Tom Hunt MP hosted a roundtable discussion on Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Provision in Ipswich

Tom Hunt MP hosted a roundtable discussion on Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) provision in Suffolk alongside on a national scale on Friday 15th September. Present were, Tom Hunt MP; Cllr Chris Chambers, Deputy Cabinet Member for Education, Suffolk County Council; Dhruv Patel, Nisai Education Trust; Gemma Grace, Adult Autism Awareness Advocate; Wayne Taylor, Director of Youth Services at TCHC; Boo Dendy, Leading Lives and Adam Dabin, Head Teacher, Sir Bobby Robson School.


The group discussed how not only education reform is needed, but also SEND provision for adults to ensure they hold necessary life skills alongside helped on the path towards gaining a job. At the end of the discussion after each person spoke about their experience with neurodiversity or working with neurodiverse people, the group split the areas of improvement into education and lifestyle.


For education reform, the group recommended the need for all teachers to have a good awareness and understanding of all types of neurodiversity, not just SEND specialists. This needs to be incorporated into the teacher training curriculum. In the Ofsted report, each school needs to be assessed on their provision of SEND which is currently not the case. There needs to be a dedicated section of the review. Funding was also mentioned, Parliamentarians and Local Councils need to continue working with the government to ensure High Needs Block Funding is equal to need, something the current funding formula falls short of. The group raised that the updated provider access legislation (PAL) as of January 2023 specifies schools must provide at least six encounters with approved providers of apprenticeships and technical education for all their students. Tom Hunt MP agreed to discuss with the Government what progress has been made since the enactment.


For lifestyle/adult SEND provision reform, the accessibility of jobs was discussed. Fewer than 3 in 10 people will autism are in work. The recent Buckland Review by the Government is aiming to change this. To aid this, the group suggested neurodiversity awareness training for job centre staff to ensure they communicate in an effective and compassionate way to those who are neurodiverse and can also suggest appropriate jobs. The group also suggested those who are neurodiverse/those who specialise in working with people who are neurodiverse go into companies so that employers can learn about changes they can make to the workplace that can help neurodiverse employees thrive. The group discussed how not all changes need to cost money, such as making sure someone who is neurodiverse is comfortable being in a meeting by letting them know where the meeting will be, who will be in the meeting, what the room will look like beforehand. Getting a quicker diagnosis was also mentioned.

All members of the roundtable agreed that the meeting was a step in the right direction and meeting with people who engage with neurodiversity in multiple different ways aided the conversation. The group hope to meet again soon to further discuss ideas for SEND provision reform.


Tom Hunt MP: “People of all ages often feel let down by the provision of SEND. It is important that when looking at how we can work together to improve the system, we not only focus on education but also the provision of life skills that can help lead to securing a job and aid in day to day activities.


“People who are neurodivergent hold a plethora of skills that we are currently underutilising, such as their ability to hyper focus and their abundant creativity. At the roundtable, we had multiple professionals and advocates present. We heard people’s first-hand experiences with neurodiversity, educating and training those who are neurodivergent, alongside those who have employed people who are neurodiverse and how small and low-cost changes can be made to ensure they are a happy and productive member of any team.


“I will continue to raise the necessary changes to the SEND system in Parliament, to ensure the required adjustments in Suffolk are made.”


Cllr Chris Chambers: “We are working tirelessly to improve the lives of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, including when they transition into adulthood.


“Reform of this scale is not easy and positive change takes time to filter down to every level of SEND provision in Suffolk. Not only do we sit against the backdrop of a broken national system, but we have multiple partners to work with who each have their own set of unique challenges.


“The roundtable enabled us to share experiences and discuss where improvement is needed. Those important and frank conversations will help shape our reform.


Dhruv Patel: “Young people with SEND often feel failed by the education system. They often don’t have the support they need to break down the barriers they have which stop them from learning the education and life skills they need for a fulfilled life. This is a tragedy as many young people with SEND want to grow, develop and work and have a number of strengths like attention to detail, commitment and loyalty.  To change this, local and national government need to work with the sector and those with SEND to co-produce solutions.  This meeting looked at what can practically be done to develop these solutions and the next stages include asking questions and thinking about potential changes to legislation and best practice frameworks before we come together again.”


Gemma Grace: “As an Autistic adult I was privileged to attend the SEND Roundtable session, to join in collaboration with all the multi cross party professionals, to achieve better outcomes for SEND provisions in Ipswich for both young people and adults. Having my voice heard and my dignity respected.”


Adam Dabin: “It was great to see such a range of people focussed on improving opportunities for young people in Suffolk. There is much to do still, but we must celebrate where successes are happening and use these as fuel to continue to drive change.”


Boo Dendy: “This conversation is so important. We need education and social care providers to be working in partnership with employers, so we understand the needs of neurodivergent people and can make the required adjustments to support a good education and employment opportunities for everyone in Suffolk.”


Wayne Taylor: “Was great to be invited to come along and discuss pressing issues around SEND. Enabling voices to be heard around the table, to be then pressed with government is a starting point for change.  We need to ensure more collaborative working to enable young people to transition effectively into positive destinations that are sustainable and linked to their aspirations.”

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