paper points out that many recommendations of the Warnock Committee do not require legislation, but seek to extend good practice. It admits however that even the latter will necessitate additional manpower and funds, and that these will not be available until the national economic situation improves appreciably.If I were again asked to choose between assisted places or Warnock, I know what my answer would be. I should support Warnock all the way down the line.
§ Mr. Carlisle
Perhaps I may point out that the hon. Gentleman ought to take some cognisance of the facts. First, as I pointed out, on the education of children in special schools alone—which is only part of the expenditure which goes on those with special needs—we now spend £250 million a year. That in itself is about 4½ 55 per cent. of expenditure on education. The assisted places scheme will cost £3 million, which is just 1 per cent. of part of the expenditure on special schools at present. Therefore, it is dishonest and utterly hypocritical of the hon. Gentleman to try to suggest that in respect of the sort of issues about which he and the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) talk, but about which they did nothing when they had power, £3 million would make any difference at all. That is humbug, and he knows it.
Secondly, in any event, the children involved in the assisted places scheme are at present being educated free elsewhere at the expense of the public, rather than being provided on a means-tested basis with fees assistance for schools such as Manchester grammar school, which the hon. Gentleman knows well. In fact, the additional cost to the resources of the country is probably nil.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
The right hon. and learned Gentleman gave the case away, because he had to make a second speech to defend himself. Any additional sum of money made available for these people is worth while, and nothing will alter my thinking on that.
§ Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)
Surely the point is that the State already pays in subsidies to the private sector of education upwards of £200 million, and that is the figure that should be set against the money spent on the education provided for specially handicapped children. Our argument relates to the additional sums available for the assisted places scheme rather than for these children.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
I feel rather like a boxing referee. I said that I would take 10 minutes, and I am now in the middle of another bout.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is clearly badly rattled. My hon. Friend will have his own words to dismiss the hogwash that we have heard from the Secretary of State, but I hope that he will again make the point that during my five years as Minister we increased spending on the chronically sick and disabled in terms of cash benefits alone by £1,100 million and at the same time trebled expenditure on centrally provided sevices for the disabled.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
I accept every word that my right hon. Friend has said.
I now turn to the submission made by MENCAP. It is highly critical of the Bill because the three major recommendations of Warnock have been totally overthrown. The question of the pre-school disabled child has been ignored, as has the question of making better training facilities available for teachers.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Dr. Rhodes Boyson) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
It may be unbelievable to the hon. Gentleman, but it is true. No provision has been made for the school leaver. Let me deal with these three things one by one. Neonatal care; the child under 2; the child who can be assessed; the child whose needs can be gauged; the child who needs care right from the outset so that it can make a contribution much later in life; and the child who needs education before the age of 5 in order to overcome its handicap and play its part in our society, have all been 56 ignored. No wonder MENCAP is annoyed. No wonder it feels that this is humbug and that the Bill is Warnock in name only without resources.
If we had had a proper multi-disciplinary analysis of the needs of the child, and if we had implemented paragraph 460 of the report of the Social Services Committee, which deals with the perinatal mortality figures, we would have discovered that we could have made provision for the child before it reached the age of 5, yet there has been no such provision. There is no talk of that in the Bill, but it loomed very large in Warnock. It was an important element in Warnock. But there is no reference in the Bill. It has been ignored. Therefore, the Bill is Warnock in name only.
I suggest that the right hon. and learned Gentleman goes back to the Treasury to see whether he can get some more money. The hundreds of millions of pounds that were lashed out to those who had ample resources initially could have helped substantially to implement what every hon. Member in his heart of hearts would like to see implemented. It is a case of accepting these values.
I shall come back to that point in a moment. It follows that the child who is disabled and handicapped, who leaves school because of that handicap and is not given the opportunity of continuing education is a doubly handicapped child because he is denied the opportunity of making a contribution to the economic and social life of our country. That problem could be overcome by allocating a small sum of money in relative terms. The Secretary of State could go one step along the road by saying that in respect of further education for the handicapped child he will not use the discretionary grant, but will make the grant mandatory so that the child can overcome the handicap, make a contribution to society and the community and lead a full life. The resources required for that are not all that great.
My third observation involves the question of access. I have raised this point again and again, as have my right hon. Friends the Members for Manchester, Wythenshawe and for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) and the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam). I hope that the Government will give a fair wind to the Private Member's Bill that is being brought forward by the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley). I hope, too, that we shall deal with access to public buildings. When we talk about access it is always assumed that we are talking about those in wheel chairs. There are compensatory benefits from making access available to schools. That applies not only to those in wheel chairs, but to the elderly, to women who wheel prams and to mothers who wheel push chairs. Benefits would accrue if we made better use of our school resources.
Peter Large of the Association of Disabled Professionals and Bert Massie of RADAR have said that access provides the first chance of education. It allows able-bodied children to realise the size and nature of the problem. When we succeeded in enacting the "Alf Morris' Bill, the then occupants of the Official Box shook their heads vigorously when we talked about the numbers involved. That was their reaction when we talked about the missing million. Everyone said "Wait for the Amelia Harris report and you will realise the size of the problem". Amelia Harris reported, and it was not 1 million but 3¼ million.
I want the able-bodied, the allegedly normal in our society, to be aware of the size and nature of the problem. I want the able-bodied child to mix with handicapped 57 children and derive benefit from realising that there is 10 per cent. handicap—that is the minimum percentage—in our society.
What do I want for the disabled? I want them to pay income tax. I want them to earn a living. I want them to be independent. I want them to be integrated. Whether they have the chance to achieve any of those things depends upon the education that they receive. If they are denied the opportunity of education, and if the full implementation of the Warnock report is not accepted, we are denying them their birthright.
I do not want to rehearse old arguments. Some may say that that is because I find them embarrassing. I voted against my Government in the past, and I hope that in Committee, when the force and strength of the argument is brought out, my colleagues and I will be joined by Conservative Members who want to see the Warnock report implemented.
The microchip has arrived and is amongst us. It is able to do more to transform the lives of the disabled than any other single factor this century. Although I do not want this to happen, there is the distinct possibility of work at home at the end of a computer terminal. However, before that is achieved the handicapped will have to be given the chance of education. They have to know something of what life is about. They have to be integrated as far as possible.
We have funded to a large extent a device for the non-communicating child that is called blissymbolics. Those of us who are involved in the charities have given as much as we can to keep it going. We have a resource centre at Chailey Heritage and there are people working in a voluntary capacity at Cardiff at a school run by the Spastics Society. I have seen the device work. I have seen severely handicapped non-communicating children of different nationalities conduct a sort of conversation, achieve a rapport and communicate. However, we lack resources.
The Secretary of State is a kindly man when he is not attacking me. Sometimes his heart is in the right place. He has a chance to redeem himself. He has a chance to divert some resources into education for the handicapped child. It is in his hands, and no one else's, to ensure—this is crucial—that handicapped children play a full and vital role in our social and economic life.
§ 6.7 pm
§ Mr. Malcolm Thornton (Liverpool, Garston)
In 1974, some four months after the present Prime Minister, who was then the Secretary of State for Education and Science, set up the Warnock committee, I made my first official visit to a school for handicapped children in Wallasey. I was due to talk to its fifth and sixth forms. It was possibly the most difficult audience that I have ever had to address. There was an IQ range from about 90 to 150. I was left with a profound impression.
The second incident came about when I was leaving the school. I was walking along a rather narrow corridor with the head teacher. Coming towards us was a small boy with calipers on both legs and walking on crutches. I would have stepped out of his way to let him pass, but he backed up against the wall to allow the head teacher and myself to pass. I commented on this to the head and he replied "You are a guest here and I am the head master. We try to make them feel and act normally. That was the way in which they would be expected to behave in a normal 58 school." Perhaps that one incident more than any other convinced me that we had to work more and more towards integration in our educational provision for the range of educational needs.
It was with some considerable pleasure in January 1979 that, as chairman of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities educaton committee, I was able to welcome the Warnock report. Many of the arguments urged in the association's evidence to Warnock were included in the recommendations. The report is rooted in the best practice of LEAs. The association considered it essential that the report should be used as a stimulus for changing the law and practice of special education, encouraging a wider concept of special education needs and improving people's attitudes.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the remarks of the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones). Clearly the Bill does not purport to be Warnock. Many of us will agree with him that we must in future do much more to implement the Warnock report. However, the Bill is an important step at this time. It is a measure that the House should unreservedly welcome for what it does, because it does do something which hitherto has perhaps been lacking.
I welcome the wider definition of learning difficulties. There are few precise dividing lines and there is a blurring at the edges on this matter. It is important, in our attitudes and in the changing of attitudes which we are seeking to promote, that we recognise this blurring at the edges.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) said earlier referring to his experience as a teacher, one cannot definitely prescribe where those lines should be drawn. We must draw upon experience and practice and recognise that the needs of all children must be taken into consideration. We must consider the effect on a child who is suffering from a handicap. What will happen to him or her if he is put in large classes, with children who do not suffer similar handicaps? Similarly, what effect would that have on the children who are not so handicapped? All those things must be considered—almost on an individual basis.
However, we have seen a massive change of attitudes—particularly during the last decade—which I hope will continue. I welcome that the movement towards greater parental involvement and the recognition that—as the Warnock report says—for the very young, for children under 5 and certainly for those under 2, the parent is the teacher. For children over 5, the teacher comes more into his own. We must ensure that the arrangements for parents are as strong as they can be.
I welcome the opportunities for greater information to be made available to parents. I am sure that we have all had terrible experiences in relation to this matter. It happened to me recently at a surgery, when a lady came to me who did not know of the opportunities available to enable her to deal with her handicapped child. Somewhere along the line, society had failed that family. That child was 4 years old and for the first time its mother was being made aware of the facilities available to her, which had been available to her since the day that child was born. We must ensure that in our information services to parents we give as much information as we can as early as possible.
I welcome the strengthening of the appeals procedure. My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) and I discussed this at the time of the 1980 Bill. We were concerned about the appeals procedures and their 59 relationship with parents of handicapped children and of those requiring special education. That procedure is an important extra safeguard to enable them, at the end of the day—if they are not satisfied—to go to the Secretary of State. I welcome that additional strength.
When considering integration into schools, teacher attitude and the sort of teacher training that is essential are all too important. We must ensure that in initial and in-service training far more emphasis is laid upon the need for integration and for teachers to be better qualified, to enable them fully to participate in this change of attitude.
In the submission that we made in our report of 1979 we received evidence of good practice from various local education authorities. I am sure that my hon. Friends would like to hear one example, which illustrates what can be done without having to have too much regard to resource implications.
Two LEAs described their teams of advisory teachers in basic skills. In both schemes, the teams of specially trained and centrally based teachers go into schools, work alongside and sometimes in place of the regular teachers. They act, as their title would imply, both as advisers, in a practical sense, and as teachers of children with special educational needs. That is one important aspect where an LEA can develop its own in-service training for teachers in its employ. Such schemes need not have great resource implications for the LEAs concerned.
I turn now to the resource implications, in view of the concern which has been quite rightly expressed, particularly by Opposition Members. Inevitably, the recommendations of Warnock are full of resource implications. However, at the time my local authority colleagues and I said that we believed that those implications should be used neither as an excuse for shelving the report until times were better nor as an opportunity for an automatic increases in public expenditure to cover all the proposals at once.
Since so much rests on present good practice, on experiments and on schemes still being worked out, some of the Warnock proposals are already covered in the budgets of some LEAs. Others may, and can be, achieved by reordering planned expenditure as policies change. Any overall increase in public expenditure to cover the Warnock recommendations must, however, be taken as part of the continual dialogue between central and local government on expenditure levels and the rate support grant.
Reference was made earlier to special allocations to local authorities in order to enable them to implement the Warnock proposals. I am sure that most hon. Members will be familiar with the problem of the specific grant and the attitude of the local authority to it. Far too often in the past councils of both political persuasions have approached Governments of both political persuasions and asked them to provide the money to do this, that or the other, but they have said that the Government must include the money in the rate support grant and that they must allow the councils to decide whether to spend it. In other words, on far too many occasions local councils have been their own worst enemy when it comes to implementing moneys allocated to them by national Government for a national Government-inspired initiative.
We must ensure that, if money is to be provided, it will be spent. It is important that local authorities realise that. 60 I made that point when I was chairman of the committee and I have made it in the House since I became a Member. I shall go on making it until we do something about the way in which we organise our local government finance. Specific grants are not supported by either political party in the local authority associations. That is a clear point. Therefore, if my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State is able to make his Treasury colleagues give him specific sums, there is no guarantee, if that sum goes into the rate support grant, that those moneys will be spent for his intended purpose. Therefore, it is important that we accept that point on resource implications.
We must see that the good practices which are already followed in so many authorities throughout the country are spread as far as possible. As Mary Warnock set out in her report, we must try to ensure that the disparity of provision, not just in special education but in education across its whole range of services, is eliminated as far as possible. We must ensure that people—wherever they may be—can expect for their children the sort of education in one part of the country that would be received in another.
Finally, I close by quoting a sentence from the Warnock report:Those who work with children with special educational needs should regard themselves as having a crucial and developing role in a society which is now committed, not merely to tending and caring for its handicapped members, as a matter of charity, but to educating them as a matter of right, and to developing their potential to the full.I believe that this Bill is an important step along the road towards a goal that no one could possibly oppose.
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Thornton), in a caring and intelligent speech, started by talking of a school in which he came across a handicapped child. On Friday I was speaking to a school in my constituency, and I explained the functions of a Member of Parliament. I said that we dealt basically in laws. I tried to explain that a law was something which made people richer or poorer, which made people better or, in some cases, worse off, and which made it legal to do things which previously had been illegal, also vice-versa. One cannot help noticing one extraordinary feature of this Bill, which will doubtless become an Act and to which one cannot take exception. That feature is that it does not do anything except give a not bad definition of one or two terms which previously had worse definitions.
