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Special Educational Needs

Volume 570: debated on Monday 11 November 2013

7. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of provision of education for children with special educational needs; and if he will make a statement. (900989)

Many schools provide excellent teaching for pupils with SEN, but we know from reports by Ofsted and Brian Lamb that too often pupils are classified as having SEN but do not make progress. That is why our SEN reforms, including education, health and care plans, focus on the involvement of families and the agreement of concrete outcomes, so that parents are clear that their children are genuinely making progress.

I am grateful for the Minister’s response. The 17 October debate in this Chamber on funding support for deaf children and young people highlighted areas of excellence in deaf education across the country, but sadly that is not the case everywhere. What steps will the Minister be taking to support and promote best practice, and ensure that we can distribute best practice for deaf children across the whole country?

The hon. Gentleman has a huge personal interest in this issue, and he made an excellent contribution to that debate. He is right that we need to ensure that, where there is excellence, it can be spread as widely and deeply as possible. That is why we are providing £1.1 million of funding to the National Sensory Impairment Partnership, to help to benchmark local authority service and provide guidance on good practice to support sensory support services, in an effort to get more children to benefit from the excellence that we know exists.

I am sure that my hon. Friend will pay tribute to Dig-iT, the dyslexia group in Tamworth, which does great voluntary work for dyslexia sufferers in the town. Does he agree that we need a level playing field in the teaching of children with dyslexia and dyspraxia, so that they get the best possible chance of success?

I have no doubt that Dig-iT in Tamworth is doing some incredible work to support children with dyslexia and dyspraxia, and we recognise that we need to do more to ensure a level playing field for those families who require extra support. That is why, over two years, we are providing £5.5 million to a number of voluntary organisations, including the Dyslexia-SpLD Trust, so that they can give free advice and training on key aspects of SEN, to make that level playing field a reality.

I congratulate the Government on their education, health and care plans, which could make a real difference. The Minister will know that parents who are used to struggling for support are worried that the plans may be too difficult to access. Given the intention to suspend them in custodial settings and to abolish School Action and School Action Plus, there is a fear that the brave new world could be limited to too few. Will the Minister take those concerns on board? In fact, in this instance, why do we not try to work together and do what is right for those with special needs?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his co-operative spirit on this issue. It is important that Parliament and Government give a single, clear message on ensuring that all children with SEN get the support that they need and deserve. I am aware of a number of concerns that have been raised, by parents and others working with children with SEN, during the passage of the Children and Families Bill. The important thing to remember is that we are not reducing or diluting any of the existing protections or rights. In fact, we are expanding them in many cases, particularly for those young people over the age of 16. We will continue to work on some of the remaining issues as the Bill continues its passage through the other place.