Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

SEN Pupils Given the Right to Not Remain Silent: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

SEN Pupils Given the Right to Not Remain Silent: News

Article excerpt

Pilot enables children to bring education disputes to tribunal.

For the first time, pupils with special educational needs (SEN) could be allowed to bring their own legal action in disputes about their schooling.

Pilot schemes will be run in 2014 to test the idea of allowing pupils - the age range is as yet undecided - to take cases to SEN tribunals themselves, rather than relying on parents or guardians to act for them.

Currently, only parents or those with parental responsibility can go through the process. The changes could be particularly important for looked-after children, whose parents and carers are unlikely to be able to act for them in disputes over the support they are given at school.

From 2014, all pupils over the age of 16 will be able to make appeals to the tribunal. The same year will also see an investigation into whether this right should be extended to younger children. Both developments are part of a wider overhaul of SEN that has been in the pipeline for some time.

Lorraine Petersen, chief executive of SEN organisation Nasen, said she supported the possibility of this extension of pupil power.

"Sometimes parents think they know what's best for their children, but actually the children know better. I have no problem with this pilot scheme being introduced," she said. "But we've got to make sure the children are supported; they need an advocate and a voice."

In 2009, the previous Labour government proposed pilot schemes that would give children the right to take cases to SEN tribunals, citing concerns that some parents did not feel willing or confident enough to pursue an appeal themselves.

Children in Scotland already have the right to appeal to a tribunal over coordinated support plans, the country's equivalent of SEN statements, from the age of 16. They also have the right to appeal disability discrimination cases relating to school discrimination from the age of 12. …

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