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Lamb Inquiry

Volume 473: debated on Thursday 13 March 2008

In October 2007 the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee published “Special Educational Needs: Assessment and Funding”. The report identified parental confidence in the special educational needs (SEN) assessment system as a key issue in making provision for children with SEN. We share the Committee’s desire to improve parental confidence and in the children’s plan we set out an ambitions package of measures supported by £18 million of additional investment over 2008-11. This package will improve the skills of the workforce in meeting children’s special educational needs and focus on the outcomes being achieved.

This year we will roll out new, specially developed SEN and disability units for primary undergraduate teacher training courses to be followed by units for secondary and PGCE courses next year. We are developing the skills of the early years and schools work force through the inclusion development programme and promoting specialist training through the work of the three trusts we have supported in communication, autism and dyslexia. In addition we are learning about the progress of children with SEN through the Making Good Progress pilots and will be improving data to support progression.

Building on this, in our response to the Committee’s report (HC 298, published 4 February 2008) we committed to setting up a group of expert advisers, under the chairmanship of Brian Lamb, the chair of the Special Educational Consortium, to advise on the most effective ways of increasing parental confidence in the SEN assessment process. In formulating their advice, we have asked the inquiry to:

consider whether increasing parental confidence could be best achieved by:

making the provision of educational psychology advice “arm’s length” from local authorities;

sharing best practice in developing good relationships between the authority and parents, through effective parent partnership services and other local mechanisms;

effective practice by schools and local authorities in meeting the needs of children at school action plus;

other innovative proposals;

commission and evaluate innovative projects, in the areas identified, that can demonstrate the impact on parental confidence of a particular approach;

draw on the evidence of other work currently commissioned by the Department; and

take into account the evidence of the submissions to the two Select Committee reports, in 2006 and 2007.

To advise him, Brian Lamb has brought together a group of expert advisers who reflect a range of interests and opinions. The group consists of:

Nick Armstrong of Matrix Chambers

Virginia Bovell, parent and Associate Director of TreeHouse

Colin Diamond, Director of Children’s Services for North Somerset

Dr. Fiona Hammans, headteacher of Banbury School, Oxfordshire

Professor Ann Lewis of Birmingham University

Jane McConnell of the Independent Panel for Special Education Advice (IPSEA)

A broader reference group of professionals and parents will also inform the inquiry. This group will bring a wide range of evidence and extensive networks to the process of evidence gathering.

I have asked the inquiry to start its work immediately and have asked for a report in June 2008 on the commissioning of the innovative projects and initial areas of focus for the inquiry. The projects will run for the school year September 2008—July 2009 and an evaluation will run concurrently.

I have asked Brian Lamb and his advisers to report in September 2009. The findings of the inquiry will be available to the Ofsted SEN survey of 2009-10 and will help to inform the development of the next stage of our thinking in this area.