Swindon MPs Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland have welcomed the Government’s announcement that young people in the town are to benefit from a share of £350 million in additional support for children with Special Education Needs & Disabilities.
The Education Secretary announced this week that £250 million will be given to local councils over the next two years to provide specialist support and facilities for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
In addition to this, £100 million will be invested to create more SEND places in mainstream schools, colleges and special schools - giving families more choice, and giving children and young people with SEND needs better access to high quality education which meets their individual needs.
The new funding is in addition to this year’s £6 billion high needs budget – which has increased by over £1 billion over the last five years.
The Government also announced that more special free schools will be given the go ahead, as it anticipates it will be able to approve all high-quality bids that meet criteria in the current round of applications. In Swindon, pupils will benefit from the new Churchward ASC School, which will provide vital extra secondary and sixth form places for students with autism and associated social communication conditions.
There will also be an increase in the number of educational psychologists in training. Educational psychologists are responsible for assessing children’s needs and providing tailored support as part of the Education, Health and Care needs assessment process, and provide support to teachers and families of children and young people with SEND needs.
From September 2020 the number of trainee educational psychologists will increase from 160 to at least 206 trainees, meeting the increased demand for them.
To ensure that all teachers have the knowledge and skills to help children with SEND needs, the Government is to make sure there is a focus on supporting SEND children in the upcoming Teaching Recruitment and Retention Strategy.
A new advisory SEND System Leadership Board is to be set up to encourage a closer relationship between local authority education services and with health and social care commissioners to ensure that the specific needs of their respective boroughs are met. These boards will be made up of representatives from local health, social care and education services, and will work closely with schools, families and charities.
North Swindon MP and DWP Minister Justin Tomlinson particularly welcomed the Education Secretary’s recent commitment to ensuring services for young people with SEND prepares them for adulthood, including employment. As a DWP minister Justin launched the Disability Confident scheme, encouraging employers to consider the benefits employing somebody with a disability could bring their companies.
To build on this Justin has personally organised several events in his constituency to promote the employability of people with disabilities. Earlier this year he hosted an event aimed at the services industry, which included a cookery demonstration by students at Horizons College, and received support from chef Marco Pierre White. In 2015 he organised a ‘reverse job fair’ and invited local employers to meet with organisations supporting people with disabilities to discuss the benefits of employing someone with a disability.
His South Swindon counterpart Robert Buckland has also campaigned passionately to improve the support on offer to young people with SEND.
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism, he established a SEND Commission that aimed to improve the experiences and prospects for young people with SEND. This involved taking autistic and SEN concerns straight to the Government by providing MPs and House of Lords Peers with evidence and arguments in favour of better support for SEND and autism; a chance these young people would otherwise not have had. He also introduced a Bill to Parliament calling on the Government to improve access to health and social care services for people with autism spectrum disorders.
Robert also helped to establish a SEND Network in Swindon for parents, secured autism-friendly film screenings and campaigned to improve health, education and social care services for local children.
Justin Tomlinson MP said: “This significant funding is excellent news, and will help further improve the outcomes for children with SEND needs. It is also positive that the Government’s work to improve education services for these children does not stop at the funding, and a wider strategic approach is being taken to ensure that support meets the individual requirements of children and young people with SEND needs.”
Robert Buckland QC MP said: “I am delighted with the announcement of significant new fund in for young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. Both as an MP and a Minister, I have been a dedicated & passionate advocate for all people in society with SEND, and this new money will unlock vital support that will ensure that every individual can reach their full potential in a setting that is right for them”.
Education Secretary Damien Hinds said: “We recognise that the high needs budget faces significant pressures and this additional investment will help local councils to manage those pressures, whilst being able to invest to provide more support. Every school or college should be one for a young person with special educational needs; every teacher should be equipped to teach them, and families need to feel supported.”