Special Educational Needs — [Geraint Davies in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 20th March 2019.

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Photo of Julian Sturdy Julian Sturdy Conservative, York Outer 9:30 am, 20th March 2019

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point, which I accept, and it is certainly what I have seen in the evidence before me. I will develop this further, but the wider point is about schools and local authorities actually identifying all children with SEN—if they identified them all, there might be a financial impact on those specific schools. For me, that is the wider concern in the process.

The study by LSE and UCL found that children with SEN at school are three times more likely than their peers to lack a close friend and to experience bullying most days. Sadly, problems experienced at school have long-term consequences, and the study found that by the time those children are young adults, those with SEN are nearly twice as likely to see friends only once or twice a year and to feel that they have no one to listen to their problems. There is also an impact on relationships and family life in middle age. Adults who had SEN at school are four times as likely to be single and twice as likely not to have children.

The report also suggests that the pressure that children with SEN face at school to perform socially and academically is having a detrimental impact on their long-term mental health and wellbeing. They are twice as likely as their non-SEN peers to feel that life’s problems are too much. There is also a significant concern that a disproportionate number of those caught up in the criminal justice system have a special educational need—the relevant studies find that they represent between 25% and 50% of offenders. All that is extremely alarming.

Addressing the disparity in outcomes for SEN children has been a priority of successive Governments of all political persuasions and colours. There is evidence that policy changes have made a positive impact on the lives of a new generation of SEN children. The reforms brought in by the Children and Families Act 2014, and the introduction of education, health and care plans—touched on already by hon. Members—were welcomed as positive step towards providing more reliable and individually tailored support for those with the greatest needs.

Last week the Government talked about creating 37 new SEN schools. Although I welcome the 3,400 extra high-quality school places that could be created, I am not convinced that will address the need for early intervention in mainstream schools, as other hon. Members have mentioned. It is possible that will further contribute to the social marginalisation of SEN children.