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Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, before my noble friend replies perhaps I can ask a question. Do the four bodies who have to agree--

    (iv) any person whose advice is to be sought in accordance with regulations made under paragraph 2 of Schedule 26"--

have to be unanimous in their decision? Suppose it is three-one, either-way or two-two; is that a blocking? How does it work?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the parents can always go to a tribunal if they disagree with what is being suggested by the other parties. It is not a question of a blocking majority. This is not like an EU council. It is a different set of circumstances. The discussion should be constructive and relatively informal. A vote will not be taken.

Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, I understand that parents can go to a tribunal. But suppose the LEA, the parents and the person in paragraph (iv) agree that the child should go to a special school, but the head

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teacher objects. Does the head teacher's view prevail? It is a matter for clarification and I am happy to wait for advice at a later stage.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, my noble friend's question is actually pertinent. Again, if one goes back to the words on the face of the Bill, it does not say the agreement of the local education authority "or" the agreement of the head teacher "or" the parent, and so forth. It actually says,

    "(i) the local education authority,

    (ii) the head teacher of the school ...

    (iii) his parent, and

    (iv) any person whose advice is to be sought in accordance with regulations".

So my noble friend's question is perfectly appropriate.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I confirm that of course all parties have to agree. They have to work together and find a consensus as to what is the right provision to meet the individual child's needs.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, that confirms the appropriateness of my noble friend's question. Suppose they do not agree. Suppose the result is three-one, two-two, one-three; what then? I was very depressed to hear the Minister say that parents can always go to tribunal. I thought this whole Bill was about trying to minimise the number of cases that actually go to tribunals. I thought the whole idea of having an informal conciliation service was to prevent cases from having to take the option of going to tribunal.

What happens if the result of discussion is two-two, three-one or one-three? We need to know. There must be an answer to that question. It is no good the noble Baroness saying, "Do not worry your pretty little heads about these things". They are pertinent questions. The Bill actually says,

    "(i) the local education authority,

    (ii) the head teacher of the school ...

    (iii) his parent, and

    (iv) any person"--

that could mean all sorts of people,

    "whose advice is to be sought in accordance with regulations made under paragraph 2 of Schedule 26".

We know that a large number of people can be involved in such a decision.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and the noble Lord, Lord Davies, have not yet said that the status of the extract of the document read earlier by the noble Baroness is definitive; we do not know whether it is the final draft and whether it will be available before the next stage of the Bill or, preferably, immediately after today's Report stage. In particular,

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it would be helpful to know whether the noble Baroness was saying that the specification in detail was unequivocal or would be qualified by the words, "if appropriate".

I do not know if the noble Baroness was criticising me--it certainly appeared to be an implied criticism--when she said that I was being repetitive. Of course I was. The arguments in support of my amendments have not changed. They are precisely the same. I conclude with the point on which I would have ended if my noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking had not intervened; that is, that there is not always a consensus on these matters. I am extremely interested that once again the Government have set their face against taking into account, where possible, the wishes of the child. The Liberal Benches may return to that theme later. So all those people have what appears to be a veto. We have no answer to what happens if their views are split. It would help me, before I decide what to do with the amendment, to have answers to some of the questions posed.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I did not answer the question about a so-called document, which was asked by the noble Baroness earlier, partly because I did not want to keep getting up and down at Report stage, as we have to make some progress. I can say categorically that I was not reading from any document. I was merely listing what the Government intend to be included in the code of practice. As I have said many times, the code of practice, which will be written when the Bill is enacted, will be brought to both Houses of Parliament for debate. I hope that that answers the question of the noble Baroness.

On the issue of disagreements, the purpose of Clause 3 is to find a way to get through such disagreements by a proper system of conflict resolution. I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Baker, that if a head teacher of a special school thought that it was inappropriate and wrong for a particular child to be sent to that school, he would have every right to say so. The head teacher would, of course, have to have good reasons for refusing the child admission, if all the other parties, including the parents thought that it was the right place for the child. However, there is not only one special school for particular needs; there are a number of them. I assume that, in those circumstances, the LEA and the other professionals involved would search for a school where the head teacher would not resist taking in the child.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, let us suppose that all the professionals whose advice has been sought, and who have become involved in the case, including the parents, agree with the head teacher, but the LEA does not agree. The noble Baroness has not faced up to that. The LEA is one of a block of four interested parties mentioned in the clause, which refers to "and", not either/or. The matter is unsatisfactory. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, but shall return to the issue at the next stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 18 to 23 not moved.]

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Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 24:

    Page 3, line 13, at end insert--

("( ) "Reasonable steps" in the context of this section shall include the provision of specific, extra, supervisory staff; of specialist teachers; and where necessary of nursing staff, according to the special requirements of the individual child with special educational needs.
( ) A child with special educational needs shall not be admitted to a mainstream school unless the necessary extra staffing will be provided.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I believe that Amendment No. 25 is grouped with this amendment.

The previous subsections to the clause refer to "reasonable steps" to be taken by the local authority and/or the school in order that a child may be admitted to the mainstream school. If such "reasonable steps" cannot be taken for good reason, the obligation to admit the child with special needs to a mainstream school will no longer apply. What are those "reasonable steps"? We should spell out in the Bill, not in some subsequent non-binding guidelines, at least what some of those reasonable steps are. I repeat what guidelines mean. It will not be for parents to argue about the specific support, or lack of it, for their child in a school. All that the LEA or the school need do is to say that in reaching their decision about provision and the steps that needed to be taken, they had regard to the guidelines. End of story. That is what the tribunal will consider.

When we come to the later clauses on disability, the reasonable steps are likely to include physical adaptation of the school premises, but for children with learning difficulties the most obvious reasonable steps are the provision of the necessary staff to cope properly with the needs of the child with special needs. I return to that same point with a new clause, which I suggest should be inserted after Clause 4, covering both special needs and disability, and in which we would allow governors to object to an admission if the necessary staffing is not in place.

Before the child joins the school, there needs to be in place the necessary extra staff. I note--and we have said this before--that the financial appraisal does not appear to include staffing implications for moving children from special needs into mainstream schools. That is a great puzzle to those of us following the Bill. Such staffing implications include teaching, supervisory and, possibly, nursing staff. The local authority must take reasonable steps to put such staff in place. If, in the context of Clause 1, the local authority is unable, for good reason, to put such staff in place--to take reasonable steps--it should be exempt from having to admit the child with special needs to that mainstream school.

One good reason might be that, at least for the present, no person with the necessary experience and qualifications for the particular needs of the child can be found. I beg to move.

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5.45 p.m.

Lord Addington: My Lords, Amendment No. 25, in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Sharp, takes another approach, and follows Amendment No. 30 to which I spoke in the Grand Committee.

We believe that "reasonable steps" should be set out in the guidance, and that only a reference to such guidance should be contained in the Bill. That meets the Minister more than half way. In that way, guidance can be changed without going through the whole process of changing the Bill. There would also be a point of reference. It is important that those who are involved in such matters have an easy point of reference. Mentioning the guidance in the Bill might be a way of helping such professionals to find out what is meant. I suggest that this is a reasonable and progressive amendment.

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