I am concerned about the inadequacy of the Bill for a number of reasons, not least that when I go to the United Nations in the spring and I am asked what my country did for the International Year of Disabled People I shall be able to say "In the first month of the year we introduced a Bill which does not enable anyone to do anything they could not have done before, and does not provide any extra money or allow anyone to spend it if they had wanted to. But we did assess special educational needs rather neatly."
I am particularly sorry on that score because the Warnock report, as the House will agree, is brilliant. Whereas one does not take exception to what the Bill does—only to what it does not do—it means that, having this Bill, we are unlikely to have any Warnock-based legislation from the Government for the remainder of their term of office. The main priorities of Warnock, which are more teachers, especially visiting teachers, integration, 61 named persons and education before and after the statutory education ages, are the matters upon which we most need legislation.
Let me begin with the young. With those under the age of 5, 3 or even 2, here we must look at cost not as a provision of capital but as an investment. The Secretary of State and all other right hon. and hon. Members know very well that the money that is spent in educating the young handicapped will be saved in later years when those people will not be as great a financial burden on society as they would have been without education. The Government must look at this matter just as they have looked at BL. They have not wanted to give thousands of millions of pounds to BL, but they have said that they are pursuing an investment. Let them do the same for the young disabled.
I remind the Secretary of State that when the school-leaving age was raised it closed a gap that had previously existed between the leaving age for normal education and that for the handicapped. Before it was raised the handicapped had to stay on at school until they were 16. When the school-leaving age was raised that would have been an excellent time to raise—say, to 19—the educational umbrella under which the handicapped had compulsorily had to stay at school. I am sorry that that was not done, and I am equally sorry that this Bill, good as far as it goes, although it does not go far enough, does not do it either. The Bill will allow authorities like Oxfordshire to continue to behave in a way which some will say is disgraceful and others will describe merely as uncharitable.
The second point on which I am sorry that there is no legislation is the excellent suggestion of Warnock about named persons. My wife, who is deeply involved in MENCAP in Cambridgeshire, and particularly in my constituency, has given papers on the identification of the handicapped. It is something that I did not come across until I saw her case notes on a mother who gave birth to a handicapped child when there was no one available qualified to tell the parents of the handicap. The point was reached at which the mother asked for her baby and was told by the nurse that there was a little bit of trouble and that the mother would be told about it on the afternoon of the following day when the visiting doctor was due. As patron of the Down's Children Association, I heard of a father who was rung up and told that his child was suffering from Down's syndrome. He had no idea what that was.
The great strength of the named person scheme is that the moment a handicapped baby is diagnosed as being handicapped, or possibly handicapped, a member of an interdisciplinarian or multiprofessional panel of experts is available to help. Such a person would not only be of immense support from the beginning, but would be someone to whom the parents were referred at the birth. There could also be—the Duke of Buccleuch mentioned this in the other place—a liaison between the DHSS and the local education authority so that both could plan from the beginning to receive that person into the machine.
The other thing that a named person could do, given the very low take-up of available benefits, particularly among the ethnic minorities, is to tell parents of the allowances that are available. These are the mobility and attendance allowances and local authority grants for making homes 62 more suitable to the needs of handicaped children. It is for these reasons that I am deeply saddened by the omission from the Bill of any reference to named persons.
The hon. Member for Garston made a valid point—one referred to by Mrs. Shirley Williams when she was Secretary of State for Education and Science. It is the inability of a Government Department such as Education and Science to allocate money to a specific cause. If a Department gives money to a local authority for education, as it was by Mrs. Williams, that authority can decide that it is needed much more desperately for road surfacing.
I do not want to become involved in the minutiae of an argument about Warnock against assisted places, although I am sure that whatever sum is taken up by the assisted places scheme will be immensely resented by all right thinking hon. Members
§ Mr. Freud
I said "right thinking" people. That money would pay for a nucleus of named persons to do the work that we dearly want done. It would pay for overtime, or mileage allowance, for people desperately needed by those who have had enough misery imposed upon them through giving birth to a handicapped child and I refer to the initial misery before it becomes qualified joy, which it so very often does.
§ Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
One aspect of the Bill is of great concern not only to me, but to the medical staff in hospital psychiatric units for children and adolescents, and also to the staff of the educational units attached to the hospitals. The gravamen of the Warnock report is its reference to "special schools" to which children are sent because of their special educational needs. However, it appears that the same term, and therefore the same legislation, applies to schools attended by children not becasue of their educational needs, but because they are educational units attached to the hospitals attended by children for medical reasons.
§ Mr. D. E. Thomas (Merioneth)
Do I understand the hon. Gentleman to mean that youngsters in mentally handicapped or handicapped hospitals do not have educational needs? How can he distinguish between their medical, social and educational needs?
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
If the hon. Gentleman contains himself and listens, he will discover what I mean. It will then be unnecessary for him to guess what I intend to say. The Bill refers to "special schools" in the context of special educational needs. Children and adolescents are referred to psychiatric units not because of their educational needs but because of their medical needs. They are referred to them by their general practitioners—not by the headmasters of their schools, not by the social workers, and not by anyone other than their GPs. Their GPs refer them to consultant psychiatrists. As is the way with all hospitals, the consultant decides whether, on medical grounds, a young person should be admitted to the hospital in his clinical care. If the young person falls within the educational age band, he will receive education while in the psychiatric unit. That is analogous to the education a child receives if he is in hospital not for psychiatric, but for physical reasons. If he is in hospital for a short time, he will receive education.
63 However, a number of snags need to be avoided. In some psychiatric hospitals a patient is there for a comparatively short period and, therefore, attends the educational unit attached to the hospital for a comparatively short period. It is quite inappropriate that a recording scheme—or a statement, as it is now called—designed to meet the needs of children attending "special schools" for a considerable period should become an administrative burden on the staff of the educational units attached to psychiatric hospitals for which the reporting process was not designed by Warnock or intended by the Government.
However carefully the Bill may be drafted, it is inevitable that youngsters to whom the statement system applies will feel, rightly or wrongly, that a certain stigma is attached to them. I hope that we all want to avoid—and a significant category of doctors want to avoid—GPs not referring children in need of psychiatric care to a psychiatric unit for fear that that will automatically result in the child being brought within the purview of the statement system, which is primarily designed to deal not with medical needs but with educational needs. As a result, children will be deprived of the psychiatric facilities from which they would benefit because, in the view of their GP or their parents, they may acquire a label which will continue with them in their educational file. They will be deprived of the psychiatric attention that they need.
That is not simply conjecture on my part. It is a real worry which has been put to me both by a consultant child psychiatrist running a unit, and by a senior member of the staff of the school attached to the unit. Although I cannot discern this from reading the Bill, it may not be the Government's intention, first in what the Bill actually states and secondly—which I cannot know in advance—in the regulations which the Secretary of State will make pursuant to the Bill, to categorise the educational units attached to psychiatric hospitals as "special schools". It did not matter that they were classed as "special schools" in the past, because that did not carry with it the reporting procedure.
I have not written to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State on this subject because it is not primarily an educational worry. I wrote to the Minister for Health, who is an experienced consultant child psychiatrist, but whose prime responsibility is health. I thought it more appropriate to write to him, and for him to make any inter-departmental recommendations to his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. My intervention on the debate is exploratory rather than declamatory. It is intended to draw attention to side effects which my right hon. and learned Friend, on reflection, would not wish to arise, while there is still time to amend the Bill, and to bear the matter in mind while framing the regulations. But there is already something in the Bill, in clause 10(2) on page 8, which gives me some concern in this respect. It says:The parent of a child who is of compulsory school age and is registered as a pupil at a special school, in accordance with arrangements made by a local education authority, shall not withdraw the child from that school without the consent of the local education authority".I am at a disadvantage, in that I am not quite sure of the purport of the wordsis registered as a pupil at a special school".64 If it means that the child has been admitted to the psychiatric unit of a hospital and attends what is regarded in law as a "special school" attached to that hospital, it follows that the hospital can no longer discharge as well as admit in terms of medical criteria.
This in itself is unfortunate. The hospital cannot discharge because that would mean discharging from the "special school" as well. It is, of course, invariably the practice in such "special schools" for the principal to contact the principal of the school to which the child would go on discharge from hospital. But it is important that this necessary practice should not become so formalised that the medical admission to and discharge from psychiatric hospitals should cease to be taken on medical criteria.
I give an example—of which my right hon. and learned Friend may not be aware—of the sorts of problems that can arise in the grey area that is represented by such educational units. Although there is no legal requirement to this effect, it is the practice that Her Majesty's inspector of schools—who inspects and advises on problems arising in the educational units does not visit the educational unit without his opposite number on the medical side visiting synchronously. It so happens that this means that, if his opposite medical number has died and no new appointment has been made, the inspector will not in practice visit that special school because he cannot be accompanied by the colleague who does not exist. This is, of course, absurd, but I want to draw the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend to the fact that, because of the dual medical and educational role of such establishments, there can be ridiculous or unintended side effects.
§ Mr. D. E. Thomas
Is the consultant psychiatrist who has been advising or briefing the hon. Gentleman aware of the existence of the child guidance service, or has he been deliberately misleading the hon. Gentleman? I ask that because the whole purpose of the child guidance service—particularly in Scotland, where it is ahead of England and Wales—is to combine the very factors which cause the hon. Member concern. There is then an interdisciplinary approach to the emotional, psychological, medical and education problems of children.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
The unit to which I am directing my attention is not in Scotland but in England, which is not perhaps surprising, as I am an English Member. Moreover, the responsibility which rests on the consultant in whose professional care a child or young person is placed is not a shared responsibility but a unique responsibility.
There are, of course, many other aspects of that child's or young person's total problem which are not medical. There are some which are educational, some which are financial, and some which are locational, in that the child's own home may be in a very inaccessible place. The aspects are almost unlimited, but that is not the point. The point is that once one applies a term such as "special school" in a given context, changing the legislation may produce side effects which are unintended and inappropriate.
The point of my intervention in the debate is to ask my right hon. and learned Friend and the Under-Secretary of State—who will be dealing not only with the Bill but with the regulations subsequently made under the powers given in the Bill—to bear in mind the special side effects which 65 may arise, to guard against them, and to avoid loading the staff of these educational units with greatly increased paperwork, especially concerning short-stay patients—patients with a much shorter stay than in the ordinary "special school"—so that they have less time to spend on the care of their students who are primarily patients in the psychiatric units to which they are attached.
§ Mr. Ednyfed Hudson Davies (Caerphilly)
I am delighted that the principle of integration into ordinary schools in the case of people who suffer from handicap or disablement is likely to become a matter of legislation. But it really involves something far wider than the problem of the education of the handicapped; it is about the wider concept of the integration of people who suffer from various kinds of handicap and disability into the total life of society. This will involve massive rethinking, substantial retraining and quite a change in people's attitudes. It will involve the adoption of more enlightened attitudes. It will involve tremendous expenditure on resources and amenities.
The very architecture of many ordinary schools is unsuitable for this kind of change without a great deal of money being spent. There will have to be retraining of teachers and a new approach to the training of teachers in the future. I very much hope—this point has already been stressed—that specific training for handling the problems associated with disablement will be part of the ordinary curriculum of teacher training. If there is to be integration at a school level, there ought to be integration at the training level, too. All this will cost a great deal of money.
The kind of change that is being envisaged has already taken place to some extent in, for example, an area which two of us on the Labour Benches represent in Mid-Glamorgan. To some extent, this was an inheritance from the old county of Glamorgan of problems which arose in connection with the very large numbers of spina bifida children born about 16 years ago. That gave rise to special pressures which led to a good deal of integration in ordinary schools, with the result that in that part of South Wales a good deal of experience has already been gained about integration Where innovatory steps have been taken, these can be of benefit to other authorities in the future.
I should like to stress two very real dangers. First, is there enough muscle in the measure as it has been presented to prod the unenterprising, rather lethargic, slow-moving authorities which might be slow to embark on early integration? Clause 2(3) lists three conditions which have to be fulfilled before it is necessary to undertake the education of a child in an ordinary school. One of them is described loosely asthe efficient use of resources".That can be a proper claim that a sensible measure of economy is exercised. On the other hand, it can equally well be a blanket excuse for refusing to undertake expenditure. I should like to see something far more forceful put into the Bill in Committee.
The other great danger that I see is that there will be a shift from special schools to ordinary schools without full provision being made for the handicapped in ordinary schools. There might be a temptation to cut down on the costs of special schools and hide away the problem of handicaps and disabilities in ordinary schools without coping fully with them. Much as I approve of the principle 66 of integration, it must be done with proper provision for expenditure on equipment, resources and training. That is substantial expenditure.
I turn to the role of parents. Most parents wish to be involved in some way in the education of their children. But that is far more critical in the case of handicapped children who need special provisions. This can be an area of great unhappiness, uncertainty and resentment among parents. It is a point of interaction between officialdom and ordinary people's lives. It is a minefield of misunderstanding and misconstruction.
The Bill is a step in the right direction in that it will give parents a denned role in the education of their children. It goes further than any previous piece of education legislation in providing positive rights and safeguards for parents. However, I am concerned that parents are still not to be given a right of access to records and reports on the basis of which decisions about the education their children would be made by local authorities. That is out of keeping with the spirit of a Bill which is a genuine attempt to involve parents.
After the publication of the Warnock report, the Wales Council for the Disabled published a consultative document which was based on widespread discussions in Wales with parents of handicapped children. In that report there were innumerable quotations of parents' comments about the problem they experienced in reaching someone who really knew about their child, in getting at the explanation which lay behind a decision that had been made. Much of that sort of frustration would disappear. But a parent who wants to know the full reasons for a decision made about the education of a child should have access to the records. That is still to be denied. What does it mean, for example, to give parents a right of appeal against an authority's decision if they do not know precisely on what grounds that decision was made? I can see that doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists may wish to keep their working case notes for professional purposes which it would not be proper for them to reveal. Formal reports on which decisions are based should be available to parents who seek access. With proper participation between officials and parents it might not come to that. If parents have been involved in group discussions before a decision is made they are far more likely to accept those decisions. That is in keeping with the spirit of the Bill.
