The Queen's Speech: Fast track scheme for special needs planned

EDUCATION; reducing numbers of special needs children
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The Independent Online
MINISTERS HOPE to reduce the number of children with physical, emotional and behavioural difficulties who have a "statement of special needs", through a new education Bill.

In the past five years the number of children with formal statements of need, which entitles them to extra funding, has risen by 35 per cent as parents have become more aware of their rights and schools have pressed for statements because of financial pressures.

Parents will be offered new conciliation arrangements to sort out disputes with local education authorities over the needs of children. The scheme is also designed to speed up decisions about children's futures.

Last year, the Government dropped a proposal that there should be a national "expectation" that the number of statements should fall but a Green Paper said that the special educational needs of most children should be met without a statement. The Special Educational Needs Bill ensures the right to a statement will remain.

Local education authorities will also be required to set up conciliation arrangements and to comply with the orders of special educational needs tribunals. Each authority's conciliation service will have "an independent element" and parents will have the right to an independent parental supporter.

Parents' rights to have disabled children educated in a mainstream school will also be strengthened.

A second education Bill sets up a new Learning and Skills Council with a pounds 5bn budget to plan and fund all post-16 education and training, other than higher education, in England. It will replace the Further and Higher Education Funding Council which funds colleges and Training and Enterprise Councils. A new adult learning inspectorate will take over inspections of all training for those aged 16 to 19.

Judith Judd

Education Editor