Reforms to help children with Special Educational Needs

May 23, 2012

I have been interested in Special Educational Needs (SEN) for over 30 years and have been a school governor at two Special Schools.
The Government has just announced reforms designed to make things simpler for parents, giving them the power to control personal budgets for their children – meaning they can choose the expert support that is right for their child. The plans will require education, health and social care services to plan services together by law – so when their children are assessed, parents will be assured they will get full provision to address their children’s needs.
The main elements are:
• Replacing SEN statements and separate Learning Difficulty Assessments with a single, simpler assessment process and education plan from 2014. Parents with the plans would have the right to a personal budget for their support.
• Local authorities and health services will be required to link up services for disabled children and young people – so they are jointly planned and commissioned.
• Requiring local authorities to publish a local offer showing the support available to disabled children and young people and those with SEN, and their families.
• Introducing mediation for disputes.
• Children would have a new legal right to seek a place at state academies and Free Schools – currently it is limited to maintained mainstream and special schools. Local authorities would have to name the parent’s preferred school so long it was suitable for the child.
I am sure it will be much easier for parents to understand what is available and plan with their child’s interests in mind. This sounds like “joined up government”.
Christine Lenehan, Director of the Council for Disabled Children has welcomed the changes and said:
“We are delighted that the government continues to support disabled children and those with special educational needs. Tackling the battleground for families by ensuring joined up local services and clear local information is to be warmly welcomed.”
I wish the reforms success, because SEN has been difficult to navigate and parents deserve a better deal.

Department for Education website has more information.

What’s fair for students?

November 24, 2010

The student protest in London today shows the dissatisfaction of students about our Coalition Government’s plans for tuition fees and it is of course essential that as many students as possible have the opportunity to attend higher education. However, as much as I recognise student concerns, we do face the issue of striking that difficult balance between realising savings on one hand whilst ensuring student admissions on the other; the line has to be drawn somewhere and students are not the only ones facing reduced funding following the CSR.

We have been left with the worst deficit in the G20 and a national debt which has doubled. As a result Government spending has necessitated urgent redress. I am however very cheered to hear that the Office of Business, Innovation and Skills is planning to introduce a scholarship fund to the tune of £150M to help students seeking financial assistance to attend university. I think we should not forget that without a firm programme of action we could be facing the sort of ruinous situation in Ireland.

And who will pick up the tab for all the borrowing of the last Government and any extra Government borrowing now? The answer is – our young people for years to come!