§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill now be read a second time. It gives me particular pleasure to move the Second Reading of this Education Bill because I am acutely aware of the interest and knowledge many of your Lordships have in those 977 members of our society who are in any way handicapped. This was demonstrated during the debate we had in January on the International Year of Disabled People. Your Lordships have long awaited this Bill on the education of children with special educational needs and I am glad that at last it is before this House. We look forward this afternoon especially to hearing from the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox. I hope we shall hear from her on many occasions.
Before turning to the detailed provisions of the Bill, I should like to make a few general points. I think it is important that your Lordships appreciate at the outset that this is not a Bill which deals solely with the educational problems of disabled children. Nor indeed is it a measure that is confined to what we have traditionally termed handicapped children. It is a Bill which tackles the problems of perhaps some 20 per cent. of the school population who have at some time in their school lives what we have termed a "special educational need".
The Bill is based on the recommendations made in the Warnock Report for a reform of the statutory framework governing the provision of special education in a way that would help break down artificial barriers between handicapped and non-handicapped pupils. It is therefore right to acknowledge that the philosophy behind this Bill has its origin in the Warnock Report and I should like to place on record our thanks to Mrs. Mary Warnock and her Committee for their work.
The Bill now before your Lordships lays the foundation for the further development of special education along lines recommended by the Warnock Committee. It proposes a radical change in existing arrangements by replacing the present system of ascertainment based on medical examination and assignment to a category of handicap with a new concept of a group of children with special educational needs within which a small percentage will require careful multi-professional assessment to reveal the totality of their special educational needs. Thus the Bill is not a measure which attempts to tinker with existing statute but one that starts afresh.
I should like to draw attention to two features in the proposed legislation which I trust will commend themselves to your Lordships. For the first time local education authorities are enabled to make provision for very young children. That is, babies and toddlers under the age of two. This is most important as I believe there can be no doubt that early help can be particularly beneficial for some handicapped children.
The second feature is the stress laid throughout the Bill on the involvement of parents in decisions made about the special educational provision for children with severe learning difficulties. Many of your Lordships will recall that during our discussions last year on what is now the 1980 Education Act, I promised that this Bill would do everything possible to strengthen the rights of parents of handicapped children. I believe that I can fairly claim that this has been achieved.
In bringing this Bill before you it would be wrong of me to pretend that it has been without criticism during its passage through another place. As you will know, the Bill there was the subject of an experimental Committee stage which allowed honourable 978 Members on the Committee to call and question witnesses, including Mrs. Warnock and myself, before beginning detailed consideration of the Bill. It was mainly during these sessions and at the earlier Second Reading stage that there was a criticism about the lack of resources for special education.
In the hope that our debates will centre more on the provisions of the Bill and less on the general economic climate, I should like to make it clear that it is simply not true that there is no money available for special education. The Government's expenditure forecasts allow for broadly level funding for special schools over the next few years despite the fact that pupil numbers will fall by 10,000. This, coupled with a reappraisal of the deployment of existing resources which will be occasioned by this Bill, should enable local education authorities to make modest improvements in their special educational provision.
While I should have liked to announce that the Bill was to be accompanied by a massive injection of extra resources, it is not true to state that nothing can be done without extra money. I do not believe I could have stood at this Dispatch Box and told your Lordships, particularly during this International Year of the Disabled, that the Government were going to ignore the recommendations of Mrs. Warnock and leave the statutory framework unchanged. Much has already been done and will continue to be done to improve our system for special education and it is the Government's view that obsolescent law should be removed and replaced by this Bill so that further development can take place in line with the availability of existing and future resources.
I have no doubt that the measures proposed in the Bill are soundly based and that the changes proposed will have a considerable effect. One important by-product of the Bill will be in the way that it forces all of us to re-examine our attitudes towards the child with special educational needs and, ultimately I hope to change the attitudes of society as a whole towards the handicapped person.
I turn now to another issue limked with the question of resources; namely, teacher training. "Teacher training" is an umbrella term which covers many disparate types of training. Unfortunately, this means that discussions on teacher training can become very confused. There are basically three kinds of teacher training: initial training, specialised training for specific handicaps and in-service training. This latter term itself covers many different types of training. So far as initial teacher training is concerned, what I believe is required is a greater student awareness of the kinds of special educational needs likely to be encountered in the classroom. I am pleased to say that there has already been a response among colleges of education and universities to meet this need.
In-service training is equally important in increasing awareness among serving teachers, and there are already some courses specifically designed to help teachers recognise and meet special educational needs encountered in the classrooms of ordinary schools. But it is not just more courses that are necessary. There are other approaches. For example, I was impressed with the evidence given to the Commons Special 979 Standing Committee by one headmistress when she said:…there is a need for the entire staff to have an occasional full day in-service training using local authority resources. That is one way of getting over the financial difficulties. To send one or two members of staff away for a term, even if the money is available, is not the answer to the problem".—[Official Report. Special Standing Committee on the Education Bill. Col. 169.]Furthermore, I believe it is essential that we remember that the Bill does not create a new type of pupil. The children covered by this Bill exist now and are being taught now, mainly in ordinary schools, by a trained and qualified teaching profession. The Bill does not presage the wholesale movement of children from special schools into ordinary schools, and in this respect it is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. We are not therefore faced with a need to re-train the whole teaching profession overnight and the development of initial and in-service training must be viewed against this background.
I should like to turn now to one area which would require legislation but which is not covered in the Bill. The Government have acknowledged that it is not possible to extend any of the provisions in the Bill to the further education sector until the whole legal basis for the provision of further education has been reviewed and decisions taken on any necessary legislative reforms.
Your Lordships may be aware that a working party consisting of officials of my department, the Welsh Office and the local authority associations has now completed its initial review and their report was published last week. This report will now be the subject of widespread consultation and I hope noble Lords will not be inhibited in making their views known to my department. I understand that copies of the report are available in the Printed Paper Office.
While the further education sector is excluded from the Bill, I am encouraged by the ways in which colleges and universities are already beginning to respond positively to the needs of the handicapped student. Some universities and polytechnics have set up special committees for the handicapped and have appointed special student counsellors for the disabled to keep in touch with the students and their tutors to help solve their problems. Southampton and Sussex Universities have opened special residential units which are specially equipped and serviced for handicapped students. Additionally, I note that nearly 1,700 students at the Open University identify themselves as having a disability, which demonstrates how useful this approach to higher education can be for some handicapped students.
Not all children with special educational needs will be able to benefit from higher education and there will be some who move on to other provision once they leave school. I should like to place on record here the position over the provision of teachers to adult training centres. Noble Lords who have followed the debates in another place will have noted that my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary promised to introduce into this Bill an amendment to allow LEAs to provide teachers to training centres. I am happy to report to this House that we are now advised that such powers already exist under the 980 National Health Service Act 1977 and the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970. I shall therefore ensure that our post-legislative guidance to LEAs covers this point, as I am anxious that LEAs know of their powers in this respect.
At this point it would be wrong of me not to place on the record the co-operative spirit which has been a feature of discussions in another place. I take pleasure in being able to place before you a Bill which is supported on all sides. I feel sure that we can approach our consideration of the Bill in the same manner. This is not to say that we will not have our differences of opinion about detail, but the Government are ready to listen to the arguments and to see this House improve the Bill in any reasonable way.
I turn now to the detailed provisions of the Bill. Clause 1 contains the definition of "special educational needs". This definition was the subject of a long period of consideration both within my department and with colleagues in other departments. The essential feature of the definition is that it is based on the concept of a learning difficulty. It thus embraces what has been conveniently called Warnock's 1 in 6 of school children. Furthermore, no reference is made to the causal factors which give rise to learning difficulties. We can thus dispense with categorisation according to handicapping condition and concentrate on the individual child's special educational needs. The only exclusion from the definition is children whose sole problems derive from language difficulties. We have excluded them not because they do not have educational needs, which LEAs are already under a duty to meet, but because we wish to avoid the position arising whereby children from ethnic minorities feel themselves, however misguidedly, as being classified as handicapped because they have yet to gain a full understanding of the language of instruction.
Clause 2 of the Bill is largely concerned with placing duties on LEAs and governors of ordinary schools to ensure that the majority of pupils who have special educational needs and who are already in these schools have those needs acknowledged and catered for. LEAs are also required to keep the totality of their special educational provision under review.
Clause 2 also contains our statement of principle on the question of integration and association. We firmly believe that the largest possible number of children with special educational needs should be educated in ordinary schools. But this must be subject to certain safeguards and we must acknowledge that we are not talking here only of physically handicapped pupils but also of the deaf, the blind, the mentally handicapped and the emotionally disturbed children, all of whom have a variety and degree of learning difficulty. For some children because of their requirements for intensive care and supervision, or because of their emotional disturbance, it will not ever be realistic to think of integration into an ordinary school. Special schools will therefore have a continuing place in our education system, but where it is possible to integrate children the Government believes this should be the goal. The pace of integration will continue to be gradual but I have every hope that the provisions in this clause will give it added impetus, for in the longer term it is only through educating 981 children together that society's attitudes towards the handicapped will be fundamentally changed.
Clause 3 of the Bill is essentially a re-expression of an existing power to allow LEAs to make special educational provision otherwise than at school. This power is required by LEAs to make arrangements for home tuition and to provide education for children in hospital. The clause has, I believe, been improved in another place by an amendment which brought parental consultation into Clause 3.
Clause 4 of the Bill is an important landmark because it is here that the legislation provides for the education of the 2 per cent. of children who under the present law would probably be ascertained as handicapped. The clause places LEAs under a duty to identify any child over the age of two for whom they believe they should determine the special educational provision to be made to meet the child's special educational needs.
Having once identified these children, Clause 5 sets out the procedures for the commencement of the assessment. Most importantly, Clause 5 lays down how LEAs must go about consulting the child's parents before commencing formal assessment. LEAs are required at the outset to give parents the name of an officer they can contact for further information. The Clause is linked to Part I of Schedule 1 to the Bill, which contains the Secretary of State's power to make regulations governing the conduct of such assessments and your Lordships will note here that the assessments will have to include as a minimum, medical, psychological and educational advice. Here, then, is the multi-professional assessment which was rightly regarded by the Warnock Committee as essential for the discovery of a child's individual special educational needs.
As I mentioned earlier, the Bill gives LEAs for the first time powers in respect of babies and toddlers. Clause 6 therefore empowers LEAs to assess the needs of a child aged under two, providing they have the parents' consent, and places them under a duty to make such an assessment upon parental request. LEAs are, however, given a degree of flexibility in the way they approach this task because of the age of the child covered by the clause.
In respect of a child over the age of two, once assessment has been made the LEA must, if it considers it necessary to determine the special educational provision to be made to meet the needs of a child as revealed by that assessment, make and maintain a written statement of those needs and the provision to be made. These requirements are contained in Clause 7 of the Bill and your Lordships will wish to note that the parents are again to be involved before the LEA proceeds to make the special educational arrangements specified in the statement.
Once the statement has been made LEAs are obliged to provide the parents with the name of a person from whom they may obtain information and advice about their child's special educational needs. This provision in the Bill for a "named person" resulted from an amendment in another place which was put forward, with some Government help in drafting, by members of the All Party Disablement Group. The provision is carefully drafted so as to allow LEAs maximum flexibility in making imaginative appointments. There 982 is no restriction on whom the authority chooses to assign to the role of named person.
I pause now to remind the House of the debates we had during our consideration of the choice of school arrangements now embodied in the 1980 Education Act. Your Lordships will recall that there were considerable pressures on the Government to introduce similar arrangements for the parents of handicapped pupils. As a result, I made a statement to your Lordships on 3rd March last year that this Bill would contain, so far as was practicable, parental rights of appeal over special educational provision akin to those given to other parents. I trust the House will note that we have honoured this commitment; and Clause 8 of the Bill allows parents who are dissatisfied with the provision as set out in the statement to appeal to the local appeal committees which will be established under the provisions of the 1980 Act. However, in considering appeals from the parents of children who are the subject of statements, the appeal committee's decision will not be binding.
I must acknowledge that there has been some criticism—I believe misplaced—of this modification of the appeal committee's powers. I say "misplaced" because we have to acknowledge that the circumstances here will be completely different. We must all recognise that there will be real differences in the circumstances when the appeal is about the provision to be made for a child who is the subject of a statement. When a local education authority make a statement under this Bill, they are placing themselves under a particular responsibility towards the individual child. They are deciding that it is appropriate for the authority to decide on the provision to be made for the child, and they are placing a duty on themselves to make that provision. That responsibility is not one which can be assumed by an appeal committee.
Furthermore, the considerations in these appeals will be different from those in the normal run of appeals under the 1980 Act. In those cases the question to be resolved will be the choice of school on grounds of parental preference. For children who are the subject of statements, however, the question is more likely to be how well the school or other provision proposed will match the needs of the child.
The appeal committee may need to look in detail at the assessment of the child's needs, and to consider and question the professional judgments of the multidisciplinary team involved in the assessment. Nevertheless, an appeal committee may have legitimate doubts about what the LEA are proposing to do for an individual child, and they therefore have the power to refer the matter back to the LEA for reconsideration. Clause 8 requires the LEA to reconsider such cases and if, after this process has been completed—and it may well be necessary for the LEA to undertake a fresh assessment—the parents remain dissatisfied, then they are given a specific right of appeal to the Secretary of State. This is a right which is not enjoyed by parents of other children.
Needless to say, I have every hope that the arrangements in the Bill for the involvement of parents throughout the assessment procedures will make recourse to an appeal committee a very rare occurrence. Parents are given every opportunity to become involved in the procedures. I am sure that wise counselling of the 983 parents, by the professionals concerned with the assessment of an individual child, should ensure that they have understood the advice being given to the LEA about their child's special educational needs. Indeed, if the parents have recourse to an appeal committee, it is likely to be indicative of a failure somewhere along the line, either in explaining to the parents the problems faced by their child and the best way of dealing with them, or in convincing parents who hold views firmly opposed to those of the LEA.
Clause 9 of the Bill contains provisions to allow parents to ask LEAs for an assessment or reassessment of their child's special educational needs. Parents will thus be able to trigger the assessment procedures in cases where they are worried about their child's development.
Clause 10 is a new clause, which was added to the Bill in another place. It places health authorities under a duty to notify a child's parents and the education authority if they have reason to believe that a child aged under five has, or is likely to have, special educational needs. The duty embraces very young babies up to children of compulsory school age, and will clearly assist LEAs in the early identification of children with special educational needs.
The procedures for the Secretary of State's approval of maintained and non-maintained special schools and independent schools wishing to cater for children with statements are contained in Clauses 11, 12 and 13. I mention two points. The Secretary of State is given powers for the first time to make regulations as to his requirements for the conduct of the independent sector, in so far as it provides special educational provision. Secondly, the Government have given a firm undertaking that non-maintained special schools will be required to have governing bodies including parent and teacher representatives, as a condition of their approval by the Secretary of State.
By virtue of Clause 14, the Bill removes an anomaly whereby the law presently allows LEAs to close special schools without reference to the Secretary of State or without notifying parents. In future, parents and other interested parties will have to be notified of intended school closures and will have the opportunity of raising objections before the Secretary of State approves or rejects a closure proposal. Special schools closures will thus be brought into line with other maintained schools.
Clauses 15 and 16 bring the school attendance procedures, in respect of children who are the subject of statements, into line with the provisions of the 1980 Act; and the remainder of the Bill is largely concerned with technical points and transitional provisions for those children currently ascertained as handicapped or attending special schools.
This, then, is the broad scope of the proposed legislation. I am conscious of the technical nature of some of the Bill's provisions and if I, or any of my officials, can help your Lordships come to grips with the complexities of the legislation, we are only too willing to help either inside or outside this Chamber. As I said earlier, I hope that we can all work together to place on the statute book a piece of legislation which will serve the best interests of children with special educational 984 needs for many years to come. I firmly believe that, with your Lordships' help, 1981 will be recognised as the year when the best of good practice was enshrined in legislation, and what better way of marking this the International Year of Disabled People? My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Baroness Young).
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, may I say that we, too, are very much looking forward to the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox. We all know of the great experience that she has in this field. We are, of course, grateful to the Minister for her very clear exposition of the Bill and for news of certain welcome developments in a number of areas; which, indeed, the fact of the Bill coming into being may have encouraged. We are grateful, too, that the Government have brought forward a Bill based on some of the recommendations of the Warnock Report, and that that report has not been put on the shelf beside various other reports of Royal Commissions—Lord Rothschild's on Gambling, Professor Williams' on Obscenity and Lord McGregor's on the Press. We are glad that it has not suffered that fate, or the fate of about 50 reports commissioned by the DES, which, according to an Answer to my honourable friend Mr. Frank Field in another place, have not even been debated in the House.