It is important that one person should be the "named person" of the Warnock report, whom a family can contact during the whole lifetime of the handicapped child from pre-school, through schooling and into later life. That named person may change once or twice but there should be an identifiable named person. That is not brought out as strongly as I should like to see it in the Bill. In the discussion document of the Wales Council for the Disabled, based on interviews and discussions held with many parents, it emerged that the headmaster did not come out as a desirable named person. Many people presumably had had difficulties with headmasters in their own childhood and early days and the wrong image emerged for the sort of contact that is called for.
I stress in passing that with all this consideration of parents' rights it is very easy to forget the rights and role of the young handicapped person. This is precisely the "Does he take sugar?" syndrome. It is easy for parents, officials and medical experts to be so totally immersed in 67 what is best for the handicapped child that they forget that most handicapped children and young people have firm and proper views of their own about their needs.
I mention one other aspect of parents' and pupils' rights, namely, the right to appeal against a local authority's special education provision assessment. The procedure is intended to be through an appeal committee nominated by the authority in the manner prescribed in schedule 2 to the Education (No. 2) Act 1980. I hope that the Minister will be sympathetic in Committee to a more suitable and objective appeal procedure.
It is important to remember that parents can often make a substantial direct contribution to the education of their children. Many parents do this where there is no handicap, but the contribution by parents can be greater in the case of handicapped children. We have seen excellent work done in South Wales, in the Cardiff area particularly where on the portage system parents of very young handicapped children—the under-fives—are visited once or twice a week by nursery teaching advisers working under a psychologist who sets goals to be achieved through play. This has meant that children who otherwise would have gone to special schools have been able to take their place already in ordinary schools. I should like to see a strengthening of such a provision to help young children, particularly those below school age, or in conjunction with nursery schools as they get a little older. I should like to see local authorities provide instruction for parents in the educational problems of their children.
My great concern is about the statement in the explanatory and financial memorandum that the Billshould not give rise to significant additional expenditure.That is a tragic refusal to face the real issues. This kind of redeployment of resources, this new approach, cannot be achieved, if it is to be done well, on a low-cost basis. My great fear is that the special school system—the system of the past—will be dismantled in favour of a better concept of integration into ordinary schools without doing it properly or paying the cost. That would be the worst of both worlds. Unless the Bill is about fitting handicapped people into the ordinary life of society; unless it will provide the education and confidence that will enable the handicapped to find employment and lead to a full life; unless it will open new doors of opportunity, it would have been better had it been left alone. What we have here is a feint blueprint. Unless the resources are there to build a structure, it will be a sad fraud on the hopes of disabled people. It is the right direction, but it cannot be done on the cheap. I urge the Government to bear that in mind.
§ 7 pm
§ Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)
I listened with great interest to earlier speeches, especially that of the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones). I have known him for about 17 years.I attempted to best him at the 1974 election but failed. It seems right that the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), and I should be in the Chamber, because both of us have been through Eccles on our way to Westminster.
The hon. Member for Eccles referred to expenditure of £3 million on the assisted places scheme and expressed strong views on it. During the Christmas Recess I read an article in the Manchester Evening News which said that the Labour-controlled city of Salford's direct labour 68 department was overspent to the tune of £2½ million, was 32,000 jobs behind and was paying a bonus of £500,000 to the men employed in the direct labour department to get up to date on the backlog. As between the £3 million wasted in Salford and the £3 million on the assisted places scheme, I know which £3 million I consider the better spent.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
Much more money needs to be spent in Salford to put right the inner city areas and the deprivation and much more money needs to be spent on the Bill. But the hon. Gentleman cannot fault the policy of the Salford council on the care of the handicapped.
§ Mr. Dunn
I am grateful for that intervention. I know that the hon. Gentleman has sincere views.
I welcome the Bill in a generous way. The Warnock committee was set up in 1974 and it reported in May 1978. I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State on bringing forward this legislation so early in the new Session.
I should declare a constituency interest. In my constituency there are five hospitals which deal with mental health and handicap. I have seen the care and attention given to the residents of some of those hospitals. I feel that this Bill is part of the construction of the right framework for the care of those with these disabilities.
Because the Bill seeks to endow the parents of disabled children with an element of choice and the right of appeal against local authority decisions, it must be desirable. Indeed, it seeks to redress the imbalance created by earlier education legislation. But my views are tempered by the practical difficulties faced by the parents of mentally handicapped children. Without trying to deny them access to the provisions of the Bill, I should like to argue a distinction between mentally handicapped children and children with other types of disability.
The Education (Handicapped Children) Act 1970 divided children into two categories—those who were severely educationally subnormal and those who were moderately educationally subnormal—and it required that the training of those children be undertaken by the education service rather than by the health authorities. As a result of that legislation, special schools, such as the Milestone and Rowhill schools in my constituency, were set up, and they made enormous progress because of the expertise and care that has grown up at those centres over the years. Needless to say, a great deal of expenditure has been undertaken on the provision of special equipment and the adaptation of those schools for use as premises by physically and mentally handicapped children.
Clause 2(7) states:Where a child who has special educational needs is being educated in an ordinary school… and reasonably practicable, that the child engages in the activities of the school together with children who do not have special educational needs.I welcome that provision. But the argument for the admission of a child who is physically disabled and has special educational needs is different from the argument relating to a child in either of the ESN categories that I have mentioned. For a mentally handicapped child in the severely educational subnormal section, it will be most unlikely that much benefit will accrue from integration. I welcome the stated view of the Secretary of State today that integration was not an easy option. Clearly the differences of a child in that category would stand out and the child would or could be placed in a position of stress, 69 which would stop progress and benefit. Whilst it is right to endeavour to teach the child so affected how to manage under normal conditions, it is surely unfair to expect progress in the rough and tumble of an occasionally cruel school environment.
I welcome the element of parental involvement with both the statement of assessment and the right of appeal in clause 5. But the parents of severely educationally subnormal children have to be realistic, perhaps more than most, and accept that the progress that their children can make is limited. Further, the bright hope of progress intellectually, so often willed by parents when a child is young, must be decided and viewed later, because as the child grows older in terms of years it will not necessarily make intellectual progress. It is a matter of discussion and debate whether the promise of appeal and new rights will serve the parents of severely educationally subnormal children in the way that they would hope and expect. It is therefore essential that the Minister should give details of the criteria of assessment as soon as possible in the case of the severely educationally subnormal child.
Whilst I welcome the broad base of the Bill, I must acknowledge that every silver lining has a cloud. Whilst it may be desirable that these provisions be enacted, there is clearly a financial constraint on their application. I believe that it is right to bring in the Bill at this time in this year because it will give the disabled child access to the company of his non-disabled peers.
§ 7.6 pm
§ Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich)
A good deal of experience and knowledge has been brought to bear on the debate. My contribution, such as it is, is as a former teacher. Indeed, I ought to declare an interest as a consultant to the National Union of Teachers whose members, though they do not see fit to criticise the text of the Bill, are in general bitterly disappointed by the lack of financial resources to make its implementation a reality.
One of the extraordinary facts is that this measure is described as:A Bill to make provision with respect to children with special educational needs.As has been pointed out by other hon. Members, the financial provisions make it clear that it should not give rise to significant additional expenditure.
The hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn), referring to clause 2(7), pointed to the extra expenditure that is bound to be required in the provision of special educational needs in any moves towards integration. The extra expenditure involved is bound to be considerable. Although I never taught at a special school, there were handicapped and disabled children in three of the schools at which I taught. I am therefore acutely aware of the extra costs in terms of staff time, support and equipment involved in the integration of disabled and handicapped children into what are described in the Bill as ordinary schools.
If the Government were sincere in their desire to implement the Warnock report, I should have thought that, even in times of economic stringency, they would be bound to make some extra provision commensurate with what they regarded as proper provision to implement the ideas in the report, the White Paper and the Bill. It is not as though the Warnock committee was unaware of the 70 financial and economic difficulties facing the country. Indeed, the chairman in her letter to Secretaries of State had this to say:We have been very much aware of the continuing financial restraints on central and local Government, and have sought to be realistic in making recommendations which would entail additional expenditure.The committee was acutely aware that it was not in a position to make extravagant recommendations in pursuit of its proposals. I would, therefore, have thought that the Government might have made some provision at least to indicate that they were earnest in their intentions.
I do not propose to rehearse the ground covered by other speakers, which echoes a good deal of the submission that the National Union of Teachers made, I believe, to the Department and certainly to some hon. Members. However, I should like to make one point that has not been sufficiently stressed. If implementation is to be a reality, there must be a phased programme. Reference has been made to the importance attached by the Warnock committee to teacher and in-service training. Professor Mittler has remarked:All commentators are agreed that government acceptance of teacher training proposals is the key to all the other recommendations in the Warnock Report.Indeed, in-service training for practising teachers in ordinary schools is vital if we are to make the report a reality.
I referred to the need to phase the introduction of the Warnock proposals. Indeed, I should have thought that as a first step the Government would have recognised the need to begin by training or putting on one side money intended for in-service training and for training new entrants to the profession to enable them to understand and recognise the need of the specially disabled or handicapped who enter ordinary schools. However, no such provision is made.
Although we cannot introduce all the recommendations at one go, nevertheless the Government should have recognised that capital expenditure must be involved for the alteration of certain buildings and the acquisition of extra equipment. Make no mistake, one consequence of integration will in some degree be a less satisfactory use of resources. One advantage of a special school is the ability to concentrate special equipment in it. However, if we try to introduce children who suffer a particular handicap or disability into an ordinary school, inevitably the equipment necessary to enable them to play their full part in the school will not have the same degree of use that it would have in a special school. Therefore, inevitably, there will have to be preparation by capital expenditure.
A persistent complaint made by people outside the House is that we pass legislation through the House, with fine sounding sentiments from both sides of the House, but make no proper provisions. Indeed, we do not think through intelligently the need to phase the introduction of a new aspect of policy.
If I may make a small analogy, it has always struck me in criticism of those with whom I strongly agree over the development of comprehensive education that we did not early enough recognise the need to adapt teacher-training to take account of the requirement that would be expressed as schools became comprehensive and local authorities set up new comprehensive schools. In that respect, therefore, it is vital, if the Government are to have any credibility over the special needs of handicapped and disabled children, that they demonstrate soon that expenditure will 71 be directed where it needs to be directed in order that sometime during the next five or 10 years we can expect Warnock to be implemented. At the moment we see no sign of that, except in those areas that have acted as something of an example to less successful and dedicated local education authorities.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) said, the debate is not intended to be divisive. Indeed, a remarkable degree of unity has been expressed throughout the House about the proposals contained in the Warnock report and to some degree in the White Paper. I therefore urge the Government to give an earnest of their intent at least by making money available for the things that need to be done to lay the foundations of what later we hope to build.
Various remarks have been made about the way in which the Government may or may not be able to save money in one direction in order to expend more in another, and the assisted places scheme has been referred to in that respect. I do not wish to make political points. However, I believe strongly that if we are to civilise our education system we must reflect in our policy the priorities expressed in the report. After all, that report is entitled "Special Educational Needs". We should see whether we can so direct our education system as to satisfy the needs among different sorts of children.
In my teaching career I discovered that the easiest needs to fulfil are the needs of the ablest. The most difficult are those of the less able, the educationally subnormal, the disabled or those who are suffering some handicap. Those are the expensive needs that we should recognise. I hope that the Government are aware that we should adopt a philosophy in our education system that attempts to answer the differing needs of our children in school.
Associated with the National Union of Teachers is the Association of Educational Psychologists. Educational psychologists will have an important function to fulfil if the Bill is to become a reality. My point may seem more suitable for Committee. However, it is important, and the Minister may be able to answer it. The association is anxious about clause l(2)(a), where the words are:a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of his age".The association states:While we appreciate that a degree of generalisation is inevitable in a Bill in which broad principles are stated, nevertheless we consider that this rather bald statement, even when considered in the context of clause 1(2)(b), is all too easily interpreted as being concerned with learning academic skills.It has come out strongly in the debate and is mentioned in Warnock that the disabilities or educational problems that we are increasingly meeting arise from emotional or social difficulties. Equally as important as catering for children's academic needs is catering for their social and emotional needs. The phrase used in clause 1(2) may have the effect of excluding the importance of social and emotional needs and emphasising too much the importance of academic skills.
The Association is concerned that in clause 1(2)(b), which admittedly covers another possible case, the word "disability" is not enough to cover those sorts of inividual problems.
I emphasise again that the House only brings itself into disrepute when it passes one piece of legislation after another—which it has done over the years—without 72 giving the proper resource and financial provision to make the legislation a reality. Therefore, I earnestly hope that the Government will think again, and see whether they can do anything to indicate that they are taking a credible and essential step if we are to lay the foundations for the sort of provision that is needed for children of special educational needs in a modern age.
§ Mr. J. F. Pawsey (Rugby)
As the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) said, this has been a remarkable debate if only because of the degree of unity that has been expressed across the Floor of the House. It has been a thoughtful debate that for once has engendered more light than heat.
I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), and I noted his phrase about the Bill being more about bones than about flesh. With every respect, it is much more than a mere skeleton, and although the Bill may not be as fat as many hon. Members would have liked, and perhaps it is slimmer and thinner than we would wish, it is certainly complete. As the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Hudson Davies) said, it is a blueprint, and from blueprints we can make and build. I believe that the Bill will be a credit to its architect Mary Warnock and to its master builder, the Secretary of State.
