It is somewhat ironic that in the debates that have taken place over educational values, from the 1944 Education Act to the 1988 Education Reform Act, from Plowden (CACE 1967) to Choice and Diversity (DFE 1992), from the Warnock Report (DBS 1978) to the Code of Practice on the assessment of special educational needs (DFE 1994), there has been little concern with how children, as the direct consumers of such initiatives, view their benefits or experience their deficiencies. We live in a society where concerns about the education and welfare of children are seen as integral to the development and future prosperity of that society, and yet children are rarely consulted about what they want for their own futures or about their experience of the present. This neglect is not confined solely to politicians and policy makers. As was argued in Chapter 4, neglect of the child’s perspective is commonly a sin of omission which characterizes the work of educational researchers. Neglect is insidious in that its outcome extends beyond mere disregard of those without a voice. Its significance lies in the way in which it imputes passivity to the child, suggesting that the child is powerless to effect change in the educational and social processes in which he or she is a participant. The silence of the child may then, perversely, be used to justify the paternalism which is itself a source of the child’s disempowerment. This chapter attempts to probe beyond the silence, to consider how children themselves understand and make sense of the aims and outcomes of the procedures for assessing special educational needs and the consequences for them of the labels which these assessments place on them. In doing so it will draw on research undertaken by the author into the assessment of children identified as having emotional and behavioural difficulties.
In total, forty-seven children participated in this research (an additional nine children participated in the pilot study but not in the main study). This sample comprised three sub-samples. The first of these was a sample