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Special Educational Needs

Volume 511: debated on Monday 7 June 2010

We will reform the schools system so that children with special educational needs and disabilities get the best possible support. We will improve diagnostic assessment for schoolchildren, prevent the unnecessary closure of special schools and remove the bias towards inclusion to give parents more choice.

Given that one in five children in this country has identified special educational needs, what measures will the new Government take to ensure that they are able to access the same level of funding and services for the provision of their teaching that they enjoyed under the previous Administration? How will any such measure fit into the new free school model that the Government propose, given the role currently played by local authorities in providing those services?

Nothing has actually changed in the relationship between local authorities, academies and free schools with regard to special educational needs. Schools will continue to get the funding that they need, and local authorities will continue to have a very important co-ordinating role. We will work very closely with the Local Government Association to ensure that these proposals are implemented in a way that ensures that schools get the funding they need.

The copy of the coalition agreement, which enjoys pride of place on my bedside table, does indeed say exactly what the Minister said in her reply about ending the bias towards inclusion and preventing the unnecessary closure of special schools. Will she explain to the House in a little more detail how the Government propose to fulfil those praiseworthy pledges?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks about the pride of place in which the coalition document is held, but I suggest that he should get better material to read before he goes to bed. [Hon. Members: “Ooh!”] It is a very good read, but it is not necessarily the most riveting. A number of important reviews have taken place in this area, for example, the Lamb and Balchin reviews. Ofsted is also about to produce a review of special educational needs, and I shall take great note of all those as we consider the way forward.

I welcome the hon. Lady to her new position, wish her well and compliment her on wearing her new team’s colours today.

Mr Speaker, you will recall that earlier this year, at Clarence house and in the presence of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, the Labour Government announced the provision of £500,000 towards the establishment of a stammering centre in the north of England to complement the excellent work of the Michael Palin centre in London. Will the hon. Lady reassure the House that the money for this important work for children with speech and language difficulties in the north of England will still be provided—yes or no?

I thank the hon. Lady for her remarks; I must tell her that my dress is just in fashion. I will have to look into the detail of her question and write to her, if that is okay.