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Sarah Teather: I wish to speak to amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 47. We accept that the current rules governing charging for instrumental and vocal tuition are not logical and that they lead to many anomalies. That is especially true for those instruments that almost always have to be studied in a large group, and for large groups such as orchestras and wind bands. However, it is almost impossible to learn instruments such as the piano in groups of more than oneor possibly two, if a school is lucky enough to have two pianos in its hall.
Some charging is inevitable, although it pains me to say so. As a child, I benefited from a free peripatetic music service, which probably had more impact on my views and development than almost anything. We in Leicestershire were lucky to have fantastic music tuition, and it was available to almost every student who wanted it. I fondly remember being one of a dozen or so students scraping away at violins in a cold school hall on a Monday evening, yet the tuition was so good that three years later I had achieved grade 8although I still had not graduated to full-size violin.
My parents could have, and would have, contributed to my extra-curricular music education, but that is not the case for the many students whose parents are unwilling or unable to do so. We are seeking clarification about the remissions arrangements that the Government expect to put in place. Enabling regulations elsewhere in the Bill will ensure that remissions arrangements are put in place for charging for school travel on the basis of free school meals, for instance, and we do not understand why the Government have not adopted a similar approach to music tuition.
I hope that the Minister will assure the House that the Government will issue guidance, at least, in respect of charging levels. Young people learning a popular instrument are likely to be in a group of a dozen or so at the beginning of the process, but individuals learning the piano or the double bass may find that they have to
pay an awful lot more because the charge is not split between group members. Will the Government issue guidance to ensure that some young people are not disadvantaged in that way? Similarly, will the Minister assure the House that provision is made for those young people who cannot afford to pay?
Mr. Hayes: Lords amendment No. 47 was originally moved by Lord Moser in the House of Lords, where it received support from all sides. It would ensure that singing tuition is recognised as a form of music tuition, alongside instrumental music tuition, and that private musical instrument tuition can occur in large groups.
The human voice is a musical instrument. As a Member of the House, one learns quickly that it is not always played with immense skill; when it is, it can produce the sublime. It is important that the amendment is agreed to, as it deals with an anomaly in current law that prevents schools from charging in the circumstances referred to by the hon. Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather). She made a valid point about the guidance that will be issued, and we too would like to hear from the Minister about that. She also described the possible effects of confusion about the charging regimes application to certain kinds of tuition in schools.
unjustified restrictions that are holding back musictuition in our schools.[ Official Report, House of Lords,30 October 2006; Vol. 686, c. 135.]
I do not want to delay the House further. I am pleased that the Liberals are now on side on this subject and I look forward to the Ministers comments, which I hope will clarify the points that have been made in this place and elsewhere. I finish withDr. Johnsonthat great Torywho said that music was the only sensual pleasure without vice.
There are sound educational grounds for the change proposed in the Lords amendment. Restrictions on group sizes for instrumental tuition work against best practice. The intention is to remove barriers to promoting the best contemporary group teaching practices and conditions for learning.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather) for proposing her amendment. I understand and agree with her concern that children from disadvantaged families should not be adversely affected by the change. However, we consider her amendment unnecessary, because section 457 (1) of the Education Act 1996 requires that remissions policies have to be in place for any optional extra for which a charge is permitted. Setting out in regulations the circumstances in which vocal and instrumental tuition can be charged for will mean, by virtue of section 455 of the Act, that such tuition is an optional extra, over and above the music tuition already provided as part of the national curriculum. In guidance to support the new regulations, we will reiterate the requirement to
have in place remissions policies, including complete remission for pupils whose parents are in receipt of a range of benefits, such as income support and tax credits.
Jim Knight: I offer the hon. Lady the reassurance that the regulations will be subject to our normal consultation process before we put them to the House. I hope that that will allow all voices to be heardand vocally.
Sarah Teather: I thank the Minister for his assurances. I hope that the consultation, in contrast to the consultations we discussed earlier, will include bodies that may have views on the proposal, but which may not be within the social partnership arrangements. With the Ministers assurances in mind, I shall not press my amendment.
Jim Knight: The special educational needs co-ordinator in schoolsSENCOplays a central role in good SEN provision. That was recognised by the Education and Skills Committee report on SEN, which called for SENCOs to be qualified teachers and part of the schools senior management. The Committee also emphasised the importance of training for SENCOs. The amendments were added in the other place to give effect to the Committees recommendations. The amendments say only that a member of the staff should be designated for that role, but when consulting on the regulations we will make it clear that a teacher should take the lead role. The regulations will expressly require that. The teacher will not, of course, personally have to carry out every function of the role, but will have lead responsibility for ensuring that it is carried out effectively and efficiently.
We want more consistent standards for SENCOs, supported by nationally accredited training. The Training and Development Agency for Schools is developing a revised statement of the knowledge, skills and experience required, as well as associated standards, which are necessary first steps towards developing a nationally accredited system of training for SENCOs. We will consult widely, including serving SENCOs, to ensure that the emerging arrangements command widespread agreements. Regulations will spell out the key responsibilities of the SENCO, the qualifications and/or experience necessary, as informed
by the work of the TDA, and will require appointees to undergo nationally accredited training. I commend the Lords amendments to the House.