We can be grateful that the Government have shown a little flexibility in Committee and at Report stage in another place, and that a few improvements have been made to a Bill that has been described as merely cosmetic, a fraud and giving little evidence of any Government intention vigorously to promote any serious advances in special education. I hope that we can improve the Bill still further in this House.
I want to move at once to what I look upon as the crucial issue, crucial to those with special educational needs and to their parents—the issue of integration. This is of major interest and concern and the only parts of the Bill that deal with it—in a Bill of 21 clauses and four schedules—are two subsections of Clause 2. One of those two subsections that deal with integration gives a total let-out to a local authority that does not want to be bothered. It will be only too easy to make up excuses, and say that having handicapped children in a school is not compatible with the provision of efficient education for the children with whom they will be educated. This discriminates very positively against children with special educational needs, as also does Clause 2(3)(c) where, if educating a child in an ordinary school is incompatible with the efficient use of resources, an LEA can opt out. This clause of the Bill will need clarification and strengthening in Committee.
I should have thought that the benefits of integration, whether in the mildest form of locational integration, when special education takes place on the site of a normal school, or in the form of social integration, when the children share facilities in some activities—maybe eating or playing together—or in the fullest form of integration, when handicapped children join in the normal curriculum on a full or part-time basis, ought 985 to have received much more attention in the Bill.
Authorities are not even having a duty put upon them to produce plans for action over a number of years, which I should have thought would be the minimum requirement. The reason is not hard to guess. Integration must cost money, both in physical terms—ramps, lifts, lavatories and so on—and, more importantly, in trained teachers who can fully understand the difficulties and who have learned to cope with them; indeed, in simply having enough teachers.
The Warnock Committee said in Chapter 7, paragraph 12, that,The slightest participation in ordinary class activities can be strikingly beneficial to children with special educational needs, and their total exclusion should not be accepted before every possibility has been considered".I was very interested last week when attending a Youth Affairs Lobby meeting in this House, where disabled young people were talking to us, to hear one who suffered from cerebral palsy say that it took him three years to feel easy in ordinary society and to catch up socially after he had left his residential school. The difficulties of isolation and remoteness from ordinary life were stressed by others there.
In the last week I have talked to two people I know well whose handicapped children had moved in the last nine months from special schools—very good ones, they admitted—to ordinary schools. They said that the difference to the children had been tremendous. They had got on better with their work, they had made friends with ordinary children and gained confidence generally. The model of the ordinary child is necessary for disabled children. On the other side of the coin, the earlier normal, healthy, ordinary children are made aware of the difficulties of those less lucky than themselves, the more ready they are to accept them and help them.
The USA legislated six years ago to achieve integration. All children are to be educated together, accept where the nature or severity of the handicap is such that education in ordinary classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily. However, I should like to make it clear that, although I am in favour of as much integration as possible, I am certain that special schools will remain an essential provision and that some children will be best served by being educated in them for the whole of their school life.
Good planning for integration is essential, and here we come back to resources. The section on the financial effects of the Bill says:It should not give rise to significant additional expenditure".Warnock, in Chapter 7.56, says that the integration in ordinary shools of children currently ascertained as handicapped, if achieved without loss of educational quality, is not a cheap alternative to provision in separate special schools and that there is no short cut. Nobody, I am sure, would want this Bill to encourage integration on the cheap. Mrs. Warnock in her evidence to the Select Committee said she feared that some authorities would move children from special schools into ordinary schools without adequate provision and then claim that they were acting in the spirit of the Bill. "I feel most missionary about this", she said.
The Minister has just said in her speech that 18 per cent. of the children with the needs which Warnock 986 is talking about are already in ordinary schools. But I believe the report brings out clearly that these are the children who need to be identified, who need some extra and special education and that teachers, adequately trained and experienced, are needed for them. I still think that the Bill is very much more about the 2 per cent. of children, most of whom are already in special schools, than about the 18 per cent. which the report says are in need of special educational provision in ordinary schools.
On 16th June the Government issued a circular, 2/81, asking local authorities to review their plans on surplus school places. Interestingly enough, I discovered that some CEOs had not received the circular before they read about it in the press. The circular urges local authorities to close a number of schools, to rationalise provision and to send information on the numbers and expected numbers in their schools in 1981 and right through to 1986. This information is requested for special schools, too. So one assumes that some of these will be expected to close. If school buildings are to be sold off, is the department thinking of putting money from the sale of these into resources for implementing Warnock and integration? Or is the money to go into the general pool? I think the least they can do is to finance some pilot schemes of integration or to support pilot schemes which are already under way in some more imaginative authorities. These would not cost vast sums. Experiments by forward-looking people in different local authority areas are often the way in which progress is made. The Warnock Report quotes a number of successful experiments in Chapter 7.12. I heard only the other day of a comprehensive school at Angmering in Sussex, a school of 1,100 pupils, where 80 to 90 disabled are being very successfully integrated and readily accepted by both staff and pupils. I understand that Haringey has been very successful in integrating deaf children into ordinary schools.
Developments in teacher education and initial training, in in-service training, were among Warnock's three main priorities. No mention is made of this in the Bill, though the Minister did give us some welcome news in her speech just now. Nor indeed has the idea of a unified special education advisory and support service been mentioned in the Bill. Without this, the report says that the three priority recommendations are unlikely to be successfully implemented. The role of special schools as resource centres is not mentioned in the Bill. Some statutory duties should be put on local authorities to cover some of these points.
I want also to raise another of Warnock's three priority recommendations: the provision of post-16 education training for pupils with special educational needs. I understand that the definition of "child" in Clause 20(1) to include anyone who has not attained the age of 19 and who is registered as a pupil at a school means, if read in conjunction with Clause 2, that the local education authority will have a duty to provide education in a school for such pupils until 19. Before the school-leaving age was raised to 16, children in special schools had to stay on an extra year. This is no longer the case. I should like to know what exactly are the Government's intentions on this. I had regarded it as a very great weakness in the Bill that no provision is made for further education for those with special 987 needs, although it may be that something is contemplated as a result of this document, The Legal Basis of Further Education, which, unfortunately, I acquired only last night and therefore have not had time to study properly.
The White Paper said that it is a weakness of the law governing further education that it makes no specific reference to the needs of handicapped students. In spite of this, the ideal opportunity, one would think, to legislate in this Bill has not been taken. I understand that reference is made to what was said in the White Paper in paragraph 11, which says that action is not being taken because of the wider review of the law which is the subject of this report. Paragraph 37 deals with special education and further education, and says:We take the Government's recognition of the need to clarify the law in this respect as meaning there ought to be a duty on local education authorities at least to have regard to the need to ensure that appropriate provision is available for students with special educational needs".I am not sure that I consider that "at least to have regard to the need" is quite enough, but as this document came out so shortly before the Second Reading of this Bill I think we shall have to pursue these matters in Committee.
I hope that other Bills going through this House at the moment will make the problem of access to further education establishments easier for the physically handicapped. I hope, too, that physically handicapped young people will not be obliged to go to certain establishments just because they are the only ones they can get into. It is the courses which they want to follow that should determine where they go. We should deplore any attempts at concentrating or rationalising facilities which could lead to the arbitrary allocation of students to certain universities or colleges of higher education without proper regard to individual choice or the suitability of the course. When considering what further education or training a pupil should follow, good careers advice is essential. Again we hear nothing of this in the Bill. I hope that in the clause which prescribes the duties which are put on local educational authorities we can introduce a subsection to ensure that they have on their advisory staff at least one officer who is a specialist in this field.
Closely allied to the lack of education/training provision for those over 16 is the ignoring of the Warnock recommendation that local education authorities should become responsible for a specific educational element in adult training and day centres. I understand that in Committee it was said that it is already possible for teachers to work there, and the Minister confirmed that just now. If, however, as I believe, it would be positively advantageous for that educational element to be there, I can see no reason for not having it written into the Bill, thus ensuring that the less forward-looking authorities are brought up to the level of the more far-sighted. It seems to me totally inconsistent for there to be a teaching input in day nurseries for one age group, the under-fives, and not in another, the over-16s, where perhaps it is even more vital.
I should like to turn to the position of parents as the Bill affects them. The Minister has spoken about this. 988 It is good that the Government have given them a greater involvement in the education and assessment of children with special needs, as described in Clause 5, and that they have certain rights of appeal. Parents of children who have statements made about them can appeal against the special education provision specified in the statement to an appeal committee as set up under the 1980 Act. But that committee cannot finally determine the issue, as it can for children with no statements. This emphasises the fact that you are creating two classes of children, those with and those without statements, and are positively discriminating against the parents of those children. I see the problem, and the Minister has expanded upon it, but I am not convinced of the rightness of the decision, even now.
Where I think we shall have to probe is on the right of access to information. This was discussed at length in another place, but no final conclusion was reached. We have to admit that it is a very difficult area. I myself have found my earlier anxieties about total openness vanishing and have gradually become convinced that the gains in confidence arrived at through making all reports available are worth the risk in a very few cases of causing alarm and distress. I realise that this is not in line with Warnock, but that committee did, apparently, have great difficulty in coming to a conclusion.
We should have a full discussion in Committee on this and on paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 regarding the disclosure, keeping and transfer of statements. Who has access to statements about their children is a very important matter to parents. I have no doubt that the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth) will be speaking on the topic of access to information because she made a strong case for the parents in our debate on 14th January, reminding us that the United States' Education of All Handicapped Children Act gives parents there the right to examine all relevant records and reports, and this seems to have worked satisfactorily.
The Warnock Committee urged that there should be a natonal advisory committee to monitor the working of the Bill, to give advice, to make known examples of good practice. I have had many representations on this. Apart from this Government's generic objection to Quangos, I cannot understand their obstinacy in refusing to accept this. Their stand on this would seem to contradict their own argument that there was no need for extra resources if better use was made of existing resources with an extension of good practice. A co-ordinating body could be a huge help here. The failure to give way on this makes one suspicious of the Government's good intentions as far as the Bill is concerned. I hope very much that they will agree to look at this again. I am quite certain that enough very well qualified volunteers would man the committee and I dare say many who were on the Warnock Committee itself—and the cost need not be astronomical.
There is one last omission from the Bill that I should like to see corrected. Where non-maintained schools are used by local authorities it is essential that those schools should have governing bodies with parents and teacher representation on them. I understand that the Secretary of State has given an undertaking that this 989 shall be so and we may have to discuss why it should not be written into the Bill.
I am not speaking on the other main Warnock priority—the under-fives—as my noble friend Lady Jeger will deal with that. I think we may have to do a little probing in Clause 1(4), which deals with language difficulties, when we come to the Committee stage.
So, my Lords, to sum up, I suppose one can give one cheer for the Bill. It is satisfactory that the old categories of handicap are disposed of, that there is a new definition of special educational needs and provision, and that parents are to have some greater rights—but, in my view, not enough. I do not think that the balance as between the professionals and the parents is right and I hope that other noble Lords will enlarge on that. In our view there are very important omissions from the Bill which I hope we can rectify in this House, where we have so many who are both well informed and deeply interested. In which case, I think we shall give two cheers for the Bill. Otherwise I shall be inclined to think that the words "cosmetic" and "fraud" as descriptive of the Bill are true and that this half-hearted effort is a poor contribution to the International Year of Disabled People.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Lord Banks
My Lords, I should like to join in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for her very clear and lucid explanation of the purpose and the contents of this Bill. I should like to join, too, in expressing thanks to Mrs. Warnock and her committee, on whose work the Bill is largely based. Like the two previous speakers, I look forward with keen interest to the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox.
It seems to me that the principal objects of the Bill are, first, to set out a new definition of "educational need"; secondly, to provide a new statutory structure supporting it; thirdly, to embody a commitment to integration; and fourthly, to give parents a greater voice in decisions taken about their children. On these Benches we fully endorse these objects. In particular we are glad that most handicapped children will be educated in ordinary schools, although we understand the need for safeguards and we welcome the fact that the views of parents in this respect are to be carefully attended to.
When we debated this subject on 14th January on the Motion moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, I think all who spoke expressed support for these aims as they were set out in the White Paper which followed the Warnock Report. But most of us had fears about certain aspects of the Government's plans and the question is how far does the Bill go towards setting these fears at rest? A major criticism at that time was the criticism to which the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has referred this afternoon, that there is a lack of additional resources. When we considered this in January it seemed unlikely that the wider number to be covered could be integrated, principally into ordinary schools, without a fairly substantial increase in resources.
The need for special equipment, for more teachers, more speech therapists, seems obvious. The Warnock Committee advocated one educational psychologist to every 5,000 pupils whereas the present ratio is one to every 9,000–10,000. So the criticism about additional 990 resources applies to the Bill as it did to the White Paper, and I think there is a genuine fear that integration may on occasion be thwarted by lack of resources. It is a major defect in the Bill, although I appreciate what the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has said about level expenditure and redeployment.
Concern was also expressed in our earlier debate about teacher training, to which the noble Baroness referred this afternoon. She referred to three aspects of training: initial training, specialised training and in-service training, and I think it is the in-service training which concerns me most. If one is embarking on an enterprise of integration of this kind it seems desirable that as many as possible of those involved should receive some training as soon as it can be arranged.
Reading the debates which have taken place on this matter in another place I could not help feeling that this problem has not yet been fully tackled. Again, the lack of resources seems to be at the root of the matter. There was much discussion in another place about access to information for parents, to which the noble Baroness, Lady David, has just referred and the question of whether parents should see the reports of the multi-professional teams. I am quite sure that we shall be returning to that question during the Committee stage in this House.
Related to that is the question of whether appeal findings should be binding on local education authorities. I listened with interest to what the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said about that and I think we shall want to consider carefully what she said. I feel that we shall be further discussing this matter as well during the Committee stage.
Concern was expressed in the debate in January about the position of independent schools for the handicapped. This matter was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady David. At that time it was urged that the independent schools should have a governing body on which parents and representatives of local education authorities could sit and, like the noble Baroness, Lady David, I understand that the Government have said that this is in fact what will happen. But I am not quite sure exactly how it is to be brought about and I should be extremely grateful if the noble Baroness, when she replies, could confirm that it is certain that these independent schools for the handicapped will in fact have governing bodies of this nature.
I welcome the fact that the named person is now incorporated in the Bill. This was a Warnock recommendation to which many of us attached considerable importance. The named person will deal with cases where a statement is made—and I agree that it is better to use the word "statement" rather than the word "record", which has unfortunate associations.
Co-ordination between the services, locally and nationally, to which the noble Baroness, Lady David, referred—between the educational services, the health services, the social welfare services—is not, as I understand it, finally settled. The Government appear reluctant to have an advisory committee, but I believe that they are going to consult the organisations that would be involved in such a committee, including voluntary organisations. I hope that they are open to accept such advice whether or not it accords with their preconceived ideas. I still think that as well as 991 having a national committee there is much to be said for a standing committee supporting each local education authority, comprising representatives from all the relevant departments and voluntary organisations.
Finally, my Lords, I should like to ask the Minister about the amendment moved in another place by my honourable friend Mr. Clement Freud, which would have placed a duty on the National Health Service to notify parents of handicapped children of the relevant support organisations to which they could turn. The Government promised to look at this again. The case for this amendment was emphasised in a moving article in New Society last week, an article written by the mother of a mongol child. In the course of that article she says this:While we received sympathy and support from family and friends, support in an informed and practical form was rarely offered by any of the official bodies we came into contact with. … While my son's health was carefully monitored at regular hospital checkups, at no visit was I directed towards any useful organisation or asked to discuss the problem I might have as the mother of a handicapped child".She goes on:The breakthrough in getting advice and information came through a chance 'phone call from an acquaintance, who, when I told her about Will, immediately suggested people I might contact for information. One of those contacts then suggested that I should get in touch with the Down's Babies Association. Getting in touch with them meant a breakthrough for me, not just in finding out factual information but also in getting advice on positive action I could take to help develop Will. Even more important, my contact with the association put me in touch with other people who also believed that their Down's Syndrome child had potential to be developed and a role to play".The mother in question was not making any complaint about the medical care. The medical care continued in the home; the hospital had a home care unit. But looking after a handicapped child of that kind covers very much more than the medical care, important though that is.
