Bill to speed decisions on special needs

Click to follow
Indy Politics

The Special Educational Needs Bill in today's Queen's Speech aims to speed up decisions about the education of children with physical, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

The Special Educational Needs Bill in today's Queen's Speech aims to speed up decisions about the education of children with physical, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

New conciliation arrangements are intended to facilitate agreement on children's needs, without involving parents in a lengthy legal fight with their local education authority.

The right to a formal statement of special needs - which secures specific, costed educational support for a child - would remain.

LEAs will be required to comply with the orders of Special Educational Needs Tribunals, and to improve the effectiveness of their operation.

But ministers hope conciliation will mean that fewer statements are necessary.

Since they were introduced in 1991, the number and cost of special needs statements has increased. They now cover more than 270,000 children - 3% of the total in schools.

In a Green Paper last year, ministers dropped a proposed "national average expectation" that this should fall to 2% by 2002.

But they confirmed their intention "that the special educational needs of most children ... will be met without the need for a statement".

Senior Government sources said each LEA's conciliation service would have an "independent element", and the bill would establish parents' right to their own independent "advocate".

The Queen's Speech also signals an intention to strengthen parents' rights to have disabled children educated in a mainstream school.

The Bill will take account of the recommendations of the Disability Rights Taskforce, which is due to report later this month, introducing new duties on schools and LEAs not to discriminate against disabled children.

A second Bill on education will propose a new Learning and Skills Council with responsibility for a £5 billion budget for post-16 education and training in England.

The new body would replace the Further Education Funding Council for England, and Training and Enterprise Councils - TECs.

Business representatives would have 40% of the places on the national body, and local Learning and Skills Councils.

Ofsted would retain responsibility for A-level courses in school sixth forms, sixth form colleges or further education colleges.

But a new Adult Learning Inspectorate would take over responsibility for all 16 to 19 training, and for post-19 education and training outside higher education.

The Bill also proposes a new Youth Support Service to give more effective education and careers advice to young people.

It will also enable the National Assembly for Wales to establish a new Council for Education and Training in Wales and put in place its own new structures for post-16 education and training.

A Care Standards Bill will extend the remit of the Ofsted education watchdog to cover the care as well as education of children under five.

Comments