SEND Improvement Plan
I recently met with the children’s minister to discuss the new SEND improvement plan before it was published. One of the things I’ve been calling for has been for regular teachers to have a better working knowledge of all types of neurodiverse conditions.
I am pleased that the plan pledges to review teacher training to try and ensure this is a case. I will monitor this closely to make sure it makes the changes needed. It’s not just about extra specialists. All regular teachers need to have a better understanding of all conditions. Many young people with learning disabilities will be in mainstream settings and this is vital for them. I know what’s it’s like to be neurodiverse at a mainstream school and have teachers who don’t get you.
It is also key that parents aren’t always left battling to get their child diagnosed. Many end up going privately and paying. This needs to be addressed.
We need a national campaign to make clear all employers are fully aware of the benefits that come with hiring those who are neurodiverse. This isn’t about “virtue signalling” or simply acting in a moral way. They are amongst the most creative and unconventional thinkers out there!
The reality is its all taken too long to get to this point. The SEND review was commissioned many years ago. Even making allowances for the pandemic etc this plan should have been published a long time ago and we should not be at the point where what it’s calling for is being delivered on the ground.
I welcome the fact that Suffolk will be getting a new special school. Ipswich has had two new special schools over the past few years and another one in Suffolk is good news for many families no doubt. It will be a free school giving it extra freedoms and flexibility, something which is important when it comes to SEND provision. I was at the New Skill Centre school in southeast Ipswich recently, they’re similar to a free school and this has certainly been a benefit to them. I was really impressed by what I saw.
The Children’s Minister Claire Coutinho visited the Sir Bobby Robson not long ago and I was pleased that the teaching staff at the school and pupils were able to make their views clear about the different ways in which SEND provision can be improved.
There’re some sensible proposals in the plan. More emphasis on early years and early intervention which will be made easier by more early years specialists (5,000 are being funded). More education psychologists are good but there is a question about whether 400 is enough.
I continue to believe though that more needs to be done to ensure that regular teachers (non-specialists) have a firmer grounding in all different types of neurodiversity. Many young people with learning disabilities will be in mainstream schools and its important their needs and thinking processes are fully understood. I need more reassurances on this.
I would personally like to have seen more emphasis on diagnosis for various learning disabilities. I know there is a reluctance from some to label, but some people really are neurodiverse and have specific needs and its important they, their families, and their teachers know what they’re. A number of my constituents have really had to fight to get a diagnosis for their child and have often had to fund one privately. I need more reassurances on this by the Government.
New national standards will also make clear to parents, schools, local authorities, and other providers what support should be offered at every stage of a child’s journey across education, health and care.
The plan will improve parents’ and carers’ experiences of accessing support, with a digital-first process for obtaining Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP) where they are needed.
The Government have upped the additional ‘high needs’ budget to over £10 billion, which is an increase of more than 50 per cent since 2019. However, we need more. You won’t always see me simply calling for more and more resources but SEND provision is an area more investment continues to be needed. It’s also the case that Suffolk SEND provision in particular is underfunded compared to other areas.
It’s important that improvements are made at both the local and national level to SEND provision, so I welcome much of what was announced. I acknowledge the new SEND special school places that have come to Ipswich over the past few years and all the specialist units in mainstream schools. There have been some improvements. But we have a long way to go locally and nationally in so many ways.
Something good that happens in 2019 was the change that means a school can’t be rated outstanding or good if SEND provision isn’t good also. This is perfectly logical and an incentive to prioritise SEND provision in mainstream schools.
I’m neurodiverse. I had a reading and writing age of an 8-year-old when I was 12. I couldn’t do my shoelaces until I was 14. I was lucky to get diagnosed fairly early and then eventually got the support I needed. It pains me this isn’t the case for many young neurodiverse children in Ipswich. I will always keep fighting for them and others nationally who have the same needs.
Visit to Chantry Academy – Careers fair
I recently had the opportunity to visit Chantry Academy for a careers event. This event was mainly targeted at year 7 to 9 pupils. I was able to talk to several pupils about their future and what they are planning to do for a career.
