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Burnham For Mayor

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

My reaction to the Government's SEN announcement

There are a number of positive proposals in this Green Paper, such as improving training and making the system simpler. But these noble aims seem hopelessly out of touch with the reality on the ground. Councils are laying off the specialist teams that carry out the assessments and provide the support these children need.

The Green Paper sets out a vision of integrated services but the Tory-led Government’s own health and education reforms make that harder. They are breaking down our NHS and education system into fragmented parts – this makes it much harder to plan and commission the complex services these children need and risks them falling between the cracks.

For one reason or another, one in five children fall behind their peers in the classroom. We should start from looking at what support they need to overcome their challenges, rather than introducing an arbitrary target to reduce the numbers of children on the SEN register.

I agree with the Tory-led Government that parents should have a choice of a mainstream school or a special school, but I have concerns about the move away from an expectation of inclusion and will be seeking reassurance that this won’t lead to a return to the days of a segregated school system.

The Education Bill already stacks the odds against families dealing with SEN by reducing parents’ ability to challenge admissions and exclusions. The proposed changes to admissions for children with SEN leaves parents with no guarantees in the education free market that the Secretary of State is creating. It is scandalous that Parliament is legislating on issues that have a huge effect on every child, and we are only now seeing the Tory-led Government’s early proposals regarding children with special educational needs.