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Lord Rix: Perhaps I may interrupt for a moment. If I was a parent and I received a note to say that the appeal had been withdrawn, I would believe that I had lost.

Baroness Blackstone: That would be a very odd response from a parent. If the LEA conceded that the parent had a case, there is no need to pursue it in a tribunal. It is only withdrawn in that sense; it is not withdrawn in the sense that they have been told that they have not got what they are claiming is required. In a way we are dancing on the head of a pin here. I do not think there is much between us and it is simply a matter of whether we regard a case that is resolved outside the tribunal as one that has been won through the tribunal. It has not really because it was resolved before the hearing of course. In a sense, the parents had their argument heard and the concession was made. I do not think there is much between us.

Baroness Blatch: The noble Baroness is right; we are dancing on the head of a pin. This is a cost-free amendment. On the basis that if we are given a little we become quite mellow in our protestations, it might be one worth conceding.

The case can only be successful if the parent in the first place had a grievance which they had taken to the tribunal, and the very fact that it has been resolved before it had to be heard by the tribunal means that it was a success on the part of the parents. I should like to think that the Government would reflect on making a very minor change to this Bill. It would be helpful to receive a letter that the parents had been successful, rather than that the application had been withdrawn. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 66 not moved.]

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 agreed to.

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Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 67:

    Before Clause 7, insert the following new clause--

(" . The code of practice shall require that all pupils with special educational needs, with statements and without, shall be set clear objectives concerning academic progress, including progress in reading, against which the provision specified or provided shall be monitored and reviewed.").

The noble Baroness said: I know that Amendment No. 67 is somewhat contentious, but in speaking to my amendment I want to refer back to one of the most inspirational visits I ever paid to a special school--and I have visited quite a number in my time. It was a school in the North East, and if I could possibly remember its name I would do it the honour of naming it for the record.

I visited that school, which took children in from around the age of 18 months to two years old right through to the top end of secondary school--16 years--and in special circumstances even young people who were over the age of 16 years. I do not think I have been more impressed with a school. They regarded the recording of progress being made by children, from whatever stage they had started, and setting targets tailor-made to each individual, as being absolutely paramount.

If I had the time I would relate how I watched a group of very tiny children, who were just old enough to sit on a chair, progress from not being able to sit on a chair--they simply could not support their bodies--to sitting on a chair; washing their hands; wiping their faces; using mirrors--all being observed through one-way glass windows so there was not too much intrusive adult activity in the classroom--right through to a young person who was completely braced in an upright position but nevertheless was following a fairly academic programme. I remember that it coincided with the early introduction of the national curriculum. The head of the school insisted that the school should use the national curriculum as a structured way of ensuring that young people were part of mainstream education in the wider sense and that even a young person working towards level 1 in key stage 1 was part of that structure. There was provision in the system which could act as an impetus for a child moving progressively upwards.

Having said that, in a "Dear Colleague" letter written on 18th December last year the Secretary of State said:

    "We will also stress the need for statements to set out broad objectives against which the child's progress, and the provision being made, can be monitored and reviewed".

Amendment No. 67 is about that. Progress for all children is important, however slow and limited by the ability of the children. I referred to small children progressing from being unable to sit on a chair to sitting on a chair. We are not talking about reading, writing, history and geography, but about physical and skilful progress. Those children would not have been making that progress if it had not been for the

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work of that school with children of all ages including young people doing GCSEs and moving on to A-levels.

At present no published information or statutory requirement exists to demonstrate that special needs provision or funding results in confirmed, measurable educational attainments for the pupils concerned. The clause is intended to remedy that defect and ensure that special needs provision and funding are more accountable in terms of achieving higher standards and, possibly, the removal of funding or provision if progress is not made.

I know that the provision will be contentious but it builds on the sentence in the Secretary of State's letter that progress is important for all children and that for children with special educational needs encouragement to make progress is very important. As we all know, many of these children could thrive better if there were this impetus to make progress.

I am also reminded of something that I heard the Secretary of State say on a television programme. I cannot paraphrase him directly, but he appeared to make the point that while he has done exceptionally well--and we would all agree that he is a remarkable man for the way in which he has coped with his blindness--there are many other young people with special needs, particularly sight impairment, who could do a great deal better. The Secretary of State wishes schools to do better by these children and my amendment would include a provision to that effect in the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: The noble Baroness's assiduous attention to the statements of the Secretary of State is matched only by my own. I am grateful that he has been quoted in evidence today.

There is not a great deal between us with regard to the amendment. We agree that all teaching requires the setting of objectives and monitoring how well a child is progressing against them. That has been emphasised in relationship to the progress of educational reform under this administration, as well as being an issue covered by the previous government. The question of how good teaching is achieved is common to all children. I would be chary of identifying specific aspects of good teaching in relation to special educational needs. We all recognise the specific teaching which is required at times but not the principles upon which good teaching is effected. I emphasise that the current code of practice advises schools that individual education plans for children at stages two and three of the code should include targets to be achieved at a given time and monitoring and assessment arrangements. I note the comments of the noble Baroness about the particular school which impressed her. It is doubtless by no means the only example in the country but we all draw inspiration from our direct experience of good teaching in good schools. It is one of the joys of being involved in educational policy issues. I was grateful to the noble Baroness for her illustration. She identified the exact practice that we would wish to see followed in all schools.

