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concerning training in SEN. That highlights the fact that, although the Government may have some good intentions in their desire to help and support teachers, the reality on the ground is that such help may not be filtering through in the way that the Minister would like to suggest.

In Committee, I listened closely to what the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West and the Minister had to say about their concerns in highlighting the need to publish information on teacher training levels. The amendment that I have tabled today is much simpler than the one we tabled then, which was something of a probing amendment. I hope that the hon. Lady can indicate a level of support for it today. It might be useful to recap the concerns expressed by the Minister in Committee about the amendment tabled there. He was worried that those involved might view it as a “burden”. Indeed, in response to the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole, he felt that it would be a “burden” on those providing the training. The response to the amendment that I tabled on this issue was that it would be a “burden placed on schools”. My concern was that there should be more room to consider the burden placed by the current situation on children, their parents and teachers, hence my tabling a further amendment for consideration on Report.

The Minister has outlined the great number of initiatives that the Government have put in place in the past decade to address the problem of teacher training. The objective of my amendment is to ensure that such initiatives are really making a difference on the ground in our classrooms. The list of initiatives is far too long to go through—in fact, I may well have gone through it on Second Reading. I am sure that the Minister will remind us of one of the promises that he made in Committee: that he was just about to make an announcement that would help us all. That announcement—on the Rose review, which was to look at teacher training in particular—was very welcome.

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The recommendation concerning dyslexia is very specific. As I said earlier, I am somewhat concerned that we are going through yet another piloting process on how to deal with dyslexia. There is a lot of evidence and information used by schools today that the Minister could look at to edify himself in this area. However, it is welcome that there is some acknowledgment that room remains for improvement. That said, this is still simply more looking and piloting, and perhaps not enough action. I want to press the idea of amending the Bill, so that we can examine on the ground in a practical way how the many measures for training teachers are progressing, and whether they are yielding results in the classroom.

The Government have looked at teacher training in this area, as the Minister said in an intervention, but as the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole said, the focus has been on the three-year undergraduate course. As the Minister will be aware, only some one in five teachers come through that route; 80 per cent. will take a one-year postgraduate course, and there are still no proposals in place to support teachers in the SEN area. We need to move forward on this issue. The Minister has clearly taken on board some of the comments that have been made, but we need to monitor the situation more closely to ensure real action on the ground.

The Minister referred in Committee to the work done for the census, which he felt might in some way help us to get the information we require. He will doubtless have had a chance to read the note that the NUT issued in advance of this debate. It made it clear that the census will be able to help in only a very small way in identifying the professional development needs of teachers. The inclusion of more specific information on teacher training would be a particularly welcome addition. The NUT certainly feels that such an amendment would strengthen the approach that the Government are taking to ensure that they take into account the views of teachers and support staff on training needs. I hope that the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West will be able to support the amendment in the light of this helpful commentary from the NUT.

I need not remind the House today of the very real consequences for children. The Royal National Institute for Deaf People reminded us in its briefing that only 32.9 per cent. of deaf children achieve five GCSEs at grades A to C, compared with a figure of 57.1 per cent. for all children. That 24 per cent. attainment gap is unacceptable, yet three quarters of teachers felt that the lack of training meant that they faced a barrier in teaching children with hearing impairment. That training needs to be in place, and we need to see whether the Government’s focus on that area is achieving the breakthrough that classroom teachers and children need.

Mr. Chope: During the discussion on that subject in the Welsh Assembly on 7 November last year, the point was made that we need to train not only teachers but classroom assistants, too. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important for classroom assistants to have the right information, as they are often the ones who take an active role with our younger children?

Mrs. Miller: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. We need to consider all the interfaces that the children have with different staff to ensure that the
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training is in place to support those individuals. I was recently in a school in my constituency—Park View junior school, which I mentioned earlier—and signing is being taught not only to the teaching class but to all children in the school. I attended an assembly that was quite an amazing sight, as every child in the school signed the song that they were singing. We must have that level of commitment throughout a school in order to support children with those needs.

Kevin Brennan: The hon. Lady has made a good point. I am sure that she will want to welcome the fact that Lord Adonis announced to the all-party group on children on 6 May that the Department would be tendering for a project to raise awareness of the status of British sign language.

Mrs. Miller: I thank the Minister for his intervention. I know that the subject of deaf and hearing-impaired children and the support that we give them is under continual review. I know that from the work done in Hampshire to look at restructuring that provision in the county. I certainly welcome any support that the Government can give to counties such as my own.

Kevin Brennan: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for being so generous in giving way. On the subject mentioned by the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) in his intervention, the inclusion development programme is for all the early years and schools work force, including learning support assistants.