In conclusion, my Lords, I welcome the Bill. I regret the lack of additional resources, I have the other reservations I have expressed, but I support the Second Reading on behalf of my noble friends and hope that the Bill will be further improved in Committee.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Baroness Lane-Fox
My Lords, I really am very conscious of the great privilege it is to be addressing your Lordships' House on this first occasion. May I record my gratitude for the remarkable help and consideration I have received here since I took my place among your Lordships? My wish today is to welcome this Bill, particularly Clause 2(7). This says that a child with special educational needs who is educated in an ordinary local authority school shall so far as is reasonably practicable engage in the activities of the school. Remembering my own experiences as a severely disabled 12 year-old, I want to reiterate what has been generally expressed, in the Warnock Report and elsewhere—namely, that it is to the good of disabled children as far as is possible to mix with able-bodied children. I humbly claim that it is very good for able-bodied children to mix with us, because in that way normal values and assessments can be made, corners can be rubbed off and the common difficulties can be better understood.
992 While in no way wishing to belittle the excellent work that we know is carried out in some special schools, today there is no denying that there is this growing belief that wherever possible special school pupils should get to know the climate of ordinary schools. Quite a long time ago a friend of mine was educated, despite her very heavy disabilities, in a fair sized private school. She was the daughter of two teachers and that may have encouraged the school's administrators to open their hearts and their doors and to overlook the annoyance and the hindrance that could well have been caused by enrolling her. But their generosity paid off handsomely for they found the other pupils helped her and did a great deal to make good any shortfall. Not only did the disabled pupil keep well up with the high educational standard of learning but when her co-pupils left they went out with a better understanding of disability, which helped them in later life.
The fact that pupils in large ordinary schools often know very little about severely disabled people was brought home to me very strongly when, during this International Year of Disabled People, I was lucky enough to be asked by several large secondary schools to address sessions of various age groups of their pupils, to show that, although when we are in our wheelchairs or on crutches or sticks, or perhaps have contorted faces, et cetera, we look different, basically all of us are of the same species. It was a very fascinating exercise once the barrier of difference was removed, and one tried to do that largely by trying to make them laugh. Unselfconscious questions ranged between a rather plaintive, "Please, Miss, before you got your polio, did you ever think you would get it"? to a more positive "Please, Miss, will you tell me where me and my friend can put down our names to help you people?". What was very clear was that their interest and warmth of heart sprang to my rescue, and later they said that they wished to include the disabled young people in their activities.
It is obviously essential that the progress of able-bodied pupils should never be encumbered by disabled pupils. I say that with sincerity. This must be ensured. But paradoxically there will be instances where the integration of disabled students into ordinary schools does not meet the full needs of individual pupils, and that, too, must be guarded against. It seems to me that the provisions of the Bill allow at every stage improvement of opportunities for children with special educational needs, and that is what we are after.
Perhaps consumers among us know best of all that, in the very special work in ordinary schools, teachers should be trained in particular to be flexible, flexible enough to meet individual requirements. But an awful lot depends on the understanding co-operation of the head teacher and the resourcefulness of the other teachers concerned, as well as on the accessible accommodation, the size of class and the equipment. Of course, this all does call for funds.
It is unnecessary to explain to your Lordships, I realise, that money spent in educating disabled children can be both humane and economic, because helping children at this stage to be as independent as possible and to have the chance to make the very most of their talents and abilities can prevent them from growing into unhappy people with chips on shoulders and an attitude of mind calling later for hospitalisation. It 993 can help them to become industrious, tax-paying individuals. The work achievements of some such people already illustrates that the money devoted to this subject is well invested. I feel that people are really supported by Clause 2(7) because these pupils should now get a better chance of joining in all the fun and the trials of sharing school life with able-bodied children.
Before concluding, I should just like to refer to the clause which the noble Baroness the Minister so kindly explained—namely, Clause 1(4). I fear that it was double dutch to me. It speaks about language and it says:A child is not to be taken as having a learning difficulty solely because the language…in which he is, or will be, taught is different from a language…which has at any time been spoken in his home".I understand from what has been said that that is because it will be dealt with in another way. However, it is so very difficult for these children to be taught in a foreign language and the recently published interim report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Education of Children from Ethnic Minority Groups proves that even West Indian children have very real language problems.
As my attention is drawn to this matter because I am one of many people in this country cared for by coloured nurses both in hospital and in the community, it seemed only fair to make the point, which they have so often made to me, that their growing family problems are often very much increased by this very real handicap. They have put it as a handicap—I found it in the Bill and I thought that it was marvellous. However, if it is to be dealt with in other ways I shall be able to reassure some of my nursing friends. There are those as regards whom language troubles do constitute a real learning problem and it is as a tribute to those nurses that I have made this modest glancing reference to the clause before wholly welcoming the Bill. I thank your Lordships.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Lord Alexander of Potterhill
My Lords, it is my privilege as well as my pleasure to convey the congratulations of the House to the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, for not only an interesting but a vitally important speech on this subject and to express the hope that we shall hear her on many future occasions.
I welcome the Bill. I do not wish to make any reference to what is in it. I want only to refer to three matters which are not in it and which I think are vitally important. In my view we have made a mistake in our thinking to refer to handicapped children as if they were a single group. The physically handicapped are in a different position from the mentally handicapped. The only need of the physically handicapped to enable them to attend the ordinary school and to take full advantage of the educational facilities is fundamentally physical access and physical ease of movement within the school. I know that the noble Minister will say that that is dealt with in the school building regulations. However, the school building regulations only apply to new schools and the plain fact is that in the years immediately ahead, because of falling school rolls, we shall not be opening new 994 schools, but we shall be closing existing schools.
I may be wrong but I would hazard a guess that there are hundreds, and much more likely thousands, of ordinary schools where access for the physically disabled is not available. It would be rather pointless for a local education authority to make a statement regarding a physically handicapped child saying that he should be educated in an ordinary school if, in fact, the physical access makes it impossible for the child to do so. Therefore, I greatly hope that special steps will be taken to seek to secure in existing schools the necessary alterations to school buildings which will enable access to the physically handicapped. If, as was suggested earlier, we are to get any money for selling off some of the schools, we might use that money to put the others right in this respect.
The second matter to which I wish to refer concerns one of the main recommendations of the Warnock Report which is not embodied in the Bill and to which reference was made earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and by the noble Lord, Lord Banks. One of the imperative requirements if this Bill is to be successful, is effective co-ordination of at least three services: the Social Services Department; the Department of Health; and the Education Department. I do not think that that will happen unless there is an effective means of keeping a watch on it, of generalising good practice, and of securing effective co-operation in the area of each local education authority. Their recommendation in paragraphs 16.43 to 48 argued the case which I do not need to go over.
I do not think that it would be expensive. Representatives of the three services would, I am certain, be only too happy to fulfil this function. I see them reporting at least once a year to the Secretary of State as to the state of co-ordination and co-operation between the services and, I would hope, that there would be some pressure on the Secretary of State—if there was failure in this respect—to take adequate steps to secure that it happened.
The third matter to which I should like to refer is the question of resources. I was told the other day that this Bill was "Warnock without resources". I must say that I was a little disappointed to find in the opening part of the Bill, in the financial statement, so much emphasis on the fact that it will not cost very much. It is not only a question of the amount of resources that will be necessary: I am much more concerned with the methods by which they are made available.
For the last 23 years no Secretary of State for Education has had any means of securing that money put into general grant, rate support grant or block grant will be applied for the purposes for which it was intended. The Minister referred to the importance of in-service training. I well recall securing the provision of £9 million in rate support grant for the in-service training of teachers. Two million was spent on that purpose, and what the other £7 million was spent on I do not know. Whether it was spent on other parts of the education service or whether it was spent on things which had nothing whatever to do with education, nobody could tell me. I would plead, therefore, with the Minister and with the Government. In this matter they are taking an initiative, a special initiative, and I would hope, therefore, that as regards any resources 995 made available for this purpose, steps would be taken to secure that they are used for this purpose and not merely be put into block grant where no such guarantee can be given.
Nor would such a step create a precedent. It already applies in the case of monies made available for the training of careers teachers. I would very much hope that the Government would consider that this was one of the occasions where there is justification for specific grants to be allocated to these purposes and necessarily devoted to these purposes and not merely left to the discretion of individual authorities as part of block grant where they might never reach the purpose for which they were intended.
I welcome the Bill. I hope that it will be improved in Committee, and I very much hope that the noble Baroness the Minister will seek to secure these additional purposes which I think are essential if the Bill is to make a real contribution to the needs of these children. If not, I am bound to say that I share the view expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that it will be evidenced that this is no more than a gesture to the Year for the Disabled rather than a purpose of intention to help children whose needs are there.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Vaizey
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, on her maiden speech, and say how much it was enjoyed by the rest of your Lordships' House, and how delighted we are that she is here. I must say that her jet-propelled wheelchair has added a new hazard to life in your Lordships' House. She is actually the seventh wheelchair member; that constitutes a new party—almost as many as the Social Democrats. I wonder whether any other legislative chamber in the world has quite as many wheelchair members as your Lordships' House. It shows the breadth of experience that we have as we avoid them whizzing along the corridors.
I should like to extend my warm congratulations to my noble friend the Minister on this Bill. For a fifth of the children of this country the Bill is as big a breakthrough as the 1944 Act was for 100 per cent. of children. Although the Bill is not exactly what the Warnock Report recommended, it certainly embodies the great bulk of the Warnock recommendations. It has been very considerably improved during its passage through another place by the rather new constitutional mechanism that was used for it and which I think shows, quite conclusively in this particular instance, that consideration in a specialised committee of that kind in the other place can send legislation to this House in a much better shape than that in which much of the legislation normally arrives.
I think that Mrs. Warnock is to be congratulated because she has produced a report which is practical and easily put into legislative form. The legislation is here, and I gather that she has followed it up by a special meeting of her committee in Lincoln—I am not quite sure whether it was Lincoln the city or Lincoln College, Oxford—in order to review the progress. I have strongly recommended that all chairmen of royal commissions or committees of inquiry should do that on a regular basis if they really want to see their 996 work embodied into legislation and carried through. I am very grateful that Mrs. Warnock did that.
Incidentally, it is not the only report that has actually been carried through. The report of the Gulbenkian inquiry into the training of musicians, of which I was the chairman, has been 95 per cent. implemented and it has not required any legislation or any expenditure. It is a small point which I should like to add.
We must distinguish between the legislative framework and the resources. The 1944 Act was passed without any commitment of resources. It was quite impossible for the war-time coalition Government to make forward commitments not knowing the circumstances which would arise in peacetime. I think that a very similar condition now prevails. This is the legislative framework. I would respectfully submit—and here I disagree slightly with the noble Baroness on the Opposition Front Bench and the noble Lord, Lord Banks—that arguments and debates about resources are another kind of debate. I think that my noble friend can take some comfort from the fact that the fall in the number of pupils in the schools is so dramatic—though I must say that people seem very unwilling to believe it—that it is a fact that the average expenditure per head in schools is actually going up, and the pupil/teacher ratio has actually continued to improve. I think my noble friend said that, or if it was not her, it was my right honourable friend in another place, in a recent Parliamentary Answer So the resources may be being cut, but the pupil numbers are being reduced even faster.
Interestingly enough, this is exactly what happened in the 1930s when the great increase in grammar school provision took place without any increase in expenditure, because again the number of children in the schools was actually dropping. I think that more resources will have to be diverted to this 20 per cent., but I do not despair of the resources being there in the present circumstances.
Most of the points that I would have made in my speech are Committee points, but there are just two or three general principles that I want to refer to before I sit down, because I am anxious to let my noble friend Lord Swinton go to hear his noble kinswoman Lady Masham give a speech in Westminster Abbey. First, I think that we should listen to the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill. It is time that the complete legislative framework of the 1944 Act was replaced. Increasingly, we are doing bits here and bits there, and it is out of date; it does not work. Nowhere is this clearer than in the whole field of further and higher education.
At the moment, we have no fewer than three departments concerned with education for young people aged over 16. We have the Department of Education and Science, the Manpower Services Commission and the Department of Employment. What resources go to which is, so far as I can see, entirely a matter of accident, and not at all of policy. I, personally, believe that the time has come to merge the whole of the work of the Manpower Services Commission in this field with the work of education. I should like to see two completely new Ministries: a Ministry of Schools and a Ministry of Skills, but that is a private view. I say this because I think that this Bill will take its place in a series of major Acts which ought to be brought 997 before Parliament to tidy up what is an increasingly untidy and unsatisfactory position, which wastes resources and which leads to unnecessary suffering on the part of individuals.
I am very pleased indeed about the assurance that has been given as regards the governors of independent schools. This is very important. The handicapped in particular have a very high proportion of their total number in the independent sector, and these independent schools should be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny as we have given to the maintained sector in the Act that was passed last year.
The last point I want to make—and I shall, of course, raise other points in Committee, if I am fortunate enough to be here—is about the National Advisory Council. I think that I am as doubtful as anyone else about the value of talking shops, national advisory councils and things of that sort. Quite often for quite a few people they provide a nice trip to London to meet friends. However, here we have a very special problem. It is the Health Service, the social services and the education system which have to be brought together. Unless they are brought together by bringing together, on a systematic basis, those who are leading this field, then the co-ordination simply will not happen. I am very sorry indeed about what happened to the Children's Committee and I am very sorry that the Court Report has not been followed up as well as the Warnock Report was.
However, with those minor caveats—or, now I come to think of it, quite major caveats—I should like to renew my congratulations to my noble friend and say how much I shall enjoy the Committee and Report stages of this very important Bill.
§ Lord Taylor of Blackburn
My Lords, my name is not on the list of speakers, but I must take objection to what the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, has said on the matter of nice trips to London. Many people serve on committees, and to try to help the Minister we have different departments. It is not a nice trip down to London. We come here to try to help.
§ Lord Vaizey
My Lords, I am sure that that is perfectly correct in the noble Lord's case. But I am not wholly convinced that many of these bodies produce quite as much as we who sit on them would like to think they do. I assure you that I am just as guilty as anyone else.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Lady Kinloss
My Lords, I am delighted that today we are at long last beginning to legislate following the Warnock Report. It is now three years since the committee chaired by Mrs. Warnock reported. It has been a pleasure to listen to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, explaining the Bill in her usual eloquent fashion I say "eloquent" but I mean "elegant" too. I have many times argued in debate for the concept of intergration wherever possible, and I am happy to see introduced the new concept of special educational needs. There is a sense in which every child has special educational needs, for no two individuals have identical talents. From this point of view each child requires special educational consideration. The old concept 998 of the average child identical with all the rest is narrow and indefensible. And in the past it has been equally mistaken to single out handicapped children as something utterly different from all the rest. It is only when the handicap is very severe that separate and special provision may become necessary.
The whole success or failure of the Bill when it becomes law will depend upon the crucial factor of teacher training for new teachers, and adaptation courses, one might hope, for teachers already in service. I was very pleased to hear what the Minister had to say in regard to the problems of teacher training. I say this because H.M.I.'s report—the one produced in 1978—on Education of Children in Hospitals for the Mentally Handicapped states that, of the 208 teachers in the existing schools, 54 only have any special specialist training, while no less than 53 had no professional qualifications at all. Given the enormous effort in terms of teacher training in the country, I find this a disturbing and saddening state of affairs, which has no doubt existed for a very long time, and for which no particular Government can be held responsible.
About two years ago some American friends came to stay with us with their two children, one perfectly normal but the elder one of 8½ years has spina bifida and was also hydrocephalus. She was a wonderfully integrated child, of high intellect. She spent one afternoon sitting below the Bar in your Lordships' House, and at tea afterwards she asked intelligent and interesting questions. The parents had not only been kept informed at all stages of her progress or of any problems as they arose, but had been trained how to look after her and encourage her to look after herself as much as possible. She attended an ordinary primary school in Cambridge for the year that her father was there and enjoyed it thoroughly, and apparently made many friends.
This is only one example of the kind of problem with which Clauses 4, 5, 6 and 7 deal. Plainly statements are essential to parents who are able and willing to look after their handicapped child. I am very glad that, as the noble Lord, Lord Banks, has already said, a named person as recommended by Mrs. Warnock has been accepted by the Government. I would also like to see brought together by the Government a national advisory committee as recommended by MIND, and many professional and voluntary organisations. I gather that the Government do not consider such a committee necessary at present, but did give a commitment in another place to call a conference of professional and voluntary organisations to discuss the matter. Since then some voluntary organisations have said that they consider this suggestion unsatisfactory as the only solution.
