Edward Timpson: supporting SEND students in further education

This is the script of Edward Timpson’s speech he made this month from the Association of Colleges SEND Conference, London.

‘When I spoke to you last December, the Children and Families Bill was about to be enshrined in law. I said to you we could rise to the challenge, and through endeavour, I want to make this vision a reality.’

‘So firstly a thank you for everything you’ve done to help us shape and improve these reforms, the biggest to special educational needs for 30 years.’

‘We made sure we consulted closely with the AoC and many others, and I hope you came away from that experience feeling that we listened to you. Not just in terms of the policy, but also the practicalities that if implemented will make a really positive impact to many children and families’ lives.’

‘Fast forward 12 months and we’re now moving into that all-important phase of delivering these reforms on the ground and ensuring they improve the prospects of some of our most vulnerable children and disadvantaged young people.’


Role of further education sector


‘And I’m in no doubt that the FE sector has a pivotal role to play in bridging childhood and greater independence for hundreds of thousands of children.’

‘Your work is the culmination of efforts, from the early years onwards, to give young people the same support and opportunities as we want for our own children.’

‘These are essential ingredients in a successful transition into adulthood - having that clear sense of aspiration whatever their start in life.’

‘Yes, we want students with SEND to enjoy their course, make friends and feel safe in the college environment - but what about what happens next?’

‘What about their chances of getting a job, going on to further study, living independently?’

‘You help cross that divide between education and independence, something which seems like a simple step but often isn’t.’

‘Our reforms build on this vital role, giving you an even greater opportunity to make a difference.’


Addressing challenges


‘So there’s a lot of excellent practice that we can build on as we go forward.’

‘Yet these are big reforms and I recognise that it will take time for them to bed in. And that there will inevitably be challenges - some foreseen, some not - along the way.’

‘For instance, I know that there are some issues - ongoing - with funding, and also with the EHC process itself. Fortunately for you and for me, Peter [Mucklow] from the Education Funding Agency and Ann [Gross] from my department will be able to say more about this later today.’

‘But I am aware that some local authorities are passing down funding to help colleges with this issue, and this might be something for more of you to consider and for us to discuss.’

‘But whilst there will always be bumps along the way with change on this scale, let’s not forget the tremendous prospects we have here to transform SEND support and children and young people’s life chances. And, indeed, the survey results point to some really good progress.’

‘Families have told us that the reforms are making their lives easier and much of this is down to the great work of your colleges.’

‘One parent I met a few weeks ago said that a review with her child’s tutor had a very different feel to it. She said that it was much more forward-looking and centred around their aspirations.’

‘That’s exactly what I want to hear.’




‘So I urge you in everything you do to continue to push the boundaries and aim high on behalf of young people who have so much potential. You only need to look at the survey results to see how far the FE sector has come. And, to be blunt, we can’t do this without you.’

‘We’re breaking new ground, and by working together I’m hopeful we’re on our way to doing much better by some of our most vulnerable and most rewarding young people. All of us here can see their potential - now let’s help them take that to the world outside the college campus and show everyone what they can do.’

‘This will be a transition which will not take months, but years. Let us know about any teething issues you have, and we can help to solve them together. I look forward to working with you on this.’

Read the full transcript online.

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