|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Teacher training is an issue not just for the NUT, but for everyone with an interest in improving SEN support, and I congratulate the hon. Lady on raising the issue. It shows a great deal of understanding of the problems in training teachers to identify and support children with SEN. The Bill gives us an opportunity to try to secure a further commitment from the
Government, to speed up their plans for improvements to teacher training. I give the hon. Lady an undertaking that I will not let the issue rest. I will seek a meeting with the Minister, which the hon. Lady is welcome to attendI hope that she will do so. The offer extends to the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole, too. In that meeting, we could explore every avenue of opportunity that the Bill gives us to improve teacher training. Given those strongly held and sincere intentions, I hope that the hon. Member for Basingstoke will not press her amendment, although I am confident that she will not withdraw her attention from the issue.
Amendment No. 1 would result in all the information collected as a result of the Bill being published in the form of an annual report. I agree with that proposition 100 per cent. Since I set out on the Bill, I have always envisaged the end result being a tangible document that is freely available to all parents in order to give them the information that they need to improve their childrens educationwe all agree on that. I therefore listened to the Ministers response with a degree of concern. It may be that a report would not be the best way of releasing the information, but it would be better than placing the information deep in the Departments website, where only the most determined parent or researcher can find iteven if people can find information, there is no guarantee that they can understand it.
I am mindful of the Ministers concern that amendment No. 1 would restrict the publication of such information in other formats. Bowing to greater knowledge than mine, I understand that it would not fit neatly within the Bill and would not produce the intended effect. However, I will consider it a failure on my part and a missed opportunity for us all if a tangible report is not published for parents as a result of this Bill. I will be sure to seek a meeting with the Minister to reiterate my strength of feeling on that point. Taking all that into consideration, I hope that the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole will not press the amendment, and I hope that we can find a neater and less prescriptive way of ensuring the intended consequence.
Annette Brooke: I thank the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Mrs. Hodgson) for her comments and congratulate her on the Bills reaching this point. I shall endeavour to be brief, because I am anxious that we reach a successful conclusion this morning. I will withdraw new clause 1, because it is important that the Bill makes progress.
Important issues have been raised today. I thank the Minister for his comments about new clause 1, because it is helpful to have on the record the information that local authorities should be making available to parents. We now have a yardstick and all the material in one place. The study to which I have referred considered the information on local authority websites. I suggest that it would be straightforward for the Department to sample the available information and to act if there are any deficiencies. I will be interested to hear the outcome of that issue.
I am also pleased that the Minister has acknowledged that parents are concerned about impartiality. I stress that that is not necessarily the case, but that perception exists and it is important for everyone to acknowledge it.
I always feel humbled when the deficiencies in my amendments are exposed. Somehow, my amendments sometimes fail to achieve their objectives. However, I am pleased that we have flagged up where there is a lack of information for parents at the moment.
Amendment No. 1 was drafted to help anybody involved with special educational needs to see the wood for the trees when a mass of information is published. The Minister has already gone some way to acknowledge that we want more than masses of statistics and that there must be a framework.
I am pleased that the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West is concerned that we should have a report that is accessible, understandable and useful. I hope that we will continue our discussions.
I am delighted to be here for this stage of the Bill, especially as we have now all agreed that it has real potential to deliver for the 1.6 million children who are identified as having special educational needs. I hope that after today we can move discussions forward before, as we hope, it enters the other place. Once again, I place on the record my thanks to Jonathan Tanner, my parliamentary researcher, for his tireless work and commitment to the Bill. He is now as passionate about SEN as are some of us here today, and he is knowledgeable about the issue too.
Our debates on Second Reading, in Committee and this morning have provided an invaluable opportunity to raise issues concerning special educational needs. We have been able to achieve a broad consensus on the need for the Bill and for further action to tackle areas in which SEN children do not get the quality of support that they all so richly deserve. I note that we are back here on a Friday, and yet again, it is fair to say that the House, including the Press Gallery, is not packed to the rafters. Other forms of political entertainment are, of course, on offer to the media today, not least in the north-west. However, if we succeed in our endeavour to get this Bill passed, those involved from both sides of the House should get credit.
