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Lord Jones: May I tempt my noble friend the Minister to consider giving a little more detail in order that we may consider the legislation which she proposes?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The amendment we are discussing refers to,

I believe that I have responded to the amendment. We have a long history of parents choosing schools across local education authority boundaries, not least in our cities, as they often live close to a school which is in a neighbouring authority's area. The admissions framework which is already in place, which will be strengthened by the measures in the Bill, is designed to

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ensure that parental preference is met to the maximum possible extent. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

8.45 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: I ask a question following on from the noble Lord, Lord Jones. I am not sure whether it is necessary to have legislation for the Government to educate asylum seekers' children in four separate establishments. Is it possible for the Secretary of State to do that without legislation? If it requires legislation, it seems to me that there is a vehicle before the Chamber—this Bill—that could deal with that provision. From what the noble Baronesses, Lady David and Lady Sharp, said, I suspect that the Committee would like to debate the policy and the intention of corralling asylum seekers' children in four areas and not allowing them—I shall not use the word "swamp"—to overwhelm LEA schools in other areas where they may initially reside.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: If the noble Baroness would like to table an appropriate amendment to the Bill, I should be happy to debate those issues. My purpose this evening is to debate the issues that are laid before me. My understanding of the amendment we are discussing is that it concerns children who are being educated in our mainstream schools. I am therefore not able to give the detail that I should be happy to give on the asylum issue. I should be reluctant to mislead the Committee by referring to a matter on which I do not have appropriate information. However, I should be more than happy to debate that matter at an appropriate moment. I hope that that reassurance will satisfy the noble Baroness.

Baroness Blatch: I believe that the noble Baroness misunderstands me. I am not advocating an amendment to the Bill; nor am I advocating necessarily that the Bill should refer to the matter we are discussing. I simply asked whether legislation was needed in order for the Secretary of State to do what we understand the Secretary of State wants to do; that is, to have concentrated areas—so far, four areas have been designated—where these young people will be educated. I am not sure whether that can be done without legislation. If so, it is not appropriate for me to proceed further. If it requires legislation, it seems to me that there is a Bill before the Chamber which could cope with that.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I do not know the answer to that matter, but I am happy to find it out for the noble Baroness. However, I am sure that she appreciates that I am reluctant to speculate on that matter for all the right reasons.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: I have entered the debate late. However, I wish to ask a question of the Minister. My daughter has been teaching in a school with a large ethnic mix in east London and has faced considerable problems, the largest of which is that there are no referral units for disturbed children. She

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has two problems: first, a large number of children in her class who speak different languages; and, secondly, there is no way to refer disturbed children to a special unit that could help with their problems. Will the Minister assure me that she is giving that problem attention?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I am pleased to reassure the noble Lord on that matter. Later we shall discuss the whole question of children who are excluded from school. We have two measures to tackle the matter: first, the learning support units which are being provided in schools are specifically designed to support children within schools before they reach the point where they might be excluded; and, secondly, pupil referral units. Further, some of our special schools are able to work with these children. It is a continuum of education. We are trying to find ways to support our children at every stage so that they remain within the education system but receive the right kind of care and support appropriate to their needs.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: I am sorry to press the noble Baroness, but the problem in Tower Hamlets is that referral units do not exist. Many teachers are experiencing problems and are abandoning the teaching profession. The noble Baroness made an agreeable statement and I agree with her sentiments, but can she assure me in stronger terms that teachers in east London are getting support where they are dealing with Somalis and Bengalis, for example, and are under enormous pressure? Teachers are suffering.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I am sorry if I am not telling the noble Lord precisely what he wants to hear. I am well aware that behavioural issues are of great concern to teachers. Additional burdens are created for teachers who deal with children who have differing needs. I was merely trying to illustrate the kind of measures that we are taking to help that situation. Some of the schools in Tower Hamlets have a remarkable record of working with children of all backgrounds and achieving a great deal. My hope is that the school to which the noble Lord referred will benefit from that experience. As I said, we shall require local education authorities by September to provide full-time education in pupil referral units. We are moving towards putting learning support units in as many places as we possibly can, as speedily as we can. I appreciate that the problem is not solved. However, we are tackling it. I hope that that gives the noble Lord some comfort. We want our teachers to realise that we are working closely with them.

Before the noble Lord speaks again, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that to achieve what is included in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill we certainly do need primary legislation.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: I acknowledge and accept what the Minister said. However, things are not as good as she thinks. I hope that she and her department will devote attention to Tower Hamlets as regards the matter I am discussing. Bland statements

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do not affect the situation of a teacher who is doing his or her best with children from a variety of ethnic backgrounds but has no referral unit to which to refer pupils. It is interesting that the Minister does not tell us how many referral units Tower Hamlets has.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I did not tell the noble Lord how many referral units Tower Hamlets has because I do not have that information to hand. He will forgive me; there are so many pieces of information that I could carry around with me. I shall write to him with those details, as I always do.

I am not trying to make bland statements. I recognise how difficult the matter is. I spend my time, as do the noble Baronesses, Lady Blatch, Lady Sharp and Lady Walmsley, and other Members of the Committee, visiting and working with schools to identify ways in which we can support them. I am simply saying, "Yes, we recognise that there is a problem but we have some of the answers". We are working closely with schools and education authorities to provide them.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: The Minister said that it is clear that we need primary legislation in order to carry through the requirements of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill. Does that mean that it would be sensible for us to amend the Bill? The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill is primary legislation. Does it contain primary legislation relating to education?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I can answer that question with certainty. That Bill contains appropriate provisions dealing with education. I am sure that Members of the Committee will want to participate in the relevant debates.

Baroness David: I knew that this would be an interesting and difficult debate. I am grateful for the support that I have received, particularly from the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. I am relieved to hear from the Minister that the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill contains provisions that are devoted to education. When it comes to this House, we can explore this matter more thoroughly—it certainly needs exploring. People feel very strongly about it. I understand the associated difficulties. Difficult problems would arise if a large number of children arrived in a small area, such as a rural area. One does not want to make things difficult for the teachers in the school where the children might go but, on the other hand, it would be a very great mistake to segregate them. They need to get to know the language if they are going to stay here for any length of time and they need to be educated in the ways of the country.

We shall doubtless return to this matter later in this Bill and in relation to the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Clause 44 [Admission forums]:

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