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 Dr Rhodes Boyson Dr Rhodes Boyson , Brent North 9:45 pm, 12th February 1980

I appreciate that point. Quite honestly, we are considering the matter again. The clause makes a distinction between two sorts of parents as to the way in which they can appeal.

The amendment has been supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House. It was supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Price), who told the tale of the girl who waited a year before she gave an answer. In this case I trust that it is not such a long-term answer. I trust that with the blood that runs in the spring there will be a big flow. I hope that my hon. Friend will pass that information on to his friends outside the House. Similarly, I trust that on the question of what we can do about the extension of the rights of parents and of the information being given to parents with handicapped children, we do not need to wait for a year.

As I have already said, my right hon. and learned Friend hopes to make a statement to the House before the Easter Recess so that we can move further on the matter. There are greater problems with the exercise of parental choice, and many hon. Members accept that. Some of these children are in special schools, some in ordinary schools, some in independent schools and some in hospital schools, and some receive home tuition. Not only education advice but medical advice has to be given in many cases.

Having said all that, I believe that none of us differs on the principle that is involved. Parents of handicapped children should have as many rights as—if not more rights than—parents of normal children. It is merely a question of the right vehicle through which to achieve this. That is the only difference that exists between many of us this evening.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) and the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Mr. Ashley) said, parents of handicapped children are more concerned than parents of normal children because they know that they must totally commit themselves to seeing that their children live their lives as advantageously as possible. We have to find the right vehicle through which to give them the choice of school and the right of appeal.

We realise that there is deep feeling on this matter throughout the House, My right hon. and learned Friend expects to make a statement on the Warnock report before the Easter Recess. He is the president of the association for handicapped children in his constituency. We consider that it would not be right to use this Bill to further involve parents in the education of handicapped children.