Getting young people with special educational needs and other disabilities the support they need is something that is very close to my heart as someone who struggled with dyslexia and dyspraxia at school. And in Parliament today I raised the Sir Bobby Robson School in Ipswich which will open its doors for the first time in September to youngsters with social, emotional and mental health needs.
I’ve had the privilege of being asked to become an Associate Governor at the School and I know that the excellent team at the School are working incredibly hard to welcome pupils in the best way possible given the particular disruption caused to vulnerable youngsters by Covid-19. They plan to take an almost therapeutic approach to helping them integrate back into school life with a clear focus on pupil well-being.
I called on the Secretary of State to provide the Sir Bobby Robson School and other special schools with the support and any external expertise they need to do this and ensure vulnerable young people have the brightest possible future.
I’ll continue to raise this issue on the Education Committee as well and I hope the Secretary of State will look closely at what exceptional support can be provided to get vulnerable young people’s education back on track with a particular focus on their well-being.
My view is that no school should be awarded a Good our Oustanding rating unless they provide adequate support for those with Special Educational Needs. Today as part of the Education Select Committee I quizzed the Chief Inspector of Ofsted (the body that scrutinise and assess our schools). I asked a number of questions but perhaps the most important was the one I asked about the extent that they place importance on SEND provision in schools. I have to say I was slightly concerned to find out that under the new Ofsted framework a school can still be awarded a Good or Outstanding classification whilst also having significant deficiencies regarding SEND provision.
Personally I think unless a school can at least meet expectations when it comes to supporting those with special educational needs then they shouldn’t be getting a Good or Outstanding rating. There is much that is good about the new Ofsted framework but its very important that all schools are strongly incentivised to provide first class SEND provision and are properly held to account if they don’t. A number of teachers in Ipswich and parents have raised concerns with me about the way the previous Ofsted framework worked in this respect and the current one needs to be more than just a slight improvement. I will be writing a follow up letter to the Chief Inspector seeking a range of assurances.
Yesterday I had the pleasure to be the guest on the BBC Radio Suffolk Lesley Dolphin show. During my interview I discussed a range of topics including my first week in Parliament, opportunities for people with special educational needs, closures to the Orwell Bridge and long term fixes to our rail network. You can listen to the full interview below.
Today (22/01/2019) plans were unveiled to pump £45.1 million into creating hundreds of special educational needs places in Suffolk in a bid to meet soaring demand.
In total 826 extra specialist education places will be created. There will be 3 new specialist schools and 36 specialist units attached to existing schools.
Responding to the news, Tom Hunt said:
“This is great news. I know from the visits to schools I’ve across Ipswich over recent months how important an issue this is and its very good news that despite the pressures the County Council budget is under they’re able to make this investment.”
“I know that Cllr Chris Chambers, who is Ipswich based and is Deputy Cabinet Member for Education at the County Council will fight to ensure that a good proportion of the money allocated for the whole of Suffolk will be spent in Ipswich where the need is significant.”