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Lord Lucas: We have regrouped the amendments.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I apologise for not having recognised the importance of that regrouping. I await the presentation of the arguments on Amendment No. 88, and hope that I may be sympathetic to them.

I have given my position on Amendment No. 87, which I hope the noble Lord will find satisfactory. I hope that he may feel able to withdraw his amendment.

1.15 a.m.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, that was a satisfactory response, and I shall withdraw my amendment. I am delighted that the Minister has consented to give the noble Lord, Lord Rix, top billing for his group of amendments, which is what he deserves.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Rix moved Amendment No. 88:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, top billing seems rather appropriate for this midnight matinee. Having reflected on the debate at Committee stage, I must return to my Amendments Nos. 88 and 92 regarding

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the content of accessibility strategies and plans. I am joined in this compulsion by my noble friend Lady Darcy de Knayth.

Clause 13 is in general terms an excellent facet of the legislation. It is absolutely right for LEAs and schools to plan for greater accessibility, but I cannot accept a planning duty which covers only physical access and ignores access to teaching and learning arrangements. It is out of keeping with both the spirit and the letter of this legislation. The definition of disability used in this Bill does not relate exclusively to children with physical or sensory disabilities. It covers those with learning disabilities too. So why plan to provide access only for a subset of disabled children? Those who are excluded are in fact the largest group of children with disabilities. There are hundreds of thousands of children with learning disabilities who have a right to be properly considered along with all other children.

During the Committee stage, the noble Lord, Lord Davies, told the House that the Government's drafting of Clause 13 was based on their acceptance of a Disability Rights Task Force recommendation. As he referred to the task force, I hope that the House will permit me to read a little further into that recommendation, numbered 4.10, which says:

    "This duty should cover both adjustments for physical access, including those for children with sensory impairments and for access to the curriculum".

Furthermore, in March 2000 the consultation document of the Department for Education and Employment signalled that there would be a duty on schools to,

    "plan to increase systematically the access of their premises and of the curriculum to disabled pupils".

What has changed since March to make the Government curtail their original plans and take a very partial view of the recommendations of the task force? I look again to answers offered at the Committee stage. I was told that accessibility plans were not the right vehicle for planning for extra teaching, learning support assistants, curriculum adaptations and so on. It was suggested that they might be a burden. I believe that a comprehensive strategic planning duty will positively help and support schools and LEAs in meeting their obligations. It should also help them to provide families with better information about support available both now and in the future.

It has also been suggested to me that I need not worry because planning for access to the curriculum is already covered by existing duties on schools and LEAs. However, I believe that there should be absolute parity in planning to support those with physical, sensory and learning disabilities and that schools and LEAs should be accountable to the Secretary of State in that respect.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to discuss these amendments with the Minister in another place. We had a characteristically co-operative exchange for which I am most grateful. But during our conversations, I suggested that if planning for access to the curriculum is already

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covered by pre-existing statutory obligations, it should say so here on the face of the Bill, in this clause, so that appropriate links are made.

If the Minister can convince me this morning that there is a statutory duty on schools and LEAs to plan for access to teaching and learning and that can be successfully linked to duties in this clause, then I shall happily withdraw my amendment pending a government amendment at Third Reading. Such reassurance is absolutely critical if we are to accelerate progress in realising the rights of disabled children. I beg to move.

Lord Addington: My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. If you are going to put in the physical environment without the teaching arrangements, you are putting the cart before the horse, or any other cliche in relation to lack of movement that you can come up with. It is more important to have this sort of arrangement in relation to the teaching curriculum. When all is said and done, it is easier to put ramps and make adaptations and so on than it is to arrange a timetable. That is a one-off thing which can be done and then forgotten about. If that degree of flexibility is not built in, a series of Chinese walls will be constructed which will keep people out.

This amendment goes to the heart of the matter. If we have to choose between the two, the physical environment is the factor which should not appear on the face of the Bill but should appear in secondary legislation. The noble Lord is absolutely right.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I apologise to the House for being somewhat pre-emptive in attempting to reply before I heard what both noble Lords had to say on the amendment. I have benefited greatly from their contributions.