While I appreciate the Government's reluctance to create new Quangos, there was a suggestion made in another place for expanding the work of the existing Children's Committee so as to cover the duties of a national advisory committee on special education. But I now understand that the Children's Committee is to be wound up. So I would have thought that there was more need now to have a national advisory committee which could perhaps help to co-ordinate the various Government department's concerned, together with professional, lay and parental opinion.
999 I now turn to the problems of mentally handicapped children in long-stay wards. I think that nobody who has seen the film the Silent Minority could disagree with the idea that we have a long way to go in our treatment of the handicapped adolescent. The difference in behaviour between the young in the children's wards where they had schooling, even if not for many hours a week, and those same youngsters when they transferred to the adolescent wards with nothing whatever to do in most cases, was striking. They became difficult and destructive, for the most part through boredom and in some cases to call attention to themselves, but also of course because of their inability to communicate their needs.
It has now been recognised that LEAs have a duty to 16 to 19 year-olds, if they were registered as pupils at a school, to continue their education if requested to. Many handicapped young people over 16 need further education, yet in school may not be appropriate, but possibly in a training centre or some other institution of further education. I am pleased to note that the document The Legal Basis for Further Education recommends that there should be a duty on LEAs to provide further education, both in school and in training centres. I hope that the handicapped young person will benefit by this.
Perhaps, my Lords, some of the needs of handicapped youngsters in long stay wards could be met by voluntary organisations and by part-time teachers and occupational therapists. Man is essentially a creative being, and it is because of his ability to make tools and employ them for his use that we differentiate the earliest kinds of human being from superficially similar animals. With the mentally handicapped in long stay wards we must be careful to avoid frustrating their essential nature, and I hope that this Bill will become law in this International Year of Disabled People.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ The Earl of Swinton
My Lords, may I start by offering my congratulations too to my noble friend Lady Lane-Fox. I have known her for many years and I know that what we have heard this afternoon is just a preliminary to what we hope to hear over the years from her, because she speaks equally well about the disabled and about a number of things. She will be a great asset not only to this House but also to the mobile Bench. As my noble friend Lord Vaizey said, with her splendid electric chair she will not only be inflicting mental anguishes upon successive Front Benches of varying shades of political opinion but I know that they may also be in danger of suffering some damage as her machine goes zooming along the front of them.
I have some apologies to make this afternoon. My first is that I am afraid that I must apologise to the remaining speakers in this debate, and especially to my noble friend Lady Young, as I shall not be here for the end of the debate. As my noble friend Lord Vaizey said, many months ago my noble kinswoman Lady Masham was asked to deliver the one-person oration at Westminster Abbey this evening, and I promised I would go along to hear her and to encourage her, and I dare not miss that. She also asked me to say who sorry she is not to be taking part in this debate 1000 on this occasion. As I am sure noble Lords need no reminding, this is a subject in which she is greatly interested. Unfortunately she is heavy with speech. I think she has to talk for 40 minutes in the Abbey this evening, and she really thought she could not tackle two major debates on one day. Therefore, I give her apology too. Lastly, my apologies to my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who I have mucked about this afternoon. We have been chopping and changing in the batting order as to whether I would be on and finished before the Abbey or whether I would come on in his place later on, and I apologise for any inconvenience I have caused him.
Apart from a very apologetic individual this afternoon you also see before you a very fortunate man indeed. I am fortunate because my own local authority of North Yorkshire, which I think might be considered by many to be conservative with both a large and a small "c"—and perhaps even in some eyes reactionary—throughout all the cuts and the circulars and the instructions from central Government has stuck to cutting and cutting but it is also the only authority in the country that has opened a brand new post-Warnock special school. I have the very great good fortune, which indeed makes me such a happy person, to be the first chairman of the governors. I thought I would tell you something about that this afternoon, because it is obviously involved with the Bill we have in front of us, but also perhaps reflects somewhat on the change of thought in special education that is going on in the country.
The school was built in very close co-operation with the Department of Education and Science, and it incorporates the philosophy of Warnock. It started off life as what might be described as just another ESN(M) school, but it was lucky enough to come into the building programme immediately after the Warnock Report and it got very rapidly changed. It opened its doors to its first children after Easter, and it draws them from a very scattered rural area, mostly villages and farms but also a handful of market towns of various sizes, and also a large military population at Catterick garrison.
How does it differ from what noble Lords perhaps think of as a normal special school? To start with, it has a nursery unit where it is, or will be, admitting children of two years old and upwards. That works in close co-operation with the children's unit at our local hospital. Indeed, the paediatrician in charge of that unit has given us an enormous amount of time and advice and is pleased to help in any way he can. These children will be reviewed very regularly and at the age of five they may move from this nursery unit into ordinary primary schools.
Then there are language classes for infant and junior children in the five to 11 year age group. These are for children with any type of language problem whatever. These children may attend for a variable period which may be a matter of terms or stretch into two or three years. During their time with us, every effort will be made to maintain the links with their ordinary schools, and indeed it is envisaged that the great majority of these children will return to their ordinary schools when they have finished their courses and got over their various difficulties.
Then there are the pupils with moderate learning 1001 difficulties who were previously catalogued as ESN(M) children; they will I think produce the great bulk of children with us and they will require long-term help. Then there are pupils with mild learning difficulties who will attend for what I can only describe as a blitz package of remedial teaching, especially in reading and numbers. They will probably come for, say, one or two terms and will remain on the roll of their ordinary schools, and when they return there, which they surely will, they will be supported by staff from our school who will go out and help them and their teachers with the problems they have when they are reintegrated into their ordinary schools.
Then there are pupils with mild emotional and behavioural difficulties and, again, they will come on a short-term basis, staying on the roll of their ordinary schools, and when they return, there will be support for them. There will then be a small number of children with physical disabilities. Obviously, the school is built with complete access to everything and it will be able to meet the needs of children of from two to six years with physical disabilities of average or below average ability. And eventually—this is particularly important—the school will hold a stock of aids to support these children when they go on, we hope, to education in ordinary schools.
The school has a teacher of visually handicapped children, though it is not envisaged that there shall be a class for these, but this teacher is prepared to visit any school in the catchment area and to offer advice and support to the children and teachers there. Then there is, I am glad to say—in mentioning this I look across the Chamber to the noble Baroness, Lady David—a large resource centre, which is built and is running from the school, which has a base for a good staff of remedial teachers. The idea is that these remedial teachers will go out to schools in the area, offer advice and run groups for the teachers and children in them, and encourage teachers who are interested to come into the school for sessions and encouragement on the art of remedial teaching.
I need hardly say that the school is very well equipped—I do not think I need go into the details, which will be obvious to your Lordships—with a wide range of specialists who will have their accommodation in the school, and these include an educational psychologist, a teacher of the deaf, a teacher of the visually impaired and a teacher for pre-school children with learning difficulties.
I have gone into a considerable amount of detail on this development because it is an exciting new venture. I do not want to excite your Lordships too much, and I can see that some noble Lords may wish to visit the school. While the last thing we want to do is discourage anybody from coming, at the same time we do not want to be so swamped with visitors, which threatens at the moment, that our work may suffer, so we are trying to limit visitors to one day a week. However, for any of your Lordships or anyone who reads the debate and shows interest, I am sure we would not want to turn anybody away.
Those are the sheer physical details of the school and of what we are trying to achieve. However, that is not what has impressed me most about this new school. What has impressed me most is the enthusiasm of everyone concerned with it. When we started as a new 1002 body of governors, we said, "We want to be involved with all the appointments from the word go, right through the whole teaching staff in the school and indeed all the domestic staff and the caretaker", because we thought it must be a team effort and we wanted to be involved. What impressed me most was the terrific quality and enthusiasm of the applicants we had for these posts.
Some noble Lords may think it not surprising that we should have got many applicants in the present situation of unemployment. But many of the people who applied were already in well-paid and reliable jobs in other areas. Many of them offered to take a cut in salary and status because they were so keen to come and work in a school which was based on the Warnock Report. That says a lot for Mrs. Warnock and her committee and a lot for the report they produced and the ideas they put forward.
I am sorry to say there is one worry in the current legislation which is troubling this very happy and enthusiastic team. It is a point which has not been mentioned in the debate so far and I may be a lone voice speaking out. I refer to the detailed assessment clauses which appear in the Bill. I must admit that I am in somewhat of a muddle because I thought I understood my noble friend Lady Young to say it would apply to only 2 per cent. of the children. On the other hand, I thought the Warnock Committee spoke about 20 per cent. or one in five as needing some sort of help, and it is the 20 per cent. we are trying to cope with in this school.
We have got away from a very formal system of assessment and we now have what I believe is a very good situation where to start with the educational psychologist meets the parents very informally and discusses the child's needs with them. This is done in a very sensitive and supportive manner and it appears to me to be the right way to do it. They then talk around or about the matter, and then he brings the parents and children along to see the school and they decide what to do. It worries me lest some of the provisions in Clauses 5, 7 and 8 and particularly Schedule 1 to the Bill will put us right back where we have come from, with a very bureaucratic and formal system where there will be notices sent out which may frighten parents with questions about appeals and all sorts of things. I hope, for the sake of what is being done, that I have completely the wrong end of the stick and that the Minister will say at the end of the debate—even if I am not here and I can read in Hansard tomorrow what a fool I made of myself—that I am wrong about this. It is worrying and I hope we shall not get back to the formal system which only hampers the flexibility—"flexibility" is the key word I would use—which is essential.
I had intended to mention the further education provisions in the Bill, and I was delighted to hear my noble friend say the Government had it in mind to do something about the issue. I had also intended to mention teacher training, and again my noble friend dealt with that. I fear that I must conclude by striking a rather unpopular note and talk about finance, a subject which several noble Lords have raised. The great thing about Warnock is that it is not an excuse to save money by closing down special schools and sending all the children, regardless, to their local 1003 schools. I do not think there is a danger of that happening; local authorities are much too sensitive and realise the problems. Nevertheless, it is a bit of a danger.
Like all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate, I am absolutely in favour of sending handicapped children to normal schools wherever possible, but they must be sent to the right kind of school—schools that are equipped to cope with them and where the access is suitable, but even more important than access is that the teachers are suitable and have had some training in how to deal with these children. Again, I was pleased to hear my noble friend refer to in-service teaching, but in-service teaching is not very easy now; all authorities are cutting down on teachers and it is not easy to run courses at this time. Before we send physically or mentally handicapped children out into ordinary schools the conditions must be right to receive them.
Even if we do all that, and manage to convert the buildings and have all the teachers on the right wavelength, there will still be special schools needed. I am sure that there will be needed schools for severely mentally and physically handicapped children who simply cannot cope with the pressures in the ordinary schools. The noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, mentioned the hospital schools for the very severely mentally disturbed children. I know that these schools are doing a marvellous job and that the children slip back when they go into adult wards. There is also a danger that they slip back during the school holidays. The work that the children do is so encouraging and they derive much benefit from it. But I am sure that there will always be that kind of school.
I believe, too—if I may be rash enough to say so—that there will be the need for the kind of school which I have described to your Lordships in such detail this afternoon. This is where we are going—where we can take out children for a short time, look after their special difficulties, and then send them back to their ordinary schools; where we can send out the teachers, too; and where we can send out the resources. Of course that kind of school is not cheap. It has not been cheap to build, equip and staff.
So I fear that, whatever we may think, there is a rather expensive and rather long journey ahead of us. But though I can see this road stretching into the horizon, with signposts stating, "More money wanted here, more money wanted there", at least we are making a good start on it today, and I am sure that thanks to the Bill we are setting off in the right direction.
§ 5.32 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester
My Lords, as in so many other areas of life in this country, the education of children, young people, and adults is furthered and enriched by a partnership of voluntary and statutory bodies. Forty years ago a memorable White Paper entitled Partnership in the Service of Youth was a formative document for the youth service both during and immediately after the war. Long years before that the voluntary bodies and the state entered into a partnership for the provision of schools for children of all ages. But the law does not at present allow 1004 voluntary bodies, such as the Churches, to promote special schools.
Nevertheless, the voluntary controlled and the voluntary aided schools of the Church of England endeavour to provide special educational facilities for those of their pupils who need them. This provision is made either by integrating a small number of handicapped pupils into ordinary classes, or by means of special classes which provide facilities akin to those in special schools, while allowing the handicapped child to be integrated in the same school with those pupils who are not handicapped. That is a point on which other noble Lords have already commented on favourably.
While I speak only for myself, I know that there are many others in all the Churches who welcome much that is in the Bill. I believe that the concept of special educational needs as outlined in the Bill and explained to us by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, in her opening speech, will greatly facilitate the assessment and education of children whose physical, emotion, and mental disabilities impair their education.
I believe that the recognition in the Bill of the very important role played by parents is highly significant, as is their involvement in decisions regarding the education of their children. I believe that this should do much to alleviate the considerable frustration felt by so many parents of handicapped children because they feel that they have no opportunity of expressing their own views about their children's education.
I welcome, too, the clear recognition in Clause 2 of the Bill of the role of the governors of voluntary schools. However, I wonder whether "the responsible person" mentioned in Clause 2(5)(b), and further defined in the following paragraph, is not detailed in such a way that other members of the school staff or of the governing body might not feel themselves excused from any share of the responsibility involved. I am sure that this is not the intention of the clause, and I would hope that perhaps a future Government circular might emphasise the corporate responsibility of all those concerned.
I should like to draw attention to Clause 12(4) of the Bill, which states thatProvision shall be made in the regulations to secure that, so far as practicable, every pupil attending a special school will attend religious worship and religious instruction, or will be withdrawn from attendance at such worship or instruction in accordance with the wishes of his parents".I rather fear that the words "so far as practicable" may refer to practicability in terms of somewhere for the worship or instruction to take place. What I should like to see would be a rewording of the clause which would make it necessary to provide the opportunity for worship and religious education appropriate to each child, unless his parents specifically ask for him to be exempted. Much consideration has been given in recent years to the religious life of disabled adults and children, and I should like to think that the Government might see fit to reword the clause so as to reflect this concern in as positive a way as possible.
With those two very modest suggestions for possible amendment I should like to welcome the Bill from these Benches. I am confident that all the voluntary bodies, including the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Free Churches, will wish to 1005 co-operate to the full in helping to implement the Bill's provisions when they become law.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, I consider myself privileged to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester because for five years I was recorder of that city, where I learned to respect him and the robust views which he expressed, and of which we have had another example this afternoon. In particular I was glad that he referred to the problems of the parents of mentally handicapped children, because I have a daughter who is severely handicapped both mentally and physically. If I dwell mainly upon the problems of the mentally handicapped as they are affected by the Bill, I trust that your Lordships will understand.
I also happen to be chairman of Mencap, and I see that one of my distingushed predecessors in that post, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, is present today. Your Lordships will be very sorry to hear that my immediate predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Segal, was taken seriously ill two days ago and cannot be with us, and may not be with us for some time. At Mencap we welcome the Bill. We do not find anything cosmetic about it; nor do we agree with any of the other adjectives which were used about it and which spoiled an otherwise very constructive and interesting speech which we heard from the Opposition Front Bench. This Bill is an important step forward in helping many of the mentally handicapped to lead lives which could become more useful, less costly to the community and more fulfilling and happier for themselves. Certainly Mrs. Warnock and her committee deserve our thanks and praise for laying the foundations of this.
I was particularly interested to read the proceedings in the special Standing Committee in another place because in the last two Sessions of the last Parliament I was a member of the committee—indeed, I was acting chairman of it for some time—which recommended this new departure in procedure. I think it is a great advantage to us to have, first, the written evidence of the various interested bodies, including the departments concerned, and then the evidence in cross-examination (if that is not a pejorative word) of the witnesses who were examined, including, first, Mrs. Warnock; secondly, my noble friend Lady Young; and, last, Mr. Stanley Segal, the principal of Ravenswood, of which Lord Longford and I are patrons and where our daughter is cared for. I think it must have led—and, indeed, the proceedings show that it did—to a better understanding when the Bill was considered clause by clause, line by line, to have had all that evidence in the minds of the members of the Standing Committee. Therefore, I should like to join with my noble friend in saying that this is an experiment which has so far justified itself.
