I share the belief that deaf children and young people should have equal access to information, and I am glad that measures are in place to support them in educational settings.
First, I welcome that the Whole School Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Consortium have been awarded a contract to embed SEND within approaches to school improvement and to equip the school workforce to deliver high quality teaching for all pupils with SEND. The programme of work will include the involvement of 15,000 schools by 2022, across the 8 Regional School Commissioner regions. In addition, I know that those who teach classes of children with sensory impairment must hold an appropriate qualification approved by the Secretary of State for Education. Teachers working in an advisory role to support these pupils should also hold the appropriate qualification.
Further, it is welcome that High Needs Funding was boosted by £780 million in 2020-21 to £7.2 billion, and that a further £730 million is being provided in 2021-22. Additionally, over £42 million was announced to re-award contracts and grants which enable schools, colleges, families and local authorities to support thousands of children with SEND. The funding will help to provide equipment, goods or services for low-income families raising children with serious disabilities and illnesses.
I am encouraged that £280 million is being invested to support local authorities to create new places and improve existing provision for pupils with SEND or who require alternative provision (AP). This funding will help ensure that every child has the opportunity to receive a world-class education, whatever their background.
More widely, it is important that communication is more accessible to those pupils who have hearing impairments. To this end, I welcome that schools can choose to offer sign language in their curriculum or include it as part of their extra-curricular activities programme. This includes offering existing British Sign Language qualifications. I understand that the Department for Education is also working with subject experts and Ofqual on introducing a British Sign Language GCSE.
Finally, the COVID-19 outbreak has been extremely challenging for many families of children and young people with SEND and schools who support them. I am pleased that the Government continues to provide targeted SEND support, including a new one-off Recovery Premium funding worth £302 million. This funding prioritises children who attend specialist settings and will be provided to schools to use as they see best to support disadvantaged children. This funding can be used to lay on additional clubs or activities, or for other evidence-based approaches for supporting the most disadvantages pupils as of September 2021.