Mrs. Hodgson: I meant to mention commencement on Report. I will be biting at the heels of the Secretary of State[Hon. Members: Hear, hear!]and asking him to bring the Bill into effect at his earliest convenience. Members who know me will be aware that I am a formidable character in that regard: the Secretary of State will know that I am around.
Mr. Evans: From a sedentary position, the Minister said that the Bill had to go to the Lords first, and clearly it does. However, in her discussions with peers, has the hon. Lady discovered whether they, too, have good will towards it and want it to become an Act as soon as possible?
Mrs. Hodgson: The short answer is yes. Baroness Pitkeathley is to guide the Bill through the House of Lords on my behalf, and I am sure that she will seek cross-party support in the other place. It should pass through without too much damage, I hope.
Our debates have been held in a constructive manner that has not been entirely devoid of criticism and differences of opinionnor should it have been. I should like to thank my colleagues across the Benches for their contributions to and support for the Bill. As others have said, it is an example of how the party political divide need not always dominate the proceedings of Parliament. I have been enlightened by the expertise, experience and commitment that my colleagues have shown to the issues that they feel need to be aired.
I should also point out that early-day motion 619 now has 161 signatures from both Government and Opposition Members who support the work that we are doing here today. It is welcome that the Government should also have lent their support to the Bill, and I believe that that represents a willingness to work with MPs on both sides to achieve change. Of course, we will be pushing them for further concessions over the months to come, and I hope that these suggestions will be heard with open ears.
On Second Reading, I listed all the organisations that have provided me with support. Having their expert knowledge on hand has been an invaluable resource throughout this process, and I hope that we can go on to reward their support and unswerving commitment to this cause. Each organisation still has areas that it would like to be addressed, and I will touch on some of those later. I hope that we will be able to equip those campaigners with the tool of improved information about SEN so that they can continue their work. I have said all along that I want the Bill to be a catalyst for change, and I sincerely hope that it will be so. Information alone will not make a monumental difference, but we all know how hard it is for Government to ignore the facts. We already know that there are facts out there among reams of information already collected, but the Bill should ensure that we gather further figures that will demonstrate a compelling case for stepping up the pace of reform.
The Bill has struck a chord with members of the public. I have received a number of letters from people across the country who support the work that we are trying to do. I want to draw on a few examples in order to underline the importance of the Bill and the need to ensure that we keep our foot to the floor on further progress. I hope that hon. Members present will indulge me in doing so and agree that these letters raise some powerful points.
My first example concerns a woman who has worked in an organisation supporting dyslexic pupils for more than 14 years. Many of the letters are about the struggles of dyslexic children. One woman wrote to me to say that she does not want to hear any more stories
about failing schools. A particularly moving part of her letter describes the experience of a boy who was
embarrassed in his class because, when the rest of the children were taking a test, he was left out and asked to read a book instead. He was so upset that his mother enquired what the test had been. The young teacher, just out of training college, explained that it was an intelligence test and she did not want him to be upset because he wouldnt be able to do it. At the mothers request, the Head arranged for the boy to do the test later and took his answers verbally. The child came out top of the class.
Nothing will improve for dyslexic pupils until all teachers are trained to recognise the common signs of dyslexia and are given a good basic understanding about ita dyslexic person is not necessarily lacking in intelligence and can be extremely bright; dyslexia is not just about reading, problems with spelling and poor organisation are just as common; there are things even a non-specialist teacher can do to make life easier for the dyslexic child. At present, learning about dyslexia is an option only on teacher training courses. Surely dyslexia must be the single most common reason for failure in school and all teachers should be properly prepared to recognise it.
I have also received letters from parents who know the sheer frustration of watching their children having to battle the system to make the progress that we know they are capable of and fully deserve. Here is another example:
As a parent with a dyslexic child, I am well aware of the many problems my daughter experienced at primary school and those which she is still experiencing in developing coping strategies for her dyslexia and I wanted to share my own experience with you to highlight major fault lines that currently exist in our schools.
My daughters teacher said to me during her last year of Primary school in 2007, that she knew nothing about dyslexia and was interested in learning more from me. I found this unacceptable as I fear for my daughters future in secondary school, but this is the reality. Some of our schools have a higher standard of learning support, however this is not reflected across all primary and secondary schools in the United Kingdom.
