My thoughts on the SEN reform

Today the news has been full of the government’s plans to reduce the numbers of children on the special educational needs register. Drawing on a report from Ofsted, some newspapers are claiming that many children don’t really have special needs and that the label has been abused by schools to cover poor teaching or to acquire more funding. It has also been suggested that a proportion of those with special needs have emotional and behavioural difficulties due to a poor home life. As a result it is reported that the government wants to redefine special needs to those more severely affected which could mean that nearly 500,000 children who are mildly affected will be evicted from the special needs register.

Though I am concerned for the children who are likely to loose their SEN label, I do agree with the idea of changing the SEN system because as I have experienced it is not working well in its current state.  It is a hugely bureaucratic system that is adversarial and painstakingly slow at times.  Even more frustrating is the lack of communication between different services so I am pleased with the idea of a single education, heath and care plan (that will be replacing the current statement of SEN).  I’m also pleased that there will be a right to educational support up to the age of 25 in further education.  However, after talking with representatives from the post 16 sector I am doubtful that there is sufficient college provision for young disabled people, certainly at the moment.  The option of managing our own budgets also sounds a good idea but in practice will it work if there are cuts to the services that parents will want to buy into for their children.  I can just envisage long waiting lists and parental frustration at the lack of therapies and other forms of support.  I can also imagine a new breed of parent emerging, one that is not only an advocate for their child but a mini accountant as well.  A full time job without the pay!

However, my biggest concern is how those with milder special educational needs will be supported, children like my aspergers daughter who are outwardly bright but whose hidden difficulties make learning very difficult. Contrary to reports, it is not easy to get a child identified as having special educational needs or diagnosed with a hidden disabilty such as autism or aspergers.  In my experience, schools can be reluctant to place a child on the SEN register (school action, school action plus) and even more resistant to applying for a statement of SEN.  And as I have experienced, until you get your child’s difficulties recognised, it is easy to be subjected to blame for your child’s behaviour and for your child’s needs to be totally overlooked.   As a result, I have to question Ofsted’s suggestion that the SEN label is routinely being abused by schools.  In my experience and from talking to many other parents it seems that many children with SEN are under identified.

The removal of the graduated approach (school action, school action plus) and the focus on a single SEN category worries me in particular.  For those who are currently on school action and school action plus they are unlikely to meet the criteria for the single EHC plan in which case what will happen to these pupils when the graduated approach goes?  It also raises questions as to whether future pupils with milder special educational needs will be picked up early enough and provided with the right support?  The government have mentioned improving the training of teaching staff but will that be enough?

I believe children like my aspergers daughter need more than a well-trained teacher. They may need small group teaching or one to one support and an environment were sensory stimuli are managed and where there is significant social and emotional support.  Can a class teacher of 30 or more pupils cater for such individual and diverse needs?   I doubt it.  Without the funding to employ additional staff and services, I am not convinced that pupils with milder SEN will be supported adequately enough which brings me to the hub of the problem: funding or the lack of it.

I can’t help but think that Sarah Teather has missed a fantastic opportunity to improve the lives of families like mine.  It seems that the proposals have not been thought through enough and I can’t help but wonder whether the government has used the SEN reform as a cost cutting exercise. But there again it’s a tory-led government; what do we expect from a bunch of elitest, wealthy people who have no idea of what it is like to live our lives.

You may also like to read my previous post on the SEN green paper – http://www.aspieinthefamily.com/2011/06/sen-green-paper-my-thoughts/

For more informtion on the SEN reform:

Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability – progress and next steps – http://www.education.gov.uk/childrenandyoungpeople/sen/a0075339/sengreenpaper

IPSEA’s initial views on the Government’s SEN Green Paper Response – http://www.ipsea.org.uk/Apps/Content/News/?id=450

BBC – Special needs budgets to be controlled by parents – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-18061348

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8 Responses to My thoughts on the SEN reform

  1. Wow. I’ve only just found your blog, but what you have written here is pretty much what I wrote in my post this morning. I am really concerned that children who won’t get the Single care plan will not have adequate provision. I also think it will be just as hard for people to access those care plans as it is to get a statement.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Hi Violet; thanks for commenting. I agree with all what you say; these SEN reforms are very worrying and I can’t help but think that the government are really not bothered about those with SEN or disability. I look forward to reading your blog. Deb

  2. Selfishly, I’m hoping that my daughter who now attends a special needs school will not be one of those half a million kids. It is absolutely disgusting that our government have made these proposals, and I think we wouldn’t be far wrong for saying it’s yet another ill-thought out fund cutting exercise. The vulnerable are always hit first because they are generally the ones who can’t/don’t fight back, which is why we parents need to make a stand on their behalf.

    CJ x

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Hi CJ, I feel the same way about my son. I’m glad that we have his statement and am hoping that he will be largely protected by these reforms. For my daughter though I remain very worried about what is going to happen regarding her schooling. It does seem to me too that the disabled have been disproportionately hit by this government which makes me so angry and upset. As parents we have no choice but to fight back. Deb x

  3. I have just been to a meeting on it and I am very shocked.

    I am concerned as to what will happen in the future

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Hi Claire; I think we are all shocked; the government does appear to be redefining what special needs is and making it a lot harder for many of those with milder difficulties. These are worrying times for teachers, parents and most of all our childrren. Deb x

  4. Jim Reeve says:

    Cutting support for half a million students is unacceptable. And to blame it on poor teaching is foolish. Because you still need a medical diagnosis before you qualify for support right? I agree that teachers should receive more training, but then they should be paid more, especially if they end up spending 6 years in school getting specific training. Then that’s a whole other can of worms. In the end, it just ends up hurting the kids.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Hi Jim, thanks for commenting. The whole education system is in a dire state in the UK; it is so politcally micro managed that teachers are increasingly undermined. Neither are many of them properly trained in disability which means many children like my son are either overlooked or picked up late. As for getting a diagnosis, unfortunately over here a diagnosis does not necessarily lead to support; it shocked me a lot to find that my children’s school took no notice of their diagnostic reports (produced by our health service). Not surprisingly they became mentally unwell and unable to continue their education. I’m still struggling to come to term with this. Deb x

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