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Objectives Concerning Academic Progress

Volume 621: debated on Monday 29 January 2001

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(" . The code of practice shall require that all pupils with special educational needs, with statements and without, shall be set clear objectives concerning academic progress, including progress in reading, against which the provision specified or provided shall be monitored and reviewed.").

The noble Baroness said: I know that Amendment No. 67 is somewhat contentious, but in speaking to my amendment I want to refer back to one of the most inspirational visits I ever paid to a special school—and I have visited quite a number in my time. It was a school in the North East, and if I could possibly remember its name I would do it the honour of naming it for the record.

I visited that school, which took children in from around the age of 18 months to two years old right through to the top end of secondary school—16 years—and in special circumstances even young people who were over the age of 16 years. I do not think I have been more impressed with a school. They regarded the recording of progress being made by children, from whatever stage they had started, and setting targets tailor-made to each individual, as being absolutely paramount.

If I had the time I would relate how I watched a group of very tiny children, who were just old enough to sit on a chair, progress from not being able to sit on a chair [they simply could not support their bodies— to sitting on a chair; washing their hands; wiping their faces; using mirrors—all being observed through one-way glass windows so there was not too much intrusive adult activity in the classroom—right through to a young person who was completely braced in an upright position but nevertheless was following a fairly academic programme. I remember that it coincided with the early introduction of the national curriculum. The head of the school insisted that the school should use the national curriculum as a structured way of ensuring that young people were part of mainstream education in the wider sense and that even a young person working towards level 1 in key stage 1 was part of that structure. There was provision in the system which could act as an impetus for a child moving progressively upwards.

Having said that, in a "Dear Colleague" letter written on 18th December last year the Secretary of State said:

"We will also stress the need for statements to set out broad objectives against which the child's progress, and the provision being made, can be monitored and reviewed".

Amendment No. 67 is about that. Progress for all children is important, however slow and limited by the ability of the children. I referred to small children progressing from being unable to sit on a chair to sitting on a chair. We are not talking about reading, writing, history and geography, but about physical and skilful progress. Those children would not have been making that progress if it had not been for the work of that school with children of all ages including young people doing GCSEs and moving on to A-levels.

At present no published information or statutory requirement exists to demonstrate that special needs provision or funding results in confirmed, measurable educational attainments for the pupils concerned. The clause is intended to remedy that defect and ensure that special needs provision and funding are more accountable in terms of achieving higher standards and, possibly, the removal of funding or provision if progress is not made.

I know that the provision will be contentious but it builds on the sentence in the Secretary of State's letter that progress is important for all children and that for children with special educational needs encouragement to make progress is very important. As we all know, many of these children could thrive better if there were this impetus to make progress.

I am also reminded of something that I heard the Secretary of State say on a television programme. I cannot paraphrase him directly, but he appeared to make the point that while he has done exceptionally well—and we would all agree that he is a remarkable man for the way in which he has coped with his blindness—there are many other young people with special needs, particularly sight impairment, who could do a great deal better. The Secretary of State wishes schools to do better by these children and my amendment would include a provision to that effect in the Bill. I beg to move.

The noble Baroness's assiduous attention to the statements of the Secretary of State is matched only by my own. I am grateful that he has been quoted in evidence today.

There is not a great deal between us with regard to the amendment. We agree that all teaching requires the setting of objectives and monitoring how well a child is progressing against them. That has been emphasised in relationship to the progress of educational reform under this administration, as well as being an issue covered by the previous government. The question of how good teaching is achieved is common to all children. I would be chary of identifying specific aspects of good teaching in relation to special educational needs. We all recognise the specific teaching which is required at times but not the principles upon which good teaching is effected. I emphasise that the current code of practice advises schools that individual education plans for children at stages two and three of the code should include targets to be achieved at a given time and monitoring and assessment arrangements. I note the comments of the noble Baroness about the particular school which impressed her. It is doubtless by no means the only example in the country but we all draw inspiration from our direct experience of good teaching in good schools. It is one of the joys of being involved in educational policy issues. I was grateful to the noble Baroness for her illustration. She identified the exact practice that we would wish to see followed in all schools.