Dyslexic children are extremely gifted children, of which dyslexia is not a learning disability but instead requires a different approach to learning, which is not currently available in our schools at the present time in my view.
the pressure of OFSTED reports and meeting targets has created a vacuum of dishonesty in schools putting children with the slightest learning difficulties, such as poor handwriting etc into groups with Dyslexia etc to basically fiddle the figures so that when school results are completed the school doesnt appear on paper as failing to meet targets. The learning support groups at my daughters school receive 2 twenty minute sessions a week, called clicker or catch-up whereby each pupil sits at a computer and writes one sentence. It is in this group that the real patchwork quilt exists, as you have children who shouldnt be there, as mentioned above, then there are those who have fallen behind and do need to catch up and that leaves the children with severe learning difficulties and dyslexia. All these children require a different approach to learning and therefore it is impossible to support them all as one group in this way.
Recognising that underlines the importance of ensuring that we have a work force who are skilled in meeting the individual needs of every child. That process will take time, and we need to ensure that, before we tailor teaching approaches to individual children, we are able to say exactly what they need extra support with. That will come only by categorising all children who are identified as having special educational needs.
Mr. Chope: Does the hon. Lady accept that the best way of ensuring that we know about such children is to provide screening in all primary schools at the age of five, six or seven, using the criteria that I referred to during my interventions on Report?
Mrs. Hodgson: I listened with interest to the hon. Gentlemans interventions earlier, especially with regard to the Dore programme. I am particularly interested at looking at that programme for my son, who is severely dyslexic. I understand that such screening should be happening. Professor Rose is examining the primary curriculum in his review, and I imagine that one of the things that he will be looking at is the process of screening all children. I will be interested to hear what he finds out when that review is finalised.
Being dyslexic has no reflection on your intelligenceit is about the access to your intelligence.
Mrs. Hodgson: The hon. Gentleman makes a very pertinent and valid point. I will be making a similar point later in one of my quotations; it is obviously the considered view of many people in the SEN community
If hon. Members will indulge me, I have one more letter about my Bill, from an ex-journalist. She had retrained as a teacher via a postgraduate certificate of education, and her experience of SEN provision is informed by having a 10-year old son with suspected Aspergers and separation anxiety disorder. She wrote to tell me of her experiences and observations during her PGCE:
SEN was briefly coveredone lectureon the PGCE course, and the broad issues were run through again on each of my two school placements by the head of SEN. But there isnt time to learn enough about anything on a one year PGCE course, let alone how to recognise the signs of the many different SEN needs in the classroom. Training in school must be the way forward, but my experience is that teachers barely have time to go to the loo in school.
Again, this first-hand experience highlights the need to do more to ensure adequate ongoing training opportunities for teachers in schools. The letter goes on to describe a particular difficulty in identifying and supporting a dyslexic child:
in my second placement I identified one pupil in particular that I thought may be dyslexic, and I alerted the SEN department to that...a very good SEN department... This was a girl whose parents were Somalian, but she was born and educated in this country. I was told that it was not possible or worthwhile to test her dyslexia. The results of the test would not be accepted by the LA because there was a possibility that there could be an element in her poor writing which is brought about by her having English as an additional language. If this is a general rule it would mean that not one child from a refugee or immigrant background with dyslexia is being picked up in our schools.
I have spoken to the Department about that, because, as I am sure Members will agree, if it were the case it would be very worrying. According to the statistical first release, children from all ethnic backgrounds are identified as having SEN. Although that does not prove that they have English as an additional language, it does calm my initial fear that their SEN was not being picked up at all. It is also worth noting that incidences of SEN among children categorised as being of black ethnic origin are higher than the national average. I hope the Minister has taken heed of that.
In a third school I identified a boy who clearly had a dysfunction linked to his handwritingit was severe. He was in year 9, and it was clear just from glancing at the schools own tests that there was a major gap between his ability to read15 year old plusand to writewhich was at about a 9-year-old level. He was working hard, clearly very bright, had a wide knowledge of wordsbut could not write them down correctly, or see that they were wrong.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|