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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am very happy to take on this role. I hope that the Minister will not discuss whether or not enacting the policy he has referred to is dependent on his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment who may not share his view about welcoming me as a right reverend prelate. At this stage I shall not press the amendment. I look forward to reading Hansard. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 28.

After Clause 1, insert the following new clause--

Nursery education duty

(".--(1) A local authority shall secure the provision of nursery education within the meaning of section 1(2) above for children within its area.

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(2) The Secretary of State may, after consulting such persons as appear to him to be concerned, issue guidance to authorities as to the fulfilment of their duties under this section.").

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I beg to move Amendment No. 28. It is--

Lord Henley: We spent considerable time on securing groupings. We went through about four drafts. Amendment No. 28 was grouped with Amendment No. 7; we discussed it earlier. I see little to be gained by discussing it yet again unless we are to be here all night.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: All I was going to do was say, "Not moved".

[Amendment No. 28 not moved.]

11.15 p.m.

Clause 2 [Delegation]:

[Amendments Nos. 29 to 31 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Requirements]:

[Amendment No. 32 not moved.]

Lord Rix moved Amendment No. 33:

Page 2, line 10, after ("shall") insert ("have regard to any code of practice issued by the Secretary of State under section 157 of the Education Act 1993 and shall").

The noble Lord said: I wish to concentrate my few remarks on Amendments Nos. 33 and 88. In tabling the amendments, I and my noble friends Lady Warnock and Lord Northbourne seek to ensure that all voucher-redeeming institutions--I apologise for the jargon--have regard to the code of practice on special educational needs. No doubt other Members of the Committee will speak to Amendments Nos. 44, 47 and 73.

At the moment, the Bill does not require the private or voluntary sector to have regard to the code of practice. I believe that it is essential. The code of practice is based on good practice gathered from the maintained sector. I believe that it is flexible enough to be used by a variety of organisations.

I readily accept that not every section of the code will be relevant in all settings. However, having regard to the code gives enough scope to use only those parts of it which are relevant.

Although, as the Bill stands, all providers will have to publish policies on special educational needs, if those policies are developed without use of the code they may encourage and reinforce bad practice. I am sure that we are on common ground in wanting quality, and quality requires attention to principles and detail. I hope that the Minister can reassure me on those matters. I look forward to hearing his comments. I beg to move.

Baroness David: My name is to Amendment No. 47. The amendment would require all voucher-redeeming institutions to produce a written SEN policy. The code of practice states:

    "as part of their statutory duties, governing bodies of all maintained schools must publish information about, and report on, the school's policy on special educational needs".

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The production of school SEN policies provides an opportunity to audit each school's needs in a systematic way. The Education (Special Educational Needs) (Information) Regulations 1994 prescribe the information which the school must make available. For example, the checklist contained in the SEN policy outlined in Regulation 2 and Schedule 1, and reproduced in the code of practice, includes the requirement for basic information to be published on,

    "any special facilities which increase or assist access to the school by pupils with SEN".

This requirement to produce such comprehensive SEN policies has proved vitally important in terms of ensuring the identification, assessment and subsequent provision for children with SEN in maintained schools. The benefits of identifying and assessing the special needs of children as early as possible are obvious, and it is vital for these children that any subsequent provision is both adequate and appropriate.

The current Government and the Labour Party are both keen on baseline assessment as a focus or starting point for value-added measurement. The identification of a child's special educational needs at the age of four (or younger) would dramatically increase that child's chances of later success. Therefore it is extremely important that all forms of provision for four year-olds should be required to publish information about, and report on, their SEN policies with regard to the code of practice's SEN policy checklist. That is an extremely important requirement.

The DfEE next steps document lists the publication of SEN policies in the information that providers should be required, as a condition of the voucher grant, to provide annually for parents. However, it gives no indication of what form this SEN policy should take. The amendment would ensure that all providers follow the SEN policy checklist as outlined in the Education (Special Educational Needs) (Information) Regulations 1994. I hope that the Minister can see his way to accepting this group of amendments.

Lord Northbourne: I rise to speak to Amendments Nos. 44 and 73. Amendment No. 44 is a modest little compromise amendment about the identification of special educational needs. The noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, in moving Amendment No. 10, sought to require all providers to employ a qualified teacher. I presume that that means one person full-time. It seems to me that that may be a very exacting requirement in the case of a small nursery provider in, say, a remote area where there are only half a dozen children involved and where provision could adequately be made by a trained playschool leader, perhaps supported by mothers or grannies.

However, such staff might not have the skills to identify special educational needs, so it seems to me that the employment of a specialist teacher part-time for a minimum, as I have suggested in the amendment, of 15 hours a term would ensure that special educational needs were identified. If the principle of the amendment were to be accepted by the Government, I think it would probably need to be backed by a consequential amendment on Report which would require all schools

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to notify the social services of children with special educational needs so that some action can be taken to deal with the matter and help them.

Amendment No. 73 is, I admit, a slightly "rogue" amendment. I believe in vouchers but I do not really support this scheme because I believe that the value of vouchers ought to be related to the needs of the child and to the costs of fulfilling those needs. I tabled the amendment under what I believe now to be a misunderstanding about the Government's intentions. Perhaps the Minister will now confirm whether or not I am correct in believing the following. If a child with special educational needs is, at present, being educated in a state school and it is costing, say, £4,000, will the local authority lose £4,000 under the new scheme or will it lose £1,100 from the clawback? I believe I am right in saying that it will only lose £1,100 which it will then get back, in which case the importance of the amendment is not as great as it might otherwise have been.

However, it seems to me that there is a pot of money which could easily be available to help the children in most need. I simply cannot believe that any person who is wealthy enough to pay tax at 40 per cent. would not be prepared to accept a hand-out of £66O, instead of a hand-out of £1,100, if he or she knew that the balance was going to help children in need.

Lord Addington: I should just like to express my support for the tenets of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Rix. I also give my full support to Amendment No. 47 tabled in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady David. Early recognition is a great tool for anyone giving assistance in this field. If you identify a problem, you can then start to do something about it--or, at the very least, you can stop doing things which may aggravate that child's problems in the classroom. If we are starting to educate at the age of four, then there will be a slightly longer period during which teaching practices may compound problems. Early recognition and trying to get some statement of intent is vitally important to the whole system. I suggest that we cannot start early enough in the field.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth): I should like to support this group of amendments. I shall be brief, even though this is the first time that I have spoken tonight. Amendment No. 44 in the name of my noble friend Lord Northbourne would ensure that each establishment employs a teacher for at least 15 hours a term who could identify children with special educational needs. That seems to me to be a valuable and extremely modest requirement. I particularly support Amendment No. 33, so succinctly moved by the noble friend Lord Rix, which relates to the duty to,

    "have regard to any code of practice issued by the Secretary of State",

which would bring the legislation into line with that for schools.

I also warmly support Amendment No. 47 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady David, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, which would ensure that "every authority" had a duty to make and maintain a statement

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of its special educational needs policy. That would be excellent. It would mean that we would have a duty right across the educational field with nursery schools, schools, further and higher education colleges, together with LEAs, providing further education. It would make for coherence and continuity in provision for pupils with special educational needs and students with learning difficulties. I very much hope, therefore, that the Minister will give an encouraging reply, not only to my noble friend Lord Rix but also to the noble Baroness, Lady David, and my noble friend Lord Northbourne.

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