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MP slams approach to education for county's most vulnerable

PUBLISHED: 22:45 05 November 2019 | UPDATED: 22:45 05 November 2019

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin has described Suffolk's SEND services as failing   Picture: PARLIAMENT LIVE

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin has described Suffolk's SEND services as failing Picture: PARLIAMENT LIVE

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin has described special educational need (SEN) provision in Suffolk as "failing".

Mr Martin was speaking in the final debate before Parliament was dissolved on Tuesday evening.

Speaking to MPs Mr Martin said that more needed to be done to help parents and children in the county.

"Suffolk has a greater than average number of SEND assessment cases going to tribunal, poor communication between providers and with parents," said Mr Martin.

"I believe that there are profound problems in the way in which the county approaches the issue, and that there is an underlying belief at Suffolk County Council and in other related services such as CAMHS that, somehow or other, the affected parents are just making things up and the problems will eventually just go away. I do not know what the answers are, but I do know that SEND provision in Suffolk is failing children and their parents in Ipswich, and that doing nothing is not an answer."

Mr Martin said he had spoken to many families affected by problems with SEND provision, including the family of a 12-year-old boy whose family said he was not being provided with an education and instead was left in a state of limbo.

He also criticised the amount of money being spent on pupils in the county.

"Analysis by the School Cuts Coalition shows that 94% of the schools in Ipswich still have less income per pupil in real terms than in 2015 - £298 per pupil less."

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"SEND provision in Suffolk is failing children and their parents in Ipswich - 'do nothing' is not an option."

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge also attended the debate and called on the Government to do more to address issues with the amount of funding allocated to Suffolk.

"I, too, have cases in my constituency that are very challenging," said Mr Cartlidge.

Parliamentary under-secretary of state for education, Michelle Donelan, said that there had been issues in the county but that it remained a priority for the Government.

She said: "Of course it is important that we get the right resources and funding into areas, including Suffolk, so that they have the tools and ability to ensure that SEND children have the same opportunities, choices and chances in life.

"Creating the right number of school places in the right settings is a challenge. That is why I am pleased that Suffolk County Council is developing more than 800 new specialist education places between 2020 and 2025. That will include the establishment of three new specialist schools, up to 36 specialist units attached to mainstream schools and an in-county specialist setting for children with the most complex needs.

"As part of the capital programme, Suffolk will open a social, emotional and mental health school in Bury St Edmunds.

"I recognise that there have been problems in Suffolk, but I want to reassure the hon. Member for Ipswich that, despite what he said, we are monitoring progress closely. This remains a key priority for our Department.

"We will hold a formal progress review meeting later this month, to which stakeholders and parents will be invited."

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