To ask Her Majesty's Government, whether the current tender for the provision of strategic support to the workforce in mainstream and special schools includes specialist speech, language and communication needs provision; and if not, how they intend to fund such specialist provision for children beyond March.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what response they intend to make to the petition signed by 22,000 teachers, early years practitioners and speech and language therapists opposing the cuts in funding announced by the Department for Education; and whether they will communicate the reasons for their funding decision to those working in the sector.
In March 2017 the department agreed a one year contract with I CAN, on behalf of The Communication Trust (TCT), to develop sustainable programmes and resources to help the workforce develop their skills in supporting children and young people with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN). That contract is due to end, as planned, at the end of March 2018.
The department is currently procuring a new Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) strategic workforce contractor, to help schools develop improved knowledge and skills among their staff, in relation to specific impairments. This contract will include work to promote existing resources and training, as well as identifying and filling any gaps in provision.
The government is committed to supporting those with SLCN and will do more to embed knowledge and ensure good practice is disseminated and understood widely. The new Social Mobility Action Plan (SMAP), ‘Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential’, attached, prioritises work in the early years to close the word gap and improve early language acquisition for disadvantaged children. The SMAP includes proposals for continuing professional development training and an early language assessment tool for health visitors and early years practitioners, to ensure that any language delays can be picked up and the right support put in place quickly. The department expects to invite tenders for this work and welcomes bids from all suitably qualified organisations or consortia.
The department is also encouraging bids for the Strategic School Improvement Fund and the Teaching Leadership Innovation Fund, which focus on improving provision for pupils with SEND. The Education Training Foundation is also being funded to increase the capability and capacity of the workforce to respond to the needs of students in further education.
The department will continue to respond to all correspondence on this issue, setting out how the department will ensure that children with SLCN have the right support in place.
The government wants to ensure that all practitioners continue to be able to make good use of the wealth of materials, resources and training that the TCT have developed. It is expected that the member organisations of the TCT will share the training and materials, supported by our new SEND strategic workforce contractor. The department is in regular discussion with TCT about how best to achieve this beyond March 2018.