Mr. Hayes: We come to the issue of special educational needs and you will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that it was debated at some length in Committee and, indeed, in the other place. That is no surprise, as SEN is an important matter, in which Conservatives take a particular interest. I have been interested in the subject for many years, including when I was a county councillor before I entered the House.
Lords amendment No. 69 requires governing bodies to appoint a special educational needs co-ordinator, as the Minister has explained. He is right that the provision follows recommendations from the Select Committee report. The co-ordinator would clearly improve SEN provision in a school by drawing together the necessary expertise and resources to do the job. The vital role of the SENCO was underlined by the Select Committee, which said:
Special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs) should be in all cases be qualified teachers and in a senior management position in the school as recommended in the SEN Code of Practice. Firmer guidelines are required rather than the Government asking schools to have regard to the SEN Code of Practice. The role and position of a SENCO must reflect the central priority that SEN should hold within schools.
To make myself quite clear, many children with special educational needs prosper and do well in mainstream schools, which take their responsibilities in that regard seriously. I have many SEN children in my constituency and I am sure that other hon. Members do, too. They are integrated into mainstream schools at both primary and secondary level and their education is of the highest standard. However, as the teaching unions and others have recognised, balancing the various aspects of education, where excellence is required, is difficult. It is critical that needs and targets are balanced, that resources are put in place and that schools are co-ordinated appropriately. I wonder whether it would have been better if the Government saw the problem as part of a broader review of the SEN system. When that was suggested in the other place, it was opposed by the Government and the minor parties, including the Liberal Democrats.
I say that because we know that many teachers and head teachers in mainstream schools recognise the fact that some of the children integrated into those schools would do better elsewhere. We know from the survey conducted by The Times Educational Supplement in 2005 that teachers believe that up to 25,000 children who are in mainstream education in England and Wales would be better off in special schools.
I do not wish to start a protracted debate, particularly when we are restricted to discussing SENCOs, but the hon. Gentleman may not have been in his place when I said earlier that I have opened three new special schools in the west midlands
in this week alone. Is that not a clear demonstration that the Government believe in a plurality of provision for children with special educational needs?
Mr. Hayes: It is a welcome change of heart. The orthodoxy after Warnockand after an Act that was passed, I have to say, by a Conservative Governmentobliged many parents to send their children into mainstream schools because the lack of availability of special schools meant that they had no option. I take the Ministers point, which he made previously, that he appreciates that some children are better educated in special needs schools because of the concentration of resources, the environment that they create and all the good things that happen in, for example, the Priory school, Garth school and Gosberton House school in my constituency. I am pleased to tell him that I was involved in the recent campaign in my constituency to save the Garth school from closure.
Mr. Hayes: Schools in my constituency that have children integrated into the mainstream will welcome having a special needs co-ordinator. However, I ask the Minister to consider my points about holding a more wide-ranging review. I accept his comments in the spirit that they were offered, and accept that the Government now acknowledge that a plural approach is right. However, it is not simply a matter of co-ordinating provision in mainstream schools, but of thinking through where is the best place for children to be educated and how we can learn from the experience of the post-Warnock period. Notwithstanding that request, which is made in a good spirit, we support the amendment.
Annette Brooke: I welcome the amendment and I do not perceive the need to include it in any future review. It is practical and can be implemented now, and that is important. When I read the report of the Select Committee on Education and Skills, I was surprised to find that SENCOs were not fully qualified teachersthat change had passed me by.
The Select Committee recommends that a SENCO, as well as being a fully qualified teacher with additional special educational needs qualifications, should hold a senior management position in the school. I would like the Minister to comment on that because he did not do so in his opening remarks. Let me explain why it is important. The National Autistic Society campaign, Make School Make Sense, shows that it is important that every teacher in a school understands autism. That knowledge and the techniques associated with it must emanate from the special educational needs co-ordinator. If the SENCO is not of sufficiently high status in the school, it is difficult to engage other teachers in understanding the special needs. There are so many complex conditions that the SENCO has to be senior to other classroom teachers.
My point was that a SENCO should be a member of the senior management team. Does the hon. Lady agree that that is a critical point? The
seniority that she described is vital if those matters are to be tackled with the appropriate seriousness. That is the point of the amendment.
Annette Brooke: The hon. Gentleman has highlighted my point. It is vital that the SENCO should be a member of the senior management team, in a clear position of responsibility and thus able to give instructions to other members of staff.
Annette Brooke: I thank the Minister. I was simply trying to tease that out and get it on the record. I have some personal experience of the matter and it is important that the SENCO has esteem in the school. I welcome the amendment. It is practical to get going with it. Although some aspects, such as statementing, need reviewing, that is not under discussion today and we should get on with the things that we can do.
Jim Knight: We should ensure that the opportunities to participate in positive activities secured for young people under section 507B include sufficient youth work activities that contribute to personal and social development. That concern was raised several times on Second Reading in the other place and I hope that it is addressed by the amendment. Although the legislation that we passed through the House sought to provide young people with access to a wide range of positive activities, peers in the other place agreed that it was important to make it explicit that those activities should include a sufficient youth work contribution. Through the amendment, the Government therefore intend to ensure that, within this wider package, there exist opportunities for young people to engage in youth work activities that improve their personal and social development. I hope that hon. Members will agree that these amendments should be made.
The most aggravating thing about the younger generation is that I no longer belong to it.
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