LibLink | Sarah Teather: Q&A on special needs provision

Children’s Minister Sarah Teather recently took part in an interview followed by a readers’ Question and Answer session for the Guardian about special needs provision:

Sarah Teather, the children’s minister, comes across as genuinely passionate about helping children with special needs. So much so that at one point in the interview, she got quite cross. The health service is failing some of our most vulnerable children, she said. The chance of a child receiving speech and language therapy is “between low and nil”, while the wait for a wheelchair can be “really long”, she said.

On free schools and academies helping children with children with special needs (as mentioned in the Green Paper in March) Sarah said:

We opened applications for special academies [special schools run as academies] at the start of this year and free special schools [special schools run as free schools] this week. We have certainly had a lot of interest. It’s hard to say how many of those will immediately turn into applications. We know that provision for certain types of special schools is very patchy. In some areas, for historical reasons, they have never had much specialist provision or it closed some time ago. It is a risk for councils to replace their special schools, especially if the intake is going to come outside their borough.

Something which is centrally funded takes away some of that risk and I hope and anticipate that over the next few years we will get interest from some of the charities who might be particularly involved in supporting and helping children with certain conditions. This is going to take longer than the other free school applications because it is more complicated to work through, but certainly a lot of people are talking about it. As mainstream free schools are set up, I think there will be increasing interest.

Find out what Sarah said about problems with misdiagnosis, Special Educational Needs provision at a time of cuts to local services, and the challenges of being in a coalition government: read the original article at the Guardian.

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