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The Bill builds on steps we have already taken to improve the quality and use of data we collect on children with special educational needs. We have incorporated new indicators into the national indicator set for local government to measure the gap between children with SEN and their peers. We have incorporated into the national curriculum attainment scales for children with SEN who are currently falling below national curriculum level 1. From summer 2008, schools will be required to provide information at the end of each key stage on teacher assessments for those pupils still falling below level 1. And in response to the points made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Warnock, about parental engagement and confidence that the system provides well for children with special educational needs, we have committed to research into how these parents feel about the way their school and local authority assess and provide for their children’s needs. This work is being led by Brian Lamb, the respected chair of the Special Educational Consortium. It will also look at the statementing process referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris. Brian Lamb will report to us next year and we will look at what further improvements we can make in the light of his recommendations.

Under the Children’s Plan that we launched at the end of last year, an additional £18 million over the next three years will be specifically targeted at children with special educational needs. Part of this investment will be used to develop better SEN data for schools and guidance on what constitutes best practice. The guidance and materials will be published in the spring of next year. To review our progress in this area, we have asked HM Chief Inspector of Schools to undertake a review of SEN provision in 2009-10, and to include in her consideration the collection and use of data to support the improvement of provision. We will consider whether changes are necessary to the SEN Framework and our information-gathering arrangements in the light of HMCI’s recommendations.

My noble friend stressed the importance of teacher training and staff support in improving the provision for children with SEN, not least so that they can make

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effective use of the additional information that this Bill will promote. Helping teachers to identify children with SEN and then to give them the additional support they need is essential if we are to raise outcomes, and we recognise that many teachers feel they lack confidence in this area. That is why, working with the Training and Development Agency for Schools, we have been pioneering accredited training for special educational needs co-ordinators in all schools, which will soon be mandatory for all new SEN co-ordinators. We have also developed new specialist training units for trainee teachers designed to improve SEN and disability skills. These units, developed for primary undergraduate initial teacher-training courses, have been successfully piloted and will now be rolled out more generally from the summer this year. Further, I will hold a meeting with teacher-training providers next year to promote these units and see that they are offered as a matter of course in teacher-training institutions across the country. Work is also beginning on similar units for secondary undergraduate courses, and primary and secondary PGCE courses. We aim to roll out these elements in the summer of 2009. Further, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, rightly said, the development of the masters degree in teaching and learning, which was also announced in The Children’s Plan, will provide an opportunity for teachers, as part of their ongoing professional development, to undertake further training in the needs of pupils with special educational needs. In addition, we are continuing to strengthen and extend opportunities for trainees to undertake placements in special schools or other specialist provision, and we are looking for ways of strengthening induction arrangements for SEN and disability.

For those teachers already in post, last October we launched our Inclusion Development Programme. It is disseminating new, specially produced training resources in areas that we know teachers find particularly challenging. These materials are designed to bolster the confidence of serving teachers. This year, the materials focus on children with dyslexia or speech, language and communication needs. Next year, the programme will focus on children with autistic spectrum disorders, and in 2010 on children with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties. We intend to commission an independent evaluation to look at the take-up and impact of the teacher-training support being developed, that will in no small part help to form our views about the design of the masters degree in teaching and learning. In terms of the Inclusion Development Programme, the evaluation team will look at how the resources are being delivered locally, how further needs identified through that training are being pursued, and critically how far the materials are improving the confidence of serving teachers. We envisage that this major piece of work will begin later this year and run through to 2011 with interim reports at regular intervals.

To make sure our teacher training programmes remain up to date, we are continuing research into best practice in identifying and supporting children with SEN. The issue of dyslexia, I know, is a particular cause of concern to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and I am glad to be able to tell him that we are

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working with a number of partner organisations, including the British Dyslexia Association, on “No to Failure”, a pilot project for schools in three local authorities which will help to identify pupils with dyslexia and then provide individual specialist tuition. We are also looking at whether such specialist tuition should be extended more widely across the country. Around £1 million of funding over three years is being provided to support the project. In addition, we have asked Sir Jim Rose to make recommendations on the identification and teaching of children with dyslexia as part of his broad-ranging review of the primary school curriculum which is being undertaken at the moment.

Lord Addington: My Lords, I thank the Minister. I want to put one question to him. In my speech I pointed out the fact that there is a lot of late diagnosis, particularly in people from what used to be called working class backgrounds, possibly because there were no expectations. Is any work going on into how best to help those who are diagnosed later, for instance only when they are in secondary school, who may well be resistant to any form of classroom support for things like spelling and reading?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, that work is being undertaken, and we are not just talking about specialist teachers being introduced at the primary school level, but whether they could be utilised more extensively at the secondary level as well for the reasons given by the noble Lord. Of course, part of the training teachers undergo is precisely to ensure that they can address the needs of pupils who for good reason might not be forthcoming about their own learning difficulties.

We are also seeking to improve data collection by introducing the School Workforce Census in 2010. We will be seeking data on relevant qualifications for all teachers. One of the categories under which post A-level qualifications can be described in the census is “Training teachers—special needs”, which would cover training in non-standard methods to teach children with special needs. However, I should stress that it is early days and that some further work needs to take place before we know how the census can best reflect information relevant to SEN.

Finally, perhaps I may take up the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on the underachievement of deaf children. My officials are working closely with the NDCS and RNID to look at how we can address their concerns. This relationship

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has been constructive. We have shared further data with them and are looking at how they can be published in due course.

This is a worthwhile Bill that will help improve services and outcomes for children with special educational needs. We look forward to its passage into law.

12.08 pm

Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords for their support today. It has been a humbling experience to hear the wisdom and experience of noble Lords who are far better informed than I about the needs of children with special educational needs. I am particularly honoured to have had contributions from those with such fine records in this area as the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, and the noble Lords, Lord Low and Lord Addington.

The response to the Bill has been a mixture of the practical and the visionary. This was summed up in the contributions of the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Morris. The visionary is seeing the Bill as a very important step towards making progress for these children, whose needs have been articulately set out by both noble Baronesses; the practical is to remind us of the difficulties, the limitations and the complexities that lie ahead. I am grateful to both noble Baronesses for that. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord James, too, for reminding us of how far we have come and the importance of early and proper diagnosis of special educational needs.

I am very grateful to the Minister for his support, for his assurances of how the Bill will work in practice and for setting it in context with the other major and welcome initiatives being undertaken by the Government in this area.

It has been an honour and a pleasure to work with Sharon Hodgson MP, my honourable friend in another place, and her colleague, Jonathan Tanner. Their passionate commitment to this issue has made an impression on parliamentary colleagues and throughout the campaigning charities. I am most grateful to them for their support.

The point has been made several times today that the Bill is simple and modest—and that is absolutely right. But it will not have a simple outcome; it will have an important outcome for children with special educational needs. That is what we all want, as is evident from the welcome cross-party support.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.


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