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SEN

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 8 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps he plans to take to improve support for parents of children with special educational needs who themselves have (a) special educational needs and (b) disabilities and require assistance in making considered judgments about provision for their children. (99055)

The Department publishes a booklet “Special Educational Needs: a guide for parents and carers”. This is available in audio and Braille versions and the Department is currently commissioning Speakup Self Advocacy Ltd. to produce ‘easy read’ and ‘easier read’ versions for parents who have learning difficulties.

Following the Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Disability Act 2001 local authorities have been obliged to offer parent partnership services for all parents of children with special educational needs. The SEN Code of Practice sets out minimum standards for parent partnership services including

“that a wide range of information is available in community languages, and to parents who may not be able to gain access to information through conventional means”.

The Government’s response to the Education and Skills Committee’s report on SEN said that, by way of exemplification of the minimum standards, we will set out clear expectations of the partnerships in each area. The exemplification of minimum standards will help to improve the quality of local services and inform Ofsted’s inspections of local authority services.

Local authorities in their support for parents who have learning disabilities will want to take account of good practice guidance on working with such parents which the Department of Health aims to publish by the end of this year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what assessment he has made of the equality of provision in the special educational needs system; (99117)

(2) what assessment he has made of the conclusions of Ofsted in its 2004 report special educational needs and disability: towards inclusive schools on equality of provision in the special educational needs system.

Each year the Department publishes statistics by local authority in England covering matters like the numbers of children with special educational needs (SEN) and placements for those with SEN statements. The SEN and disability tribunal publishes data annually on appeals registered with the tribunal and break these down by local authority. In addition, the Department collects information on planned expenditure by local authorities on SEN.

Ofsted’s 2004 report on inclusive schools found “a picture of continuing variability” in how well mainstream schools are enabling pupils with SEN to be included effectively in the full range of educational opportunity. Ofsted’s more recent report Inclusion: “does it matter where pupils are taught?” (July 2006) found that: “there was little difference in the quality of provision and outcomes for pupils across primary, secondary and special schools. However, mainstream schools with additionally resourced provision were particularly successful in achieving high outcomes for pupils academically, socially and personally. [Pupil Referral Units] were the least successful.”

The Department’s team of SEN advisers visits each local authority. The team’s latest overview report (October 2006) says that “significant progress has been made in implementing “Removing Barriers to Achievement [the Government’s SEN strategy] by the majority of local authorities in England”. The Government’s response to the Education and Skills Committee’s report on SEN announced that Her Majesty’s chief inspector of schools has been asked to review progress in implementing the SEN strategy in 2009/10 and that the Government would consider whether any changes were needed to the SEN framework in the light of the chief inspector’s findings.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will require all local education authorities to monitor admissions of children with special educational needs to schools in their area, including academies and trust schools, in order to publish an annual report. (99051)

Local education authorities are already required by virtue of The Special Educational Needs (Provision of Information by Local Education Authorities) (England) Regulations 2001 to publish their general arrangements for monitoring the admission of children with special educational needs (whether or not those children have a statement) to maintained schools in their area.

In addition, subject to the passage of the Education and Inspections Bill, admission forums will be required in regulations to monitor admissions to ensure they are fair for all sectors of the local community, including children with SEN and disabilities. Forums will have the power to produce an annual report on admissions in their area and to provide their reports every two years to the schools commissioner, who will produce a national review every two years for Parliament on fair access, based upon the reports from the admissions forums.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) if he will take steps to ensure that special educational needs training is made a core and compulsory part of initial teacher training for all teachers; (99022)

(2) if he will restart negotiations with the Training and Development Agency on the role of special educational needs training in initial teacher training, induction and continued professional development;

(3) what steps he is taking to implement the triangle of training needs outlined in his Department’s special educational needs strategy;

(4) if he will take steps to provide increased and guaranteed funding to special educational needs regional partnerships for their role in planning provision for low-incidence special educational needs;

(5) if he will take steps to increase post-16 provision for young people with (a) special educational needs and (b) disabilities;

(6) if he will impose a statutory responsibility on local authorities to consult and work with (a) local and (b) national autism bodies to make progress towards the objective of achieving early diagnosis of children with autism;

(7) if he will require local authorities to maintain a proportion of special educational needs funding to resource specialist services to meet low-incidence needs;