Of course, it was not unexpected that two things which loomed large in the examination of the witnesses were, first, the question of integration and, next, that of resources. May I say this about integration? In that wonderful maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, she stressed the desirability of integration for the physically disabled; and there are other categories of handicapped to whom it could always be a great advantage. But I must tell your Lordships 1006 quite frankly that so far as the mentally handicapped are concerned, we have grave doubts about it. Indeed, at a well-attended meeting of our national council (all those present, except the advisers that we have, being parents of mentally handicapped children and young people) I invited their views as to what they felt about integration so far as the mentally handicapped were concerned, and they were very unenthusiastic about it. Moreover, they feared that under certain local authorities it could become an excuse for not getting on with the provision of special schools, and that would indeed be dangerous so far as the application of the Bill to the mentally handicapped is concerned.
As for our resources, as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, and, I think, others, buildings are not the problem because of the decline in the school population. Some buildings are becoming redundant. If we may take at its face value what was said by Dr. Rhodes Boyson at the conclusion of the Third Reading debate in the House of Commons, money does not seem to be an inhibition, either, at any rate for the present. He said this:We are spending up to £½ billion"—that is £500 million—on special education. It is a considerable sum. We should all like to spend more. We have maintained in real terms the expenditure on special education while the numbers have been dropping. That means that in real terms more will be spent per pupil in the next two or three years than is being spent now".—[Official Report, Commons, 10/6/81, col. 500.]So money does not seem to be an inhibiting resource.
So we come to teachers. In her very valuable opening speech, my noble friend took the trouble to tell us a great deal about what is being done to train teachers—these three categories which she mentioned and which I need not repeat. But still at Mencap, I must tell your Lordships, we have doubts as to whether enough teachers trained for teaching the mentally handicapped are available, or are going to be. My noble friend, perhaps wisely, did not go into statistics as to the number of teachers so far trained, the number needed and the number that can be made available; but this is a crucial matter.
At Mencap we were very disappointed when the Quango (if I may again use the expression) established by the previous Government, the Quango called the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work, now known as CCETSW—that pronunciation is the nearest one can get—decided to abolish altogether the diploma in the training of the mentally handicapped and claimed that they were providing for that training in the more general certificate of social work. So far we are not satisfied that that is in fact being done.
We made representations to the previous Government about this. I myself have been to Ministers in the present Government, when we have always had the most wonderful hearing, let me say in passing. We have always had the most wonderful hearing when either Mr. Brian Rix, our secretary-general, or any of our senior staff, have been along. We have stressed this point about the need for the training of teachers. I do not know whether I am asking too much, but, of course, it would be of enormous help if, in reply to this debate, my noble friend were able to give us anything in terms of numbers. I know that statistics can be misleading, 1007 but it would help if we could be told what the true position is; because this splendid Bill really does depend for its implementation, especially where the mentally handicapped are concerned, upon the availability of enough teachers.
I have just one or two points or relative detail. We are really worried at Mencap only about two more points. The Government offered at Report stage in another place to consider them, and they have both been mentioned today, but perhaps I may stress them because we are concerned about them. The first is this duty to inform parents after the birth of a handicapped baby of the name and address of the nearest relevant support organisation. That need not embarrass the parents at all. They need not take any advantage of the information given to them; and I really do not see why this information should not be given to them. May I say that this is no effort on my part to recruit on behalf of Mencap; we do not operate that way. So I hope that the Government will concede that point.
The other point—and I know it is controversial, especially in the case of the mentally handicapped (don't I know!)—is that we feel that parents should have access to all relevant information upon which a conclusion is reached that a child, at whatever age and however early, is considered to be mentally handicapped. One knows as a parent, without getting emotional about it, that the revelation (especially as in our case, where the child seemed quite normal physically and mentally for the first few months of her life) on expert evidence that she was below par mentally was something hard to bear at the time. One wanted to know why. Fortunately we were told, but I can imagine the frustration, amounting sometimes almost to resentment, felt by parents who may be fairly humble and not having a great education, upon being told, "Your child will never be like other children". They may not understand why that is so.
This is something that is very important to parents and about which we at Mencap feel very strongly. This is another matter that the Government have offered to consider and so I implore my noble friend to table Government amendments which will deal with these two points, and perhaps to be so kind as to let us have early warning if the Government do not intend to table such amendments so that we may table amendments and press them.
Some of your Lordships may have seen that distressing television film, "The Silent Minority" about some of the mentally handicapped in two large institutions. I stress the word, "some", because obviously the film was looking for the worst and not taking the average. But the film was distressing for people to witness. It featured mentally handicapped people—mostly men—between the ages of 14 and 80, and the problem of looking after them, and that of the way in which they spent their time, was obviously an acute one. As I watched that film I could not help thinking that if this Bill had been on the statute book and implemented 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago many of the sad scenes one saw in that film would not have been as they were portrayed. So I say, let us get on with this Bill. It will not only save human misery but it may even save a lot of public expenditure, and not to 1008 spend money on implementing this Bill would be a very false economy.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
My Lords, I must apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for not being present at the start of this debate and so I did not hear her opening address. I was in another part of the country, and I hope that the noble Baroness will accept my apology. I feel very privileged because when we last debated the handicapped I followed the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and listening again to his plea for that forgotten group of children and young people, one could not fail to be impressed by the arguments which he put forward. However, when I read the Bill, and having listened to what previous speakers have been saying, and also having read reports of the debates in the other place, I have come to the conclusion—having served as chairman of special services in Birmingham for six years in the 1960s—that there was nothing new being placed before me.
I can recollect the multi-disciplinary groups, where the child psychologist, the speech therapist, representatives from the children's committee and others properly assessed the child; and when the chairman and two members of the committee listened to appeals from parents if they were not happy. We tried to provide at least infant schooling for children who were going to be classified, to give them a trial and to ensure that the assessments were correct. I have been thinking to myself, "What is new?" Then I read some remarks made, I think, by the Minister in the other place. He said: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 local authorities".I should like to ask the Government, how will the Act coerce those not-so-good local authorities to put into operation those things which the good local authorities have been doing for a long time? I speak from knowledge of my own local authority, and know that we were not in isolation because at many of the conferences I attended I met people from other local authorities who were doing similar work to our own. Will the Government be calling upon university departments of education to gather information and undertake research into the various types of integrated settings that the Government hope will be established as a result of this Bill?
How will the Minister be able to progress what she calls "good practice"? Will backward authorities be named in the press in the same way as the so-called backward local authorities who do not sell off enough council houses or who put up the rates too much are publicised in the press? Is it not important to parents of handicapped children to know they are living in an area served by a backward local authority, which does not do as much as some other local authorities in the country? It is just as important for parents of handicapped children to know that as for other people to know that the local authority is not selling off enough council houses.
I should like to reiterate what other Members of your Lordships' House have said. Both Warnock and the Bill recognise that there is still going to be a need for special schools. I speak here as the chairman 1009 of the governing body of a school for handicapped children in Birmingham. I was a little worried when the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, said that handicapped people were grouped into what he called a "global group", but he excluded from the global group the physically handicapped by saying that this was just a matter of access. The school of which I am chairman of governors is classified as one for the physically handicapped. Their handicaps are quite serious. They include cystic fibrosis, brain tumours, and colostomy arising from all sorts of handicaps.
It is not just a matter of access; it is a matter of having all the supportive services given with the guidance of the consultants whom the children are under in the various hospitals. Those consultants suggest the therapy and tell the nursing sister what has to be done. The children spend a week there, from Monday to Friday, and then go home at weekends. So we should not lump together either what we call the "physically handicapped".
I am not against integration but I do want to sound a word of warning. Ordinary schools must establish that handicapped children will do as well if not better than they would in special schools. What concerns me is that, whether we like it or not, local authorities are under extreme pressure to cut expenditure. That situation might encourage them to go for integration, which may mean in effect, in some cases, simply placing a handicapped child in an ordinary school with little or no support for either the school or the child. That situation has to be guarded against, especially in the case of local authorities which are not among the "good practice" local authorities at present. One can hazard a guess as to the extent of the strain placed on the teaching staff of an ordinary school where levels of support are insufficient. When one is talking about levels of support, it is not simply a case of seating a handicapped child at the front of the class because he or she cannot see very well. Many of these children have to receive medical attention, which means attending to their toilet requirements and all that means. While I accept that there are a number of highly motivated and intelligent handicapped children that will cope easily in ordinary schools, we must not assume that all handicapped children can do the same. That is very far from true.
The success of the integration is the extent of the resources. This is where one worries when one reads the Bill, because the Financial Memorandum as, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, said, does not give us very much hope. What are the resources? They are not only the buildings, but the teachers; and if we are thinking about teachers, we need specialist teachers with qualifications; if we are thinking about the partially sighted or the partially deaf or the deaf, these are teachers who must have a qualification. We are thinking then about all the supportive services and equipment. Many local authorities are aware that limited integration, only limited integration, will be very costly.
How do the Government envisage local authorities trying to implement the Act to any meaningful extent without significant extra spending? Following on what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said, I want to say that the parents of handicapped children in many cases are not a very vocal group of parents; but they 1010 are just as concerned for the education and the welfare of their children as are the parents of children who benefit from the assisted places scheme. Their concern is a genuine concern and one which I think we overlook perhaps at our peril.
I should like to draw the attention of the House today to the fact that we must recognise that there are going to be smaller classes in many schools because of falling numbers. We will close a lot of schools; and Heaven knows what will happen to the school buildings. Many local authorities are being forced themselves to close schools. It is envisaged by the Government that they recognise that the more time-consuming child who will be placed in the integrated setting will have to be recompensed by the smaller class. Will the Government be taking advantage of smaller classes and reduced numbers in schools by getting integration on to the right foot by placing them in the smaller class groups. Advantage ought to be taken at this time in that particular situation.
I think it true to say that a great deal of comment has been made that it is attitudes that we must change. Once we change attitudes, we are half way to our goal. May I say to noble Lords—and perhaps I do not need to say it to those who are listening today to the debate for practically everybody is involved in some type of work with the handicapped—that attitudes to special education and to the handicapped generally have been changing outside Government much more rapidly than they have been changing inside the Government. Many voluntary bodies, because they have not been able to get the satisfaction that they wanted in the educational field for the particular children in which they are interested have set up their own schools. We have the Royal Institution for the Blind, the Birmingham Royal Institution for the Blind, the Rubella Association, the Spastics Societies, and Mencap itself, trying to fulfil a need which really is a need brought about by parental pressure and for which they raise their own money. Those attitudes have changed but those organisations are perhaps a little more concerned that more resources are not coming out of this Bill to help them further in their aims and achievements. If we look at the Bill closely, we are going to get to the stage when we have got to have a statement made on each particular child if it is thought necessary. I compliment the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that we have changed the word from "record" which I think she raised some time ago and felt a better word was needed. I congratulate her on the word "statement". Will the statement identify what is the special educational need? Will it identify that the need is physical or that it is sensory, or that it is mental or that it is a psychological need?—because what worries me is that unless this identification is made, we will have no statistics and when we have no statistics being compiled then normally we find that no services are provided. Questions are asked and the answer is that no figures are available. I think it important for us to know whether the statement will define, in the categories I have suggested, what the handicap is.
We should recognise, as did the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that the largest number of handicapped children are those classified as ESN, whether it is S or N. The success of these schools has been that the 1011 small teaching groups have made individual programmes successful for the pupils. What worries me is that these children, the children that have been classified as ESN in the integration process, will most likely lose out if we are not very careful. Will the schools be able to cope with this category? This will be their biggest influx. Are those schools, which now have such a great emphasis on their high academic successes (the Government support them in this) that they want to publicise their examination results, to be encouraged to take their share of the ESN children, because this will bring their percentage rate down very often at academic levels?
Therefore, I would make a plea on behalf of the mentally handicapped especially to remind noble Lords that the mentally handicapped are not just children who need remedial teaching. There are children who need remedial teaching for all kinds of reasons—long illnesses, perhaps bereavement in families—but the educationally subnormal children need more than remedial teaching and therefore one would hope that the training, the skill and the experience of staff in special schools will be recognised in any integration, and perhaps in future we might have heads of department for children with special educational needs which will cover all the children in those schools.
When we are talking about special adaptations to buildings, may I mention—because I have a special interest in the blind and the partially-sighted—the work of Elizabeth Chapman at the Faculty of Education at Birmingham University, which recognised by the department, also has a lot of information that is available for the partially-sighted inside schools, whether it might be a special reading stand or the provision of sloping desks, et cetera. Let us not forget that there are aids to help others besides the physically handicapped. I would therefore touch briefly on 16 to 19 year-olds. I feel very sorry, after reading all that went on in the debates in the other House, that the Government are not very sure what they are going to do about the 16 to 19 year-olds. I am sorry that I did not hear what the noble Baroness said about this because I feel that if integration is to mean anything, it must mean the same facilities for the disabled as for the able bodied. One hopes that in the very near future we shall have a very definite statement from the Government on what they are going to do for the 16 to 19 year-olds.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Baroness; but as she was not here when I made my opening remarks, it would be helpful for her if she takes advantage of looking at the document the Legal Basis of Further Education which sets out a number of the Government's proposals and asks for comment from everybody.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness. I take notice of that and I shall see that she gets some comments. The real point is that young people today are having great difficulties in finding employment and the needs of the handicapped are much greater. When they reach the age of 16 to 19, just when they are ready to take this final chance, that is something that ought not to be missed.
1012 I conclude by taking up what the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said when he referred to the Government setting off in the right direction in this Bill. All that worries me is that the Bill does not contain sufficient for me to conclude that we shall ever reach the destination.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Lord Renwick
My Lords, I should like, even in her absence, to add my congratulations to those of other noble Lords to the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, and to take up one or two points that she made in a very interesting speech. I have not known her as long as the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, with whom I agreed on one matter which has slightly thrown me. I now come to my noble friend the Minister and her statement about Clause 4. This is a point that puzzled him and I shall leave it for the moment and allow my noble friend to take it up in her winding up.
I represent perhaps not too much of the 2 per cent. referred to in this Bill but some of what might be called the Warnock children, the other 18 per cent., as chairman of the British Dyslexia Association. For many years now since the early days of the Warnock Report, when the committee was calling for evidence I have been in touch through every stage up to this extremely welcome appearance of the Bill. The White Paper was published I think just over a year ago. It is my first opportunity to speak on this subject since my maiden speech some six or seven years ago. I missed the debate of my noble friend Lady Masham in January on the Year of the Disabled Child and special educational needs. Some noble Lords spoke on this subject and I have been following that and the comments in the other place in the Special Education Committee with very great interest.
There are many people with a very long and professional interest in education who are speaking in this debate. I am delighted to see that I am to be followed by some real experts who might well pick up anything I happen to drop on the way. There are one or two general points regarding education that I should like to mention and see whether the Bill fits a simple, perhaps rather idealistic, idea of education that I have been thinking about for the two or three years that I have been privileged, as chairman of the Association, to talk to many educationists on both sides of the Atlantic. These have been conceptual rather than practical points.
However, what I want to say is different from some of the speeches that we have heard today. It might show that the work my association is doing, and the work the corporate members are doing, is of very great importance to the whole field of education, to the statutorily handicapped and also those who are apparently normal. I say that not meaning to be flippant. I believe that education and educationists are in a very traditional profession. I hesitate to call it institutionalised. There are parts of it which are very far-seeing. But it is resistant to change and there are a lot of ideas that we have which come from a rather conditioned view.
I do not want to get too involved because it has been a long debate but I believe that perhaps people have not thought of the fact that children and the education of their minds—because this is what we are 1013 talking about—are very different from each other. But when we get them to the school room we expect them to achieve the same standard. If they do not, we think that there must be something wrong with them and that they perhaps need special help from a remedial teacher.
If we got 20 children all of the same size and shape and asked them to run 100 yards, would we expect them to breast the tape together? The one that is the slowest might be good over a mile, at the high jump or throwing the discus or the hammer. When we get into a classroom situation—and I am not talking of all teachers, for there are those who do understand—if a child has not accepted the education as presented, then the teacher is inclined to think that there is something wrong with the child. This was the flexibility which attracted me in the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox. This is very relevant to teacher training. My noble friend the Minister was kind enough to mention the unit at Southampton which we set up and obviously teacher training is of very great importance.
