HC Deb 24 April 1998 vol 310 cc712-3W
Mr. Barry Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what assistance his Department provides for deaf and autistic children; and if he will make a statement. [39436]

Mr. Hain

Local education authorities and schools are responsible for identifying and making appropriate provision for children with special educational needs (SEN), including children with sensory impairment and specific learning difficulties associated with autism. In making appropriate provision, schools and LEAs are required to have regard to the guidance contained in the `Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of SEN', a copy of which is in the Library of the House.

The Department is undertaking a comprehensive review of SEN policy, practice and guidance in the light of responses to the recent Green Paper on SEN 'The BEST for Special Education' (Cm 3792). The Green Paper places greater emphasis on earlier identification and more appropriate intervention and highlights the importance of stronger regional planning in the provision of effective SEN support, particularly in relation to children with low incidence disabilities such as sensory impairment and autism.

SEN provision in schools in Wales will benefit from the additional £50 million revenue funding being provided for schools this year, and the additional capital funding being provided for school buildings over the lifetime of this Parliament.

The Department also makes some £1.3 million available each year under the Grants for Education Support and Training (GEST) programme to support the effective implementation of the Code of Practice and for SEN teacher training. The training of teachers of pupils with sensory disabilities and autistic children are specific priorities under the GEST programme.

In addition to grant aiding a number of voluntary SEN/disability support organisations, the Department has made £500,000 available to local authorities in Wales for the period 1996–97 to 1997–98 under the Schools Access Initiative. This initiative is designed to improve access to schools and the curriculum for pupils with physical and sensory disabilities.