Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Statements Scrapped in Radical Reform of the SEN System: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Statements Scrapped in Radical Reform of the SEN System: News

Article excerpt

But will children with less serious problems lose out on resources?

The coalition government is to introduce the biggest reforms of the special educational needs (SEN) system in a generation, under legislation announced in this week's Queen's Speech.

A complete overhaul of the way children are assessed and supported will be brought in, with the current system of statements due to be scrapped in favour of combined education, health and care plans. The reform will attempt to bring the work of schools, doctors and social services together for the first time in a coordinated package of help.

The legislation, which is due to come into force in 2014, comes after concerns that the support given to children is not properly coordinated.

Children's minister Sarah Teather, who is overseeing the changes, said that the current system is not "fit for purpose". "It's unacceptable that parents are forced to spend so much time going from pillar to post just to get the basic support their children need," she said.

Ms Teather first suggested the reforms in March last year. "We set out plans for the biggest SEN reforms for 30 years," she said this week. "This bill demonstrates our commitment to delivering these reforms."

Other key measures include parents being allocated budgets to give them greater control over which services their children receive and statutory protection being extended for people up to the age of 25 - statements currently end at age 16. Local authorities will also be required to publish details of the support available for disabled children and those with SEN and their families for the first time.

A number of the reforms are being piloted, with final evaluation reports expected in 2013.

David Bateson, chairman of the Federation of Leaders in Special Education and principal of Ash Field School and Assistive Technology Assessment Centre in Leicester, said that he was "very optimistic" about the impact of the reforms.

"I have heard very good things about how education, social services and health are working together on the pilots," he said. "The issue now is will this legislation make things happen. I'm hopeful it will.

"It is to be applauded that so many people are trying to address some of the issues that have become very difficult for those with special educational needs and disabilities. …

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