The earliest years of life are critical in every way, but particularly in education. At present, some of our children have learning handicaps which, except in severe or obvious cases, can go unnoticed and undiagnosed until it is too late and irreparable damage is done to the educational potential of the child. Failures are created before hopes have dawned. Misfits, who do not understand why they are different, in turn become adults who have been deprived from the beginning. Early recognition of the need for special education is critical, a point that was well emphasised in the White Paper, which says:In many cases very early intervention is crucial.Recognition is materially assisted by provision for the under-fives. Incidentally, despite the propaganda that we hear from time to time from Labour Members, the statistics for January 1980 show that the number of children in nursery classes increased by about 5,500, while those in nursery schools remained constant. About 216,000 children in this country now receive nursery education, most of them in urban areas of disadvantage. Perhaps that helps to give the lie to some of the stories that we hear about education cuts and economies. Those cuts and economies are not being experienced in the nursery sector, as the figures that I have just quoted underline.
At a time of economic difficulty it reflects considerable credit on my right hon. and hon. Friends that they have brought forward this important Bill, which can be described as a Bill of principle, an enabling Bill, a Bill in being, so that as the economic situation improves—as it surely will—the measure will be on the statute book and ready for full implementation. It will provide a legal reference, it will give benchmarks for a society, and it represents a major advance for the handicapped. It clearly underlines the Government's intention to help those who are less able to help themselves. It is entirely in step with international thought on the handicapped, and it seeks to provide education within the existing general framework of schools, which will be to the advantage of the whole community.
73 Schools will be better able to reflect society as it actually is. Why should the handicapped be treated as a form of biblical leper? Why should they be shunned, third-class citizens merely because they learn in a special sort of education ghetto? Merely to be a pupil at a special educational school is to be branded and marked for life.
Perhaps the most important education that any child can receive is to learn that those who are handicapped are 99 per cent. normal. If our society needs a lesson in anything, it is surely a lesson in tolerance. We must remember that perhaps the basic reason for placing handicapped children with normal children is that normal children will stop treating them as freaks, and in their turn the handicapped will stop feeling inferior and abnormal. That would make for a far healthier society.
It is also worth remembering that the handicapped, too, have something to give to society. In an ordinary school environment they will have access to a greater variety of teaching expertise than at a specialist school designed only for the handicapped. For example, they will have access to specialist teachers in geography, mathematics or languages. Many schools for the physically handicapped do not have O-level courses. They can only attempt CSE examinations, and so often children attempting those examinations could achieve so much more. That is an unhappy situation, which is full of frustration for both the child and the parents.
The Bill will enable those handicapped children who are capable of being educationally stretched to be stretched to real advantage, and not only to their benefit, but to the benefit of the whole community. As one Labour Member said in a fluent speech, the handicapped have something to offer to the economy of our country. I hope that with the advantages that are incorporated in the Bill, we shall see the handicapped playing a greater role in our society. In addition, at ordinary schools the handicapped will adopt ordinary children as their model and imitate their behaviour and their attitudes, which in turn will assist them to identify with the community. Parents' wishes should be respected, and those parents who believe that their child is best helped and educated by remaining in a special school should have their wishes respected wherever possible. Indeed, by their very definition, specialist schools have specialist equipment and trained staff that may best suit some children. That point was accepted by the Warnock committee.
The timing of the Bill is appropriate, because the school population is declining. That decline will affect the numbers of children attending special schools, just as it will affect those who are in the mainstream of education. That presents a real opportunity to re-examine the education system for the handicapped, without the pressures that are induced by crowded schools or growing numbers. It is desirable to introduce those changes. Once the Bill is on the statute book and the principle is established, I have no doubt that funds will be found.
The structure of the Bill is to be commended. It replaces the present 10 categories of handicaps with a broader definition of special educational needs. It will ensure that all those who require special help, for example, in the general method of education, or in the content of education, will receive it. That relates not only to those with physical, sensory, emotional or mental disorders, but, more widely, to those whose needs are broadly similar to those categories.
74 I welcome the provisions in the Bill for children with greater educational requirements; for example, those with more serious difficulties, the more severely mentally handicapped. The requirement for a formal record, with a local authority keeping the child's progress under regular review, is a good one. The fact that that record will attract multi-professional assessment, with the parents having an absolute right to know how the LEA judges their child's educational needs, with the right to express their opinions, will do much to reassure parents who are concerned about secrecy and about the way in which opinions can be formed behind closed doors. Indeed, even more than that, the absolute right of parents to see and comment on what is being inserted into the formal report represents a major step forward and is entirely in keeping with the broad ideals laid down within the parents' charter. The appeal machinery, with its right of appeal first to the appeals committees set up under the 1980 Act and then, if necessary, to the Secretary of State, underlines the importance and significance of parental rights.
Mention should be made here of the suggestion in the Warnock report—that has been touched on by hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber—that a named person should be appointed to give advice and guidance to the family. As all of us in this Chamber know, it is not always very easy to find a way through the labyrinth of red tape and to decipher the regulations, and the existence of a friendly and knowledgeable guide would be invaluable to the family that is hard-pressed. I hope that LEAs will interpret broadly that part of the White Paper that reads:The Government does not consider it appropriate to prescribe such an arrangement by law, but looks to local authorities to consider ways in which parents can gain access to information and advice in the most effective way possible.I hope that LEAs will read and digest that sentence, perhaps above most others, because it has great significance for the family.
One would have liked to see more provisions in the Bill for teacher training, but, at a time of world depression, the questions of funding, of financing teacher training and of seeking to contain public spending have to be faced. Despite this, however, the Bill represents a major step forward. It is a major advance in this particular field of education. I believe that parents will welcome it, for increasingly parents are becoming more questioning, and rightly so, and with this legislation they will appreciate that their child has a chance and will not be condemned out of hand by attendance at a special school. The educational apartheid that we have practised in this country for so many years, with one sort of education for normal children and another sort for the handicapped, is now being questioned and overturned.
This is a truly humanitarian Bill. I believe that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State should be commended for introducing it. If he needed a slogan, that slogan would be "Integration, not segregation", and that is integration in all senses of the word, a bringing together, for the handicapped are part of the community and should not be outside the community. They should come in from the cold into the warmth of a caring and a compassionate society. I believe that the Bill will enable them to do that.
§ Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)
I hope that in two years' time I shall be able to talk to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Pawsey) about the Bill with as 75 much fervour as he has used in terms of what it will have done for handicapped children. That is what it is all about. It is not a question of how good the Bill is. There has been very little criticism of the Bill. It is a question of when and how it will be put into operation, what benefits handicapped children will receive, and what satisfaction it will give to the unfortunate parents. That is what we are all deeply worried about.
On examining the Bill one finds that it is full of good intentions. But when will they be put into operation? Integration is all right. There is a lot to be said for it. But it depends on the abilities and capabilities of teachers at particular schools, and whether they can take into their fold of about 30 children—or even below 25 children—one, two, three or four mentally handicapped children, and give them special tuition.
We know full well that that cannot operate without a good deal of planning. Therefore, to talk so easily about this and to promise parents that integration can operate to the great advantage of these unfortunate children is deceiving them. It is not playing the game with the parents. To expect the teachers to carry out this responsibility without retraining is to expect too much. It is not fair to the teachers.
Since 1973–74 we have had a golden opportunity. Instead of cutting back on education, we should have been training our teachers for all sorts of additional duties. We could have done that. Even my Government did not do it to my satisfaction. At present there seems to be no hope of this happening.
We talk about more children attending nursery schools, but I remind the hon. Member for Rugby that we are closing nursery schools and making parents take their children further afield to receive nursery education, thus causing a good deal of trouble and inconvenience and making it difficult sometimes for parents to take advantage of nursery education for their children.
I should like to talk about one or two particular cases that I recall, because I am afraid that the Bill will spread out the present cost of treating children who are unfortunate and disadvantaged. If that is so, some of the cures that we have attempted in the past will not be achieved.
A long time ago, before I became a Member of this House, an old school friend of mine came to me and said "Can you do anything for my child?" I asked "What is the matter with him?" I was told that he had been born completely deaf. I asked what had been done with him. The father said "Up to now, his mother and I have continually been trying to get him to speak, and now he can say 'mama'." I got the child into a special school at Doncaster.
I did not see that lad until 14 years later. I happened to see his father in a village through which I was walking. I said "By the way, how is that son of yours getting on?" He said "That is him up that ladder, painting that house." He had been taught the trade of house painting. The father said "That is his car there. He drives it. He passed his test first time." If we are not careful the type of school which helped that lad will disappear altogether.
What reminded me of that case was that a mother came to my house the other day with her two children, aged 13 and 15. Both of them are almost deaf. To look at them, one would think that they could hear what one was saying. 76 There is nothing wrong with them except for the deafness. But they could not write. There had been no attempt to educate them. This is something of which our society ought to be deeply ashamed.
If enacted, the Bill would be of great help, but it would cost a lot of money. When doctors assess a child's educational needs they consider the state of society. Parents always over emphasise their children's difficulties and requirements. The medical profession has to consider the broader issues and our educational system's capacity to carry out its recommendations. Therefore, there is a great difference between the views of parents and doctors.
An appeal might take place. It would be heard by a committee that would probably be controlled by the local authority. The committee would make a decision based on the educational facilities available and the parent would become disillusioned. As the White Paper shows, 184,996 handicapped children were assessed. About 68 per cent. of those children were educationally subnormal. Figures are also given for children with partial hearing or speech defects. If teachers had small classes and enough time they could probably deal relatively easily with children with speech defects.
A few years ago, a parent came to see me whose daughter suffered from dyslexia. The girl was 13 years old, yet she could not receive special tuition. The mother used all her salary to pay for special tuition. Success is on its way. Why cannot we fully succeed? I am distressed about the Government's attitude and that of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State gives the impression that it is a marvellous Bill. Ultimately, everything will depend on whether it works. It is no good saying that it is a marvellous or wonderful Bill, it is no good saying that it is a blueprint, unless we can be certain that the Act will be built on immediately. If we wait, what will happen to the parents of these unfortunate children? Even in this debate we have built up their hopes. They are hoping that society will help them, and will ensure that their children are educated to the best of their ability. Often, such children are capable of earning their living and of taking their place in society. Despite their mental and physical disabilities, they can become independent if we are determined to bring that about.
Society must spend more money on educating subnormal children. I read an article that said that we educate fewer children between the ages of 16 and 19 than any country in Western Europe. We should not say that we are doing well. To say that we mean well when we do not accomplish anything is to deceive those poor unfortunate people.
The parents of these unfortunate children are terribly worried. In their hearts and minds they hope that their children will be looked after. But they have doubts. They fear that society will not help them enough. In the latter years of their lives they are sad and deeply worried. Sometimes such worry brings in its wake mental disorder. Whichever party comes into power, I hope that this Bill will become the success that every decent citizen wishes it to be.
§ Mr. Tim Brinton (Gravesend)
I was very much moved by the great good sense spoken by the hon. Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright). Every child is a special child. Every school should be a special school. I am not an expert or specialist in this subject. When I 77 came into the Chamber I doubted whether the worn-out principle of integration was right. I had the same target as every hon. Member. Let the physically and mentally disabled, who have difficulty in learning, have that aim of getting among the community, of paying income tax and of finding employment. How can we achieve that? Some hon. Members have generalised and have argued that integration is the clue. I am uncertain. I can think of a case in which integration at school level was horribly wrong.
A young boy attended an ordinary school. The teachers tried to integrate the child. He could not succeed and became violent. Only after endless trouble and after he had been placed in a school that offered special education did he become capable of earning his living and of passing his test on a motor bike at the age of 24. He has made progress. The opposite of integration was responsible.
Let us be careful not to go too fast in the wrong direction. That is why I welcome the constrictions on resources. This is the moment to lay down the blueprint. However, we should proceed on to the thin ice with the most extreme caution. We should not rush in with money. Money never solves education problems. I accept that it helps, but education problems can be solved only—particularly in this most sensitive area—by ensuring that the philosophy is right.
I can think of parents who would not, in a thousand years, want to see the personal cards and records that are kept on their disabled children. I can think of others who would long to. I can think of local education authorities that have gone a long way along the path and others that are being slow. In some ways, they may be right. We must all feel our way. We should not just believe a brilliant committee—the Warnock committee—which had a large majority of committed members. Just as committed hon. Members have spoken subjectively, that committee's members were subjective. With the best will in the world those hon. Members could not understand why 99 per cent. of the State's resources could not be ploughed into the field that they love so much. That was one way, but there are other ways. I hope that this blueprint will prevent too much hurrying down the wrong road.
I make one further practical comment. I hope that my right hon. Friend has it very much in mind not to encourage local education authorities to find resources to do things where there are no resources to be found. As many other hon. Members have said, successive Governments have passed legislation and expected action at the other end, but the money was not there. Things cannot be done that way. The money must be apportioned when we have seen sense, because—I end as I began—every school should be a special school and every child is a special child.
§ Mr. D. E. Thomas (Merioneth)
I certainly accept the description of myself given by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Brinton) as "subjective" if that means being absorbed in a particular subject and a viewpoint in relation to that subject.
The debate, although not controversial, has been deeply contradictory. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Pawsey) made that clear when he referred to this as a Bill of principle. I should add that it is a Bill of principle but of no practice. Indeed, I think that that is part of the distress felt by the hon. Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) who, in a clearly committed speech, made 78 the point that many parents of mentally handicapped children and children with special needs will have had their hopes raised by the publicity surrounding the debate only to have them dashed when they come face to face with the reality of the lack of implementation of policy which this debate signifies.
Three major reports have concerned themselves with the question of integrated services for persons with special needs. First, the Court report, entitled "Fit for the future", dealt specifically with child health services. That report advocated the principle of the integration and co-ordination of child guidance services and psychiatric hospital services into an integrated child and adolescent psychiatry service. That is the answer to the point raised earlier by the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop). That report, and its acceptance by the DHSS, although against the background of a lack of resources, was an attempt to provide an integrated child care service in that sector.
