To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many appeals under section 8(6) of the Education Act 1981 he is currently considering; how mnay of those appeals concern hearing-impaired children; and how many have been under consideration for 12 months or more.
My right hon. Friend is currently considering 48 appeals under section 8(6) of the Education Act 1981, four of which concern hearing-impaired children. Of these 48 appeals, 22 have been under consideration for 12 months or more. Appeals are complex and involve the consideration of a large number of documents and representations. The Department has recently revised its procedures in order to minimise the time taken to reach decisions on individual cases but has to balance the need for speed with the need for thorough and careful consideration of the details of each case. My right hon. Friend must ensure that, in line with the rules of natural justice, each party has the chance to present his or her version of the facts and be able to comment on the other's version. This process can involve several lengthy exchanges between parents, the Department and the LEA.