The proposed SEN reforms were in the news this week, but for the wrong reasons.
Currently, 1 in 5 children is considered to have a Special Educational Need, the most severe of whom will have a “statement”. Children with SEN are currently helped in school, with tactics such as different teaching materials and perhaps one to one coaching (“School Action”). If this doesn’t work, external services such as a Child Psychologist can be called upon (“School Action Plus”), and children with statements will get additional help specific to their needs. At present, schools receive extra funding for each child with SEN.
The proposed reforms will do away with the existing system and seek to remove statementing. Children will then be helped in two ways; with better teaching in schools which should benefit every child, not just those with SEN, and by providing parents with a budget which can be spent on help for their children. Apparently this is not a cost cutting exercise.
However, there are two concerns being raised regarding the system, in particular by groups such as the National Autistic Society:
1) That this is a cut by the back door... removing specific funding for SEN children from schools while still expecting them to raise standards of attainment for all children, those with SEN included
2) That because of other cuts – to external services – children will not be able to access all the support they need. Nor will there be appropriate support for parents, who will have to administer their child’s budget.
Indeed, Lorraine Petersen, chief executive of the National Association for Special Educational Needs (Nasen), warns in the Guardian of the potential issues:
"We need to acknowledge that some parents will need more support than others. With the reduction in key personnel at local authority level, Nasen has a concern that those advocates will not be available for parents to turn to.” Petersen is also concerned about what would happen if the child’s current provision costs more than the budget allocated to their parents.
Already, this so-called reform is looking like a method of making cuts by the back door – and any changes that do go ahead will be endangered by existing cuts that have taken place.
There is a final concern, that a statement is a useful tool which lists a child’s needs and the intervention they should receive. Without the existing statementing process, care must be taken to ensure that children do not fall through the cracks – and find that they are unable to get any help at all.