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Special Needs Schools Multi-academy Trusts

Volume 618: debated on Monday 19 December 2016

Multi-academy trusts enable the sharing of staff and expertise that can help to foster truly excellent special educational needs provision. Special schools can be successful both in multi-academy trusts that specialise wholly in supporting children with special education needs, as well as in multi-academy trusts that offer special provision alongside mainstream provision. Some examples of multi-academy trusts that offer special provision can be found in our new good practice guidance, published on 9 December.

I was going to ask the Minister to issue further guidance. I do not think the 9 December guidance had been issued when I tabled the question, so I am grateful for that and encourage him to look at special needs schools operating within multi-academy trusts solely as special needs schools. There is an enormous difference in special needs schools between thousands of pupils and hundreds of pupils.

I expect nothing less from my hon. Friend in terms of the pressure he is able to bring to bear on the Government. He raises an important issue. We continue to support and provide guidance for the growing number of MATs in this area. I encourage any newly forming MATs to get in touch with their regional schools commissioner, who will be able to support them and help to direct them towards further sources of support.

I thank the Minister for meeting me a few weeks ago to discuss the contents of my ten-minute rule Bill on special needs and, in particular, on the admission of autistic children to schools. He mentioned at that time that the arrangements were not ideal and needed some adjustment. He mentioned a consultation. Can he please give us any more information on that?

I welcome my hon. Friend’s private Member’s Bill and have a lot of sympathy for the cause it enshrines. I can commit to a consultation early in the new year, and I know that he and others who are interested in this issue will want to contribute.