Clause 9

Part of Children, Schools and Families Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:15 pm ar 2 Chwefror 2010.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister (Education) 4:15, 2 Chwefror 2010

This string of amendments focuses on the words “impracticable or otherwise inappropriate”. As has already been said, they have been viewed as a “get out of jail free” card. There is concern about how that will be interpreted at a local level. Amendment 167, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil and me, suggests that there must be consultation with parents, carers and medical professionals. Taken with amendment 192, which seeks a full independent assessment, both amendments make a strong support package and both are important.

We have heard what the National Autistic Society said. Another amendment that we tabled—amendment 187 —was suggested by the Special Educational Consortium. The amendment would delete “impracticable or otherwise inappropriate” and insert

“detrimental to the child’s well-being”.

That is suggested because there is a concern that the local authority is given too much discretion. There need to be checks and balances on that discretion, because we all know how very expensive an out-of-area placement can be, and one has to be clear that the child’s interests have been put first.

I find amendment 191 quite appealing. We have submitted amendment 158, whereby

“a local authority must...draw up plans...to allow the child to return to full time education as soon as this is appropriate.”

That may pick up the teenage pregnancy point that we mentioned earlier. It is a difficult area. Even though we are talking about a relatively severe condition—a very special condition—and they will all individually be very different, we need the checks and balances so that we put the child’s interests first rather than the monetary interests of the local authority. I know that they are a big constraint for a small local authority. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some reassuring words on all these amendments.