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Special Educational Needs: School Leaving

Volume 487: debated on Monday 9 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment his Department has made of the merits of children with profound and multiple learning difficulties remaining at a specialist school until the age of 18 years. (252754)

We believe that all young people should participate in education or training until at least 18. Young people who stay on after 16 are more likely to gain higher levels of qualifications by 18 than those who do not and are less likely to commit crimes, behave antisocially or to suffer ill health. The Education and Skills Act 2008 introduced compulsory participation until 18 for all young people and this will ensure that the entire education system focuses on the needs of the all young people, including those with profound and multiple learning difficulties. It may be that the most suitable and appropriate provision for a particular young person would continue to be a special school, in which case this should be the key factor in determining where that young person receives their education.

There is a vital and continuing role for special schools as part of an inclusive education system, meeting young people's needs directly and working in much closer partnership with mainstream schools to build expertise throughout the system. The present Special Educational Needs statutory framework provides for children and young people with statements to be taught in mainstream schools where this is what their parents want and is compatible with the efficient education of other children. It also provides for parents to seek a special school place and to have this preference considered. If a young person with SEN remains at school after reaching age 16, the school and the local authority continue the SEN arrangements already in place, subject to further regular reviews. If a young person with SEN continues their education at a further education college the Learning and Skills Council has a duty to take regard of the young person's learning difficulties and disabilities.

The Children, Skills and Learning Bill creates the conditions for local authorities to assume responsibility for funding for learners with profound and multiple disabilities in 2010 and we believe this is the best way to develop a continuous system of support and provision from age 0-25.