Mrs. Miller: I thank the Minister for that intervention, but I caution him to ensure that he has spoken to all the relevant outside organisations about their feelings on the inclusion development programme. Although we would all agree that any movement in this area is welcome, there is some concern that although the inclusion development programme offers a great set of materials, we need to ensure that it permeates down to the classroom. That is why I have tabled my amendment on monitoring and providing information on the level of training for teachers. Although the Government are introducing a huge number of initiatives, it is difficult to see where they are making a difference at the moment. When I speak to the NUT, I find that its concerns lie in that area, too.

Perhaps I could turn my closing remarks to new clause 1, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole after much discussion of the subject in Committee. It spells out another specific need for information to ensure that parents can make informed choices for their children at a local authority level. In his response in Committee, the Minister highlighted the duty on local authorities to provide information on their special educational needs arrangements. He also highlighted the fact that he had issued guidance from his Department to ensure good practice on the ground. As the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole has pointed out, research was issued earlier this month that will cast some doubt on whether local authority practices are moving forward in the way that the Minister might have hoped. I am sure that it would dismay him as much as it dismays me to see that not all the information that should be available is available.

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Perhaps it would be interesting to hear what action the Minister plans to take as a result of the research report issued by Policy Exchange and CentreForum, which clearly showed that only 39 per cent. of local authorities explained how they monitor the allocation and effectiveness of SEN spending. Indeed, an interesting commentary in the report showed that potentially a great deal of SEN spending was wasted locally. Xtraordinary People, which does so much work in the area, has also commented on that fact. The report went on to show that only 18 per cent. of local authorities show how they secure training and support for SEN staff, which supports my earlier amendment and shows that local authorities are not making that information available. That would bring into question how many teachers have been given the opportunity to take up SEN training.

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My local authority in Hampshire has an excellent programme of SEN training for teachers in the county. I recommend that the Minister look at that as a model of how such training can be offered. However, in north Hampshire it can be practically difficult for teachers to access that training because of the problems caused by a lack of cover in schools. It can be difficult for them to get the support to attend some of those courses. That is not always the case, but it can be.

I urge the Minister to review the report that was issued earlier this month. I think that he would find it useful, as it could help him to understand how these measures are working on the ground.

The hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West is doing superb work. She has highlighted this important issue and brought many people’s concerns to light. I wish her well and hope that she will consider my amendment in the light of my comments.

Kevin Brennan: I echo the comments made by the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs. Miller) about my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Mrs. Hodgson), who is quite a special person herself. My hon. Friend knows from our private conversations what I think about her communication skills. She is an extremely effective advocate on the subject and I congratulate her on the progress that her Bill has made so far and will continue to make today, we hope.

I praise the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) for her involvement and interest in and passion for the subject. In Committee, she said that the purpose of the new clause is to ensure that local authorities make available clear information to parents on the range of special educational provision that is available—a laudable aim that I think everybody would support. Of course, such information should already be available. That is always the difficulty as we try to will the end result. The information should be available through several avenues.

Under the Education (School Information) (England) Regulations 2002, local authorities must publish information about their detailed arrangements and policies for special educational provision. That includes the provision made by an authority in its community, voluntary and special
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schools for people with SEN and the use made by them of such special schools maintained by other authorities. They must also publish information about the authorities’ arrangements and policies in respect of the use of non-maintained special and independent schools and the special educational provision provided otherwise than at school. The information must be published no later than six weeks before the date by which parents may express a preference for a school for admission that school year.

In addition, under the Education Act 1996 local authorities must keep the arrangements that they make for special educational provision under review. Under separate regulations covering local education authorities’ provision of information on special educational needs, authorities must publish information on the general arrangements they make for auditing, planning, monitoring and reviewing special educational provision in their area. The information must be made available on the authority’s website and in written form to anybody on request.

From our debate, I understand that not all local authorities meet their duty—it is indeed a duty—to publish such information. If Members have evidence of non-compliance, such as the reports that have been cited today, and they bring it directly and specifically to our attention, we will investigate. The Secretary of State can intervene to direct local authorities to carry out their duties.

Mrs. Maria Miller: Will the Minister tell the House how many times he has pulled up a local authority for not publishing such information, and what the penalty is when he does so?

Kevin Brennan: It would not be for me in my ministerial role to do that. I shall attempt to acquire inspiration for a response to the hon. Lady’s intervention during the course of my remarks. If I do not, I shall write to her later. However, the powers exist and I assure the House that if specific cases are brought to the attention of the Secretary of State we will investigate them.

