SEN – The Next Steps – My views & Meridian Tonight feature

So, there's been much furore today about the headlines for proposals that  450,000 children be 'struck off' the SEN register. This is a bit of a stupid headline, to say the least. I was interviewed by Meridian Tonight (clip at end of post) about it for my views as a parent of SEN children.

The story was linked to this announcement from the DfE today that continues on from the SEN Green paper on Special Needs and Aspiration, that was trailed last week. It seems that any story about children with special needs is pounced upon by the haters and the critics. Oh, those bad teachers. Oh those terrible parents. Oh those benefit scroungers. I can guarantee you that none of those people who make moronic comments like that are either a teacher or have a child with special needs, which means that they should, quite frankly, shut up.

The key points in today's "Next Steps" announcement were:

  • The new Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP)  will eventually replace the statement and will last from birth to 25 for those children who need it. The EHCP will be a "single assessment process, ... ensuring that families have confidence that all of the different local agencies – across education, health and social care are working to together to meet their needs. This will stop parents having to have to undergo repeated assessments with different agencies."
  • Personal budgets: all families with an approved education, health and care plan will have a legal right to request a personal budget, if they choose.
  • Joint commissioning: LAs and clinical commissioning groups would have to put arrangements in place to ensure that services for disabled children and young people, and those with SEN are planned and commissioned jointly.
  • School choice: parents whose children have an education, health and care plan would have the legal right to seek a place at any state-funded school of their choice – whether maintained, academy, Free School or special. LAs would have to name the parent’s preferred school so long it was suitable for the child, did not prejudice the education of other children or did not mean an inefficient use of funds.
  • Local offer: all LAs would publish a ‘local offer’ of  support, so parents would know exactly what is available instead of having to fight for basic information.
  • Mediation and the tribunal and children’s right to appeal to a tribunal: introducing mediation before Tribunal for disputes and trialling giving children the right to appeal if they are unhappy with their support.

What some sections of the press jumped on was that the statement from the DfE mentioned an OFSTED report from 2010 that claimed many children were wrongly identified with SEN. I touched on the reasons for this in my post on Saturday, so you can read it there.
But to say that this happens often or even routinely is a huge exaggeration.
It is quite right that the government should seek to provide the most appropriate provision for children whether they have actual SEN or whether they need nurture groups because of family difficulties. If they can bring forward the funding and expertise to put this in place, then they should do it as soon as possible.

What they should NOT do as soon as possible (ie, this summer) is think that their policy can be informed by any results from pathfinder trials of the EHCP. In Surrey, this is still at a very early stage - ie, we, at Family Voice Surrey, are not even sure that any families are yet trialling it, so to have any firm conclusions drawn by this summer is optimistic in the extreme.
Tomorrow, Surrey has another day-long EHCP meeting that myself and my FVS colleague, Angela Kelly, will attend with great interest.

What must NOT be done is for these plans to be rushed through for political reasons - we are talking about the futures of some of society's most vulnerable and if you're going to shake up the system it should be done properly, in a considered manner.

Anyway, now for the light relief. Christine Alsford from Meridian (where I cut my TV reporter teeth) came over and filmed me and Son2. Son2 only agreed if he could be in his BodySox and the crew thought this was a genius idea.  What do you think?

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Tania Tirraoro

Founder, CEO at Special Needs Jungle
Founder of Special Needs Jungle. Parent of two sons with Asperger Syndrome.
Journalist & author of two novels and a guide to SEN statementing. PR & social media expert. Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate.
Tania Tirraoro
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3 Comments

  1. I have concerns with the proposed SEN reforms as do many of the professionals and parents that I’ve been involved with on a local level. (I have been involved with my local consultations and our area is now one off the pathfinders.) The general view was that the single plan was a good idea but was undermined by the issues with the health and social care side who according to one professional would “not be part of such a integrated plan”. There were also worries about parents being given budgets. Whilst the option of having one is a good idea there was concern that the services that parents want may be underresourced or simply not there. The local offer may be a good idea but in our town support and therapies for some disabilites are poorly resourced or don’t exist. Then there are the worries over the graduated scheme being removed and concerns that those mildly affected will not get early identification and support for their difficulties. Improved teacher training did not reassurre some parents that these milder dificulties would be picked up and supported properly. Of course, as you say, we will not know for sure how effecitve these reforms will be until there is feedback from the trials. Unfortunately in our area these are being restricted to those with significant and complex disabilites/medical needs and parents are already expressing concern that those wih autism are being overlooked. Sorry for the long and rather negative post but I’m only reflecting conversations in my local area.

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