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Appropriate training is not a question of adding an SEN module at some point in the teacher training curriculum. It is about ensuring that SEN and disability are a thread running through teacher training. It is also about making sure that teachers’ ongoing professional training and development days—what used to be called “Baker days”—continue to cover SEN and disability, to ensure that teachers are kept up to date on relevant developments on the best ways to teach the disabled pupils and pupils with SEN in their classes. Perhaps such days, if they focused on this area, could be called “Adonis days”.

There are plenty of reasons why the Government make local authorities responsible for SEN, and some of those reasons may even be good. But that makes it all the more important that local authorities have the resources to meet their responsibility to deliver good SEN provision. The best resources for delivering good education are good teachers, and so we come full circle. To deliver a good education to all disabled children and children with SEN, teachers—all teachers—need to be trained appropriately.

One important feature of such training will be discipline and physical restraint, and it is in that context that I turn briefly to Amendment No. 117. Too often, standard disciplinary procedures do not adequately address the needs of pupils with SEN. Indeed, on many occasions, disciplinary problems may arise out of poor support and lack of understanding, rather than simply from a pupil with SEN being badly behaved. That lack of support and understanding may be addressed in large part by the SEN and disability training that I have discussed in relation to Amendment No. 81, but it is vital that discipline is addressed in its own right. While physical restraint of any child is something on which clear training and guidance should be in place, the physical restraint of disabled children may have particular health and safety implications of which all relevant staff should be made fully aware.

Noble Lords would not wish me to add my voice to all the other amendments in this group, as they would all miss their trains, but I conclude by offering them all my warm support.

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Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I wish to speak to the amendment in my name in this group. I apologise for being a few moments late and missing the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley.

I need to declare an interest as someone who works closely with I CAN, the charity for children with communication difficulties, and with NCH, both of which have schools for children with special educational needs and disabilities. I am grateful to the Special Educational Needs Consortium for providing me with briefing for these debates.

In common with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, I return to this matter in the hope of pushing the Government further on it. I am very concerned about the alarming proportion of excluded children with special educational needs, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said. It is both fair and sensible that the support afforded these children is assessed as part of the decision on whether they should or should not be excluded. I am not sure that what I propose is as yet encompassed in the Government’s policies or in the Bill, but we need to ensure that any disabled pupil or any pupil with SEN has a review before they are permanently excluded from school. That review should make a judgment on whether they have been treated in an appropriate fashion. That is obvious and sensible because if schools are not providing the right support for a child, why would we want them to continue to provide the wrong support? That would result in generations of children suffering terrible consequences from not receiving appropriate support. One of the ways to assess that is to take a view on whether the treatment or support they have received is appropriate for their condition.

I am also concerned about the experience of children and parents. It is very demoralising and depressing for parents to discover that their child is setting off on the wrong path, sometimes at a terribly early age while still in primary school, because of the lack of support they are given at the age of eight, nine or 10. How will those children fare in secondary schools? The incidence of excluded pupils in secondary schools, particularly young men, can probably be traced back to the wrong support being given in primary school. I differ with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on the attendant cost of that. The cost to society of those young people, particularly the young men, falling out of the system is very high. They often end up in the youth justice system and will certainly be socially excluded in some way or other.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I should clarify that the cost of the measure can be high in the short term, but I absolutely accept the point that the noble Baroness makes that in the long term it is a very cost-effective way of spending money.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I believe that we are all agreed on that. I congratulate the Government on the thought that they have given to solving the problem. If the Government will not accept my amendment—although I am always optimistic that they will—I suggest that the most useful way forward

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would be for them to investigate the situation in schools in depth, and assess what it costs. I pose a few questions that might help in that regard.

First, can the Government assure us that future investigations into behaviour issues in schools will take full account of pupils with disabilities and special educational needs, as set out explicitly in Sir Alan Steer’s report on learning behaviour? Secondly, will the Government keep a close eye on the statistics on exclusions of children with disabilities and special educational needs year on year, to provide a clear picture of the pattern of such exclusions and the impact of the measures that the Government are implementing?

Thirdly, if the Government engage in further investigation and research into the pattern of exclusions among children with disabilities and special educational needs, will they ensure that they gather the information from the parents and families of those children and from the children themselves? Finally, if the Government carry out further research and survey work on exclusions among children with disabilities and special educational needs, can they assure us that the findings of this research will inform the inclusion development programme as discussed in the government response to the Education and Skills Select Committee report on special educational needs?

4.45 pm

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: My Lords—

Lord Dearing: My Lords—

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: My Lords, perhaps my noble friend Lord Dearing would like to come in first, as he has added his name to the amendment.

Lord Dearing: My Lords, that is very kind. I apologise to the Liberal Front Bench for not being in my place at the beginning of the debate, but thankfully I have arrived in time to say a word or two.

