Emma asked the Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson:
“Just over 1,900 pupils in my constituency have special educational needs. Those children need teachers who understand their unique requirements as learners and adapt their lessons appropriately. Does the Minister accept that such pupils lose out in schools that have unqualified teachers who have never undertaken any special educational needs training?”
The Minister dismissed Emma’s question, but did not provide an explanation of why he did not believe special needs training to be important.
Last month Labour held a debate in the House of Commons on the issue of qualified teachers.
Under the current Education Secretary Michael Gove, children in free schools can be taught by staff with no formal teacher training. This can have a damaging effect on the quality of education all pupils receive, but for pupils with special educational needs the effect can be greater still.
This issue was recently highlighted in the damning report of the Al-Madinah free school, which reported that “many teachers are inexperienced and have not received the training and support they need.” Special needs children were “left to struggle” as the school “has not identified who they are and does not provide work specifically adapted for their needs”.
Commenting after Education Questions, Emma said:
“This is an issue that affects every classroom. There are over nineteen hundred special needs pupils in South Shields alone, and nationally the proportion of pupils with special needs is one in five. These children need teachers who understand their unique requirements and design lessons that cater to every child.
“Recent cases have shown that schools which hire unqualified staff run the risk of ignoring their special needs pupils. This is a serious issue, and I was extremely disappointed that the Minister did not offer an explanation when I questioned him in Parliament.”