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Sport Funding: Special Needs Schools

Volume 640: debated on Thursday 10 May 2018

1. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Education on funding for sport in special needs schools. (905192)

The Government’s sport strategy sets the ambition that all children, including those in special needs schools, should have the opportunity to take part in meaningful physical education and to lead healthy lives. The Department for Education leads on that, with support from me and the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work.

Knowing my hon. Friend’s outstanding commitment to inclusivity in sport, is she aware of the work being done by the excellent Woodlands Meed School in Burgess Hill in my constituency? In a major reordering of its facilities, the school is seeking to build a gym specially equipped to enable children who have serious disabilities to take part in extensive physical training. Does she agree that the gym could be a county-wide facility? Will she see what she can do to investigate and help me raise the funds to enable Woodlands Meed and West Sussex County Council to go ahead with producing this excellent facility?

I commend the work of my right hon. Friend, who has been a passionate supporter of Woodlands Meed. I am happy to meet him to discuss facilities funding for that school, which has an excellent reputation for the work it does to support children with special educational needs in his constituency.

I rather imagine the Minister will be visiting the school very soon—just a hunch. We will see.

We need to try to reach disabled people in rural communities, too. What does the Minister hope to do to reach out to people in special needs schools, people with disabilities and veterans?

Along with the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work and the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), I am passionate about ensuring that all children have access to meaningful physical activity at school. We provide funding—through the school games programme, for example—to ensure that we provide opportunities for disabled pupils and those with SEN to participate. There is also additional funding through the primary PE and sport premium. Through the DFE, we have funded the Project Ability programme since 2011 to increase competitive sport opportunities for young disabled people.

The Minister will be aware that there are many talented athletes with learning disabilities who have ambitions to represent their country in international competitions, but there are still many barriers stopping them from doing so. Will she agree to meet me, as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on learning disability, to see what more the Government can do to remove some of those barriers and allow those athletes to fulfil their aspirations?

My right hon. Friend has done a lot of work on setting up the new all-party parliamentary group on learning disability, and I am happy to meet him to discuss this.

Some special schools clearly have better sports provision than others. What is being done to roll out best practice across the sector?

My hon. Friend is right, and I see the differences in my constituency—some schools really do ensure that pupils with disabilities participate in meaningful PE. The Under-Secretary of State for Education, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work and I sit on the school sport board, and we discuss these matters regularly.