The code that is established to advise on how individual education plans should be developed is the basis on which progress by the child is to be identified and is a measure of effective teaching by the teacher. The noble Baroness also referred to literacy. We all recognise the enormous emphasis that has been placed by the Secretary of State and indeed by the whole Government on improvements in literacy. That extends to students with special educational needs as well as to the rest of the population.

The amendment that the noble Baroness has put forward identifies exactly the basis upon which the code means to express good teaching. That applies right across education in this country.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his reply. It would still be helpful to see exactly what the code states on these matters. It would seem from a number of the answers that have been given this afternoon that the code is fairly well written. It would be a huge help to have it before us on Report or at Third Reading. It would be yet further reassurance that what we are striving for in these amendments will be honoured in the code of practice. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 [ Duty to inform parent where special educational provision made]:

moved Amendment No. 68

Clause 7, page 6, line 3, at beginning insert—
("( ) The parent of a child for whom no statement is maintained under section 324 shall be informed before special educational provision is made for him, and if the parent objects to such provision being made as being unnecessary or inappropriate. the dispute shall he resolved as provided for in section 332B of this Act. and until it is resolved, the special educational provision shall not be made.").

The noble Baroness said: In speaking to Amendment No. 68, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 69 and 70. Section 317 of the 1996 Act makes provision for children with special educational needs but who are not subject to a statement to be given the special educational provision that they need in the school in which they are currently registered. Whilst I agree with that, we should seek to cater for all children with special needs—a point that has been made again and again in our debate—including the many who have such needs even if they do not have a statement.

However, no provision was made for the parents of the child to be informed that such special provision was to be made. Nor were the parents asked for their agreement before it was made. The outcome is that such special provision can be made without the parents' knowledge. If a child who falls short of needing a statement has special learning difficulties and a school intends to make special provision for that child, it should be the parents' right to know that that is happening. We all know that in the best of schools, and certainly in those with which I have been involved, that would happen automatically. Parents would be consulted; they would be counselled if necessary and they would be given a full explanation of why the school had decided that special provision was required. I am, therefore, requesting that there should be something on the face of the Bill to indicate that it should be regarded as a right for parents to know that.

Clause 7(1) of the present Bill seeks to remedy this deficiency but only in so far as to inform the parents after the event, once the child is already receiving the special educational provision. That must still be wrong. My amendment, therefore, provides that the parents of a child at any school should be informed of the intention to make special educational provision for perceived special educational needs before such provision is made and that the parents shall have the right to object to its provision and that any dispute resulting from such objection will be resolved by the dispute procedure in Clause 3.

The existing provision for informing the parent after the event can remain in the Bill along with the additional subsection, which would at least act as a fallback should some mistake be made and prior notice not have been given, on the basis of better late than never.

Amendment No 70 says:

"that the parent's consent is being sought before such provision is made, and that in the event of a dispute with the parent. it shall he resolved according to the procedures in section 332B of the Education Act 1996."

In two other places in Clause 7 it is presumed that special provision has already been made or is being made for the child. These two amendments are consequential on my previous amendment that the provision to meet special educational needs must be proposed but not yet implemented to trigger the provisions of Clause 7, and that the parents must have the opportunity to appeal if a special educational needs provision is being proposed and they disagree with it. I beg to move.

7.15 pm

I must confess to having some real anxiety about the implications of these amendments. I fear that, however unintentionally, they might hamper schools, nursery education providers and pupil referral units from making speedy responses to children's newly identified special educational needs. They would also affect the exercise of teachers' professional judgment.

The problem with the amendments is that they appear to give parents the right to object to special educational provision to meet their children's needs. The SEN code of practice emphasises the importance of schools and parents working together so that children's special educational needs can be met effectively. Clause 7 furthers that objective by ensuring that parents are fully aware of the SEN provision that is being made for their children. However, it cannot be right that parents should be given a veto over the SEN provision that schools make for their children. The amendments would at least delay the SEN provision that children needed and could result in that provision being denied because, for whatever reason, the parents said that they were not prepared to have it. The amendments presuppose that in every case the parents have a more fully informed and well-founded understanding of their children's educational needs than do the teachers.

We must look to teachers and schools, working in accordance with the guidance they receive from the SEN code, to identify children's special needs and intervene as soon as possible to ensure that difficulties can be addressed, if possible, before they become deep-seated.

