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That is how the code of practice tells teachers how to spot a child who needs intervention, but it does not
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give strong enough guidance on how to distinguish the severity or category of SEN. That is where the training should come in.

At the moment, schools have a statutory responsibility to ensure that the necessary provision is made for any child with SEN. They must ensure that teachers are aware that a child has SEN, and stress the importance of teachers’ identifying SEN. Schools must also consult the local education authority and other school governing bodies to create a co-ordinated SEN strategy where desirable and possible. Further, schools must take steps to ensure that, where possible, SEN children can take part in activities available to pupils who do not have SEN. Finally, schools should also report to parents on the implementation of their SEN policy and have continuing regard to the SEN code of practice. The whole procedure would be better informed, however, if the teaching work force were better skilled in identifying and teaching children with SEN.

The hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole raised the issue of parent partnership services. I have held discussions with both constituents and experts on this, and it seems that, again, we are faced with considerable regional variation in the services provided. As I said earlier, it is right to point out that it is absolutely vital that parent partnerships can deliver impartial information to parents. Having said that, I am confident that the majority of parent partnership services are doing a good job, but there is merit in keeping the situation under close review. As I stated at the start of my speech, the main thrust of the Bill is to ensure that we improve the monitoring of outcomes for children with SEN. There is agreement across the sector that that would be a welcome development.

It is important to know what data are already used to try to improve the outcomes so that, if the Bill proceeds to the other place, we can look back in times to come and hold the Government to account on their implementation of the legislation. Six mechanisms are identified for improving outcomes for SEN children. First, academic achievement is monitored. SEN data have shown that much of the improvement in overall academic performance can be traced to increased attainment by children with SEN. Data on the varying attainment of children with different specific forms of SEN have been analysed for the first time and will be used to inform more tailored teaching.

Secondly, policy is kept under review. Thirdly, I am told that RAISEonline is already used to outline performance. I have already outlined what evidence the system provides for ongoing school improvement. I reiterate my hope that the use of RAISE use as a tool will increase over time. Fourthly, P scales are used to analyse the progress of pupils operating below level 1 of the national curriculum. The systems enable the attainment and progress of a range of SEN pupils to be analysed and compared across a range of pupil needs.

The information collected also informs national strategies. I understand that regional advisory teams work alongside the national SEN strategy team. I hope that they will be encouraged to support and challenge local authorities as they seek to bring about improvements in identified schools using increasingly sophisticated data for pupils at school and local authority level.

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I look forward to the roll-out of indicators that monitor how effective schools are in reducing the gap between the attainment of children with SEN and that of those children with no SEN. The indicators have been included in the national indicator set for local government that will be used from 2008-09. That is an important step forward.

The mechanisms concern only attainment and, of course, the aim of this Bill is to concern ourselves with wider aspects of how to improve the outcomes of children with SEN. That is why I pressed so hard to have the outcomes listed on the face of the Bill.

As I have said, I have received a great deal of support from across the SEN sector and I want to draw on some of the points that have been raised in relation to the Bill. TreeHouse is a national charity for autism education whose vision is to transform through education the lives of children with autism and thereby the lives of their families. TreeHouse was established in 1997 by a group of parents. It runs a school for children and young people with autism and campaigns nationally for better autism education. I look forward to visiting the school in the near future.

The Special Educational Consortium is an umbrella group that represents a number of charities with an interest in SEN. The consortium says in its briefing on the Bill that

The support of such a large number of organisations in the shape of the SEC is clear evidence that we are taking the right step. I would like to thank Brian Lamb again for the support and guidance he has given me and my team. I am also pleased to have had the ongoing support of Dyslexia Action. Shirley Cramer has been behind me from the inception of the Bill and I want to thank her and her team once again.

Dyslexia is not a minority issue. As many as one in 10 people have dyslexia, and 4 per cent. have it severely. Two to three children in every classroom may be affected. There is a clear link between unidentified dyslexia and poor literacy, longer term failure at school, limited work opportunities, unemployment, poverty and crime. With the right specialist support dyslexia need not be a barrier to achievement. Dyslexia Action says:

We can but raise expectations for children with SEN by increasing information about their progress. Improved information will help to highlight areas that need greater attention through personal or financial support.

Some good things are beginning to happen. The Department for Children, Schools and Families’ inclusion development programme, in which Dyslexia Action works with the children’s communication charity, I CAN, to provide expert input and training materials, will improve
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awareness and recognition of dyslexia and communications problems. The programme is being implemented and represents the right course of action to improve outcomes for children with dyslexia and communication difficulties.