I welcome what the Government have said in their reply to the Select Committee about initial teacher training. I am less reassured, although the intentions are good, about what is to be done about continuing professional development in this area. I have seen that the Government have in mind to explore with Ofsted how the school evaluation framework can be used to ensure that teachers get the CPD that they need—good. They give a prompt that is much needed in some schools to realise the Government’s aspirations. When I read in the department’s inclusion development programme that it will help transform understanding of SEN and disability in schools, on one hand I am delighted, but on the other hand I am concerned that there is need for such a transformation. Earlier in the debate, we heard a reference to Adam Smith’s hidden hand—how self-interest can work to the public good. The great man had a good deal to say about that. The amendment brings in the hidden hand of self-interest to the public good. It is a rather wise thing to do.

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Baroness Darcy de Knayth: My Lords, I can be extremely brief. I have also added my name to Amendment No. 81, which the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, so comprehensively introduced and which is now being so thoughtfully backed up by other noble Lords from every side of the House. Of course, it is very important that teachers at all levels should have a full understanding of this. I very much underline what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said about the one-year training of postgraduate teachers. They should have a full understanding not only of pupils’ needs but of SEN and disability law, which is very complicated; of their duties; and also of the judgment on what constitutes discrimination. The GTC said:

I was then going to turn to the major bit of my speech, about Amendments Nos. 115A, 116A and 117A, which were so well introduced by the noble Baroness, but, remarkably, her brain also conjured up the four questions that I was going to ask afterwards. I hope that I can give added weight to the fact that many people are thinking of these questions to ask the Minister. Perhaps he will at least undertake a review and will comply with the four criteria. I also welcome his statement about the SENCO, but again with the proviso that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, mentioned of the Special Educational Consortium.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I wish to add my enthusiasm for the amendments in this group, in particular Amendments Nos. 81 and 117. It is important that all teachers have that basic training. Furthermore, not only teachers should have it as a much wider group will be in contact with the children. That applies also in making an early assessment, where one has not already taken place, of children in this group, as they may not have been recognised as such at that stage.

I particularly commend the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton. As has been pointed out, the percentage of children with special educational needs who have been excluded from school is appalling. That figure alone is enough to rock us back on our heels and make us realise that we are not doing anything like enough about it. Many of those children, if treated in the wrong way, will end up in prison. We know that that is the case from the number of young people in prisons who should not be there anyhow and who are handled, including physically, in the wrong way.

Lord Dearing: My Lords, I rise for a second time because I spoke to Amendment No. 80 but am now prompted to see that two other amendments in this group are in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. I had therefore better do something about them.

In Committee, I represented, as did the Select Committee, that there should be a separation of the judgment of what a child’s needs were in special

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education from the management of money and the constraints that that imposed on decision-takers. Bringing the two together causes a risk that the first will be moderated by the second. In response, the Minister referred to the importance of not taking away major responsibilities from local authorities, which by implication my amendment did, and said that it was unreasonable to expect anyone to sign a blank cheque. In response, I said something to the effect that I understood that the matter could not be taken on the hoof and that, having listened to the Minister, I was not in the business of parading half-baked solutions. Needless to say, I was tempted by the leisure offered by the Recess to offer the Minister some solutions. I am proud of them, but I realise that our idea of separation is complex. Although I am, and have been for many years, a quango person, I was reluctant to propose another one.

My initial idea to transfer responsibility for assessment to local health authorities seemed a good one and would not have created another quango. However, I found that they also were affected by monetary considerations. So that idea did not work. I thought then of the care commission, which certainly is not influenced by monetary considerations, as I know from its very searching requirements for certain classes of care home. I considered the commission, but I do not know enough about it.

So I thought that I would go for the simple solution, to place a statutory duty on those charged with responsibility for considering what a child’s needs are, but to do it without regard to financial considerations although it would remain within the local authority’s ambit. It would then be for the local authority to decide what financial response it thought fit and right to make in all the relevant circumstances.

I suggest that, once a year, those charged with making assessments should make an observation or commentary on what they feel about the response from the local authority so that it is publicly accountable for its decisions. Thus, there would be separation but the local authority would be fully able and responsible for taking the final decisions and would be held accountable for them. That is the first part of my proposals but I have a supplementary one.

The Minister very kindly wrote to me about representations that I made in Committee about the difficulties that parents sometimes have in coping with the official documents that they receive from local authorities. He referred me to the Parent Partnership service, which, I confess, I did not know about, and I suspect that a large number of other people do not know about it either. So I made some inquiries at an excellent local authority about this body. I found that it is located in one office in one part of a large area and that its funding, shared over the population, amounts to 25p per head. I then made some further inquiries and asked how much the figure would work out at if—although this is not always the case—it was concerned only with special educational needs. The figure was much better—14p a head. But when I think of all the overhead costs incurred by any public body, I wonder how much time a parent perplexed by the system could expect to have.

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Therefore, I came up with a twofold proposal: first, that very early in a letter to any parent, the local authority should draw attention to the Parent Partnership service with an address and telephone number; and, secondly, that the local authority should have a duty to see that it is adequately funded. It should all be left with the local authority.