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The code that is established to advise on how individual education plans should be developed is the basis on which progress by the child is to be identified and is a measure of effective teaching by the teacher. The noble Baroness also referred to literacy. We all recognise the enormous emphasis that has been placed by the Secretary of State and indeed by the whole Government on improvements in literacy. That extends to students with special educational needs as well as to the rest of the population.

The amendment that the noble Baroness has put forward identifies exactly the basis upon which the code means to express good teaching. That applies right across education in this country.

Baroness Blatch: I am grateful to the noble Lord for his reply. It would still be helpful to see exactly what the code states on these matters. It would seem from a number of the answers that have been given this afternoon that the code is fairly well written. It would be a huge help to have it before us on Report or at Third Reading. It would be yet further reassurance that what we are striving for in these amendments will be honoured in the code of practice. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 [Duty to inform parent where special educational provision made]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 68

    Clause 7, page 6, line 3, at beginning insert--

("( ) The parent of a child for whom no statement is maintained under section 324 shall be informed before special educational provision is made for him, and if the parent objects to such provision being made as being unnecessary or inappropriate, the dispute shall be resolved as provided for in section 332B of this Act, and until it is resolved, the special educational provision shall not be made.").

The noble Baroness said: In speaking to Amendment No. 68, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 69 and 70. Section 317 of the 1996 Act makes provision for children with special educational needs but who are not subject to a statement to be given the special educational provision that they need in the school in which they are currently registered. Whilst I agree with that, we should seek to cater for all children with special needs--a point that has been made again and again in our debate--including the many who have such needs even if they do not have a statement.

However, no provision was made for the parents of the child to be informed that such special provision was to be made. Nor were the parents asked for their agreement before it was made. The outcome is that such special provision can be made without the parents' knowledge. If a child who falls short of needing a statement has special learning difficulties and a school intends to make special provision for that child, it should be the parents' right to know that that is happening. We all know that in the best of schools, and certainly in those with which I have been involved, that would happen automatically. Parents would be consulted; they would be counselled if necessary and they would be given a full explanation of why the school had decided that special provision was

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required. I am, therefore, requesting that there should be something on the face of the Bill to indicate that it should be regarded as a right for parents to know that.

Clause 7(1) of the present Bill seeks to remedy this deficiency but only in so far as to inform the parents after the event, once the child is already receiving the special educational provision. That must still be wrong. My amendment, therefore, provides that the parents of a child at any school should be informed of the intention to make special educational provision for perceived special educational needs before such provision is made and that the parents shall have the right to object to its provision and that any dispute resulting from such objection will be resolved by the dispute procedure in Clause 3.

The existing provision for informing the parent after the event can remain in the Bill along with the additional subsection, which would at least act as a fallback should some mistake be made and prior notice not have been given, on the basis of better late than never.

Amendment No 70 says:

    "that the parent's consent is being sought before such provision is made, and that in the event of a dispute with the parent, it shall be resolved according to the procedures in section 332B of the Education Act 1996."

In two other places in Clause 7 it is presumed that special provision has already been made or is being made for the child. These two amendments are consequential on my previous amendment that the provision to meet special educational needs must be proposed but not yet implemented to trigger the provisions of Clause 7, and that the parents must have the opportunity to appeal if a special educational needs provision is being proposed and they disagree with it. I beg to move.

7.15 pm

Lord Davies of Oldham: I must confess to having some real anxiety about the implications of these amendments. I fear that, however unintentionally, they might hamper schools, nursery education providers and pupil referral units from making speedy responses to children's newly identified special educational needs. They would also affect the exercise of teachers' professional judgment.

The problem with the amendments is that they appear to give parents the right to object to special educational provision to meet their children's needs. The SEN code of practice emphasises the importance of schools and parents working together so that children's special educational needs can be met effectively. Clause 7 furthers that objective by ensuring that parents are fully aware of the SEN provision that is being made for their children. However, it cannot be right that parents should be given a veto over the SEN provision that schools make for their children. The amendments would at least delay the SEN provision that children needed and could result in that provision being denied because, for whatever reason, the parents said that they were not prepared to have it. The amendments presuppose that in every case the parents

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have a more fully informed and well-founded understanding of their children's educational needs than do the teachers.

We must look to teachers and schools, working in accordance with the guidance they receive from the SEN code, to identify children's special needs and intervene as soon as possible to ensure that difficulties can be addressed, if possible, before they become deep-seated.

If some parents objected to their children being identified as having SEN because they feel there is some stigma attached to it, we would look to teachers and schools to work with parents to address those concerns and reassure them that the provision was in the best interests of their child.

Amendments No. 68 and 70 refer specifically to Clause 3. Arrangements under Clause 3 are a significant advance for dispute resolution. They would be available to the parents of children in certain schools and maintained nursery schools even without Amendments Nos. 68 and 70. However, the arrangements under Clause 3 would not be binding and if cases under Clause 7 were dealt with under the Clause 3 arrangements, there would be a danger that either the school or the parent would refuse to take part or refuse to comply with the outcome. In instances of dispute over Clause 7 cases, we expect and recommend that the parents address their concerns to the schools first, where we expect the vast majority of cases to be resolved.

Because of these anxieties, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, will withdraw her amendments.

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