Education Secretary Damian Hinds meets Suffolk MPs over fears for special needs funding

Suffolk MPs Jo Churchill, Peter Aldous, Therese Coffey, Dan Poulter and James Cartlidge with Damian

Suffolk MPs Jo Churchill, Peter Aldous, Therese Coffey, Dan Poulter and James Cartlidge with Damian Hinds after their meeting about Special Needs education in the county. Picture: Office of JAMES CARTLIDGE - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s Conservative MPs have held a meeting with Education Secretary Damian Hinds in a bid to get more support to deal with the county’s crisis in special needs education.

Five MPs from the county - Peter Aldous, Jo Churchill, James Cartlidge, Dr Therese Coffey and Dr Dan Poulter - met Mr Hinds at the House of Commons after it emerged Suffolk needs 300-400 more SEND (Special Educational Need and Disability) places.

That is the equivalent of three or four new schools but there is not enough funding in place to meet this need. The MPs are also concerned about access to schools, particularly for children in rural areas.

Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill said: “I arranged this meeting because I was concerned that we need more capacity to meet the increasing demand for SEND services in the county.

“While we have high-quality provision at schools such as the Priory and Riverwalk in Bury, we know that we want to do more for young people in Suffolk.

“Making sure that joined up conversations happen throughout the provider pipeline ensures that outcomes for the young people who need this specialist education are the best that they can be.”

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said: “I know from my recent visit to Hillside Special School, an outstanding SEND school in Sudbury, that we have some excellent provision in our county.

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“That said, concern about provision is one of the most common issues raised in my constituency surgeries, particularly at a time of rising demand. I think we all agree that the quality and quantity of SEND provision is varied and more needs to be done.”

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter said SEND funding was one of the most common concerns that was brought up with him by teachers and parents during his visits to schools across his constituency.

He said: “First of all, I would like to commend the outstanding SEND work going on already in our schools. But that said, as a regular visitor to schools across Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, I am all too aware of the challenges faced and SEND provision and funding is undoubtedly one of the most common concerns raised with me during school visits.

“I therefore welcomed the opportunity to meet with the Secretary of State today to make sure that Suffolk’s education needs are firmly at the forefront and in particular, I would like to see greater joined up work and earlier intervention between schools and child and adolescent mental health services.”

Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey said: “I have been contacted by some constituents about special educational needs provision in rural Suffolk and issues, particularly with funding and transport, in gaining access to this provision. It was great to talk through some of the challenges with the Education Secretary – and I hope our representations will help shape his future thinking.”

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