The Parliamentary Information Office of the Parliamentary Yearbook has been monitoring progress in Government policy relating to education for major features in the next edition on both our education system and diversity and inclusiveness
Members of the House of Lords debated the accessible education and training available to those with ‘hidden’ disabilities, such as dyslexia and autism yesterday (Thursday 28 June).
Members with an interest in education and issues affecting young people were listed to speak during the debate which lasted around two and a half hours.
These include Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Labour), the opposition spokesperson for education, and Lord Ramsbotham (Crossbench) an adviser for the Helen Hamlyn Trust, a foundation supporting young people through arts and education.
Lord Addington (Liberal Democrat) has a special interest in the topic being dyslexic himself and Vice President of the British Dyslexia Association and patron of the Adult Dyslexia Organisation. He said:
“In society, we have a tendency to ignore those who need just a little bit of help and concentrate on those who need a lot.
“Unfortunately, these hidden disabilities – such as dyslexia, for example – tend to be vastly over-represented among the long-term unemployed and within our prison service and other areas.
“I hope that this debate will bring some of these issues to the fore and encourage the government to help people affected by hidden disabilities aware of the opportunities for education and training that are available to them.”
In opening the debate Lord Addington called for more training to allow those working in the education and training sectors to spot hidden disabilities. He said:
“When I linked autism and dyslexia and included them in hidden disabilities, the main point that I was trying to make was that anything that is not easily spotted at the start of the educational process, whenever someone chooses to take that, leads to problems if it impedes one’s learning or classroom situation. How early one gets in and identifies the problem is crucial.”
Vice president of the National Autistic Society, Baroness Browning (Conservative), followed and spoke of her ‘battle’ to bring autism to the top of the agenda. She highlighted the need to address issues in the classroom and look at each individual case of autism.
She said “Of course, autistic children are different. It is a danger to just lump them all together. Their needs will be different. They are individuals. Their teaching needs will be best addressed by an environment and a teaching process that recognises what those needs are – which needs to be put together after very careful assessment.”
Lord Ramsbotham declared an interest in the subject as chairman of the All-Party Group on Speech and Language Difficulties and an adviser for the Helen Hamlyn Trust, a foundation supporting young people through arts and education. He explained:
“I am very concerned that people with hidden difficulties and disabilities which could be identified early must have them identified, so that the talents and the treasure can be nurtured and developed not just for their benefit, but for the benefit of the nation as a whole.”
Lord Hill of Oareford (Conservative) Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools and government spokesperson, Department for Education, responded on behalf of the government saying:
“The government are introducing their children and families bill, which in a way, I hope, sets the framework for much of what we have discussed this afternoon and how we hope to be able to improve things in future, because that bill seeks to put into legislation a new framework for the education and training of disabled children, young people and those with special educational needs.”
The Parliamentary Information Office of the Parliamentary Year book will continue to report on inclusiveness within our education system as we go through the months ahead.