The focus of this chapter is on giving parents control. It starts from the premise that parents know their child best (but elsewhere in the document, it is recognised that parents may have a different agenda from their children.)
Para 2.5 “Parents should feel well supported through the system with clear information on how it works and who does what, and what the funding is. Parents know their children best and should receive support that works flexibly with their family circumstances. They should have more influence over support for their child through personalised funding, be able to participate in local decisions, have a clear choice of school and access to short breaks from caring. When parents and professionals disagree on the right approach for a child, they should use mediation to resolve disagreements over their support.”
The idea of key workers introduced again – this was first mooted in Warnock and was present more recently in CAF, but not really implemented effectively yet.
There is some recognition of costs, especially unexpected, and role of Family Fund Trust in making direct grants. There is a lengthy section in this chapter relating to personal budgets.
Information is seen as central – parents “need to be clear about their options and understand how decisions are made that affect their child’s support” para 2.14. The implication is that if parents knew more about what was available, there would be a financial saving to parents and public authorities in avoiding costs of appeals. Not only should local authority provide clearer information, but individual schools should provide information on what additional or different provision they make:
- Curriculum – and how tailored to meet individual children’s needs
- Teaching – adaptation to meet SEN and access to specialist expertise
- Assessment – teacher assessment and assessment of barriers to learning for children with SEN
- Pastoral support – involvement of parents, how school supports education and well being of children with SEN/disabilities
Identifies problem of low expectations of children with SEN – need to raise expectations/achievements.
Para 2.43 Funding for parent forums and involvement of parents in planning and developing local services.
Section on school choice expresses a commitment to removing any bias to inclusion and offering a real choice to parents – basically local authority has to agree to placement in any state-funded school as long as this does not compromise education of other children. “A local authority must consider the parent’s preference and cannot simply place the child in a school irrespective of the parents’ wishes” para 2.52.
Specialist expertise should be provided in local schools – suggestion that this is more cost-effective than independent school placements.
Short breaks mentioned again, but doesn’t really add anything significant to chapter 1.
Mediation to precede appeal to First-tier Tribunal (SEN and Disability) – “It can be better for parents and a better use of public funds if disputes about assessments and statements are resolved earlier and through non-judicial means” para 2.60. Does not take away right of appeal, or right to use NHS or local authority complaints processes. However there are changes to legal aid – no legal help or advice preparing appeals in SEN cases (I thought that had already gone) but legal aid available for disability discrimination cases. A right for secondary school-aged children to appeal to Tribunal on both SEN and disability grounds is introduced.
Para 2.64 is one of the very few references to independent schools in the whole document: “Although the Tribunal must take into account the efficient use of resources when consideration decisions on school placements, some decisions by the Tribunal can have significant financial implications for the local authority. For example, when the Tribunal rules that a child needs an expensive school place, this can represent a new large share of the local authority budget. Given the potential impact on the local authority budget, we would like to ensure that the Tribunal continues to give both priority to ensuring that children’s SEN are met and full weight to the efficient use of resources when considering the best way to meet their needs.”
This section covers a lot of different areas.
The provision of better quality information is to be welcomed, but experience has shown that sometimes schools will claim what they cannot deliver, or what they can deliver may be appropriate to some children but not to others with apparently similar SEN.
Appeal to Tribunal could become more daunting if it can only follow failed mediation – this is potentially more of a battle-zone.
It’s probably inevitable, but the emphasis on cost is worrying. There is no doubt that some redistribution of resources could be potentially cost-saving, but again there is a need to recognise that meeting needs of children with SEN/disability can be very expensive sometimes.
There is no mention of the needs of some children for a 24 hour curriculum. The implicit assumptions seems to be that a mix of choice of school and short break will do the job, when this is not always the case.