Another #phdchat inspired posting.
Last month the UK government published a consultation document, or green paper, outlining a number of changes they are planning on making to the special education system. There are various reasons for wanting to change the system, including saving money, but the ones that interest me are about the system being too complex and too adversarial. Both of these seem to be accepted as facts without any real explanations why. So what I am doing is drawing pictures to try to understand the system and using these to find out why the system gets described as a battlefield.
As well as drawing pictures, I am talking to people who have been involved with the Special Needs system. These include parents of children on the autistic spectrum, teachers, support workers in schools, doctors and therapists. I am asking them to tell me their stories of how they have learned about the autism and about the SEN system.
Some parents tell stories of how helpful a specific teacher or doctor has been and how well their child is doing. Others talk about problems getting help for their child and some talk about their child being excluded from school and sometimes being out of school for a long time. The education and health workers talk about children they have worked with and learned from. They also talk about needs that are not met and very often have very little idea what happens in other parts of the system.
I agree with the government that the SEN system needs to be changed, but I am concerned about changes designed to fix a system if we don’t really know why it is broken to start off. I hope my research will help explain why the system is broke and will help in understanding whether the proposed changes will fix it, or may actually lead to more problems.