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First, on page 4, paragraph 4, the Government said:

Secondly, on page 15, paragraph 40, they said:

Thirdly, on page 18, paragraph 3, they said:

I agree with all that. In Committee, when similar amendments to ours were tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, the Minister said, at col. 330 of the Official Report on 5 July, that he agreed with the underlying principles. I hope that he will forgive us today for pressing him further. As I said, I accept that we all want to achieve the same ends, but some of us are always asking for more and better.

Amendment No. 81 proposes that professional standards for teachers at all levels,

The SEN code of practice asserts that all teachers are teachers of children with special educational needs. But the Special Education Consortium has concerns about how well teachers are prepared. It believes that a compulsory element at every level of teacher training is essential to ensure that all teachers are properly prepared for their responsibilities and that the best way is to incorporate requirements into professional standards at every level of the service. Noble Lords will notice that higher level teaching assistants are included in paragraph (e).

Unfortunately, there is evidence that despite the current requirements for initial teacher training, teachers are not sufficiently well prepared. In its 2004 report on special educational needs and disability, Ofsted reported:

In 2002, the Audit Commission reported:

The difficulties arise in respect of a number of different aspects of teaching disabled pupils and pupils with special educational needs. For example, on planning and monitoring progress, the same Ofsted report found that many schools,

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In addition to concerns about the core skills for enabling disabled pupils and those with SEN to learn and progress, Ofsted found a lack of understanding of the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act in respect of the planning duties on schools and the requirements to make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils.

We have to accept that the solution is complex and, in many cases, quite costly. Improved outcomes for disabled pupils and pupils with SEN are dependent on the improved knowledge, skills and understanding of those working with and for them. Training holds the key to that. I give every credit to the Government for the large amount of extra money, which the Minister mentioned, to make sure that children with special needs are appropriately dealt with. But, as I said earlier, we always need more and better.

The DfES 10-year strategy for SEN, Removing Barriers to Achievement, is quite clear on what the Government want to see. It states:

The strategy also sets out the Government’s intention to work with the Teacher Training Agency and higher education institutions to ensure that initial teacher training in programmes for CPD provide a good grounding in core skills and knowledge of SEN. I am aware that work has already been commissioned by the TDA for schools to develop programmes on SEN and disability for initial teacher training. However, sadly these will not be compulsory and they are designed for the three and four-year teacher training courses. That will leave teachers on the one-year training course without this input.

As the Minister pointed out on 5 July:

—and of course does so. But I understand that the current standards for teachers are inder review. Indeed, in their response to the Select Committee on special needs the Government said:

Will the Minister examine with the TDA, institutes of higher education, Ofsted and other relevant bodies how SEN and disability can be incorporated into the full range of training, in particular the one-year postgraduate teacher training courses where there is very little time to devote to it, and I do not underestimate the challenge of that fact.

4.15 pm

Amendment No. 82, would strengthen the existing duty on local authorities to provide special education, explicitly stating that a range of provision is required. It would also require local authorities to report on how this range of provision meets the range of special educational needs which exist in its own local area. For example, although it is unlikely, if an authority were to rely entirely either on inclusion in mainstream or on special schools, it must justify that decision. So I should like to question the Government further on

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securing access to a range of special educational provision and how the guidance they have announced will achieve this.

While the Bill aims for choice and diversity in provision for children without disabilities, that is not a reality for many parents of children with autism or other disabilities unless adequate and appropriate specialist and mainstream places are available in their area. A recent report by the National Autistic Society entitled Make School Make Sense found three things: first, that 66 per cent of parents believe their choice was constrained by a lack of provision; secondly, that half of parents believed their child’s current placement was not the best school for them; and, thirdly, that 30 per cent of secondary school pupils with autism have to travel out of their local authority area to access a suitable school. I accept that, realistically, it is sometimes the best choice for them. As a result of these findings, Make School Make Sense called for a range of provision to be enshrined in legislation. The House of Commons Education and Skills Select Committee has endorsed that recommendation, stating:

Current law requires local authorities to have regard to the need to ensure that special education provision is secured for pupils who have special educational needs. It does not of course specify what sort of provision is made, and it is right and proper that that is left to local authorities to decide, based on local need, as long as the provision is of sufficiently high quality. The Government’s recent response to the Select Committee’s report agreed that access to a range of provision is a desirable goal, but stated strongly that it is the role of local authorities rather than central government to decide on the organisation of special education provision in the area. I agree with the Government on that. The amendment is not intended to restrict local authorities but to present a way of ensuring that provision meets local needs and is reported on to demonstrate how these needs are met.

