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|Special Educational Needs And Disability Bill [H.L.]|
These notes refer to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill [H.L.]
Special Educational Needs And Disability Bill [H.L.]
1. These explanatory notes relate to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill [H.L.] as introduced in the House of Lords on 7th December 2000. They have been prepared by the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) in order to assist the reader of the Bill and help inform debate on it. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.
2. The notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Bill. So where a clause or part of a clause does not seem to require any explanation or comment, none is given.
3. The provisions in the Bill relating to special educational needs (SEN) will extend to England and Wales only.
4. The provisions on rights for disabled people in education will extend to England, Wales and Scotland since equal opportunities issues are matters reserved to the UK Parliament under the Scottish and Welsh settlements. The exception is the duty to plan for accessibility, which, although intended to help disabled pupils, primarily relates to the organisation and administration of schools and hence is a devolved matter. This aspect of the Bill will therefore not extend to Scotland, and it will be for Scottish Executive Ministers to consider whether to apply this policy in Scotland. The planning duty will extend to Wales though it will be for the National Assembly for Wales (NAW) to consider implementation.
5. This Bill will not extend to Northern Ireland since responsibility for equal opportunities matters has been transferred and is now a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Part I: Special Educational Needs
6. The Government published a Green Paper in October 1997 entitled Excellence for All Children: Meeting Special Educational Needs (Cm 3785) (in Wales, The BEST for Special Education (Cm 3792)). Following consultation on the proposals set out in the Green Paper, the document Meeting Special Educational Needs: A Programme of Action was published in November 1998 in England, and Shaping the Future for Special Education was published in January 1999 in Wales. These documents set out the steps to be taken over a period of 3 years to implement the changes recommended in the Green Paper. Part I of the Bill fulfils those undertakings made in the Programme of Action that require primary legislation and will apply to England and Wales only.
7. Part I makes changes to the existing legislation, in Part IV of the Education Act 1996 (EA), for children with SEN. In summary, Part I will:
8. The SENT will, by virtue of the amendments made in Part II of this Bill, become the SENDIST (Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal).
Part II: Disability Discrimination in Education
9. The Government announced, in October 1997, that it would establish a Disability Rights Task Force (DRTF) to advise it on how to secure comprehensive and enforceable civil rights for disabled people.
10. The DRTF was established in December 1997, comprising representatives of disability organisations, business, trade unions, local government and the health service, from across the UK.
11. The DRTF reported on the role and function of a Disability Rights Commission (DRC) in April 1998. In October 1998, the Government published a White Paper entitled Promoting Disabled People's Rights: Creating a Disability Rights Commission fit for the 21st Century (Cm 3977). The Disability Rights Commission Bill received Royal Assent in July 1999. The DRC has been up and running since 25 April 2000.
12. The final report of the DRTF From Exclusion to Inclusion was published on 13 December 1999 and covered all aspects of disabled people's lives: defining disability, education, employment, access to goods and services, travel, housing and the environment, participation in public life and local government, health and social services. Part II of this Bill addresses the key education recommendations of the report that require primary legislation and amends Part IV of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) to introduce rights for disabled people in education.
13. Publicly-funded providers of education services and private schools are currently exempted from Part III of the DDA by virtue of sections 19(5)(a) to (ab) and 19(6) of that Act. These provisions are repealed by this Bill and the exemption removed. The effect of this is that any provider of education previously exempted from Part III and not covered by the new Part IV duties becomes subject to the duties in Part III of the DDA.
Chapter I of Part II: Schools
14. This Chapter places new duties on LEAs and schools (including independent schools and non-maintained special schools) in England and Wales and on Local Authorities (LAs), independent schools, self-governing schools and grant-aided schools in Scotland. The new duties are explained in the commentary on Clauses 10 - 15. What follows is an overview of the new provisions:
In England, Scotland and Wales
In England & Wales only
Chapter II of Part II: Further & Higher Education
15. This Chapter places new duties on further education institutions, higher education institutions, and LEAs in respect of adult education and youth services provision secured by them. The new duties are explained in the commentary on Clauses 25 - 28. What follows is an overview of the new provisions:
Chapter III of Part II: Miscellaneous
16. The DRC will have functions in respect of the new legislation akin to those conferred upon it, by virtue of the Disability Rights Commission Act 1999 (DRCA), in respect of Parts II and III of the DDA. The DRC will prepare new Codes of Practice to explain the legislation to providers of education, disabled people and others.
