HC Deb 16 November 1992 vol 214 cc10-1
9. Dr. Kim Howells

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what extra resources have been allocated for special needs education in Wales for 1993–94.

Sir Wyn Roberts

It is for local authorities themselves to decide how much to make available for special educational needs, but we are doing all that we can to encourage improved provision. Next year, for example, there will be a 17 per cent. increase in the grants available for training teachers of pupils with special education needs and, for the first time, funding to encourage the integration of children with special educational needs in mainstream schools. That is on top of a parallel initiative under our all-Wales mental handicap strategy for those with severe learning difficulties.

Dr. Howells

Does the Minister know that attempts have already been made to integrate into state schools children who are suffering from one impediment or another, and some have been successful? Throughout Wales, parents of those children are at a loss to understand how funding will be provided in the future, with all the gimmicks and experiments that are going on in self-financing and so on, and are desperate to know what the Government intend to do about what encompasses some of the vulnerable elements in society. Does the Minister agree that children who are afflicted in this way should at least be given an equal opportunity to make progress with their peers?

Sir Wyn Roberts

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's last statement. The whole policy of integrating children with special needs in mainstream schools was initiated by the Government in 1989. I realise only too well that resources are necessary, but they can be held back by local education authorities or delegated to schools. There is a duty on the LEAs to ensure that, where children are statemented, provision is made to meet their needs. We know that some children are not statemented but have special educational needs. My impression is that the entire education system, in every kind of school—LEA maintained, grant maintained or whatever—is paying special attention to the needs of those children.

Mr. Richards

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Education Bill which was given its Second Reading last week will improve matters for such special needs children and their parents?

Sir Wyn Roberts

I agree with my hon. Friend. The Bill will improve matters by enabling parents to express a preference for a school in the maintained sector, speeding up the assessment and statementing process, extending parents' rights of appeal and setting up an independent appeals tribunal to replace the current system of local appeals and appeals to the Secretary of State. Furthermore, in this coming year we shall spend £1.1 million on training teachers for children with special educational needs.

Mr. Gareth Wardell

Can the Minister advise parents in Wales who believe that their children deserve to be statemented, when they are in classes with those who have already been statemented, and who feel that their children are suffering a tremendous injustice? What would the Minister advise those parents to do?

Sir Wyn Roberts

That is one of the points that I covered on Second Reading of the Education Bill, which is due to go into Committee tomorrow. The Bill deals with parents' rights and it enables parents to have a far greater say about the education of special needs children.