Select Committee on Education and Skills Third Report


1. In 2005 around 18% of all pupils in school in England were categorised as having some sort of special educational need (SEN) (1.5 million children). Around 3% of all children (250,000) had a statement of SEN and around 1% of all children were in special schools (90,000)—which represents approximately one third of children with statements. With such a large number of children involved, it is important to recognise that many children are receiving the education they need in an appropriate setting. It is equally important, however, to highlight the difficulties faced by a large number of parents for whom the system is failing to meet the needs of their children. This inquiry gives careful consideration to where the SEN system is failing and considers how the Government can improve outcomes for all children with SEN and disabilities.

2. This inquiry has been informed by over 230 written memoranda. Memoranda from individuals have been given full consideration but have not been printed for reasons of privacy.

3. During the course of this inquiry we have taken evidence from around 50 witnesses in oral evidence: Baroness Warnock; Rt Hon Ruth Kelly MP the then Secretary of State for Education and Skills; Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools; Althea Efunshile, Andrew McCully, and Ian Coates, Department for Education and Skills; Miriam Rosen and Eileen Visser, Ofsted; David Curtis and Joan Baxter, Audit Commission; Ralph Tabberer, Training Development Agency; John Bangs, National Union of Teachers; Rona Tutt, National Association of Head Teachers; Martin Johnson, Association of Teachers and Lecturers; Darren Northcott, NASUWT; Eirwen Grefell-Essam, Network 81; Paula Jewes, Kids First Group; Hugh Payton, Wiltshire Dyslexia Association; Chris Goodey, SPINN; Brian Lamb OBE, SEN consortium; John Hayward, Focus Learning; Claire Dorer, National Association of Independent Schools and Non-Maintained Special Schools; Steve Haines, Cathy Casserley, and Phillippa Russell, Disability Rights Commission; John Wright, Independent Panel for Special Education Advice; Julia Thomas, Children's Legal Centre; Chris Gravell, The Advisory Centre for Education; David Ruebain, Law Society; Simone Aspis, British Council of Disabled People; Richard Rieser, Disability Equality in Education; Micheline Mason, Alliance for Inclusive Education; Elizabeth Clery, Royal National Institute for the Blind; Carol Boys, Down's Syndrome Association; Mike Collins, National Autistic Society; Susan Tresman, British Dyslexia Association; Virginia Beardshaw, I CAN; David Congdon, Mencap; Jean Salt, NASEN; Kevin Rowland, British Psychological Society; Shirley Cramer, Dyslexia Institute; Kate Griggs, Xtraordinary People; Mark Rogers, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council; Janet Sparrow, Buckinghamshire County Council; Tim Warin, Newcastle City Council; Professor Julie Dockrell, Institute of Education; Professor Alan Dyson, Manchester University; and Professor Brahm Norwich, Exeter University.

4. Our inquiry has also been informed by visits to schools in Essex in March 2006 and Darlington Education Village in May 2006. We would like to extend our thanks to all of those involved in two excellent and highly instructive visits. Individual Members of the Committee also made a number of separate visits relating to this inquiry, including the Chairman visiting a large meeting of parents in Hampton hosted by SOS!SEN, a helpline for parents of children with SEN and disabilities.

5. We would like to thank You and Yours and BBC Radio 4 for their contribution to the work of the Committee through the phone-in discussion they held about special educational needs and the summary report of responses provided to the Committee. The response was overwhelming with You and Yours receiving over 700 emails, telephone calls and letters from parents, children, teachers and other interested parties. We are grateful to be able to use the summary of responses within this report.

6. We are very grateful to our specialist advisers: Professor Ann Lewis, Professor of Special Education and Educational Psychology, University of Birmingham; Professor Alan Dyson, Professor of Education, University of Manchester; and Mark Rogers, Director of Education and Children's Services, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council. We would also like to thank the members of staff in the House of Commons Library for providing information to this inquiry.

7. This report looks at policy relating to children with SEN and disabilities. It does not give comprehensive and detailed consideration to specific issues facing any particular group of category of special educational need or disability. Nor does it cover in detail the following areas, all of which are important areas of SEN that deserve further attention: the special educational needs of gifted and talented children, post-16 provision including FE, children in early years provision or in residential care.

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Prepared 6 July 2006