Train specialist SEND teachers, minister suggests

Nick Gibb says ITT could include a category for specialist teachers to improve support for pupils with special educational needs and disability

Nick Gibb has told MPs there could be a specialism in SEND in initial teacher training

The schools minister has suggested that initial teacher training should include a specific category for special educational needs teachers.

Nick Gibb told the Commons Education Select Committee this morning that it might want to recommend that people could join teacher training with a SEND specialism.

The minister said there was an argument for this change to be made and that he was "persuadable".


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MPs were questioning him in the final evidence session of their enquiry into SEND provision.

Labour member Thelma Walker asked about the importance of training in schools to help provide early diagnosis and intervention for pupils with SEND.

Mr Gibb said: “In terms of initial teacher training, there is no specialism for teachers of special educational needs.”

When asked if he thought there should be, he added: “I think it's something which the committee might consider recommending. There used to be many many years ago.”

Another Labour member Ian Mearns asked whether Mr Gibb would take up the recommendation if the committee did put it forward. The minister said he was “persuadable”.

Committee chairman Robert Halfon said that in the committee’s alternative provision report it called for more training for teachers in AP. Mr Halfon, a Conservative, asked Mr Gibb if he was going to take that suggestion up.

The minister did not answer directly, but said: “In the teacher standards that we introduced in 2011, there is a specific requirement that to attain qualified teacher status you need to be able to identify and know how to differentiate teaching for children with special educational needs – but that is for all mainstream teachers in whatever subject.

“There is an argument for saying when we recruit graduates or undergraduates into teacher training we have different categories in physics, chemistry, maths and so on, but there isn’t a category for a special educational needs teacher.

"There is an argument for it, there are people who would argue against it but that is something which your committee might wish to opine on.”

MPs also told ministers that they had overwhelming evidence that pupils on SEN support were being failed by the system and voiced concerns about the postcode lottery in the delivery of education, health and care plans and the number of parents that had to resort to tribunals. 

But children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi said that the right reforms were in place. 

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