If some parents objected to their children being identified as having SEN because they feel there is some stigma attached to it, we would look to teachers and schools to work with parents to address those concerns and reassure them that the provision was in the best interests of their child.

Amendments No. 68 and 70 refer specifically to Clause 3. Arrangements under Clause 3 are a significant advance for dispute resolution. They would be available to the parents of children in certain schools and maintained nursery schools even without Amendments Nos. 68 and 70. However, the arrangements under Clause 3 would not be binding and if cases under Clause 7 were dealt with under the Clause 3 arrangements, there would be a danger that either the school or the parent would refuse to take part or refuse to comply with the outcome. In instances of dispute over Clause 7 cases, we expect and recommend that the parents address their concerns to the schools first, where we expect the vast majority of cases to be resolved.

Because of these anxieties, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, will withdraw her amendments.

The Minister referred to children in special referral units. All I can say is that, if children are in a special referral unit, they would already be treated differently; they would already have special provision made for them. I cannot conceive of any situation where a child has been referred to a special referral unit without the parents knowing about it.

If I might speak personally for a moment, I can remember a particular school to which my two older boys went when they were very small where we received a monthly report on how our children were doing. They received two marks in the month; one for achievement and the other for effort. So we knew if we had a bright child who was not working very hard or a child who was not so academically able who was working his socks off. One way or another, we knew how much effort was being made by the children.

In the course of those little reports we received once a month from the school, which was a very good primary school, we were also told if our children were withdrawn from class for special reading, or if they had special numeracy classes, or if they were being checked for behaviour. Those little snippets of information were important for us as parents to know, rather than leaving it until one annual general meeting when all parents attend only to discover that for the whole of the year a child has been receiving special treatment for reading, numeracy or whatever it might be. Therefore, one part of the aims and objectives of my amendment is to make sure that, where a child is having learning difficulties, parents know about it. It seems quite wrong for schools, with all the best intentions in the world—they are clearly well-intentioned if they are making special provision for a child within a school— to allow that to be done without the parents' knowledge.

The second part of the amendment causing great anxiety for the Minister is the right of a parent to object. "Object" may be taken too strongly; but it gives the parent the right to challenge why their child is being treated in that way; why their child is being withdrawn for special classes. It allows the school to give an explanation as to why that is and to make a case for it. And it allows the parent to be reassured about what is happening.

All I am saying is that it gives way to a form of informal resolution procedure which allows a dialogue to take place between the parent and the school to ensure in the interests of the child that, whatever provision is being made for the child, it is appropriate to the needs of the child.

I believe I was taken a little out of context by the Minister in the way he responded to these amendments. However, they are important amendments and I shall return to them. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[ Amendments Nos. 69 and 70 not moved.]

Clause 7 agreed to.

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

moved Amendment No. 71:

Clause 8, page 6, line 45, after ("body") insert ("or the parent of the child").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 71 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 72, 73, 74 and 77. Other amendments in this group are in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas—Amendments Nos. 75, 76, 78 and 79.

Amendment No. 71 provides for the responsible body—that is, the head teacher or governors—to ask for an assessment or reassessment of the child. We should also make provision for the parents to be able to ask the local authority for an assessment or a reassessment of their child and my amendment allows the parents to say that they believe their child qualifies for an assessment.

The purpose of Amendment No. 72 is that the subsection allows an interval of six months between the request for an assessment and the assessment being made. I am afraid that is too long. I should like to cut that down to three months, which should be time enough for the local authority to get their act together. Six months, depending on the time of year—certainly if it is six working months—can mean a very long wait indeed for a child's educational needs properly to be assessed, let alone be met.

Amendment No. 73 is that, as the subsection stands, it remains open to the local education authority to reject the request as being unnecessary. They cannot know whether an assessment or reassessment is necessary until they have assessed the child. Therefore, our amendment would require the LEA to make the assessment if a request had been made. Since such a request is to be made by the responsible body—or under the previous amendment, the parent—it is not likely to be frivolous. It is likely to be in the interests of the school and the parents to ask for an assessment only if, with their knowledge of the child, they deem it to be necessary.

On Amendment No. 74, the Minister needs to explain to me the phrase

"before deciding whether to comply".

Surely the local education authority must comply and make the reassessment. There is no question of whether to comply. My amendment would require the parents to be informed, as in the rest of the subsection, before the LEA began the assessment, rather than before the LEA considered whether to begin the assessment.

