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13 Feb 1998 : Column WA247

Written Answers

Friday, 13th February 1998.

Beef Bones: Dog Food

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Beef Bones Regulations 1997 specifically prohibit the sale or free distribution of beef bones to humans for ultimate feeding to dogs.[HL365]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): No. The Beef Bones Regulations 1997 only prohibit the sale of bone to the ultimate consumer for human consumption (Regulation 4(1)).

Special Needs Schools

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many special schools for educationally and behaviourally disturbed children have closed:

    (a) since 1979; and

    (b) since 1 May 1997;

    whether it is now their policy to retain special schools; and, if so, whether there are any plans to reopen special schools or open new ones.[HL513]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): Figures of this kind were not collected over the period 1979-96.

It would not be possible to produce a reliable estimate without disproportionate cost. Since 1 May 1997 nine maintained and six independent schools catering specifically for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties have closed.

The Government set out their proposals for the future of special schools and for provision for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties in its Green Paper Excellence for all Children: Meeting Special Educational Needs. We seek to increase inclusion within mainstream provision and to secure advances in the early identification of needs and prevention of problems. We see a continuing role for special schools but believe there should now be changes in their role. We are wholly

13 Feb 1998 : Column WA248

committed to promoting effective practice in schools catering specifically for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties. The heads of all these schools--about 370--in England are being invited to one of a series of workshops currently being run by my department and the Office for Standards in Education, to hear the latest inspection evidence and research findings on this subject and consider some practical solutions to problems. Local education authorities are also being invited to be represented. It is for local education authorities--and prospective independent proprietors--to consider the case for a new school in their area. The Green Paper proposes the development of regional planning arrangements, involving local education authorities and all the other interested parties, so as better to match the available places and special educational needs. We are considering the many helpful responses we have received to the Green Paper and are awaiting the advice of the national advisory group on special educational needs on the best ways forward.

Primary Schools: Curriculum

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they can give an assurance that the new emphasis on basic learning in primary schools will not be at the expense of geography and world awareness.[HL516]

Baroness Blackstone: My right honourable friend's announcement on 13 January responded to concern on the part of parents and teachers who made clear their view that more time was needed in the primary school curriculum for literacy and numeracy. They are interim measures pending the introduction of a revised national curriculum from September 2000.

Primary schools will still be required to teach all the foundation subjects, including geography, and to have regard to their programmes of study. They will also still be required to provide a balanced and broadly based curriculum which promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils and prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority will be producing guidance around Easter on how schools might meet this duty. There is every reason therefore to be confident that schools will continue to give children an awareness of world issues, through geography and through the curriculum generally.

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