Last updated: 14 September 2011
Much of the regulation affecting Children with Special Education Needs follows from the Special Education Needs Code of Practice which has been in place since 2001. This is a comprehensive guide to both the rules and best practice in this field. Part of the next section is a brief introduction to sections of the Code.
Some definitions from the Code:Children have special educational needs if they have a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision to be made for them.
Children have a learning difficulty if they:
a) have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of the same age; or
(b) have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for children of the same age in schools within the area of the local education authority
(c) are under compulsory school age and fall within the definition at (a) or (b) above or would so do if special educational provision was not made for them.
Children must not be regarded as having a learning difficulty solely because the language or form of language of their home is different from the language in which they will be taught.
Special educational provision means:
(a) for children of two or over, educational provision which is additional to, or otherwise different from, the educational provision made generally for children of their age in schools maintained by the LEA, other than special schools, in the area
(b) for children under two, educational provision of any kind.
A child is disabled if he is blind, deaf or dumb or suffers from a mental disorder of any kind or is substantially and permanently impaired by illness, injury or congenital deformity or such other disability as may be prescribed. A person has a disability for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 if he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to day activities.
From this one can see that a child is not entitled to Special Educational Need support unless he (or she) has a learning difficulty which is not the case for all disabled children.
There are three main categories of child for whom Special Education Need is prescribed.
1) School Action: where the school determines that the child needs interventions that are additional to or different from those provided in the normal curriculum. These will normally be provided within the school's own resources, as determined by the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) in consultation with the parents or carers;
2) School Action Plus: This applies when the school determines there is a need for support external to the school's own resources, and is likely to refer to education specialists who are able to provide advice, information or direct intervention to advance the child's education.
3) Statement: This is a legal document for a child who has Special Education Needs greater than those which can be effectively managed by the above stages. It describes the child's entitlement to educational resources and support to manage his learning. There is more detail about the implications of and application for a statement here.
Individual Education Plan: This is a document that describes the educational support for most children in School Action, and all in School Action Plus or statemented. It should be reviewed at least annually, and in most cases more often. it will be agreed in conjunction with the parent.
IN SUMMARY, UNLESS YOU CAN DEMONSTRATE THAT YOUR CHILD'S LEARNING IS BEING DAMAGED BY HIS DISABILITY, YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO CLAIM PROVISON FOR ANY SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEED
Most children with Special Educational Needs are educated in mainstream schools, some of those with Statements are in Special Schools and some in SEN Units attached to mainstream schools.There is considerable debate over which type of institution is best for which children, with political and educational views changing over the past few decades. Kent is no stranger to these debates and is currently in the middle of Reviews of Special Education Services, Special Schools and SEN Units.There are separate pages for Special Schools and SEN Units.
A parental support group organised by KCC, but run independently of it, is the Kent Parent Partnership Service. It exists to support families of disabled children, and children with Special Education Needs. A parallel organisation the Kent Parents Participation Network, offers opportunity ot exchange views on the relevant issues
- Parents should know there is considerable free advice on SEN matters from the Registered Charity: the Independent Panel for Special Education Advice (IPSEA). IPSEA also offer specialist help at tribunal for parents seeking a statement.
- MENCAP also published an excellent advice website, and you will find many other sources on the Internet, including Network 81.
- I regret I am currently unable to offer professional advice on SEN issues for two main reasons: firstly, the legislation and rules are changing so rapidly, that I am finding it impossible to spend the time to keep up. Secondly, for many parents, the gaining of statements and support when these are resisted is becoming so time consuming, and in some cases confrontational, that I consider I am unable to devote the time necessary to offer a professional service. Sadly, this may say more about the complexity of issues than about myself.
- New policies on inclusion mean that many children who would once have been given Statements of Special Need or offered places at Special Schools no longer qualify. The relevant Special Needs funds have now been delegated to schools which have freedom to use them for other purposes.
- Many schools operate excellent polices to support pupils; others do not give the same priority. Parents often report great difficulty in securing proper support for their children. for Special Education Needs below the level of the Statement, provision is by agreement between school and parent. you should be prepared to press the school to secure the support you need, although parents are in a weak position as the school controls provision.
- There is practical free local advice and support for families in the Canterbury and coastal area from Special Needs Advisory and Activities Project.
- The Kent Special Needs budget is now 17% of the education budget, so Kent County Council is under pressure to keep this within limits.
- Kent is in the process of reorganising its Special School and specialist Provision, so that some children with moderate learning difficulties, who would previously have found places in Special Schools, are now bound for mainstream schools, who sometimes have neither the specialist resources or the capability to support them properly. Such children can also be a strain on other children in the class, so all are unable to learn effectively. However, a recent OFSTED report shows that a mainstream school can be best for most children with SEN if it operates effective policies. You can read this here
- Please refer to section on Exclusions for behavioural issues.
The issue of "inclusion" is a key political debate in educational circles. In 1978, Baroness Warnock wrote a massively influential Paper, arguing that children with SEN should increasingly benefit from inclusion in Mainstream Schooling, a policy which has gained ground ever since, until earlier in 2010, when she retracted her original views, looking at the harm the policy has done to many (but not all) children with severe SEN. A Paper by the Left Wing Bow Group, SEN: the Truth About Inclusion, probably written in 2009, contains a factual indictment of the policy. Some of the data it quotes are as follows:
On Statements and Special School Places:
Around 9000 places at special schools have been lost
The number of statements and assessments issued for children with SEN have fallen by over a third
Children on ‘School Action Plus’ schemes, which are replacing statements are twice as likely as other children with SEN to truant.
A fifth of all children of School Action Plus are persistent Truants.
Special Educational Needs pupils make up the majority of pupils expelled from school at 67%, though they comprise only 17% of the school population
SEN pupils are more likely to be suspended more than once in a year. Out of the 78,600 pupils who were excluded more than once in a single year, half (49.7%) were SEN pupils.
For the first time, this year over half of all suspensions from secondary school are pupils with Special Educational Needs (55%)
On SEN and Pupil Referral Units (PRUs):
Over half of pupils are suspended from PRUs — nearly three quarters have Special Educational Needs
Two thirds (66%) of all SEN pupils at PRUs end up being suspended
Special Educational Needs pupils in Pupil Referral Units has risen by 70% since 1997 On Parental choice:
Around 83% of the increase in Independent School numbers over the last ten years are children with SEN.
Over half all appeals are against a local authority’s decision not to assess or statement a child.
We conclude that whilst inclusion in mainstream school is very beneficial for some children with SEN, these figures are a compelling argument for an urgent systemic review of the Government’s ‘inclusion’
policy, particularly focusing on the failures of the School Action Plus scheme and support David Cameron’s call for a moratorium on the closure of special schools until a review of the statementing
process has taken place.
The Policy of Inclusion has been followed in some Local Authorities to the extent of near 100% Inclusion. Parts of KCC, but not the political leadership have tended to support this policy, which saw the abortive SEN Unit Review attempt to phase out all Units, so that the children they previously catered for would be forced into mainstream whether or not this was suitable for them.
The Audit Commission has carried out several Review of SEN provision in schools, coming from the perspective of whether provision is good value for money. An early paper (2001) states: "Most of the parents we met said they ‘had to fight’ to have their child’s needs assessed. This was often linked to a perception that the LEA did not want to pay more for their child". I believe in this aspect little has changed except that the perception may be incorrect, in that KCC does attempt to give a priority to the needs of children with SEN.