Clause 8

Children, Schools and Families Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am ar 2 Chwefror 2010.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Right of appeal against determination by local authority not to amend statement

Amendment proposed (this day): 75, in clause 8, page 11, line 12, at end insert

‘and inform the parent of their right to appeal to the Tribunal.’.—(Tim Loughton.)

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Llafur, Sheffield, Attercliffe

I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following: amendment 157, in clause 8, page 11, line 13, after ‘parent’, insert

‘or the head teacher of the school which the pupil attends’.

Amendment 233, in clause 8, page 11, line 14, leave out subsection (4) and insert—

‘(4) The school at which the pupil is registered may appeal to the Tribunal.’.

Amendment 165, in clause 8, page 11, line 18, at end insert—

‘(5A) On receipt of an appeal a determination must be made within 8 weeks.’.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

Good afternoon, Mr. Betts. I welcome the Committee back to its deliberations.

I apologise for somewhat interrupting the flow of our proceedings, but in the short break, I found some statistics that might be of interest to the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham, although I will see whether there are more that might be of use. Ofsted is currently reviewing its pool of specialist special educational needs inspectors, as recommended by the Lamb inquiry. Of the 386 Her Majesty’s inspectors who inspect for Ofsted, a quarter specialise in inspecting one or more area of SEN. Ofsted has not yet provided me with figures for additional inspectors, but they will be included in the response to the hon. Gentleman’s recent parliamentary question. I hope that information helps him and other Committee members.

On amendment 165, we share the desire that parents not be left waiting for a long period following an annual review meeting before they receive the authority decision on whether amendments are made. The annual review cycle already has statutory time limits. Section 324 of the Education Act 1996 requires the review to be completed within 12 months of the statement being made or of the previous review. The deadline set by the amendment could go beyond that 12-month period. If the review  started at the beginning of December and there was an eight-week period, the deadline under the amendment would be the end of January, whereas the statutory deadline would be the end of December. I know that is not the intention of the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole, but that would be the effect of her amendment.

As always, I will try to help the Committee. Perhaps there is some confusion over this issue. I am perfectly satisfied with the existing statutory limit for the review period of 12 months after a statement is made. An issue arises if somebody appeals the result of the review—perhaps the hon. Lady means that there is an issue with the appeal time. I will give an example. If a statement is made at the end of December and a parent appeals the review, the appeal to the first-tier SEN tribunal could take six months. If the parent does not agree with the first-tier SEN tribunal, they can take the matter to the second tier, which could take another two or three months. Clearly, that raises issues.

That process is the responsibility of not the Department for Children, Schools and Families, but the Ministry of Justice. A lot of work has been done to streamline that appeal process, but I know it causes issues. I say to the hon. Lady that I will speak to the Ministry of Justice about the appeal time to see whether anything can be done. The Ministry of Justice has worked exceptionally hard to ensure that the appeal time is kept to a minimum. As always, I can talk to my colleagues to see what can be done as a consequence of this important issue—another Minister is in the room to hear me say that.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister (Education)

I thank the Minister. I had an overriding concern that the whole thing was getting dragged out at different stages, so I tabled the amendment to probe the situation. I will be grateful if he has further discussions with the Ministry of Justice.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

Of course, and we can discuss what can be done. I know that everyone is working hard on that. Following my brief comments, I hope that the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Minister (Children)

The Minister got those statistics rapidly, so it would be churlish of me not acknowledge the helpfulness with which he has approached our amendments. The clincher before lunch was his assurance that a video will be available for people who need assistance to use the tribunal system. As I said, these are probing amendments, and our good debate has clarified some points. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Llafur, Sheffield, Attercliffe

Before we come to clause 9, I would like to make two brief comments. First, while we made some progress this morning, it would probably not be described as rapid. I know that there is enthusiasm in the Committee for a later sitting this evening to try to make further progress, but nevertheless I have a responsibility to the House to try to ensure that we make good progress. While I can keep hon. Members in  order, I encourage everyone to be as succinct as possible, because ultimately the one thing that we cannot change is the 5 pm deadline on Thursday when proceedings have to conclude.

Secondly, it is my view that the next two groups of amendments will allow sufficient debate to mean that we shall not need a stand part debate on clause 9.