Philip Dunne welcomes 37 new specialist schools for children with SEN and autism

21st March 2019

Philip Dunne welcomes the Government announcement of a new 37 specialist schools for pupils with special educational needs and autism and highlights a local campaign that is opening a new school, Overton school, just outside Ludlow.

My hon. Friend is making an exceptionally powerful speech, and I applaud his role as chairman of the all-party group. It is particularly impressive that he has been able to pick up the role in this debate of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan) in her absence.

Returning to the question of education, my hon. Friend touched on the subject of young people a moment ago. Does he agree that the Government’s recent announcement of an additional 37 schools across the country to provide special needs support for people, including those on the autistic spectrum, is a welcome recognition of the challenges presented to our education system by the increasing prevalence, regrettably, of autism across our communities?

I would like to highlight one story in my constituency that points out the need for such schools. It involves a mother of two autistic children, both of whom have to be schooled over 100 miles away from Ludlow, in the heart of my constituency, where she lives. She has campaigned with a local charity and not-for-profit group to open a new school—Overton school, just outside Ludlow, which is currently awaiting its Ofsted accreditation—partly so that other families who have to deal with the same circumstances will not have to travel 100 miles to visit their children.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I know how much he campaigns to deliver the solution he talks about because I am fortunate enough to share an office with him. He is a great champion of his constituents, and it is welcome news that more schools will be funded. The Minister will have heard his powerful pitch for his constituency. I can also reassure all Members that I am only temporarily sitting in for my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham; she will continue to be the chairman of the all-party group. I will now make progress, as I know others wish to speak.



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