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Special Educational Needs

Volume 481: debated on Monday 20 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps his Department is taking to ensure that changes to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal result in an increase in parental confidence in the special educational needs system; and if he will make a statement. (227579)

Subject to parliamentary approval, the new arrangements for tribunals, including the special educational needs and disability tribunal (SENDIST), will begin on 3 November. The Tribunals Service at the Ministry of Justice has consulted on the Rules for the new Health, Education and Social Care Chamber, of which SENDIST will become a part, and the Tribunals Procedures Committee has amended the Rules in the light of consultation responses from those with an interest in SEN. SENDIST has also established a special user group, on which the parent-led Independent Panel for Special Education Advice (IPSEA) is represented, to advise it on what is practical and appropriate for users in the new arrangements. The overriding principle informing the drafting of the Rules has been that they must be able to deal with all cases justly and fairly.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families, in association with the Tribunals Service, is currently conducting research into parental confidence in the SEN system of school provision, assessment, statements and appeal to SENDIST. This will reflect any parental concerns with the current operation of SENDIST. The Department has also commissioned Brian Lamb, the Chair of the Special Educational Consortium, to lead an inquiry into parental confidence in special educational provision, assessment and appeal. The Lamb Inquiry is due to report in September 2009. IPSEA is also represented on the Inquiry’s Expert Advisers Group and through this and the Inquiry’s Reference Group it will be able to hear whether the new arrangements for the tribunals are increasing parental confidence. The Department will continue to work closely with the Tribunals Service to address any concerns there are about the effect of the new tribunal arrangements on parental confidence in the SEN system.