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The hon. Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather) was one of many hon. Members to criticise the statementing process, and she was right to do so. She called it lengthy and bureaucratic, saying that there
30 Jan 2007 : Column 144
were deliberate delays to lessen the burden on local authorities, and rationing on the basis of parental commitment. There is a widespread suspicion that that is what the Government’s approach is all about.

My hon. Friend the Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) spoke passionately and from personal experience about the horrors of the lengthy statementing process. He said that dealing with all the bureaucracy was a very trying and exhausting experience, and he referred to the special educational needs commission established by my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), when he was shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills. Last year it recommended the removal of the conflict of interest in statementing—a change also recommended by the Education and Skills Committee, as my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) reminded the House with his usual accuracy.

The statementing process is clearly in need of urgent review. It has become a Kafkaesque nightmare for parents, who have to cope with finding out that their child has special educational needs, and then with meeting those needs, at the same time as they are navigating the labyrinth of the statementing and appeals process.

Since 2002, report after report has exposed the shortcomings of the current system. The Audit Commission’s 2002 report stated:

It recommended that the

The need for a review was also emphasised by the Education and Skills Committee in its report last year, which said:

and found

The report went on to urge the Government to

The Government’s response to the report was disappointing. The hon. Member for Huddersfield summed up his Committee’s view when he said that the Government’s response was

That is an awfully long time. By rejecting a review, the Government rejected one of the most fundamental and important findings of that entire Select Committee report. They are promising an Ofsted report in 2009, which means that two more years will be wasted, with little done in the interim.

The Opposition seek only two things from the Government this afternoon, and if they deliver them they will have our full backing. The first is a moratorium on any more closures of special school places until a review has taken place. We do not want the stop-go process that the Minister for Schools
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described but merely a pause, to ensure that we are going in the right direction. Our second requirement is a fundamental and immediate review of SEN provision.

I hope that the Government will concede to these demands. By doing so, they can improve the education available to thousands of special needs children, and ease the burden on their parents just a little.

6.53 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Parmjit Dhanda): I shall begin my remarks by commending the contributions by hon. Members of all parties today. We may differ in our opinions about policy, but we share a common ambition to improve the educational attainments of children with special educational needs and disabilities. We also want to improve their health, safety and well-being, and to increase the extent to which they are able to contribute to society.

I pay tribute to the skill and dedication of the staff in our schools and early years settings, and of the professionals in the education, health and social care services. Working together, they do their best to ensure that children with SEN and disabilities are able to make the most of their time in education. I also pay tribute to the parents of children with SEN and disabilities; there are some such parents in the Chamber today. They know their children better than anyone else, and they sometimes feel that they have to battle to get them the support that they need.

It is worth taking stock and looking at the context of the Select Committee report. The Government have taken positive action as a result of it, although other initiatives—some of them were mentioned at least tangentially in the debate, while others were not—were under way already.

My hon. Friend the Minister for Schools was right to say that support and training for SEN is an integral part of introductory teacher training. We are also working with the Training and Development Agency on a programme worth £1.1 million to ensure that people in the early stages of becoming teachers have opportunities to secure placements in special schools. We are also working to create an information portal so that they can share best practice.

We are keen to do more to promote access to specialist support. My hon. Friend the Minister for Schools earlier mentioned the 15 new specialist schools that we will be creating. We are also keen to work with special schools, and to tap into the expertise of their staff, so that more outreach work with mainstream schools can be undertaken.

We want parents to enjoy better accountability and support—a common theme in this debate—and we will achieve that in part through the parent partnership services. They play a really important role: they can help parents who are unsure about whether their child has special needs, or assist them with the statementing process. In addition, they can provide support for parents who, believing that the school to which their child is being sent is not the best option, go through the special educational needs and disability tribunal
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process. We want those services to remain at arm’s length from local authorities, and we intend to beef them up.

In addition, we are working with the National Autistic Society’s autism working group, and many hon. Members will have attended the launch of the society’s “Make School Make Sense” campaign. We are working closely with local government organisations, teaching groups and the NAS to prepare better resource packs for teachers so that they can identify children with autistic spectrum disorders and subsequently support them in the classroom.

We are also doing a lot of work with statementing, and are introducing a new performance indicator for the full process. A performance indicator is already in place that requires a local authority to have a draft statement ready 18 weeks after a statement is first requested. The new indicator will set out a maximum end-to-end period of 26 weeks for the statementing process.

Annette Brooke: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Dhanda: No, as I have only a little while left.

The debate has not covered the amount of investment that the Government have made available. Ofsted has reported improvements since the publication in 2004 of “Removing Barriers to Achievement”, our long-term SEN strategy. For example, the percentage of children with SEN who do not achieve at least level 3 in maths at key stage 2 has fallen from 28 per cent. to 25 per cent. between 2003 and 2005. For English, the proportion of children with SEN who do not achieve at least level 3 has fallen from 31 per cent. to 27 per cent. That shows that the Government’s policy is making a difference in attainment.

Those improvements reflect the increasing investment that the Government have made in provision for children with SEN. Local authorities’ indicative spending on SEN rose to £4.5 billion in 2006-07. Of that total, £1.3 billion is delegated to maintained special schools, and £1.8 billion to mainstream schools. Budgets for special schools are rising by 23 per cent., from £1.1 billion to £1.3 billion.

The hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) talked about statistics, and about the effect on parents of the statementing process. When considering the context, it is worth bearing in mind that of the 1.3 million children with special educational needs, only 3,215 have gone through the SENDIST—special educational needs and disability tribunal—appeal process, and only 332 did so on the grounds that they were not happy with their choice of school.

In the short time available for my response, I hope that I have been able to get across the facts about the extra money and extra resources that we are putting in. We are making a difference for children with special educational needs, and as Ofsted says, the right time for a review will be 2009-10, when we can effectively measure the differences and changes that we have made. In the meantime, the moratorium that has been mentioned by many Members would result only in the scrapping of new developments and new schools, such as the facilities in Leicestershire and Oldham, so if that
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is what Opposition Members want, they should bear in mind that it will be on their consciences.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 221, Noes 296.
Division No. 039]
[7.01 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browning, Angela
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clegg, Mr. Nick
Conway, Derek
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Philip
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David

Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McCrea, Dr. William
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Robinson, Mr. Peter
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, David
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Matthew
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walter, Mr. Robert
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. David Evennett and
Mr. Mark Lancaster

Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Borrow, Mr. David S.

Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, Mr. Russell
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David

Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Vaz, rh Keith
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Ian Cawsey and
Tony Cunningham
Question accordingly negatived.
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30 Jan 2007 : Column 149

30 Jan 2007 : Column 150

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

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