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SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS BILL COMPLETES LORDS' STAGES

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By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley ...
By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley
The Bill which gives new rights to children with special educational needs and disabilities, and their parents - and imposes new duties on schools and LEAs - completed third reading in the lords.
It was passed without a division, although Conservative peers failed in their attempts to amend the measure so the words 'the best interests of the child' were included on the face of the Bill with regard to where a child was educated.
Moving the amendment, Lord Northbourne said the Bill laid down that even in the case of a child with a statement of special needs, he or she must go to a mainstream school. He continued: 'There are only two exceptions: unless it would be incompatible with the parents' wishes or with the satisfactory education of other
children in the school. This subsection [Section 316(2)] imposes a new and inflexible restriction on schools and LEAs. It prevents them taking into account local considerations or the welfare of the child when making a decision about his placement.
'If, as a result of professional and local knowledge, they were convinced that the child needed a special school, they could not send him to one unless his parents agreed or unless he were disruptive and therefore fell into the second category.
'I suggest that parents are not always the best judge of their children's needs. Some parents are humiliated by having a child at a special school. Some do not want to believe that their child has the degree of disability that he has.'
But education minister Baroness Blackstone said the amendment was unnecessary because the whole thrust of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill was to ensure that the best interests of the child were paramount. The amendment was defeated by 146 votes to 102.
Hansard 1 Mar: Column 1283-1354
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