Next came the Jay report on training for the care of persons with a mental handicap. Indeed, it bodes ill for those of us who are deeply concerned about the implementation of the Jay report to consider the Bill before us today in relation to the Warnock report. The model of care proposed by Jay, again, is an integrated model which seeks to move away from a simplistic medical model of mental handicap towards a psycho-social model. For those of us who are anxious to see that model implemented, the failure of the Bill to implement the Warnock report is an indication of what is to come. The Bill achieves something which, in my naivety about Government practices before I came to the House, I thought I would never live to see, namely, the separation of what I had been taught in British constitution lessons were two fundamental aspects of policy—the idea of legislation and the idea of resources. I had always been taught that policy was a combination of legislation and resources to implement legislation. Now, however, we are given to understand that policy is about theory. It is no longer about practice. But that is only half the contradiction.
We realise, as those outside who are concerned about these issues realise, on whom the onus of implementation is being placed. It is being placed upon the local authorities, which are increasingly starved of resources by the Government. That is clear from the White Paper on special educational needs. Continually after the phraseas soon as resources will allowwe are directed to look to the local authorities to assess the level of their services.
Another area of contradiction—I speak now wearing my Select Committee hat—is the definition of education. The definition to which we are accustomed outside the Bill is very broad. It is a continuing definition, with a pre-school and a post-school aspect. I am sure that even right hon. and hon. Members on the Government Front Bench accept that definition. But that is not the definition in the Bill. The Bill relates entirely to school provision. There is nothing in the Bill which relates in any substantial way to the pre-school or the post-school situation. That must be a further criticism of the way in which the Bill has been drafted. Although it purports to bring special education into mainstream provision, it does so in a limited way.
The principle of bringing special education into mainstream provision is one that we have to welcome. The facts in the Warnock report speak clearly. One in six children and young persons at any time are in special 79 education need, and one in five at some time require special education needs to be assessed and met.The change in concept—in theory, as I have emphasised—in the legislation is therefore to be welcomed. I am not so certain about the semantic difference between a record and a statement. No doubt we shall be able to probe that in Committee. One is tempted to ask: when is a statement not a record, and when is a record not a statement?
In my view, the central problem is the way in which the Bill relates provision to the existing provision of local education authorities. This, again, is a contradiction. It points to the principle that special provision in social policy, certainly in my experience, must always relate to general provision.
In clause 1(2)(b) of the Bill the provision made in special terms is related directly to the general provision that is made within the local education authority concerned. This again must concern us where there is a variety of practice between local education authorities. The hon. Member for Rugby mentioned a clear case, namely, nursery provision. This would mean that where there is no nursery provision in a given local education authority area, or where such provision is minimal, there would be no need for the local education authority to provide special nursery education for persons in special educational need, despite the fact that the Government in the White Paper and also the Warnock committee accepted that the expansion of nursery education was "desirable", to use the Government's word in paragraph 31 of the White Paper. The Warnock committee itself believed that intervention at the pre-school age was crucial not only in assessment and diagnosis but in the beginning of care and the provision of a special educational service. As I mentioned earlier, however, the White Paper diverts us towards local authorities. With regard to nursery provision, the White Paper tells us thatin many areas arrangements already exist to co-ordinate services for the under fives, often in the form of a joint advisory committee which contains representatives of the Education and Social Services Committees of the local authority together with representatives of the health services, and of voluntary bodies.The White Paper adds:In order to ensure that existing resources are used to the best effect, the Government looks to local authorities to review all the services for the under fives in their area.I do not know what additional person-power resources the Government expect personal social services departments, education departments of local authorities and area health authorities to have in order to carry out that review. It is a further example of the way in which lack of resources affects the whole issue.
§ Mr. Pawsey
I take it that the hon. Gentleman accepts that there were 5,500 additional places available in nursery education at January 1980. Or does he seek to dispute the figures that I quoted?
§ Mr. Thomas
I was not disputing the hon. Gentleman's figures. I was pointing to areas and to education authorities within England, Wales and Scotland where nursery provision is minimal, where it exists entirely in the voluntary sector and where there is no local authority provision at all. I am concerned that in those areas there will be no obligation on the local authority because of the fact that special educational needs relate, as it were, to the general educational provision. That 80 implies that, where there is no general nursery provision, there will be no need for the authority to provide special nursery education, despite the fantastic contribution—which Warnock and the Government recognise—which early education of that kind can make to special educational need.
That brings me to the core of my argument. It is an argument that has been put by other hon. Members. It is that the areas of first priority, as set out in Warnock itself, are not met in the Bill. That is the case in relation to provision for the under-fives. The Warnock committee stressed the need not only for pre-school provision of a statutory nature in terms of services but the need to support parents as the first educators of children. The committeee sets out the argument clearly in paragraph 5.9, where it talks about the need for information at the time of disclosure of a special need or a particular handicap. It also refers to:available facilities and supporting services so that they do not have the immediate impression of having to cope with their child's problems alone.That is extremely crucial in the context of the kind of educational needs about which we are talking. It is also essential that education for young children who have an educational need should start as early as possible. Paragraph 5.2 of the report says that education of children with a special educational needmust start as early as possible without any minimum age limit.Yet, clearly, the lack of provision for the under-fives both in the Bill and in the Government's policy means that that aspect will not be fulfilled.
In that context, one of the most important recommendations is that in paragraph 5.37 of Warnock relating to the peripatetic teaching service which would provide the kind of intervention and support at home which could help parents not only to cope adequately with the special education needs of their children but to start the educational socialising process which we all agree is so important. That recommendation is for a peripatetic teaching servicewhich would cater, wherever possible, exclusively for children with disabilities or significant difficulties below school age. It should cover every type of disability or disorder—hearing and visual impairment, physical disability, behavioural and emotional disorders and learning difficulties of any kind.In other words, this skill clearly cannot be achieved without the allocation of resources. That means in-service and initial training for specialist teachers. Clearly, that service will not be developed. But I suggest that the provision of that kind of service in itself would be a significant educational provision equal only to the need to provide statutory nursery education at this level. To that I would add the need for playgroups, opportunity groups and nursery facilities. As I indicated earlier, the White Paper confirms that, yet the Government are not prepared to allocate the resources for them.
That brings me to the second major area of neglect about which I have particular concern. I refer to the provisions for young persons with special need. The neglect which the Government have allowed to continue in the case of the under-fives is matched only by their provision for the over-sixteens. I know that the Government are now taking a special interest in this and that one of their Ministers has recently produced a report on educational provision for the 16 to 19-year-old group. However, it is severely contradictory for the Government to come forward with a special study on educational 81 opportunities for 16 to 19-year-olds while at the same time neglecting that group when they are legislating for special educational provision.
I am concerned not only about the provision for staying on at school, which has already been mentioned, but about the lack of further education provision and the access to further education for young adults and young persons who are either handicapped or who have other special educational needs.
In paragraph 10.43, Warnock recommended:co-ordinated approach to further education provision for young people with special needs should be adopted and publicised by the local education authorities within each region against a long-term plan within which arrangements for individual institutions will take their place.In that context, I should like to refer briefly not only to further education provision of that kind but to the fact that the White Paper itself confirms the Warnock finding by stating in paragraph 52:It is a weakness of the law governing further education that it makes no specific reference to the needs of handicapped students.Having said that in their White Paper, one would have thought that the Government would have gone on to extend to handicapped students the kind of provision which they have indicated is required. But we are told, and those of us who serve on the Select Committee, have noted this paragraph, that:The Government recognises the need to clarify the law in the interests of students with special education needs.It continues:But this will need to be done as part of a wider review of the legal framework governing further education on which the Secretaries of State are initiating consultations with the local authority associations and will in due course consult more widely.That seems an appropriate point for the Minister to deal with when he replies. How are those consultations proceeding? Where do handicapped persons and special educational needs come into those consultations?
That brings me to the provision by local authority social services departments and the way in which that integrates with educational provision, particularly in relation to the role of adult training centres. It is to those centres that many young persons with special educational needs or with a handicap go at the age of 16. It has been argued strongly by Warnock, the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children, the Campaign for the Mentally Handicapped and others that the role of the adult training centre must be reviewed. Indeed, Warnock recommends that there should be a specific educational element in every adult training centre and day centre and that the education service should be responsible for its provision. Again, that is totally neglected in the Bill.
In particular, I draw the attention of the Welsh Office Minister who has responsibility for education to the fact that in the county of Clwyd, part of which I represent, there are intermediate centres which have a strong educational element and which are preparatory to the adult training centre provision. They attempt to provide a social education which forms an essential part of the socialisation of persons with special needs. Indeed, the phrase "adult training centre" is perhaps the wrong description for the work which goes on at those centres. In reality, they are social education centres and they should be seen and designated as such. If the Government are in the business of redesignating and changing concepts, that is certainly a concept which they might consider redesignating.
82 I turn to the further co-ordination between services and provision and wish to stress my concern that again the recommendations of the Warnock report are not being fulfilled in the Bill. Presumably they are not to be fulfilled in any other Bill this Session unless we are at some stage to be confronted with a Bill that will have some social work content. The Warnock report recommends that social service departments should nominate—presumably that nomination would not cost much even for this Government—a senior social worker to act as a liaison officer with the careers service and a specialist careers officer. The issue of careers and of adaptation from provision for those with special educational need to employment, or to the outside community in general, is one with which we must be deeply concerned when looking within the education and careers service for persons with special educational need.
The Warnock committee recommended that there should be an element of initial training for social workers and residential child care staff to acquaint them with social work aspects of different disabilities and with special education services available to children and adults. The integrative approach, which is part of the Jay report's thinking, part of the Court report's thinking and part of the practice of most AHAs and personal social service departments, is something that should concern us when discussing the Bill. It is another omission, and perhaps a deliberate one.
We are being offered not an integrative and coherent approach to special educational need but a marginal piece of legislation. When the historical background that the Warnock report sets out so clearly in the second chapter comes to be written or updated, I am sure that this piece of legislation will have at the most a couple of lines. It may deserve only a footnote.
§ Mr. Keith Wickenden (Dorking)
In giving a cautious welcome to the Bill, the Advisory Centre for Education observed that itrepresents an unprecedented attempt to reflect in British legislation the principle that parents should be fully involved in decisions affecting their children's education.That is very true.
I, too, give a cautious welcome—a welcome with reservations—to the Bill. That welcome is tinged with some sadness. It is a sad commentary on our society that only in 1981 are we introducing such a Bill. It is a sad reflection on us all that it is probable that if this were one of our usual knockabout Question Times the Benches around us would be crowded, whereas for this most important debate fewer than one in 50 of our colleagues has felt able to be in the Chamber at any one time. I dare say that we can forecast with some accuracy that tomorrow we shall read little about the content of this debate, despite the succession of informed, thoughtful and concerned speeches that we have heard from both sides of the House.
The hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) raised three important issues, and the first was taken up by the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas). I was particularly interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Isle of Ely about the need for pre-school training for the handicapped, especially those who are mentally handicapped. I made that theme the subject of my maiden speech 18 months ago. I did so—I declare my interest early—because I have a handicapped child.
83 I was fortunate that I learnt at a very early stage from a wise doctor that the period between the ages of 2 and 5 years is perhaps the most important for those of all handicaps, especially those with some form of mental handicap. That is something that the Government have accepted. It was part of the Warnock report, and it was accepted by the Government if the White Paper entitled "Special Needs In Education", paragraph 31 of which states:The Government also agrees with the Warnock Committee that an expansion of nursery education would be desirable. But the present economic situation precludes any large-scale expansion.That is a sad fact of life. There have been many calls this afternoon for greater resources to be made available. I accept that, but I add a further stress. As a nation we need to do much more to create the wealth which we all so greatly desire to divide among so many valid causes.
I take up the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Isle of Ely and by others on the necessity for there to be named persons throughout the life of a handicapped child. The hon. Gentleman referred specifically to the necessity for that at an early stage when a child is born with a handicap. That is, indeed, most important. It is difficult, unless one has experienced it, to estimate or even to understand the sense of shock that parents, especially young parents, have on learning that they have given birth to a handicapped child. The breaking of the news at that stage needs to be done by someone who is experienced and sensitive in such matters.
The hon. Member for Isle of Ely took up the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) that perhaps the funds being spent on the assisted places scheme would be better spent on making provision for handicapped children. Whatever the merits of that argument, we should not forget that those who are extremely intelligent—I refer to those who have an IQ of 170 or so—are themselves mentally handicapped. They are certainly disadvantaged. For whatever reason, our present education system does not always provide the answer. They need help, and that is often overlooked.
We have heard much today, rightly, of the need for extra resources, by which we mean extra funds to put into effect the thinking behind the Bill. We have heard of the need for greater spending on teacher training costs if integration is to take place. We need to consider the extra costs that will be required—they will be substantial—if we are to attempt to provide education for those who are receiving long-stay hospital care. Very often those in that position receive no education.
There is also the need to educate, in the widest sense, the whole of society, including all parents, on how to cope with handicap. It is a sad fact that it is an animal reaction—perhaps a human animal reaction—to reject that which is not entirely normal. I do not know how one educates society to take a different attitude, but I know that we must if handicapped children are to receive the education that everyone in the House wishes them to receive. It has been said that whether the handicapped will be able to play a full part in society depends upon their access to education, and so it does. However, it depends even more on a change in the basic outlook of society.
