Lack of evidence puts the brakes on SEN reforms

See this link to the Times Educational Supplement:

Edward Timpson, Minister, admits pilot work on the changes is still ’embryonic’. There is particular concern about the costs of implementing this important new legislation and on seeing the effects of the first education, health and care plans as they are coming into fruition nationally, in the pilot schemes.

The Minister  announced the extension of the SEN and Disability Pathfinders for 18 months to run through to September 2014. The Minister made this statement while giving evidence to the Education Select Committee on the proposed SEN and disability reforms.

The Minister stated that “the overwhelming view is that we are moving in the right direction, but we want to get this right and if that means listening for a little longer, then we will do that.

The Minister also assured the committee that families’ current protections under the existing statementing system will be carried through to the next system. This includes the right to request an assessment, which within the provisions will be extended to GPs also.

Trial of Spell Read & Write System

Mavis Kerrigan – an Independent Learning and Communications Consultant, who lives in West End, near Southampton – is looking for 6 people to trial her Tutor-Coach Training programme. It is aimed at Parents, Carers and Tutors who would like to help others read, write and spell successfully.

As this is a trial, Mavis is offering her skills at a much reduced price.  The course will involve 5 days over the next 5 months with email and phone support as you develop your teaching. If you pay for all 5 sessions at the start then the cost is only £225. The first day is going to be either Saturday May 19th or Wednesday May 23rd, and Mavis would like to know your preference as soon as possible.

To find out more:

Phone Mavis on 023 8046 6679.
Evenings between 6.30pm and 8pm (Not Sat/Sun)
Mornings between 8.00am and 9.30am any day
or e-mail

Gaining a Statement of Special Educational Needs

In April 2009 our son was awarded a Statement of Special Educational Needs. Will is dyslexic and has no other special educational needs. We made a request for Statutory Assessment in July 2008 and what follows is a parent’s view of that process. We hope that reading this account will give you the strength and conviction to initiate and go through this exhausting and at times lonely process. Remember, professionals told us we would not be successful.

At the start of year 4 the gap between Will and his peers was becoming significant. To survive at senior school he was going to need guaranteed support and a place in a school with a resource based unit for dyslexia. We now felt Will’s needs went beyond what was available through school action plus.

Prior to submitting the request for Statutory Assessment you need the following facts:

• Neale reading age

• Vernon spelling age

• National curriculum levels in literacy

• Previous year’s levels, so you can demonstrate lack of progress

Your school should be able to provide all the above information. Hampshire County Council uses the Neale Analysis of Reading Ability for measuring reading age, so it’s important that you use the same measurement. The Local Authority (LA) has specific criteria for awarding a Statement but an indication is that by age 9 they are 3 chronological years behind.

So in July 2008 we submitted a request for Statutory Assessment using a template document available from the IPSEA or ACE websites that states that you are making the request under Section 323 of
the Education Act 1996.

The LA then has 6 weeks to respond, with a decision to assess or not to assess. Luckily for us they decided to assess. If the authority decides not to assess, you can appeal against the decision within certain time limits to the First Tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND).

The LA then starts a 10-week process of Statutory Assessment. During this time you have an opportunity to provide further parental evidence of your child’s needs. In addition, we decided to support our application with a private educational psychologist’s assessment. This is an expensive option, but the report clearly stated that Will needed a Statement. The LA also collects reports from school, an educational
psychologist, a doctor and if appropriate social services.

After this 10-week process the LA then makes its decision.

• To make a Statement

• Not to make a
Statement, in which case they may offer you a Note in Lieu.

We received a Note in Lieu. A Note in Lieu documents all your child’s needs and offers schools guidance on the support they require. As far as we could tell after five months we had achieved very little that would make any difference to our child. This was probably the hardest phase of the process and we certainly felt like we’d lost.

Fortunately again you have the right to appeal to SEND, which is what we did. Once we had filled in the appeal forms we also notified the LA that we were taking their decision to tribunal but were happy to meet to review and discuss their decision. The LA then contacted us asking to reassess our child; you had to wonder what they had been doing for the last 10 weeks! We asked them to put this request in writing, specifically requesting them to state exactly why they were reassessing. They responded that
they were assessing to see if he met criteria for a school with resourced provision for dyslexia. We responded again that if he met criteria for such a school, he would also meet criteria for a Statement.

The new assessment clearly stated that Will met criteria for a school with resourced provision for dyslexia. We responded that therefore he also met criteria for a Statement. Finally it was agreed
that a Statement would be issued. (even though this was not a pre-requisite of
a place in resourced provision).

