HC Deb 18 May 1982 vol 24 cc180-1
10. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he has considered clarifying the terms of the Education Act 1981, so as to establish beyond doubt that special schools for the handicapped do not need to change their names so as to remove any specific reference to the different disabilities such as the blind and partially sighted, the deaf or the mentally handicapped.

Dr. Boyson

There is nothing in the provisions of the Education Act 1981 to require a school to change its name; nor, so long as the name reflects the function of the school, would it be helpful for that to happen. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity to make this perfectly clear.

Mr. Hannam

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for clearing up the misapprehension that exists in the minds of many local education officers. Does my hon. Friend recall that during the passage of the Bill he promised that a conference of organisations concerned with the handicapped would be organised to monitor the progress and integration of the Act? When will that conference be held?

Dr. Boyson

I well remember that promise being given to my hon. Friend during the proceedings. We are moving towards the arrangement of that conference and I hope to make an announcement soon on the date of the conference and who we shall be inviting to it.

Mr. Ashley

Is the Minister aware that some specialist schools are anxious not only about their names but about their existence? Will he confirm that giving disabled children an opportunity of integration into normal schools does not entail the demolition of special schools?

Dr. Boyson

The intention of the 1981 Act was that, wherever possible, children should be integrated into the normal school system. However, some children are handicapped to such an extent that it is necessary for them to go to special schools. I have no doubt that specialised schools have a long future in this country.

Mr. Marks

Is the Minister satisfied that all local education authorities are carrying out their statutory duties towards handicapped children? I notice that the Secretary of State has been visiting Wiltshire. Is the Minister satisfied that the rural counties are doing all that they can to carry out their duties under the 1981 Act and previous Acts?

Dr. Boyson

We have issued guidance on the enforcement of the 1981 Act. Not all of it is in practice. We rely upon advice from Her Majesty's Inspectorate on what is happening round the country. I am sure that local education authorities are carrying out their statutory duties as far as possible, but I am also sure that the counties will be aware of the questions that have been asked today and of the duties that the Government feel local authorities should carry out to the best of their ability.