Special Needs

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd May 1995.

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Photo of John Austin-Walker John Austin-Walker , Woolwich 12:00 am, 23rd May 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Education if she plans to review the resources available for education for children with special needs. [23812]

Photo of Mrs Gillian Shephard Mrs Gillian Shephard Secretary of State for Education and Science

The special educational needs code of practice, which came into effect in September 1994, will encourage schools to make more effective use of their budgets for pupils with those needs. How each local education authority determines its priorities is a matter for the authority concerned.

Photo of John Austin-Walker John Austin-Walker , Woolwich

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the special educational needs tribunal has heard only about 50 of the 500 appeals before it and will she ensure that the tribunal has sufficient resources to clear the backlog? Further, while Opposition Members welcome the code of practice, we recognise that resources are needed for it to be put into place.

Is the Secretary of State aware that many local authorities are not meeting the six months timetable for statementing because of the shortage of educational psychologists? Will she make the resources available to ensure that that can be rectified and provide additional resources in 1996–97 for the additional training that will be needed for special educational needs co-ordinators?

Photo of Mrs Gillian Shephard Mrs Gillian Shephard Secretary of State for Education and Science

Local education authorities have a duty to provide for the education of statemented pupils. They should provide additional weighting for pupils with special needs. The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that an Audit Commission survey in 1992 found that two thirds of head teachers did not know how much was in their budgets for special educational needs, hence the need for greater transparency was made mandatory under the code. I certainly agree that the work of tribunals has some backlog at the moment, partly because this is a new system.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned training. He should know that GEST, the grant for education, support and training, amounts to £27.8 million this year, an increase of £4 million on last year, and makes provision to support training for educational psychologists, among other things.

Photo of Mrs Elizabeth Peacock Mrs Elizabeth Peacock , Batley and Spen

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the unacceptable delays that have occurred in the past in respect of some appeals to her Department. Will she tell me and the House how long it will take the SEN tribunal to deal with the case that I am about to put to it which involves a very bright child who does not have a school to go to in September?

Photo of Mrs Gillian Shephard Mrs Gillian Shephard Secretary of State for Education and Science

In that case, I should hope that the tribunal would deal with the matter with all dispatch. It is clearly urgent.