I have some sympathy with the nature of the amendment. I want to establish quite clearly that, of course, schools must provide for the needs of all children, including the full range of disabilities--physical, sensory and the learning disabled.

I know that there is concern that the planning duty appears to be too restrictive because it appears to apply to the physical environment. There is concern that those pupils with learning disabilities will not benefit as fully as they might from the particular message, since physical accessibility to a building is not relevant to their particular disability.

But the planning duty should not be seen in a vacuum. Rather, it needs to be seen alongside other provisions for protecting the rights of disabled children in the existing SEN framework. The planning duty is part of a wider picture.

Within that wider picture, it is clear that the issues with regard to the curriculum are important. First, I want to emphasise that teachers already plan their lessons. We do not want to impose additional administrative burdens on them when they are already conditioned by the framework of the national curriculum and the statement on inclusion which schools must follow. The foreword states that:

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    "An entitlement to learning must be an entitlement for all pupils. This National Curriculum includes for the first time a detailed, overarching statement on inclusion which makes clear the principles schools must follow in their teaching right across the curriculum, to ensure that all pupils have the chance to succeed, whatever their individual needs and potential barriers to their learning may be".

So it is crystal clear that schools already have to think about the needs of disabled pupils in their teaching. I am confident that the framework with regard to this Bill--the rights and duties contained in it--will provide for disabled children in a practical and pragmatic way.

Although I cannot accept the amendment as drafted, I am very much in favour of the sentiments and the concept behind it. I shall indeed do what the noble Lord suggested. He said that if I could not accept his amendment, we ought to look towards bringing forward a government amendment on Third Reading that would embrace the ideas behind his amendment. That is what I undertake to do.

Lord Rix: My Lords, I am extremely grateful for that response from the Minister. Unfortunately, I am off on the road to Morocco next week. Therefore, I shall not be present at Third Reading to welcome the government amendment. However, I hope that we can discuss the matter before I depart from these shores in the knowledge that, when it comes to the next stage, I shall have a most elegant and effective understudy in my noble friend Lady Darcy de Knayth. I am sure that she will graciously accept the amendment as proffered by the Government. With those few words of thanks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Morris of Manchester moved Amendment No. 89:

    Page 12, line 23, leave out from ("schools") to end of line 25 and insert ("so that within the time period prescribed all mainstream schools within the area of the local education authority will be capable of providing for disabled pupils; and

(b) in preparing their accessibility strategy, must have regard to the requirement to ensure that, over a prescribed period, mainstream schools in the area are accessible for disabled children in terms of their policies, practices, procedures, curriculum, and availability of auxiliary aids and adaptations.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the intention of this amendment is to require education authorities and mainstream schools to work towards the goal of properly supported inclusion for disabled pupils within a fixed timescale. Its aim is to strengthen the planning duty to require LEAs and schools to move towards the goal of mainstream education for children, whatever their needs and abilities.

As I said on an earlier amendment, quoting Linda Shaw of the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE), we are discussing here one of the most important anti-discrimination measures ever to be considered by your Lordships' House. That is why the CSIE's call for full and meaningful inclusion is entitled to be heard again in this debate. A human rights

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approach to disability policymaking requires not the setting by schools of their own agendas, but agreement to a common goal of entitlement to properly supported mainstream placements.

It is also vital for the achievement of equal opportunities that a planned timetable for supporting the full diversity of pupils in mainstream must cover the accessibility of teaching and learning arrangements, for which the amendment provides, as well as physical access. Inclusion without proper and adequate support for such access--I most strongly emphasise the importance of adequacy of support--is not inclusion, but dumping. We cannot rely on education policy alone to make the necessary changes towards an inclusive curriculum. We also need legislation that guarantees all children's rights to properly supported mainstream placements and safeguards against discrimination. This is the human rights approach to disability. It is at the heart of this amendment.

In 1997, a review of research on inclusion conducted by Judy Sebba for Barnardo's found that,

    "Pupils with identified difficulties or disabilities appear to benefit educationally from schools developing inclusive education by making significant gains in reading, language, work study skills and living skills. Pupils who do not have identified difficulties or disabilities appear to attain as good or better standards and make the same or more progress in classrooms developing inclusive education as they do in traditional mainstream classes".

