I hosted a roundtable discussion on SEND provision. Whilst we mainly focused on Suffolk, we discussed what can be done on a national level to ensure those who are neurodiverse are supported. Those who are neurodiverse often feel they don’t have the support they need to break down the barriers they face in education and in learning the life skills they need for a fulfilled life.
Present were, myself; Cllr Chris Chambers, Deputy Cabinet Member for Education at Suffolk County Council; Dhruv Patel, Nisai Education Trust; Gemma Grace, Adult Autism Awareness Advocate; Wayne Taylor, Director of Youth Services at TCHC; Boo Dendy, Leading Lives and Adam Dabin, Head Teacher, Sir Bobby Robson School.
Together, we discussed how not only education reform is needed, but also SEND provision for adults to ensure they hold necessary life skills alongside helped on the path towards gaining a job.
On education reform, we discussed the need for all teachers to have a good awareness and understanding of all types of neurodiversity, not just SEND specialists. This needs to be incorporated into the curriculum for teachers. We also need to ensure schools are held to account for their provision of SEND through Ofsted. A SEND review is needed as part of Ofsted reports. Alongside this, more funding is needed. Suffolk is underfunded and more funding is something I continue to campaign for in Parliament.
Adult SEND provision also needs reform. Shockingly, fewer than 3 in 10 people with autism are in work. The recent Buckland Review by the Government is aiming to change this. We need to see job centre staff trained in neurodiversity awareness. This will help them when talking with those who are neurodiverse and placing them. Alongside this, employers need to make a conscious effort to make changes to the work environment to help those who are neurodiverse thrive.
This meeting was a productive and positive step in the right direction and I look forward to continuing discussions on such an important topic.