17. The following paragraphs provide a brief description of the current legislative framework as it applies to SEN and disability discrimination.
Special Educational Needs (England and Wales)
18. The legislation relating to SEN is contained in Part IV of the EA (ss.312 - 349, Schedules 26 and 27). This has been amended by the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (SSFA) to amend the references to the categories of schools. There is a statutory code of practice (the Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs) to which LEAs, governing bodies and the SENT must have regard when exercising their functions under the Act. There has been a recent consultation on a revised draft of this Code.
19. A child has SEN if he has a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision to be made for him (s.312). A child, for the purposes of the SEN provisions, includes any person under the age of 19 who is a registered pupil at a school.
20. About 20% of children will have some form of SEN at some time. Most of these children will have their needs met by their school, but around 3% of children will have severe or complex needs which will require the LEA to determine and arrange for the special educational provision for the child by means of a statutory statement of SEN.
21. It has always been intended that as many children with SEN as possible can be included within mainstream rather than special schools, whilst recognising the importance of the specialist sector. There is a duty in section 316 of the EA to secure that a child is educated in a mainstream school, unless that is incompatible with the wishes of the parent, provided that three conditions are satisfied: that this is compatible with (i) his receiving the special educational provision his learning difficulty calls for; (ii) the provision of efficient education for the children with whom he will be educated; and (iii) the efficient use of resources.
22. School governing bodies have a duty (s.317) to use their best endeavours to see that pupils with SEN at their schools receive the special educational provision their learning difficulties call for.
23. The LEA must keep its arrangements for special educational provision under review (s.315). It has a duty (s.321) to secure that it identifies children within its area who have SEN and the LEA needs to determine the special educational provision for which their learning difficulty calls.
24. Where an LEA is of the opinion that a child has SEN and that it is necessary for the authority to determine the special educational provision which any learning difficulty he may have calls for, the LEA will make an assessment of the child, to decide whether a statement of SEN should be made for the child (s.323).
25. Once the assessment of the child's needs has been completed, the LEA will decide whether it is necessary for it to make and maintain a statement of the child's SEN (s.324).
26. If the LEA decides to make a statement, the statement must be in the form prescribed by the Schedule to the Education (Special Educational Needs) Regulations 1994. Any statement made by the LEA must give details of the assessment of SEN and specify the special educational provision to be made. The special educational provision must include the type of school, or other institution, which the LEA considers would be appropriate, the name of the school preferred by the parents if this has to be named in accordance with Schedule 27 or, if none, the name of any school the LEA considers should be specified, and any provision for which arrangements are made otherwise than in a school, for example, occupational therapy.
27. The SENT considers parents' appeals against the decisions of LEAs in England and Wales about their children's SEN, if parents cannot agree with the LEA. The SENT considers appeals about refusals to assess, refusals to make statements, the contents of statements and decisions to cease to maintain statements. The constitution of the SENT is provided for in section 333 of the EA. There is a President and a chairmen's panel appointed by the Lord Chancellor and a lay panel appointed by the Secretary of State for Education and Employment or (as appropriate) the NAW. Each Tribunal consists of a chairman and two lay members. The procedure of the Tribunal is set out in the Special Educational Needs Tribunal Regulations 1995 made under section 336 of the EA.
Disability Discrimination in Education
28. The DDA makes it unlawful to discriminate against disabled people in relation to employment, the provision of goods, facilities and services, buying or renting land or property and certain aspects of transport. The DDA applies to the whole of the United Kingdom.
29. The DDA excludes publicly-funded education and private schools from the scope of the goods and services provisions. Private providers of education and training do, however, fall within the scope of these provisions, although voluntary organisations providing activities designed to promote personal or educational development are excluded by the Disability Discrimination (Services and Premises) Regulations 1996. Nonetheless, these providers of education services still have duties to disabled people in three main areas:
30. Part II of the DDA applies to employers with 15 or more employees and provides that discrimination occurs when:
31. Less favourable treatment will be justified only if the reason for it is material and substantial and there is no adjustment which would enable the disabled person to do the job concerned or take up another vacant position. To enable a disabled person to do their job, employers may have to make reasonable adjustments to their employment arrangements or premises if these substantially disadvantage a disabled person compared to a person who is not disabled.