Amendment No. 77 would remove the words "decide whether to", because the local education authority has to comply. The amended subsection (5) would require the LEA to comply, but only after the 29-day period for parental representation had elapsed. I beg to move.

I shall speak to Amendment No. 75. I am somewhat confused because the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is asking for the parents to ask for assessment. I thought that was already specified in Section 329A of the 1996 Act—although I may be quite wrong.

My briefing says that when a parent requests a statutory assessment, the law imposes a six-week time limit on an LEA to answer yes or no. My amendment would impose a time limit on an LEA's response to a request from a responsible body for a statutory assessment. It is essential that there is a time limit for an LEA's response if a request comes from a school or a professional, such as an educational psychologist. Without a time limit, situations such as the one that I shall briefly describe—and which IPSEA says are very common—will continue to arise.

The parent of a child with special needs rang IPSEA for help. A request for assessment had been sent to her LEA by the head of her child's school and the educational psychologist. There had been no response by the LEA, despite the request having been made over nine months previously. IPSEA helped the parent make her own written request, which then imposed a six-week deadline for the LEA to reply. However, the missing nine months could not be retrieved which, in the life of a child, is a hugely long time.

I warmly welcome the Bill's introduction of a right of appeal for a parent when an LEA turns down the request of a school or a professional for a statutory assessment. Before turning down the school's request for assessment, the LEA must send a proposal to the parent. The six-week deadline follows the sending of the proposal. However, that will not get the whole thing to kick in at the beginning. There could still be that nine-month delay, because there is no time limit on the period between the LEA receiving the request from the school or professional and it sending the parents the notice of the proposal to assess. There is no early trigger, so delays could still continue without the new deadline proposed in Amendment No. 75.

Amendment No. 76 in this group inserts the words

"10 days nor more than"
before "29". Suppose, under subsection (3), the local authority were to say that the specified period were to be two years, which it certainly could under subsection (4), because the only restriction is that it has to be longer than 29 days. That would seem to be an excellent way for the local authority to delay the procedure until everyone had forgotten about it..

As the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy, said, we need some restriction on the ability of the LEA to spin things out. I cannot imagine any circumstances under which parents need more than 29 days to consider their rights under this section, and 10 days should be adequate in most circumstances when things are bubbling along reasonably nicely. Likewise, if the local authority has submitted a notice under subsection (3) and the parent says, "Yes, by all means go ahead", why should the local authority then have to wait 29 days, or however much longer is specified, before it can do anything about it? Everybody is agreed; they are all sitting around waiting; but subsection (5) makes them sit around until this arbitrary time period has elapsed. I do not see why. If the parent agrees, the matter should go ahead straight away.

The last of my amendments would allow the responsible body to appeal under subsection (8)(b). Since those are the people who have raised the matter in the first place under this section, I do not see why they should not be able to appeal.

7.30 p.m.

One of the points raised relates to the length of time matters can take. Again there was a great deal of supporting anecdotal evidence The length of time involved in getting help has been an issue which has always dogged anyone who did not fit into the main stream.

We must have some better idea about the length of time. I instinctively worry about a provision which allows the time to be extended because such a provision has been abused in the past. A good reason for doing nothing is that it does not fit in with your plan. The general thrust of these amendments is valuable.

I begin by indicating that Amendment No. 71 is unnecessary. It gives parents as well as schools the right under this clause to refer children to local education authorities for statutory assessments. They already have that right under Section 329 of the Education Act 1996. Presumably Amendment No. 71 has to be viewed in the light of Amendments No. 72, 73, 74 and 77, which we are considering in this group.

Amendment No. 72 would mean that the statutory interval between requests for assessment of children from schools and parents would be three months instead of six. The effect of Amendments Nos. 73, 74 and 77 would be that LEAs would always have to comply with requests for assessments, whether they came from schools or from parents.

Neither the proposal that the interval between requests for assessments following a previous assessment be reduced, nor that depriving LEAs of the right to decide whether to assess, can be accepted. Three months is just not long enough for any changes which there may have been to a child's special educational needs since a previous assessment to emerge properly.

