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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, first, the Government cannot have it both ways. When we have asked for time-scales to be tightened, the Government have always argued that they are realistic and sufficiently tight for LEAs to meet their obligation to children with special educational needs. Therefore, delay cannot be an issue. The Government are satisfied that those who are charged with resolving disputes can do so within a short time-scale.

Secondly, the noble Lord ascribes to my amendments powers that are simply not there. We say that parents have a right to information about their child. I believe that in the case of any child who receives education which is different from that of the average child in a school, a parent has an absolute right to be informed that his or her child is receiving different provision. A parent also should have a right to ask why that is being done and, if they object to it, to challenge that provision. Some parents may find

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another way to resolve the issue. When they know the problem, after amicable discussion they may seek another solution. That may take the pressure off the school to provide additional resources for special provision for the child. There are sensible reasons for parents to have the right to know that their child is being treated differently and to be given the opportunity to make other provision.

Thirdly, the noble Lord spoke as though the parent has a veto. The parent does not have a veto. There will be a delay if the matter goes as far as the resolution procedure. However, the resolution procedure set out in Clause 3 is the informal in-house LEA resolution procedure, rather than the tribunal procedure, which could be completed within a week. The parents, school and/or the advisory service from the LEA could discuss the best interests of the child. The dispute can be discussed, the objections of the parents heard, and any alternative provision that the parents wish to make put forward. The notion that parents have a veto is not true. It is not the first time that the noble Lord has ascribed to amendments in my name on the Order Paper powers which are not contained within them. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 not moved.]

6 p.m.

Clause 8 [Review or assessment of educational needs at request of responsible body]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 12:

    Page 8, line 10, at end insert--

("( ) This section applies to a child for whom relevant nursery education is provided as it applies to a child who is a registered pupil at a relevant school.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 13:

    Page 8, line 21, at end insert ("or head teacher, and

(c) in relation to a provider of relevant nursery education, the person or body of persons responsible for the management of the provision of that nursery education.
( ) "Relevant nursery education" has the same meaning as in section 123 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, except that it does not include nursery education provided by a local education authority at a maintained nursery school.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 9 [Duty to specify named school]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 14:

    Page 8, line 26, leave out ("not").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, it is with profuse apologies that I speak now to Amendment No. 14. It is the group of amendments to which I spoke earlier by mistake. The group includes Amendments Nos. 15 and 16.

On Report I referred to the catch-22 situation for parents. They wait so long for procedures to be completed which provide a statement for a child that at great expense, or having begged and borrowed from third parties, they make provision in the independent sector while awaiting a place in a maintained school.

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Those parents have a preference for a mainstream place. My amendments are modest. They recognise the LEA's difficulty in keeping a place open indefinitely or until the process is completed. The time limit proposed is that the LEA keep a place open for one half of a school term.

After huge expense to the parents, great distress to the family, and perhaps to a third party which started to pay for the provision and cannot sustain such payment, the parents are placed in a difficult position if the LEA decides that the parents have chosen independent provision and it no longer feels an obligation to make provision. The amendment covers a situation which occurs only rarely; but when it does it causes distress.

When a statement is made which illustrates that the child's needs are severe, provision should be made as quickly as possible. If the process takes a long time and the parent makes provision in the independent sector but wishes for a place in the mainstream school, some accommodation should be made. I beg to move.

Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, on these Benches we failed to enshrine in the Bill a statutory entitlement for a child to a specific degree of provision. It is only fair to say that the Government are trying to gain that end, possibly by other means. I have received two helpful letters from the Minister since Report stage which are pertinent to this group and the previous grouping. They are inter-linked.

Much of the detail is in the code of practice which is not debated. I do not suggest that we should do so now because there will be an opportunity to debate the code later although not to amend it, as Ministers know. We at least know the Minister's intentions. In her letter of 26th February, the noble Baroness said:

    "You asked particularly about what the final version would say on specifying the special educational provision for a child with a statement of special educational needs. I can confirm ... that the guidance will make clear that a statement should describe clearly all of the child's special educational needs in full"--

it does so now; we accept that--

    "set out the main objectives that the special educational provision aims to meet; specify clearly and in detail the provision required to meet each of the child's needs and describe the arrangements for setting shorter-term objectives for the child and any special arrangements for the annual review of the statement".

I had written to the noble Baroness, so I received another letter the following day. One has quick ministerial replies when the Bill is before the House. The letter of 27th February took us a little further and should also be on the record. It states:

    "On the question of provision for children with special educational needs, Bryan Davies was, of course, responding to the particular circumstances you described. Decisions about the provision to be made for each child must always relate to their individual needs. I hope I explained in my earlier letter how we aim to develop the guidance in the final version of the revised SEN Code of Practice on specifying provision in children's statements".

This is important. These are the obligations which will be placed upon an LEA. The letter continues:

    "The provision of specialised equipment and educational material appropriate to an individual child's needs would be determined as part of the process of assessment and producing a

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    statement for the child. For children without statements this can take place through the school based stages set out in the SEN Code of Practice. All children identified as having SEN, whether they have a statement or not, are expected"--

officials might note for the final version of the code that that should be "must", not "expected"--

    "to have individual Education Plans. These are drawn up by the child's school and record the nature of the child's learning difficulties, the action to be taken to help the child and the strategies employed to enable them to make progress. Individual Education Plans"--

that is the plan per child per term--

    "[must] include, for example, the staff involved and any specific programmes, activities, materials and equipment and arrangements for reviewing and monitoring progress with the child and their parents".

I am glad to see that the noble Lord the Minister nods. This will be a considerable obligation in future on education authorities.

    "Individual Education Plans are generally reviewed each term".

That should read "must be reviewed each term". The special school with which I am involved, and others, do so automatically. That should be strengthened in that regard.

I have read out those consequences. They are now available to a wider audience. We cannot amend the code but anyone interested in special education now knows what the Minister has in mind. The implications are interesting. We on this side of the House, or those interested in special schools, are not against inclusion provided that the facilities, teachers and teacher support services are available. For children with acute physical and mental disabilities, this is a very expensive process. I know that the Government's mantra is that they will provide 220 million over the next three years. I think that I have the correct figure. It has been stated enough times by the Minister. It sounds an enormous sum of money. There are over 30,000 schools. That sum represents 7,300 per school spread over three years; 2,000 a year for all that I have just read out--special education for hard-of-hearing, blind or physically disabled children.

We wish to flag up, without making it a matter of controversy, that we consider the Government have totally underestimated the financial consequences of this measure. It will be an enormous time bomb under any future Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer who will have to meet the obligations implicit in the Bill. I am not against that, because I believe that our society should give disadvantaged children the best education available, but the Government have not faced up to the issue.

We now have on the record in Hansard what the Government are going to do. We shall make sure that they live up to it.

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