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Lord Addington: I merely want to reinforce what has been said. We are talking here about bringing more people into the structures which give them help. The statement system misses people and certain people are not designed for it. As the noble Baroness pointed out, it depends on who you are; who was doing the assessment; and which criteria were being used, which I am afraid vary locally. The current assessment system is much better than what went before it but it is not perfect. I suggest that we should be seeking something along the lines of this amendment, or at least the intention behind it.
Lord Hylton: These amendments touch on a very important matter. I say that as a parent of a son who was diagnosed with a rather particular kind of dyslexia when he had already reached the age of 17. That was some years ago. I hope that matters have improved greatly since those days. But I believe that there is need for constant vigilance.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, for bringing forward her probing amendments because they give me the opportunity to say a little about the purpose of Clause 110.
Clause 110 requires the Secretary of State to arrange an assessment of the education and training needs of pupils with SEN statements who move into other forms of education and training. Under government Amendment No. 243, the assessment will also set out the nature of provision needed to meet those needs.
We set out in our Connexions document how we would expect the arrangement to operate. Those new arrangements will ensure that transition planning into post-16 provision for those with statements of special educational needs starts at 14 and involves all local partners, including the young people themselves, their parents or carers, the local LSC and potential or identified providers of suitable learning opportunities. The young people concerned will have the support of a personal adviser throughout the transition and assessment process. Further details will be the subject of continuing work with our partners, including those representing the interests of students with learning difficulties.
Clause 110 corrects an anomaly. At present, if a statemented pupil stays at school beyond the age of 16, the statement and everything which it guarantees remain in place until his 19th birthday. If that pupil moves into another form of education or training, the statement lapses. Where the transition process is handled effectively, the statement will in practice
The discretionary power under Clause 110(3) is designed to give the Secretary of State a power to make similar kinds of assessment of the needs of young people where appropriate. That might be appropriate, for example, where a student with a statement of special educational needs remains at school after the compulsory school-leaving age but subsequently leaves to engage in other forms of post-16 learning before he reaches the age of 19. Similarly, where a student develops learning difficulties after leaving school, an assessment may help him to overcome or tackle such difficulties.
I do not believe that we should impose a duty to make an assessment of all students with learning difficulties, as the noble Baroness conceded in her opening remarks. The range of learning difficulties of young people leaving school will be very wide indeed. In some cases, they may be relatively mild. Only a small proportion of students with special educational needs go on to have a statement of those needs under the Education Act 1996. We shall of course expect the Connexions service to spend more time dealing with the young people whose needs are the most complex, whatever their background, in order to secure a truly effective transition.
I hope that that gives the noble Baroness the reassurance that the needs of pupils with learning difficulties will be fully addressed. Clause 110 is in the Bill to remove the anomaly I have described. That anomaly does not arise in the same way for pupils with special educational needs who do not have statements. In view of the reassurance that I have been able to give, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Darcy de Knayth: First, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, the noble Baroness, Lady David, and the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, for their extremely relevant contributions. I thank the Minister for what she said and for her full and careful reply. I am grateful for what she said about students with statements. I shall read carefully in Hansard what she said.
I am not absolutely sure that she met my point about students without statements. I am not sure that there is a sufficiently clear recognition of how badly some of the 18 per cent will need an assessment. I do not know whether she would like to make a clearer statement about that now and whether it will be possible to include in guidance how important it is for many of them to be assessed. I believe that Clause 110 uses the words "if appropriate". I shall read what she said and
The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 238, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 239, 240, 242 and 243. These amendments clarify the arrangements for assessments to be undertaken under Clause 110. Amendment No. 238 ensures that the Bill more accurately reflects the type of provision which young people leaving school, and for whom assessments may be appropriate, might enter. The effect of Amendment No. 238 will be that young people leaving school with a statement will be entitled to an assessment whatever course of post-16 education or training or higher education they wish to undertake. For post-16 education and training, this amendment aligns the entitlement to an assessment with the principal functions of the LSC for people under the age of 19 and the range of provision which it can secure for young people.
Amendments Nos. 239, 240, 242 and 243 define more clearly the nature and purpose of an assessment. Their effect is to make clear that an assessment must result in a written report which sets out not only the education and training needs of a young person but also what kind of provision is required to meet those needs.
These are important provisions. Noble Lords will remember that Clause 13(2) places the LSC under a duty to have regard to an assessment conducted under the clause we are discussing. The combined effect of these two clauses will be to ensure that at last we can make sure that the transition from school to post-16 education outside school goes well for people with special educational needs. I beg to move.
Baroness Blatch: As I understand it, the amendments refer to the formal assessments that apply to somewhere between 2 per cent and 4 per cent of young people, or have done hitherto. My understanding of the previous amendments was that the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, referred to both formal and informal assessments of all young people. Therefore, their needs would be assessed, whether or not they fall short of the formal statement requirements. I understood that there would be an assurance, which I do not think is contained in Clause 110, that appropriate provision would be provided on the back of an assessment. I understood that that would apply whether the assessment was formal, as set out in Clause 110, or whether it falls short of that for the many young people who will still need assessing for appropriate provision.
Lord Addington: I thank the Minister for the amendments which give a greater degree of coherence to the provisions for those with special needs. I thank both noble Baronesses for the debate. The more often we see repeated in Hansard that we shall do more for the future, the easier it will be when the time comes.