Are the Changes To SEN Provision A Good Idea

 

Parents to control special education needs budgets

On Monday 14th May 2012 the government announced major changes to the provision of Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision in England. From 2014 parents will be given control over the budgets for their children’s support.  Children will be provided with a Learning Difficulties Assessment (LDA) by the Local Authority either on request or if they are regarded as requiring an LDA. The local authority is then required to put together a robust support programme which will remain in place as long the child remains in education and has learning difficulties until they are 25. In addition parents will be given the option of managing the budget for their child’s support programme.

The government has described it as the” biggest reform of SEN for 30 years” and the changes being implemented will legally force education, health and social care services to plan provision together. In making the announcement Sarah Teather, minister for children and families said:

“Thousands of families have had to battle for months, even years, with different agencies to get the specialist care their children need. It is unacceptable they are forced to go from pillar to post – facing agonising delays and bureaucracy to get support, therapy and equipment.”

Under the scheme a number of approaches will be trialed including giving parents the funds directly or leaving them with the local authority.

Alison Ryan, a policy adviser for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, welcomed the new requirement for agencies to plan services together. She did however, raise concerns over the level of redundancies amongst education psychologists and speech and language therapists. She noted that the plans were being implemented during a period of cuts which have:

“eaten into many of the specialist services teachers rely on to help them support children with special educational needs…”

Ryan also said there were worries over the potential impact on forward planning and the ability to co-ordinate as a result of putting budgets in the hands of lots of individuals and families.

“Many parents can be the best advocates for their children’s needs, but you cannot say that for every parent. Sometimes it may be a matter of their own ability to decide on the best type of expert assistance for their children,”

 

Are the Changes To SEN Provision A Good Idea?

Broadly speaking, the proposals appear to be sound. Any parents or teachers who have tried to get a child in their care statemented in order to obtain support will tell you that Sarah Teather is right. The assessment system is currently fragmented and extremely difficult to understand and negotiate. A parent of a girl with Asperger’s who was interviewed on BBC television witnessed that it took three years to get her daughter diagnosed and for appropriate support to be put in place by which time a bright student who needed help had fallen far behind her peers educationally. With set timescales for the assessment process enshrined in law and easy to understand guidelines for parents and support providers the potential will exist for such cases to become the minority rather than the norm and that has to be welcomed as an improvement.

We would however, echo the concerns raised by others. With the levels of cutbacks already taking place in the support networks for children with special educational needs will there be enough specialists to support  all those who need it? If not, then the potential benefits of such a major overhaul to the SEN system will be lost.  Some parties have asked how they will define SEN as there is no official definition.  But, according the DfE’s own guidance notes they are using the terms as defined in the Education Act 1996.  Furthermore, Section 7.2 of the guidance covering the definition of learning difficulties states:

Learning difficulty is the term used in legislation while ‘learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities’ is a deliberately wide definition in common usage in the FE system, and includes people with mental health difficulties, autistic spectrum conditions, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, behavioural emotional or social disorders, physical, sensory and cognitive impairments and other identified and non-identified difficulties in learning.  All of these conditions could fall within the definition of learning difficulties for the purpose of a Learning Difficulties Assessment.

According to some news reports on this announcement the government is seeking to remove the majority, some 1.5 million children, from the SEN register because they have been misdiagnosed and their conditions are social or emotional. It has been suggested that these children need pastoral rather than SEN support. Firstly, we would question the accuracy of such a sweeping statement. How is it possible to accurately ascertain the numbers who have been incorrectly labeled without reassessing every child already classed as SEN?  Secondly, by the government’s own terms children with emotional or social disorders could still fall under the definition of learning difficulties. Finally, there will inevitably be a large number of children who will have much valued and needed support removed despite having special needs. So we would recommend that robust plans are put in place to ensure that these vulnerable children don’t fall behind. There has been no such announcement made regarding this.

The guidance for local authorities is in effect until the next review in 2013 while the full changes will come into effect in 2014. We would therefore, look forward to seeing clearer plans on how children currently diagnosed as SEN will be re-assessed and a comprehensive framework of support for those with other needs, who will be removed from the SEN register, put in place before we can give the policy our wholehearted support.