Not all local authorities fully comply with their duties, which is why we have asked the national strategies team of SEN national advisers to explore during their visits to local authorities their compliance with those duties. In Committee, I mentioned that local authorities have new duties to provide information. Since 1 April 2008, under the Childcare Act 2006, local authorities have had a duty to provide information, advice and assistance to parents of children and young people aged up to 20, or prospective parents. We have published guidance for local authorities that makes it clear that information that may be of benefit to parents should include details about schools, such as their location, composite prospectus, behaviour units and so on. The guidance also sets out the information that should be available to the parents of disabled children, such as the availability of local social services and specialist medical services.

Annette Brooke: I have two points. Has there been any evaluation of the children’s information services that should have been fully in place by April 2008? Secondly, the Select Committee, in its report on special educational needs, recommended the mapping of
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provision, yet I understand that the Government’s response—twice—was to reject that recommendation. In light of the general consensus that the information needs to be available, why are the Government not supportive of the Committee’s recommendation?

Kevin Brennan: The guidance under “Aiming high for disabled children” refers to the core offer, and to clear information, the early support programme’s information for parents and parent partnership services. We need to evaluate the effectiveness of the guidance that is coming into force. There may be disagreements about the best way to conduct the evaluation but we are confident that we will be able to carry it out.

Local authorities must publish information about admissions arrangements, and there are choice advisers to help parents who may struggle with the admissions system. The advisers are expected to know about special needs and disability policy and provision. We want the parents of children with SEN to have access to a range of special educational provision. Last year, we published for local authorities the guidance “Planning and developing special educational provision”, in which we advised local authorities to develop a range of provision to meet the range of children’s needs. The guidance lists the environments in which SEN provision might be made, such as resourced provision and designated units in mainstream schools, special schools, including those that specialise in a particular type of need, and co-located mainstream and special schools.

The guidance also makes it clear that parents and families should be provided with good information as and when they need it on the range of SEN provision in the area through local parent partnership services and other routes. They should also be given good information about their child’s progress and the plans and interventions used to address their learning and other difficulties.

Local authorities are obliged to send information to the parents of children who have been statemented to help them decide at which school they want their child educated. The parents of children with statements of special educational needs can express a preference for a school when their child is being statemented or when an existing statement is being amended. When they receive a proposed statement the name of the school their child will attend must be left blank. They must be provided with a list of all primary or secondary schools, as appropriate, in their area, and they have a right to request maintained schools in other local authority areas, too. They must also be given a list of independent and non-maintained special schools, whether in their area or not, to help them choose which school they would like named on the statement.

There is already an onus on local authorities to provide information to parents about the special educational provision that is available, which is in line with the intention behind the new clause. However, the effect of the proposal does not meet the intention that a local authority should publish information on special educational provision. Section 332A of the Education Act 1996, which the new clause would amend, was incorporated in that Act by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 to ensure that all local authorities make parent partnership services available to the parents of children in their area with special
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educational needs. In effect, the provision in the new clause that is intended to make local authorities provide information on the range of SEN provision will actually make parent partnership services give such information to parents whether or not they have asked about the availability of such provision. For example, the parent whose child does not have a statement and who is happy with the school their child attends might seek advice about the provision being made for their child. The local authority, via parent partnership services, would be compelled to provide information about the range of school provision in their region.

The second part of the new clause, which refers to annual publication of information under subsection (1) of section 332A of the 1996 Act, would in effect oblige local authorities to publish annually all the information given to parents by the local parent partnership services, including information on the range of school provision. Although I understand the rhetorical point that the hon. Member for Basingstoke was making about the fact that we should always be conscious of the burden on parents and young people with special educational needs, I do not apologise in the least for not wanting to impose considerable burdens on local authorities with no clear benefit to those children. It would be of no use and would divert resources from alleviating the burden, which, as the hon. Lady rightly said, should be first in our minds. The proposal would place a considerable burden on local authorities without any clear benefit to children with special educational needs or their parents.

Some of our discussions in Committee echoed some of the comments made this morning about the quality of parent partnership services and the impartiality of the advice they give. The hon. Lady referred to that in her remarks. Parent partnership services are meant to give parents impartial advice about special educational needs. The SEN code of practice gives statutory guidance about the services, including minimum standards. In 2006, we published an evaluation of the parent partnership services, which found that there were areas of good practice and supported previous reports in finding that the services are valued by most parents. However, it also found that there were wide variations between services due to organisational arrangements, staffing and resources.

As the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole said, some parents feel that parent partnership services do not provide impartial advice. That is why, last year, we published an exemplification of those minimum standards set out in the SEN code of practice for the services and the local authorities to emphasise the need for services to demonstrate their impartiality. We expect parent partnership services to provide full information to parents. The minimum standards set out in the code state that services should provide information on the “wide range of options” that are available for their children’s education.

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