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Education: Special Educational Needs

Volume 717: debated on Friday 5 March 2010


My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 28 September 2009 I asked Toby Salt to carry out a review to identify key barriers to the supply of adequately trained teachers for pupils with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties (SLD and PMLD), and opportunities to improve this supply for the future.

This is an important and timely review, which is a vital part of the Government’s wider, significant, investment in the SEN sector. I am very grateful for Toby Salt and his review team’s swift and thorough work on this.

The report calls for more to be done to attract and retain specialist teachers to meet the growing demand for their skills, and to build the next generation of teachers with specialist skills. The evidence in the report highlights examples of existing good practice and specialist training, but also significant gaps in specialist knowledge and skills, and opportunities to acquire these, which it recommends are addressed urgently. These include:

improving the range of specialist opportunities offered to trainee and newly qualified teachers, to encourage and inform entry into specialist teaching;

increasing the quality and consistency of specialist professional development opportunities available to experienced teachers in mainstream and special schools, to widen and share specialist skills and build on good practice; and

addressing leadership issues in this specialist sector—a disproportionally high level of leaders in special schools are nearing retirement age, whose expertise will need to be replaced over the next five to seven years.

Evidence to inform the review was gathered from teachers, local authorities, training providers, parents and parent networks, social partners and other national organisations, through a public call for evidence and in-depth interviews. Existing data and research were also reviewed, including information on relevant international teacher supply systems. An expert advisory group of specialists in SLD, PMLD and wider SEN issues provided challenge and support to the work.

We accept all the recommendations in the review and my department will publish a plan later this month to set out how Toby Salt’s recommendations will be implemented, and how, over the next year, we will develop:

a partnership with Teach First to bring top graduates into specialist teaching. Teacher training pilots will allow more graduates to gain the skills they need to teach these children;

a new six-month specialist course for new teachers to enable them to better prepare for their first job working with children with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties;

new arrangements to collect data on specialist teacher demand and supply to manage supply effectively for the future; and

new training on severe learning difficulties, through the TDA, to ensure that all teachers have access to the quality professional development materials that they need to develop their skills.

Copies of Toby Salt’s report and our initial response have today been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.