Children with special needs taught in cupboards, ministers told
A lack of tailored support has led to children with special needs being taught in school cupboards, ministers have been told.
The claim about the lack of special educational needs and disability (Send) provision came as ministers were questioned in the Commons about what they were doing to improve it across England.
Richard Foord (pictured), the Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton and Honiton, was among those urging the Government to do more to reform special needs services.
Mr Foord told the Commons: “The Send crisis extends to Devon, and my postbag is full of correspondence from parents who are trying to get their children the educational provision that they need.
“It has got so bad that in some cases, children are being taught in school cupboards and Devon has appointed a Send champion to its cabinet.
“So what steps has the department taken (to) help boost Send services in rural areas like mine?”
Education minister David Johnston responded: “There has been a 30% increase in the per head funding to schools in Devon for their special educational needs provision, and the whole thrust of our reform plan is to make the system work better for parents and families and get the support they need for their children at the stage they need it.”
Conservative MP Andrew Lewer (Northampton South) meanwhile claimed local councils had “spent nearly a quarter of a billion pounds fighting parents at Send tribunals since 2014”, but added these have a “failure rate of over 90%”.
He asked: “What steps is the department taking to overhaul that process which has caused Send parents in Northampton South unnecessary distress?”
Mr Johnston replied: “He is right that tribunals are costly and stressful but it is important to say most education, health and care needs assessment and plans are concluded without a tribunal hearing.
“We will be introducing new national standards, strengthen the mediation, and greater system-wide accountability to give families the support they need earlier and reduce the number of tribunals.”
Shadow education minister Helen Hayes urged the Government to reveal when it thought its plans to tackle Send issues would “make a difference to the long waiting times and lack of support experienced by so many families across the country”.
Mr Johnston responded: “We have already begun the reform programme. We have just launched the nine change partnerships which are already starting to make a difference in the provision.
“But I would just say to her, this is yet another area where the Labour Party has absolutely no policies whatsoever.”
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