Sharon Hodgson speaking in the second day of the Budget Debates - 21st February 2016
Image copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016
Following the Chancellor's Budget on 16th March 2016, Sharon spoke in the second day of the Budget debates and raised concerns about the complete and forced academisation of schools in England and the impact this could have on children with special educational needs and disabilities, along with the failure of the Chancellor to significantly recognise the North East in his Budget which was driven by his desire to push further on his pet project, the Northern Powerhouse.
Read Sharon's speech in Hansard here: Sharon Hodgson MP in the Budget Debate 2016
Test pasted here:
Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab): In the time allotted, I cannot cover all the items that make up this ultra-shambles of a Budget, but I will set out a few.
The Government believe that the complete academisation of our schools by 2020 will help to address the widening gap in educational outcomes for the most disadvantaged in our schools. Yet there are many concerns about what that will mean in reality, especially for children with special educational needs and disability.
Since the publication of the Department for Education White Paper, many parents and organisations have contacted me regarding their concerns about what the proposals will mean for children with autism, dyslexia or other special educational needs or disabilities. Evidence has shown that academies have higher rates of exclusion of children with SEND, who are then pushed into local authority maintained schools. Once all schools are academies, who will take the excluded children with SEND? Those children are as worthy as any others of receiving a high-quality education, and I hope the Government will ensure that we continue to have an inclusive education system and that children with SEND are not sidelined or excluded in the fully academised school system they are creating.
Other announcements by the Chancellor failed to recognise the need for further investment in the north-east. That was seen clearly when he announced £80 million for Crossrail 2 in London and the next phase of high-speed rail—High Speed 3—which will go only as far as Leeds. Some of us live more than 100 miles further north, in the north-east, and I wait with bated breath for the day when HS4 or HS5—or will it be HS 67?—reaches us in the north-east.
The Chancellor obviously sees himself as the King in the North, with his northern powerhouse project, but he needs to realise that there is a lot more of the north before he gets to the wall—that is Hadrian’s wall, not the one in “Game of Thrones”. If he truly wants to be the King in the North, and we all know he has—or should I now say had?—ambitions for higher office, he needs to realise that there is a large section of the north between Yorkshire and Scotland called the north-east and to ensure that investment is directed to our region too.
However, there is still something the Chancellor can do now—invest in the future of the Tyne and Wear Metro. The rolling stock has not been updated in its 36-year history. However, for an estimated £400 million, a much-needed completely new fleet could be built, which would future-proof the network into the 21st century, with options for dual voltage giving it the ability to procure vehicles suitable to support future route extensions, such as the expansion into Washington via the Leamside line, which I have campaigned for more than 10 years. That would help not only to drive economic growth, with improved connectivity to other parts of the region, but provide the vital jobs we need through the building of the new fleet.