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  • Writer's pictureSarah Dixon

Universal ADHD Screening - All Aboard ADHD Podcast With Matt Hancock

Did you know that 97% of children excluded from Primary School have a special educational need? And for children who end up in the youth justice system it is 80%?

In this episode, Claire is joined by The Rt Hon Matt Hancock, who has represented West Suffolk as Member of Parliament since 2010, to talk about his campaign for the early identification for neurodiverse conditions in schools. This episode was recorded the same day the Neurodivergent Screening and Teacher Training Bill was read and passed in parliament - a huge step forward in better supporting our children in schools, improving job prospects for the next generation, and reducing populations in young offenders institutes and prisons.

Matt shares his own story with dyslexia - struggling to articulate himself through the written word throughout school but only receiving a diagnosis at university, where he was fortunate enough to get support and ‘re-learn’ to read and write to support his natural ability to ‘think in pictures’.

He also describes a ‘tragic and comic’ mistake early in his career due to a very unfortunate typo! Matt spent the first 20 years of his career hiding his dyslexia and feeling a huge sense of shame, but after explaining some of his coping strategies to a new member of staff, he talks about the moment that prompted him to open up about being dyslexic.

With a ‘phenomenal’ response to his decision to go public (including a surprise message from a former member of the House of Lords!), Matt was spurred on to further the neurodiversity agenda, setting up the Accessible Learning Foundation and then taking The Dyslexia Screening bill to parliament.

Whilst some progress has been made and Neurodiversity Condition training is now included in teacher training, Matt doesn’t believe this goes far enough and rejects the notion that labels are negative for children or provide an excuse for poor teaching and poor educational outcomes.

Matt argues that better data on children’s differences will help them access teaching that works better for them, supported by screening that can take just 30 minutes and provide an indication of a potential condition. Following lots of positive, constructive feedback from people advocating for ADHD, Autism, and Dyscalculia, Matt has now widened out the original Dyslexia Screening bill to include all Neurodiverse conditions.

Matt talks about how simple this screening can be to put in place, with major developments in screeners for all conditions and AI potentially being a huge driver of development. With this data, schools will be able to respond to the needs of each child. Many schools are successfully doing this work already.

Matt and Claire discuss the importance of campaigning to ensure this bill stays on the government agenda and the impact that early identification will have on children in schools but also the knock-on effect on improving job prospects and reducing populations in young offender institutes and prisons.

Matt also shares a message of hope for parents who may currently be navigating the SEN system and how screening can be hugely helpful in providing support through that process. He also shares some key actions you can take to support this bill and the wider initiative.


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