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
"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
"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.