I have long argued that children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) must have the same access to a world-class education as every other child. I was therefore delighted to hear last week that the Chancellor has used his Budget to more than triple capital funding for SEND.
The funding of £2.6 billion will help back more than 30,000 new places for pupils to support their learning in both mainstream and special educational needs schools. This is terrific news and I have already written to the Schools Minister to ensure children and schools across Sevenoaks and Swanley benefit.
Over the last year I have received a number of emails from parents expressing concerns about local SEND services, and I recently met with the Kent County Council (KCC) Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services and the Director of SEND to both discuss the issues that parents have raised and understand the challenges being faced by the council, local families, and schools.
Over the last six months the KCC SEND team have been receiving approximately 350 SEND requests each month, when normally they received fewer than 200. This is an unprecedented increase, but reflects a trend being seen nationally.
Parents concerns were acknowledged by KCC in my meeting, and I was assured that having brought in a new team, the council are working incredibly hard to overcome the challenges.
I want to see more specialist school places available, more help in the mainstream, and for the families of pupils with SEND to be communicated with promptly to ease the uncertainties families face when transitioning to secondary schools.
Brilliant work has already been done locally to improve school choice, and improve school facilities, but I want every child to have the best possible start in life and to fulfil their potential. I will continue to campaign until this have been delivered.