Dyslexia Action lobbies for early intervention, which is critical if children with special learning disabilities are to be prevented from developing the long-term problems associated with poor literacy skills, such as reduced employment opportunities that can lead to long-term unemployment. Even worse, children can go on to lead a life of crime, starting with youth disorder, which incurs the huge financial burden that time spent in and out of prison brings to the taxpayer. It is no coincidence that the percentage of prisoners with dyslexia and other SEN is far higher than in the rest of society. The implications of that failure are a huge cost to the individual and to the UK economy. Government statistics tell us that poor skills cost the UK taxpayer approximately £10 billion a year.

Dyslexia Action has so far relied on imaginative and far-sighted private donors to set up the project. However, in December, the Minister announced funding for the partnership for literacy of £250,000 over three years—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. I am listening carefully to the hon. Lady’s contribution. She is dealing with things that are related to the topic of the Bill, but she must try to relate what she is saying directly to the content of the Bill, as that is the purpose of Third Reading.

Mrs. Hodgson: As I mentioned in Committee, the needs of deaf children deserve strong consideration as we try to improve provision for children with SEN. I am pleased that the Royal National Institute for Deaf People has given the Bill its support.

There is evidence that deaf children are more likely to experience mental health problems. The RNID believes that collecting data on the five Every Child Matters outcomes, including information on admissions, attendance, behaviour, bullying and exclusion, will play a crucial role in helping us to monitor and ultimately improve the well-being of deaf and hard of hearing children.

I realise that other Members want to speak, so I shall make only one or two more points to underline why the Bill is of such importance. At national, local and school level, better information has an important part to play in improving outcomes for children with SEN. The information that will be collected if the Bill becomes law has the potential to improve our understanding of what works for children with SEN. It will help to raise expectations and provide a better basis for evaluating particular projects and programmes, enabling us to share good practice and improve our understanding of training and professional development.

Overall, the Bill will help to generate a more secure basis for the development of national policy. At every level of our education system there is significant potential for developing better understanding of the impact of policy on outcomes for children with SEN. As I said on Second Reading—I have reinforced the
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point today—there is tremendous support across the spectrum for more progress on SEN. Getting the best possible support for children is often a hugely frustrating experience for parents as they battle their way through the myriad forms and evaluations presented to them by the system.

In my conversations with the parents of children with SEN, the same phrase comes up time and again—I have even used it myself. Parents say, “If I had known then what I know now, then I would have done things differently.” In time, the Bill will ensure that parents know more about SEN support in schools. It will give campaigners the tools they need to keep pressing local and national Government to follow the evidence. Most important, it will help us all to identify what needs doing to improve things for children. Over time it will make a difference in classrooms across the country.

Every child deserves the best possible chance to make the most of their talents. For 1.6 million children with SEN we can make that happen only if we know how to make it happen. I hope that in a few years’ time more parents will say, “I’m glad I knew that, imagine how difficult it would have been if I hadn’t.” I commend the Bill to the House.

12.55 pm

Mrs. Maria Miller: I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate again the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Mrs. Hodgson) on securing the Bill and on trafficking it well through the House and, we hope, through to further discussion in the other place. I should also like to put on record my thanks to her and her staff for the discussions that we have had on the Bill, to produce a constructive set of debates. She has prompted a very important debate. In her opening remarks on Second Reading, she said that

and that

and she is absolutely right. The Bill will help parents, schools and teachers to come to terms with how diverse special educational needs are, and I hope that, through the data that are collected, it will help to ensure that the strategies that are needed to address such issues carefully are in place.

The hon. Lady spoke movingly about her experiences with her son Joseph and his needs. That was echoed by a number of hon. Members in their contributions on their personal experiences with SEN. Many people are affected by the issue; almost 20 per cent. of children are now on SEN registers. As a consequence, this can no longer be seen as a sideline issue; it is very much a mainstream issue for education to deal with. Given that children with SEN are eight times more likely than other children to be expelled from school and twice as likely to have no qualifications at the end of their school careers—again, as the hon. Lady suggested in her earlier contributions—we need to ensure that that tremendous waste is curtailed. Moreover, we need to ensure that we do not entrench disadvantage by incorrectly addressing the issues identified during the debate.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House have made important contributions to the debate. My hon.
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Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Christopher Fraser) made an important contribution in Committee and on Second Reading. Indeed, he drew on his family’s experience of SEN. We have also heard important contributions from the hon. Member for Luton, North (Kelvin Hopkins). Today, my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) drew many incredibly important undertakings from the Minister in discussing amendment No. 1.

My hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper), who is the shadow Minister with responsibility for the disabled, said something that resonated with me: information is not the outcome that we seek with the Bill, but it is the route to better outcomes for children. That sentiment drove a number of the amendments that hon. Members tabled both in Committee and on Report. The type of data is key, not just the collection of data for its own sake, and the Minister has echoed that sentiment in his comments.