It was said this afternoon that many parents of handicapped children, as they reach the end of their lives, 84 worry about how their children will be cared for after they, the parents, have died. That is a fear of every parent of a handicapped child. That fear is not necessarily the fear that the child will not be properly fed or clothed, or even properly cared for in a material sense. Their fear is that there will not be sufficient people with the understanding or dedication to be able to replace the parents, whose contribution is unique.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Pawsey) said that once the Bill is on the statute book funds will be found. If that is not to be nore than just a pious hope—I know that he meant it sincerely—not only must we devote our attention to this fine legislation, limited as it is, but much greater efforts must be made to create the wealth from which all these desirable things can come.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)
The Bill could be described as a monumental non-event and a colossal missed opportunity. A tremendous amount of concern and compassion has been expressed by almost all hon. Members. At the end of his speech, the Secretary of State talked about removing the stigma of the handicapped with the Bill. However, without an extra penny being spent, it will not make any difference. We must face up to that fairly and squarely. It is of little or no use changing names and making paper movements unless more money is provided. The handicapped are being sold short with this measure, with no extra resources being made available.
Although I am prepared to vote for the Bill on Second Reading—I hope that it will be improved in Committee—if no extra money is available by the time we reach Third Reading, we should think seriously about not putting the Bill through. Opportunities for this sort of legislation do not come round very often. If one allows to go through a Bill which instead of taking steps forward and making more resources available shies away from that, one is doing the handicapped a disservice.
All hon. Members have set out the principle that we should do as much as possible to enable the handicapped to be fully integrated into society. That is extremely important both for their sake and for that of the community. If that principle is set out for all adult handicapped people, it should also be set out for children, who should spend some time in an ordinary school. How on earth can one expect people to cope with the world at large if they cannot cope, for some time at least, with the environment of a school?
The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) pleaded that much more should be done for the handicapped between the ages of 16 and 19. I echo that and stress that much more should be done for that age group. However, it should be done by trying to integrate those children into a normal school and not into the cloistered atmosphere of some special school. It is important that children of that age should be encouraged to move out into the wider community.
I support the hon. Member for Dorking (Mr. Wickenden) on his point about the sad fact that too many people shun the handicapped, and that a large number of people feel diffident about dealing with the disabled or the handicapped. As long as the handicapped are taken out of school and young people are given very little experience of the handicapped, that result is likely to be produced.
In a big comprehensive school which was trying to encourage social awareness among 15 and 16-year-olds, 85 it was suggested that a scheme be organised where three or four pupils went to the special school for an afternoon to give some assistance. The schemes were very good, but what was really needed was for all the pupils in that comprehensive school to have regular contact with some of the handicapped and disadvantaged children so that they could have some understanding of their problems. They would then be able to cope with those people when they met them outside and be able to support them when they were in the community. As long as those two groups are separated throughout so much of their education, it will not be surprising if there is diffidence among people who are dealing with the handicapped once they have left school.
It is sad to look around any comprehensive school in my constituency. Many of them have been built within the past 15 years. Most of them are theoretically single storey buildings. Yet every 50 or 60 yards around them there are four or five sets of steps where architects have changed levels marginally. These become a nightmare for anyone who has a handicap that makes walking difficult.
I realise that it will take a lot of money to enable the handicapped to negotiate all those steps, but the Government should give a pledge that they will try to ensure that at least one comprehensive school in each local authority area is sufficiently well-adapted to permit handicapped children to get around without special arrangements having to be made.
The other area in which I make a plea for money to be spent is to enable specialists to be employed in schools which are taking in an increasing number of handicapped pupils. Particularly I want there to be plenty of opportunity for cross-fertilisation between the specialists in the comprehensive schools and those who work in the special schools. Too often remedial teachers in ordinary schools tell me that they know little or nothing of what goes on in special schools. A great deal more could be done to transmit information between the two.
Parental choice is one of the most difficult areas in the Bill. The subject is not dealt with satisfactorily. It is essential that all parents have a belief in their children. The parents of a handicapped child must possess that extra amount of belief. It is almost that belief that occasionally produces miracles. When all the education experts have said something cannot be achieved, the faith of a parent can make a breakthrough. Even if that breakthrough is not made, the faith of a parent makes him or her put in the effort which in turn enables the parent to live with the problem, often creating the best possible environment for the child. It is against that faith that occasionally the education expert must be pitted.
I should like to see all lines and barriers removed. That is what the Warnock report is talking about, and it was what the Minister was saying in most of his speech. He said, however, that in this small category there would have to be assessment. A line would be drawn. Children on one side would be assessed while those on the other would not. Unfortunately, that line will become psychologically important to a lot of parents who will want to move their children from one side of the line to the other to prove that their children are doing a little bit better.
Repeatedly parents have told me that their children are in the wrong types of special schools. They can see all sorts of potential in their children which they believe the education experts are ignoring. That is very sad for many parents and I regret that the Bill will retain one of those 86 lines. Only one line is there, but I suspect that when assessments are made a whole series of lines will develop and too many parents will attempt to move their children across one of them.
That whole assessment procedure introduces a sort of legal process in which the most important aim is to secure a partnership between the parent and the local authority. I question that whole process. It may not be easy for the education experts in the local authority to get partnership and co-operation with a parent when the assessment process is operating.
The named person procedure is most important, but it is now more or less tucked away in paragraph 2(2)(c) of schedule 1. It is important, not just that there should be a named person, but that one or two other factors should also be included. I am particularly concerned about continuity. One of the most upsetting experiences for parents of handicapped children is to ring up the council offices and ask for the person they spoke to previously, only to be told that he or she has either disappeared to another local authority or has been transferred within the authority. They have to explain to a new person the whole of the circumstances out of which a certain point arises. I make the plea that there should be a named person but, more important, that if that named person changes the local authority should take the trouble to inform the parents of the change—which may be because of promotion or because of a move—rather than allow the parents to discover the change at a time when they are happy to telephone the local authority to discuss a problem. As far as possible, the local authority should arrange for the named person to remain in office for a considerable period so as to offer continuity in that area.
I also make a plea that parents should be allowed access to records. I made that point during the passage of the Education Act 1980, and pressed it in a Ten-Minute Bill. I find it amazing that teachers think that difficulties are involved in showing records to children or parents. Yet the staff of social services departments manage to create a position in which a disturbed child in care can be shown his records and his parents have full access to them. If that can be arranged in the social services area, it should also be possible in the education area.
I turn to the question of the appeals procedure. How far can an appeals committee turn to outside people for advice? The Bill does not make clear whether the committee simply has to accept the advice of the education experts put forward by a local authority, and pit that against the advice given by parents based upon some other education expert, or whether it can ask for more information or suggest that some other educational expert should assess the position. I hope that we can probe that matter further.
I return to the subject of the lack of resources. There have been occasions on which legislation has passed through the House without the necessary resources to implement it being available. But usually there has been some spelling out of a timetable—for example, that in one, two, three, four or five years the money will be available. There may even be a plan of how the legislation will be developed. There has been no suggestion from the Minister about any proposals to make resources available for this legislation—not necessarily this year or next year, but some time either within the lifetime of this Government, or early in the lifetime of the next Government. If we raise the hopes and beliefs of parents 87 and handicapped children, it is important that the Government should commit themselves to a timetable for the resources.
§ Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)
I do not intend to take up the time of the House for more than a minute or two. I apologise for not having been present for the whole of the debate, although I was here for the early speeches. I welcome the fact that the Bill will receive rather more scrutiny than usual through the Special Standing Committee procedure, under which evidence may be taken. Further scrutiny can take place before the amendments are taken.
As Chairman of the Select Committee, I welcome wholeheartedly the principle of the Bill and its attempt to follow the principle of the Warnock report and abolish the special types of handicap that were included in a mechanistic way in the 1944 Act. They have now been properly swept away. However, I have all the reservations expressed by my hon. Friends and some Conservative Members that, unless resources are made available in some way or another, the Bill will prove something of a hollow hope for the parents of children with special needs who think that there is a new deal on the way. If the Bill is to mean anything, the change that is to take place in the ordinary schools for ordinary children will have to be very substantial.
In thinking of handicapped children, some people tend to think of the physically handicapped, but they form only a small proportion of the handicapped children who are being educated in schools. The vast majority of special school children in our system today are either the SNM—the moderately subnormal—or the maladjusted children—who form the fastest growing category of special school children—or both.
Much has been said in the Warnock report about multiple handicap. I hope that the Bill will take away some of the stigma felt by youngsters, particularly in London, where West Indian youngsters bitterly resent the fact that they are labelled as educationally subnormal—when they are nothing of the kind.
Many handicaps are genetic—handicaps that originate from something that has happened at birth. There is a great deal of expertise about how to teach children with that sort of handicap, but with the category of maladjusted children—which is easily the biggest and most intractable to deal with—the problem is not genetic. Some maladjusted children who are maladjusted at school are reasonably well adjusted out of school. It is a problem of interaction between the child and the school. Something between the child and the school just does not gel, and all too often a situation develops that leads to the suspension of a child and to his being declared maladjusted, so that he misses a great deal of his schooling, sometimes with the result that the rest of his life is impaired.
If our schools are to be able to cope with this substantial category of maladjusted children, the solution will not be a technical one, making specific provision for the youngsters. It will be based on changing the whole environment of the school—adjusting the environment rather than the youngster. If schools are to be able to do that, it will mean a complete sea change in the atmoshpere of some schools.
88 There have been Bills before the House—which have been resisted by both Conservative and Labour Governments—to ban the use of corporal punishment for handicapped children. If we are to try to integrate the ESN and maladjusted schools within our secondary schools and to stick to the spirit of the Bill—which says that youngsters should not be put away in "sin bins" or sanctuaries, but integrated as far as possible into the normal activities of the school—we shall not solve any problems if the normal regime of corporal punishment is included. We ought to address ourselves to how our schools are to cope with that sort of problem, but if we expect our schools to change and to deal with a new situation that will cost money.
We should remember that normal youngsters have many things to gain and learn from living with handicapped children, just as handicapped children have things to gain from living with normal children. There can be gains on each side. But there will have to be very great changes in the schools. The Government must recognise that fact in relation to what is said in Committee about teacher training provision and about the help, through the inspectorate and in other ways, that is to be given to the schools to enable them to cope with integration.
We talk a great deal about the parent, but the sad fact is that for many youngsters in our big cities the parent is the social services department. They are in care. I am horrified at the number of youngsters in my constituency whose parent is the statutory authority and who have been suspended from school. They sometimes have to spend a year or more away from school before provision is made for them to start receiving their education again. I was particularly horrified by one case, where a youngster has been suspended from a local school, taken into care and put into a community home—not in London, but in Sussex. Because of the report by his secondary school in London it has not been possible to find him a place in a school in the part of Sussex where he lives, because the headmasters there take it upon themselves to refuse or to admit children according to the tone of the reports they receive from previous schools. I do not wish to go further, because these are points to be considered in Committee.
The Government are in a difficulty. If they say that this is a minor change in the statutory provisions from the 1944 categories to the general Warnock category, that will not change much on the ground. If they say that they want real change and schools have to change in some of the ways that I have mentioned, and in many other ways, it will be a substantial operation. For some schools, dedicated to a competitive, academic environment, it will be a total change in their philosophy and environment. As the Bill proceeds through Committee, the Government will make up their mind which of those two scenarios is correct. If it is to be a substantial change, that means a great deal of re-education for people working in the schools, more co-operation with parents and, as many of my colleagues have said, more money.
§ Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead)
Churchill described his frequent, desperate and often prolonged bouts of depression as being seized by a black dog. The Secretary of State's speech and the Bill have had the effect of springing that black dog on many hon. Members here today and, more importantly, on large numbers of parents and their children throughout the country.
89 It has been a black dog effect because for the Secretary of State it has been a lost opportunity. What an opportunity was offered to him by the Warnock report and the Bill—an opportunity of ending, as the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Pawsey) eloquently called it, the system of educational apartheid between those classified as handicapped and those who are not. What an opportunity lost because, if the resources had been willed, the Bill would have ranked in this century second only to the Education Act 1944. Instead of bringing forward a Bill like a roaring lion, we have a mouse—and a dead mouse at that.
It is a black dog day for all of us in another sense. I pick up one of the themes adopted by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price). It was also touched on by the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett). They posed the other way round the question which has dominated hon. Members' minds throughout the debate: what can we do for the disabled? They asked: what can the disabled do for us?
To feed into this part of my contribution it is important for me to recall the first visit that I made to a special school last summer. I had not made such a visit before. I had not had any reason for making such a visit before, but I was invited to visit the school which serves some of the children in my constituency. Before making the visit I had that feeling which the hon. Member for Dorking (Mr. Wickenden) spoke about—fear. It was fear partly of the unknown and how I would cope when I went inside that school.
The Bill raises some important issues and feelings which thrash away at the bottom of our souls. After visiting the school I was clear on three lessons that I had learnt. It raised some fundamental questions about human life. When I visited the children in that school and looked at some whose lives were caught in desperately frail and handicapped bodies, it raised the fundamental question: what constitutes life?
My visit to the school also taught me a great deal about the parents. In the debate we have rightly thanked Mary Warnock and her committee for their report which we are in part debating today. But I should also like to thank the parents of those children for the way that they shared their fears with me—fears which hon. Members have already touched upon—for what they taught me and for showing me how committed parents could be both to their children and to their schools.
But, above all, the people and the children at that school taught me something more. I have been in other educational establishments, but not one where there was so much love and affection as in that school. I felt that it was a great loss not to have such schools centred in or near other schools so that all could learn from them. I should think that every school in the land would be improved by seeing the devotion, affection and love of those parents and staff to children, many of whom could not, visibly at least, return that affection.
The debate, while concentrating on the narrow issue of those in special schools, is also about the wider issue to which Mary Warnock and her committee asked us to address ourselves. I can understand the emphasis that many hon. Members have placed on the importance of integrating the special schools and whether that will be a reality, but we should not forget that in abolishing those statutory handicaps Mary Warnock brought forth a new concept of special educational needs which was not limited 90 to 2 per cent. of children, but varied between one in five and one in six. I can understand the Government, restricted by the financial corset in which they find themselves, necessarily concentrating on what to do with the special schools. But it is important to widen the debate to those one in five or one in six children and to look at the three priorities that the Warnock committee set out for action.