Local authorities vary enormously in how they provide and I believe this matter should be in the public domain. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, drew attention to it at Committee stage. For example, there is almost a fivefold difference in the proportion of pupils with statements in different authorities, from 1.08 per cent of all pupils having statements in Nottinghamshire to 4.83 per cent in Halton in Cheshire. In addition, the percentage of pupils placed in maintained special schools varies from zero to 60 per cent across different local authorities. The percentage in mainstream schools varies from 19 to 73 per cent. The variation across local authorities in placing pupils in independent special schools runs from 0.4 per cent to over 19 per cent. This is a remarkable level of variation and demonstrates the extent to which local authorities decide their own strategies for the provision for children with SEN.

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In 2002, the Audit Commission believed that this was an unacceptable level of variation in provision between different parts of the country and stated that it continued to be,

In 2004, Ofsted echoed that concern. It found that lack of strategic planning was common and services available in any one area varied considerably.

There are many examples of very good practice and I will give one. As noble Lords might expect, it is a Liberal Democrat council—Liverpool. Over the past five years there have been enormous changes in Liverpool. They began by Liverpool being cited by the Centre of Studies on Inclusive Education as the least inclusive local authority in the country because it had a higher proportion of children in special schools than elsewhere. It believed that this was too simplistic an analysis; however, very serious attention was paid to what could be done. Of serious concern at that time were the 600 pupils in moderate learning difficulty schools. They were no less able than many pupils in mainstream schools. Their special school status was often based on parental pressure, on mainstream school rejection or a response to bullying, which should have been dealt with by the mainstream school. Some among them had more complex learning needs but many passed a number of GCSEs. Ofsted particularly identified this group as being educated separately for no good reason.

Liverpool’s revised policy contains the following elements. It statements only where necessary. It says why go through the process with a deaf child when their special need is quite obvious; you should simply access the appropriate school place without delay, and that is what it did. It has also returned pupils from expensive out-of-city places where their needs can be met locally with some support. It has paid a lot of attention to early intervention and some early years assessment provision has been relocated into mainstream sites, where separate education assessment can take place but opportunities for integration in selective classroom situations can be maximised. It has developed 20 resource bases, which are frequently identified by Ofsted as excellent, five resource-plus schools encapsulated within mainstream sites, several reserved bases for SEN on mainstream sites, pupil referring services and services for children with social and behavioural problems. Liverpool has not had a dogmatic special schools or not special schools approach; it has assessed individual needs and matched provision accordingly.

The glue that cements all this together is the £1.4 million that funds the special schools to provide outreach support to the mainstream schools and their learning networks. While the press and some of us politicians bicker about inclusion, Liverpool is one of a number of authorities that has got on with assessing children and meeting their needs. The amount of money spent on SEN has kept well in line with inflation, if not exceeded it.

What is as important as all these structural things is that individual schools have a culture of inclusion and communicate that to the children. Only this morning I heard about a school where sixth-form

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pupils were encouraged to sit with some of the children with special needs lower down the school. That had great benefits for all of them; being closer in age, they could identify with each other quite well. It did the children with special needs good and helped the sixth formers to understand and help children with special needs. Indeed, one or two of them went on to work with children with special needs.

Amendment No. 82B would not just require that all SEN co-ordinators were qualified teachers with an understanding of legislation relevant to the post and experience to support them; it would also ensure that they were part of the school’s senior management team and received appropriate ongoing training. A consensus has emerged on the value that the role of SEN co-ordinator brings to a school when the person is authoritative and informed. This is a probing amendment to confirm the Government’s intentions regarding SENCOs following their response to the Education and Skills Committee report on SEN. The part of the response that said that the person taking on the lead responsibility should be a teacher and a member of the senior leadership team in the school was most welcome. In addition, the letter of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, of 12 October made it clear that the Government intend SENCOs to be teachers.

Government Amendment No. 140 requires governing bodies to appoint a SENCO to co-ordinate the provision of education for children with SEN and gives the Secretary of State a power to make regulations relating to the role. However, the National Autistic Society and the Special Education Consortium are still keen to receive assurances from the Minister, which I hope he can give us today, that the language of the legislation will be clear in stating that a SENCO must be not just a teacher but a member of the senior leadership team of the school. When he speaks to Amendment No. 140, it will be useful to hear more about the Government’s planned requirements for the role.

I am sorry that I have spoken for so long, but I cannot resist having a very brief word about the excellent amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, in particular Amendment No. 117A. I have no doubt that, when she speaks to it, she will remind noble Lords that many young people who are excluded from school have special educational needs or disabilities. It is not fair that the provision that the school has been making for a child is judged along with that child when exclusion is considered. For many children, exclusion is partly due to the fact that they have not been provided for appropriately in the school, and have kicked out in response. However, I leave that to what will no doubt be an excellent speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton. I beg to move.

4.30 pm

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 117 and 125. The amendments address real and, I am certain, unintended inconsistencies in provision for children with special needs in mainstream schooling. Amendment No. 117 is a new amendment tabled to address the inconsistency in discipline guidelines for children with special needs in mainstream schools as opposed to special schools.

