A WEARSIDE MP has embarked on a fact-finding mission in a bid to improve special schools across the country.
Shadow Education Minister Sharon Hodgson, who represents Washington and Sunderland West, visited Percy Hedley School as part of the forthcoming Special Education Policy Review.
It is hoped the move will ensure that students with special needs are not excluded from education and leave school with a range of skills.
It will also look into current policies and processes to ensure they are fair and consistent, reach those most in need and make the best use of the funding and resources available.
The Labour politician said she first came into contact with the school’s charitable foundation, which is being supported by a Sunderland AFC-backed charity drive, at a national education conference.
“It was fantastic to visit the Percy Hedley Foundation and see the quality of care and education that young people are getting,” said Mrs Hodgson.
“I am currently reviewing the Labour Party’s policies with regard to Special Educational Needs.
“Visits like this not only give me a chance to see the services that some of my constituents receive, but also a sense of what can be achieved across the country with the right support, and what a future Labour government’s priorities need to be if we are to help all children to realise their potential and live as independent and fulfilling lives as possible.”
Staff said the visit to the charity’s education services gave the MP the chance to see and hear first-hand about the challenges faced by the sector.
The Percy Hedley School, which is based at Forest Hall and Killingworth, caters for children aged three to 19, specialising in helping youngsters with cerebral palsy and speech and language difficulties. Head teacher Lynn Watson said: “We wanted to show and explain to Sharon the benefits of our approach whereby our specialist teachers and therapists provide an integrated approach to working with children who have speech, language and communication difficulties and complex difficulties including dyspraxia, dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.”
More than £400,000 raised in memory of former Black Cats goalkeeper Tim Carter will help improve facilities at the school.
The sudden death of the ex-player and coach with Sunderland AFC almost four years ago shocked the world of football and inspired a major fund-raising drive, backed by the club, fans and fellow professionals.
The aim is to build a hydrotherapy pool at the school, which his son attends, to give a better quality of life to disabled people in the North East.
Bruce Parvin, the foundation’s director of resources, said: “I believe that the visit has been a great success.
“It is really important that MPs get a feel for the challenges we face as a sector.
“We need to ensure that the Government understands that we offer great value for money, we deliver excellent services and support thousands of people in a way that enables them to achieve their potential and lead meaningful and fulfilling lives.”