I disagree with the judgment that Mary Warnock gave in the interview quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock). It is impossible to distinguish which of the three priorities listed in her report is the most important. Each of those three priorities has a different function, and I want to touch on each of those priority groups. First, Mary Warnock said that we should start early. The hon. Member for Dorking highlighted that theme in his moving and important contribution. If we are to minimise the effects of handicap, we need to start soon. The sooner we start with children the better.
To illustrate that point, I shall draw on an important piece of work that is not to be found in the Warnock report. The National Birthday Trust carries out big benchmark surveys every 12 years. The last was in 1970. Perhaps the most important result of that study was the findings of Geoffrey Chamberlain, when he highlighted the importance of the first three minutes in a child's life. If a child is not breathing properly in those three minutes, it begins to suffer serious and then irreparable damage to its central nervous system. That is why it is important that mothers at risk and others too, should have their children in hospitals, where there is a chance to take countervailing measures in intensive care units. The importance of those measures can be seen in the limitation of damage to children who have a difficult birth. The Warnock committee was mindful of the importance of quick and easy identification of handicap and the action that should follow. We shall be listening carefully to the Minister when he tells us what is being done.
The Warnock committee highlighted four priorities in the need for early action. First, we are reminded that parents are the main educators during a child's early years and they need to be supported. How will the Government support parents in that function? The needs of the parents stretch from identifying handicap right through to being aware of the educational services that may be available to them. What extra help will there be for parents?
Secondly, in helping parents find their way through the assistance available, the need for a named person is emphasised. How will the Government reassure parents that someone will fulfil that key role if there is not a named person?
Thirdly, because parents will be doing much of the teaching, there is a need for peripatetic teachers. Will there be extra resources to help parents carry out their crucial educational function in the first years of a child's life?
Fourthly, again because of the importance of supporting the children and their parents with education facilities, the report stated that we need more day nurseries and nursery classes, although that need was being fulfilled. That passage in the report now seems to come from another world. What extra resources will there be for the parents of children who desperately need the help of day nurseries and nursery classes? To what extent will the Government find the resources to add a teaching component to day nurseries? I need not stress the importance of that. The report does it for me.
91 The second priority in the trinity of priorities concerns teacher training. We are talking not only of the 2 per cent. of very severely disabled children but the large number of children who during their school lives experience difficulty with learning. The change for them must occur in normal schools.
The importance of finding extra resources can be seen in one sentence of the report. Mary Warnock says that, if we do not take any new measures but start to train teachers from this day forth in their new needs, it will take 40 years before every teacher has the skills to deal with children with special educational needs. Do the Government intend to let the issue run for 40 years? If not, what measures will they take to change the courses at teacher training colleges and to find resources for in-service training? What importance do they attach to the secondment of teachers on the one-year or two-year link courses?
The second of the Warnock priorities, therefore, was changes in teacher training, which is an important priority if we are to concentrate our gaze not on the 2 per cent. but on the one in five or one in six.
The last priority concerns further education, the right to further education, and the right to day centre care and adult day centre places. What do the Government intend to do about that? Here, I echo the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright). He spoke about the wish of many of those young people to be in employment. For those who are very severely disabled, that will not be a reality in our lifetime, but for many children at the margin the difference of 10 percentage points in their IQ will make a difference as to whether or not they will be able to hold down a job. Whether they get those extra 10 percentage points may depend on the resources that are available for further education. We await the Government's proposals with interest. If there are no answers to that series of questions, we must face the fact that it is a black day for all concerned with the issue.
The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) said that our aim should be to abolish the stigma of those who are severely handicapped. How can we abolish the stigma if we are simply changing the names from categories of handicap to another name? People attend my surgery on a Friday evening and refer to the Unemployment Assistance Board. The Unemployment Assistance Board was abolished in 1948 and replaced by the National Assistance Board. The National Assistance Board was abolished in 1966 and replaced by supplementary benefit. This Government changed the scheme but had the decency not to change the name. The change of names has fooled none of my constituents, and none of the families with whom we have been concerned today will be fooled by a change in the categories of handicap. They want more than that. I hope that in his reply the Minister will address himself to making a reality of Warnock. In doing so, the Government must meet those three priorities.
The question that has not been raised by Conservative Members but might well have been is: if we are supporting the full implementation of Warnock, where will the resources come from? Some hon. Members spoke about the assisted places scheme. The Secretary of State gave one of his deft performances in trying not to understand statistics. He said that the figure involved was merely £3 92 million, but he knows as well as we do that that sum grows each year as more children go into the scheme. It is not a matter of £3 million, but a matter of priorities, of morality and of how we spend our money. We are reminded that Baroness Young said that we live in difficult economic times, and that the resources are not available. R. H. Tawney said that when a liner goes down there is no place for second-class and first-class passengers as one gets on to the life rafts. Perhaps in difficult economic times it is more important to apply those moral principles and not less important.
Indeed, if we were challenged as to where the resources were to come from, we would ask the Minister, in replying, to reflect upon what the Government have been doing in the last two Budgets. Here I shall be brief. On no point do I wish to accuse the Government of dishonesty. They were quite open with the electorate about what they intended to do—that was, to bring about a massive transference of resources from ordinary and poorer people to richer people. They believed that that was the way to meet the point that the hon. Member for Dorking (Mr. Wickenden) was making. That was the key to growth. Some of us are waiting for the growth, but in the meantime we have a right to question the allocation of those resources.
In the first Budget, surtax payers picked up £1.6 billion of the £4.6 billion cut in taxation or 7 percent. of taxpayers gained 34 per cent. of the tax cuts. In the second Budget, the richest 2 per cent. picked up 14 per cent. of all tax cuts. We could make a case not for taking all that back off the rich, because we do not want them to suffer too much, but, if we were serious about implementing Warnock, about making a reality of this Bill, I should have thought that a tithe on those richer taxpayers would not come amiss. Therefore, the resources exist. The Government's priorities are different. We have a right to challenge the Government on those priorities.
I shall try to be even briefer on my last point. The Warnock report talked about the keeping of records or profiles on students. Mary Warnock, almost reading the mind of the hon. Member for Tiverton, was fearful that without making the keeping of records fairly comprehensive, we would again stigmatise small groups of children. I wonder whether we should not be even bolder than Warnock and use this part of the report to begin to fashion a cornerstone for the whole of our education system.
Warnock, following Plowden, said that there was a case for school profiles which regularly kept a check on what children's achievements were. Some hon. Members may say that I am sounding rather like the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) when we talk about the need for children to acquire certain skills. I support him 100 per cent. on that, and more, in that we are concerned not only with the three Rs but with skills beyond that, with children's social abilities and cultural abilities. But if we were keeping a check on all of our children, making sure that they achieved by certain ages, the questions of examinations would begin to fall into place. They become less important and not more important, because all children then have a great deal to sell to the outside world when their education is complete. But it does something else. As someone who was a teacher for a brief period, I believe that it will tell us where the weaknesses are in the schools.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
My hon. Friend is coming back to an earlier point. He tended to suggest that the very severely handicapped will not have a chance of earning a living. I must take issue with him, and I should like it to go on the record. We have cases up and down the country of people who cannot breathe and are on respirators but who can create a work situation and earn a living by the flickering of an eyelid. We must write off no one in our society because he seems to be totally handicapped. Will my hon. Friend please gel: that back on record?
§ Mr. Field
I am happy to go back on the record and to learn from my hon. Friend. However, we should not be too romantic or too brutally nineteenth century. We should not think that everybody must earn a living. Earlier, I mentioned the school I visited last year. In that school I noticed that a child of more than 16 years had a toy in front of him that my godchild, who is 1, enjoyed playing with. The older child found it difficult to cope with the toy. We shall have the privilege of caring for some children and adults. There will be genuine affection on our part, although we shall see no physical let alone material return from them.
We should be mindful not to categorise people or put them into boxes. There is a temptation to ensure that they do not earn a living just because they are in those boxes. However, we should not argue that everyone owes us—as taxpayers—a living.
I mentioned a system of records that should not apply only to the very handicapped or to the one in five or one in six that the Warnock report mentions. It should apply to all schoolchildren. The Minister and I spend some of our time in schools. The schools in which pupils achieve and in which they extend their abilities are happy schools. Usually those schools are not troubled. The reverse applies to schools in which pupils feel that they are not achieving.
To end, I should like to concentrate the Minister's mind on six questions. I should like not only to indicate the sort of points that must be pressed in Committee but to clarify how much is Warnock and how much is not. I echo a point made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Thornton), that the Bill does not purport to be Warnock. First, is that true? If not, how many children at present educated in special schools will be educated in ordinary schools as a result of the Bill? What measures will the Government bring forward to help the one in five or one in six that have special educational needs?
Secondly, I should like a commitment about the level of resources and falling rolls. I should like the Minister to be able to get down every word, so I shall go slowly. To what extent will falling rolls be used as a way of making general educational savings and in particular to what extent will the budgets for special schools and for those children with special educational needs be protected?
Thirdly, what information will the Government ask schools to provide about their special educational provisions? That refers to a point raised by the hon. Member for Dorking about the need for information. That information will be particularly needed when we consider the availability of services within schools.
Fourthly, will the Department make a statement shortly about further education and about places at adult training centres and day centres? I am grateful for the letter that I received from the Minister's colleague, but it would be useful to have a statement on the record.
94 Fifthly, why are the Government making a difference in the appeal systems for those requiring special education compared with those requiring ordinary education? Is it that the local appeal tribunal may support parents, which would have important resource implications, or are there other reasons?
Sixthly, although many of us are against quangos and so on, will the Government give some proper reasons for the fact that the advisory committee principle, which was outlined by Warnock, will not be implemented?
We should like answers to those questions, either now or later. Obviously, we shall try to improve the Bill in Committee. If we are successful in strengthening the Bill, all of us will be able to say that we have had a hand in passing an important Bill. If we can strengthen the resolve of Conservative Members to win resources for the Bill, the Bill may go down in history as not just an important Bill but a great Bill.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Dr. Rhodes Boyson)
First. I welcome the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) in what is, as it were, his first Front Bench debate. I feel rather like the sixth-former being interrogated by the headmaster, but I shall do my best to answer all of the hon. Gentleman's questions. Not only were there six questions, but those questions had subsections of their own. Nevertheless, I shall try to bring in all the points that the hon. Gentleman has made, together with my general replies, and also try to answer the points raised by all those who have contributed.
We have had a good debate. There is no doubt that hon. Members who have contributed know a great deal about the subject. It is a subject on which people are not neutral. They feel with a depth of conviction. Other hon. Members seeking general information, looking into the Chamber and seeing the experts gathered here, must have decided that it was not their day. With all due respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Mr. Wickenden), I do not believe that it is a question of disinterest. It is that certain people have worked so hard—my hon. Friend is one of them, since he came to the House—that people recognise specialties where they exist.
I appreciate the strength of feeling of the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Catter-Jones). We know the tremendous work that he has done for the handicapped. Listening to him it occurred to me that the Conservative Party owes him a great deal. I fought against him unsuccessfully in Eccles in 1970. My hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) fought him in 1974, and my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haslehurst) lived in his constituency. I do not think that anyone other than a Conservative Party vice-chairman in charge of candidates could claim to have done more for the selection of candidates in this country than the hon. Member for Eccles. Long may he continue to do so. He has a special facility in that regard. I wish to put that on record, as I know that his colleagues will appreciate the point.
The Bill does two things. First, it establishes a legal framework. It is not about resources. Resources are decided by Governments year by year. The Bill deals with the legal framework for extension when that is possible. I liked the imagery of the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), who also has a great flow of language. He talked about not going on Brighton Pier unless it reaches 95 as far as France. I should not go to Brighton Pier if I wished to get to France. I think that there are better ways of getting there, but I respect the hon. Gentleman's view. Perhaps I may turn his imagery around. It seems to me that we are building a new pier, which we can extend when the facilities and the resources are available. We are providing the framework for it. That framework is necessary. I shall return to the details of that framework later in my remarks.
The second point concerns the effect upon public opinion. This has been raised time and time again by hon. Members. Treating the handicapped as though they were something separate is rather like the old public assistance and other things of that kind which lie deep in people's memories. The Bill seeks to remedy that. In this, it follows the Warnock report. Apart from the 2 per cent. who have been in special schools, I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a figure as to how many we can bring into ordinary schools. If he asks me in 10 years' time, I shall be able to tell him, but I cannot prophesy how many would be affected by the move from special schools into the mainstream of schools.
The Bill also means that we recognise that a further 20 per cent. overall have certain special handicaps. It is not as straightforward as being on one side of the line or the other. Indeed, we are all handicapped in some minor way, but some have serious educational handicaps. Thus the Bill is particularly important.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) and other hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber have sent notes stating that they cannot be present for the Government reply. My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) and the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) referred to something which was made clear by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Pawsey). That is that the Bill abolishes 10 statutory categories of handicap and replaces them with a system of pupil profiles so that we see people in the round rather than merely as handicapped. It allows us to ask "How can we give them educational facilities in order to overcome that handicap?" It is a question of balance. We accept that in general one-fifth—one-sixth at a specific time—of people have special educational needs.
The aim is not just integration, but the provision of appropriate education for individuals within the integrated system. The Bill categorises children according to educational needs, not according to their disabilities. It is a question of balance, and the Bill tries to strike that balance. We shall not be able to integrate certain children into normal schools. On that I agree with the hon. Member for Eccles. There are few handicapped people of any age who cannot do something for society, which is what they want to do in order to feel part of society. However, wherever possible, without affecting the education of other children too adversely, without being withdrawn from certain special treatment which they should have, and without too great a demand on resources, such children should be in normal schools. That degree of integration should take place as far as possible. Rather than asking "Who can we take out?" we should now ask "Who can we bring into the system?"
