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Special Educational Needs

Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 10 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to make special educational needs training modules compulsory at initial teacher training level. (90240)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what funding has been made available to schools to provide for in-service training on special educational needs in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement on his policy on this issue; (90269)

(2) what proportion of schools have special educational needs co-ordinators; and how many of these are qualified teachers;

(3) what plans he has to ensure that special educational needs training modules which are being piloted at initial teacher training level are available at all higher education institutions in England.

In order to be awarded Qualified Teacher Status, all trainee teachers must demonstrate that they understand their responsibilities under the statutory Special Educational Needs Code of Practice, know how to seek advice from specialists on less common types of SEN, can differentiate their teaching to meet the needs of pupils, including those with SEN, and can identify and support pupils who experience behavioural, emotional and social difficulties.

The current standards for teachers are under review. Once revised, it is proposed that they will be strengthened to include a standard which requires teachers to know and comply with current legislation on well being of children and young people, one which requires teachers to know and understand the role of others when dealing with children who have special educational needs and/or disabilities, and one which requires teachers to communicate effectively with parents and carers.

Induction Standards require Newly Qualified Teachers to demonstrate that they can plan effectively to meet the needs of pupils in their classes with SEN, with or without a statement, and in consultation with the school’s SEN Co-ordinator, can contribute to the planning for individual needs.

Once qualified, all teachers are expected to discuss their own development needs in performance management reviews, and to address development priorities. This could include strengthening knowledge and understanding of SEN and disability issues. Where schools have identified a need to strengthen knowledge and understanding of SEN/disability, as a school improvement priority, this should be addressed through their school improvement and development plans.

All schools receive a School Development Grant which they are able to use to support improvements in any aspect of teaching and learning. A wide variety of courses are available covering SEN and disability, ranging from awareness-raising through to in-depth studies leading to specific qualifications. It is, however, a matter for individual teachers and their schools to determine their own particular training and development needs; the Department does not direct the amount to be spent on in-service training in relation to SEN/disability. Local authorities may retain a proportion of this grant, under certain conditions, to provide specific training and development in SEN/disability.

The Department’s published SEN Strategy, ‘Removing Barriers to Achievement’ recognised the importance of training and committed us to work closely with the Training and Development Agency for Schools to ensure that initial teacher training and programmes of continuing professional development provide a good grounding in core skills and knowledge of SEN. We have commissioned the TDA to carry forward a range of initiatives designed to improve and strengthen the SEN skills and confidence of trainees, newly qualified and established teachers. These initiatives will be implemented over the period 2005-08 at a cost of approximately £1.1 million.

Within this package of measures, we are working to develop and pilot some specialist modules on SEN for the longer initial teacher training courses but it is too early to comment on possibilities of wider adoption.

Under the Education (Special Educational Needs) (Information) (England) Regulations 1999, the governing body of every maintained mainstream school must publish prescribed information, including the name of the person who is responsible for co-ordinating the provision of education for pupils with SEN, whether or not the person is known as the SEN Co-ordinator (SENCO). Information on SENCO numbers and status of individual SENCOs is not collected centrally.