Tuesday 17 May 2011

Select Committee: Special Educational Needs Green Paper

Yesterday morning I sat in the public area for the Education Select Committee *. I've watched proceedings on television before, but it was much more exciting being there in person.

Sue Bourne, Headteacher of The Avenue School (where I'm chairman of governors) was one of 5 expert witnesses called to give evidence. I was keen to accompany Sue to give her moral support & hear the discussion.

Sue has a huge amount of experience and passion for Special Educational Needs (SEN) having worked in the field for 22 years. Sue was appointed to The Avenue School 8 years ago when closure was anticipated. However Sue, supported by her strong team, turned the school around to achieve numerous major awards including the prestigious Specialist Status for Performance Arts and The Full International School Award, as well as being rated "outstanding" by Ofsted in the last 4 inspections.

The Expert Witnesses welcomed speeding up & simplifying the process for families; having a combined assessment and standardising assessments across the country. Concerns were mainly on funding; responsibility; and capacity. There was acknowledgement that transitions for post-16 have been in a mess and that adequacy of such provision needs further examination.
Following on after the hour's session, Sarah Teather MP, Minister for Children & Families, was questioned for a further hour.

Sue & my morning was topped off by a meeting with Alok Sharma MP, in whose constituency (Reading West) lies The Avenue School. Alok has been extremely supportive of all Sue's and the School's achievements over the last few years.

* A departmental select committee examines the spending, administration and policy of the specific department and related public bodies. It consists of members from all the major parties in the House. A Select Committee therefore holds the Government to account.