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CFS/ME: Causation and Treatment

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): Since 1993–94 the MRC has not funded any research on the causation and treatment of CFS/ME apart from 1998–99, when the MRC spent £37,200 on one research grant into psychiatric/psychological causation and treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME). The grant's title was, The role of noradrenaline in the neuropsychological pathogenisis of the chronic fatigue syndrome, and the principal applicant was Professor R K Morris, University of Manchester.

However, the MRC has funded a number of research projects into Epstein-Barr virus, which has been considered as a possible causational factor in CFS/ME.

The MRC has also funded a broader 39-month epidemiological study on chronic fatigue which ended in 1993. The grant's title was An epidemiological approach to the study of chronic fatigue in primary care and the total amount awarded was £94,600. The principal applicant was Professor A H Mann, Institute of Psychiatry.

Prior to 1993–94 the MRC stored, collected and indexed data in a format in which it is not possible to identify CFS/ME awards.

The MRC has established a research advisory group, chaired by Professor Nancy Rothwell, to advise on developing a research strategy for CFS/ME. The group's range of expertise is broad and covers epidemiology, physiology, immunology, infections, clinical trials, paediatric neurology, psychological medicine and health services research.

Embryo Research Applications

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Applications for research licences made to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority are considered by the authority's licence committee. The members of the committee have considerable expertise relevant to such applications, but they also seek expert external advice on specialist areas as and when appropriate. The Medical Research Council is one body of expert advice that the authority approaches for additional input, as it did in the case of Professor Smith's research application. The authority anonymises applications when referring them for such advice becuse they are submitted to the authority in confidence and because doing so helps to remove the possibility of personal bias for or against the applicant. The Medical Research Council then unwittingly asked Professor Smith to review the application on its behalf. However, it is the council's standard practice to require people it consults to declare any potential conflict of interest. Professor Smith duly did so.

As part of its modernisation process, the authority is to review the way it deals with research applications.

Accommodation Centres

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What powers they have to make provision for the assessment of the special educational needs of children living in accommodation centres; and[HL6030]

    Which subject areas in the national curriculum will not be available to children taught in accommodation centres; and[HL6031]

    What discussions they have had with the teaching unions on the proposals of the Secretary of State for Education to educate some children seeking asylum in accommodation centres; and[HL6032]

    What criteria will be used to determine whether a child in an accommodation centre is sufficiently gifted or talented to become an exception to the general intention to exclude children in accommodation centres from mainstream maintained schools or nurseries.[HL6033]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): Clause 28(1)(f) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill provides the Government with the power to provide education in an accommodation centre. Clause 35(7) states that the

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education provider shall make appropriate facilities available for a child with special educational needs unless it is incompatible with the special educational provision his learning difficulty calls for, the provision of efficient education for other children resident in the centre or the efficient use of resources. Clause 35(9)(b) empowers the education provider to ask the LEA to conduct a statutory assessment of a child's SEN under Section 329A of the Education Act 1996.

An LEA's duties under Part IV of the Education Act 1996 to assess and where necessary to make provision for children in its area who are of compulsory school age and have special educational needs will apply to children residing in accommodation centres as such children will be in the area of an LEA for the purposes of this part of the 1996 Act.

The full range of national curriculum subjects will be taught in accommodation centres. Departmental officials are working with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) to agree how this commitment can be delivered to maximise the educational opportunities for chidren and young people for the limited period they will be in the centres and who may need intensive support provided to help them learn English.

I will be discussing with the teacher unions the proposals to educate some children of asylum seekers in accommodation centres. However, my officials have established an advisory group with representatives from the Local Government Association (LGA) and the local education authorities in the areas where centres are planned.

On arrival in an accommodation centre, children will receive an initial assessment, covering their previous educational experience, attainment and knowledge of English. It will be the responsibility of the education contractor to conduct these assessments and, by so doing, identify any children whose educational needs cannot be fully met within the accommodation centre. The criteria will largely depend on the nature of the education provision within the accommodation centre in question.

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What categories of children will be considered special cases for the purpose of education provision in accommodation centres.[HL6173]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Our aim is to ensure that the education of children in accommodation centres will be provided, wherever possible, in-house. However, there may be some exceptional circumstances—for example, a child with severe or complex special educational needs or a child who is fluent in English—when the learning needs of these children will be more appropriately met through provision made outside of the centre.

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The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a child assessed as having special educational needs best met in a mainstream maintained school will be able to attend such a school; and whether the local education authority will have a duty to place that child.[HL6174]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I presume that this Question relates to the children of asylum seekers who will be residing in accommodation centres. In this case, where the local education authority has carried out a statutory assessment of a child's special educational needs, it will be able to name a mainstream school in his statement if it considers that the accommodation centre or special school will not be able to meet the child's needs. We would, however, expect local education authorities to take this course of action only rarely, and the great majority of children will have their special educational needs met appropriately in the accommodation centres.

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What education a special educational needs child living in an accommodation centre will receive during the process of his or her assessment.[HL6175]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Children with special educational needs will continue to receive education in accommodation centres while they are being assessed. Education provided within the accommodation centres will have the same broad range and be of equivalent quality to that provided in mainstream schools, including support through School Action and School Action Plus under the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice.

School Exclusions

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will collate and publish records of the number of fixed term and permanent exclusions and the number of unexplained absences among schoolchildren in England, analysed according to ethnic group and including gypsies and Irish travellers as separate groups. [HL6122]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Details on permanently excluded pupils are collected in the annual schools' census in January each year. An analysis of this data by ethnic group has been published each year since the academic year 1996–97 and the latest information is given in the table. However, information on permanently excluded pupils recorded under the new ethnic group codes which separately identifies the categories for Gyspsy Roma and Irish travellers is scheduled to be collected for the first time in January 2004. Figures are not available centrally on fixed-term exclusions.

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Number of Permanent Exclusions by Ethnic Group (Estimates) (1)
England 2000–01

Number of pemanent exclusionsPercentage of permanent exclusions (2) Percentage of school population (3)
Ethnic group:
Black Caribbean3854.20.38
Black African1561.70.17
Black Other2362.60.39
Any other ethnic group2542.80.15
Ethnicity not known (4)3083.2

(1) Estimates have been made for 2000–01 because the exclusion data are known to be incomplete.

(2) The number of permanent exclusions of compulsory school age and above expressed as a percentage of the total number of permanent exclusions of compulsory school age and above.

(3) The number of permanent exclusions of compulsory school age and above expressed as a percentage of the number (headcount) of pupils of compulsory school age and above in each ethnic group in primary, secondary and special schools (excluding dually registered pupils in special schools) in January 2001.

(4) Includes permanent exclusions of pupils unclassified according to ethnic group including where information was not sought or refused.

Information on pupil absence in England is also collected at school level through the Absence in Schools Survey. It is not possible to break this information down by the individual characteristics of the pupils. The survey collects information on authorised and unauthorised absences. Unauthorised absence is absence without permission from a teacher or other authorised representative of the school. This includes all unexplained or unjustified absences.

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