'Patchwork' SEN needs a rethink

1st February 2008 at 00:00
League tables spotlighting local authorities that give inadequate support to pupils with special educational needs could be introduced in legislation under debate today.

Sharon Hodgson MP, who has a severely dyslexic son, wants to end the current "patchwork quilt" of services that she says unfairly disadvantages some pupils with SEN.

Her Bill is being backed by the Government and the Special Educational Consortium (SEC), which represents about 100 charities, local government organisations and teacher unions. The Bill would put a new requirement on the schools' secretary to publish annually information that is likely to help improve the wellbeing of SEN pupils.

Mrs Hodgson, Labour MP for Gateshead East and Washington West in Tyne and Wear, said: "Publishing this information is the catalyst needed to make a long-term difference and end the unacceptable variation in provision we have."

She is expected to call on ministers to publish figures that would allow SEN pupils' exam results to be compared on a council-by-council basis. "We need to get a full picture of what is going on across the country," she said. "Not necessarily to beat authorities with a stick, but to highlight best practice."

The MP also wants to expand the annual school census so that it includes pupils with lower-level needs as well as those with more severe needs and full statements.

It was Mrs Hodgson's personal experience of moving her son between local authorities that inspired her to introduce the Bill. She realised there was a lack of central knowledge about SEN provision in different areas after asking parliamentary questions about specialist support for children with dyslexia.

"I know only too well the pressure and frustration many parents face," she said. "We have to ensure better statistics are available to everyone involved in our education system."

Brian Lamb, chair of SEC, welcomed the Bill, saying it would provide "ammunition" for change.

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