It is amazing how, even among our local associations and corporate members when they have a workshop over a week-end, over Easter or on a week-day in the holidays, we are overcrowded with parents or teachers from both state and private sector schools, who either pay for themselves or are supported by local authorities and come to learn how better to teach the perhaps not totally normal child. This is most encouraging. I am confident from my personal view of the educational scene that there is enormous goodwill. This has to be capitalised upon.
I think that as far as resources are concerned there is an enormous goodwill among local education authorities and education officers. Once they see that one is not threatening them and they realise that among our members there is an enormous store of experience and expertise in the special educational field, then, my goodness! they are prepared to listen. We have had a very good response, and I hope in that way we can perhaps have some effect on the attitudes that have been mentioned earlier. My predecessor, the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, mentioned the need for attitudes and it reminds me that on the last page or so of the Warnock Report—and before going any further I must pay my tribute to Mrs. Warnock for the work she did—it was said, quoting from memory, that even if the resources and the provisions were available there would need to be a change of attitude.
I am told by people much wiser than I that you cannot change attitudes, and I learned that very quickly. I formed a world association to change attitudes, but you cannot do it. What you can do is to promote awareness and understanding that—and why not?—all children are difierent. We have in our care those who are so different, or different to a degree, that within the normal educational system they fail to achieve their potential. More than that, they suffer emotional problems because, as I believe we all know, if you are "different" then, as in the animal kingdom, you are treated slightly differently. That is an attitude that I, too, would love to try to change; but I am pretty certain in my own mind that a good many of the specific learning difficulties we hear about are real differences of ability, and it would be far easier for 1014 them to be understood by other children if the teachers accepted and totally understood.
That brings me to the matter of integration. Of course, I have followed what has been said by your Lordships and by many of the voluntary organisations with whom we have been conferring. It is ideal for a handicapped child or one with a difference of ability or with a disability to have education with others, but only as much as (a) it does not affect the others, and (b) it is in a sphere in which the child feels competent and on a level with the others.
I do not want to keep your Lordships too long. There will be certain points of interest to us all during the Committee stage of this Bill. I should like just to mention the right of access to reports. I am no expert on the academic, professional or parental side; but purely on the humanistic side I believe that a parent's duty to his or her child is in relation to the prime impact upon that child's education. We must get the balance right between the role of the educationalist and the role of the parent. I believe that a great deal of education of the child is done before it gets near a school, and that the child is the prime responsibility of the parent. The educationalist has a specialist role to play in cases where the parent, perhaps because of society imposing functions upon him, has a difficulty in performing the function of total educator. That is surely how education evolved. I think we must remember that the role of the educationalist and that of the parent must be in partnership so as to bring out a child's confidence in the world in which he is going to emerge. This is putting things into a proper role, and we should remember that.
I believe that the parent can play the part that humanity appoints only if he has total access to information. It is unreal to expect a parent to take a decision on something as important as the child's education without access to relevant information. I believe there could be safeguards—a confidential pocket or something—in certain cases, but I am no expert in the technicalities or of legal matters, and perhaps we shall learn quite a lot in the course of the passage of this Bill. That, I believe, would be the right outcome.
As far as resources are concerned, I will try to make my point very quickly as I am conscious that time is going on. Resources should be required by the needs of that organisation and if the planning that goes into the provision of local education authorities for handicapped children or whatever is well done, I believe the money will be made available. I have a horror of the idea that, "Funds are available. What shall we do with them?" I believe that funds are available if there is a real and genuine need for them.
My Lords, I am grateful for this opportunity to speak and I look forward to the replies of my noble friend the Minister on Clause 4, which is fairly basic to our operations. I will leave the matter there, and wish the Bill well.
§ 6.29 p.m.
The Countess of Loudoun
My Lords, coming as I do towards the end of this debate, I find that most points have already been covered by other speakers. There are only two matters on which I wish to comment today. From the moment they are born, all 1015 babies need lots of care and attention to help them grow and discover the world around them. Because they learn much more slowly, mentally handicapped babies need extra special care; and the best place for them to get that is of course at home with their families.
This is Mental Handicap Week, and so it is appropriate that, through this Bill, we should today be trying to improve the basic rules and regulations with regard to these children, and give their parents as much help and support as possible right from the start, at the birth of their handicapped babies.
Those of us who are interested in the subject were very grateful to the Government for their acceptance in another place of a number of amendments, particularly those to Clauses 3, 6, 7 and new Clause 10. The Government gave an assurance that they would see whether an amendment to Clause 10 could be made, which would ensure that after the birth of a handicapped baby parents were informed of the name and address of the relevant support organisation. I speak from personal experience over 30 years ago, when there was literally no help or advice whatsoever available—a traumatic experience.
That brings me to the matter of parents' access to all the relevant informtion on which statements are made under Clause 7. The Government gave an assurance to Mr. John Hannam in another place, when he withdrew his amendment on this matter. I refer to the Official Report of 10th June, cols. 467–478, and I should like to ask the Minister whether the Government intend to put down an amendment on this matter at Committee stage. I am fully aware of the arguments against the disclosure of information, which is a very complex question, but such information is often essential to parents considering an appeal.
There may well be a small minority of cases where the information is sensitive or disturbing, and could cause harm to parents and/or child. There may well be the attitudes of professionals to be considered; they might feel reluctant to commit their opinions to paper in this case. But I feel sure that this could be dealt with by the Government, by allowing a reasonable amount of professional discretion.
I should like to see the appeals procedure strengthened. If the Bill goes through in its present form, it will have the effect of establishing a two-class system of appeals, with fewer rights for parents of handicapped children. I feel it is wrong that these appeal committees are given advisory powers only. They should include one or more nominees of the organisations of handicapped people and/or the parents of the handicapped children, which would ensure the necessary expertise to deal with special education cases and enable them to have equal powers to appeal committees under the 1980 Education Act in respect of all other children. Were these issues to be adopted, it would enable adequate trust and communication to be established between parents, local education authorities and other professionals, and would be a big step forward in the care of our handicapped.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
My Lords, may I at the outset declare my interest in the National Deaf Children's Society, largely because one of its vice-presidents is a 1016 friend of our family and he and his wife have two children with impaired hearing. So my remarks will probably be in a somewhat narrow field. I give a great welcome to this Bill, and I congratulate my noble friend the Minister on explaining it in a very simple way and, particularly, for reminding us that it embraces so much of what the institutions and associations for the handicapped have been looking for over a number of years. Generally, it has been accepted that all the discussions to date have been on a most friendly basis, with the Government being quite receptive to most suggestions.
It was, therefore, rather surprising to me that the noble Baroness, Lady David, was somewhat short in her acceptance of the Bill. I think I remember the gist of what she said in her closing remarks, although it was some time ago. I was equally disappointed that the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, should also have spoken about the Bill never reaching its destination unless we do one or two things. I can only say to both noble Baronesses—and, if I misquote, forgive me—that it is better to travel hopefully than never to travel at all.
I do not want to contradict my noble friend Lady Lane-Fox—and may I join with others in congratulating her on her very warm and real-life contribution to our debate this afternoon—but I join other noble Lords who have expressed some concern over integration. The Bill places emphasis on integration, but I should not like that principle to dictate the system of education that some children and young people may need. I am thinking particularly of the deaf, because they live in their own soundless world, cut off from communication with other people, and I do not believe that a totally integrated system of education would be in their best interests. My noble friend Lord Renton emphasised this point, as did others about their own particular fields.
The deaf have a special place and I call in aid the report in the Sunday Times of 21st June, headed "Deaf miss half-price Rail Card". Apparently, all other disabled persons, including the blind and the partially sighted, can claim this concession but, at least at this moment, the deaf cannot. So here is an example of where they are specially discriminated against.
There are three areas in the Bill which give me cause for concern. Clause 1 obliges the health authority to inform the education authority of children who have special educational needs, but that is where it stops. Clause 4, however, provides for special educational needs from the age of two, while Clause 6 provides that for a child under the age of two the education authority may, with parental consent, make an assessment of that child's special needs. But the authority is not obliged at that stage to make any provision for the child.
There is a gap here, because if one takes a child who is born with impaired hearing—and I have no doubt that this goes for other disabilities or handicaps—it is most important that some remedial work and educational support of both parents and child is started immediately. I was going to say on day one, but certainly the exercises and the various other things that are done should be started within a very few months. But there is no provision for this in the Bill. If we are to make the right kind of progress later on, we should 1017 not begrudge the expenditure, which need not be a lot. I do not believe that expenditure is one of the worries about this Bill, and it would be inexcusable if progress later on were impaired by lack of work in the early stages. So I have real concern that we should be looking for support not from the age of two, but from birth when a disability is diagnosed.
My second area of concern arises on Clause 7, which has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords. My noble friend the Minister said that Clause 7 strengthens parental rights. As I understand it, the statement referred to in Clause 7(4) is built up from reports and so on from a variety of people; for example, teachers, medical authorities and, probably, the social services. The parents may make representations.
What illustrates my point best in subsection (5) is paragraph (c): the authority may determine not to make a statement and shall notify the parent in writing of their decision. I understand that apart from the appeal procedure, which I have not fully understood, parents at that time can do nothing; they have no right of access to the reports and so on which make up the statement. I believe this to be basically wrong. There is nothing secret about it. It is absolutely foolhardy to suggest that a parent should be mad enough to accept the statement; it depends upon the basis on which the statement is made. I think that parents should have access to all the relevant information which makes up the statement.
I want to draw to the attention of my noble friend the Minister a case which illustrates the point I am trying to make. A divorced mother with a handicapped child was advised, after the various procedures had been gone through, that the education authority thought the child should go to a special boarding school. This the mother did not want. It appeared later that the social services report indicated that the mother was living with a man, or that at least a man was living in her house. It was widely thought that this was undesirable. My understanding is that it was for that reason, given by the social services department, that the education authority felt the child should be educated at a special boarding school. However, it transpired that the man living in the house was the woman's brother. There is nothing very much wrong with that. If the mother had been able to see the papers which contributed to the statement, that misunderstanding could have been cleared up and a different decision might have been made. I believe therefore that at a later stage we should look at Clause 7 and also at Clause 8, the appeals system.
The third and final area of concern is not included in the Bill but it has been referred to by most speakers. It was mentioned in particular by the noble Countess, Lady Loudoun: namely, that the parents of a handicapped or a disabled child are not notified of the support services available. There are arguments for and against this, in that some agencies might not be quite so good or quite so responsible as others. This point has been well debated in the other place. My understanding is that the Government are going to have another look at it. I hope the noble Baroness the Minister can tell us how their "look" is getting on.
I know from friends of mine that even an affinity group can give support to a distressed parent. It does not have to be an expert group. Sometimes all that 1018 is needed is a little sympathy. I can say without any fear of contradiction that town halls are tremendously frightening places for distressed parents and, indeed, for most ordinary people. It is quite an experience to go to the town hall to make inquiries. People are afraid of officialdom. I think we should pay a tribute to both radio and television which run a number of talk-in programmes and so on which give this kind of information. I believe that it should be the duty of authorities to provide that information.
I hope the Bill moves along very quickly. If it can be improved during its latter stages, that will be all to the good. I believe this is the right move in the right direction and that we should get the Bill on to the statute book as quickly as we possibly can.
§ 6.45 p.m.
Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)
My Lords, may I begin by congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, on her very interesting maiden speech? It is particularly appropriate that it should be made on this Bill, because she has experience of being disabled as a child.
In January when we debated the White Paper, Special Needs in Education, I expressed my disenchantment at its lack of a firm commitment to achieving integrated education. I felt much the same about the Bill when it appeared. However, some progress has been made in another place and I very much hope that much more progress will be made in your Lordships' House. If it is, then I feel that we shall be moving in the right direction.
First, I should like to welcome new Clause 10. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said, it is very important that the education and training of handicapped children should start as early as possible, whether they be mentally, physically, or sensorily handicapped. May I also echo the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Banks, the noble Countess, Lady Loudoun, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that an amendment about notification to parents of relevant support organisations should be included in the passage of the Bill through this House?
I now turn to the major points which worry me. Basically, there are two areas. Quite a lot has already been said about them. They are the rights of the handicapped child, which boil down to accessibility and the provision of equipment, and the rights of parents of handicapped children to assessments, statements and appeals.
First, in relation to access and equipment, Clause 1(2)(b) states that a child has "a learning difficulty" if,he suffers from a disability which either prevents or hinders him from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided in schools, within the area of the local authority concerned, for children of his age".I do not know what "educational facilities" are. The Advisory Centre for Education—ACE—comments that there are no nationally agreed guidelines on what constitutes "educational facilities of a kind generally provided in schools".
This subsection appears to allow a child to be deemed to have a learning difficulty if his local ordinary school is inaccessible or if some aid which he needs is not available. I find it amazin, particularly in 1019 view of subsection (4) of the same clause, which was referred to by the Minister in her opening speech and also by the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, that if the difficulty is solely one of language, which presumably leads to problems of communication, this is not a learning difficulty, yet if the problem is simply one of bricks and mortar—that is, access—it is a learning difficulty! I do not believe that this should be so in this day and age, and certainly not in the future. We must remember that we are legislating not only for today's children but for the children of the future.
The Government's new access clause, which includes educational buildings, and which was introduced into the Scotland Bill, was extremely welcome as it strengthened the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. It was also included in the Disabled Persons (No. 2) Bill to cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland. That, too, was very welcome. However, I voiced my concern at the Committee stage, and I stress it again now, that in the case of educational buildings the attention of the developer is only going to be drawn to Design Note 18, not to the code of practice, BS 5810/1979, as well. This is very important, not only because some of the dimensions in the design note are less generous but because it does not mention the blind and the deaf, as does the code of practice. If provision is not made for them, it will be harder for them to get into ordinary schools. I very much hope that the Minister will be able to see her way to amending this in the Disabled Persons (No. 2) Bill, otherwise we shall have to try to do something in this Bill.
As the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, said, there is also a need to adapt existing school buildings. There will be very few new ones built in this day of falling school rolls. Therefore it is very important that we should try to cover this need. There are some excellent special schools as well as some which are much less good, and educationally undemanding and socially isolating. However, in all special schools, as the noble Baroness, Lady David, has said, the handicapped child is removed from the model of the ordinary child and can come to look at himself as being something outside the real world.
The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, made a fascinating speech and gave a very good example of a school where you can shuttle between the special and the ordinary school systems, as necessary. I think that is very valuable. For those who are going to be able to cope and compete in an adult world—and I fully accept that there are some who will not be able to—I feel that they will be best equipped to do so if they grow up among their able-bodied peers and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, said, this helps the latter to understand the handicapped. Some handicapped children may not be able to cope, but no child should be prevented from doing so simply because a building is unsuitable.
Then, Clause 2(3)(b) and (c) increase the difficulty. The noble Baroness, Lady David, has already spoken on the fact that the local education authority has a duty to secure that the child for whom they maintain a statement is educated in an ordinary school, provided that it is compatible with,(b) the provision of efficient education for the children with whom he will be educated; and(c) the efficient use of resources.".1020 I appreciate that in the Education Act 1980, Section 6, similar words are used concerning the duty of an LEA to comply with parents' expressed preference for a certain school. The words are:Unless it would prejudice the provision of efficient education or the efficient use of resources".But this is something rather different because it concerns the choice of which school the child goes to within the ordinary school system. I imagine there is consideration of numbers in the school, distance to be travelled et cetera, whereas in this Bill we are concerned with the choice between education in a special school or in an ordinary school, and I think it is very doubtful if criteria exist whereby efficient education and efficient use of resources can be measured objectively for the purposes of this Bill.
My Lords, there is no such thing as equality. All men are not equal and all children are certainly not equal, but there is equal opportunity and all I am asking is that handicapped children who can cope should be given the same opportunity as their able-bodied peers to go to an ordinary school. Clauses 1 and 2 as they stand do not allow this. Clause 2(4) places a duty on every local education authority to keep under review the arrangements made by them for special educational provision. I think this would be very worthwhile if we could expand and strengthen this subsection and I do not think anyone has yet spoken about this. No serious advocate of integration supposes that integration can take place all at once and, in circumstances where it is difficult to do a lot straight away, it is all the more important that legislation should encourage local authorities to develop plans for what they hope to be able to do over a reasonable period of time. I think a process of planned and sensible integration would help to ensure that we could continue to move in the right direction. The Minister described the Bill as evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and I think satisfactory evolution needs planned evolution.