There is also growing evidence that schools can develop the capacity to support the full diversity of pupils by adopting a flexible approach to teaching and learning that adapts activities and curricula to pupils' needs and interests. A major study of inclusion in the United States in 1995, undertaken by the National Centre on Educational Restructuring and Inclusion, found that students representing all legal categories of disability, at all levels of severity, were being effectively included in mainstream education. Here in the UK two recent Channel 4 programmes entitled "Count Me In" featured a number of primary and secondary schools actively engaged in increasing their capabilities of catering for a wide diversity of pupils.

At one of the schools featured, Cleves Primary, a differentiated approach to learning enables the school to include children with profound learning difficulties while at the same time working to raise the standards of achievement of all pupils. CSIE's case study of Cleves gives examples of how schemes of work can be adapted so that the full diversity of children can be included. The CSIE has also provided examples from other schools of how curriculum adaptation works in individual cases. Cleves is in the London borough of Newham where the local education authority has a policy commitment to recognise the rights of all children to learn together and aims to make it possible for every child, whatever special educational needs they may have, to attend their neighbourhood school.

The Index for Inclusion, published by CSIE, is a planning tool designed to help schools to become more inclusive through a process of self-review and development. The index involves schools in

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restructuring their cultures, policies and practices so as to be able effectively to respond to the diversity of needs in their locality.

Thus there is no lack of evidence to demonstrate the potential of inclusive education. Yet both research and experience show that whether disabled children benefit from mainstream education depends not on any objective assessment of their needs and potential but on how schools develop their capacity to respond to diversity. It is just not true that so-called inherent problems and "deficits" make it impossible for many children to be included.

Much to their credit, parents of such children continue to struggle for inclusion with LEAs and schools which are unwilling or unprepared to welcome them. Cases documented by CSIE--and which, as she will confirm, I made available to my noble friend Lady Blackstone--demonstrate the stress and emotional strain involved for families in achieving what many of us believe should be theirs by right. A stronger planning duty--as suggested in this amendment--would seek to ensure every child's right to a properly supported mainstream placement, rather than making inclusion dependent on parental struggle and commitment or the goodwill and good practice of particular schools and LEAs. In order to work towards a situation of mainstream entitlement for all it is reasonable and responsible now to require all schools to plan, within a specified period of time, for disabled children and young people of school age to become a part of, instead of being cast apart from, the local communities in which they live. I beg to move.

1.30 a.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am sure that we all admire the way in which my noble friend presented the case for the amendment and the strength of his conviction as regards how much needs to be done. We also admire his identification of strategies to achieve that. I immediately respond by saying that of course his objectives are shared by the Government, as is shown by measures that are in hand.

The problem with regard to the amendment, however, as I think he might recognise, is that it presents a number of obvious difficulties. The prescribed period might be two years or 20, whatever would be practical. I am sure that a period of 20 years would so disappoint my noble friend that he would not regard that as a satisfactory response. We have difficulty with the vagueness and the geographical dimensions. I recognise that my noble friend seeks to be modest in his demands that one school and LEA should be able to admit a particular disability. However, if there were, for example, a school in Bude in eastern Cornwall able to cope with a disability but the student who wished to take advantage of it lived close to Land's End, that would scarcely be a practical solution. So there are difficulties with regard to the amendment but not with the sentiments underlying it.

I emphasise again--my noble friend will have heard the earlier debate--that teachers already have to think about how to adapt the curriculum to disabled pupils.

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And we have had an extensive debate about the provision of auxiliary aids and changes to physical features, both of which are exempted from the duty to make reasonable adjustments for very good reason, as we discussed earlier in our debate on Clause 12.

I respect fully the arguments that my noble friend has presented. I recognise the strength of conviction behind them. The objectives underlying them are the objectives behind the amendment. However, the amendment raises sufficient difficulties for us to ask my noble friend to withdraw the amendment confident in the fact that the Government will seek to hit those objectives by a slightly different route.

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