Posted by admin | Posted in special needs | Posted on 18-05-2012-05-2008
Under the biggest shake-up of the system for 30 years, ministers will toughen up rules on the diagnosis of behavioural and learning problems.
It follows concerns that schools are abusing the system to disguise poor teaching and climb league tables.
For the first time, rigorous screening measures will be introduced to prevent pupils from being classed as having special needs when they have merely fallen behind or caused disruption in class.
The bureaucratic process used to identify children with the most severe special needs will also be scrapped and replaced with a single assessment covering education, health and care.
Ministers believe that the current system is “outdated and not fit for purpose”. They claim that those most deserving of help often find it difficult to get adequate support while too many are wrongly placed on the register.
Almost 1.7 million schoolchildren in England – more than one in five – have some form of special needs requiring particular attention from teachers.
In some schools, more than half of pupils are registered as suffering from problems that affect their ability to play a full part in lessons or activities.
It has been claimed that many difficulties are exaggerated to explain poor exam results or bad behaviour.
Ofsted has claimed that as many as 450,000 “special needs” children are actually no different from other pupils. Many are simply underachieving because of a culture of low expectations, a report found.
Figures show that pupils from poor homes are far more likely to be diagnosed with special needs than those from middle-class backgrounds. Inspectors suggested that state schools were being encouraged to over-identify pupils to attract more funding from local councils and to boost their position in league tables that give weighting to schools with high numbers of special needs children.
Parents of children with severe special needs can also qualify for extra tax benefits.
Today, the Government will announce a major shake-up of the system to “tackle the practice of over-identifying”. Ministers will legislate for the proposals in the Children and Families Bill announced in last week’s Queen’s Speech.
The two most common categories of special needs – “school action” and “school action plus”, which are usually diagnosed in-house by teachers – will be scrapped and replaced with a single grouping.
There will also be “tighter guidance on which children should be identified as having special educational needs alongside better training”. The new guidelines will be published following a fresh consultation exercise.
Ministers will also announce plans to form an expert panel to look at which children should be classed as having behavioural, emotional and social development difficulties to stop these problems being “overused” by schools.
At present, just one in seven pupils with special needs has a “statement” – a legal document setting out their entitlement to certain teaching and support.
The Department for Education says this system is “complex and adversarial”, with children facing “multiple assessments over months and years to get the basic support they need”.
Under the reforms, parents will be given legal powers to control budgets for sons and daughters who do require support, enabling them to buy specialist help instead of relying on services provided by local authorities. Young people with the most serious problems will get help up to the age of 25 instead of the current “cliff edge” cut-off point at 16.
Children with special needs will be able to gain a priority place at one of the Government’s academies.
Better teaching training will also be introduced to give new and existing staff help to “manage challenging behaviour” and bullying.
A Coalition source said there was “broad agreement” that the current categories used to diagnose some special needs problems were “far too broad”, with children classed as requiring extra help when their needs “could be met with strong teaching and pastoral care”.
“we are going to tighten up the definition of special educational needs in the statutory guidance so children who have genuine special educational needs get the support they need,” the source said.
Sarah Teather, the children’s minister, is expected to say: “The current system is outdated and not fit for purpose.
“Thousands of families have had to battle for months, even years, with different agencies to get the specialist care their children need. it is unacceptable they are forced to go from pillar to post, facing agonising delays and bureaucracy to get support, therapy and equipment.”
The current system of identifying special needs has been blamed for delays that have led to disabled children waiting months for a new wheelchair.
The Council for Disabled Children suggested that some youngsters were left in pain and required operations to correct growth problems because their wheelchairs were too small for them.