Particularly today, I feel that the discussion of teacher training yielded a great deal of clarification on the Government’s position, although we have discussed that throughout the debates on the Bill. I remember that the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Lynda Waltho) made a contribution on training. She highlighted her inadequacy in SEN training when she was trained as a teacher and said that that issue still required a lot of attention.

The thing that I found most helpful was the undertaking from the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West to press the issue of training further, and to meet the Minister—I should be delighted to attend that meeting—to ensure that it is not forgotten. Her tenacity makes me certain that it will not be forgotten at all. Her commitment to the issue is welcome, and I look forward to doing what I can to support her. I know that she will not allow the Minister to dismiss the issue without a fuller investigation because she, like me, knows that the quality of teaching directly affects the outcomes for children. Perhaps, at that meeting, we can join together to persuade the Minister to place a burden on himself to undertake to work in his Department to co-ordinate research on teacher training. It is important that the initiatives that the Government have introduced, and which we all welcome, have an effect on what happens in the classroom.

Like the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West, I thank all the organisations that have taken so much time and trouble to develop briefings for everyone involved in these debates. There are many such organisations, but I shall mention just a few, including TreeHouse, the national charity for autism education, which, throughout my time as an MP, has always taken the time and trouble to keep me informed about many issues, and has shown great support for our debates on the Bill. Xtraordinary People, the RNID, the National Union of Teachers, the National Children’s Bureau, and the special education consortium, which the hon. Lady highlighted, have all provided important insights on which we, as parliamentarians, have been able to draw to ensure that our debates are as well-informed as possible.

There has been no lack of initiatives from the Government on SEN. As I said on Report, I would detain the House far too long if I detailed each and every initiative introduced by the six Secretaries of State
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who have been in post since the Government took office 10 years ago. Each of them has taken the time to introduce some initiative or make an announcement on SEN. Importantly, the Bill’s provisions will help us to see how those many initiatives translate into action in classrooms throughout the country. By collecting information and providing it to parents, we will ensure not only that the money that the Government are using is deployed effectively but that the initiatives result in pull-through on the ground—something about which concerns have been voiced in our debates. It is important that we have the information for which the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West has called, so that we can drive up standards. I remain concerned that the ambition for children with SEN is not as high as it should be, and it is important that we do all we can to support those children throughout their educational lives.

In conclusion, the hon. Lady called her Bill “a catalyst for change”, and I hope that she is right. Baroness Morris of Bolton, who will work in the other place in support of the Bill, shares my enthusiasm for it. I am sure that the Bill will be safe in her hands, but she will pick up on the issues that I have raised, including teacher training, to make sure that we get the detailed information that will be useful to parents. There is a compelling case for the Bill, and I wish it well as, hopefully, it goes to the other place. Again, I congratulate the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West, who has shown the energy, drive and commitment to make sure that it makes a real difference to this country.

1.4 pm

Annette Brooke: I, too, reiterate my congratulations to the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Mrs. Hodgson). She has shown superb leadership and persistence throughout proceedings on the Bill. I am extremely pleased that she has indicated that she will persist in raising the issues on which detail is still needed, even when the Bill is passed. I also thank the Minister and the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs. Miller), because we have all had very constructive discussions, and my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion (Mark Williams), who brought his personal experience to the debate.

We all want a real difference to be made, and the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West reminded us that we are talking about a difference for individual pupils. We are looking to ensure improved information at individual parent and pupil level, school level, local authority level and national level, but at the end of the day we are talking about individual pupils. The Ofsted report of 2004 said that only a quarter of local education authorities have strong strategic management of SEN, and the majority had weak evaluation systems. It is a long time until 2009 and the next comprehensive Ofsted report on SEN, but I hope that our discussions during the passage of the Bill will have provided information for that report, and will have allowed the agenda to be moved along.

We want the Bill to result in monitoring, evaluations, the planning of better provision by local authorities, and of course the sharing of good practice. I keep mentioning local authorities; I intend to be challenging rather than critical, but I want to highlight the fact that
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local authorities occupy a pivotal position, and I want the most made of that position. On Second Reading, much comment was made about the fact that when questions are asked, the answers are typically, “The information is not collected centrally” or “The answer can only be gained at disproportionate cost.” I hope that that will no longer be the case.

On Second Reading, in Committee and on Report we spent a great deal of time talking about teacher training, and I am glad that our discussions on the subject will continue. Clearly, we are looking for a balance. We do not want the Bill to create bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake. We want evidence-based policy and practice. It is critical that we get that balance right. The hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West mentioned the very large number of children who are identified as having special educational needs; perhaps we should add to that number to take account of those whose special educational needs have not been identified. We want to unlock the potential of all our children. The key to unlocking that potential is more than just information, but better information systems will make it easier to turn the key. I look forward to the Special Educational Needs (Information) Act.

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