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Ipswich MP Tom Hunt says Suffolk schools need more resources for pupils with special educational needs

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Ipswich MP Tom Hunt says more resources are needed in Suffolk schools for pupils with special educational needs, and school assessment criteria places too much emphasis on results rather than development.

Mr Hunt, who sits on the Education Select Committee at Westminster and himself has dyslexia and dyspraxia, said schools should not have to choose between supporting SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) pupils who need more tailored support and their peers.

Responding to a new Suffolk County Council report which showed SEND pupils were disproportionately more likely to be permanently excluded, the Conservative MP said changes were needed in the system, while the county needed fairer funding to provide additional support.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS
Ipswich MP Tom Hunt. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

“The way schools are assessed it sometimes feels it doesn’t work in a way that rewards schools for being a good school for kids with SEND to be in,” he said.

“It should look at the positive difference made to the young people the school is responsible for and must take into account the development. It shouldn’t all be about outcomes and results.

“It’s important you get tailored support, and ideally, smaller classes.

“Quite often those [unsupported] individuals can turn against the system and and concern is that many end up being expelled.

“If you get it right, a lot of individuals are creative thinkers and can make a real positive difference in society.”

Suffolk County Council has embarked on a £45million programme to create more than 800 new SEND places at either new SEND schools or specialist units at mainstream schools.

The autumn budget in Wednesday also announced a tripling of investment in SEND places.

Mr Hunt said: “Special schools are sometimes the appropriate thing, and it is good we have got the new one in Ipswich, another in Woodbridge Road, and pleased to hear there will be more SEND places, but for many it would be more appropriate to be in mainstream schools with more one-to-one tuition support and SEND specialists.

“Some is clearly down to resources and we know in Suffolk we are not fairly funded when it comes to SEND.”

He added that there needs to be a “significant increase in spending on SEND” to address the “out of kilter” resources Suffolk received compared to areas like London, pledging to continue lobbying for fairer funding.

Suffolk remains in the F40 group of the lowest funded education authorities in the country.

The Suffolk permanent exclusions report found that nearly half of all exclusions were SEND pupils, despite just 18% of the county’s school population having some kind of SEND need.

That has prompted the county to put in place more early-intervention measures before schools get to the point of exclusion, many of which were introduced at the start of September.

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