For children whose previous assessments had led to statements, this amendment would mean that their parents could request reassessments within two weeks of receiving the final statement. Were three months to be accepted it would hold out the prospect of a constantly revolving door of requests for reassessment which LEAs would have to deal with. Surely the Committee would regard that as being an unreasonable use of LEA officers' time.

Depriving LEAs of the right to refuse to assess would also be a retrograde step. It cannot be accepted that every single request for assessment, either from parents or schools, is well-founded. LEAs, in consultation with parents and schools, can often show how a school working within its own budget can adequately meet a child's needs without going through the assessment and statementing process. Surely it is right that LEAs should continue to be allowed to exercise their judgement to decide whether an assessment is necessary. Of course, if they decide not to assess, either after a referral from schools or from parents, parents have the fundamental right to appeal to the SEN tribunal.

Turning to Amendment No. 75, we understand and sympathise with the aim behind the amendment of the noble Baroness Darcy de Knayth. It is to ensure that parents are informed of the LEA's decisions on whether or not to assess a child's special educational needs following a request from a school within the same six-week time limit as if the request had come from the parent. In fact, the consultation on the SEN regulations which has run alongside the consultation on the revised SEN code of practice proposed changes to the regulations which would ensure that this would happen. Changes to Schedule 26 of the 1996 Education Act to be brought about by Schedule 7 to the Bill already provide for regulations to prescribe time limits on the serving of notices related to the assessment process, including any notices under Section 329A. We will use this to ensure the same six-week time limit applies to school requests for assessment as applies to parental requests.

On Amendments Nos. 76 and 78, I sympathise with the intention of these amendments, which is to ensure that parents know whether LEAs will assess or not with all due speed after a request has been made by a school. However, they are unnecessary.

The amendments seek to limit the specified time in which parents can make representations and submit evidence and allow for parents who do so before the specified time to tell the LEA it can get on with deciding whether to assess straightaway. However, the crucial point for parents is not when the LEA starts making the decision but when they can be assured they will hear the decision. As I say, we have consulted on amendments to the 1994 SEN regulation which would ensure that LEAs will have to inform parents of their decision within the same six-week period as if the request had been made by the parents and we fully intend to put those changes into effect. This will ensure that parents are given the information they need within a reasonable period. It is the finishing date we are seeking to emphasise, not the starting date.

Lastly, Amendment No. 79 would introduce a new group of appellants to the tribunal process of children with SEN—schools which have made a request for an assessment.

I sympathise with the argument that there are some parents who may not feel capable of appealing to the tribunal and would prefer schools to do so on their behalf. However, whereas in the case of an initial request for assessment parents may never have dealt with the LEA before and may well benefit from this being done for them, by the time it comes to decide whether to appeal to the tribunal, parents would already have been in contact with the LEA when making representations or submitting evidence, even where the school had made the request. Parents who would still value assistance could of course turn for support to the strengthened parent partnership arrangements we are putting in place.

Against this background, therefore, I ask those Members of the Committee who tabled these amendments to recognise that the crucial issue with regard to the timescale has been and shall be addressed under our arrangements, and that the amendments therefore are not necessary.

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, and am satisfied on Amendment No. 75.

Returning briefly to Amendments Nos. 76 and 78, do I understand from the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, to the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, that the "specified period" mentioned in lines 18 and 19 is in fact covered by the regulations which he was describing, and that therefore there is some limit on that specified period? Is it the case that it is not a period which the LEA is free to make however long it wants, but that there will be statutory limits on what that specified period will be? That is what I understood the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, to say, and I see he is nodding his head in agreement.

What is the problem with my amendment to Clause 5? Suppose we have a position where the local authority has said, "Right, suspended for 29 days"; "This is what we are going to do"; "Do you want to make representations?" The parents then say, "Wonderful"; "No"; "At last"; "Go ahead". The local authority then has to wait 29 days doing nothing, twiddling its thumbs with no process taking place at all, merely because it is not allowed to do anything until the end of the 29-day period. What is the purpose of that?

On the first point, I can offer full assurance to the noble Lord that his interpretation of the position is exactly right. On the second point, what is being considered here is the proper notification and rights of parents. The reason for the 29 days is obvious. Ten days might seem reasonable for the average parent at home, but account has to be taken of holiday periods and people being abroad and so forth. That is why 29 days are stipulated. There is no question of the local authorities electing to, "wait and see". There is no reason why they should prepare and engage in consultations on other views with regard to such a case. In most circumstances, such preliminary work would not be wasted. The implication of the position is clearly there.

