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My Conservative Manifesto: Tom Hunt sets out his vision for SEND provision

3 min read

Getting SEND provision right from early years is vital to help children with special needs

Emphasising the quality of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) provision in the assessment of schools could make a significant difference to pupils with special needs across the country. 

Having spent time on the Education Committee and having advocated consistently for this topic, both in Westminster and Ipswich, this is something I would be pleased to see more commitment on for the next general election.

There are far more pupils with SEND than we might think. I was surprised to see in the government’s SEND review: right support, right place, right time that more than a third of year 11 students had been identified as having special educational needs at some point in their education.

We know the huge potential of getting SEND provision right – but also the costs to society and to individuals of getting it wrong

This is a higher proportion than many might imagine. It goes to show just how many individual pupils are affected by the quality of support available, and how many learners in our school system are likely to have an unconventional way of processing information. 

Getting SEND right in schools makes a huge difference to the experiences, mental health and life chances of individuals. But it also has a societal impact: making sure children and young adults who need additional support are identified and listened to is essential in making sure they don’t fall through the gaps in the system. 

Through earlier diagnosis and better support for individuals with hidden learning disabilities, like dyslexia and dyspraxia, we could ensure no child falls through the cracks. I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia at the age of 12, having a reading and writing age of an eight-year-old, so I know just how significant a diagnosis and the appropriate support can be. 

We know that dyslexic individuals are overrepresented among the most successful groups like entrepreneurs, but also overrepresented in the prison population. Better support could reduce pressure on our prisons, preventing those with hidden learning disabilities from being left behind and falling into the justice system. 

We also need to make sure that Ofsted assessment of SEND provision establishes the right incentives. No teacher should ever feel conflicted between doing what is best for SEND pupils and professional success. 

In a meeting with the director of Ofsted, we discussed the way SEND provision is assessed in schools. One of the most significant adjustments could be to the system of incentives: we need to make sure the way Ofsted assesses schools puts an emphasis on being rewarded for the best possible SEND support. 

We know the huge potential of getting SEND provision right – but also the costs to society and to individuals of getting it wrong. Commitments to investment in earlier diagnosis, better support, and providing the right incentives could have a big impact. 

I would like to see SEND put on the agenda. 

Tom Hunt is Conservative MP for Ipswich

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