HC Deb 02 December 1986 vol 106 cc757-8
6. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the working of the Education Act 1981.

Mr. Dunn

My right hon. Friend will shortly be undertaking a review of the provisions of the Education Act 1981 and its associated guidance to local education authorities, health authorities and social services departments in the light of recent research findings. Any possible amendments will be the subject of consultation with interested bodies in the usual way.

Mr. Dormand

Although the recently published survey, which the Minister has not mentioned, shows that there are many problems associated with the integration of handicapped children into ordinary schools, does he agree that the main difficulty arises from the insufficient provision made by the Government? Is he aware that there is deep and growing concern among parents—I am pleased to have the Minister's assent—at the slow progress in meeting the aims of the 1981 Act? Will he therefore consider constituting a special unit in his Department to monitor and develop progress towards the aims of the Act? Unless something is done about that, the hon. Gentleman will soon be accused of not caring about the provisions of this important legislation.

Mr. Dunn

I acknowledge the hon. Gentleman's concern. As he knows, a short while ago the Department of Education and Science funded a three and a half year project at the University of London institute of education to study the developments within local authorities following the introduction of the 1981 Act. We are now studying the implications of that project and we shall return to it at some time in future.

Mr. Haselhurst

Does my hon. Friend accept that, although there have been some early and obvious benefits from the implementation of the Act for handicapped youngsters and their classmates, there are still problems —for example, in small village schools of ancient construction which have difficulties in handling wheelchair cases?

Mr. Dunn

My hon. Friend is right about that difficulty. We would all like to spend more money on special education, but much good work is being done within existing resources. As he knows, all local education authorities now operate the procedures introduced by the 1981 Act.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Does the Minister accept that the implementation of the Act has been severely handicapped because no extra resources have been available to adapt buildings, to provide the extra educational psychologists who are needed to make the statements, to train teachers in the mainstream schools, to provide special provision or to provide speech therapists or physiotherapists from the district health authorities? When will the Government provide the money to make the legislation work?

Mr. Dunn

From the moment that the Act was initiated we always said that financial provision was the responsibility of the local education authorities. I remind the House that the number of children who were the subject of a statement of special educational needs and who were in ordinary schools at January last was 26,423.