(8) if he will establish (a) a specific national framework with minimum standards, (b) a broad range of suitable provision and (c) a work force equipped and resourced to identify and meet the needs of children with special educational needs (SEN) before increasing the delegation of funding for SEN;

(9) if he will change the funding agreements with academies to put them on the same legal footing as other schools with regard to children with special educational needs;

(10) if he will ensure that the new code of practice on school admissions gives children with (a) special educational needs and (b) disabilities explicit priority in over-subscription criteria;

(11) if he will ensure that the protocol for hard to place children makes specific reference to children with (a) special educational needs and (b) disabilities;

(12) if he will make an assessment of the effectiveness of the provisions of the Additional Support for Learning Act 2004 in Scotland in providing for children with special educational needs;

(13) if he will take steps to make statements of special educational needs (SEN) transferable between local education authorities (LEAs) in circumstances where a pupil with SEN moves from a school in one LEA to a school in another;

(14) if he will issue clearer guidance to local authorities on in what circumstances to issue statements of special educational needs;

(15) what steps he is taking to improve the (a) special educational needs and (b) disability component of initial teacher training, induction and continuing professional development of school staff;

(16) what steps he plans to take to increase (a) training and (b) resources available to help staff to deal effectively with children with special educational needs in mainstream classrooms;

(17) how he proposes to increase the role of children and young people in reviewing, planning and designing services to meet special educational needs;

(18) if he will take steps to remind all staff in schools of their duties in respect of disability equality;

(19) when he expects to issue guidance to schools on the implementation of the disability equality duty;

(20) if he will introduce a statutory national framework with minimum standards on the provision of services to meet special educational needs;

(21) what steps he is taking to improve (a) training, (b) resources and (c) provision to assist children with special educational needs who (i) have social, emotional and behavioural difficulties and (ii) are on the autistic spectrum;

(22) what steps he is taking to improve the training of staff working with autistic children who experience social, emotional and behavioural difficulties;

(23) what steps he is taking to pursue the inclusion development programme referred to on pages 27 and 31 of Removing Barriers to Achievement;

(24) what definition he uses of inclusion in special educational needs policy;

(25) what his policy is on whether there should be more or fewer special schools;

(26) whether it is his policy that the proportion of children educated in special schools should fall over time.

I refer the hon. Member to the Government’s response to the Education and Skills Committee report on special educational needs, published on 11 October 2006 (Cm 6940).

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) if his Department will start to collect data on the (a) socio-economic background of parents at special educational needs tribunals and (b) the pattern of expenditure in relation to (i) upheld and (ii) rejected appeals; (99049)

(2) if he will take steps to ensure equality of access to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal appeals process between parents and guardians (a) of varying socio-economic background and (b) with special educational needs; and if he will take steps to ensure effective representation of looked after children in such proceedings.

The collection of data on the users of tribunals is a matter for the Tribunals Service. The Department will discuss with the Department for Constitutional Affairs issues concerning the background of those who use the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.

Although there are no data on the socio-economic backgrounds of parents appealing to SENDIST, its annual report includes a breakdown of appeals by local authority. There does not appear to be any clear link to economic circumstance between the local authorities with relatively high and relatively low levels of appeals.

Parents and guardians of children with special educational needs have equal access to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST). There are no direct costs in appealing to the Tribunal. The service is free and the Tribunal reimburses parents and their witnesses for travel expenses. Witnesses can also receive a standard allowance towards loss of earnings.

SENDIST aims to provide an accessible, supportive and helpful service to parents of children with special educational needs and to avoid formality in its proceedings as much as possible. Many parents do need help making and pursuing an appeal to SENDIST and the Tribunal provides details of some organisations that can help parents in their appeal booklet. It also provides information in a range of accessible formats, including Braille and large print, tape and video.

Foster carers can appeal to SENDIST on behalf of children in their care and they would be expected to do so where this is appropriate. The local authority, as the corporate parent for these children, has a duty to promote their educational achievement and should always ensure that children in its care receive excellent support to meet their needs, including any special educational needs. The recent Green Paper “Care Matters” sets out proposals for a new independent advocate role to support children in care, alongside a national framework of skills and qualifications for carers. The present consultation will explore how these and other proposals in the Green Paper might be used to ensure children in care with special educational needs receive the right support for them.