Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Special Educational Needs

9. Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): If he will make a statement on plans to improve special needs education in England. [181601]

The Minister for Children (Margaret Hodge): We published "Removing Barriers to Achievement", our strategy for special educational needs in England, on 11 February 2004. The strategy contains a programme of practical measures to promote early identification of children's special educational needs, boost early intervention to support those needs, improve co-ordination of services to children and their families, improve staff training and build strong collaboration between mainstream and special schools to share knowledge and expertise. Those measures will help to provide the opportunities and support for children with SEN to realise their potential.

Mr. Wiggin : As there is a shortage of trained SEN professionals, does the Minister agree that what parents require for their children is more choice, whether they want to go for a special educational needs school or the mainstream?

Margaret Hodge: I completely agree that parents should have choice, and that the facilities for children should meet the individual needs of each child—but if the Conservative party were to introduce a voucher worth £5,600, how would that help to pay for a child in a non-maintained special educational needs school, where the average cost is more than £41,000?
1 Jul 2004 : Column 431

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): Is the Minister aware that since I held my debate with the Minister for School Standards about the Government policy of inclusion, I have had letters from all over the country saying the same thing—that Government policy is being prayed in aid by educationists and accountants who are closing special schools in the name of inclusion? Will the Minister get her Department to investigate what is actually happening? Does she not agree that those of us who have very disabled children should not have to spend our time fighting to keep open the wonderful schools that do such a good job?

Margaret Hodge: We are attempting to maintain choice for individual children and their families. Closure of special schools has not moved apace under this Government. There has been a small closure of special maintained schools, but it has taken place at about the same rate as under the Conservative Government, and there has been growth in the non-maintained special school sector. An increasing number of parents wish their children with disabilities or special educational needs to be educated in the mainstream sector. Where that is the choice of the parent and the child, we attempt to facilitate it. That provides both good special schools and good choice for people to have their children educated in the maintained mainstream sector, which is the underpinning drive of our policy for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): What measures does the Minister have in place to address the chronic under-provision of speech and language therapy for special needs pupils? The national professional body says that 780 speech and language therapy students graduate every year and enter the job market. What will she do to ensure that more of those graduates are attracted into special education, to ensure that the pupils there attain the communication skills that they need?

Margaret Hodge: I agree that there is a shortage of speech and language therapists. Interestingly enough, because of our Sure Start programmes we are identifying the speech and language needs of children at a much earlier age. The answer is to train more people, and we are doing that. We will provide 6,500 more speech and language therapists and other health professionals in the schools sector by 2004, and we are training nearly 4,500 more therapists and key professional staff each year. I have also seen schools and Sure Start programmes which, through cascading some limited training to support staff in the schools or in the programmes, have built skills among other people in the staff cohort so that they too can help with the speech and language needs of young children.

Mathematics Teachers

11. Mrs. Annette L. Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD): What plans he has to increase the number of qualified teachers teaching mathematics in secondary schools. [181604]
1 Jul 2004 : Column 432

The Minister for School Standards (Mr. David Miliband): This Government have delivered an increase of about three quarters to the number of new entrants to maths teacher training in the past four years, and there are now one third fewer maths teacher vacancies than in 2001. The new measures announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 28 June will help schools to recruit and retain maths teachers, including through higher training bursaries, golden hellos for mathematicians, more maths places on the graduate teacher programme, and higher pay for advanced skills teachers.

Mrs. Brooke: How will the Minister finance his proposals for higher salaries? I have specific concerns about the pressures on teachers in low-funded authorities such as Poole and Bournemouth in which schools are struggling to identify funds to implement the work load reduction scheme. Surely it is important to ensure that we have good conditions for all teachers.

Mr. Miliband: Obviously I agree that it is important that we have the right training, support and conditions for all teachers. I hope that the hon. Lady agrees that the Government's determination through the advanced skills teacher scheme, for example, to pay the extra salary from the centre gets over the sort of troubles to which she refers. As we have 4,000 advanced skills teachers, the measure represents major support for the quality of teaching throughout the country.


The Solicitor-General was asked—

Violent Crime Prosecutions

18. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): If she will make a statement on prosecution rates for violent crimes in North Yorkshire in (a) January 1997, (b) January 2000 and (c) January 2003. [181614]

The Solicitor-General (Ms Harriet Harman): In January 1997, 59 defendants were prosecuted for violent crime in North Yorkshire magistrates court. In January 2000, the number was 77.

Miss McIntosh: I understand that we do not have the figures for January 2003 in that case, but I thank the Solicitor-General for her answer. At Question Time last month, she hinted that there was scope for greater co-operation between the Crown Prosecution Service and the police in North Yorkshire to prosecute people for violent crimes, burglaries and other crimes after they had been detected. Will she elaborate on how she would like such further co-operation to develop?

The Solicitor General: That co-operation happens through the North Yorkshire criminal justice board, which is chaired by the chief Crown prosecutor for North Yorkshire, Rob Turnbull. There is a constant process in which the police, the courts, the Crown Prosecution Service, prison and probation services and
1 Jul 2004 : Column 433
other agencies work together to ensure that the issues that the hon. Lady raises, which are of concern to her constituents and people more widely in North Yorkshire, are dealt with. I was interested to note the figures on the hon. Lady's area. I welcome the fact that the percentage of ineffective trials in the Crown and magistrates courts in her area is low. That shows that there are fewer adjournments than before, which means that offenders are brought to justice more swiftly.

Crown Prosecution Service

19. Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): What plans she has to include the Crown Prosecution Service in multi-agency working. [181615]

The Solicitor General: The Crown Prosecution Service works with many different agencies including local police, local government, Victim Support and community groups.

Julie Morgan: I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that reply. Is she aware of the key role played by the Crown Prosecution Service in south Wales in the multidisciplinary Cardiff domestic violence forum and when working with the Cardiff women's safety unit, and that south Wales CPS was praised for its work on domestic violence in the recent inspectorate report? How does she think the CPS can become even more involved in inter-agency work?

The Solicitor General: I am glad to welcome my hon. Friend's comments about the role played by the Crown Prosecution Service, together with statutory and voluntary agencies in Cardiff, on tackling domestic violence. Of course, 25 per cent. of all reported violent crime represents domestic violence, so the issue is by no means marginal. I am aware that there is scope for further work.

Ms Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op): May I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to consider the involvement of outside agencies in training Crown Prosecution Service staff? Having witnessed difficulties when lawyers did not appear to understand the complex issues involved, the participation of those agencies in cases involving sexual offences, child abuse and—as we have heard, domestic violence—would surely help us to make progress.

The Solicitor General: My hon. Friend makes an important point, but we need a two-stage process. CPS lawyers are increasingly expert in difficult and challenging cases such as rape and the prosecution of cases of sexual offences against children, but they must be aware of the wider context in which those offences take place, and must work closely with local agencies. It is also important, however, that they take part in training staff from those agencies so that they, in turn, are aware of the way in which the criminal justice system works and can reassure victims that a prosecution team will work together to ensure that they get justice.
1 Jul 2004 : Column 434

Next Section IndexHome Page