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Existing guidance discriminates against SEN children in mainstream schools. There are two main pieces of guidance dealing with physical restraint. Circular 10/98 gives guidance on physical restraint in all schools. It clarifies the acceptable use of reasonable physical force, recommends that schools have a specific policy on restraint, which parents must be informed about, recommends that schools keep records of physical restraint and states that, normally, only authorised staff are allowed to use restraint and that training or guidance may be needed for teachers. However, there is a separate set of guidance for teachers in special schools. The document is called Guidance on the Use of Restrictive Physical Interventions for Staff Working with Children and Adults who Display Extreme Behaviour in Association with Learning Disability and/or Autistic Spectrum Disorders. However, in spite of its title, it deals only with SEN children in special schools. The introduction states:

What is more, the 2002 guidance for SEN children in special schools states:

There is clearly a huge disparity between disciplinary provision for children with special needs in mainstream provision and in SEN schooling. This inconsistency needs to be addressed. I am concerned that Sir Alan Steer was instructed not to look at SEN discipline provision in his report on discipline. I fear that this has severe ramifications for the effectiveness of this Bill's provisions.

The freer use of “reasonable force” and the clarification achieved by this Bill is welcome. However, teachers who are not trained to deal with the specific disciplinary problems associated with special needs and behavioural problems are at a disadvantage, and the children with whom they deal are at risk of completely unintentional mishandling, which can be of great detriment to their personal development.

I must make it absolutely clear that I warmly applaud the fantastic job that teachers do educating children with special needs alongside their mainstream duties. Their forbearance and sensitivity sets an example to us all. My amendment would ensure that their efforts are well prepared for and well supported in both training and continual professional development.

The second amendment will ensure that children with special educational needs who are excluded from schools are not placed in other schools until their statement has been reassessed in the light of their progress or lack thereof. There is a disparity between the provisions of this Bill and the requirements of the 1996 Education Act, which requires an amended statement for the child to designate a suitable school for them to attend. The process must now involve 15 days of consultation, followed by a maximum eight-week period during which the proposed statement must be put forward. That is a confusing message for parents, teachers and local authorities,

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which, under this Bill, must provide a new school place for children within five days. Parents acting under the 1996 Act would be culpable under this Bill. It is often the case that children with statements may well be better provided for at home during the interim.

I made clear in Committee and on the previous grouping the urgent need for a review on the provision for special needs students. This amendment would stop the placement of excluded pupils in schools that are not equipped to deal with those students and stem the potentially harmful effect of that on the children themselves.

We welcome the new amendments that the Minister has brought forward following the Education and Skills Committee’s report. It is right to devote resources to continuing professional development. The mandatory training for new special educational needs co-ordinators—SENCOs—and the new requirement that they must be teachers represent a positive step in the right direction to ensure that the people dealing with pupils with special educational needs have adequate training. That is only right and, I am pleased to say, in accordance with the considered opinion of the Education and Skills Committee, in its recommendations 84 and 85.

I hope also that a dyslexia trust to which local authorities and schools may bid for funding to support higher-level specialist teacher training will help those schools that need that extra support. I would be grateful, however, if the Minister could inform the House of the background to the establishment of such a trust, and the estimated costs.

I hope that the Minister can take on board these suggestions as part of a much wider reassessment of special educational needs.

Lord Rix: My Lords, I fear that much of what I have to say may already have been touched on, but perhaps the rule of three that applies in comedies to happy endings will apply if I repeat what has already been said, as it might lead to the Minister agreeing to Amendment No. 81 when he sums up.

The vast majority of children with special educational needs—all but 100,000 out of 1.4 million children—are educated in mainstream schools. It is therefore vital that we concentrate on SEN provision across mainstream schools, and I am delighted that this group of amendments does just that. It is in that context that I add my support particularly to Amendment No. 81 on professional standards for teachers in all schools. This amendment reflects nothing more than common sense, and the fact that it does not already reflect reality is quite astonishing. Indeed, it should not really be incumbent on those of us who support the amendment to make a case in its favour; rather, we need to be told why education professionals—teaching assistants, teachers, head teachers and others not mentioned in this amendment, such as choice advisers—should not be trained as a matter of course in the needs of the 1.4 million pupils who have special educational needs, only around a quarter of a million of them having a statement of SEN.

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Those who work in special schools already receive such training, but 60 per cent of pupils with statements of SEN are in mainstream schools, and over 15 per cent of all mainstream pupils have identified SEN. That means that every single teacher, not just teachers in special schools, can expect to come into contact with pupils with SEN on a regular basis, probably on every single day of their working lives. If they are not given adequate training on the specific special needs of these pupils, we cannot expect them to deal adequately with them. Those pupils will be let down. They will not be properly taught and they will not reach their full potential. Their teachers will be let down, because they will be unable to teach all their pupils as they would wish to. Other pupils will be let down, because their classes will include children whose needs are not properly met. If every child matters, then—to coin a phrase—every disabled child matters. Teacher training must be about every child, and therefore about every disabled child and every child with SEN.

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