32. Under Part III of the DDA, unlawful discrimination against disabled people occurs when:
33. Less favourable treatment will be justified only if the reason for it is: to avoid endangering the health and safety of any individual; that the disabled person is incapable of entering into an enforceable agreement or of giving informed consent; that the service provider would otherwise be unable to provide their service to the disabled person and/or other members of the public. In each case, it must also be reasonable for the service provider to hold that opinion. Service providers must take reasonable steps to change policies, practices or procedures which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to use a service, provide auxiliary aids or services to enable them to use a service and overcome physical barriers by providing a service by a reasonable alternative method.
34. There are also obligations on the following education providers to give information about facilities for disabled people:
It is also possible for the FEFC and the FEFCW, (from April 2001 the LSC in England and the CETW in Wales) to impose conditions on further education institutions relating to their provision for disabled pupils.
35. Statutory guidance about the DDA can be found in the following publications:
36. The Bill is in three Parts and has 42 clauses and 8 Schedules:
37. Part I will make changes to the existing SEN framework in Part IV of the EA.
38. Part II deals with disability discrimination in education and will amend Parts III and IV of the DDA.
Part II contains three chapters:
39. Part III deals with matters supplementary to Parts I and II of the Bill.
40. There are a number of defined words and expressions in the Bill.
41. Where there is no indication that a definition is intended to apply to a group of provisions, a Part of the Bill or the Bill as a whole, it applies only for the purposes of the section or Schedule in which it appears.
42. Some of the words and expressions that are defined just for the purposes of the particular provision in which the definition occurs are used (and defined separately) in other provisions where they may have a different meaning. For example "relevant school" is defined separately for the purposes of the provisions inserted in the EA by Clauses 3 and 8.
43. Chapters I and II of Part II of the Bill (Clauses 24 and 32 respectively) insert separate interpretation sections into each of Chapters I and II of Part IV of the DDA which define words and expressions which apply across each of those Chapters respectively.
44. ANNEX 1 contains a glossary of terms and abbreviations used in these notes.
COMMENTARY ON SECTIONS
PART I - SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS
Clauses 1 to 9 and Schedule 7
Clause 1: Education in mainstream schools of children with special educational needs
45. The clause amends the EA by inserting a replacement for the existing section 316 which strengthens the right to a mainstream place for children with SEN. This seeks to enable greater inclusion and safeguard the efficient education of all pupils.
46. Section 316(2) ensures that pupils with SEN but without a statement are educated in mainstream schools. Section 316(3) ensures that pupils with SEN and a statement are educated in mainstream schools unless this would be incompatible with parental choice or with the provision of efficient education for other children. This means an LEA does not have to provide a mainstream place where parents do not want one. In practice, incompatibility with the efficient education of others is likely to be where pupils present severe challenging behaviour that would significantly disrupt the learning of other pupils or place their safety at risk. Two of the caveats to the existing section 316 are being dropped to make it easier for parents to obtain a mainstream place for their child. Section 316(4) defines what constitutes a mainstream school. For the purposes of this clause, City Technology Colleges (CTCs), City Colleges for the Technology of the Arts (CCTAs) and City Academies (CAs) (which are independent schools) are mainstream schools.
47. The clause also inserts a new section 316 in the EA. Section 316A(1) means that a child with SEN can be educated at an independent school (whether or not it is a mainstream school), or a non-maintained special school if the LEA is not funding the placement. Section 316A(2) sets out the exceptional circumstances in which a child with SEN but without a statement can be educated at a special school. The section reflects existing arrangements for maintained special schools i.e. children without statements can be placed in special schools where they are being assessed for a statement, or their circumstances have changed suddenly and the head teacher (or governing body in Wales), parents, LEA and (when the child is admitted for an assessment) those providing advice agree, or where a child is in hospital so is attending a hospital special school. Section 316A(2)(b) provides that regulations can prescribe circumstances in which a child, admitted for the purpose of assessment, can remain in a special school after the assessment is carried out. It is envisaged that these will deal with the child's position in the period after the assessment is carried out but before any decision is taken about whether a statement is necessary, and once any decision about a statement is made.
