Statistics on the number of pupils with hearing impairments in mainstream schools are not collected centrally.
I am aware of the Minister's close personal interest in this matter. In the light of that, does she agree that we need data on the numbers and experiences of youngsters with disabilities in mainstream schools so that we can ensure that mainstreaming is working effectively for them? Should not such data be collected by the Government?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for acknowledging my interest in this matter; of course I shall look at what he says. Subject to certain conditions, local education authorities have a duty to provide mainstream places for children with special educational needs when that is what parents want. We have encouraged LEAs to integrate children with SEN in the main stream. I have seen radio aids being used in the classroom very effectively—they certainly level the ground for children with a hearing impairment.
While I am on my feet, the hon. Gentleman might like to know of Langdon secondary school, in his constituency, which has a learning support department that has recently twinned with the effectiveness division of the Department for Education and Employment. Teachers and pupils have visited the Department, and art from that school is on display in Sanctuary buildings.
Does my hon. Friend welcome the nursery voucher scheme, which gives an opportunity to spot at an early stage children with special educational needs, particularly those with hearing difficulties?
Of course I welcome wholeheartedly the nursery voucher scheme. I am pleased that, from April next year, parents of four-year-olds will have access to good-quality nursery education throughout the country, whatever the needs of the child.