Nursery Schools and Special Schools

Part of Orders of the Day — EDUCATION (No. 2) BILL – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 12th February 1980.

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Photo of Mr Lewis Carter-Jones Mr Lewis Carter-Jones , Eccles 9:45 pm, 12th February 1980

I shall speak briefly in order to give the Minister a chance to recant and to see the light. If he does not see the light now, I promise him that the other place will see it and that this debate will occur twice. On both occasions there will be attacks on the Government for not conceding a reasonable amendment.

I should like to quote from a reply that the Minister gave me on this subject, in which he said: I give the assurance that wherever possible we shall give maximum choice, not only to the parents of normal children but to the parents of handicapped children, to ensure that they have a say about the schools to which their children go. A quotation from Warnock clearly makes the case. Parents almost always care for a child for a larger part of each day than any professional. They endure the disturbed nights and the disruption of social life which a handicapped child brings. To try to prevent the parent of a handicapped child from having a choice is quite disgraceful in this day and age. I know that some difficulties will emerge as a result of amendment No. 123 being carried, but those slight difficulties will be as nothing compared with the joy with which this success will be received by the handicapped. They have been denied this opportunity for far too long.

For example, if a parent knows his or her child well, whether the child is mentally or physically handicapped or deaf or blind, the parent will know which of those handicaps requires greatest attention. If the child is to spend some time in a hospital school, the parent is able to advise where the child should go when he comes out. The parent knows best. I appeal to the Government not to delay any further.

10.45 pm

The last all-party Act that passed through the House was the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. It passed through the House without a Division. That would not have been passed if we had been kept waiting. We were told to wait for the Amelia Harris report. On this occasion we have the Warnock report. There is one part of it that we can implement now, and I urge the Minister to do so.