Around this age, it is crucial for children to start to think about their careers. My message to these pupils was with reference to choosing University’s, was that university is something that no one believes they can’t do, but something that they should not feel pressured to do. This certain path should be chosen because people believe it is right for them to do so.
Outside of university there are many other options which I spoke about, such as apprenticeships, or opportunities in the local economy. I was really impressed with the event and their attitude these pupils took.
After the event I spoke to a group of year 11’s about my job as an MP and what I do along with some of their views about the local area.
Great news today that the Freeport East project at Felixstowe and Harwich has gotten final approval from the Government and will be the 4th freeport fully up and running. The approval comes with up to £25 million in seed funding. We’ve been waiting for final approval since Freeport East was on the initial list of 8 proposed freeports over 1 year ago. I’ve been told the project will now be proceeding at full speed and finally Freeport East can move from being an attractive concept to being something that delivers practical benefits to my constituents.
Freeport East will deliver major benefits to the region, including 13,500 new high-skill, high-paying jobs right on Ipswich’s doorstep. Approximately 6,000 Ipswich residents are already employed either directly or indirectly via the Port of Felixstowe, this go-ahead will provide more opportunities for people in our town. It also creates opportunities for skills training through partnerships with Suffolk New College and the University of Suffolk. Suffolk New College in Ipswich has already received £1 million from the Town Deal to boost skills training and will help deliver hydrogen power for the freeport.
The freeport will also develop into a hub for renewable energy production through its planned Green Hydrogen Hub, and will be supported by existing offshore wind and the planned nuclear plant at Sizewell C. The hub will support high-skilled jobs in the renewable energy sector.
This announcement will really put our local area on the map and help us deliver for the national economy, connecting the North and Midlands to global trade. Felixstowe is already the UK’s busiest container port handling almost half total UK container trade and 60% of our trade with Asia. Giving freeport status to Felixstowe and Harwich is projected to boost UK trade by £12 billion a year, and create £5.5 billion in new gross value added over 10 years.
Also pleased to see the Government make clear in this letter their commitment to the East and that levelling up isn’t just about to the midlands and the north.
Neurodiverse within British Armed Forces
As many of you know, I often raise points about how to make better use of the talents of people who have neurodiverse conditions. Due to having dyspraxia and dyslexia myself, I come under this “neurodiverse” label. Many of those who are neurodiverse see things others can’t and think outside the box. As a society it is in our interest to make use of all talents and different ways of thinking.
Recently I discussed with the senior Army leadership how the British Army could make better use of those who are neurodiverse. Due to the increasing importance of cyber, the need for individuals who can think differently has increased so it feels like the issue is coming to a head.
Some of the physical tasks and challenges associated with being in the Armed Forces often prohibit those who are neurodiverse. Perhaps there may be a limit to what can be done, but if there is a way of ensuring that the Armed Forces don’t miss out on the talents of those who are neurodiverse and want to serve, that would be brilliant.
I was remined of my dyspraxia the other week when it took my almost half an hour to put a belt on when I visited Sandhurst.
I was reassured by the response provided by the Defence Secretary. He gets it, as do the leadership team at Sandhurst when I spoke to them about recruitment.
NHS dentistry in Ipswich
Improve the River Gipping
Today I asked the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about how to turn around the state of the River Gipping.
More and more constituents got in touch with me over the summer about the River Gipping – full of algae, shopping trolleys abandoned, distinctly unloved. This is a local waterway with a lot of potential for public access and usage, which currently we are not taking advantage of. I want to see this change.
I asked the Secretary of State about how to turn it around and improve the River Gipping. I think it is clear that the local authority, Ipswich Borough Council, need to take responsibility here and help us create a more positive future for the waterways and public access to the river.
First Day Back
Quick video on my first day back in Parliament after summer recess. Liz Truss has been announced as the new Leader of the Conservative Party and tomorrow she will be confirmed as the new Prime Minister. Here are my thoughts:
Queens Speech Reaction
A few thoughts on the Queen’s speech. Will be making a speech about it on Thursday. It was an amazing experience being in the Royal gallery but sorry not to see the Queen who I know we’re all thinking about at the moment.