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SEND Review: Further Education

Volume 715: debated on Monday 23 May 2022

2. What steps he is taking through his Department’s SEND review to support SEND students in further education. (900161)

We are consulting on a wide range of proposals in our SEND and alternative provision Green Paper to benefit young people with special educational needs and disabilities in further education. They include new national SEND standards delivered through new local SEND partnerships and local inclusion plans. We will also set out clear guidance for timely, effective, high-quality transition into further education, higher education, employment or adult social care for young people with SEND.

The Minister visited Suffolk New College recently with me. I went back shortly afterwards to see the inclusion team there. I appreciate that work on the SEND Green Paper is ongoing and has a clear focus on primary and secondary schools, but will the Minister assure me that there will also be a big focus on 16 to 18 FE? The work that Suffolk New College does in preparing these individuals for the world of work is crucial. Sam, who I saw and who had very little confidence, is now leading a whole team at the Chefs’ Whites restaurant there, and will be manning restaurants all over Ipswich. Will the Minister ensure that, when it comes to funding and Ofsted inspections, inclusion should be a requirement for every FE college?

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Suffolk New College, and seeing some of the excellent work that it is doing in respect of a range of issues. I saw just how much the young people in that area are benefiting from their hard work. As my hon. Friend knows, we are engaging widely with a huge number of stakeholders to ensure that we get our consultation right, and I hope very much that Suffolk New College will bring its expertise to that process.

Children with vision impairment require high-quality specialist support to access education and learn skills. I wrote to the Minister outlining concerns about the SEND review’s failure to include anything about the roles and responsibilities of local authority vision impairment specialist education services. According to research conducted by the Royal National Institute of Blind People, more than 60% of local authorities in England have reported a decrease or freeze in full-time specialist VI teaching support. We cannot have a two-tier system. Will the Minister agree to meet me to ensure that proposed local inclusion plans include protected high needs funding for local authorities to deliver specialist VI education services?

I know that the hon. Lady has a great deal of expertise in this regard. We are very keen to ensure, through the SEND review, that children and young people have the right support in the right place at the right time. I strongly encourage the hon. Lady to take part in that consultation, and the Minister responsible has agreed to meet her.

The announcement in the levelling up White Paper that Kirklees has been allocated £100 million of extra funds as an education investment area is welcome news for Dewsbury. Will the Minister explain what that extra funding will mean for further education students and children with special educational needs and disabilities?

It is great to hear how our education investment areas are starting to change the game in areas of great need across the country, including my hon. Friend’s. This is aimed at building a stronger schools system that works to improve outcomes for all pupils, including those with SEND. Our investment will mean improved teacher retention, more pupils in stronger trusts that can offer SEND support effectively, and better connectivity so that schools can use new technology to support learning needs.

Will the Government expressly include acquired brain injury in the SEND review? A lot of youngsters who are affected by it, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, who are four times more likely to have a major brain injury in their teenage years. Everybody gathers round for a few days after the event, but a year later they can be suffering from neurocognitive stall, have terrible fatigue and find it really difficult to get back into the educational system because the support is not there.

The hon. Gentleman has been a powerful champion in this House for that cause, and I am pleased to say that the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester—the city of Colchester—(Will Quince) will meet him to discuss this.