Teather reveals her teen disability trauma to TES

17th September 2010 at 01:00

Children's minister Sarah Teather has spoken of her own problems dealing with disability as a young teenager for the first time.

The Liberal Democrat MP told The TES of her first-hand experience of the difficulties young people with special educational needs and disabilities face when it comes to gaining a good education.

Ms Teather said she spent a significant proportion of her formative years in a wheelchair due to illness, which had a profound effect on her schooling.

"It is not something I have talked about very much, but it is also something very important for me personally as well," the children's minister said.

"I spent four years of my teenage years very ill and missed a lot of school. In fact, I spent most of that time in a wheelchair, so I have direct personal experience with a disability. I have to say I think it is a prime example of how not to do education because I ended up with no education whatsoever during that period."

Ms Teather, who was the youngest MP at the time when she was elected to Brent East in 2003, said she had a viral infection that led to "complications" and was in and out of hospital for four years.

"Having experienced that I can empathise with the frustration of realising that it is affecting your education," she added. "There was no way I could go into the school I was supposed to go into - it was an old building, it was not fit for purpose and I could barely last a day anyway. I ended up falling out of education altogether."

The Lib Dem said it was only through her friend's neat handwritten notes and Letts revision guides that she managed to pass her GCSEs.

Ms Teather returned to her school sixth form after the illness and went on to study natural sciences at St John's College, Cambridge.

Profile, pages 16-17.

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