Suppose I am the parent of a child and for whatever reason the local authority comes to me under this clause asking to proceed with making a statement. I immediately agree and send them a letter signed in triplicate, witnessed in any way they wish. Under subsection (5) the authority cannot decide to go ahead with making the assessment until 29 days have expired. It cannot even decide to pass first base. It cannot call anyone in; it cannot get the assessment made; it cannot take advice; it cannot make a date with the educational psychologist. It is forbidden, under subsection (5), from doing anything at all until 29 days have passed even when everyone is agreed that things can proceed. I simply do not see the purpose of that. Nothing is happening in those 29 days, except delay.

I share with the noble Lord a hatred of the concept of any unnecessary delay when the signals have clearly gone forward for action to be taken. Obviously, we are concerned about the balance of parental rights in this respect but I shall look closely at the point just made and respond to it in due course.

That was a useful exchange. I am grateful to the noble Lord for agreeing to reflect on the point raised by my noble friend. However, when the Minister responded to my first amendment saying that it was otiose, he said that parents had that right already. They definitely have the statutory right to ask but they do not have the right for the assessment to take place. Reading on, subsection (3)—the subject of another of my amendments—contains the words,

"Before deciding whether to comply";
that is, the authority has the right not to accede to a parent's request for an assessment. My point is that, if parents are sufficiently concerned to want an assessment made of their child's learning abilities—possibly but not necessarily leading to a statement— because they perceive that the child has disabilities in terms of learning, then an assessment should be made. A local authority cannot simply refuse since, until they have made an assessment of a child, they are not in a position to say whether a child does or does not have learning disabilities. I do not, therefore, understand the response of the noble Lord. I hope that I am correct in assuming he said that they should have the right to ask for but not necessarily the right to have an assessment.

The position must be taken in the context of the general obligations of the local authority and school in terms of providing education for the child. Although a request in those terms may be made, the local authority already has an obligation to ensure that that child's interests are being advanced as far as possible in their education. So it is not a question of them turning their back on any basis for assessment. Far from it: the child is involved in the educational system and the authority is in a position where it can begin to reach some judgment on the effectiveness of the education presented to the child. That is the context in which I was making the suggestion. I recognise that it is in the context of the subsequent amendments; part of a package. I am possibly being somewhat over precious in addressing those particular remarks to the amendment when it is part of a general package. However, I have explained to the noble Baroness why we are seeking, quite properly, to reserve to the education authority and to practising professionals proper rights with regard to educational judgments in respect of children in circumstances where parents might not be in total agreement with the decisions being advanced.

7.45 p.m.

It would not be unusual for there to be instances where parents are in disagreement about the provision made for their child. However, parents may think that their child has special needs but there is no obligation on the authority even to explain why it is not going to do an assessment. It has the right to say, "We do not believe that your child needs an assessment".

There needs to be something somewhere either on the face of the Bill or certainly in the code of practice to state that a parent should receive serious consideration where he is sufficiently concerned— perhaps unnecessarily—that a child has special educational needs which are not being met within the system. If there cannot be a compulsory assessment, there ought to be an obligation on the local education authority to explain why that is. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[ Amendments Nos. 72 to 79 not moved.]

moved Amendment No. 80:

Clause 8, page 8, line 9, at end insert—
("( ) an independent school.").

The noble Baroness said: This measure allows those responsible for a school at which a child is already a pupil to request of the local education authority an assessment or reassessment to see if that child has special educational needs. Under our earlier amendment, which allows the parent also to make such a request, it should be open for any child at any school to be given such an assessment if those responsible for that child deem it to be necessary. The relevant provision excludes those at independent schools. My amendment adds independent schools. The Government as a whole are responsible for all children, whether they go into or out of the private sector. If parents believe that a child has special educational needs, they ought to have the right as taxpayers and local council taxpayers to approach their local education authority for an assessment. I beg to move.

I largely agree with the case that has been put forward by the noble Baroness and will be pleased to consider this issue further.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[ Amendment No. 81 not moved.]

Clause 8 agreed to.

moved Amendment No. 82:

After Clause 8, insert the following new clause—