48. Sections 316A(3) and (4) explain how the new section 316 interacts with Schedule 27 to the EA (making and maintenance of statements). Section 316A(3) ensures that section 316 does not affect the operation of section 348 (provision of special education at non-maintained schools). LEAs will not be prevented from naming independent or non-maintained special schools in statements by the requirement to educate children with SEN in mainstream schools. Sections 316A(5) and (6) further strengthen the right to a mainstream place by requiring schools and LEAs, when seeking to demonstrate that inclusion would be incompatible with the efficient education of other children, to show that there are no reasonable steps they could take to prevent the inclusion of a child with a statement from having that effect. Section 316A(7) means that if an LEA has named a maintained school in a statement (and so the child must be admitted in accordance with s.324) the school can't subsequently rely on the exception in section 316(3), i.e. that the child's inclusion would be incompatible with the efficient education of other children. Section 316A(8) requires schools and LEAs to heed guidance about section 316 and section 316A to be provided by the Secretary of State in England and, in Wales, the NAW. It is envisaged that this will include guidance about what is meant by reasonable steps and incompatibility with the efficient education of other pupils. Section 316A(9) explains what "authority" means in the section.
Clause 2: Advice and information for parents
49. This clause amends the EA by inserting a new section 332A to place a duty on LEAs to make arrangements for providing information on SEN matters to parents of children in their area who have SEN. These are normally known as parent partnership services. Most LEAs already provide such services but there is no legal requirement for them to do so. The new duty does not mean that LEAs will have to provide the services themselves; they might, for example, decide to contract with a provider from the voluntary sector.
50. In making these arrangements LEAs must heed guidance issued by the Secretary of State or, in Wales, the NAW. The revised SEN Code of Practice will give guidance on parent partnership services. LEAs must publicise to parents and schools, in their area, the fact that the services are available and inform other interested parties.
51. Subsection (2) removes paragraph 6(b) of Schedule 27 to the EA, bringing to an end the current arrangements whereby parents of pupils with statements have access to a 'named person' who provides information and advice. Statutory guidance in the revised SEN Code of Practice will set out that all parents of pupils with SEN (as identified through that Code) should have access to an Independent Parental Supporter if they wish, irrespective of whether the child has a statement.
Clause 3: Resolution of disputes
52. This clause amends the EA by inserting a new section 332B and provides an additional means of resolving disagreements between parents and the LEA and/or schools. It also introduces a new mechanism to seek to prevent such disputes. The new arrangements are intended to provide an informal forum for exploring differences, identifying points of agreement and disagreement and to find a way forward that all parties accept. Section 332B(3) requires LEAs to appoint an independent person (not part of the school or LEA decision making process) to facilitate the avoidance or resolution of disputes. In practice, this will often be someone from the voluntary sector. Section 332B(4) requires LEAs to take heed of any guidance issued by the Secretary of State or, in Wales, the NAW when making the arrangements. It is intended that Chapter 2 of the revised SEN Code of Practice will provide this guidance.
53. Section 332B(5) requires LEAs to ensure that parents and schools in their area are made aware of dispute prevention and resolution arrangements. LEAs must also inform such other interested parties as they deem appropriate. Section 332B(6) provides that parents who take advantage of these new arrangements will not lose any existing legal rights to lodge an appeal with the SENT.
Clause 4: Compliance with orders
54. This clause provides for regulations to be made to prescribe the period within which an LEA must comply with orders of the SENT.
Clause 5: Unopposed appeals
55. This clause amends the EA by inserting a new section 326A and applies where an LEA decides to concede to a parent who has appealed to the SENT.
56. Certain types of appeals are to be treated as withdrawn where the LEA has notified the SENT that they are conceding. LEAs will be required to meet the parents' wishes within a period to be set out in regulations. The appeals are those against a decision by an LEA:
57. Appeals against the contents of statements (under s.326 EA) and appeals against a decision to cease to maintain a statement (under paragraph 11 of Schedule 27 of the EA) have been excluded. This is because in these types of appeal, where the statement could be amended in a number of ways, deciding the appeal without a hearing is not always suitable. These types of appeal, even if the LEA does not contest them, will go to a hearing at which the parent, but not the LEA, will be able to be present.
|© Parliamentary copyright 2000||Prepared: 8 December 2000|