Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10 October 2016.

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Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill Conservative, Bury St Edmunds 12:00, 10 October 2016

What plans her Department has to review the findings of joint inspections of local areas’ effectiveness in identifying and meeting the needs of children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities when assessing the delivery of reforms to the SEND support system.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

The new joint inspections mean that for the first time ever Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission are inspecting vital special educational needs and disability services, showing families what is working well and where services right across education, health and care can improve. The reports, seven of which have been published so far, with many encouraging findings, will enable improvement in individual areas, provide opportunities for local areas to learn from one another, and establish a rich and growing picture of performance nationally.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill Conservative, Bury St Edmunds

As the Minister is no doubt aware, in my constituency I have outstanding provision in the Priory School—I hope to visit its new facilities on Angel Hill and Mount Road shortly. However, there are challenges in this sector, particularly in ensuring that all children are supported to make the most of their talents and abilities. What is the Minister doing to look at the quality of education, health and care plans, the rate of conversions from statements, the timeliness of those transfers and the quality of them once received?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

I can assure my hon. Friend that the Department is monitoring closely the rate of conversions from statements and the timeliness of transfers through our annual data collection process. When a local authority’s performance is a concern, we follow that up with our team of professional advisers to offer support and challenge. They will also check the quality of the plans in local authorities that they visit and offer advice on improvement. That is a key part of ensuring that our reforms work for children and young people with SEND.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Labour, Stretford and Urmston

In Trafford, where we already have selective education, fewer than 250 children with special educational needs support statements or education, health and care plans attend grammar schools, and that is out of a total of more than 7,500 children in grammar schools in the borough. Can the Minister say how the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities will be properly taken into account in the consultation on the proposals included in the Government’s Green Paper?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

The consultation is about lifting all schools to improve for all children, and the SEND reforms that we introduced in 2014 apply to all schools so that they are providing the support and education that the children in their care need to succeed. As part of the consultation on how we can improve all schools, it is important that at its heart children with special educational needs are considered fully.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark

I was pleased by the Government’s commitment of £200 million for capital projects for special schools, not least because the Orchard School in Newark is one of the special schools in the worst condition in the country. When will local authorities be able to make a bid for funding and is there anything more that the Government can do, because these schools are incredibly important but extremely expensive to replace or renovate?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

My hon. Friend is right that we have managed to secure more than £200 million of capital funding for special schools to increase the number of placements in his area and many others. We will be giving more details shortly, but I am sure that many people not just in Newark but right across England will be looking forward to seeing how they can improve the facilities and support that are available for children with special educational needs.

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Shadow Minister (Education) (Children and Families)

I heard the Minister’s response to my hon. Friend Kate Green, but I was dismayed that in the “Schools that work for everyone” Green Paper there was not one single mention of children with special educational needs or disabilities. Is it not true that this Government have simply forgotten about them?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

I welcome the hon. Lady back to the Front Bench. I know that she has had a number of epiphanies in the past few months, going from a remainer to a leaver to a returner, but I am pleased that she has taken up her present role, where I know she is a good fit. It is Dyspraxia Awareness Week, and I know that she is a very strong supporter of the work that the Dyspraxia Foundation and others do. She knows a lot about that issue and I wish her well in her role.

The Green Paper looks at raising standards across all schools for all children, and it includes, as I said previously, children with special educational needs. I hope that the hon. Lady will work with us to make sure that they get the best possible deal.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Will the Minister ensure that those areas that do poorly in the inspections are made not only to work with, but to visit, those areas that do the very best, so that the worst can learn by the example of the best?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. One of the reasons why we want to hold local areas to account is to make sure that they do not just sit on their failures, but learn from other areas that are bringing about success. One of our intentions is to make sure that we give them the opportunity to learn from others that do it better.