Power and Partnership in Education: Parents, Children, and Special Educational Needs

By Derrick Armstrong | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

Barriers to partnership

When one talks to teachers, psychologists and other professionals working with children whose special educational needs are being assessed, the high level of commitment these professionals have to parental involvement soon becomes clear. In my own experience, almost without exception professionals who work with children believe that the fullest possible involvement of parents in the assessment and decision-making procedures is a necessary condition of those procedures operating in the best interests of the child. This is not to say that professionals are unaware of the possibility of conflicts of interest between children and their parents; nor are they blind to the ways in which both children and their parents can try to manipulate the assessment procedures for their own ends. Indeed, part of the difficulty professionals experience in these cases—and, it has to be said, part of the enormous skill and compassionate understanding which they exercise in their professional judgements—arises from dealing with a wide range of competing interests and needs. Rarely do professionals believe themselves to have god-like powers to ride roughshod over the concerns, anxieties and fallibilities of parents, even where parenting skills leave a great deal to be desired. Child-care professionals know better than anybody that conflicts of interest and need between children and their parents are never unambiguous. Maintaining the integrity of that relationship wherever this is at all possible is an important professional goal and one that commands widespread commitment from professionals. It is also consistent with the ethical codes of their professional organizations (see, for example, Association of Educational Psychologists 1992) and with the recommendations of the Warnock Report (DES 1978), the statutory requirements of the 1981 Education Act, and the advice of the DES (1983, 1989a) and DFE(1994).

It will always be possible to find a small number of cases where there is evidence of parents being deliberately denied access to information, and

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