At this point you feel quite rightly that there is cause for celebration. You have come so far but now you need to negotiate exactly what support and provision your child’s needs require. In addition you can name the school you think best suits your child’s needs, with the reassurance that if the LA does not agree with this decision, you could once again take an appeal to SEND.

Was it worth all the effort? Yes, Will is now settled into a senior school with a resourced provision for dyslexia and is making catch up progress. Would I do it again? Yes. Have the strength of
your convictions and be your child’s advocate.

Sally Holland

Additional information can be gained from:
• Ace – Advisory centre for education

• IPSEA – Independent Panel for Special Educational Advice

• Hampshire County Council resources: Criteria for statutory assessment of children with specific learning
difficulties (dyslexia) September 2010 and Secondary resourced provision for pupils with specific learning difficulties (dyslexia) Admissions criteria and procedures September 2010.

• Hampshire Dyslexia Association (who have copies of the criteria above). More information about
Resourced provision is on their website

The Future of Special Educational Needs?

On 9th March 2011,Children’s Minister Sarah Teather unveiled proposals which would mean the biggest programme of reform in the education and health support for children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities in 30 years.
Why do things need to change?
 parents find themselves having to battle their way through the current system in order to get the support they believe their child needs. This can be very frustrating.
 this often develops into an adversarial assessment process with the local authority providing the assessments and the funding needed for support
 SEN statements do not join up the education, health and care support for the child
 multiple assessments from different providers often lead to delays in getting support
 too many children are being identified with SEN. In recent years the proportion of children with SEN but without statements has nearly doubled – from 10 per cent of all pupils in 1995 to 18.2 per cent or 1.5 million children in 2010. If you include the 2.7% who have Statements, that’s 1 in 5 children in this country identified as having SEN. (source Dept of Education)
The ideas set out in the Green Paper have been informed by the views and expertise of families, teachers, local authorities, health professionals and national and local organisations working with them.
What are the aims of the Green Paper?
 high quality early identification and intervention for all children where they need it, such as the health and development review for children aged between 2 and 2½ years.
 to ensure assessment and plans run from birth to 25 years old – this will cover the awkward transition from teenage years to early adult working life.
 replace School Action & School Action Plus categories of SEN with a single Early Years setting-based category and school-based category of SEN;
 a new single assessment process and ‘Education, Health and Care Plan’ by 2014; health and social services is included in the package of support, along with education. This will replace the Statementing process but will provide the same statutory protection to parents as the statement of SEN and will include a commitment from all parties to provide their services. There is an aim to reduce the time it takes to complete this process and if there is disagreement between the Local Authority and the parents then it is hoped that the matter can be settled through mediation rather than Tribunal.
 overhaul teacher training and professional development to better help pupils with special educational needs and to raise their attainment
 local authorities and other services will set out a local offer of all services available; this will be ‘easy to understand’.
 the option of a personal budget by 2014 for all families with children with a statement of SEN or a new Education, Health and Care Plan; Key workers will be trained to advise families and help them navigate the range of help available across health, education and social care.
 give parents a real choice of school, either a mainstream or special school; they will remove the current bias towards inclusion. Preferences will be met “unless the choice would not meet the needs of the child, be incompatible with the efficient education of other children, or be an inefficient use of resources.”
 introduce greater independence to the assessment of children’s needs. There is mention of targeted funding to voluntary and community sector organisations that have a strong track record of delivering high quality services relating to assessment and support.
The 4 month consultation which began on 9 March will run to 30 June 2011. A period of testing proposals in local areas will commence in September 2011. Detailed plans should emerge the end of the year, and will form the basis for any necessary legislative changes to be taken forward from May 2012 at the earliest.

What has been the response so far?
The BDA has welcomed measures to enable earlier assessment of children, but is deeply concerned at the present severe cuts to Local Authority special educational needs teaching and assessment personnel and the impact this will have on delivery of services to Dyslexic pupils.

The BDA has welcomed the increased collaboration between health, education and social care as well as suggestions for improved transparency and parental choice. The increased participation of the voluntary and charitable sector they also welcome although funding for the latter will be a crucial issue.

This is of necessity only a brief summary of the Green Paper. Full details can be found at
A head teacher quoted in the Green Paper says: “If I want to go somewhere I’ve never been before in my car – I get a map. A good map shows all the routes and the landscapes and the options. Where is the map for families to use if their child is identified with SEN? Here is our chance to create a map – one that all people can understand – using common language and well explained assessments.”
Barbara Lowe May 2011