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Volume 497: debated on Monday 12 October 2009

6. What plans the Government have for the future of statementing for children with special educational needs. (292197)

We have no plans to end the special educational needs statementing system. I know how interested Members are in SEN, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Mrs. Hodgson) for initiating the Special Educational Needs (Information) Act 2008. We launched the first annual publication following that Act last week. We have sent a copy to Brian Lamb so that he can reflect its findings in his report on parental confidence in the SEN system.

I am grateful to the Minister, but I did not actually ask whether she was going to end statementing; I simply asked what the Government’s plans were, given that the Secretary of State had indicated in his response to the media coverage of Brian Lamb’s inquiry that they were going to look at taking statementing out of the hands of local authorities because a lot of parents think there is a conflict of interests there. I simply wanted the Minister to set out what specific steps the Government are going to take to put the Secretary of State’s pledge into action, and I ask her to do so now.

Perhaps I should reiterate that we have no plans to end the current statementing system, but we do want all parents to have confidence in the SEN system, and the hon. Gentleman will know that Brian Lamb is currently conducting a report on parental confidence, which will be published later this month. Also, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made an announcement at the end of September on pilots in certain parts of the country to test how assessment could be made more independent of local authorities, and we will of course look at the outcomes from those pilots.

During the recess, I visited a number of schools in my constituency and it became clear that there are still problems with delays in statementing. Will my hon. Friend use her good offices to ensure that local authorities undertake statementing as quickly as possible and provide the proper resources to ensure that those children with special needs get the support they require?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. He is absolutely right to say that there are time frames that have to be complied with, and of course we want to ensure that where children need statements those statements are obtained as quickly as possible.