I remind the Minister that we all know, with sadness, that 20 per cent of people leave school functionally illiterate. When you receive a letter which, however well intentioned the official may be, has had to go through the lawyers to ensure that it is okay, the result is not readily accessible to parents who have left school functionally illiterate. Those who suffer are the children, and it is our job to ensure that children who have special needs through no fault of their own are not disadvantaged because their parents are unable to respond, as the middle-class parents are able to do, to this kind of document. They need real help.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I have some sympathy with the views expressed by the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley, Lady Buscombe and Lady Darcy de Knayth, and the noble Lords, Lord Rix and Lord Dearing. I shall speak primarily to Amendment No. 81.

I welcome the increased resources that the Government have given this issue but, as a primary school governor and a grandparent with a granddaughter who has been diagnosed as having Asperger’s syndrome, I can attest to a significant variation in the quality of education delivered in mainstream schools. At my local primary school, the SENCO is well trained and is a part of the senior team, and governors receive regular reports on SEN provision.

However, my granddaughter's experience has been mixed. Due to the influence of a very sympathetic head teacher, one small village primary school was a good example of inclusion in a mainstream school. At her current secondary school, the experience is not as positive. More training seems to be needed, and there needs to be an understanding that children with SEN have to adapt to a very different and challenging environment in a secondary school. They face a range of teachers where, in a primary school, they had one who came to understand their needs well. There are increased homework demands, but there is a need to take into account the varied abilities of children with special educational needs. I hope the Minister takes into account that while we have put in more resources, we still have a problem with variation in the quality of provision. The points made on the Parent Partnership are valid.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, the noble Lord has made a very eloquent speech. Does he appreciate why one of our amendments moved earlier today allowed for a moratorium on the closure of special needs schools just for six months post the introduction of this Bill to allow for a proper review of special needs provision? I wonder whether the noble Lord went through the government Lobby on that vote as he has just asked for what we were asking the Government only a few hours ago.

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5 pm

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I did not go through either Lobby. Unfortunately, I was unable to be present for that part of the debate. I do not want to get into the debate on specialist versus mainstream. I share the concern and I shall leave the Minister to respond to that. I wanted to contribute my experience and my granddaughter's experience in current mainstream provision.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I love the thought of “Adonis days”. No one knows better than the noble Lord, Lord Rix, how to pay a delightful compliment. I think they would go down very badly in schools where they would conjure up all the wrong images. At least “Baker days” conjured up a worthwhile profession, whereas I suspect that “Adonis days” would conjure up narcissism and a complete inability for the reality to live up to the ideal.

Those in the Box have just passed me an excerpt from today's Times about the 3.20 at Ludlow this afternoon where a horse called “Lord Adonis” was running in a race called the Juvenile Novices Hurdle. I feel as though I have spent the whole afternoon running that race and I have a number of hurdles still to go. For any noble Lords who were hoping to make a quick buck, the price was 33-1, so I do not think they would have done very well.

I start with the crucial role of special educational needs co-ordinators in schools, an issue to which we paid a great deal of attention following the report of the Select Committee on special educational needs. I shall speak to government Amendments Nos. 140, 144 and 153 which concern the crucial role of SENCOs.

The central importance of the SENCO to good SEN provision was recognised by the Education and Skills Committee in its report on SEN. The committee recommended that SENCOs should, in all cases, be qualified teachers, in a senior management position in a school and it emphasised the importance of training for SENCOs. Government Amendments Nos. 140, 144 and 153 are introduced to implement that recommendation.

In Amendment No. 82B, the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, seeks to ensure that the lead SENCO role will fall to a teacher. While government Amendment No. 140 refers to a SENCO as a “member of staff”, I can give the House a categorical assurance that our intention, through regulations under the amendments I have moved, is to provide that the SENCO role should rest with a teacher. I also assure the House that the regulations will require SENCOs to be members of the senior leadership team in a school, as recommended by the committee.

Under the regulation-making power that we are taking with these amendments, we will also institute more consistent standards for SENCOs supported by nationally accredited training, which will be a requirement for all newly appointed SENCOs to undertake after a date that we shall determine. As a first step towards that, we have commissioned the Training and Development Agency to develop a

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revised statement of the knowledge, skills and experience required of those leading special educational needs and disabilities provision in schools and a framework of standards for that role. This will help to inform our understanding about the level at which tasks should be performed and the type of nationally accredited training we will therefore provide. I believe that this will be a very major advance to the quality of training and support for special educational needs in schools.

Although that represents a direction in respect of schools—we are very reluctant to direct schools—my own experience over the years has taught me that there is no more important role in a school, not only in the direct provision of special educational needs, but also in simulating a culture of support for SEN and training to fulfil obligations for SEN, than the role of the SEN co-ordinator. I therefore hope that the House will agree that this represents an effective response to the committee, and a significant step forward.

On Amendment No. 81—also in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley—on professional standards, we agree that it is important for all those who work closely with children to be properly equipped to deal with special educational needs and disability. The Secretary of State already has the power to set professional standards for teachers, and currently does so in secondary legislation and associated guidance. There is no need to set out specific standards in primary legislation, especially as doing so may reduce the flexibility needed to reflect developments over time.

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