Parents of handicapped children should also have the same rights as parents of non-handicapped children. Quite a lot has been said about this already so I shall try to be as brief as possible. I should like to welcome the Government's amendment to Clause 5, which was moved in another place, whereby parents are allowed 29 instead of 15 days to make representations and submit written evidence re the proposed assessment, because I think that will be very valuable. But Clause 9 gives too much power to the local education authorities. It is they who will decide whether a parent's request for an assessment of a child for whom a statement is not maintained is unreasonable and it is they who will judge whether it is appropriate to make a re-assessment when parents of a child for whom they maintain a statement request it and I feel that it should not be the local education authority concerned which decides this.
I am glad that in Clause 9(2) the maximum period before a requested reassessment is carried out was reduced from 12 months to six months in another place, but I feel that it could possibly be even shorter, because six months is a long time in the life of a developing child.
In Schedule 1, Part 1, paragraph 2(4), there is a maximum penalty of £50 for parents who fail, without 1021 reasonable excuse, to comply with the requirements of a notice of assessment. I really do not think that is at all a good idea. Compulsion is likely to affect adversely the relationship between child, parent and professionals and is hardly likely to be in the child's best interests.
On the question of statements, the noble Lord, Lord Renton, the noble Countess, Lady Loudoun, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, have already referred to the importance of the disclosure of statements, and the noble Baroness, Lady David, referred to the parent's right under the United States of America's Education of All Handicapped Children Act 1975, to examine all records relating to children's education, and to the fact that it is working well there. She also made a number of other interesting points on this which I fully support, as I do those of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. I think it is terribly important that parents should have access to all the reports behind the statement because if they do not have that information it makes it difficult for them to decide whether or not to appeal against the LEA's decision and also it makes it very difficult for them to appeal successfully.
On the subject of appeals, the noble Countess, Lady Loudon, has already said that the parents of handicapped children should have the same rights of appeal as other parents have under the 1980 Education Act. Under Clause 8(4)(b), if an appeal committee does not confirm special educational provisions specified in a statement on a child, it can only remit the case to the LEA for reconsideration and it has neither the power to amend the statement nor the power to direct the LEA to cease to maintain it. I know that the Minister says one can always go to the Secretary of State, but it demands great stamina, determination and persistence on the part of the parent who has already been through all the other procedures first.
I said before that there is no such thing as equality, only of equal opportunity. The scales are weighted against the handicapped child and his family from the start, whether he is physically or sensorialy or mentally handicapped. I am delighted that the Minister said that the Government were keen to improve this Bill further in any way that was reasonable, and surely it is not too much to ask, in this International Year of Disabled People, that the handicapped child be given the same opportunities as his able-bodied contemporaries to be educated in an ordinary school and that the parents of handicapped children be given the same rights as those of able-bodied children.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, like other noble Lords I welcome this Bill and offer my congratulations to my noble friend the Minister, Lady Young, and to the Secretary of State for Education for responding to the recommendations made in the report, of outstanding quality, on the special educational needs of children, so ably chaired by Mrs. Mary Warnock. I think the noble Baroness, Lady David, said that she gave only one cheer and afterwards she said that she gave a weaker second cheer. My Lords, I give three cheers.
I wish to speak for just one moment on the question of the under-fives. I should like again to congratulate my noble friend Lady Young, for considering and taking into account the needs of the under-fives and 1022 their families. However, I should like to ask her just one question in this realm. Under Clause 10, on page 8 of the Bill, the health authority must notify the parents and the Education Authority of a child's handicap. Children under five are mentioned in several clauses but I will not go into the number of clauses at the moment. However, I should say here that there is more than the Education Department that is responsible for offering a service to the under-fives. The Social Services Department offers a service in the form of day nurseries under the Health Service and Public Health Act. Day Centres are run by the social services department under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, and if the social services department are not notified of the number of handicapped children under five they are not in a position to provide the services. But I should say here—and I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, and my noble friend Lord Vaizey—that I agree there is need to delineate the differing roles and responsibilities of the various local government departments. While they are not properly defined and while they overlap, the local authority cannot offer a partnership to parents.
I now pass to the needs of the family. I have to say that when the Warnock Committee was set up I remember making a plea that, instead of being a report on the needs of handicapped children, it should be a report on the needs of handicapped children and their families.
Under Clause 1 the children who fall into the category of special needs in education are outlined, and I will not go into this. But I think the noble Baroness did refer to medical, educational and psychological needs. There are also the needs of the family. I cannot stress too strongly that unless the family is taken into account, both as a partner, and also having their needs, then we shall not get this right. If I may say so, there are some parents who can tolerate and can handle the most severely handicapped child. There are some parents who could not tolerate it and could not help the child. There are even some parents—it is just the way we are all made—who cannot even tolerate a mildly handicapped child and give that child the help it needs in the home. Therefore, I would have hoped that not only were the needs of the child taken into account but the needs of the family. Perhaps one of the saddest things to those of us who have worked with such families is the way in which in some families the concentration is all on the handicapped child to the detriment of the other children. Therefore, I would make the plea that not only the needs of the child are taken into account but the needs of the family.
I turn to special schools. I would very much support the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, who said we cannot put into one compartment all handicapped children. The different grades and categories of handicap are done away with, but nevertheless there are still categories of children with special needs, and it is those special needs which have to be met. May I ask the Minister, under the heading of special schools, whether, for instance, parental choice plays a part here and whether parents are allowed to ask, under the assisted places scheme, for places in voluntary schools, privately-run schools for handicapped children. I think we have to 1023 achieve a balance. There are some children who need residential accommodation, some families who need residential accommodation. I worry—this has been said by other noble Lords—that, with the present cut-back, it could be that some local authorities would not want to use the special schools.
I should like to pass now to Clause 3. I feel deeply concerned over Clause 3, particularly in connection with the provision of special education otherwise than in schools. I suppose this must touch on home tuition, and it much touch on those children excluded from school by the head of the school, who has every right to exclude a child under the 1944 Education Act. I should like especially to refer to children suffering emotional disturbance which results in maladjustment and disruptive and difficult behaviour. These children are very often excluded from school, perhaps for non-attendance, perhaps because of their difficulties in school. They are sent home, and in order to comply with the 1944 Education Act peripatetic teachers are allocated to help such children in their own homes. Very often—I have experienced this in my own work—that amounts to perhaps one day or two days a week, leaving the parent to deal with the very difficult child, needing special help, kept at home for quite a considerable time.
I would here say that there is a very thin line drawn between children who are deemed ultimately maladjusted under the old Bill, who will under this Bill, I maintain, still need special educational help, and those children who appear before the juvenile court and are then sent to a children's home or a penal institution. There is a very fine line drawn, and I would hope that these children can be kept within the educational system and not within the penal system. I wonder whether the noble Baroness could look at this.
I am conscious of the fact that I am the sixteenth speaker, and I am rushing on. I would wish to say a word about the monitoring of this Bill when it becomes an Act. I cannot see how we are going to know whether this Act is a success unless in some way we monitor it. I am very conscious of this because the Children and Young Persons Act was passed in 1969, was not monitored, and is now by many people deemed a failure. I do not believe it is a failure, but I believe it was not properly monitored and therefore the lack of resources and the difficulties were never assessed for a very long time.
I wonder whether the noble Baroness the Minister would think that it would be a good thing for an annual report to be produced by every local authority, both the education and social services in conjunction with the health board, and that those reports should be perhaps submitted to the National Childrens Bureau; they have a large staff, are able to put things on computers, and have a great deal of experience of writing reports, doing research and producing recommendations. I speak with some feeling because I served on a committee dealing with handicapped, which was ultimately produced by the National Children's Bureau.
May I pass on to the question of social work service and counselling. Here again there is not a clearcut structure for giving counselling and advice to parents. 1024 Within the local authority there is the social service department with their social workers, administering the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, there is the schools social work service working within the education department. Their work does overlap, and I wonder whether the time has not come for us to look very clearly at what are the specific roles of each of the two departments and how they can dovetail rather than overlap.
If I may say a few words on parents as partners, several noble Lords have spoken about the question; I am bound to mention my own authority, Oxford. During pregnancy every young couple attends classes, and I mean both father and expectant mother. Together all through pregnancy they are attending what they laughingly call their classes. During that time there is a rapport established with the doctors at the hospital and with their doctor. If a handicapped child is born, there is this bond between the professionals and the parents, and it comes much more easily to inform immediately the parents of any difficulties that may occur. I believe that we need not make such a mountain out of the molehill of confidentiality. If the parents are treated as partners at every stage, there would not be any confidentiality. I speak again with feeling, because when one is submitting a report to the juvenile court on a child who appears before the court, for the magistrates to decide what to do about the child, one submits a full report which the magistrates must see.
Leading up to that, I cannot even remember submitting a report to the magistrates of which the parents did not know every detail because one had always consulted with them step by step all the way along the line. I know, for instance, that the Invalid Children's Aid Association would deplore the named person being the person to give details of confidentiality. I think that they are absolutely right because I believe profoundly that if there is a good relationship between the helping services, the doctors and the parents, then there is no confidentiality because every point will have been discussed at every milestone along the line.
In conclusion, I wish the Bill well. I think that there are certain matters that need to be altered to make it a good Bill. Once again, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for introducing it.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Baroness Jeger
My Lords, it is a special pleasure to follow the wise words of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, who speaks from such great experience of these problems. Indeed, during the whole of this debate we have heard in every speech wisdom, experience and concern. I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox. She has brought to this place commonsense, humour and courage and this place will be the better for having her with us. I hope that we shall hear often from her. I was especially interested in her perspicacious reference to the language question in this Bill because I think that it is very important not to over-simplify the question of language. There are many children from other countries who are imitative and who are quickly seen to have picked up English. But that is quite different from having comprehension of a language for understanding the imagery and the references. I hope 1025 that all those who have to make decisions in these cases will bear in mind that we are not thinking just about a sort of "parrotability" but something much more significant, because "parrotability" can often cloud the child's real difficulties.
I should like to add my thanks to Mary Warnock and all those who worked on the report, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for the way in which she has explained it with her usual efficiency today. I look on this Bill as an attempt to bring the vision of the Warnock Report into some reality. However, there are two main things that worry me about it. The first is that there is not any money available. If noble Lords will look at the "Financial effects of the Bill" as set out in the Explanatory Memorandum, it states:The Bill…should not give rise to significant additional expenditure".The noble Baroness explained that because of the falling birth rate we should be able to keep up with the present expenditure. But the purpose of the Bill is surely to improve on the present situation—not just to keep still.
Secondly, there is no date for its implementation. I refer noble Lords to page 14 of the Bill where it says:This Act shall come into force on such date as the Secretary of State may by order appoint and different dates may be appointed for different provisions or different purposes".I find that very worrying because it makes us wonder how much longer many of these children will have to wait for these improved circumstances. Also, the fact that different parts of the Bill could be brought in on different dates makes me wonder—and perhaps the noble Baroness can set my mind at rest—whether there would not be some danger of a piecemeal approach rather than wholehearted dealing with the situation on a date which I am sure all of us in this House wish to be soon. We are talking about 20 per cent. of our children. Children do not wait year in and year out. They are growing all the time, and that is why there is a real urgency about this Bill. I am sure that the noble Baroness shares that view.
I was very interested to see the Warnock Report's approach to the subject. On page 5 it says that the goals of education are:first, to enlarge a child's knowledge, experience and imaginative understanding, and thus his awareness of moral values and capacity for enjoyment; and secondly, to enable him to enter the world after formal education is over as an active participant in society and a responsible contributor to it, capable of achieving as much independence as possible".I think that that is a fine ideal, and those who work with handicapped children are giving a great service not only to the children but to the whole nation. It is a very difficult and demanding job. It means that we have not just to care for children but to try to maximise their potential, to find their growing points. It is very sensitive and difficult work for which I think a great deal of training needs to be undertaken. I shall come back to that matter again in connection with the financial provisions.
We have had a very full debate and so I wish to refer quickly to other points that we shall come back to in Committee. I share the anxiety of the noble Baroness who spoke about the question of educational facilities. I do not understand what is meant in Clause 1(2)(b) about "educational facilities". We are 1026 told that a child will come within this section:if…he suffers from a disability which either prevents or hinders him from making use of educational facilities".Does that mean that he cannot get into a classroom? Does it mean that he has spina bifida or some other difficulty, so he cannot use the ordinary school lavatory? What are "educational facilities"? I hope that that can be spelt out more clearly, particularly with regard to access and what I would call the physical surroundings of the school, which I know in many cases are matters that prevent the child even attending the school.
In Clause 2(3)(c) one of the considerations about accepting a child for special education has to be:the efficient use of resources".I am not sure how local education authorities are expected to interpret that, especially with the noble Baroness's right honourable friend the Minister for the Environment breathing down their neck and telling them to cut and cut and cut again. Who is to judge whether it is an efficient use of the financial resources of the local authority to provide for one handicapped child to go to an ordinary school at the cost of some improvements in access, or whether it would be more in keeping with Government thinking for the rates to be reduced by a halfpenny by that authority? It seems to me that we are putting on local authorities a very heavy and a contradictory burden.
Lower down on the same page, in subsection (5)(a), we see that the education authority must:use their best endeavours".Noble Lords must feel that the English language is being misused here. That is the biggest excuse that anybody ever had for not doing anything about anything. Have we not all as children, not particularly disabled children, said, "I did my best". That is supposed to be the alibi for a multitude of sins and shortcomings. I hope that we can tighten that up. I wonder how good is "best". Let us try to get some guidance on that. While these education authorities are saying that they are doing their best within their guidelines of financial expenditure, I would remind your Lordships that the Government have allocated £3 million to the assisted places scheme so that the brightest and best of children can get specially good education. It seems to be in line with the Government's total philosophy that those who most need help, get help least.
I want to say a few words about teacher training. Now that we have a three-year course for normal teacher training it seems to me that there ought to be a considerable input of special training for disabled and handicapped children. When we talk about 20 per cent. of the nation's children, it must surely mean that within the course of an average teaching career the chances are that practically every teacher at some time is bound to come across a class in which there are one or two children who need special attention. In fact, if this Bill is to mean anything, that will certainly be the case.
However, again, this question of cost arises. I suppose it could be said that money is available for in-service training for it is built into the rate support grant, but there is no specific grant and, therefore, tonight 1027 we can have no confidence that money will be used for this purpose. I understand that under Section 62 of the 1944 Act the Secretary of State has power to regulate the content of teacher training, and we very much hope that that will happen.
References have already been made to the United States where some very good pioneering work in this field has been carried out, where positive efforts have been made to bring handicapped children into the regular classroom. To give one example, in 1972 the Colorado legislature earmarked 2 million dollars for in-service training of regular teachers to give them the extra skills and knowledge necessary, and those grants were repeated in later years. In Missouri and Georgia they have enacted legislation that, in order to become certified, all teachers much receive specific preparation in the techniques of how to work with handicapped students in regular classrooms. If this positive action is not taken, with the best intentions in the world, we could put many handicapped children at a disadvantage. You could have a classroom situation where it is not so much a question of the learning difficulties of the child, but a question of the teaching difficulties of the teacher. I am sure that they need this extra help.
The Warnock Report suggested that 200 full-time, or equivalent part-time, lecturers would be needed if we were to embark on a five-year programme of in-service teacher training to meet the demands set out in this Bill. It is against that sort of statement that I find it very difficult to make sense of the fact that apparently no extra financial provision is to be made. It could be that the integration, which we have discussed so fully today, could be looked on by some hard-up authorities as a cheap option and could actually harm children, both educationally and socially.
The noble Baroness referred to the falling rolls and to the fact that that means that we have a higher proportion of teachers to children. But it is no use having smaller classes if the teachers concerned are no good at their job or—and I do not want to sound critical—do not have the special skills to enable them to do their job. They are asked to deal with a great range of handicaps, and we are asking them to perform a very difficult and sensitive task; to keep the peace among a crowd of children, some normal, some abnormal, some naughtier than others and, let us be honest, some who can be unkind to each other, with elements of bullying and tension. Therefore, the fact of the numbers of teachers does not seem to me to answer the question.
Simply to place a handicapped child in a room full of normal children does not mean integration. No one should believe that it does. In passing this Bill—which I know we all wish to see passed as quickly as possible—I think that we have a great responsibility to enable it to take realistic effect and to ensure that it does what we hope it will do. But simply to economise—and this must be tempting in some areas—by closing down small special schools and saying, "It is all right because Parliament now says that all these poor children can go to the school down the road", and at the same time not to provide the extra teaching, the extra skills and all the supporting techniques that these children need, would be a disaster, and I know that your Lord- 1028 ships would not want to be a party to any such outcome of this Bill.
