Sector hits out at special needs report

By Nancy Rowntree

| 30 October 2007

A report by MPs urging the government to separate the assessment and funding of special educational needs has sparked controversy within the sector.

The Education and Skills Select Committee report, Special Educational Needs: Assessment and Funding, suggests separating funding and assessment of special needs to avoid conflicts of interest that may occur when councils assess what help children need, and fund that support. The committee argues local authorities or children's trusts should commission assessments, and that greater responsibility for assessment could be delegated to schools.

But Brian Lamb, chair of the Special Educational Consortium, accused the committee of "barking up the wrong tree" by putting so much emphasis onthe issue.

"Their central claim that it is easy and possible to separate funding and assessment just isn't backed up by the proposals they discuss. The committee sees separation as a silver bullet that would cut through all the problems, but all it would do is displace them," Lamb said.

He said the role of special educational needs co-ordinators needed to be enhanced, and more support given to children with special needs in the early years so they did not need to gothrough.

But Lamb welcomed the committee's calls for greater transparency in how money for children with special needs is spent. "The government needs to make sure there is much more clarity and to increase the confidence of parents by giving clear statements on what money is available for special educational needs," he said.

Les Lawrence, chair of the Local Government Association's children and young people board, accused the committee of dismissing the views of local authorities. "The report is trying to find evidence to support a foregone conclusion and ignores facts relating to the provision of special education," he said.

"The report also fails to understand the nature and role ofchildren's trusts and the wayin which they are run and held to account.

"Most worryingly, the proposals put forward will do little to create transparency and even less to make sure that children with special needs will continue to get the services they both need and deserve."


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