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Special Educational Needs — [Geraint Davies in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:24 am on 20th March 2019.

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Photo of James Frith James Frith Labour, Bury North 10:24 am, 20th March 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. As has been mentioned by my colleagues on the Select Committee on Education, we spent yesterday morning in the presence of the RIP:STARS, who describe themselves as children with disabilities for children with disabilities. Ben, who has also been quoted by my Committee colleague, my hon. Friend Emma Hardy, told us that he is not a “jigsaw” or “puzzle” to be solved—all they want is an education.

In fact, their report concludes with a series of recommendations for schools, including that they should focus on inclusion; involve the child in the provision, not just the co-production of providers; meet holistic needs; personalise provision; and that provision should bear a resemblance to the world and life after school. The list goes on, but surely those are exactly the same principles that we should want to apply to mainstream education, for all our children.

It is becoming clear, however, that parents and children with SEND are being pushed out of mainstream schools, too often because there has not been an increase in personalised, inclusive, contextual learning that gives second chances—because that comes at a price. The Government’s response to date does not go far enough. Independent research commissioned by the Local Government Association predicts a £1.6 billion black hole in high-needs funding for councils.

I say to the Minister this is not just about getting more money but about moving money. Tribunals find in favour of the parent and child nearly 90% of the time, costing authorities hundreds of thousands of pounds—wasted money that could have been moved upstream and spent earlier. Some 70% of all exclusions involve a child with SEND.

Schools that I spoke to in my survey last year came back to me yesterday with a series of comments, including:

“We can no longer afford to purchase necessary resources”.