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Special Educational Needs: Support Services

Volume 643: debated on Monday 25 June 2018

1. What steps he is taking to ensure that children with special educational needs are able to access support services that are close to home. (906000)

Children and young people should receive the right support to meet their special educational needs. In most cases, that can be provided close to home through the schools and services in their local area. Services must be jointly commissioned, with a published local offer kept under regular review.

Yet 41% of pupils attending special schools in Devon have to travel more than 10 miles to reach their school. How will the Minister support those children in Devon, to ensure that SEN provision is locally available and of a high quality?

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. If a local authority identifies a shortage of special school places, resulting in a significant number of children with special educational needs and disabilities having to travel a long way, they need to consider creating or expanding specialist provision. We announced £50 million of funding in May this year, and Devon will receive £2.8 million from 2018 to 2021.

19. My mum fought for me to receive a mainstream education, knowing that I, like the majority of children with special educational needs or a disability, would benefit from that. However, in 2016, for the first time in more than 25 years, more children with SEND were educated outside the mainstream education system. In response, the UN raised concerns about an education system that segregates children with disabilities in special schools. What will the Minister do to reverse that concerning trend and instead build a more inclusive education system? (906021)

It is important to ensure that children with SEND who want to and can be in mainstream education are able to. For example, 72% of children with autism are in mainstream education. We recently announced 14 new free special schools. As I said, it is important that, where councils need further provision to help to maintain children in mainstream education, they are able to create that.

Every year, 3,285 children with special needs are excluded from our schools—that is roughly 17 a day—and 833 children with special needs are given fixed-term exclusions. Does my hon. Friend recognise that that is a major social injustice? I know that he has his review, but surely the Department’s priority must be to address that.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Education Committee for that question. I do recognise that, which is why the Government have announced an exclusions review, led by Ed Timpson.

Further to the previous question, what are the Government doing to address the issue of academies excluding people with special educational needs, which is contributing to the rise in exclusions?

We are looking at different groups and the proportion of those being excluded, which I hope will come out through the Timpson exclusions review. We are also talking to Ofsted about the issue of off-rolling.

Some 1.4 million children in this country display some kind of speech, language or communication disorder. That is 10% of children, as was highlighted recently in the excellent Bercow report, the second one on this. Given that children entering school with lower than expected communication skills tend to do less well academically and feature more highly among excluded children and young offenders, can the Minister give an indication of how the recommendations in the Bercow report might be implemented in our education system?

Ten years on from the Bercow review; I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker. We are looking very carefully at the recommendations of that report. One thing we are already doing is working with Public Health England to ensure that the health workers who go to see parents at that crucial young stage are trained in speech and language therapy.