by Paul Goodman
The report is called Reforming provision in English schools, and the thrust of its case is that parents should have a guaranteed choice on what type of schooling their child should get. Its main recommendations are –
- Greater honesty and clarity from government about the amount of cash available for SEN pupils – especially those with rare conditions that are expensive to deal with.
- A new national assessment criteria so pupils with similar conditions will be able to get the same, high quality services. Independent assessment panels will apply the criteria at a local level.
- Regular updates from the Government on how well SEN pupils are doing at school – alongside details of how what services are provided in different parts of the country – so local differences can be ironed out.
- Better information for parents, so that children who have SEN “statements” can find out how well different providers educate their children. Every SEN pupil should have a choice between a straightforward placement in an ordinary school, and at least one other type of provision – such as a special school or an SEN unit in a mainstream school.
- A range of different providers, including the third sector, should be allowed to bid to run local SEN services. Local parents of children with SEN could play a key role in deciding who runs services as well as holding them to account for their performance.
- SEN "free schools", if there's demand for them.
- More Special Schools and other specialist engagement with charities and other third sector groups.
- Drasticallt improved training for special needs teachers – with ordinary teachers given extra expertise and specialist qualifications for those who spend more time with SEN pupils.
The author of the report is Ralph Hartley, who said –
“We need to focus on making sure children have the help they need so they can learn – not on where children are educated. The upcoming SEN Green Paper is an opportunity for the coalition to make sure this happens.
“Ministers should make sure there is a flexible range of provision available at a local level for parents to choose from. At the same time, parents need to have clear information about what their child can expect from certain placements and what other children with similar needs have achieved in that school or setting."
“That’s empowering – no longer should parents be forced to fight local authorities. If parents aren’t happy with the way services are being run at a local level, they should be able to influence this – by being involved with deciding who runs these services: the local authority; a third sector organization; a private organization; or any from a range of alternative providers.”
Only 34% of SEN pupils currently reach the expected National Curriculum level in English and Maths compared to 85% per cent of pupils with no SEN. Children with SEN are twice as likely to be persistently absent from school and are eight times as likely to be excluded from school.