I am also very concerned about the position of the under-fives. I think that this must be the first time that an Education Bill has had to do with babies. A great deal of thought must be given to the way in which this will work out. The noble Baroness, Lady Faith-full, referred to the present difficulties in the town halls with the social services, the education services and the health services. I can see a danger of there being some confusion unless a great deal of careful thought is given to this problem. For instance, I am wondering whether the medical profession has been sufficiently brought into discussions, because it is very often the family doctor who sees the baby or the child, who may have been sent home from hospital apparently absolutely all right. Having been married to a marvellous general practitioner, I am the last person to criticise doctors, but we would be unrealistic if we did not accept that occasionally in a busy surgery, with a whining baby—and even Dr. Stone might say this—a doctor will say, "He will grow out of it, mother", or, as I have heard some doctors say, "There is nothing wrong with that baby; it is the neurotic mother who is the trouble. If only she would leave the baby alone, he would be all right". The family doctor has to be in the front line on this.
In many areas we find that attendance of mothers with young babies at post-natal clinics is dropping off badly. Let us face it, some of those clinics are boring enough places to visit. Often, when a doctor refers a child to hospital there is a long wait and then you see a different doctor every month, or however often you have to go. Unless, throughout the medical process, there is full co-operation with the education authorities, it will be rather difficult to make this work.
Having got the doctors to inform the education authority, the education authority is supposed to do what? If it does not have any money, what is it supposed to do? Here again, we must have further talks about how the resources are to be made available to do all that this Bill wants done. The awful truth is that although the Warnock Report said quite clearly on page 343:Nursery education for all children should be substantially increased as soon as possible",we know that there is no increase taking place. In fact, the opposite is true. Local authorities are being pressed to economise, particularly in this sphere. They are closing down day nurseries and nursery school provision. There are staff leaving; posts being frozen; people not being replaced.
Again, if we are to make any real progress in this question of the under-fives we shall have to look at this sort of provision in a more realistic way. This is important because if a child lives with its handicap undiagnosed and untreated until it is five years old and until a school doctor or teacher picks it up, it has lost five of the most precious years, because the first five years of life are the years of the fastest growth. He can be set back for life through that early neglect. Therefore, I am so glad that this provision is in the Bill, and I hope the noble Baroness will not mind my expressing anxieties about its being implemented. It is because I am so glad that it is in the Bill that I want it to be fully carried out.
1029 There are all sorts of exciting things going on in different parts of the country at the present time, many of them threatened by financial stringency, which is most unfortunate at a time when I feel that the mood of this House and of the country is of increased concern about disabled and handicapped people; and today, of course, we are specially concerned with children. I hope that this Bill will have a speedy passage, but it is no good its having a speedy passage if there is no date put on to its implementation and if there is no money available to implement it. There will be certain points we shall want to come back to on Committee stage, but as we have had such a good, full and detailed debate, I propose not to go into any further detail at present. I hope that the noble Baroness will accept the sincerity on this side of the House. Many of us have worked together in the background from which this Bill has emerged, and we honestly want it to succeed. I believe she does too, and I hope she can give us some good news tonight so that we shall feel more confident about its future.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, we have had an important debate today and I very much appreciate the most constructive way in which the whole of the discussion has taken place. The House will I am sure understand if I do not answer all the points, although I hope to touch on many of the most important. I am particularly glad of the welcome that has been given by almost every Member of your Lordships' House who has spoken, some more warmly than others but everyone giving it a welcome.
I was particularly pleased at the support from my noble friend Lady Lane-Fox, who made a most moving maiden speech based from practical experience on both the joys and the problems of integration. It was interesting because I think she is the only Member of your Lordships' House who was handicapped as a child and actually had that particular experience. I was grateful too to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester, who spoke I believe not only on behalf of the Church of England but of all the churches, and to my noble friend Lord Renton for the support he gave from Mencap.
My noble friend Lord Swinton described what I thought was an excellent example of a special school. No wonder he was alarmed that we might all be queueing up to visit it, because clearly it is an up-to-date example illustrating the best of practice and equipment in this interesting world of special education. It followed very well when the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, said that the Bill was built up on the best practice She is quite right. That is precisely one of the cornerstones of the Bill. Before saying anything more, I should like to pay my tribute to the many professionals involved in education who do such a very good job day in, day out, for many years.
In the course of the last two years I have visited a lot of special schools. I have been particularly interested in preparation for this Bill and for the debate that we are having today. I have without exception been impressed not only by the variety of provision that is made—and we would be very mistaken to think that there is a kind of standard provision, because each authority has its own ideas—but also by the dedica- 1030 tion of the staff, and the numbers of examples I have seen with close parental involvement in the school with a very active and well supported parents' association.
Not surprisingly the main issues that have come out have been those that have been debated before: resources, integration, confidentiality, problems of the non-maintained and the independent schools, the question of the advisory committee, and the role of parents. I shall before concluding try to touch on all of those. Before I do I should like to deal with some quite specific points. The noble Lords, Lord Banks and Lord Renton, and the noble Countess, Lady Loudoun, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, all referred to an amendment put down in another place towards the end of the proceedings in which the principle was that parents who have a handicapped child would be put in touch with a support organisation.
I was asked what the Government view was on this. We undertook in another place to consider whether it would be possible to introduce into the Bill a provision which would allow health authorities a degree of flexibility in how they approach such matters and how they decide which, if any, organisation might be able to help the parents. I should like to confirm that we are actively considering whether a meaningful amendment can still be made to the Bill.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester raised a point about religious education. In Clause 12(4) the wording is, "so far as practicable". This repeats the wording used in the 1944 Education Act, Section 33(4). The reference to practicability is because of the possible state of health of the child and not because of constraints imposed by timetable or the characteristics of the building. However, I shall read carefully what the right reverend Prelate said, and no doubt consider whether the Bill requires an amendment, but I think he will find that because it is a repetition of what is already in legislation it has stood the test of time very well.
My noble friend Lord Renton raised a number of points, but he asked about training for work in adult training centres and teacher training. At this time I have not got the figures available that he has asked for, but I shall look into the matter and write to him before the next stage, or at any rate while the Bill is proceeding. The noble Baroness, Lady David, and the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, raised a point about the school-leaving age. The 1944 Act looked forward to the raising of the minimum school leaving age to 16. Because we had neither the buildings nor the resources in 1947 to do this, the age was raised to 15 for most children but to 16 immediately in special schools, which obtained the benefit of the reform at once. When the school leaving age was raised to 16 much thought was given to the question as to whether it should be raised to 17 in special schools. But at that time the consensus of opinion was that the distinction between handicapped and other children should be removed. It has of course always been possible for children to stay on beyond the age of 16, and we have recently reiterated that it is the duty of local education authorities to provide for the 16 to 19 year olds if they are asked to do so.
My noble friend Lord Renwick raised a point about dyslexia. Of course I was interested in his remarks because he has this special association with children 1031 who suffer from what has been termed dyslexia. It is only right in our consideration of this Bill that we do not overlook the special educational needs of children with learning difficulties in reading, writing, spelling, or mathematics. We understand the pain and distress of a child who is neither lazy nor backward but who is unable to learn to read or write at the same pace as his peers, and that this is a proper cause for concern. I hope the Bill will lead to a more sensitive response to the individual educational needs of such children.
Several noble Lords raised the question of the monitoring of the Bill, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady David, and my noble friend Lady Faithfull. It might be helpful to the House to know that, with the abolition of statutory categories of handicap, this will remove the basis on which the DES currently collects statistics. But we have every intention of ensuring that future statistics will reflect the new, less simple view of handicap and acknowledge that children cannot simply be neatly categorised under one label.
Mrs. Warnock's committee proposed that the DES should collect statistics on a limited group with severe special needs—that is to say, for those for whom statements will be made—but encouraged LEAs to consider individually what information they might collect on the wider population with special educational needs as defined in Clause 1 of the Bill. Our view is that we agree with this division of responsibility, as we consider that the national information on the wider population would be very hard to collect and that the absence of common standards would make the drawing of conclusions from it very difficult indeed.
The noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, raised three interesting and very important points and I would tell him that of course we recognise the importance of defining the duties of the National Health Service, the local education authorities and the social services. But I think that what he was concerned about, as was my noble friend Lady Faithfull, was co-operation between the three arms that will be concerned with these children. This is often a matter of good practice. One has read enough reports where there has not been co-ordination to know that everything was there to make it right, yet it did not work because of failure on the part of the individuals or lack of good practice. We cannot of course legislate for that, but I am sure that we need always to bear in mind as we are considering the Bill that, while we can do what we can to create the right legal framework, we cannot ever legislate for good practice.
I turn to the major issues which no doubt we shall reconsider in Committee, and I must comment again on the question of resources and say how grateful I was to my noble friend Lord Vaizey for reminding us of the sums of money which are going into special education. I must remind your Lordships also that when the 1944 Act was introduced, no resources went with that, yet I think I can say without fear of contradiction from any noble Lord that that Act has had a most profound effect on education—quite the most profound effect since the earlier one of 1902. So I do not believe that, simply because in the Financial Memorandum we have not included large sums of money, we need think that nothing will happen.
I believe local authorities will take the resources 1032 they have and consider whether they are using them as wisely as they might or whether they could get better value for money. I believe they will, without a specific grant—because all the evidence we have shows this—maintain their expenditure on special education and children with special educational needs. I was myself in local government for a long time and I believe that those who are in local government and are concerned with children with special educational needs will not see integration as a cheap option; they will continue to be far too concerned about the needs of these children.
I confirm that the Government's expenditure plans reflected in the 1981–82 rate support grant settlement and the education grant-related expenditure calculations for each individual local authority take account of the additional expenditure demands imposed by these children—that is, those with special educational needs. LEAs are being given a new framework on which to reconstruct their service to children with special educational needs. They are not being asked to start from nothing. Far from it; they are asked to think very hard about the way they spend the very large sums which they control and the alternative ways in which the money might be spent to greater good.
That brings me to the whole question of falling rolls, a subject which was raised by a number of noble Lords, and I am conscious that some people are very worried that local authorities will immediately shut down a whole series of special schools. Not only did I indicate in my opening remarks that special schools will for the first time be subject to the same kind of provisions as ordinary schools are, and cannot be closed just like that, but we must recognise the fact that there will be (this is perhaps a good feature of the falling rolls) about 10,000 fewer children in the schools population with special educational needs. Of course, local authorities must look at these schools, as they would look at all their schools, to determine whether or not, given a certain size, it is appropriate that they should remain open or whether educationally it would be better if they closed.
This matter must be left for their determination, quite properly, but I would not want anybody to believe that LEAs were suddenly going to close a whole series of schools on some kind of whim; nor indeed are they able to do so. Furthermore, one other good piece of news is that medical advances in detecting potential disabilities before birth and in treating them are reducing the number of children whose problems are so serious as to require education in special schools, and there is likely to be a continuing tendency for LEAs to provide for special educational needs in ordinary schools.
I come to the question of integration, a subject raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, my noble friend Lord Renton, and my noble friend Lord Lucas (in his particular case about deaf children) among others. Clause 2 establishes a principle of integration and association which recognises certain factors which were not explicit in Section 10 of the 1976 Act, which will be repealed by the Bill. We start from the general proposition that children with special educational needs should be educated in association with other children. But the interests of the child must come first and we cannot accept that this principle should impose an 1033 unconditional duty on LEAs where they maintain statements for children. Indeed, I believe that the views expressed illustrated that; whereas my noble friends Lord Lucas and Lord Renton said there must be a case for special education for certain types of children with special disabilities, the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), moved very strongly that most children should be in ordinary schools, where adequate provision could be made for them.
As we see this as an evolving situation, I believe we shall reach a position where there will still be a need for some special schools, but a larger number of handicapped children will be educated in ordinary schools. Most important, however, the Bill requires that account must be taken of parents' views. This is important because not all parents will in fact wish their children to be placed in an ordinary school, and, secondly, the needs of the child, as revealed by assessment, must be met by the proposed placements.
I know we shall have a great deal of discussion about parental access to professional reports. These matters were raised by the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, and many others and I was grateful to my noble friend Lady Faithfull for the point she made describing the best practice on professional reports and that consideration should be given to the needs of the whole family. It is a key feature of the Bill that parents should be thoroughly involved from the outside in decisions about their child's education. They will have the right to attend their child's examinations, and thus they will have every opportunity to ask questions of the professionals concerned. The very disturbing example that my noble friend Lord Lucas gave was, if I may say so, an example of bad practice, where the parents had not had the opportunity to discuss what lay behind a decision. The Bill also provides parents with an absolute right of access to their child's statement, and of course to comment on that statement when it is in draft. The statement will be in a form prescribed by the Secretary of State, and will contain details of the LEA's assessment of the child's special educational needs.
The issue of confidentiality has been debated at length in another place and has been an area where we have sought to find an acceptable legislative response to the concerns felt by parents. We have given two undertakings: first, to make it clear in guidance which will follow the Bill that LEAs should be as frank as possible with parents, as frank as circumstances will permit, and should discuss fully what is going on; and, secondly, to consider whether there is a possiblity of improving the framework for communication of information to parents without damaging the interests of some children, or endangering the frankness of professional reports, by giving parents an absolute right of access to them. After all, what we need is the best of professional advice. We do not want the possibility that the advice is not written down, that it is inadequately passed on, because a professional will not agree to someone other than another professional seeing it. No doubt this is a matter to which we shall return at length in Committee.
I think that a number of noble Lords were confusing the issue of non-maintained special schools with that of independent schools catering for handicapped 1034 pupils. As I indicated in my opening remarks, so far as non-maintained special schools are concerned, under the regulations we shall be able to provide for parents and teachers on governing bodies and indeed for making the provisions as similar as possible to those for ordinary schools.
But the position about independent schools catering exclusively for children with special educational needs is rather different. We recognise a need to impose on independent schools wishing to cater for pupils with statements standards similar to those imposed upon other special schools. But as we indicated in our White Paper, it is not proposed to require such schools to establish governing bodies. In the context of the regulations we shall examine whether independent schools can be encouraged to establish advisory committees. But the fact is that it is not realistic to expect the proprietors of the majority of these schools to surrender control to governing bodies which they do not themselves appoint and which are independent of them. A governing body controlled by the proprietors' family will, not necessarily I fear, be the kind of governing body that we visualise over the whole range of governing bodies which we expect in the education service. We believe that the objective would be better achieved through regulations and by ensuring that local authorities have proper rights of access to these establishments. There is therefore a difference between independent schools and non-maintained special schools.
Finally, I wish to say a few words about the national advisory committee. This matter, too, was debated at great length in another place, and I am sure that we shall return to it. I am aware of the concern that has been expressed about the establishment of an advisory committee and the need to write an amendment into the Bill. I should like to reiterate what has been said in another place; namely, that an advisory committee can be established under the Secretary of State's general powers in the Education Act 1944. Indeed, an advisory committee on special education existed for more than 20 years prior to the establishment of the Warnock Committee. The Government have not set their face against the re-establishment of an advisory committee in the future, but we do not require specific powers in the present Bill to achieve that.
For the moment we consider that there is much progress to be made on the recommendations of the Warnock Committee itself. Against this background and in the light of the Government's general view against the desirability of establishing new Quangos, my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary offered to arrange a conference of voluntary bodies to discuss the implementation of the Bill. The offer still stands, and I am happy to reiterate it this evening. It seems to me to be one way to ensure that the collective voice of the voluntary bodies can be heard over a range of issues.
I am conscious that there are many points that I have not answered, but I believe that we have had a very constructive, as well as lengthy, debate, and I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part. There can be few other places besides your Lordships' House where we could have had gathered together a high degree of personal experience and expertise.
In introducing the Bill I am very conscious of the fact 1035 that I have been greatly blessed in life. Not only do I enjoy good health myself, but I have had the privilege of having three normal, healthy children. I recognise that I am fortunate, and I am sure that those of us in such a position appreciate not only the very moving point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), about those things that are loaded against children with handicaps from birth, but also the fact of how much more fortunate we are if we do not ourselves suffer from these handicaps. It is in that spirit that I commend the Bill to the House. It is offered as a contribution from the Government to the International Year of Disabled People. We want to see the Bill on the statute book as soon as possible, and we want to move as far as we can and as fast as we can towards the same true equality of opportunity for those children with special educational needs that we are providing for all the other children in our educational system.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.