"The multi-professional assessment" is not a pleasant phrase. But instead of this matter being looked at medically, which it was before, it will now be carried out 96 by the teacher, the psychologist and the medical adviser who will look upon these children totally in the round. They will consider what their needs are.
I must tell the House that I prefer the statement to record. Having a record is rather like "helping the police with their inquiries". People who have a record are not necessarily the most famous old boys of a school. The first part of the statement will identify what the handicap is. I should have said "the special educational need" rather than "handicap". It just shows how all of us must cleanse our brains. The second part of the statement then asks "What can be done about it?" The two parts go together.
I do not want to go into history. However, it is important for both sides of the House to keep together as much as possible. We may differ about resources—I shall return to the question—but if we can come together in order to make the Bill a good one, we owe it to people outside so to do. However, I appreciate the concern and integrity of many hon. Members on this matter.
The Warnock committee was set up by the present Prime Minister. It took a long time to report. In 1976, many of us served on the Committee which considered the Education Act of that year. Although section 10 was brought in, it was never brought into force. We can all ask why. In May 1978, the Warnock report was published. Similarly, if we have a "rhubarb rhubarb" session we can all ask "Why did nothing happen for a year?" I appreciate the indignation that one could raise. It is like baking powder. As Private Eye says, God forbid that that idea should enter my brain or pass my lips.
§ Dr. Boyson
Baking powder helps from time to time. It is the same thing in the mug.
On 3 March last year my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State gave a pledge that we would do something about Warnock. The Bill is a fulfilment of that pledge. We published a White Paper in August, and the Bill is now before us. I have always been concerned about the rights of parents. That is an issue that has concerned many hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford, who spoke at length on the matter. If hon. Members do not understand how the Bill changes the rights of parents, I fail to understand how they can claim to be able to read. At present parents have the right to a certificate signed by a doctor certifying that their child is suffering from some disability of mind or body. That is largely determined by medical examination. That is all that a parent has at present.
What does the Bill provide? A parent will be able to go to a local authority until his or her child is aged 2 years and ask for an assessment to be made of the child if he or she fears that the child is suffering from some handicap. A parent may ask for an assessment and he or she has to be informed if a local authority decides that there should be an assessment.
The parent has to know the way in which an assessment and a statement is made, and he or she can make representations and give written evidence before a statement is made. The parent can be present at all examinations, can comment upon the draft of the statement and then appeal to the authority against the statement. He or she can even go to the Secretary of State if the statement is not accepted. That applies to the 97 information about the child or the suggested educational advantages that should be given to the child. That is a total transformation of the present system.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
The Minister is stressing the advantages of going right through the process. He was talking about a child aged 2 or 3 years. How long would it take for the complete process to be completed, including appeal to the Secretary of State? Some of us have had experience of appeals to the Secretary of State which have continued for a long time. What is relevant for a 2-year-old may not be relevant when the child is 4 or 5 years old, when the appeal is finally settled.
§ Dr. Boyson
I cannot say in calendar terms how long the procedure will take. However, compared with appeals under section 12 of the 1980 Act on the closure of schools, in which many factors must be considered, this will be a simple matter. It will be the issue of one child and that child's education, compared with the effect of a school closure upon an area.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
There was a theoretical appeal to the Secretary of State about allocation of schools in days gone by. Is my hon. Friend able to assure the House that if there is an appeal to the Secretary of State under this provision it will be determined by a Minister rather than delegated to a regional official of the Department? This is an important point about the reality of the Bill.
§ Dr. Boyson
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. The decision will be made by the Secretary of State. I add, since we have the privilege of the attendance of my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), that my hon. Friend has raised the relationship between the provisions of clause 10(2), the withdrawal of children from special schools, and the position of children in psychiatric units. Children are usually placed in psychiatric units with associated educational provision made by the LEA for short periods. As a consequence, the procedure for making a statement will not usually be invoked unless, after such intervention, the special educational needs of a particular child have to be safeguarded. I am informed that that is the position. It is a technical matter and my hon. Friend was right to raise it. If there are any further problems, we shall further consider the issue. I am glad that my hon. Friend raised the matter, and I shall ensure that it is cleared up.
I apologise to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for turning my back on the Chair. I was on a technical point and I thought, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you might not follow it as closely as my general arguments. I was trying to give you a little relief.
I continue with general matters in which we can all join together. A parent can ask for a further assessment when a year has passed and follow the appeal system that relates to schools. That question was raised by the hon. Member for Birkenhead. If the parent does not get the school that he wants for his child, he can appeal. These tribunals are established under the 1980 Act. In this instance the decisions of the tribunals will not be binding upon a local authority because of the medical attention that has to be given. That is why we have provided an appeal to the Secretary of State.
The recommendation from the tribunal will be a strong one because it can be published, and, if the local authority ignores it, it will be a serious matter of educational concern 98 in that area. All kinds of societies will take it up. If the parent is dissatisfied, he can go to the Secretary of State, but not under sections 68 or 99, which would almost only cover malpractice.
§ Mr. Field
I do not understand why a difference is being made here. In his reply, the Minister said that these tribunals would consider medical records. Is the hon. Gentleman therefore suggesting that the people on the appeal tribunal will not be competent enough to judge those records with other material, but the Secretary of State will be? If that is not the reason, what is the reason for making that difference?
§ Dr. Boyson
In this case, concerning children of this nature, the issue could be much more complex.
In the normal tribunals—which I supported and am delighted to see on the statute book—the parent is deciding on school A, school B or school C. Many cases concern simplistic issues such as single sex or mixed schools, the type of discipline or the academic standards in the school. In this case, there will have to be a degree of specialised knowledge which is not normally used or available to the tribunal. That is what we are trying and we shall see how it works. It makes an immediate difference to the right of parents to appeal.
My hon Friend the Member for Exeter talked about the publishing of information. I am surprised that no one, particularly the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett), raised that point today. If a local authority is regularly using a non-maintained school for children with special handicaps—as it uses a special school—it will be expected that, when the local education authority gives information about schools, the non-maintained school—what they do and where they are—will be included. Therefore, the parent will have the information about which schools are available, even if they are not maintained schools.
The hon. Member for Birkenhead and other hon. Members talked about the named person. There has been strong feeling in the House about that today. We can discuss that matter in Committee—that is what the Committee is for. We shall go into detail on why we have done it this way.
The reason for our approach on the named person is that we feel that that person could differ from year to year. It could be a social worker or a local education officer. Then it could be a headmaster and then a careers officer. I accept—and my right hon. and learned Friend accepts—that it is important that it should be a named person. I also accept the point raised by the hon. Member for Stockport, North, that the local authority should inform the parent if that man moves. All our constituents write to us regularly about how they are lost in local bureaucracies. It is an important matter, and I suggest that we discuss it further in Committee.
§ Mr. Hudson Davies
Will the Minister bear in mind that the concept of a named person need not be as variable, by any means, as a change from year to year? One could think in terms of a named person in the early days up to schooling, a named person throughout primary schooling and throughout secondary school, perhaps sliding into yet another named person. The duration is not so short-lived as to make it meaningless to view it as a continuum. There 99 would perhaps be one or two breaks, but there would be a continuous link between the world of officialdom, the world of expertise and the family.
§ Dr. Boyson
I take the point of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Hudson Davies). He spoke with great feeling in the debate. I suggest that we look at this point in Committee. It seems to me that some of the voluntary societies that have done so much may be able to provide some of the named persons who could watch with a degree of continuity. That could be a new step in the usefulness of our voluntary societies.
I move on to the governing bodies. Those in the maintained special schools will, under the 1980 Act, include parents and teachers. The regulations to be made under clause 11 will allow the Secretary of State, when the regulations are made, to specify the conditions under which he accepts on to his list not only the independent schools but the non-maintained schools. Means can be found of ensuring the presence of local authorities, parents and teachers either on an advisory body or on the governing bodies of the schools.
The hon. Member for Stockport, North, my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and other hon. Members raised the question of confidentiality. This issue arises regularly on the question of freedom of information. Let me quote from the Wamock report from page 56, paragraph 4.23, which states:A second type of personal folder is needed for the results of professional consultations and sensitive information given in confidence about a child's social background or family relationships. This should be a confidential folder.There is a similar reference to the need for confidentiality at chapter 16 on page 297. After the Bill becomes law, as we hope, it will, we shall, by postlegislative guidance to the local education authorities, ask them, when there is no tragic or painful circumstance, as can occur in cases such as these, and such circumstances are revealed by assessment, to provide as frank a report as possible to parents. I agree with the Warnock report that in the last degree there must be some element of confidentiality, particularly if the parents, especially of children going to independent special schools, are possibly the reason why their child is in that particular state.
Once again, we have strengthened the hand of the Secretary of State in respect of the closure of special schools. No such school will be able to be closed without the Secretary of State's agreement when the Bill becomes law.
I come to the last question by the hon. Member for Birkenhead. I answered the previous three while he was talking to his hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty. The hon. Gentleman asked about the training of teachers, which is a most important matter. Like Warnock, I believe that teachers will have to be trained to expect to encounter children with special educational needs in normal schools. I fail to see why that cannot be done in general training. In three years of general training and in the one year of the postgraduate certificate, teachers could do a week or two of general lectures dealing with how to identify this problem. I should be surprised if such lectures were not already taking place in certain training colleges and university departments. This is a good practice to be followed now, and would be even better if we are to progress further.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennettrose—
§ Mr. Kinnock
I am sure that it would be extremely harmonious, as always in the Labour Party, if we did.
The Under-Secretary has treated one point although not actually dealt with it. May I raise the other point that Mrs. Warnock raised in her article in The Times Educational Supplement about in-service training and prolonged leave of absence for the purpose of continuing the training of serving teachers?
§ Dr. Boyson
That has nothing to do with legislation nor with its finance, which is given separately. This is a framework Bill. We are not presenting the Budget today—although some hon. Members would like that. We are laying the framework for what can be done in future to educate our children. Indeed, I can make an announcement that will give great pleasure to hon. Members. From next year the Open University will give a half credit course entitled "Special Needs in Education". That can be carried out at any time as part of the retraining process. It does not have to be carried out immediately.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
The Minister has twice stressed the need for lectures and training. Surely most teachers want some practical experience of dealing with handicapped children before they have to face the problem of such children coming into their schools. How does the Minister intend to give teachers practical experience as opposed to theoretical training?
§ Dr. Boyson
I do not know what the hon. Gentleman has in mind. Do we need to legislate that every teacher in our schools must have two weeks' practical training during the next year? There is nothing to stop anybody doing that at any time. We do not legislate for that. The hon. Gentleman would be the first to object if we laid down in a Bill how teachers should be trained. The National Union of Teachers' members inside the House would be requested to call at Hamilton House to give a press conference about teachers' freedom.
After that little flourish—which I, at least, enjoyed—I turn to the question of resources. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton has been present throughout the debate. If I gave an impression that he was not, I apologise profusely to him. I felt his shadow behind me while the debate took place. We inherited the current economic position from the previous Labour Government. It is taking us a long time to put that right, otherwise we could have done a great deal more. I do not want to introduce a political point, but the current position leaves us with restricted financial resources. What choices do we have? Should we sit on our hands and do nothing? An old song says that money is the root of all evil. Are we now saying that a limited amount of money is an excuse for idleness and self-satisfied complaint?
I wish to quote the remarks of certain people involved with handicapped people. We heard many quotes during the debate, and I thought that I should give three or four quotes to finish the debate with a flourish. I shall begin with a quote from Mary Warnock. Surely to goodness she should be allowed to say what she thinks about her report. I refer to The Times Educational Supplement of 5 December 1980, in which she refers to the Bill as envisaged in the White Paper. She says: 101Reactions have been amazingly predictable. Everyone complains that there will be no more money. Local authorities complain that there will be no monitoring quango for them to have seats on, teachers complain because their work will be harder, but no better paid. I find the general pessimism sad, and the outcome probably wasteful. The proposition that nothing is possible without the allocation of extra resources will render itself true. People will come to believe that nothing can be done on the grounds that not everything can be done.We believe that something can be done.
My second quotation is from the Municipal Journal— which is not always the best friend of those inside the House—of 29 August 1980. It also refers to the White Paper and states—
§ Dr. Boyson
I am selective. I am especially selective in matters concerning education. I should be surprised if the hon. Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) was not also selective about his remarks in the House. I always enjoy his selection. I thought his remarks today were delightful. [Interruption.] I think that the Labour Front Bench wants him to listen. Obviously, the Government are gaining converts all round. The article states:The Government's proposals will not satisfy the lobby which has called for radical changes in attitude to the whole question of special education, but it does represent a solid, evolutionary approach to the problem which, in the long run, may make change that much easier.102 I shall now quote from the vice-chairman of the Warnock committee. I shall give the references later as they will no doubt be useful to Opposition Members. She says:it is very much in line with the closely argued and carefully presented statement …its cautious pragmatism and realism are more likely in my view to promote the right kind of development than high-flown appeals to 'principle' without regard to needs and resources.My final quotation is from the Advisory Centre for Education—not always the best friend of the Government. It has already been quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking and referred to by some of my hon. Friends. Incidentally, I have not referred to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Thornton) who said that if we put in more money we have no idea where it is going afterwards. That point was also referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Britton). The quotation, headedACE comments on special Education BillreadsThe Advisory Centre for Education welcomes the Bill which goes further than any previous piece of education legislation to provide positive rights and safeguards for parents.I have no doubt that the Bill will not only be welcomed in the House tonight but that it will be welcomed throughout the length and breadth of the country.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Special Standing Committee.—[Mr. Mather.]