§ Mr. Hannam
I beg to move amendment No 35, in page 9, line 20 at end insert—'(5) Provision shall be made in the regulations to secure that—(a) the composition of the governing bodies of non-maintained special schools shall conform, as far as is practicable, to the requirements of subsections 6,7 and 8 of section 2 of the Education Act 1980;(b) each non-maintained special school shall have its own and separate governing body'.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
With this we may take the following amendments:
No. 36, in page 9, line 20 at end insert—'(5) Provision shall be made in the regulations to secure that, so far as practicable, it shall be a condition of approval as aforesaid that the like particulars to those provided for under section 8 of the Education Act 1980 shall be published for each school year by the like bodies or such persons as the Secretary of State may nominate.(6) Section 9(2) of the Education Act 1980 is hereby repealed'.No. 38, in page 9, line 42 at end insert—'(5) Provision shall be made in the regulations to secure that, as far as practicable, it shall be a condition of approval as aforesaid that the like particulars to those provided for under section 8 of the Education Act 1980 shall be published for each school year by the proprietor or such persons as the Secretary of State may nominate'.
§ Mr. Hannam
These are probing amendments to allow my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to implement undertakings that he gave after the Committee discussions on the governing bodies of non-maintained special schools and on the information provided to parents of children attending the special and independent schools in the non-maintained sector.
Amendment No. 35 seeks to establish an important point of principle and to ensure adequate protection of children attending non-maintained special schools. We have 112 non-maintained special schools in England and Wales, catering for 82 per cent. of all blind children, 45 per cent. of all deaf children, and 32 per cent. of all handicapped children attending residential special schools. Therefore, we are talking about a very important category.
The schools are almost entirely dependent upon public funds, yet, as the law stands, they are virtually autonomous and they may select their own governing bodies according to their trust deeds and the 1959 487 regulations. A number of them have no parent-governors, and under present regulations teachers are not allowed to be governors. Not all even have local authority representative governors. The amendment seeks to bring them into line with special schools in the maintained sector.
The second part of the amendment would implement the Warnock report recommendation that each special school should have a single governing body. At present, the wording of the Handicapped Pupils and Special Schools Regulations 1959 is such that the governing body of a charity is deemed to be the governing body of each school that it administers. That means that in principle the number of schools that can be governed by one central body is unlimited. That is unsatisfactory.
Without a governing body there is no protection for children faced with expulsion or suspension, and there is no machinery to ensure that changes in the school not covered by the regulations are consistent with the needs of its pupils, many of whom are placed there and paid for by the local authorities.
In the special and independent school sector handicapped children must be offered the same protection as children at ordinary schools—a point that was made in debates last year on what became the Education Act 1980. The amendment suggests the line on which the principle can be established for non-maintained special schools.
Amendments Nos. 36 and 38 deal with the provision of information to parents whose children are attending, or are about to attend, special schools and independent schools that seek approval from the Secretary of State to take in children with special educational needs. The provision of such information should be a condition of his approval.
The amendments seek to bring special and independent schools as far as possible into line with the requirement on public sector schools to provide information under section 8 of the Education Act 1980.
These are probing amendments to allow my hon. Friend to make a statement about the methods that the Government intend to use to ensure that our special and independent schools apply the same rules as the maintained sector.
My hon. Friend undertook to ensure that parents and teachers were appointed to the governing bodies and that proper information was provided. That explains why amendments have been tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway). I hope that the Minister will be able to give details of how regulations or some other method will ensure that the undertakings are carried out.
§ Mr. Greenway
If the Bill is about anything, it is about parity of esteem between children with special educational needs and ordinary children. We want the same principles applied to schools that are separate and cater only for children with special educational needs as apply to all others. It is not only right from the children's point of view that this should happen; it is also right from the professional teachers' point of view. Why should teachers serve on governing bodies in one sector of schools but not serve on governing bodies in another sector? That cannot be right.
Where there are no teachers on a governing body, that governing body, in my view and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam), is a less informed, less resilient and less useful body. For practical and 488 professional reasons it is desirable that teachers and also parents should serve on the governing bodies of these schools. They have a separate and different contribution to make. It is important that they should be able to make it.
I have a school in my constituency that falls into the category that we are discussing. The school has a certain difficulty. The parents have no direct channel through another parent to communicate with the governing body. This is a deficiency within the school's organisation from which the parents are suffering. The amendment would remedy the situation.
The parents of children attending these schools are surely entitled to the sort of information that has been mentioned. It is laid down that this information is to be published within other schools. It is a matter of parity of esteem that similar provision should be made for the 112 schools that have been mentioned. I support my hon. Friend's case.
§ Dr. Boyson
There will be full sympathy in the House for the amendment. The question that arises is whether the course proposed is correct. There are other ways of doing things. I am aware that Opposition Members are not so flexible in their attitude as are Conservative Members. They do not possess sufficiently versatile minds to think of alternatives in life. Their approach is doctrinaire and one-track. I must not be misled—
§ Dr. Boyson
When the hon. Gentleman, who speaks on every amendment, proposes that I should adopt the approach of a Trappist monk, it represents a sudden change of attitude.
The 1980 Act made it clear that the Government believe that parents and teachers should sit on each governing body and that there should be LEA representation wherever possible when local authorities take up places in independent and non-maintained schools. The whole issue is concerned with considering how this can be made possible. Clause 11(2) says:Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) above, regulations under that subsection may impose requirements which call for arrangements to be approved by the Secretary of State".That relates to non-maintained schools. Clause 12(3), which relates to independent schools to which local authorities send children, states:Any consent under section 10(3)(b) may be given subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State sees fit to impose.One knows the difficulties of the various bodies that run non-maintained schools. The important thing is to achieve representation while allowing for the fact that the schools have different constitutions. One can make a condition of local education authorities being allowed to send children to non-maintained schools and independent schools the presence of teachers and parents on the governing body Where that is impracticable, we must meet that problem in the way that we met a similar problem last year with hospital special schools—that is, by some other representation that will speak on behalf of parents and teachers.
I assure my hon. Friends that in the conditions under which local education authorities are allowed to send children to independent and non-maintained schools, 489 provision will be made that wherever practicable—or, if impracticable, by other means—there must be teacher and parent representation at the schools.
Schools will be required to provide information to parents. Only two or three weeks ago we enjoyed a debate about provision of information when we discussed a prayer tabled by the Opposition. Local education authorities will be required to provide information about the schools available in their areas. Similarly, individual schools must provide information about their courses and internal arrangements. In the conditions under which local education authorities can send children to independent and non-maintained schools, the Secretary of State will specify that information similar to that provided by maintained schools must be provided by the non-maintained and special schools.
I can give a categoric assurance to my hon. Friends that the points raised in the amendments will be covered by the conditions under which local education authorities are allowed to send children to non-maintained and special schools.
§ Mr. Hannam
In view of the advice given by my hon. Friend the Minister and his assurance that the regulations will be amended to comply with the undertakings that have been given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.