Julian leads parliamentary debate to call on the Government to take urgent action on Special Educational Needs (SEN) support in schools
March 20, 2019
Julian has today led calls in Parliament for urgent policy changes to the system of support for children with SEN. Having secured a 90-minute debate in Westminster Hall, he opened the debate by highlighting the disparity that still exists in outcomes between school pupils with SEN and their non-SEN peers. He urged the Government to reconsider the role of coursework in the assessment process in order to level the playing field for pupils with SEN, for whom the current exam system often does not provide a fair opportunity to do true justice to their abilities.
Whist praising the role of teachers and SEN Coordinators in schools, Julian argued that the Government should seek to support early intervention as well as the integration of SEN pupils into mainstream schools by providing the appropriate training for teachers to deal with the full range of SEN that they are likely to encounter. He also highlighted the strains that the SEN funding system are coming under, with schools obliged to cover the first £6000 worth of funding per pupil, despite not receiving a ring-fenced per pupil budget from the Government. Mr Sturdy expressed concerns that this system resulted in perverse incentives for schools to not proactively identify children with SEN, due to the financial consequences on strained budgets. Similarly, whilst welcoming the support offered by Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) for children with the most complex needs, he reiterated the concerns expressed by local authorities across the country that their high needs SEN budget is largely committed to funding EHCPs, leaving little left to support the 80% of children and young adults with SEN who do not qualify for the plans.
After the debate, Julian said:
“I organised this debate after being contacted by numerous constituents who expressed concern about the support available for their children. In particular there is deep frustration about the all or nothing approach that results from the EHCP system. I very much welcome the certainty and tailored support that these plans provide, however for many parents, applying for an EHCP can be a frustrating process and those children with complex needs can often be left without the support that they need if they just miss out on qualifying.
Today I called on the Government to rethink the system to ensure an appropriate level of support for all pupils with SEN. I also made clear that the Government should constantly be mindful of SEN when forming mainstream education policy, so that resources can be directed into early intervention and the proper integration of children in mainstream schools. I received a positive response from the Minister regarding the Government’s plans for initial teacher training and their announcement of an additional £30 million for the training of Educational Psychologists. I was also encouraged to hear that the Government will be taking evidence on how the funding system operates on the ground, including the impact this has on the proactive identification of pupils with SEN and I look forward to seeing the proposals that result from this.”