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#YourVoice James Berry MP: Vital debate on Early Years education

James Giles

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The debate will take place in Westminster Hall at 9.30am on Tuesday 12 July – it is 
open to the public and will be live streamed on www.parliamentlive.tv/Commons  
 
James Berry writes: 
 
We sometimes think of education as starting only at primary school or once children have 
reached their fourth or fifth birthdays, but this is far from the case. Even the very youngest 
children are learning all the time and a growing body of research shows that this early 
learning is vitally important. 
Early education and childcare have been longstanding priorities of mine because of the 
important role they play in children’s life chances. 
Unless children start school with the building blocks of learning, particularly early language 
development, they may struggle to pay attention in the classroom, follow lessons, interact 
with their classmates and develop key skills like reading and maths. The research shows that 
children who start behind, stay behind. 
Roughly nine in every ten three and four year olds currently attend some sort of childcare 
each week and I am proud that the government has passed legislation to double the amount of 
free child care working parents can claim from 15 to 30 hours each week. Indeed this was a 
policy launched right in the heart of my constituency at the Advantage Children’s Day Care 
Nursery in Tolworth. 
But whilst an additional 15 hours free childcare will be an enormous help to parents in 
Kingston and across the country, we must use this opportunity to look at what actually goes 
into this childcare. We need to make sure that early years education really does get our 
children ready to have the best possible start at school and prevents any child from falling 
behind. 
Compared to the national average, children in the Kingston borough perform well in speech 
and language development at age five, thanks in part to the excellent teaching and SLT 
services here. However, the poorest children are almost twice as likely to fall behind and are 
already around a year behind their better-off peers by the time they reach this age. 
The implications for a child who fails to master basic language skills are clear. It is little 
surprise that those children who start behind tend to stay behind, leading to limited chances 
of success throughout their lives at school and fewer opportunities beyond. 
I want to ensure that all children in Kingston have the chance to fulfil their full potential, 
whatever their parents’ circumstances. That is why I have called a debate in Westminster 
Hall, together with a cross-party group of MPs, to look at what we can do to make these 
objectives a reality.  

James Giles is the Editor of the Kingston Enquirer, covering local news and events in Kingston, New Malden, Surbiton, Tolworth and Chessington.

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Stop cuts to schools and special needs children

James Giles

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The Council last night (7th February) passed the ‘SEND Transformation Plan’, despite local residents making clear that they had not been properly consulted.

The plans, which include raiding a potential £5 million from the budgets of mainstream schools, were put out to consultation over the Christmas Holidays, which resulted in a response rate of less than 2% of those with special needs children.

SEND Family Voices, a group who until recently worked with the Council on special needs matters, have described the plans as ‘fantasy’, saying: “The risk of legal challenge is now high; the risk of Tribunal rates going through the roof is also now extremely high. The Plan is unachievable & the savings suggested are completely fabricated.”

If 100 residents sign the ‘call in’ below, the decision is sent to Scrutiny Panel for an investigation.

Please sign to ensure that our schools and special needs children get the education they deserve. We demand better for SEND children.

CALL IN: SEND TRANSFORMATION

We, the undersigned, call in all recommendations from the 'SEND Transformation Plan' from the Childrens and Adults Care and Education Committee for review at Scrutiny Panel for the following reasons:

- Councillors were misled by officers who presented the item, who claimed the consultation was sent to all SEND parents, school governors, publicised on the website and via social media, which is gross distortion of the facts.
- The consultation was not published on Kingston Council's consultation portal until 3rd January, leaving less than three weeks for the public to reply through this forum.
- The 'easy read' consultation was not published until after most schools had broken up.
- The consultation did not meet government guidelines on good consultation.
- Out of Borough schools which have Kingston SEND pupils attending were not consulted on the proposals
- SEND partners and parents were not consulted before the plan was published
- The consultation only had 96 responses. There are 4,000+ CYP with SEND in Kingston - at best, the response rate was 2% and in reality, lower, which suggests there was a major flaw with the way in which consultation was carried out, leaving the Council open to legal challenge.
- The committee wilfully held the authority's constitution in contempt by agreeing to the sending the Written Statement of Action to Ofsted a mere two working days after the committee, despite the constitution being incredibly clear that a decision cannot be fully implemented until expiration of a call-in period.
- The risk of legal challenge is now high; the risk of Tribunal rates going through the roof is also now extremely high.
- The Plan is unachievable & the savings suggested are completely fabricated.

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283 signatures

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