England’s schools should learn from Japan, says Twigg

England’s schools should learn from Japan, says Twigg

BBC |May 14, 2012

By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter_
__

England’s schools should take lessons from Japan and the Far East on how to improve performance, the shadow education secretary says.

Stephen Twigg says despite many school reforms, there has been little change to the style of classroom teaching since Victorian times.

Labour’s number one priority for education is raising the quality and status of teachers, he says.

And he plans to visit Japan to see how education has been reformed there.

This will form part of Labour’s review of its education policy.

Along with other Far Eastern countries, such as South Korea and Singapore, Japan constantly outperforms England in international studies on maths and science.

This is something that has been highlighted by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Mr Twigg says that although Labour improved results in the core subjects during its time in office, it was clear that “more of the same isn’t the answer”.

‘Trial and error’He added: “We must learn from high-performing nations like Japan to radically transform education in England.

“Labour will bring reform into the classroom by learning from the Japanese system of lesson planning, known as jugyou kenkyuu.”

This involves teachers meeting regularly to collaborate on the design and implementation of lessons.

He continues: “Education in England has had years of reform to structures, exams and accountability measures. But the style of classroom teaching has changed little since Victorian times.

“In Japan, teaching practices have changed markedly in the last 50 years, through a process of gradual, incremental improvements over time. Japan gives teachers themselves primary responsibility for improving classroom practice.”

He highlights how participation in continual professional development, known as kounaikenshuu, is considered a core job requirement in Japan.

Mr Twigg also points out that in England, teachers lead students through a series of steps to help them learn how to solve problems.

In Japan the focus is on allowing students to develop their own methods for solving problems, through trial and error.

He adds: “If we want to change teaching, we can’t just change teachers – we must change the culture of teaching, its very fabric and DNA.”

Parents to control special education needs budgets

Parents to control special education needs budgets

guardian.co.uk |by Ben Quinn

  • Ben Quinn
  • The Guardian, Monday 14 May 2012
Sarah Teather

Sarah Teather, the minister for children and families, said thousands of families have had to battle for years to get the care their children need. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Parents in England are to be given control over their children’s special educational needs (SEN) budgets, allowing them to choose expert support rather than local authorities being the sole provider.

In what the government described as the biggest reform of SEN for 30 years, the measures will also legally force education, health and social careservices to plan services together.

Sarah Teather, the minister for children and families, said this would prevent parents being forced to go from “pillar to post” in a battle between different authorities and agencies.

The reforms were set out on Monday in the government’s formal response to the public consultation on a green paper that trailed the reforms last year.

Teather said: “Thousands of families have had to battle for months, even years, with different agencies to get the specialist care their children need. It is unacceptable they are forced to go from pillar to post – facing agonising delays and bureaucracy to get support, therapy and equipment.” Legislation for the reforms will be put in place via the children and families bill, which was announced in the Queen’s speech last week.

From 2014, SEN statements and separate learning difficulty assessments, for older children, are to be replaced with a single, birth to 25 assessment process and education, health and care plan.

Parents with such plans would have the right to a personal budget for their child’s support, and local authorities and health services would be required to ensure services for disabled children and young people are jointly planned and commissioned.

Managing the budgets will be optional for parents, and the government will also try out a number several different approaches, either giving money to parents directly or leaving the budgets with the local authority.

Alison Ryan, a policy adviser for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the organisation welcomed requirement that agencies plan services together. But pointing to redundancies among educational psychologists and speech and language therapists, she added though that the measures were being brought forward at a time when cuts have eaten into many of the specialist services teachers rely on to help them support children with special educational needs. Ryan also said there were worries over what the impact on forward planning and the ability to co-ordinate would be as a result of putting budgets in the hands of lots of individuals and families.

“Many parents can be the best advocates for their children’s needs, but you cannot say that for every parent. Sometimes it may be a matter of their own ability to decide on the best type of expert assistance for their children,” she said.

Some 21% of children in England are identified as having SEN– 21% of the school population in January 2010. Only 2.7% have statements. More than half of the pupils, 11.4%, are in the school action category.

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